International Women’s Day 2019

Books are definitely one of the best ways we can learn about different women’s experiences of the world, getting out of our own social bubble and trying to understand or empathise with women whose lives are very different from our own. This can help us think and behave in a way that really centres intersectionality (how the disadvantages and privileges each individual has come together to form our unique experience of the world) and be as supportive as we can to each other. Here are some of the books I’ve read that I recommend but there are plenty more out there and new ones arriving all the time!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh – CW explores food anxiety and references her own experience as a mixed heritage lesbian women who struggled with an eating disorder. Combines sociology, biography, and yummy recipes in an accessible and warm style. Ruby has campaigned for people with mental help issues and LGBTQ* Pride.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Woman at Point Zero by Nawal el Saadawi – CW this is a really dark and harrowing book so make sure you are feeling pretty stable going in, but it’s also one of hope. Basically ALL the content warnings. A work of fiction based on the true account of an Egyptian woman awaiting execution in Cairo prison for murder, and what led her to it. Saadawi now 87, is an absolute legend and ought to be a household name! Trained as a doctor and psychiatrist in Egypt, she was imprisoned herself for agitating against the totalitarian regime and her activism for women’s rights. She is now free and continues to speak out against the patriarchy and generally be amazing. She has also written many books and has been interviewed internationally so find her on the internet and be blown away.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston  CW violence against women, domestic abuse, slavery, racism, sexism, but ultimately, this is the story of a woman who survives, gains her independence, her self-worth and justice through her courage and persistence. Narrated as an extended flashback of the protagonist’s three different marriages.                                                                                                                                                                                        Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki – The book and later film Memoirs of a Geisha was based on interviews with Mineko Iwasaki, an incredibly successful Geisha in the 1940’s and 50’s in Gion, Japan. But the author of Memoirs of a Geisha twisted her story to make it more ‘dramatic’ by including abuse, prostitution and the systematic exploitation of girls. This wasn’t the experience of Mineko Iwasaki, so this book was her reclamation of her story. That’s not to say that other girls and women had the same experience, but that it is not the place of a white american man to tell the stories of Geisha and profit from them, especially when it includes fictionalised violence against women.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             If They Come In The Morning… Voices of Resistance, edited by Angela Y Davis – CW systematic racism, sexism and violence. True accounts of the abuse of prisoners and activists are difficult to read. A collection of essays and letters written by and to Angela Y Davis and other members of groups involved in fighting for the rights of black people in the USA, in particular the human rights of prisoners and false imprisonment of black activists.                                                                                                                                                                Pink Sari Revolution by Amana Fontanella-Khan – CW violence against women. A journalist’s account of a group of women in India who form a group to fight for women’s rights and their controversial leader Sampat Pal.                                                                                                                                                                Sane New World by Ruby Wax – CW descriptions of severe mental illness. I adore Ruby Wax’s books because they are empathetic, contain genuinely useful advice, and best of all, they are HILARIOUS! It makes reading them so much less daunting knowing that through the moments of utter despair, humour shines through.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker – CW details racism, colonialism, sexism and the suffering that results from them. An intertwining story of five characters who all experience an dramatic change to their worldview. Includes themes of love, betrayal, African spirituality, African diaspora, racism, queer people’s lived experiences, womanism, emerging self-awareness, and hope.                                                                                                                                                      Trumpet by Jackie Kay – CW details the abhorrent treatment of trans people in the public sphere, institutionalised racism and coping with a significant bereavement. A celebrated jazz musician has died, and in the aftermath a version of their story unfolds as previously unknown information about them is made public. An exploration of gender, ethnicity, storytelling, truth, how public lives effect private ones, relationships, love, death, and our multi-faceted experiences and expressions as human beings.                                                                                                                                                                                Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani – CW violence and mass violation of human rights. The opening scene is of a pregnant woman deprived of her human rights, about to give birth in a brutal prison, which is not even the most heartbreaking part. Read when feeling resilient. Based upon the author’s own family history, this is a harrowing exposure of the post-revolution executions of political prisoners in Iran in 1988, and the effects on the loved ones of those who are killed. It is a difficult read, but there is a comforting thread of hope and love which carries you through even the worst descriptions of atrocities.

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