After being abruptly abandoned by her husband, Olga finds herself trapped in her apartment. In under 200 pages, Ferrante manages to capture Olga's descent into madness and the suffocating nature of her existence, literally. It's a great introduction to Ferrante's work or a perfect thing to read after you've voraciously consumed the Neapolitan series. No one treats womanhood, motherhood, domesticity, or solitude as deftly as Ferrante.
A beautiful novel by an important Harlem Renaissance author. The story centers on the reunion of two childhood friends whose lives have diverged. In telling the stories of these two women and one's experience of racial 'passing.' Larsen deftly explores changing definitions of race and gender, the performative nature of identity, and the tangled relationship of whiteness and blackness.
The Vegetarian begins with a simple choice. After a nightmare, Yeong-Hye decides to renounce meat. This small act of agency and bodily autonomy quickly reveals all the forces that work to control her, her body, and her behaviors. The comfortable reality she and her family occupied is quickly upended in horrific and unimaginable ways. I was riveted.
These stories are unlike anything I've read before. Machado geniusly blends horror, fantasy, and fiction to craft narratives that encapsulate what it is to be a woman and to have a body. Read these and then her recent memoir In the Dream House!
A prequel to Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea is Jean Rhys' feminist and postcolonial critique of that famous Victorian novel. It tells the story of the Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway before her marriage to Mr. Rochester, before her journey to England, before her renaming, and before her title as "madwoman in the attic." I've read it three or four times and love it more with each rereading.
Now seems like the perfect time to read one of my favorite short stories ever. Trapped in a room all day, advised against working and writing by her husband and the male doctor who attends her, the protagonist is left to stare at the room's wallpaper. She begins to see in its pattern a woman trapped and desperate to get out. This story haunts me in the best way possible. You'll also find, in the pages of this beautiful collection, Gilman's lost feminist utopia Herland.
A captivating novel, Disappearing Earth unfolds over the course of a year following the mysterious disappearance of two young girls in the remote Kamchatka province of Russia. Each chapter, corresponding to each passing month, is told from the perspective of a woman whose life is in some way touched or altered by the disappearance. While the novel is indeed thrilling and propulsive, it's not so much the mystery of the girls' disappearance as the women's lives and the loss and longing and conflict they experience that make this novel so utterly engaging.
A novel written in the form of a letter from a Vietnamese-American son and poet to his illiterate mother. In reckoning with the past and history that made him, the inherited violence and trauma, Vuong captures the feeling of memory on the page and wrestles with the possibilities and failures of language and storytelling. Breathtaking and my favorite novel of last year!