10 fiction books to read for International Women’s Day

Posted on March 9th, 2022 by

International Women’s Day has been celebrated in some form since 1909, first as a form of protest against war and for voting rights and workers rights, and since 1975 later as an UN-recognized international holiday celebrating women’s history and achievements on March 8 every year. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias, which calls on us to defeat injustices in our society and work towards gender equality; and one way you can celebrate is by reading one of these fantastic by women authors from around the globe.

Kim Jiyoung, born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo

Cover of Kim Jiyoung, born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo

Kim Jiyoung, born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
Translated from Korean by Jamie Chang
Call Number: PL994.17.N36 A61613 2020
Publication Date: 2020-04-14

A New York Times Editors Choice Selection

From the publisher Riverhead Books:

The runaway bestseller that helped launch Korea’s new feminist movement, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 follows one woman’s psychic deterioration in the face of rigid misogyny. In a small, tidy apartment on the outskirts of the frenzied metropolis of Seoul, Kim Jiyoung–a millennial ‘everywoman’–spends her days caring for her infant daughter. Her husband, however, worries over a strange symptom that has recently appeared: Jiyoung has begun to impersonate the voices of other women-dead and alive, both known and unknown to her. Truly, flawlessly, completely, she became that very person. As she plunges deeper into this psychosis, Jiyoung’s concerned husband sends her to a psychiatrist, who listens to her narrate her own life story–from her birth to a family who expected a son, to elementary school teachers who policed girls’ outfits, to male coworkers who installed hidden cameras in women’s restrooms and posted the photos online. But can her doctor cure her, or even discover what truly ails her? Rendered in eerie prose, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 announces the arrival of a major international writer.”

Abigail by Magda Szabó

Cover of Abigail by Magda Szabó

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi
Translated from Arabic by Marilyn Booth
Call Number: PJ7928.R58 S2813 2019
Publication Date: 2019-10-08

From the publisher:

Abigail, the story of a headstrong teenager growing up during World War II, is the most beloved of Magda Szabó’s books in her native Hungary. Gina is the only child of a general, a widower who has long been happy to spoil his bright and willful daughter. Gina is devastated when the general tells her that he must go away on a mission and that he will be sending her to boarding school in the country. She is even more aghast at the grim religious institution to which she soon finds herself consigned. She fights with her fellow students, she rebels against her teachers, finds herself completely ostracized, and runs away. Caught and brought back, there is nothing for Gina to do except entrust her fate to the legendary Abigail, as the classical statue of a woman with an urn that stands on the school’s grounds has come to be called. If you’re in trouble, it’s said, leave a message with Abigail and help will be on the way. And for Gina, who is in much deeper trouble than she could possibly suspect, a life-changing adventure is only beginning.

A tense, intimate narrative that brilliantly depicts youthful innocence ensnared by lethal menace . . . Szabó the magician reveals, for an instant, time, history and human folly, all glimpsed through a child’s clear eyes.
—Anna Mundow, The Wall Street Journal

Out of Darkness, Shining Light by Petina Gappah

Cover of Out of Darkness, Shining Light by Petina Gappah

Out of Darkness, Shining Light by Petina Gappah
Call Number: PR9390.9.G37 O95 2019
Publication Date: 2019-09-10

From the publisher:

“Engrossing, beautiful, and deeply imaginative” (Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing), this epic novel about the explorer David Livingstone and the extraordinary group of Africans who carry his body across impossible terrain “illuminates the agonies of colonialism and blind loyalty” (O, The Oprah Magazine).

This is how we carried out of Africa the poor broken body of…David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own land.

So begins Petina Gappah’s “searing…poignant” (Star Tribune, Minneapolis) novel of exploration and adventure in 19th-century Africa—the captivating story of the African men and women who carried explorer and missionary Dr. Livingstone’s body, papers, and maps, fifteen hundred miles across the continent of Africa, so his remains could be returned home to England and his work preserved there. Narrated by Halima, the doctor’s sharp-tongued cook, and Jacob Wainwright, his rigidly pious secretary, this is a “powerful novel, beautifully told” (Jesmyn Ward, author of Sing, Unburied, Sing) that encompasses all of the hypocrisy of slavery and colonization—the hypocrisy of humanity—while celebrating resilience, loyalty, and love.

House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

Cover of House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

Cover of House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
Call Number: PQ3989.3.M843 I3813 2021
Publication Date: 2019-09-10

From the publisher:

“A towering and multilayered gem.” —NoViolet BulawayoAmid the turmoil of modern Zimbabwe, Abednego and Agnes Mlambo’s teenage son has gone missing. Zamani, their enigmatic lodger, seems to be their only hope for finding him. As he weaves himself closer into the fabric of the grieving community, it’s almost like Zamani is part of the family.

Zamani—one of the great unreliable narrators of contemporary world literature—knows that the one who controls the narrative inherits the future. As Abednego wrestles with alcoholism and Agnes seeks solace in a deep-rooted love, each must confront the burdens of history. Written with dark humor, wit, and seduction, House of Stone is a sweeping epic that spans the fall of Rhodesia through Zimbabwe’s turbulent beginnings, exploring the persistence of the oppressed in a nation seeking an identity.

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Cover of Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Call Number: PR9199.4 .M656174 V45 2021
Publication Date: 2021-08-17

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, NPR, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, New York Public Library, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, BookPage, She Reads, Library Journal

From the publisher:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a simmering historical noir about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome enforcer, and the mystery of the missing woman they’re both desperate to find.

Mexico in the 1970s is a dangerous country, even for Maite, a secretary who spends her life seeking the romance found in cheap comic books and ignoring the activists protesting around the city. When her next-door neighbor, the beautiful art student Leonora, disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman—and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.

Mexico in the 1970s is a politically fraught land, even for Elvis, a goon with a passion for rock ’n’ roll who knows more about kidney-smashing than intrigue. When Elvis is assigned to find Leonora, he begins a blood-soaked search for the woman—and his soul.

Swirling in parallel trajectories, Maite and Elvis attempt to discover the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, encountering hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies. Because Mexico in the 1970s is a noir, where life is cheap and the price of truth is high.

“An absolute flex . . . [Velvet Was the Night] left me marveling at what kind of sorceress Moreno-Garcia must be as she reworks genre after genre, weaving in Mexican history and culture, satisfying familiar cravings without resorting to mere pastiche. The most tantalizing suspense of all comes with wondering what she’ll do next.”—Slate

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar

Cover of The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by by Shokoofeh Azar

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree
by Shokoofeh Azar

Call Number: PK6562.1.Z37 I8413 2020
Publication Date: 2020-01-07

Shortlisted for the 2020 International Booker PrizeFrom the publisher Europa Editions:

From the pen of one of Iran’s rising literary stars, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is a family story about the unbreakable connection between the living and the dead.

Set in Iran in the decade following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, this moving, richly imagined novel is narrated by the ghost of Bahar, a thirteen-year-old girl, whose family is compelled to flee their home in Tehran for a new life in a small village, hoping in this way to preserve both their intellectual freedom and their lives. But they soon find themselves caught up in the post-revolutionary chaos that sweeps across their ancient land and its people. Bahar’s mother, after a tragic loss, will embark on a long, eventful journey in search of meaning in a world swept up in the post-revolutionary madness.

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree speaks of the power of imagination when confronted with cruelty, and of our human need to make sense of trauma through the ritual of storytelling itself. Through her unforgettable characters, Azar weaves a timely and timeless story that juxtaposes the beauty of an ancient, vibrant culture with the brutality of an oppressive political regime.

“I have never read such a voice before. It is playful, poetic and deeply melancholy at the same time. Azar writes about the blunt force or Iranian history with the lightness of a feather’s touch. Transcendental, brilliant and beautiful.” —Alice Pung, author of Laurinda

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

Cover of The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante
Translated from Italian by Anne Goldstein
Call Number: PQ4866.E6345 V5813 2021
Publication Date: 2020-09-01


“There’s no doubt [the publication of The Lying Life of Adults] will be the literary event of the year.”—Elle Magazine

Giovanna’s pretty face is changing, turning ugly, at least so her father thinks. Giovanna, he says, looks more like her Aunt Vittoria every day. But can it be true? Is she really changing? Is she turning into her Aunt Vittoria, a woman she hardly knows but whom her mother and father clearly despise? Surely there is a mirror somewhere in which she can see herself as she truly is.

Giovanna is searching for her reflection in two kindred cities that fear and detest one another: Naples of the heights, which assumes a mask of refinement, and Naples of the depths, a place of excess and vulgarity. She moves from one to the other in search of the truth, but neither city seems to offer answers or escape.

Named one of 2016’s most influential people by TIME Magazine and frequently touted as a future Nobel Prize-winner, Elena Ferrante has become one of the world’s most read and beloved writers. With this new novel about the transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, Ferrante proves once again that she deserves her many accolades. In The Lying Life of Adults, readers will discover another gripping, highly addictive, and totally unforgettable Neapolitan story.

Havana Year Zero by Karla Suárez

Cover of Havana Year Zero by Karla Suárez

Havana Year Zero by Karla Suárez
Translated from Spanish by Christina MacSweeney
Call Number: PQ7390.S793 H3313 2021
Publication Date: 2021-11-02

WINNER Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-monde (2012); WINNER Insular Book Award (France, 2012)From the publisher Charco Press:

It was as if we’d reached the minimum critical point of a mathematical curve. Imagine a parabola. Zero point down, at the bottom of an abyss. That’s how low we sank.

The year is 1993. Cuba is at the height of the Special Period, a widespread economic crisis following the collapse of the Soviet bloc. For Julia, a mathematics lecturer who hates teaching, Havana is at Year Zero: the lowest possible point, going nowhere. Desperate to seize control of her life, Julia teams up with her colleague and former lover, Euclid, to seek out a document that proves the telephone was invented by Antonio Meucci in Havana, convinced it is the answer to secure their reputations and give Cuba a purpose once more. From this point zero, Julia sets out on an investigation to befriend two men who could help lead to the document’s whereabouts, and must pick apart a tangled mystery of sex, family legacies and the intricacies of how people find ways to survive in a country at its lowest ebb.

‘The Name of The Rose is set in Cuba and is now called Havana Year Zero (…) A masterpiece’, Marie Claire (France)

Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge

Cover of Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge

Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge
Translated from the Chinese by Jeremy Tiang
Call Number: PL2970.5.N25 Y513 2021
Publication Date: 2021-07-13

A New York Times Editors’ ChoiceFrom the publisher:

From one of the most exciting voices in contemporary Chinese literature, an uncanny and playful novel that blurs the line between human and beast…

In the fictional Chinese city of Yong’an, an amateur cryptozoologist is commissioned to uncover the stories of its fabled beasts. These creatures live alongside humans in near-inconspicuousness—save their greenish skin, serrated earlobes, and strange birthmarks. Aided by her elusive former professor and his enigmatic assistant, our narrator sets off to document each beast, and is slowly drawn deeper into a mystery that threatens her very sense of self.

Part detective story, part metaphysical enquiry, Strange Beasts of China engages existential questions of identity, humanity, love and morality with whimsy and stylistic verve.

“Luminous and beguiling . . .”—The Washington Post; “Magical Realism at its best . . .”—The Wall Street Journal

Inseparable : a never-before-published novel by Simone de Beauvoir

Cover of Inseparable : a never-before-published novel by Simone de Beauvoir

Inseparable by Simone de Beauvoir
Translated from the French by Sandra Smith
with an introduction by Margaret Atwood
Call Number: PQ2603.E362 I4513 2021
Publication Date: 2021-09-07

From the publisher:

A never-before-published novel by the iconic Simone de Beauvoir of an intense and vivid girlhood friendship

From the moment Sylvie and Andrée meet in their Parisian day school, they see in each other an accomplice with whom to confront the mysteries of girlhood. For the next ten years, the two are the closest of friends and confidantes as they explore life in a post-World War One France, and as Andrée becomes increasingly reckless and rebellious, edging closer to peril.

Sylvie, insightful and observant, sees a France of clashing ideals and religious hypocrisy—and at an early age is determined to form her own opinions. Andrée, a tempestuous dreamer, is inclined to melodrama and romance. Despite their different natures they rely on each other to safeguard their secrets while entering adulthood in a world that did not pay much attention to the wills and desires of young women.

Deemed too intimate to publish during Simone de Beauvoir’s life, Inseparable offers fresh insight into the groundbreaking feminist’s own coming-of-age; her transformative, tragic friendship with her childhood friend Zaza Lacoin; and how her youthful relationships shaped her philosophy. Sandra Smith’s vibrant translation of the novel will be long cherished by de Beauvoir devotees and first-time readers alike.


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