Feminist literature is a category that takes up a huge amount of space on my bookcase. It is one of my primary interests when reading for pleasure or when picking modules within my degree. Considering the importance of intersectional feminism and inclusivity in what we read and how we educate ourselves, it is extremely important to diversify our bookshelves. As there are simply too many amazing Black feminist writers to mention in this article, including Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Zora Neale Hurston, Claudia Rankine and Warsan Shire to name a few, I have instead decided to list three of my favourite Black feminist writers to get you started. The first being one of my favourite authors who I believe to be a fantastic starting point in your reading, the second is a recent read that I loved, and the final recommendation is the next book that I am planning on reading that I have heard amazing things about.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
My first recommendation is not a book, but an author. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s literary work is a brilliant starting point for delving into Black feminist literature. Feminism plays a key part in both Adichie’s works of fiction and non-fiction, with her viral TEDx Talk We Should All Be Feminists being turned into an extremely popular essay of the same title. This essay is short and extremely accessible if people are looking to ease their way into feminist essays, but it remains prominent and enlightening to those who may be well-read in the area but have not explored this text yet. Alongside her non-fiction, her fictional works have a strong feminist thread throughout, as Adichie often writes of strong female characters and acknowledges problematic patriarchal structures. Her novel Half of a Yellow Sun won the 2007 Women’s Prize for Fiction and was recently announced as the “Best of the Best” as it was named as the best book out of the past decade of winners. Another one of her books, Americanah, was also shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2014 and her debut novel Purple Hibiscus (TW domestic violence) won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the Best First Book in 2005 and was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2005.
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste (TW: sexual assault and violence)
The next book that I would like to recommend is an extremely recent read for me, having studied it in the second week of this term as a part of one my modules, but I loved this book and feel that it truly deserves a place on everyone’s bookshelves. Before getting into why I would recommend this text as an amazing work of feminist literature, I feel that a trigger warning should be issued as the text does contain themes of sexual assault and violence, so please take that into consideration before reading the book. Mengiste’s The Shadow King tells the untold story of female warriors in the Italio-Ethiopian War (1935 – 1937) through the mythic tale of Hirut, a young orphan who has recently been employed as a servant to Kidane who is an officer to Emperor Selassie and his wife Aster. The book was shortlisted for The Booker Prize last year and does not disappoint. It was touching and shared truly heart-breaking experiences of women, but also shared uplifting stories of the bonds between women and the strength of these female warriors. This was an exceptionally powerful read and I highly recommend that you read it as well.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
This final book is actually the next book that I am planning to read (outside of my module reading list). This book has been on my shelf since its release in 2019 and I have not got around to reading it yet. It seems that I am completely behind the rest of the world who have already been loving this book. Evaristo won the Booker Prize in 2019 for this book and I have heard so many positive reviews, so I am really looking forward to reading it. This book follows the various lives of twelve characters across the UK, particularly focusing on the experience of Black British women. The text looks into ideas of gender identity, class, heritage, sexuality and so many other aspects of life and womanhood, which is why I am looking forward to exploring this book as my next read.
With so many enlightening Black feminist works in circulation, this list is to be a starting point for those who would like to expand their bookshelf and educate themselves, not an exhaustive list. However, I have loved diversifying my bookshelf, and I hope this list helps you to do the same.
– Amelia Gregory
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