This post is part of a series on reading women 2019 hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media’s Narrative Designer, Dan Michael Fielding.
I’ve read a lot of books by men.
As a kid I always loved fantasy and science fiction. I devoured books by Mercedes Lackey and Diane Duane. When I told adults what I was reading they would express vague interest and, usually, suggest that I might like some books by Ray Bradbury or J.R.R. Tolkein (which I did very much enjoy!).
The general consensus was that if I enjoyed books by women I should instead be reading the really good stuff written by men. I was slowly guided away from the women authors I had initially gravitated towards.
As an adult this subtle redirection continued. In college my classes fell into two camps. Either they were general education—classes on philosophy, race, chemistry, math, and so on—in which case we read a book by a man, or they were classes on gender—like my Sociology of Gender class and my Sex & Society class—in which case about half the books were by men and the other half were by women. The books by men were, of course, about masculinity and the books by women were about gender more generally.
It wasn’t until I started graduate school and began seeking my PhD as a sociologist that I began to notice this trend–or, actually, the trend was pointed out to me by my new feminist friends.
Looking back on my life, nearly all the books that I had ever been recommended, told, or ordered to read were written by men. Why was this? In grad school I was introduced to so many wonderful women thinkers and authors: bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Judith Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Octavia Butler to name a few. These were women no one had ever told me about before, and I found their words infinitely thought-provoking and beautiful.
As a kid I was never encouraged to read the work of women authors. As an adult I’ve set out to correct that, and to further encourage everyone around the world to read women authors and celebrate their works in a way that broader cultural norms refuse to do.
I’m definitely not the first person to come up with the idea of a reading women challenge. Reading Women Podcast has a wonderful challenge of their own. A quick google search of “year of reading women” will reveal dozens of readers who challenged themselves to read only women authors for a year and developed a new appreciation for these works that are not usually celebrated by broader society.
Because of my job (graduate student by day, visual novel author by night) I can’t realistically limit myself to only women. There are some books I have to read. But, I still want to read as many women as I can this year. Hence this challenge!
The challenge is simple enough: In 2019 I will be reading 25 books by different women authors, and I’m inviting you to join me.
I’ve constructed a list of prompts to help guide our reading and ensure that we read broadly and well. I hope you’ll accompany me on this little adventure and let me know your thoughts as we read along together.
Some of this list is curated by my own tastes. I love science fiction, so the James Tiptree Jr. Award features on the list. I dream of a better future, so we will be reading books about utopia and by civil rights activists. We’ll be reading around the world and concentrating on the voices of Indigenous women, women scientists, immigrants and refugees, and queer and trans women. I also want to expand my reading comfort level so I’ve put prompts for classic novels, young adult, translated novels, and books of poetry—genres I rarely read but want to learn more about!
This list is intended as a guideline only. If you’d like to read along but know a particular prompt just isn’t for you—or if you’ve read so many of those kinds of works that you’d like to try something new—feel free to pick a different type of book to read! This is all about having fun and expanding our horizons in whatever way you wish.
Now, without further ado, The List:
You can read any length of work that fits your schedule. Although I’ll be reading full books, you may want to read articles, essays, poetry, novellas, or short stories for most of these. Adapt the prompts as you see fit and have fun with it!
Which prompt are you most excited to read?
We’ll be reading along in order so you can start thinking about which books you want to read now. I’ll post a new blog on the first and fifteenth of each month with the prompt and a few words of encouragement. I hope you’ll join me for this journey and I can’t wait to read along with you!
Here is a version of the list typed out for your convenience:
- In a genre or subgenre you have never read
- A short story collection, anthology, or book of poetry
- Published by an independent press
- About an immigrant or refugee experience
- By a black woman about black civil rights and/or black radicalism
- A classic novel
- By or about a Nobel Prize winner
- A book in translation (bonus points if it’s also translated by a woman)
- About chronic illness or which discusses disability
- From the Reading Woman Award shortlists
- Written by or about a woman scientist (physical, natural, or social science)
- By a local author or recommended by your local bookstore or library
- The book that has been on your TBR the longest (or one that’s been there a long time)
- Published this year (2019)
- By an Indigenous, Aboriginal, or Native author
- By a trans or queer woman
- About dystopia or utopia
- A fantasy or magical realism novel written by a woman of color
- Specifically explores gender
- Young adult book
- A James Tiptree Jr. Award winner or short-list book
- Set in a country or part of the world you have never (or only rarely) read about
- Non-fiction book (or a fiction book if you usually read non-fiction)
- By one of your favorite women authors
- Bonus: any book by any woman!