7 Essential Feminist Reads

Georgia Shipley shares the publications you need on your bookshelf

If you’re anything like me, the heatwave us Brits had a little while back screamed nothing more than soaking up some rays, with a good book, and a even a hot cuppa (or any drink of choice). One option would be to scream excitedly at people about all of the books I’ve been reading as of late, or I’ll just write something down, calmly and collectively. Let’s jump right in…

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

“The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed”. Originally titled Offred, before it’s publication in 1985, Atwood creatively depicts a dystopian republic of ‘Gilead’ with such integrity. I first encountered The Handmaid’s Tale in A Level English Literature and I will be honest, it ruined me and I remember my copy being thrown at the wall with such passion (and the additional swear word thrown in). With the second installment of the Hulu drama series recently returning to our TV screens, I rushed to my bookshelf to pick it up. The story is told through the eyes of Offred on a first-hand account of her experience under the new toleterian state. Overall, a heartbreaking and harrowing read.

Death in Ten Minutes by Fern Riddell

I was first introduced to Dr. Fern Riddell and Suffragette Kitty Marion back in March, when Fern did a fascinating talk at my University. The biography Death in Ten Minutes follows Marion’s life in Germany from a young age, escaping the clutches of her abusive father, moving to London to become an actress, then eventually her pioneering role in the Suffragette movement and as a Birth Control activist. Riddell’s writing is deliciously colourful and gives us an honest and brutal insight into Marion’s life, as well as the suffrage movement. Really, we are only taught half of the story of the Suffragettes, so it’s interesting when a book such as this depicts the true and raw events that unfolded.

This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins

Morgan Jerkins has already made a fantastic reputation for herself at only 25 years old. In her debut collection of essays titled This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America, Jerkins asks “What is the black woman, and how do we go about procuring this knowledge about who she is?”. The essays explore topics from race, gender and coming of age in a religious upbringing, to bullying that Jerkins was subjected to at a young age. She also writes about the women who inspired her (such as Michelle Obama) and also inspire other women and girls of colour. At a time when black women are striving to be heard and seen, Jerkins’ essays are resonant of this and her book embodies all that can be achieved if we speak up just a little louder. I believe Jerkins to be a new and empowering voice for our generation; to be someone that girls and women of colour aspire to be.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Imagine a world where women were the dominant gender. Now, imagine that men were afraidof women; not the other way around. Naomi Aldermen’s science fiction novel, The Power, depicts the tale that girls and women, across the whole world, developing the ability to release electrical jolts from their fingertips. Alderman creates a utopian society, where men and boys surrender to the power, with disturbing scenes of girls electrocuting men; also harmonising stories of young girls and older women collectively using their new-found ability. The Powertouches on subjects such as gender issues, faith and religion and how we can abuse such power.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I first devoured this brilliant novel when on holiday around 2014, I believe. I had come across it in a charity shop and was thrilled at the thought of seeing Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck portraying the protagonists, in the soon-to-be released feature film, that very same year. For those that don’t know, Gone Girl is a thriller based on the a modern-day narrative of Nick Dunne and the diary entries of his wife Amy (who just so happens to be the ‘Gone Girl’). Nick soon becomes the prime suspect of the case, into the disappearance of his wife on their fifth wedding anniversary. However, things are not what they seem… This book has stayed with me ever since I first read it those four years ago and it was just as good the second time around, when I finally managed to uncover all the dust that it had collected on my bookshelf.

Scribble Yourself Feminist by Chidera Eggerue and Manjit Thapp

A very recent release on our radar, the Scribble Yourself Feminist journal is “designed to empower, inspire and entertain”. Brought to you by none other than Chidera Eggerue, The Slumflower herself, the woman behind the badass #saggyboobmovement, and her debut book What a Time to be Alone. The journal is beautifully illustrated by Manjit Thapp and includes colour pages of inspirational quotes and feminist heroines, creating your own “Feminist Hall of Fame” and so much more!

Vox by Christina Dalcher

Women: Often stereotyped as the ‘chattiest’ of the two genders (I should know this statement to be still a mystery, studying English Language at University, with theories being batted about like a neverending tennis game of women versus men). In Dalcher’s Sci-Fi novel, Vox, women and girls, throughout America, are fitted with a metal bracelet that delivers an electric shock once they have reached their daily limit of speaking one hundred words. Even more terrifyingly pen and paper is banned; books are taken and locked away; sign language forbidden. The story is told from the perspective of Jean, a former researcher into aphasia, the loss of language, and her new life in the dystopian world that she finds herself in.

Other honourable mentions: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley, The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, The Vagina Monologuesby Eve Ensler, Feel Free by Zadie Smith and The Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollenscraft.

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