Emma Kate & Co.

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Wednesday, 14 February 2018

5 Female Authors You Should Read

One of my favourite booktubers (yes, that is a thing), Lauren And The Books, is currently hosting a series on her channel entitled 'Femmeuary'. For one month, she's celebrating all things female including her favourite female authors, female friends and feminist texts. I really love Lauren's channel because a) she tends to enjoy similar books to me and b) she's such a warm and positive person. So, if you haven't heard of her, please do check her out. Her female-led February, as well as the centenary of women's voting rights, inspired me to write a blogpost about some of my favourite female authors.

Following Kamila Shamshie's request that publishing houses publish only female authors in 2018, there's been a lot of debate over the unequal gender divide in publishing. I'm all for encouraging people to read more female authors because there's just so many good ones out there! And the more people read female authors, the more demand there will be for more books written by women, which can only be a good thing. Women have beautiful stories to tell and I'm so keen for more of those stories to make it into our hands.

Looking back on my 2017 reading, I found that I actually read more books by female authors than male. This wasn't a purposeful act of solidarity. It was merely coincidental as I often find myself more interested in the topics broached by female authors. This prompted me to look at my other reading tendencies. I noticed, embarrassingly, that my read pile was overwhelmingly white, as you can see from this list. I obviously don't actively avoid books written by people of colour, and many of the novels I have read, I've enjoyed. So why haven't I read more?

Like many of us, a large part of my reading is fuelled by marketing. I tend to read novels with a lot of buzz and financial backing, as these are the ones that are constantly lauded around. However, this means that other great books, particularly those written by people of colour, escape my attention. They often don't have the same window displays or online presence as those written by white authors, although I do think that this is changing (Yaa Gyasi, Paul Beatty, Colson Whitehead). This just goes to show how important it is to be deliberate with our reading, to step outside what is being prescribed to us and use our purchasing power to change the landscape of the publishing industry.

And on that note, here are five of my favourite female authors. Please let me know who your favourites are, so I can give them a read!

1 // Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is now often known as a feminist icon. Her speech 'We Should All Be Feminists' inspired Dior t-shirts emblazoned with the same phrase, and was also featured in Beyonce's 'Flawless'. I wish that her fiction was just as well loved. She writes such interesting and complex female characters and tackles difficult and important questions. Whenever I read something by her, I find myself thinking about it for a long time afterwards. Her novels tend to really shape the way I view the world, often altering my original perceptions.

I remember reading Purple Hibiscus when I was about 14 for school. Lots of my classmates, particularly the boys, didn't seem to enjoy it but I absolutely adored it. The novel follows a Nigerian teenage girl, Kambili, who lives under the oppression of her fanatically religious father. The content is so interesting and the writing so wonderful that you speed through it. In fact, I really need to give it a re-read. My favourite of her novels however is Americanah. I read this a couple of years ago on the beach and loved every second of it. It takes a look at what it means to be black in America and is so immensely powerful. It's also just a really beautiful love story.

2 // Shirley Jackson

I've only read one Shirley Jackson novel so far but god, it was good. We Have Always Lived in the Castle was another of my favourites from 2017. If you love dark and sinister, then you've probably already read this, and even if it doesn't sound like your cup of tea, please give it a try anyway. There's a certain fairytale-like quality to the story-telling that gives me a warm glow of nostalgia for all the things I read in my youth. The sinister tone only makes it even more readable.

Merricat Blackwood lives with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian, outcast from the town in which they live. The rest of the family were murdered by way of arsenic in the sugar bowl. When cousin Charles comes to stay, Merricat is desperate to keep him away from Constance and revert to their isolation. This is deliciously dark and also incredibly short, so you'll probably find yourself devouring it in a single night (have hot chocolate and biscuits at the ready).

3 // Joan Didion

I don't know what took me so long to read Joan Didion. I love stumbling upon a new writer (to me at least), and having a plethora of books to jump in to. If you're not usually into non-fiction, I'd highly recommend giving some of Joan Didion's essays a go. They have a journalistic focus on specific events, many of which are gripping and scandalous, that's paired with the most fluid and descriptive writing style. Her words feel like butter. They're almost luxurious in how smooth and beautiful they are, making it read much like fiction.

I read Slouching Towards Bethlehem earlier this month and fell completely in love with it. It explores California in the 1960s, from the counterculture of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury to musings on self respect.

4 // Sarah Perry

I read The Essex Serpent last summer and recommended it to absolutely everybody I knew. It was one of those beautiful and rare reading moments, in which I knew that I'd adore the whole novel by the end of the first page. Sarah Perry's writing is just sumptuous. I often found myself marvelling at her ability to string together a sentence. She takes every day words and imbues them with some kind of magic.

The Essex Serpent is a period novel, set in the Victorian era. It follows a complex heroine, Cora Seaborne, who leaves London after the death of her abusive husband to pursue her scientific interests. In Essex, she searches for, you guessed it, a serpent and strikes an unlikely friendship with the local minister. Some of my favourite scenes, however, centre around the reverend's sick wife, who is obsessed with the colour blue. It feels like a classic, and provides a joy comparable to reading Jane Eyre for the very first time.

5 // Emma Donoghue

I read two of Emma Donoghue's books last year, the first being The Wonder and the second Room. Whilst I enjoyed both, the reading experiences for each were worlds apart. Room is probably her most well-known novel, as it was made into a film in 2015. As such, it feels a little more commercial. It's far more plot-driven than The Wonder. Five year-old Jack has lived in Room for his entire life. I really enjoyed Room for its interesting story. I found my heart racing when I read it and I was desperate to know what happened next.

However, overall I much preferred The Wonder. The writing felt slow and beautiful. Whilst the plot was by no means pacy, it still held enough intrigue to keep me hooked. It follows the story of Anna, a young Irish girl who claims not to have eaten for months, by way of miracle from God. Lib is hired to keep watch over her and determine the truth of the matter. I felt deeply invested in these characters and their stories. Emma Donoghue creates a wonderful balance of developing their identity and withholding information. I'm so excited to read some of her other works, particularly Kissing The Witch, which I've heard is equally as wonderful.


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