By Leila Kalliel//
With the end of fall semester about a month away, I’m sure we’re all ready to finish up those final projects and have a little r&r over winter break. Here at the Zine, one of our favorite ways to decompress after an (extremely) draining year is by cuddling up with a good book! But while books of all genres are perfectly lovely, I’ve been specifically hunting out feminist literature this year to extend my literary comfort zone and support female authors. I wanted to share a few of my friend’s and I’s favorite finds! So, without further ado, my top feminist fictions (from least favorite to most favorite) to read this fall are:
4. Where the Crawdad Sings by Delia Owens
- Admittedly, I haven’t actually finished this book yet, but I’m already in love. It’s also a favorite of basically all my friends! The novel follows a girl named Kya, who’s raised in the desolate North Carolina marshes in near isolation. Eventually, the plot escalates when she begins to long for human contact. The New York Times describes it best: it is, “At once a murder mystery, a-coming-of-age narrative, and a celebration of nature.” Owens is a master story-teller, and honestly, I was enchanted by the world she created from the very first page!
3. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
- Little Fires Everywhere is a book that gained recent notoriety when it was adapted into a TV show by Reese Witherspoon’s female filmmaker company. However, despite the fact that they did a great job bringing new depth to certain elements of the story, there are some things you just miss without reading the book! (Specifically, I found the depth of relationships between the children to be less emphasized in the show). This story follows the lives of two families: the Richardsons, a well-meaning but clean-cut, privileged family, and the Warrens who lead a very different, but arguably more fulfilling lifestyle. The novel is simultaneously a sort of coming-of-age story as well as a discussion of intricate topics like motherhood, socioeconomics, race, and sexuality. I found it to be highly thought-provoking and very much worth the read!
2. Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
- Pope Joan is novel I think is extremely underappreciated as an excellent piece of feminist fiction! This is probably due to the fact that it was written much less recently than the other novels I mentioned (1996!). However, this doesn’t detract from the fact the protagonist, Joan, is a powerful, smart, sexy, driven woman who revolutionizes the society she lives in. Further, although the book is technically classified as historical fiction, it’s based on an actual medieval legend about a female Pope named Joan. As the title suggests, the reader follows along as Joan lives her life and eventually becomes the Pope in a Mulan-esque kind of way, but she faces many obstacles during her journey. I’ve loaned this book to all my closest friends, and it never disappoints. Give it a try!
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- If you decide to read any book from this list, I would HIGHLY recommend this one! From humor, to biting wit, to romance, to mystery, this novel truly has it all. It features the elusive Hollywood starlet Evelyn Hugo, a Cuban-American leading lady who, after being retired from acting for decades, decides to give an interview revealing her life’s secrets. It’s hard to explain exactly why I love this novel so much without giving anything away, but seriously, trust me. The plot is riveting, the characters are to die for, and the book also touches on some really serious topics including race, gender, sexuality, and trauma that really drive it home and landed it as my favorite book of the year. And I rarely have just one!
So those are my feminist fiction recommendations I think everybody should read this fall, and anytime! These books are near and dear to my heart, so I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did. And if you’re just delving into the world of feminist fiction, I hope this gives you a good place to start! Enjoy, and don’t forget to support your local/small business bookseller if you decide to pick any of these bad boys up. If you are local to the Goleta/Santa Barbara area, check out: