Okay, you may have noticed that I put the “5” in quotation marks in the title….that because I have way too many recommendations to stop at just five. Sorry. I’m breaking the rules here, only because all of these books deserve to be read. I was introduced to these books in a variety of ways: book club, college classes, recommendations by professors and friends. Most, if not all, of them cover the condition of the woman and the society in which she lives in. In other words: they feminist fam. Check out my list and prepare to be woke.
In case you aren’t familiar with T5W, it’s this great community on Goodreads created by Youtube book blogger Gingerreadslainey and hosted by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes. Every month group members are given topics for every Wednesday of that month to discuss on their respective platforms (blog, vlog, etc).
July 19th: Books That Aren’t Set In/Inspired By The Western World
–I know this is a long title, but I couldn’t figure out how else to word it and still get the point across. Talk about books that are set outside of the Western World (so outside of North America and Western Europe) or if they are SFF, books that aren’t inspired by those places (so no medieval setting fantasy!)
A Thousand Splendid Suns
This book broke my heart. I mean I ugly-cried for well over an hour (and woke up my husband in the process). It is an amazing, heartfelt book showing some of the sad truths about the world and the expectations of women in some cultures (note I did not say in some religions). I love this book and heavily recommend it to my friends, but I don’t know if I’ll every be able to read it again. It is the story of love, family, friendship, righteousness, and persistence. Don’t let my heartbrokenness scare you – the book and the gorgeous story it told was worth it.
Breathe, Eyes, Memory
This book does take place, in part, in America, however it is centered on the culture of Haiti and follows the story of a young girl as she comes to term with who she is, her relationship with her mother, and her relationship with her heritage and culture. It is an excellent book, another eye-opener. If that doesn’t persuade you, know this: I quoted this book at my mother’s funeral. It spoke to me on another level. I don’t want to include the quote so that it is a surprise to you, but the quote comes from the final pages of the book and is one of the most true statements I had ever read in regard to a woman’s relationship with her mother.
The Red Tent
While this book covers events that are purported in the Christian Bible, I don’t know if I would call it a religious work. Thus, I am including it. It is presented more as historical fiction but regardless of your beliefs it is a wonderful book. Lush and thought-provoking, it is another one of those books that covers the relationship between the main character and her family and the culture to which they all belong.
Yet another lush and thought-provoking character versus culture book, Henna House follows the tale of a young Jewish girl in Yemen who makes a way for herself amongst the earthshaking obstacles and opportunities that present themselves to her. This, along with The Red Tent, was something I read for the book club I am a part of and it was a beautiful read that deeply resonated with me. It opened my mind up to a culture I was very ill-educated in and portrayed the community in such a simple but profound way.
Island of a Thousand Mirrors
Another book read for my book club and another one that does visit America, but is still pre-dominated by the culture that carries the novel and the two central characters. Two women from two different sides of a Sri Lankan civil war tell theirs stories. It is captivating to see how alike and how dissimilar they and their situations are and how their stories and lives finally intertwine. I learned much about yet another culture I was little-taught about. Such a good book.
This book follows the story of a young girl in Africa who strives for a better education than is often allowed to people like her: poor and female. Like most of the other books in this list, it covers women’s rights, the rights of children, decolonization, race, and class structures. It is a lovely book though heart-breaking in it’s own way and one that will really open you up to the sad realities of the world. Also, I just found out there is a sequel and I’m getting it.
The Joys of Motherhood
I chose this book for my “Women Writers of World Literature” course paper back in college and was surprised by how much I like it. While it sounds like one of those warm and fuzzy memoirs of the perfect family experience, it is actually about the difficulties of motherhood in Nigeria. It’s a hard tale to read and there are some difficult scenes to swallow but it shows to a greater degree the inequality between the women that bear the children and the men that sire them.
A little different than the other books on this list by virtue of its graphic/comic-strip format, Persepolis is no less important than its all-type counterparts. It follows Marjane as she survives life during the Iranian Revolution, both in Iran and in Europe. I first watched the film version of this during a foreign language film festival at school and then read the book itself. It’s thought-provoking and a great representation on culture shock and the struggle to find a perfect balance of the two cultures.
The Clay Marble
This book is geared toward younger readers but carries a bigger punch than you would expect. It takes place in Cambodia amidst the war of the 1980s. It follows a young refugee girl and her family as they try and find safety in a land torn apart by war. I read this book in 7th grade and loved it from the first. It was one of the first school assignment books that I would later beg to own myself.
Which of these books are you interested in reading?