Feminist literature is most definitely on the rise (and rightly so), and people are becoming much more aware of books that tackle feminism as well as those written by female authors. I want to share with you my top 5 novels that helped get me into feminism as well as ones that are just great for tackling feminist issues.
- Hetty Feather by Jacqueline Wilson
I’m going to start way back at the beginning with my favourite childhood book and that is Hetty feather. Jacqueline Wilson is a feminist icon and shaped literature for so many of us when we were younger. She tackles so many coming of age issues across all her books and whilst Hetty Feather doesn’t tackle as many due to it being set in the 1800s, the protagonist Hetty is a fiery female character who I looked up to a lot as a young girl. The story follows Hetty Feather, a foundling child in Victorian London, as she spends time with her foster family as well as exploring the years spent in the Foundling Hospital. I adored Hetty as a young girl because she always stood up for herself and simply never accepted the unfair cards she was dealt in life. Although this is a children’s book, I love to reread it every now and then for nostalgia reasons and I know for sure I will be passing this on to my daughter to give her a childhood feminine figure to look up to as well.
- Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
This book has been described as Bridget Jones meets Americanah and essentially tells the story of Queenie Jenkins, a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman who is living in London trying to juggle her identity. She comes from two opposing cultures and is looking for love, whilst constantly being met with something much different. Queenie is an absolute hot mess of a character, but aren’t flawed characters the ones we can all relate to most? As a reader you’ll find yourself not only rooting for Queenie but also empathising with her as a flawed Feminist icon who learns to take back her own life and regain the control she had lost along the way.
- The Diary of Young Girl by Anne Frank
It’s no shock that Anne Frank has become one of the biggest Feminist icons in both literary history and history in general. The diary that has become known and loved by people all over the world obviously tells the story of young Jewish Anne Frank and her family as they hid for more than two years in an Amsterdam annex. Anne’s bravery has astounded both young and old readers for over half a century and she is the perfect epitome of a remarkable young female who has inspired women and young girls to speak up for themselves with bravery, and also to be able to just write. She spent years writing one of the most well-known novels of our day and so it’s no surprise that young girls were given the push to tell their own stories.
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
This classic needs no introduction but it essentially tells the lives of four young sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy as they steer through adolescence, self-discovery, young love, family bonds, ambitious dreams and friendships. Each of these four ‘little women’ has their own unique characteristics and story and so there is something to inspire everyone. Jo March has become an iconic female literary figure as she stands up for her own feminist rights and tackles stereotypical female expectations. If you have more of a timid personality then Beth and her gentle demeanour will likely inspire even more goodness in your heart. I will always be grateful to these four characters for influencing me as a young woman and Alcott has much to be appreciated for as she managed to write an astounding piece of classic literature back in time when society was even more patriarchal than it is now.
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This title is pretty self-explanatory but as a 50 page novella I urge everyone to give this essay a read. It is the translation of one of Adichie’s TEDx talks and discusses what feminism means today. Adichie is a remarkable author and has written numerous works of literary genius such as Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun. She here depicts with humour a unique definition of feminism in the 21stcentury. She shines a much-needed light on institutional behaviours that conform with discrimination, marginalising women all across the world. She draws on own experiences as a Nigerian-American woman and explains why the gender gap is damaging for all involved. This short essay speaks volumes and definitely reminded me why I am proud to call myself a feminist.
There are countless works of feminist literature both fiction and non-fiction, modern and classic, fantasy and contemporary, one only needs to find what suits them. However, these are five that have stuck with me over the 18 years that I have read them and inspire me to continue to fight against a patriarchal society.
Words and photo by Mollie Bruce