It’s sad but true that we’ve reached 2017 and female authors are still regularly overlooked by literary journals and reviewers, and dismissed as ‘chick-lit’ or ‘too commercial’ by publishers. Because this year, and every year, my New Year’s Resolution is to read more diversely, here are some female authors that should definitely be checked out.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Now known for her TED talk We Should All Be Feminists being sampled in a Beyoncé song, Adichie is a renowned Nigerian novelist who definitely deserves more recognition. The books I have read by her have been astonishingly good, with Half of a Yellow Sun telling the story of families caught up in the Biafran Civil War, and Americanah examining the way blackness is treated in the US, Britain and Nigeria through a globe- and decade-spanning love story.
Female authors are still regularly overlooked by literary journals and reviewers, and dismissed as ‘chick-lit’ or ‘too commercial’ by publishers
The Secret History tells the story of a group of college students in America who commit a murder of one of their classmates, and how they deal with the aftermath of what they have done. It is written in neo-classical style and borrows heavily from art and mythology, and as such is very different from anything else I have read. She also spent 11 years on her most recent novel, and if that level of dedication doesn’t make you want to read her work, I don’t know what will.
Roy may have only written one novel, but her use of language is still mind-blowing. I first read The God of Small Things when I was far too young to fully understand the plot, but the imagery stayed with me. Reading it again recently reminded me what an amazing and ambitious novel it is, spanning several generations of a Kerala family and how their lives are affected by the Love Laws that lay down “who should be loved, and how. And how much.”
Reading it again recently reminded me what an amazing and ambitious novel it is
You may be thinking “Oh – but I’ve heard of her! How can she be underrated?” Well, here’s how: her most famous novel The Handmaid’s Tale is regularly overlooked in favour of 1984 and Brave New World despite being easily one of the best dystopias around. And if that’s not for you, then she is bringing out new work all the time (including Hag-Seed, a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest) – all of which deserves more notice.
Unless you had to study The Bloody Chamber at A Level, you might never have heard of Angela Carter. She was a feminist writer, whose work is often categorised as magical realism, Gothic or surrealism. Carter’s work is varied – she has written novels, poetry, drama, children’s books, essays and non-fiction – and often confronts taboo subject material. The Magic Toyshop – a sinister Gothic coming-of-age tale – is another good book to try.