Women have done amazing things for literature and have been an instrumental part in shaping the literature of today as well as the current publishing industry. In honor of National Women’s History Month we wanted to recognize these impressive women for all that they have done and will continue to do in the future.
There are too many amazing women, inspiring female characters, and wonderful authors to name, so instead I am going to discuss the ten books that have most inspired and/or deeply affected me in the last year. As a happy coincidence, ALL of these ten books were written by women. Today you get the second half. Check out My 10 Favorite Books from the Last 10 Months (Part 1) for the first half of this list.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
This is hands down my favorite book (at the moment). It also happens to be one that truly encapsulates Women’s History Month. The Invention of Wings follows the lives of two women from opposing backgrounds. Sarah Grimke, the daughter of a wealthy family in early nineteenth century Charelston is given a present that alters her life. Meet Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave and Sarah’s eleventh birthday present. Kidd follows the lives of these two women from childhood into adulthood. We watch as they grow up, grow apart, and rebel against the lives they were born into.
What I think is particularly compelling about this book is that it looks at slavery from the slave, the slave owner, and the abolitionists perspectives all at once. On top of the slavery discussion, this book also looks at gender roles and the strict confines of society on women. Sue Monk Kidd presents an interesting comparison between abolitionism and women’s rights that is still relevant today. This is a book that I would recommend to anyone, but particularly to a female audience.
Sue Monk Kidd is also the author of The Secret Life of Bees, another book that I would recommend.
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Coping with death and loss appears regularly in literature. This is a middle grade novel told from the perspective of twelve-year-old genius. Willow is not your average middle schooler, she is incredibly smart, and prefers her garden and her medical textbooks as opposed to other kids her age. When Willows adoptive parents both die in a car crash she is forced to come to terms with her parents’ death and her grief while simultaneously finding herself and her place in the new world she has been thrust into. Told through Willows’ unique, intelligent, and scientific-minded voice we follow along as this young girl turns her grief into a discovery rather than a tragedy.
I bet you were not expecting to find a middle grade novel on this list, and I can assure you that when I picked it up for the first time I was not expecting this book to be in my Top Ten either. But the surprise is what makes this book so special.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
What Alice Forgot is the saddest books that I have ever read and I like sad books so that is saying a lot. I’m a fan of any book that I am still thinking about days, weeks, and months later and this book is exactly that!
Married couples splitting up have become the norm. Divorce rates are high. I am just entering the phase of life where weddings are a regular event. I have been told to enjoy this “wedding phase” while it lasts because after that comes the “kid phase,” and then the “divorce phase.” What Alice Forgot deals with all of these three phases of life. Alice has amnesia. She wakes up in the middle of a ugly divorce and her children are in their early teens. However in Alice’s head, she is a newlywed, floating in marital bliss, and pregnant with her first child. She is quite confused, as you might imagine.
Moriarty magnifies both of these two pivotal times by examining how Alice fell in and out of love. I am a fast reader and I like to start and finish a book all in the same week. This book took me a while. I found myself regularly having to stop and think about what I had just read, for a day and often for a week. This is a difficult book to read in one sitting and is not necessarily one to take on vacation. What Alice Forgot will make you pause and really think about the ways we treat others and ourselves.
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
Every book on this list is here for a reason and Ghana Must Go is here for several, one of which being that it may be the most beautifully written book that I have read in my life.
Kweku Sai, a divorced father of four and renowned surgeon, is dead. His death starts the ripple of events that bring his estranged family slowly back together. Secrets and disappointments have drawn the family apart over time and it takes the death of their father to bring them back together. This novel looks at the unconditional love of family and “teaches that the truths we speak can heal the words we hide.”
This is a book that spans generations, moving seamlessly through time, point of view, and voice as it looks at how a single family grew up, grew apart, and what it took to bring them back together. Taiye Selasi is a beautifully eloquent writer who I cannot wait to read more of.
Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan
This is a book truly unlike any other I have ever read. Golden Boy looks at the life of thirteen-year-old Habo, who is growing up in a small Tanzanian village. His father abandoned the family because he could not accept his son. His mother will not look at him. His brother terrorizes him. The other children in the village have never asked him to play. Habo is alone and different. When Habos’ family is cast out of their village, he knows his yellow hair, light eyes, and white skin is the reason why. As his family travels across the Serengeti in order to seek refuge in Mwanza, Habo discovers his curse has a name: Albino, and there are people hunting him.
When I think of oppression and discrimination, in terms of history, there are three things that come to mind: slavery, women’s rights, and the holocaust. Maybe this is because I commonly have more access to books that discuss these issues, maybe it is because these are common topics in literature, but it is both refreshing and upsetting when you come across a case of discrimination as graphic and disturbing as the one discussed in this book. Particularly when you did not previously know it existed.
Golden Boy is a Young Adults book and while aimed at a younger audience, was one of the more enlightening and educational books that I have read this year.