Happy International Women’s Day, and Women’s History Month 2019! Female empowerment is something incredibly important to us on the Mardibooks team, and with that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite female-centric works, all of which in some way explore what it is to be female in today’s world. We believe that one way to challenge the patriarchal narrative is to produce, read and talk about texts that subvert the male gaze – in downloading a text produced by or centred on a woman, we encourage the market to keep seeking out multi-dimensional, well written female characters, works written by women, and to support female writers.
If you’re feeling as inspired as we are by the work of activists such as Deborah Frances-White, Reubs Walsh, Mo from ‘Colour Out the Box’ and Ellen Jones, here are some of our favourite works, produced by some wonderful people about some wonderful things.
‘Ella Out of Shape’ – Becci Fearnley and Isobel Power Smith
‘Ella Out of Shape’ is a series of incredibly powerful poems that explore maturity, adolescence and gender. Fearnley is a writer whose command over the English language creates images that sting with memories of what it is like to taste adulthood for the first time. Transposed between tightly-drawn portraits of Ella and her brother Bumbo are questions of womanhood, how toxic masculinity develops and what it is to call one’s self ‘a grown-up’. When Fearnley explores the liminality between ‘child’ and ‘adult’, it isn’t with the trite detachment of one who can sort-of remember what it is to be there, but with the keen eye of someone who knows what it is to feel fragile, exposed and raw. Shorter poems, each based on conversation, form a much larger narrative that documents the changing relationship between Ella and Bumbo in painstaking evocation. It’s heartbreaking, beautiful and necessary.
‘Unresolved Journey’ – Alyson Torns
Torns’ epic poem explores the complexities of female existence in beautiful, fragmented detail. Filled with modernist challenges to conventions of form, genre and poetic narrative, this work texturises the realities of living in light and shade. Femininity is complicated, creating work is complicated, living is complicated, and somehow Torns manages to present this in tightly-woven, uncomplicated verse. ‘Unresolved Journey’ offers a multi-faceted insight into the mind of one of the most exciting authors of today, and is a fantastic read for anyone finding their anchor, exploring their identity in our current world or simply needing something that will make you simultaneously laugh and cry.
‘A Perfect Place of Secrets’ – Clairey Blanchard
One for the history buffs among you, Blanchard’s debut novel challenges Victorian tropes of femininity by placing powerfully written female characters at the centre, and stylistically, Jane Austen meets Dickens in this rocket-fuelled, well-researched and evocative novel. By balancing poignantly-detailed protagonists with tight dialogue and meticulous historical detail, Blanchard’s novel is at once both grounded and forward thinking. Her understanding of the period offers a fantastic insight for anyone even remotely interested in the Victorian era, the history of contemporary female psychology or romance in this modern-day reboot on the classic Victorian novel.
‘The Adventures of LouLou’ – Betty Rawson and Martha Robinson
Rawson’s imaginative work features a well-rounded female protagonist aimed at younger readers. With plenty to keep the imagination of youngsters (and their parents) active, here is a story with fast-paced action, relatable characters and a plotline that the entire family can enjoy. Robinson’s gorgeous illustrations perfectly augment the tone of Rawson’s narrative, and the richly-drawn LouLou is ideal for inspiring young readers to challenge themselves, and presents a fresh take on fiction for the new generation.
‘A Place Called F’ – Jane Diamond
A firm favourite among the Mardi clan, Diamond’s compelling prose explores the difficulties of moving forward when shackled to skeletons, discerning discoveries about a preconceived past and the responsibilities of parenthood. Utilising techniques that smack of the gothic – not least in Diamond’s description of place, or her use of the epistolic form, but in the book’s successful exploration of the unknown, which induces a striking, unsettling sensation that lingers in the reader’s subconscious for a long time after the close of the .
We hope these prove useful over the course of Women’s History Month – let us know in the comments below which are your favourites!