Professor What If recently wrote about formulating a list of 10 must-read feminist novels.
These days the majority of reading I do is of the non-fiction variety, but I do believe I've read 10 good feminist novels in my day. I think it's a fun exercise so here we go. I will also include a couple of sentences explaining my reasons for including each book.
That reminds me, back in college I took a course in Literary Criticism and one of our first assignments was to write a 10-page paper on a 4-line poem. Upon hearing this task, my classmates and I at first chuckled as we flipped through our course book confident that we were just reading an excerpt of a longer piece. Our amusement quickly gave way to panic as it slowly dawned on us that our professor was completely serious. I blame all subsequent instances of Writer's Diarrhea on that one assignment. Nonetheless, and I'll try to make this brief, in no particular order here are my 10 Feminist Must-Reads (That I May or May Not Agree With In An Hour):
1. The Chelsea Whistle- Michelle Tea
Although set on the East coast, Tea's memoir/novel of growing up poor, white, and female in a working-class town can resonate with such girls and women across America. It certainly spoke to me.
2. The Left Hand of Darkness- Ursula Le Guin
Contemplating the implications of a gender-less society is fascinating. I do think that if we could lose our collective male-female dichotomy, it would eradicate many other false binaries in society.
3. Jane Eyre- Charlotte Bronte
The Madwoman in the Attic will always be, to me, a representation of how confining women to the role of Wife is suffocating enough to drive them mad.
4. Stone Butch Blues- Leslie Feinberg
I'm pretty sure this was the first LGBT novel I read. It raises a lot of questions about sex, gender identity, and what it means to be a man, woman, neither, or both.
5. The Color Purple- Alice Walker
I saw the movie first, as a child, and even then I was struck by the unfairness of how Celie was, essentially, an abused piece of male property for much of her life. Upon reading the book, I think that Celie largely became liberated, and found her humanity, through her love of another woman.
6. Orlando- Virginia Woolf
This is another fascinating study in gender; the protagonist is a man, who wakes up one day and finds that he's exactly the same person as he was the day before except now he's a woman. In a way, it's sort of like Kafka's Metamorphosis. Except interesting.
7. The Red Tent- Anita Diamant
Women lived in Biblical times, too. Who would have thought?
8. The Temple of My Familiar- Alice Walker
I already included an Alice Walker book in my list, but I think she deserves another mention. It's a creative exploration of sex-based and race-based oppression, and the intersections of both.
9. In the Time of Butterflies- Julia Alvarez
When it comes to reading fiction, I've been on a little Julia Alvarez kick as of late. I've greatly enjoyed all of her books that I've read. This particular book is a loosely-based account of a group of sisters standing up for human rights in the Dominican Republic.
10. The Poisonwood Bible- Barbara Kingsolver
This novel, about a well-intentioned yet-abusive missionary patriarch too hell-bent on Saving Non-Christians to notice that he's doing more harm than good is a little relevant today.
That's my list. What's yours?