Celebrating Literacy Day 2020 and Women Writers!
This article was written by Dartmouth College Junior Ana Furtado from Brazil. Ana interned with the Launch gURLs Marketing and Communications team this summer and was pivotal in launching our brand!
September 8th is International Literacy Day – an occasion to celebrate the importance of literacy in our communities and literature in our cultures. It also gives bookworms a perfect excuse to retreat from the world and devour the next title on their reading lists!
The holiday’s festive aura, however, should include a moment of reflection. Literature has historically been defined according to parameters of male, generally white, authors. Although women transnationally have been essential literary contributors, their protagonism in writing is consistently revoked. This is especially true for women who experience specific forms of discrimination conjointly to gender bias. As such, black, Indigenous, and/ or LGBTQIA+ women are greatly outnumbered, or entirely absent, from our bookshelves and anthologies.
Here is a short thought experiment: considering women’s central role in national and international literature, how many books written by women have you read recently? How many female-identifying authors can you list at an international level? How many of those are non-white? Can you name any transgender writers?
Is your list sparse? Well, it need not be for much longer – we at Launch gURLs have confectioned an international list of 12 diverse female authors, just for you! There are so many noteworthy writers who deserve to be read and recognized, which is why we strived to be as broad and inclusive as possible with our selections. Therefore, whether you are a fiction fanatic, a connoisseur of the classics, or an eclectic book addict, the title of your next best-read is just a scroll away!
No literary recommendation list could be complete without mentioning Maryse Condé! Novelist, scholar, and Professor at Columbia University, Condé is a brilliant writer who divides her time between New York City and her native Guadeloupe. She won the New Academy Prize in Literature in 2018 (a substitute for the 2018 Nobel in Literature) for her emotionally complex historical novels. Some of her best-known titles are I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem, Segu, and Windward Heights.
Not familiar with Polish literature? What better way to get started than by reading the work of Olga Tokarczuk! Besides her role as a writer and public intellectual, she is also an environmental activist, which shines through in novels like Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (one of my personal favorites this year!). Her mythical tone and sardonic prose has granted her unprecedented praise in Poland and abroad. In 2018, she won the Man Booker Prize for her novel Flights, followed by the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2019.
If you have never heard of Akwaeke Emezi, you are missing out! Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil author whose novels explore the liberatory, albeit painful and solitary, process of embracing the multiplicity of one’s identity. The Black, trans, and gender non-binary writer is best known for their novel Freshwater, a semi-autobiographical debut that explores the intersections between spirituality, gender, and sense of belonging. The book was nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction — the award’s first nomination attributed to a non-binary transgender author!
If you are interested in ecofeminism and food sovereignty, you should definitely check out the writings of Indian scholar Vandana Shiva. Besides her impressive academic accomplishments – a degree in Quantum Physics and a Ph.D. in philosophy – Professor Shiva is a world-renowned environmentalist and leading figure of the anti-globalization movement. Founder of Navdanya – a women-centered non-profit for the protection of seeds, the rights of farmers, and the preservation of biodiversity -, Vandana Shiva is also the author of magnificent titles such as Earth Democracy, Who Really Feeds the World?, and Soil Not Oil.
One of the most esteemed literary figures in Latin America, Clarice Lispector has been described as the most important Jewish writer since Kafka, as well as one Brazil’s greatest modern writers. Her family fled to Brazil from Ukraine due to the wave of anti-Semitic violence following the First World War. At the age of 23, she had already published her first award-winning novel Near to the Wild Heart, and would continue to dazzle readers with her introspective, raw, and peculiar style of prose. Among her legendary works are The Hour of the Star, The Passion According to G.H., The Chandelier, and A Breath of Life.
A revolutionary both in life and literary production, Wittig was a central figure in the radical lesbian and feminist movements in her native country France, where she was born in 1935. She moved to Paris to study at Sorbonne Université, later immigrating to the United States in 1976. Her novels and essays explored the intersections between gender, sexuality, and corporeality, denouncing the appropriation of women’s bodily autonomy by male-oriented power structures. Among her best-known titles are The Opoponax, The Lesbian Body, and The Straight Mind and Other Essays.
What do you think of our list? Are there any writers that you think should have been featured in this article? Who are some of your favorite female authors? Comment down below your top picks for International Literacy Day!