There is some great fiction and nonfiction out there that discusses the experience of being a woman, rethinks our societies and ultimately leaves readers feeling empowered. If you’re on the lookout for such a list, stay right here!
We have collated eight of our favourite reads about womanhood and female empowerment that we think deserve to be high up on your to-read list:
Ghost Music is set in contemporary Beijing, exploring themes of loss and disappointment. Song Yan has given up on her career as a concert pianist, longing for a child with a husband who rebuffs her desires. When her mother-in-law comes to stay, this story becomes about two women bonding the mysteries of existence within a magic-realism and real setting. It’s a short read but is so powerful for its depictions of human empathy and the complexity of relationships.
The Emancipation Act of 1834 should’ve made Rachel a free woman, but the man who owns the plantation changes nothing. So she escapes. With all five children sold to other plantations, Rachel knows where she’s going. She travels to Trinidad, British Guiana, and Barbados in search of them.
Now, Alison Weir, you have been on my reading radar since I watched one of your famous Zoom lectures. One can always count on Weir to provide a rich historical examination of Tudor England. In Queens of the Age of Chivalry, she explores five Tudor queens. This age was dominated by social and economic upheaval, where courtly romances and military nobility sought to oust the monarchy. Weir’s work is set to explore the Black Death, the Hundred Years War, and the Peasants’ Revolt. Each of these shines a scholarly feminist lens upon European royalty.
This unique book tackles fatphobia and racism in a fascinating and unapologetic way. It follows the navigation of acceptance as Dionne battles expectations of size, race, and gender. With Dionne a National Book Award nominee, this story is set to defy expectations and societal boundaries that fought to imprison her as she looks to transform how modern women undergo bodily acceptance
Since the first test-tube baby was born in 1978 via vitro-fertilisation, the transformation of medicine and fertility has disregarded a vital conversation. Our understanding of motherhood and the female body is still a battleground between conservative values and misogyny. So, Quilter explores the side of medicine and pregnancy. This book is set to question how we define parenthood and pregnancy, and what this means for our future. Now, Quilter has several books under her arm (not literally!) I’ve had my eye on her work
“Black women writers and critics are acting on the old adage that one must speak for oneself if one wishes to be heard.” – Claudia Tate
This includes Interviews with Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Sherley Anne Williams. To name a few. This book focuses on the connections between work and lived experiences of Black female writers. The women included in this book have laid the foundation for many. Ultimately, it’s one of the most important contributions to Black literature.
Following a near-death experience, Tanya Shadrick vows to live like the character from a fairytale. She wants to live without fear of loss. By caring for young children, Shadrick moulds the shape of her days, straying from the path of mundanity and transforming her roles as wife, mother, and colleague. Her memoir follows her breaking the spells of approval and safety which kept her imprisoned for so long.
This tender and poetic memoir of womanhood and words uncovered how we can find myth and magic in the mundane by choosing to live outside of social constructs. Shadrick writes enchantingly. I found it passionate and beautiful – reading about female desire resonated so closely with my own struggles with opportunity. As with Shadrick’s writing, I read hungrily; starved for truth in a world that forces women like us to shy away.
A historic narrative of music and music writing which challenges the male-dominated industry. I spotted this book being promoted for its genre-breaking response to sexism in music, literature, and film. I knew well the misogyny ingrained in many aspects of the publishing industry, but not so much music and film until I read this book.
There are 17 essays by female writers, with some of the most indicative moments coming from Anne Enright’s section on Fan Girls as “beautiful disasters.” Like Enright, I was a ‘fan girl’ as a teen, a pejorative term coined to categorise music-loving girls driven by idolatry. Enright points out that girlhood and the music industry should work together to teach emotional experiences rather than be spaces of misogyny.
Although not outright defiant against the music industry, the collection tells the stories of figures such as Lucinda Williams, Wanda Jackson, Sis Cunningham, Lhasa, and Ella Fitzgerald – centring the book on women creators.
While the book was prose-heavy, the writing opened my imagination through memories and experiences from the narrators. It’s creative and expansive. Even the title – taken from a Kate Bush song – I understood for some, this book is a collection of knowledge, but for others, it’s a call to change the music industry.
Something catch your eye? If you have any other books about womanhood and female empowerment to share with us, let us know on social media.
By Shelby Jones
Sign up to our newsletter below to get writing and publishing tips and tricks.