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12 Authors on Their Favorite Stories by Women


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Women’s History Month is more than halfway through, but my TBR has been stocked with female authors since Jan. 1. I’m not one to restrict reading books by or about a certain identity to an arbitrary month, but I do appreciate any opportunity to highlight women’s work and encourage readers to branch out.

I asked a dozen female-identifying authors to share the stories that inspired them, and the result is just me, once again, adding books to my endless Want To Read shelf on Goodreads. (Not that I’m an author, but if you’re asking, a few of my recs: Yaa Gyasi’s “Homegoing“, Betty Smith’s “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn“, Danielle Lazarin’s “Back Talk“, and Gwen E. Kirby’s “Sh*t Cassandra Saw“.)

Author Jennifer Haigh recommends Motherhood by Sheila Heti

“For my money, Heti is one of the most profound and original writers working today. ‘Motherhood’ is at once a novel, a thought experiment and a provocative and surprising meditation on what may be the most determinative choice of a woman’s life:  when and whether to be a mother.” — Jennifer Haigh, author of “Mercy Street“

Author NoViolet Bulwayo recommends “The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls” by Mona Eltahawy

“’Seven Necessary Sins’ is a rigorous and resonant feminist manifesto of survival from an incendiary voice, this is an essential read for battling patriarchy everywhere.” — NoViolet Bulwayo, author of “Glory “

Author Charmaine Wilkerson recommends Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades

“‘Brown Girls’ uses a fresh approach to storytelling and a strong sense of place to tell the story of a group of girls coming of age in Queens, New York, and fanning out into the world. The narrative pulled me into the noise and jumble of life, from the heartbreaking to the joyful.” — Charmaine Wilkerson, author of “Black Cake“

Author Chelsea Bieker recommends “Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls” by T. Kira Madden

“‘Long Live The Tribe of Fatherless Girls’ by T Kira Madden is a forever favorite and feels spiritual in its knowing. Madden fearlessly invites the reader into the most vivid and heartbreaking scenes of her life where we watch the complicated spirals of addiction, grief, and longing play out in heartbreaking but ultimately miraculous ways.”— Chelsea Bieker, author of “Godshot” and upcoming novel “Heartbroke” (April 2022)

Author Julia May Jonas recommends Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck 

“With almost violent force and theatrical vividness, this novel by Erpenbeck is a stunning book about compassion. Moments from the books still shake me when I think about them — a spectacularly written and moving story about the past of Germany meeting its future, and a universal challenge to remember our human goodness.” — Julia May Jonas, author of “Vladimir“

Author Zibby Owens recommends What the Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris

“This beautiful book depicts a Black family through the tragic loss of the father to a drug overdose and the mother’s subsequent breakdown, all from the point of view of the youngest daughter, KB. KB is, above all, a reader and looks to characters like Anne of Green Gables to get her through what starts out as a lonely summer at her Granddaddy’s in Lansing, MI. This young woman embodies the strength of women throughout history no matter what their circumstances might be and the power of books to help.” — Zibby Owens, author of upcoming memoir “Bookends” (July 2022)

Author Grace D. Li recommends Fault Lines by Emily Itami

“Reading ‘Fault Lines’ by Emily Itami felt like falling into a dream. It’s about a young mother in Tokyo, disillusioned with her life and marriage, who finds herself drawn into an affair with another man. More than that, though, it’s a wryly funny, incisive commentary on love and motherhood, set against Tokyo’s glittering cityscape and for anyone who has ever looked at their life and struggled to recognize it.” — Grace D. Li, author of the upcoming novel “Portrait of a Thief “(April 2022)

Author Hannah Lillith Assadi recommends Tides by Sara Freeman

“Most recently, I read and loved the debut novel ‘Tides’ by Sara Freeman. Set by the sea, it is a spare and lyrically written story of a woman coming undone after a loss.” — Hannah Lillith Assadi, author of “The Stars Are Not Yet Bells“

Author Rebecca Kauffman recommends Improvement by Joan Silber

“I am in awe of Joan Silber’s ‘Improvement’, a dazzling novel that is wrenching and hilarious, tender and tough. Learning how the various characters and plot lines connect throughout is thrilling, and the ending is an absolute stunner.”— Rebecca Kauffman, author of “Chorus“

Author Candice Wuehle recommends The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

“Perhaps the first American novel ever written about a socialite-celeb, but also an incredible social and psychological examination of female ambition. Not Wharton’s most celebrated work, but certainly the one that inspired the most episodes of ‘Gossip Girl’.” —Candice Wuehle, author of the upcoming novel “Monarch ” (out end of this month)

Author Sloane Crosley recommends Is There No Place On Earth for Me? by Susan Sheehan

“This is one of the most illuminating and tragic books on mental illness I’ve ever read (I’m a New Yorker so I’ve read a lot). It follows a schizophrenic Queens woman over the course of a year, tracing her life in and out of mental institutions, on and off antiquated drugs. It also won the Pulitzer so no need to take my word for it.” —Sloane Crosley, author of “I Was Told There’d Be Cake” and the upcoming novel “Cult Classic” (June 2022)

Author Rebecca Scherm recommends The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell

“Inez is a ‘hardy,’ meaning that the plagues and poisons that kill off most people in this novel’s imagined future don’t touch her, and this makes her eggs valuable to the Life Industry. That’s just the premise, though: it’s about motherhood and sacrifice for someone who, more than most, has to make it up as she goes along. Inez is one of my all-time favorite narrators, especially when she cuts through the fancy jargon of her handlers and forces them to say what they mean. I pulled this novel off the staff-rec shelf at my favorite bookstore in 2015 and I haven’t shut up about it since.” — Rebecca Scherm, author of “A House Between the Earth and the Moon” (out end of this month)


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