March is Women’s History month, and today (March 8) is International Women’s Day. We’re celebrating by sharing some of our past and current favorites written (and in some cases, drawn) by women from other countries. Happy reading!
Lois: Autumn and Winter by Ali Smith
I’ve been through autumn and winter and am ready for spring. I am not just talking about the seasons, but two novels I read with my bookclub last year, Ali Smith’s Autumn and Winter. In honor of International Women’s Day, I am recommending a writer whose sensibility is so different (definitely not an American voice), you’ll either love it or hate it. To say Smith’s is a British voice would be too limiting—and yet, her odd and fantastical style captures the feeling of being in Britain at the very moment of Brexit in Autumn and in Winter, the precise sense of what the end of empire must feel like right now. I know that all sounds very abstract but it’s just impossible to describe a simple plot or characters when talking about Ali Smith. It’s all pretty brilliant—dark, funny, tender, acerbic…okay, maybe it is very British after all. (Smith’s newest in this quartet, Spring, will be published March 28!)
Lydia: Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi
I’m currently reading Gingerbread, the newest novel by one of my favorite living authors, Helen Oyeyemi. Or rather, I’m listening to Oyeyemi read the book to me, and I greatly recommend this audiobook version. Reading Gingerbread, like many of Oyeyemi’s books, is much like wandering into a misty, fairytale forest to find many of the trees are moving, rustling topiary of fantastic animals and beings unknown, while others are the darker, mysterious willows and elm and birch and pines we recognize, and all fill us with wonder. Oyeyemi’s prim, fey narration makes the perfect guide to take you by the hand and lead you deeper in.
Lea: The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
I first read The House of the Spirits while living in Chile and it was the first book I ever read in Spanish. I had to immediately reread it in English to make sure I didn’t miss a thing. The story of the Trueba family is enthralling and Allende captures the spirit of Latin America and Chile that I originally fell in love with. Whenever I feel longing to visit Chile and remember my time there, I pick up this book and am reminded of the strength and beauty of the Chilean people and country.
Sarah: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
The mere length of Children of Blood and Bone might be daunting at first, but that should not deter any reader from diving in to this astonishing debut novel. The novel is well-paced with an intense progression and stunning writing. The characters are richly drawn in a subtle yet entirely engaging way. Tomi Adeyemi presented at the Texas Book Festival this past fall and when asked about which strong females had inspired her, she explained in a polite, matter-of-fact tone that to her, saying “strong female” is like saying “female female”—all the women she knows are strong. In the magnificently detailed world she creates, in which characters tackle real-life issues, the reader will hopefully recognize the strength of the females in their own lives.
Maris: Flights by Olga Tokarczuk
I just started reading Flights, winner of the Man Booker International Prize, and was immediately hooked. Unfolding in a series of short sections, it’s a charming work of fiction about traveling, inhabiting one’s body, and what it means to be human.
Claire: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
One of the ground-breaking graphic memoirs, especially for women, Persepolis is the story of a young Marjane Satrapi finding her way amidst war, the Islamic Revolution, and teenage angst. Originally published in French, Satrapi wrote and illustrated this incredible, complex coming-of-age story. It is a compelling book for people of any age, and a beautiful introduction to graphic memoirs.
Nicole: “Blasted” by Sarah Kane
In one of my past lives I worked in theatre, where I lived and breathed plays. “Blasted,” by Sarah Kane, broke so many molds for me. It’s gritty and uncomfortable and makes you really question yourself and human nature. I’ve never read something that made me think as much as this piece of writing did, and I like to reread it when I feel I am getting too complacent.
Julie: Tell Me How This Ends by Valeria Luiselli
Valeria Luiselli is one of today’s most important writers. Tell Me How This Ends is essential reading. Luiselli recounts her experience translating for undocumented children seeking asylum through the channels of the United States immigration system. Reading her stories of the children, recounting what they can and cannot fill in for her about their own experiences of what they left behind and how they came to the U. S., shoves aside every political bias and over-intellectual argument about the border and brings the “issue” down to what is real: the children, the people, and the hope for safety and security that is met with radical, politically-fanned fear here in America. Luiselli packs a ton of power into these pages. Read it, read it, read it and then share it.