Seven books to read in celebration of International Women’s Day
Seven books to read in celebration of International Women’s Day
20 February 2020
Over the years, Asia House Arts has been honoured to host a range of brilliant female writers from across Asia and the diaspora. Their writing not only inspires women everywhere, but also shines a light on stories of women that aren’t otherwise heard.
So ahead of International Women’s Day (8 March), we’re turning the spotlight onto them. Here’s a list of seven books written by female writers that we think you’ll love as much as we did.
10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2019
“The latest novel by an author under attack from the Turkish government is a profound and unflinching look at sexual violence.” – The Guardian
‘One of the most important writers at work today.’ – Independent
‘In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away…’
For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her.
Guest House For Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON FICTION
A GUARDIAN AND OBSERVER BOOK OF THE YEAR
An intimate, deeply reported account of the women who made a shocking decision: to leave their comfortable lives behind and join the Islamic State.
In early 2014, the Islamic State clinched its control of Raqqa in Syria. Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, urged Muslims around the world to come join the caliphate. Having witnessed the brutal oppression of the Assad regime in Syria, and moved to fight for justice, thousands of men and women heeded his call.
At the heart of this story is a cast of unforgettable young women who responded. Emma, from Germany; Sharmeena, from Bethnal Green, London; Nour, from Tunis: these were women — some still in school — from urban families, some with university degrees and bookshelves filled with novels by Jane Austen and Dan Brown; many with cosmopolitan dreams of travel and adventure. But instead of finding a land of justice and piety, they found themselves trapped within the most brutal terrorist regime of the twenty-first century, a world of chaos and upheaval and violence.
What is the line between victim and collaborator? How do we judge these women who both suffered and inflicted intense pain? What role is there for Muslim women in the West? In what is bound to be a modern classic of narrative nonfiction, Moaveni takes us into the school hallways of London, kitchen tables in Germany, the coffee shops in Tunis, the caliphate’s OB/GYN and its ‘Guest House for Young Widows’ — where wives of the fallen waited to be remarried — to demonstrate that the problem called terrorism is a far more complex, political, and deeply relatable one than we generally admit.
Great Goddesses by Nikita Gill
Empowering life lessons from myths and monsters.
Wonder at Medusa’s potent venom, Circe’s fierce sorcery and Athena rising up over Olympus, as Nikita Gill majestically explores the untold stories of the life bringers, warriors, creators, survivors and destroyers that shook the world – the great Greek Goddesses.
Vividly re-imagined and beautifully illustrated, step into an ancient world transformed by modern feminist magic.
‘I watch Girl become Goddess
and the metamorphosis is more
magnificent than anything
I have ever known.’
The Wandering by Intan Paramaditha
“Giving strength to Indonesian literature’s newly empowered female voice.” – South China Morning Post
The most ingenious and unusual novel you will read all year, where you choose your own story.
You’ve grown roots, you’re gathering moss. You’re desperate to escape your boring life teaching English in Jakarta, to go out and see the world. So you make a Faustian pact with a devil, who gives you a gift, and a warning. A pair of red shoes to take you wherever you want to go.
You’re forever wandering, everywhere and nowhere, but where is your home?
And where will you choose to go?
To New York, to follow your dreams?
To Berlin or Amsterdam? Lima or Tijuana? Or onto a train that will never stop?
The choices you make about which pages to turn to may mean you’ll become a tourist or an undocumented migrant, a mother or a murderer, and you will meet many travellers with their own stories to tell. As your paths cross and intertwine, you’ll soon realise that no story is ever new.
The Wandering is a novel about the highs and lows of global nomadism, the politics and privileges of travel and desire, and the freedoms and limitations of the choices we make, by one of Asia’s most exciting writers. It’s a reminder that borders are real, and a playful experiment that turns the traditional adventure story on its head.
The Skills: From First Job to Dream Job – What Every Woman Needs to Know by Mishal Husain
“I wish I’d been able to read this book when I was 20. Mind you, it’s never too late.” – Clare Balding
In The Skills award-winning broadcaster Mishal Husain inspires, champions and encourages women to make their ambitions a reality by focusing on practical skills that make a difference.
Gathering together advice for women of all ages, whether they are new graduates, working mothers or simply seeking a career change, The Skills explains:
How to present yourself to maximum effect, in person and online
How to prepare for quick wins, big moments and plan for long-term goals
How to gain confidence and authority
How to navigate the ups and downs of a long working life and build resilience
Drawing on Mishal’s own experience, interviews with experts and with inspirational figures from Martha Lane Fox to Malala Yousafzai, The Skills will guide women in honing the abilities they need to thrive in whatever field they choose.
Forgotten Women by Zing Tsjeng
“To say this series is ‘empowering’ doesn’t do it justice. Buy a copy for your daughters, sisters, mums, aunts and nieces – just make sure you buy a copy for your sons, brothers, dads, uncles and nephews, too.” – indy100
“Here’s to no more forgotten women.” – Evening Standard
The women who shaped and were erased from our history.
The Forgotten Women series will uncover the lost histories of the influential women who have refused over hundreds of years to accept the hand they’ve been dealt and, as a result, have formed, shaped and changed the course of our futures.
The Leaders weaves together 48 (the number of Nobel Prize-winning women) unforgettable portraits of the true pioneers and leaders who made huge yet unacknowledged contributions to history, including:
Grace O’Malley, the 16th century Irish pirate queen
Sylvia Rivera, who spearheaded the modern transgender rights movement
Agent 355, the unknown rebel spy who played a pivotal role in the American Revolution
Noor Inayat Khan, who went undercover to spy for the French Resistance and became Nazi enemy no. 1
Amina of Zazzau, the formidable ancient Muslim warrior queen of Northern Nigeria
Chapters including Rebels; Warriors; Rulers; Activists and Reformers shine a spotlight on the rebellious women who defied the odds, and the opposition, to change the world around them.
Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China by Jung Chang
They were the most famous sisters in China. As the country battled through a hundred years of wars, revolutions and seismic transformations, the three Soong sisters from Shanghai were at the centre of power, and each of them left an indelible mark on history.
Red Sister, Ching-ling, married the ‘Father of China’, Sun Yat-sen, and rose to be Mao’s vice-chair.
Little Sister, May-ling, became Madame Chiang Kai-shek, first lady of pre-Communist Nationalist China and a major political figure in her own right.
Big Sister, Ei-ling, became Chiang’s unofficial main adviser – and made herself one of China’s richest women.
All three sisters enjoyed tremendous privilege and glory, but also endured constant mortal danger. They showed great courage and experienced passionate love, as well as despair and heartbreak. They remained close emotionally, even when they embraced opposing political camps and Ching-ling dedicated herself to destroying her two sisters’ worlds.
Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister is a gripping story of love, war, intrigue, bravery, glamour and betrayal, which takes us on a sweeping journey from Canton to Hawaii to New York, from exiles’ quarters in Japan and Berlin to secret meeting rooms in Moscow, and from the compounds of the Communist elite in Beijing to the corridors of power in democratic Taiwan. In a group biography that is by turns intimate and epic, Jung Chang reveals the lives of three extraordinary women who helped shape twentieth-century China.
Jung Chang spoke about Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister at #AsiaLitFest 2019 in partnership with Southbank Centre.
What are you reading this International Women’s Day? Tweet us at @asiahousearts and let us know!