Friday, November 14, 2014

The Book Lover's Den #11: My Top Feminist Fiction & Nonfiction Books (Part I)




Welcome to my Friday feature!


In each weekly post, I explore 
my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.



The Jane Eyre Read-Along is rapidly drawing to a close (week 9 is already coming up!), and that got me thinking about the topic of feminism, which is dealt with in many fiction and nonfiction books that have had a profound impact upon the reading community, as well as society at large. Therefore, this week, and the next, I will be mentioning books -- whether I've personally read them or not -- that I believe every feminist should read. It might seem rather illogical for me to recommend books that I have not read myself, but then, as I pointed out above, these books have been very influential in effecting some change in the lives of women. Therefore, they deserve to be mentioned.

Books I Have Read

My first choice is very obvious: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. Those who have read and/or followed the read-along, which I'm co-hosting with Brian @ Babbling Books, know that this 19th-century masterpiece describes the struggles of an indomitable woman in search of herself, a woman who refuses to sacrifice that self for love. This novel is a tour-de-force that is not to be missed! Bronte's passionate heroine caused a sensation when the novel was first published, and continues to inspire modern readers.

Another great 19th-century feminist novel is Tess of the d'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy. In this tragic novel, Hardy addresses the question of the infamous double standard. Tess, the downtrodden heroine, is rejected by her husband when he discovers, on their wedding night, that she is not a virgin. Hardy was way ahead of his time, and I admire him greatly for  daring to  address this social justice topic when he did. I read this book years ago, and would like to read it again.

Yet another 19th-century feminist novel is The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I read this book years ago, as well, and definitely need to re-read it! This tale of a hypocritical Puritan society should be on every feminist fiction list. The heroine, Hester Prynne, is forced to wear the letter "A" (for adultery), and is shunned by the people of the town in which she lives. Men have been committing adultery for CENTURIES, and have NEVER been subjected to such treatment. Granted, this is fiction, but I'm sure this novel would never have had the impact it did, had it been about an adulterous man.

Another must-read  feminist book is Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, by Susan Brownmiller. This is an extremely well--documented nonfiction book I read several years ago, and need to read again! Thankfully, I have never gone through the traumatic experience of rape myself, but my heart goes out to those of my sisters, worldwide, who have. 

Among the shocking facts presented in this book is the following: during the Vietnam War, and, if I remember correctly, the Korean War as well, the U.S. Army actually set up brothels filled with native girls hired to be prostitutes. Why? So as to prevent American soldiers from raping women whenever they invaded a Vietnamese or Korean town!!!

Books I Should Have Read By Now

In this group, the very first one that comes to mind is the renowned nonfiction book, The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir. I really cannot believe that I haven't yet read this revolutionary expose dealing with the mistreatment of women throughout history. According to Wikipedia, The Second Sex "....is often regarded as a major work of feminist philosophy and the starting point of second-wave feminism." New Year's resolution  coming up: read this book in 2015!!  From what I've learned about  it through the Wikipedia article, this work is pretty much encyclopedic in nature. In fact, de Beauvoir initially published it in two volumes. Interestingly, the Catholic Church immediately placed it on its List of Prohibited Books, upon this book's publication in 1949. (Thank God, this list was abolished by Pope Paul VI in the 1960s!)  You can access the Wikipedia article HERE

Another nonfiction work  I must sheepisly  confess to not having read is A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, by Mary Wollstonecraft. Published in 1792, this book was truly revolutionary. It is, according to the Goodreads synopsis, a "declaration of female independence". Among the topics discussed are the need for women  to be defined by their professions, instead of by their husbands, equal education for boys and girls, and an end to prejudice against women. Another New Year's resolution!

A novel dealing with prejudice against African-Americans, as well as a feminist novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937, is the best-known work of Zora Neale Hurston, who was a member of the Harlem Renaissance. It tells the story of Janie, a descendant of slaves, and her relationships with three very different men. Hurston's novel met with mixed criticism when first published, including some hostile criticism from prominent African-American writers. However, she was rediscovered in the 1970s, with the rise of Black Feminism, which was spearheaded by Mary Helen Washington, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, and others. This is yet another must-read for me!

A book I've heard a lot of great things about is The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. This is a dystopian novel of a very  frightening future in which women are prized strictly for breeding purposes, as births are scant in  that future society. First published in 1985, it won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987. Additionally it was nominated  for the 1986 Nebula Award, the 1986 Booker Prize, and the 1987 Prometheus Award. Interestingly, the  book has been challenged on  several occasions throughout the years. All the more reason to tackle it!

With this post, I'm compiling a list of feminist books (including fiction and nonfiction) that I will commit to reading starting next year, as I am much too busy now. I'm surprised at myself for not having read many important feminist books, as I definitely consider myself a feminist, although of the pro-life variety. However, this in no way compromises my support and allegiance to the basic tenets of feminism.

I would be interested to know whether any of my readers have read any of the books I've mentioned here, and what you thought of them. I will be publishing my review of Jane Eyre next week, so that's one book I can cross off my list! 

I will continue with this topic next week, and will most likely go into a third and perhaps fourth part, as there are many important books for feminists to read and become familiar with.



Books Mentioned In This Post
 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/168016.Jane_Eyre



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/372885.Tess_of_the_d_Urbervilles



 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7885658-the-scarlet-letter





https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/103180.Against_Our_Will



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6702098-the-second-sex



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/195539.A_Vindication_of_the_Rights_of_Woman



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/77212.Their_Eyes_Were_Watching_God



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38447.The_Handmaid_s_Tale?ac=1





What do you think of this week's post?
Have you read any of 
these books?
Please leave me  a comment 
below!




4 comments:

  1. Hey Maria – I was actually excited to see this post!

    I know that like myself you have long been a feminist. It is really neat that we have both been talking and supporting Feminist ideals vigorously as of late.

    Your post is also reminding me that I have waited far too long to get something up on my blog concerning feminism. I will be remedying that soon.

    In addition to the Scarlet Letter and of course Jane Eyre, I have read Their Eyre Were Watching God as well as The Handmaid's Tale. I found both books to be outstanding. The Handmaid's Tale is also a very good film.

    I am currently reading No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women by Estelle B. Freedman. Thus far, I am liking it a lot and I will be eventually blogging about it.

    I would also recommend Christine de Pizan The Book of the City of Ladies. Written in 1405 it was amazingly ahead of its time. Christine de Pizan actually identifies what today we would call stereotypes and argues why we should avoid them. She also ties the reduction of violence aimed at women and the better treatment of women with being a good Christian. These concepts were astounding in a book that was written in the Fifteenth Century!

    Margaret Atwood’s book Surfacing includes many Feminist ideals. Though less famous and less dramatic then The Handmaid’s Tale, I actually think that it is a stronger book.

    I plan to do more feminist reading and blogging in the near future. I really want to read the Susan Brownmiller book.

    We will talk more Feminism soon. Have a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, Brian!

      Oh, that book you're reading, "No Turning Back", sounds so interesting! I'm going to look it up on Amazon.

      As for Christine de Pizan, I remember you did a blog post on her, back in 2012, and then I did one, too. Of course, I credited you in my post.

      Here's the link to your post:

      http://briansbabblingbooks.blogspot.com/2012/06/book-of-city-of-ladies-by-christine-de.html

      And here's the link to mine:

      http://anightsdreamofbooks.blogspot.com/2012/07/author-serendipity-5-christine-de-pizan.html

      I am very indebted to you for bringing this early feminist to my attention, as well as to the attention of the rest of your blog readers!!

      I have not heard of Atwood's book, "Surfacing". I will have to look that one up, as well!

      I highly recommend "Against Our Will" to you. It is EXTREMELY well-documented, and many of the facts in it, such as the one I mentioned above, are totally SHOCKING.

      I, too, will be doing more feminism-related posts, and we will definitely talk more Feminism soon! Hope you have a great weekend, too!!

      Thanks for the super excellent comment!! : )




      Delete
  2. I just thought of one additional book that I just had to mention. Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined identifies five factors that are making the world better. One of the factors he calls "Feminization", which is basically the empowerment of women. This is a very persuasive argument that feminism has, and will continue to provide enormous benefits to ALL of humanity.

    Personally, I love this book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, again!

      Yes, this is another one that I will also add to my TBR. Thanks for another recommendation, and another comment!! : )

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