International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women, from all walks of life and across the social, cultural and political spectrum. We’ve pulled together a brief reading list perfect for the occasion, covering fiction, non-fiction, memoir and more to stimulate your minds and celebrate women!
Our first three are all adventure focused, and fascinating reads.
Wild By Nature by Sarah Marquis
If you’re after an inspiring woman who should be celebrated today, then look no further than Sarah Marquis. Named National Geographic Explorer of the Year in 2014, Wild By Nature describes her three year journey to that pinnacle where she walked 20,000km from Siberia to the Australian outback. While much of the travel memoir genre is written by men, this female perspective (and those from the likes of Cheryl Strayed and Elizabeth Gilbert) highlight the gender gap with Marquis having to escape would-be rapists in Mongolia and villagers setting fire round her tent in China.
On the fictional front, if the life, or lives, of Frank Abagnale Jr can be celebrated in Catch Me If You Can, then here’s his female equivalent – the fascinating Ethel Livesey, a serial fraudster and confidence trickster who became a media sensation after she ran out on her society wedding in 1945.
Just what happened for a young woman from a respectable middle-class family in Manchester to go on to have over 40 aliases, eight official marriages, four children and five divorces. Her story stretches from industrial England to the French Riviera, via New York, Shanghai, New Zealand and across Australia, so is quite a read!
The Gutsy Girl by Caroline Paul
For encouraging the young feminist adventurer in your life, or even yourself, we’d highly recommend looking out for The Gutsy Girl by Caroline Paul. As one of the first female firefighters in San Francisco, the book is packed full of anecdotes about her own escapades as well as those of other women throughout history. A great book, full of whimsical drawings that aim to embolden girls to seek out a life of exhilaration.
While you can’t yet read Clementine Ford’s Fight Like A Girl, which we’re hugely excited to publish in October, you can read these great articles by her on International Women’s Day and the quest for gender parity (this year’s IWD theme) as well as this one on why Australia should care about Women’s History Month.
If you know any up and coming designers, we’re currently running a competition to design the cover for Fight Like A Girl, and if you’d like to know more about that, or be kept up to date by Clem about the book, visit www.allenandunwin.com/FLAG to find out more.
For fiction around the challenges faced by women, such as misogyny, domestic, and mental abuse, the following three titles provide great insight. Charlotte Wood drew on the history of the Hay Institution and more recent treatment of women by powerful men in The Natural Way of Things, while other battles facing women are found as Maureen McCarthy tackles the huge issues of domestic violence & mental health in Stay With Me and Sofie Laguna also looks at domestic abuse, but through the eyes of a child, in Miles Franklin winning The Eye of The Sheep.
The Truth About Peacock Blue by Rosanna Hawke is a powerful story about one girl’s fight for justice in Pakistan, tackling issues such as religion and online hate. Also looking at online hate, as well as the media and more general judgement of women, with echoes of the Lindy Chamberlain case, is Olga Lorenzo’s new novel The Light on the Water and she has written a powerful piece about her new novel that is very appropriate for IWD, looking at inclusivity and leadership.
I hope that if The Light on the Water moves anyone the slightest bit, it moves them to ponder family, leadership, and finally inclusivity, the recognition that we are all related through our common humanity, we are all deserving of acceptance, of respect, of tolerance. We all need to be leaders, in all our walks of life, and advocates for each other.
Fun feminist reads can be found in Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar, called “ the feminist love story that girls have been waiting for” by Clementine Ford no less, and Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick, considered to be the most important feminist novel of the past two decades and essential reading, being as relevant, fierce and funny as ever. Also, really good fun can be found in How to be a GRRRL, featuring life advice from one of our favourite Peanuts characters Lucy!
For more on the inspirational memoir front, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild is a great place to start, along with that of Kaitlin Roig-Debellis who in Choosing Hope recounts her traumatic experience and how she saved the lives of her students during the Sandy Hook massacre, and how she’s used that dramatic event to help improve the lives of many more children. An inspirational memoir by a brave young woman whose story is one of courage, heroism, faith, and resilience.
Also showing courage and resiliance, Rebecca Starford’s Bad Behaviour is a fascinating look at female adolescence, bullying and relationships, and last year wrote this fantastic piece the power of female relationships in tackling gender equality.
For further International Women’s Day reading, we’d also highly recommend Margo Lanagan’s article about how a small, and seemingly insignificant act, of writing stories can help tackle challenges and progress feminism – which, is also a good reason to stock on some feminist and empowering reading.