Women’s History Month: SASiety’s book picks

After last year’s successful International Women’s Day Symposium, we had to take a step back and focus on our respective research projects. However, we didn’t want to leave you with nothing in Women’s History Month, so two of our female committee members dedicated their book picks to female authors that inspired and moved them. 

Natalia’s pick: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante ​

My Brilliant Friend. Published by Europa Editions, in 2018. Translated by Ann Goldstein. 333 pages.

Seeing as this book has already been turned into a stage show and a HBO series since its publication less than a decade ago, as well as gracing the tops of bestseller lists around the world, you might think that the book itself does not live up to the hype. I am here to tell you that it really, truly, does.

The first of Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet takes us away from the popular culture images of la dolce vita in 1950s Italy and sets the scene firmly in the realities of a working-class neighbourhood and the colourful characters that populate it. We see our protagonists Elena and Lila shake off the innocence of childhood as they become young adults and as each sets off on a very different path, making it the bildungsroman of the four books. 

The language is at turns brutal and beautiful, and Ferrante’s mastery of its deployment means that it is very easy to breeze through the entire thing without realising that time has passed. As soon as I had finished it, I went and bought the next one in the series: there really is no higher recommendation than that. 

Monja’s pick : Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola ​

Love in Colour is a collection of 13 short stories, each dealing with love from a different angle, all tied together by the theme of being seen. I don’t want to give too much away here as the stories are quick but very enriching reads!

It is impressive how Babalola mixes the old with the new; traditional fairy tales and folklore from the African and Asian cultures get a modern twist. But she also includes original stories. Her main characters are all strong women, empowering and self-loving. While the novel itself isn’t feminst per se, it certainly shows how we can apply a feminist perspective to the stories, how feminism can operate in the worlds she creates in her stories.

My favourite story is the very first of the collection: Ọṣun. Her character combines power and vulnerability, love and self-love. The sense of wanting to be seen rather than only looked at comes across the strongest in this story. But Ọṣun isn’t perfect, she’s struggling, she’s petty, she’s real – and this is what makes this story in particular, but also so the other stories so tangible.

Love in Colour. Published by Headline in 2020. 304 pages.

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