5 Things

Five Books By, For and About Women


In the flurry that is Women’s History Month, everyone and their mother, it seems, is racing to highlight the women they’ve read, the women they should have published, and the women making their mark on this industry. Here at Brown Paper Press, we like to think we do those things all the time (it's women running the show around here, after all) but watching these articles and lists unfold has been a refreshing reminder of how far we’ve come and how very far we have to go.

Women’s History Month was March, and it is now April; the lists and posts featuring women have died down significantly. We’re here bringing it back, just a little bit. In honor of supporting books by women all year round and also of World Book Day, which is today, here in the first of our Five Things series are five books we’ve loved written by, for, and about women.

The Blazing World, Siri Hustveldt

If we’re forcing labels on things, The Blazing World is a novel, but it’s unlike any novel you’ve read. A thrilling amalgamation of journal entries, interviews, and exceptional prose, this book tackles the gender bias in the art world with refreshing novelty and spunk. Protagonist Harriet “Harry” Burden is a widow and an artist, and as a character she’s not all that likable all the time, but she is an extremely realistic portrayal of a woman, and that’s what makes her lovable.

Zelda: A Biography, Nancy Milford

F. Scott Fitzgerald is a giant in American Literature, as are most of the men in his generation, but they all had muses that are rarely, and then unfairly, talked about. In this biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, Milford manages to bring all of Zelda to life—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Nothing is hidden, nothing is swept under the rug, and all the parts of Zelda are allowed equal weight and respect.

Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado

What kind of list would this be if we left this book off of it? If you follow literary news at all, you’ve seen the huge splash Machado has made (and continues to make) with this book, and everyone is right about it. Almost none of the women in these short stories behave the way they’re supposed to, and they’re not apologizing for anything. They’re loud, they take up space, and they set an example of the same for other women, both in the worlds of their stories and our own.  

On Such a Full Sea, Chang-Rae Lee

We know, we know—Chang-Rae Lee is a man. That’s okay; anyone who tells you men can’t be feminists is wrong, and a liar. Written in absolutely beautiful prose and with an incredibly soft voice, On Such a Full Sea features a young, frightened, and brave girl who proves spectacularly that you don’t have anything other than yourself to be the hero of your own story.

The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson

Kind of a memoir, kind of poetry, and kind of theory, this book manages to take a lot of complex and heavy subjects and turn it into an incredibly readable book. It follows Nelson and her fluidly-gendered partner’s first pregnancy, and turns quickly into a meditation on motherhood (really parenthood in general), queer family-making, and identity in the midst of everything else.

 This is, of course, by no means an extensive list—even just since writing it, I’ve read and loved What It Means When A Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah and And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O'Connell. Women writers are powerhouses, people, and if you aren’t putting them on your TBR lists, you should be. What have you read recently? What have you loved? Let us know in the comments below!