International Women’s Day Reads
For over a century, Canadians and millions around the globe have celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8th to recognize women’s achievements and ongoing actions to achieve gender equity. Today, women authors don’t need to write under male pseudonyms just to get published and read. But until the mid-19th century, being a professional woman writer was scandalous! What better way to mark International Women's Day than by celebrating women who have penned books or shared their stories to advance women’s rights?
Though some authors still use just their initials to get published in genres like crime and science fiction (which tend to favour male writers), literary women have come a long way since the days of Jane Eyre. Take legendary Canada’s novelist, Margaret Atwood, for example. She published her newest poetry collection, Dearly, at the age of 81 years and has received countless awards for her writing, much of which focuses on themes of gender and feminism. Or Agatha Christie, a trailblazing author who was labelled the best-selling fiction author of all time by Guiness World Records. These accomplishments would have made the 19th century Brontë sisters very proud. Emily, Charlotte, and Anne Brontë struggled to get recognition for female authors and published under male pen names to keep their passion for writing alive.
Notable Women Authors To Read
Here is our list of a few noteworthy female writers—from bestselling authors to rising literary stars—we recommend reading to mark International Women’s Day 2023.
Critically acclaimed and the winner of multiple major literary awards, Margaret Atwood has written professionally for over fifty years and is best known for her futuristic dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood is a longstanding and outspoken feminist, and her books mirror the state of women’s rights worldwide. In her books, Atwood talks about the exploitation and oppression of women through her characters and their suffering. On gender equality, she says this: “I hope that people will finally come to realize that there is only one ‘race’—the human race—and that we are all members of it.”
Borrow The Handmaid’s Tale
Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot)
George Eliot was the male pseudonym used by Mary Ann Evans to avoid being seen as a woman who could only write romantic novels. She based some of her epic works on her study of the lives of characters in small-town England. Eliot wrote about the social and emotional lives of these characters and how they were considered social outsiders within the political systems of the Victorian era in England. She wrote seven well-known novels and some poetry. Her most famous work, Middlemarch, has a strong female character named Dorothea Brooke, who is very clever and enterprising.
In her first book, The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates writes about all the inspiring women she met around the world as part of her role in the Gates Foundation and shares her journey on how she became an advocate for women and girls. She also writes about her experiences as a woman in a male-dominated tech sector and offers simple and effective ways that women can make a difference. Melinda has campaigned worldwide for a lot of different issues, from family planning to job equality to eliminating gender bias and working towards equity.
Borrow The Moment of Lift
Arundhati Roy is one of India’s most acclaimed authors who is famous on an international level. Her books have been published in 40 languages, including her debut novel, God of Small Things, which won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997. She was also awarded Sydney Peace Prize in 2004 for her social activism work. Her books show the plight of women in the Indian patriarchal society and talk about how they have to fight for their identity and social and economic freedom. Her female characters typically convey how a person’s upbringing or childhood experiences shape their perspectives on life.
Borrow God of Small Things
Amy Tan is well known for her book, The Joy Luck Club, which explores the relationships and bonds between a group of Asian-American women. Through the lives of four Chinese American families living in San Francisco, Tan accurately depicts Asian American culture and the complex relationship between immigrant mothers and American-born daughters. With eloquence and empathy, the novel acknowledges both perspectives—the parents’ desire to teach the value of family relations and culture and the daughters’ desire for individual identity and freedom. Tan beautifully portrays the different generations and their struggles—and the deep connections we make with others.
Borrow The Joy Luck Club
Malala Yousafzai is a courageous young Pakistani activist and writer. She fought for girls’ right to education after she was shot by a Taliban gunman in the head on her way to school at the age of 15. This incident inspired her to write her bestselling book, I Am Malala, which is now widely read globally. This book tells her story of pushing for female education in her country and how she made her voice heard and inspired women to have a voice and education. At age 17, Malala became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner, among countless other awards and distinctions she has received. More recently, in 2019, Malala published We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World, which talks about the plight of women in today’s modern world.
Borrow I Am Malala
This shortlist of luminous literati is just a small sample of women who have written books to inspire other women—and bring awareness of the continued struggles of women to light. So let us all make an effort and work to #EmbraceEquity.
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