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From my shelf to yours: books by women

Olivia Barone

Managing Editor


Women’s History Month is nearing its end, but the start of April does not equal an end to their recognition. Continue to celebrate women’s history by adding these books by women from my home library to yours. 


American author Jesmyn Ward is fairly new to the literary scene, but is stirring up conversations among readers for her two recent releases: “Sing, Unburied, Sing” and “Salvage the Bones.” Published in 2017 and 2011 respectively, both works of fiction include elements of magical realism to depict the lives of families of color set in Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. Read “Sing, Unburied, Sing” to follow adolescent Jojo, the glue holding his family together, as he struggles with his father’s incarceration. Or, turn to “Salvage the Bones” as 14-year-old Esch confronts her pregnancy amid an impending storm. 


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“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood is applauded for its Hulu adaptation but many forget it began as a novel. Atwood dives deep into the grit of the dystopian genre, creating a dark and bloody world where women are kept as resources for reproduction rather than people. Using the genre, Atwood exacerbates women’s struggles to create a new perspective on what our world could become if left unmonitored. Set in New England, “The Handmaid’s Tale” seems to walk the line of hitting a little too close to home. 


Published in 1987, “Beloved” by Toni Morrison is recognized as one of the best reads written in the 20th century. Despite this, it is also one of the most banned books in America for its confrontation of slavery, women’s rights, and generational trauma. Morrison is no less than one of the world’s best writers, proved in “Beloved” as it follows the formerly enslaved Sethe, her daughter Denver and the woman possessed by the spirit of Beloved, Sethe’s first child of whom she killed. The woman serves as a reminder of the trauma keeping Sethe from loving and being loved. 


“Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf features Clarissa Dalloway, an upper-class housewife, as she prepares for a party she is throwing that evening. Uniquely, the book spans one day in the life of Mrs. Dalloway, and periodically shifts in point of view to poet and war veteran Septimus. Woolf uses the juxtaposition of both characters to explore gender and social class. Their stories cross when tragedy strikes and Mrs. Dalloway is forced to reflect on her life while surrounded by friends she is now seeing in a new light. 


Sylvia Plath is most known for her collection of poems, namely “Ariel.” The collection was initially published by Plath’s husband, Ted Hughes, after her suicide in 1963. Her poems were met with widespread applause, but the narrative that Hughes depicted is not what Plath intended. The collection has since been restored to confront Plath’s father, her grief after his death, her husband and her experiences as a woman with mental illness. 


“Light from Uncommon Stars” by Ryka Aoki is described as a love letter to violins, being queer, donuts, immigrants and found family. A transgender Japanese American woman, Aoki braids together the science fiction and urban fantasy genres to share her experiences via the characters she creates. RIC chose “Light from Uncommon Stars” as this year’s “Open Books Open Minds” book, and encourages students to open its pages and find solace in its dazzling storyline. 


Women are continuing to leave their mark on the literary world, providing readers with a vast and inspiring library to choose from. Persist past the end of March and continue to explore the traces they’ve left behind. 

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