5 Books by Female Authors to Read

In between essay deadlines, give yourself time to get away from the screen and escape into one of these incredible books. Each is by a different woman of BAME descent and tells a distinct story that is bound by a shared, profound understanding of the experience of being a woman.

 

1. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Published in 1937, this novel is part of the Harlem Renaissance movement that centred African American writers and artists. It follows the life of Janie Crawford, a Black woman in Florida at the start of the 20th century. What makes this novel so gripping is its use of vernacular English to narrate the life of Janie and those around her. It forces you to hear Janie’s voice - really hear her - as she navigates questions of identity and autonomy. Pick this book up if you want to explore concepts of racialized masculinity and femininity, along with what it really means to liberate oneself from your surroundings. At its core, it is a book about a woman’s understanding of herself in all its shades of grey.

 

2. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

This contemporary novel is centred around a nameless protagonist who makes it her goal to sleep an entire year away. With the aid of a dodgy doctor and a plethora of prescription drugs, she sets out to simply drift away. This is a provocative book about a fairly unlikeable woman that challenges our assumptions about what a female protagonist “should” be. The privilege of the protagonist’s apathy translates into a weird and hazy text which wakes you up abruptly with its violent end. Moshfegh’s take on humanity, empathy and isolation will leave you with plenty to think about, and its dark humour will have you turning each page.

 

3. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman is weird, there’s no other way to say it. However, it is in its weirdness that it tells a gripping story of alienation and societal expectations that forces you to ponder your own preconceived ideas of normalcy. The novel follows the life of Keiko Furukura, who has been working at a convenience store in Japan for 18 years. She finds routine and structure in her work, but grapples with pressure from family and her few friends to move on with her life, find a husband and get a “real” job. The contentedness of our protagonist forces the reader to engage with what we expect young, single women to be. This novel is so engaging that you don’t have to be a 36-year-old virgin who works in a Japanese convenience store to root for her defiance of convention. 

 

4. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

If you’ve already read any book on this list, it’s bound to be this one. Winner of the Booker Prize and listed by Barack Obama as one of his favourite books of last year, it can be tempting to pass it over as sure to not live up to the hype. However, it is one of those delightful novels that exceeds expectations. Following the intersecting lives of 12 main characters it places Black British women at the centre of their own stories. The stunning character construction ensures each woman is fully formed, deeply complex and utterly human. Exploring themes of class, success, sexuality, racism and patriarchy, the complexity and autonomy given to the characters is a shameful rarity in our bookstores. Girl, Woman, Other is a sweeping novel that represents Britain as it truly is. It encompasses an astounding breadth of humanity and is worth every rave review it has received.

 

5. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Kitchen follows a young woman, Mikage Sakurai as she deals with the loss of her grandmother. She becomes close to one of her grandmother’s friends and moves in with him and his mother, a transgender woman. The kitchen of her new home becomes the vessel by which she mourns and processes.  Reading Kitchen, along with its companion short story, Moonlight Shadow, feels like watching a short exert in the longer process of grief. Her immense loss gives rise to a gorgeous piece of work that reflects on how we love after a death. This softly quirky novella reminds us that grief isn’t a linear process, as the characters are forced to confront their own losses throughout the text. It’s a fairly sad story, but one which is so familiar to anyone who has lost a loved one.