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International Women’s Day was March 8th, and while that day has come and gone, celebrating women should never end. Women everywhere share a unique voice and story to the world, and a wonderful way to access those voices is through literature.
For a list of empowering or eye-opening stories that touch on womanhood, female empowerment or are written by powerful female authors, check out the following four novels:
1. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (TW; sexual assault, suicide)
Toni Morrison is an African American novelist best known for her novel “The Beloved” which won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. She finished her first novel, “The Bluest Eye” by waking up at 4 AM every morning while raising two kids as a single mom.
As an editor for Random House, Morrison was the first African American woman to be a fiction editor for a major publishing house. Because of her career, she was able to help make black authors and stories more mainstream. In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Morrison the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In wanting to distance herself from mainstream feminism in order to prevent divisiveness, Morrison said, “I don't subscribe to patriarchy, and I don't think it should be substituted with matriarchy. I think it's a question of equitable access, and opening doors to all sorts of things." Her works illustrate this belief while still expanding black female perspectives in addition to males.
In “The Bluest Eye,” a young black girl struggles in her segregated town, praying every night for her eyes to turn blue so that she too can be considered as “pretty” as a white girl. Written in flashback form, the story bounces around between various black perspectives, revealing hardships African Americans faced throughout the mid-1900s.
A somewhat difficult read due to the traumatic and heart-wrenching topics, “The Bluest Eye” is also a must-read for anyone with a desire to understand and work toward change.
2. “The Power” by Naomi Alderman
Naomi Alderman is an English author and game writer. Her debut novel was the controversial “Disobedience,” a story about a bisexual daughter of a rabbi. This novel won her three awards; the 2006 Orange Award for New Writers, the 2007 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and a feature as one of the Waterstones 25 Writers for the Future. Alderman said she went into the novel religious and came out of it rejecting her life as a practicing Jew.
As a game writer, Alderman was a lead writer for the alternate reality game “Perplex City,” the lead writer for the app “Zombies, Run!” and also writes a monthly technology column for “The Guardian.”
An advocate for young women as well as older generations of women, Alderman believes that men and women should be treated as equal, not that one is superior to the other.
In her most recent novel, “The Power,” a strange twist of events causes the world to shift when suddenly teenage girls now have the upper hand, with severe physical power. “The Power” won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2017 in addition to being named as one of Barack Obama’s favorite books of the year.
3. “Cassidy Blake” series by V.E. Schwab
Victoria Schwab is an American author killing it in the fantasy game. Having penned several series ranging from children’s books, Y.A., all the way up to adult fantasy; Schwab will bring you into her magical realms in a way reminiscent of J.K. Rowling... but darker.
Schwab has written at least sixteen novels since 2013, all centered on topics of dark magic, witchcraft and surprisingly powerful people with questionable motives. She is on this list because she will empower you to remember how far your hard work and talents can take you.
Most recently it was announced that her Shades of Magic Series is going to be adapted into a movie franchise, and IMDB also lists her novel “Viscous” as “in development” for film. She is continuing to pen new works and gain success.
Where does the “Cassidy Blake” series fit in, here? Well, Cassidy Blake is a young girl who beat death when a ghost boy saved her, and now they both are on a quest to save others with Cass’ newfound power of seeing into the Veil. An intelligent, brave, powerful little girl with the ability to face death and save others? Why yes, I do like to be reminded of the power I’ve always carried within me.
4. “The Island of Sea Women” by Lisa See (TW; sexual assault, violence)
If mermaids and historical fiction are your jam, then this book was written for you. In “The Island of Sea Women,” we are transported back in time to World War II on an island off the coast of South Korea, where real women resemble real mermaids. The twist, here? It’s historically accurate, and more people need to know about the story of this island and its women.
On Jeju Island, men are the caretakers and women do the physical labor. Working as divers who can handle freezing temperatures up to thirty meters deep and hold their breath for over three minutes, these fierce female divers harvest shellfish from the ocean floor. They’d let out a song of sorts when they came up for air, and dove in long gowns made sheer when wet, often enchanting those visiting the unique island and its women resembling mermaids.
However, this novel is about the friendship between two of these divers during a time of war and conflict. A story full of heartache and trauma, “The Island of Sea Women” reveals a forgotten piece of history concerning truly remarkable women.
Cozy on up to your cat, silence your cell phone, and remind yourself how awesome women are.