Please do add more to this list, any books related to women that inspired or moved you…?
1. Alice Walker’s – The Colour Purple – Can a story that begins with incest, forced marriages and domestic violence end in a way that you close it with a smile and a wish to reach the sky? My kids read this one after their tenth board exams, during the holidays. It was upsetting in the beginning and I had to hint at happy ending to make sure it was read at all.
2. A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Houssini A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years—from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to the post-Taliban rebuilding. It shows so simply what happens when religion takes over common sense. The contrast in life styles of two neighbours, and how much (Or how little?) human happiness depends on individual freedom. We hear of such stories all the time from our maids but we pay no attention, when you read it like this, it sinks in. ...the teenage Mariam — the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy man, who is ashamed of her existence — is quickly married off to a much older shoemaker named Rasheed, a piggy brute of a man who says it embarrasses him “to see a man who’s lost control of his wife.”
3. Panchali’s Mahabharata (A Palace Of Illusions) Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni – It’s good to see how a woman with Panchali’s intelligence must have coped with being forced to live her life with decisions made by maybe those who feared her power…. We also read more about Karan, and Draupadi’s crush on Karan, always my favorite amongst the Pandvas. No literary work, but interesting. I prefer this version.
4. The God of Small things – Arundhati Roy A brilliant book.
In one scene, this little son of a divorced mother living with her rich parents, is told by the old household help that they are a burden on his grandparents, and he, used to such compliments, says, “Et tu Kanta bai!”
Race, colour, gender, caste, class, marriages & divorces, love, child-abuse, sexual harassment, some gentle laughter, two lovely kids all make it an amazing read.
It’s so typical of what we see (again without seeing) all around us –Marriages where there is no companionship but the couple lives together, daily battering and no option but to bear it, and an Indian mother’s emotional dependence on, and obsession with sons. Men’s needs. And women’s needs… read if you have not already read this one!
5. Princess by Jean P. Sassoon –( Princess: a True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia) Imagine a bright, intelligent woman trapped in a life where she must follow rules made by those, often not half as smart – just because they are men, including a spoilt brother and an uninterested, selfish, autocratic father. And if this woman believes in justice, what does she go through??? Read to find out.
This book is about an anonymous Saudi Arabian woman. Total control over the lives of half the population, by the other half of the population, in the name of protecting them from the harm that can come from their provoking the other half of the population … Very informative.
6. Daughters of Arabia is a second book by the same author, in this one she talks about her daughters, and what the terribly restrictive life does to them, even though they are rich. Also about her relationship with her all powerful husband, and her mother in law who can never be wrong in her husband’s eyes; about her household help, from Philippines, and sexual abuse, with no hope of justice.
7. Not without my daughter- Betty Mehmoody – Made into a movie too, but the book is better. When we are born into a sexist society, we accept (or at least get used to) discrimination.
This American woman marries a man from Iran and they go for a short holiday to Iran. They stay with his unwelcoming joint family, and she must cover her face and hair. And then her husband tells her he has no intention of ever going back to the USA, or letting her go back. The laws in Iran apply to her, because she is his wife, any decisions related to their daughter also can only be taken by this man. The American Embassy is ready to help her get out of the country– but she must leave her daughter behind. She doesn’t of course…
Why I like this book is because sometimes even today we hear women talk of too much equality and they equate equality with manliness… I think they must read these books to see why we need to be strong.
8. Sister Of My Heart – Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee Is about India of today. Sex selection, mystery, suspense, arranged marriages, girly secrets, an oppressive joint family, the requirement for a married woman to be a mother, and only of sons.
What I loved is the subtle ways she has shown of how two different kinds of mothers choose two different kinds of futures for their daughters. This book is also about possibilities. What I didn’t like .. well read, it!!
9. Chocolat by Joannne Harris I just finished reading this one, it’s absolutely amazing in it’s simplicity, and it’s defiance of unnecessary expectations and stereotypes. Although the beautiful village and all those chocolates are set in France, this story could be happening in India. I loved this one, it’s been made into a movie, but the book is what I recommend.
10. The da Vinci Code- Dan Brown – I know there were protests, but I saw the movie – it’s nowhere close to the book. An amazing book.
What does the Bible teach about goddess worship and women as preachers and church leaders? Is God masculine or feminine? …Did Jesus and Mary Magdalene marry and have children? Was Mary the head of the church?
11. The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood‘ The women are called Ofman, so ofsanjaydutt, is Manyata Dutt, ofsanjaygandhi is Menaka Gandhi, only they do not have their own names…
“In the world of the near future, who will control women’s bodies? Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…. ” —The Publisher.
12. Chronicle of a death foretold -Gabriel Garcia Marquez is an account of the killing of Nasar, who was stabbed to death by twin brothers Pedro and Pablo for a perceived offense against the honor of their family. Their sister Angela had been married to a wealthy young man, then returned to her family during the night when he discovered that she was not a virgin. (All of this is revealed in the first chapter, so no spoilers here.) It’s a brilliant account, an eye opener, a Nobel Prize (1982) winning work of fiction by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
13. Cider House Rules When Homer Wells, an orphan in an orphanage, reaches a somewhat mature age and it becomes apparent that he will not be adopted another time, Dr. Larch, who’s grown fond of Homer despite his best efforts to remain unattached, decides that Homer will be of use as long as he’s around. Homer becomes Larch’s assistant, and after being educated by Gray’s Anatomy and Larch himself, becomes something of a quasi-obstetrician. Homer’s unease regarding abortions — he believes that fetus’ have souls — forces a wedge between the two men, who have acquired something of a father/son relationship.
The book is much better than the movie.
Edited to add
Amy Tan’s ‘Joy Luck Club’
Pearl S Buck‘s Good Earth, reminding me of (I am mixed up, read these long ago, please do point out if there are errors!)
Peony About an abandoned/orphaned girl bought by a caring family, as a play mate for their son of the same age. Peony also learns to write poetry and falls in love with the boy she grew up playing with, but she is just a slave and he is to marry a first-daughter from some rich Chinese family.
And another one of a dainty Japanese girl wooed by and married to an American Officer during the World War, goes with him to America, has a child, disapproved of by his mother (I remember her saying, ‘the way they breed , we will have a slanting eyed grand child every year‘), abandoned in a strange land …
The Second Sex, for non-fiction readers, available online at – http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ethics/de-beauvoir/2nd-sex/index.htm
Pavilion Of Women, by Pearl S Buck About this woman who finds a concubine for her husband, and no it is not a saas-bahu sort of story. She looks for someone who would be easy to control, not intelligent, and not too good looking. There is a Christian priest who visits this Chinese business family, and how he influences their lives. One scene that moved me was when she forces a husband to help his aging wife during labour…
Pixie adds, ‘Girls Of Riyadh‘ – (I haven’t read, would love a review Pixie!)
Sandhya adds, Twentieth Wife, by Indu Sundaresan
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Manjula padmanabhan’s Escape
Free Spirit adds,
Sylvia Plath and Maya Angelou
The Awakening by Kate Chopin,
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquirel,
Mayada by Jean Sasson
Mosaic by Soheir Khasshoggi.
Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho