The #HotspotWeek dedicated to the Elimination of Violence Against Women is almost over, so to conclude we offer you a list of 10 books that tell very different stories with one thing in common: WOMEN.
Read on and get inspired!
Una donna by Sibilla Aleramo
Published for the first time in 1906, through the pages we see the lifelong development of a woman. From spectator of the toxic relationship between her parents to wife of an abusive man. But then, finally, she decides to start a new life with another man.
The book is a heartfelt plea to women to always be loyal to their inner self. In a dry yet moving style, the protagonist shares with the reader her questions and doubts on “the right choice to make”, making of the latter her confidant.
Reading Lolita in Teheran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
What does it mean for a woman to teach English Literature in Teheran after the Islamic Revolution? How much the life of the young women attending her classes has changed? The way the author finds to express what she and her students are experiencing is a complex game of cross reference to English Narrative.
Nafisi’s elegant style is truly hypnotic and will keep you reading for long hours.
The sleeping voice by Dulce Chacon
It tells the story of a group of women imprisoned in the prison of Ventas, near Madrid during the Spanish civil war. Despite the inhuman conditions they are living in, they maintain their dignity and courage. Even when they have to face humiliation, torture and death. The story gives voice to these oppressed and silenced women. On the one hand, it emphasizes the solidarity between women prisoners, who support each other. On the other hand, it highlights the cruelty of the unscrupulous female prison guards.
If you know Spanish, I recommend reading it in the original language!
Out by Natsuo Kirino
A crime novel that sees four women as co-protagonists. They all have very different backgrounds and aspirations, but share a common objective: keeping a murder secret. The atmosphere in Tokyo is turbid and mysterious.
Through this work, the author accuses the Japanese society of being fundamentally oppressive and patriarchal. Among the many themes brought up we find: domestic violence, psychological abuse, mobbing at the workplace, xenophobia, and misogyny. All narrated with a sharp and fluid style.
Scheherazade goes West: Different cultures, different harems by Fatema Mernissi
The author is a Moroccan feminist sociologist who dedicated her work to the analysis of the role of women in the Islamic-Arab world. In many of her books, she tackles the topic of the harem, seen as an exotic place where male sexual fantasies come true and not as a centre of female power and knowledge.
This book can really help you reflect on the stereotypes we often have in mind regarding different cultures.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
This is the first book of the series Neapolitan Novels. The series narrates the life story of two friends who grew up in a poor neighbourhood in Naples in the 50ies. The fact that the two girls pursued education is what helps them break the cycle of poverty and overcome the limitations their families experience. Certainly, fate puts them in front of new challenges…
This is a book to understand the battles that have been won until now for gender equality and how much still needs to be improved.
Half the sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
It’s a non-fiction book that tackles the oppression of women worldwide, focusing on prostitution, rape, maternal mortality and education. A crude denunciation of the situation millions of women find themselves living in. It’s a very tough reading: it can be very hard to assimilate the kind of cruelty and violence it describes.
The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector
Rio de Janeiro, in the 70ies. A woman struggles to prove her worth in a sexist society. The author relies on a male narrator to describe the protagonist’s miserable life. In a heartbeat you will find yourself empathising with the protagonist and rooting for the recognition of her identity.
Clarice writes with a particular mystic narrative style, she tries to explain how empowering is for a woman (but we can easily extend this thought to people in general) to get an education.
The handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood
It’s a dystopian novel set in a near future world, where men dominate women in a theocratic totalitarian state. Men don’t consider women like people: their bodies are reproductive machines whose worth only depends on their ability to bear a child.
Men categorize women based on their reproductive capacity. Those who belong to the upper class cannot have children or even intimate relationships with their husbands to preserve their purity. The handmaids, on the other hand, undergo rape in the most fecund phase of their cycle. The only goal of these rapes, in which the commander’s wife also participates, is to conceive a child. The commander’s wife will raise the son or daughter and the handmaid sent to another family.
It’s a very raw and a little disturbing story, but totally worths the reading.
Skvoznaja Linija by Ljudmila Ulickaja
A collection of short stories set in the post-Soviet present. These texts focus on the daily life of Russian women and have as their common thread the small, unnecessary and unsolicited lies that they tell, especially to themselves, to justify their lives and legitimize their suffering. The various stories told, linked to the different phases of women’s lives and experiences, are filtered through the eyes of Zenja: a strong and determined intellectual who, like the Russia in which she lives, was forced to reinvent herself and start her life all over again.
What strikes inside the stories are the strength, inventiveness and courage with which the heroines face the drama of their lives and the story: although through lying, they manage to regain possession of the narrative of their lives and manage to escape from the roles imposed on them by society.
[Many thanks to Rita!]