To help us celebrate International Women's Day, these writers share their favourite and some of the best feminist books.
Amy Gray recommends: A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf.
No matter what new book comes out, I keep going back to Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. It's the book I always give to women (and I always have spare copies) because it was a radical call for women to take up public space and demand their work be viewed on merit – because women's work has fucking merit.
A Room of One's Own is coming up to 100 years old and it's still a goddamn relevant call to arms when you look at the current statistics for manuscript submissions, commissions, publishing, sales and review rates for women in the publishing industry.
Imagine - just imagine - how different our lives would be if we took on women's stories. This is the tragedy of it all, because the world has lost countless classics and stories to feed our hearts because we don't take women writers seriously - a woman is considered to only write for other women (if at all), a man's work is considered universal. Not only are men given the space to write free from other labour, they're rewarded for it. We don't even realise what we've lost from this.
Woolf's work isn't just about writers or the politics of artistic appreciation in the market, it's about women realising their worth in every aspect of their life and demanding equal respect. This is apparently still considered a radical concept because we're still goddamn fighting for it.
Amy Gray is a freelance writer and author. She writes on politics, feminism and culture. Her work has appeared in The Age, the Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Saturday Paper and other publications.
Elizabeth Flux recommends: The Art Of War by Sun-Tzu
It’s true that The Art Of War is, literally, about the art of war - and that over time the philosophies contained within have been adapted and applied to modern industry. As a result, it has become somewhat of a trope that high-powered men in films and television shows give their sons a copy of this book to teach them that business is a battlefield and that everyone is your enemy.
The counterintuitive thing, however, is that the true lesson of The Art Of War is that in order to succeed you first need to understand yourself. The motivations of others then work around that; relationships are a complex puzzle - whether the other people are your enemy or not. It’s a surprisingly peaceful tent-pole to a text grounded in violence, and a book that all readers will gain something from – whether that be insight, improved negotiation skills or the knowledge of where best to position your army to inflict the most successful violence.
Elizabeth Flux is an editor, most recently of Voiceworks, and freelance writer with a focus on film and social commentary.
Krissy Kneen Recommends: The Chronology of Water by Lydia Yuknavitch
I'd recommend The Chronology of Water by Lydia Yuknavitch. Her voice is such a powerful angular thing full of fury and life. I felt like her book helped me release something in myself that I had been hiding.
If I could be sneaky I'd like to just mention that I have Tara Moss's book Speaking Out beside me and whenever I need to remind myself that we are no where near equality I just re-read the first couple of chapters. I arm myself with her raw statistics and climb back into the struggle.
Krissy Kneen is the author of several books, most recently the erotic future-fiction An Uncertain Grace.
Bri Lee Recommends: The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
I can hardly believe I've chosen fiction over my beloved non-fiction for this, but if I'm honest with myself The Natural Way of Things was the most affecting book I've read in the last few years. It came at a point in my life where I was questioning whether or not to really give writing a 'go' and this book reminded me what the craft (in expert hands) is capable of. The defiance of the characters lit a fire in my belly, and I could relate to their flaws and insecurities eerily accurately. Wood, of course, went on to win The Stella Prize for this work, and realising that I lived in a time and place where feminist writing like this is so highly valued also continues to make me excited and happy.
Bri Lee is a Brisbane-based freelancer and the Founding Editor of Hot Chicks with Big Brains.
Hannah Donnelly recommends: Not Just Black And White by Lesley and Tammy Williams
This memoir reads like an intergenerational yarn between mother and daughter that gently writes the truth of Aboriginal settlements and "domestic servitude", revealing the experiences of forced labor and slavery that built the outback. This is a book that reminds us why our feminism needs to be intersectional and why our histories need to be addressed.
Hannah is a Wiradjuri woman from NSW who grew up on Gamilaroi country in Tingha and Inverell and the creator of the Sovereign Trax music blog, which aims to foreground the creation and consumption of Indigenous music.
Stephanie Van Schilt recommends: Jane, A Murder by Maggie Nelson.
I'd choose Maggie Nelson's mix genre prose book Jane and her non-fic follow up The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial. Both books are about Nelson's experience with investigation the murder of her aunt, Jane. When so many crime fiction books splatter the word "Girl" in the title and while true crime stories shove female victims of violent and sexual violence at us for entertainment, Nelson delves further into her – and Jane's –experience as women in the world. Part memoir, part true crime and full-on excellence from one of the best women writers out there.
Stephanie Van Schilt is a writer, editor and critic based in Victoria, Australia, and host of the podcast 'Sisteria'.
Yen-Rong Wong | 黃彥蓉 recommends: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.
My feminist book is Wide Sargasso Sea, because it's a book based on a way more famous book (Jane Eyre), and is written by a woman of colour. I think the book is important because it gives a backstory to the "crazy" woman in Jane Eyre, and prompts us to consider that everyone (and specifically, every woman) has their own story. Also, it's a story of the white man fucking up the life of a coloured woman, which is quite significant.
Yen-Rong is a writer, reader, musician, scientist, and an aspiring academic and the founder and editor in chief of Pencilled In.
Izzy Roberts-Orr recommends I Love Dick by Chris Kraus
About five years ago, one of my best friends presented her final year fine-art thesis containing these incredible, irrepressible quotes from I Love Dick. At that time, the book was harder to find and you had to order it from Kraus' imprint, Semiotext(e).
My copy is very precious, because I often find myself going back to it to re-read or to pull out a quote. This book explored desire, art, intellectualism, femaleness, illness and more with nuance and depth and a kind of gutsy abandon that I found intoxicating. Reading it felt like permission to be messy and contradictory and human - articulating a kind of womanhood that was at times grotesque, but also deeply relatable.
I also really love this interview with Kraus about the poets she loved, which introduced me to a love for Eileen Myles and Alice Notley too.
Izzy Roberts-Orr is a Melbourne producer, writer, editor and broadcaster. She is Artistic Director and Co-CEO of the Emerging Writers' Festival and Executive Producer of the podcast 'Sisteria'.
Scarlett Harris recommends: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
One of the defining feminist texts of the modern era, I love Roxane Gay's mind. Gay mixes pop/low culture with feminist theory allowing many readers who might have considered themselves to be the "wrong" kind of feminist an entry point to the movement.
Scarlett Harris is a freelance writer and blogger at 'The Scarlett Woman'. You can follow her on Twitter at @ScarlettEHarris.
Do you have a favourite feminist book? Let us know in the comments!
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