“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.” — Emily Dickinson
Women’s History Month commemorates and encourages the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. There is no “one size fits all” experience that encapsulates the experience of womanhood, differing factors of identity enable contrasting lived experiences. It is through the welcoming of diverse voices, stories, and experiences that we begin to truly respect and appreciate the journeys of individuals and the role they play in our own understanding of history. This month the ILI staff has put together a list of some of our favorite books written by women.
Northampton is home to a handful of incredible bookstores. In today’s age when purchasing a book can be as easy as the click of a button, it is vital to support these local businesses in order to keep these locally owned treasures on Northampton’s map. If you find yourself intrigued by any of these titles, we recommend taking the opportunity to shop local – check out Broadside Bookshop, Booklink Booksellers, Raven Used Books, or Gabriel’s Used Books.
ILI STAFF PICKS
Tell me More – Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say
By Kelly Corrigan
Macey says: “It’s beautiful, heartbreaking, funny, and totally relatable – and a great reminder of the power of the words you choose.”Read a synopsis of Tell me More – Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say here.
- Hourglass by Dani Shapiro
City of the Uncommon Thief
By Lynne Bertrand
Heather Says: I read a lot and love a big, thick book that I can disappear into and that takes time to get through. Complicated and engaging with a lot of mystery mixed in. I thoroughly enjoyed the book from beginning to end…”
Read a synopsis of City of the Uncommon Thief here.
The School for Good Mothers
By Jessamine Chan
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Cait says: “This book simultaneously captivated and destroyed me. Chan’s story explores the pressures, expectations, and hypocrisies placed on women- especially in motherhood, and the added layers of this that come with being a woman of color. It challenged me and made me think a lot about the fluidity of morality and what is considered right and wrong.”
Read a synopsis of The School for Good Mothers here.
Two books by Kristin Hannah
Genre: Historical Fiction
The Four Winds
Amy Says: “The amazing struggles of a woman to keep herself and her two children alive during the ravages of the Dust Bowl. It’s a great historical novel, well researched, a page turner, and gives us a birds eye view of life for regular people in this period.”
Amy Says: “Focuses on two sisters and their different responses to the arrival/presence of the Nazis in France during WWII. Highlights the French Resistance, but also gives an excellent view of the hardships and gradual diminution of freedoms in Vichy France, and again, a birds eye view of life for regular people in this period.”
By Emily Bronte
Josh Says: “It’s beautifully dark and darkly beautiful.”
Read a synopsis of Wuthering Heights here.
- Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
Crying in HMart
By Michelle Zauner
Beth says: “It explores the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters, the hopes, expectations and realities, and finds beauty and connection. Also, it is largely about food as a connector to our past and our ancestry, which massively resonates with me.”
Read a synopsis of Crying in HMart here.
By Patti Smith
Molly says: “There’s something intangible about how Smith’s words bring the reader into the infamous folk artist scene of New York City in the late sixties and seventies. While reading, you feel like you are living through that time with her, and diving into a secret/not-so-secret world. “
Read a synopsis of Just Kids here.
In the Time of the Butterflies (En el tiempo de las mariposas)
By Julia Alvarez
Genre: Historical Fiction
Samira says: “I always struggled in history classes when I was younger. Later in life I was inspired to learn more about historical events when reading books such as this.”
Read a synopsis of In the Time of the Butterflies here.
By Min Jin Lee
Caroline Says: “I was immediately drawn into this book about four generations of a Korean family and the trials and tribulations of being immigrants in Japan. I loved the strong women characters of this book and it brought home the sacrifices that immigrants make for their families and children.“
Read a synopsis of Pachinko here.
Honorable Mention: “In talking to colleagues at work about this book spurred a conversation by Macey who was reading Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner, a memoir about growing up Korean American. This is a powerful book that details her relationship with her mom who died from cancer. Through her grief she reconnects with her Korean culture and her mom by making the amazing food that she remembered from her mom.”
Prière à la Lune (Prayer to the moon)
By Fatima Elayoubi
Sabine says: “Fatima Elayoubi’s first book, Prière à la Lune (Prayer to the moon) describes her childhood in a rural area of Morocco, her immigration to France in 1983 with her husband, the ensuing feeling of isolation, and the struggles she went through in raising alone two daughters while working as a house and office cleaner in Paris.
Composed as an address to the moon, a familiar figure in the night wherever the author lives, her tale emphasizes the importance of education for girls and of literacy programs for immigrants. As the daughter of a poor Moroccan family, Fatima Elayoubi had to stop going to school at the age of ten. Upon her arrival in France, she could hardly speak the language of her new country. As a consequence of her impossibility to express her emotions and sensibility in French, she endured a growing sensation of being a body deprived of “soul and spirit.” Inexorably cut from the others and also from herself, she poignantly voices the distance that her lack of literacy and disregarded profession created between her and her daughters who were born in France.
In the last chapters, the reader witnesses the reconciliation of Fatima Elayoubi with herself when after a work accident that caused her a lasting physical pain and moral distress, she is sent to a therapist, and, concurrently, to a literacy class for immigrants where she starts to write diary entries and poetry.
As a French teacher at the International Language Institute, I discovered the two books of Fatima Elayoubi, Prière à la Lune (Prayer to the Moon, 2006) and Enfin, je peux marcher seule (At last, I can walk alone, 2011) when I showed Fatima (2015), a movie inspired by these narratives and directed by Philippe Faucon, to the students of my film class. I felt deeply moved by the life of this Moroccan immigrant who, thanks to her new skills of writing and speaking French with more ease, reconstructs her self esteem and strengthens her connection to her daughters.
Although none of the two narratives has been yet translated into English, they are very accessible in their French versions to people with an intermediate level of French. I would also recommend the movie Fatima that has been distributed in the United States with English captions.”
Read a synopsis of Prière à la Lune here.
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