I notice that the books I choose to read make me appear a certain way, as though I am a social activist, participating in marches for equal pay. I am instead the mouse that wreaks havoc inside the house, orchestrating small-scale revolts, stealing freedoms that aren’t given to me, trying to start revolutions in one family at a time.
I do not attempt to read women writers only, but my recent reading choices are too much of a coincidence even for me. And then I asked myself why I should not try to read more women. Fiction has always alluded to a man’s version of events; a woman’s version of events somehow always necessitates the phrase women’s fiction, to categorize and decry.
Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist is a collection of essays on race, gender, sexuality, entertainment and feminism. She does not discount pop culture as entertainment not to be taken seriously. She talks about how many groups of women have been constantly ignored by mainstream feminism. She isn’t scared to admit that her feminism is constantly evolving, and that sometimes misogynistic songs can be catchy as hell. This isn’t a book that dives into the history of the feminist movement. This is also not a book that aims to give us neat solutions to all the problems we worry about. The writing feels both emotional and intellectual. By calling herself a bad feminist, she gives space to imperfections and contradictions. She isn’t a bad feminist at all, maybe just a brave one.
Lesley Nneka Arimah’s What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky is a collection of short stories set in Nigeria. But the author does what she pleases with Nigeria – she imagines Nigeria during the civil war, the present, and a future which sees a Biafra-Brittania Alliance. Some stories bear the shadow of folk-tales, mythical and magical. Some other stories have the bizarre and the commonplace going hand-in-hand. Almost all stories mine relationships for drama, horror and hope. The first story, The Future Looks Good, is stunning from start to finish. There is only one scene – a girl tries to open a door – but from this scene we unravel the history of a family. In the titular story, a group of people called the Mathematicians calculate the precise amount of grief a person is experiencing, and work to remove it. There are no explanations of context or setting, yet the stories are absorbing. The author offers us unexpected gifts of storytelling as she plays with time and structure.
Let us all read more women!