GLOBAL WOMEN OF COLOR 2014

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Reading Global Women of Color, 2014, My List of Suggested Books

Reading Global Women of Color, 2014

My List of Suggested Books

I am thrilled with the recent surge of interest in women writers in response to #readingwomen2014, but I am also a bit uneasy.  I fear that readers will only turn to books by white women, when so many books by women of color deserve to be read and enjoyed.  They can be an important step toward understanding women all over the globe.  So I have come up with my own list.  I tried to follow the book-a month format, but I couldn’t restrain myself.

My list only includes fictional books that I have read and reviewed.  (Links are to my reviews.)  It is honestly eclectic, but I have tried to provide breath and diversity rather than just name favorites.  Yet I realize what gaps there in my list and my reading.

PLEASE HELP ME FILL IN THE GAPS with lists or books you have read.  I plan to create a page on GLOBAL WOMEN OF COLOR but I need suggestions. You can suggest individual books or your own lists of recommendations.  I’d particularly love to have suggestions for “Reading African Women, 2014” or from the Far East or Latin America or any place whose women writers you know and love.

LOOK FOR MY GLOBAL WOMEN OF COLOR FOR MORE SUGGESTIONS

 AFRICA

Changes, by Ama Ata Aidoo.  An insightful novel from Ghana about what is changing and not changing as women entering professions face demands to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their husbands.  By one of the writers who has helped promote a women’s perspective on Africa.

Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A moving novel about fear, loss, and survival in Biafra’s unsuccessful struggle for independence from Nigeria in the 1960s, by a leading Nigerian writer today.

 Ghana Must Go, by Taiye Selasi. A beautiful, lyrical novel about a family of African migrants striving for success and never being successful enough. Like Adichie’s fine Americanah, it is more internationally focused than early books.

 AUSTRALIA

The Swan Book, by Alexis Wright.    Another brilliant  speculative novel by a talented Indigenous Australian who writes about belonging and what it means, to Indigenous people and all of us, to have and to lose a homeland.

 SOUTH ASIA

Sister of my Heart, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni,   A wise novel in which two young women, raised “like sisters” in Calcutta, find that marriages and pregnancies call on them to make choices between competing loves.

 FAR EAST/SOUTHEAST ASIA

Evening is the Whole Day, by Preeta Samrasan  An intricate novel about a family of Indian descent in post-colonial Malaysia; a family, like their country, full of secrets, anger and long-held resentments.

Please Look After Mother, by Kyung-Sook Shin An innovative novel about a Korean family’s memories and responses when the mother disappears.

FishHair Woman, by Merlinda Bobbis  A lyrical speculative novel about politics and war in the Philippines, about parents and children and siblings, about the past and whether or not we can ever escape it, about history and memory, and about finding joy in the face of pain.

 MIDDLE EAST

Women Without Men: A Novel of Modern Iran, by Shahrnush Parsipur. An exquisite fable by an Iranian woman combining the magic of Arabian Nights with the stories of five women who temporarily escape the rigid control of men to live together in a garden.

Persian Requiem, by Simin Daneshvar. A moving Iranian novel set during World War II and centered on a wife and mother struggling with competing loyalties. Written in 1969, it provides insight into the diversity and conflicts that have long existed in that country.

LATIN AMERICA

Prospero’s Daughter, by Elizabeth Nunez.  A Caribbean novel, modeled on Shakespeare’s play, exploring the impact of colonization on people’s relationships with each other. Set in Trinidad shortly before its independence.

 NORTH AMERICA

Cutting Season, by Attica Locke  A suspense-filled mystery, a tender account of mother-daughter relations, and a “meditation” on how we deal with our personal and societal past—an African American woman from Louisiana.

 Round House, by Louise Erdrich.  One of the most powerful of Erdrich’s novels about life on the Ojibwe reservation explores a teenage boy’s reaction to his mother’s vicious rape.

 Carmelo, by Sandra Cisneros.  A delightful novel about four generations of a Mexican American family, living in Chicago, Texas, and Mexico, a girl’s journey into womanhood and much more.

READING GLOBAL WOMEN OF COLOR, 2014

January 2014 has witnessed an exciting new set of blogs, challenges, twitters that relate to women’s writing and to Global Women of Color. More about my own reaction to all this activity to come. Here are some, old and new, for you to check out.

#readingwomen2014

With this hashtag, Joanna Walsh inspired an amazing number of tweets, blogs and articles in about women’s books. Her original list is available at her blog.

http://badaude.typepad.com/my_weblog/2014/01/readwomen2014-the-list.html

In response sixteen major magazines and blogs have published their own lists of favorite woman authors and their books. These had lots of suggestions to add to my own reading, but most were by USA/European authors. Her blog provides an index to them, as of January 23.

http://badaude.typepad.com/my_weblog/2014/01/readwomen2014-around-the-world.html

Follow the comments on these for even more recommendations. They are not sorted by region or ethnicity, but the sheer volume is evidence that Walsh struck a responsive chord.

Critical Flame

This online literary magazine has decided to devote a year, starting May 2014 to publishing articles about authors who are women or people of color. They seek articles and reviews as well as readers for this project.

http://criticalflame.org/

The Year of Reading Arab Women

M Lynx Qualey is a freelance writer at home in Cairo, Egypt, and the blogger who helped me find books by Arab women. She raises the obvious question of which women will we read?

Will it be, in the main, a celebration of English-language women’s voices? Of women at the center or the peripheries?

She offers a list of alternative; a book a month for the next year by an Arab woman.

http://arablit.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/the-year-of-reading-arab-women/

She also provides other useful lists and recommendations for this often ignored group of writers.

The Year of Reading South Asian Women

In 2012 Elen Turner completed a PhD at the Australian National University on contemporary Indian feminist publishing. Her larger interest is in South Asian women writers. She is an excellent person to compile a year of monthly reading. Her list includes a variety of nationalities and types of writing by women.

http://southasiabookblog.com/2014/01/24/year-of-reading-women

South Asian Women Writers Challenge

In addition to these lists, women in India are hosting a challenge for readers of books by South Asian women, complete with reading suggestions for those not knowledgeable about them.

http://southasianwomenwriters.wordpress.com/

Australian Women Writers Challenge

Starting in 2012, this very sucessfull challenge and blog has lead the way in encouraging the reading of women authors. They have a large file of reviews of books by Australian women as well as monthly summaries of the books in different categories. Jessica White summarizes and discusses books that deal with diversity, including books by Indigenous Australian writers. AWW has fostered a real interest in Indigenous writing.

http://australianwomenwriters.com/

http://australianwomenwriters.com/2014/01/24/2013-aww-challenge-wrap-up-diversity/

2013 GWC Reviews Arranged by Region

We had 148 reviews posted on Global Women of Color in 2013. They are listed below with reviewers’ comments and links to the full reviews. Thanks to all who posted their reviews here.

The GCW site will remain open for 2014 as a blog and reference point for reviews rather than a formal challenge. I am in process of updating the site. Do continue to post what you are reading.

Africa

Australia

China

Europe

Imaginary

Indo-China

India and Bangladesh

Japan

Mexico

Middle East

Philippines

South America and Carribean

USA

Global Women of Color Reviews 2013 Final List

We had 148 reviews posted on Global Women of Color in 2013.  They are listed below with reviewers’ comments and links to the full reviews.  Thanks to all who posted their reviews here.

 The GCW site will remain open for 2014 as a blog and reference point for reviews rather than a formal challenge.  I am in process of updating the site.  Do continue to post what you are reading.

This novel follows Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper as he investigates the death of an Afrikaner captain in 1952 in South Africa.

While a work of fiction, Chand draws on important historical figures of Singapore such as its first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Japanese diplomat Mamoru Shinozaki (credited as the ‘Japanese Schindler’ for saving many Chinese and Eurasians during the Japanese occupation of Singapore), Singapore’s first Chief Minister David Marshall etc. Chand succeeds in bringing to life these crucial events in Singapore’s history.

A fascinating oral history of the life of a Slovakian Roma woman in the 20th century who became a playwright and an advocate for her community.

A promising mystery series set in the Victorian era starring a female detective with a mysterious past

A diary washes up on the shore of an isolated island in British Columbia. Ruth, a writer, becomes obsessed with learning all she can about the diary’s author, a suicidal sixteen-year-old Japanese schoolgirl named Nao.

A valuable, informative account by an urbane, educated, highly successful Aboriginal Australian woman about her life and her work to include Aboriginal people in her nation’s conversation.

Chatty but authoritative manifesto-cum-memoir by Anita Heiss about indigenous identity in Australia, aiming to correct stereotypes that suggest you have to be “black” and “desert-dwelling” to be truly indigenous.

“Remembering how sorry I was when Half of a Yellow Sun was over, I spun out the ending of Americanah, reading only a chapter each day for the final week, to try to make it last. I still missed the characters afterwards. I still think of them weeks later.)

A delightful and insightful novel by a leading Nigerian woman writer about life and love in the U.S. and in Nigeria. As good as everyone else says it is.

While the book had its strengths, with Roy able to conjure up the atmosphere and little quirky touches needed for a neo-Gothic style, I ultimately found it sadly unsatisfying. This is a debut, though, so I hope her future works live up to the potential I glimpsed in this one.

My first Grenadian novel. It covers the 30-odd years leading up to the US invasion in 1983, with the attendant political and social changes wrought by the fall of the plantation system, the end of British rule and the coming of Black Power and feminism to small, exploited Grenada. Partly written in Grenadian English, it takes a while to get into the rhythm – but I enjoyed reading about a country and history which had never crossed my life or reading before. Interesting and recommended.

A warm, moving novel by Caribbean author about a successful New York editor visiting her parents back on her home island and rethinking her own racial identity.

Aunty Lee is quite the character. She reminds me of Alexander McCall Smith’s Mma Precious Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, but with a greater focus on food.

Charming, funny graphic novel about 3 post-adolescent girls in 1970s Ivory Coast.

By following one bar dancer and occasionally getting in detail about others, it made it all more viscerally real than a non fiction book of statistics and disjointed anecdotes. All throughout, Faleiro gives you a sense of conversation, personality, and vocabulary

I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this book but I found parts of it most interesting. Hejaiej, Tunis born and bred, returns to her home city as a Western-trained ethnologist to study the Beldi women’s oral storytelling tradition and its cultural role. (The Beldi are the old-world rich, educated upperclass of the city of Tunis, proud of their culture and refinement.) Hejaiej got access to three mistress storytellers, recorded their performed stories – that’s the bit that readers really miss out on – then conducted an ethnographic analysis of the content, meaning, linguistics, audience, etc. The ~100pp analysis which introduces the book I found fascinating, but the stories (like most written folktales divorced from their true, oral ambiance) I found dull and repetitive – not to mention horrifying, what with all those long-suffering women doing the right thing and letting their husbands kill their children to test the women’s fortitude. Etc. Culturally interesting and terrible, probably particularly useful for researchers.

bell hooks was recently recommended to me, and this title was the one that most resonated of those available. I wasn’t particularly impressed, however. It is a compilation and republication of essays on Kentucky, Baba (her grandmother), country living, quilting, rural black life, blackness. A few new concepts were added to my thinking, but generally the writing wasn’t more than workwomanlike nor the content novel. I was especially annoyed at this book as a publishing event: it was the least professional book I think I have ever read. The copy-editing reached new levels of shoddiness, with errors on every second page or so (quote marks should not look like “this’ for an entire chapter). Numerous essays frequently overlapped, without adding much in the way of new thought even the first time an idea was sounded out. No references were provided in a purportedly pop-academic publication. Methinks it was a money-grab by Routledge and bh, and that they ought to be ashamed of themselves. Didn’t get to the end of it, unremarkable and unrecommended.

A memoir in which the author explores her ancestry via DNA testing. As she begins tracing her genetic trail, her journey will take her back to the Dominican Republic as well as different parts of Africa. When she takes history and colonization into account, she’s able to start piecing together a rough idea of her ancestors’ narratives.

A gentle, often humorous memoir by a Turkish woman finding it difficult to continue as a writer when she becomes a mother.

A complex and powerful mystery which probes the meaning of race and power in an individual and in a city during the years after the civil rights movement in Houston. Attica Locke is a black woman who uses the mystery genre as a lens for revealing how the public and political play out in the private lives.

Another of Malla Nunn’s great mystery series set in South Africa under apartheid.

Another fine novel by a favorite author highlights the themes of parental care, romance, and a career in the life of a Caribbean-American women’s life. Elizabeth Nunez continues the story she began in Anna In Between. Like many women, Anna Sinclair is caught up caring for her aging parents, beginning a relationship with a man, and pursuing her goals as a respected publishing executive. In all of these, Anna’s options are shaped by the fact that she is in America as an immigrant from the Caribbean.

A lyrical novel about an African township in the 1940s by a Zimbabwe woman. A story of pain transformed into beauty.

“I confess: I bought this for the fabulous Tina FiveAsh cover photo. I’d owned this book when I was young and impressionable, passed it on in some travelling bookshelf cull, and was recently reminded how great this photo was. Unfortunately, the internet’s language–image interface is not yet sophisticated enough to let me key in “lesbians car kissing 1950s” and have this shot delivered to me, so I’ll be happy to keep it in book form.
I confess more: having reread more than half of the anthology, I thought I’d *only* be keeping it for the cover. This is a 1997 compilation of Australian and NZ lesbians’ writings, with a healthy representation of Maori and (one) Aboriginal woman. Many of the pieces are stylistically dated, quite a few are downright average, and it is unflattering to the reviewer to find one’s own writing good by comparison to others’ poor offerings (naughty me). However, by the end I had been convinced that there were enough smart, witty, well-written pieces among the drama, poetry and short stories compiled here to justify a couple of inches on my shelf. I think the book is best considered as a contribution to an ongoing dialogue of lesbian writers, a way of dejando constancia (leaving a record) of lesbian life, lives and culture. And as such, it is valuable and necessarily of its time. Recommended on those terms.”

“Alexis Wright’s novel is a challenging work indeed. But, as readers turn its pages, its momentum swells. It is, like the cyclone, unstoppable. It wriggles beneath the reader’s skin and insists upon being read.”

Essays by Danticat, including her Toni Morrison lecture, explore her life and the painful history and culture of Haiti.

Crude [combines] credibility and readability into a powerful portrait of the oil industry and its impact. I should have expected nothing less from Shah, whose elegant prose and insightful analysis I’d already encountered and loved in her two other books.

A suspense-filled mystery, a tender account of mother-daughter relations, and a “meditation” on how we deal with our personal and societal past—all by an African American woman from Louisiana.

primarily readable but a bit difficult for the layman to grasp and really understand. still makes excellent points.

Valdés weaves this story about the pull towards each other the rational urban Danae and the mystical embedded-in-the-landscape Tierra feel. Valdés is often crude and the story often violent and full of tragedy and yet there’s a strange beauty about it all.

Like every Nunez novel I’ve read, Discretion works on multiple levels simultaneously, and leads to a rich and satisfying reading experience.

A collection of essays and interviews featuring Asian American feminists, as well as activists who reject the feminist label but are involved in social justice and women’s rights-related movements.

A collection of essays and interviews featuring Asian American feminists, as well as activists who reject the feminist label but are involved in social justice and women’s rights-related movements.

“Fatima Mernissi, now a sociologist and academic in Rabat, was brought up in a domestic harem (aka extended family under one roof, inc. polygamy) in Fez, Morocco in the 1940s. This memoir recounts the lives and experiences mostly of the women she lived with, and explores the diversity of harems that still existed in Morocco at that time. Simply written but lovely (lovelily?), Mernissi’s stories brim with the hanan or boundless tenderness which she so admires, and give a gently personal introduction to a misunderstood concept. Recommended.

PS After debating with myself and Google images, I have classified this title as part of the Global Women of Colour Challenge. I don’t know if Mernissi would count herself as a woman of colour, though.”

“Fatima Mernissi, now a sociologist and academic in Rabat, was brought up in a domestic harem (aka extended family under one roof, inc. polygamy) in Fez, Morocco in the 1940s. This memoir recounts the lives and experiences mostly of the women she lived with, and explores the diversity of harems that still existed in Morocco at that time. Simply written but lovely (lovelily?), Mernissi’s stories brim with the hanan or boundless tenderness which she so admires, and give a gently personal introduction to a misunderstood concept. Recommended.

PS After debating with myself and Google images, I have classified this title as part of the Global Women of Colour Challenge. I don’t know if Mernissi would count herself as a woman of colour, though.”

Story of a strong, good, and beautiful Igbo woman rising above her difficulties. Told from within the circle of women’s lives.

This is straight-up magical realism at its best, with crazy characters getting into unlikely scenarios all tied together with a narrative voice whose storytelling ability is simply marvelous.

An intricate and beautiful novel about a family of Indian descent in post-colonial Malaysia; a family, like their country, full of secrets, anger and long-held resentments.

Very, very informative. Features strong women who will do almost anything to succeed.

This novel tells the story of a family in a Botswanan village in the late 1990’s. It focuses on the interactions between traditional and modern/European culture.

A perceptive book by a Botswanan author about a family living in a village caught between traditional and modern values and understanding.

A richly descriptive memoir of growing up in southwest India and Sudan and then coming to the United States by an articulate women, sensitive to the tensions between her present and her past.

A vivid memoir by an Indian author of her childhood and adolescence in Bombay’s Parsi community.

“An exquisite novel set in the Philippines, by a Filipina author, and one of the best books I have read all year.

Estrella is the fish-hair woman, the one with twelve-meter hair who trawls for bodies in the river when pro-government forces and guerillas sweep through the village. She is the one who remembers and suffers. Her story and those around her are central to this unique book, but the stories that are woven here are about much more. About life and death, of course. And politics and war in the Philippines. About parents and children and siblings. About the past and whether or not we can ever escape it. About history and memory. About a fascinating group of characters. And about finding joy in the face of pain.”

This is an excellent novel; in fact, the best conflict-set novel I’ve read. (Thanks to the blog-reader who recommended it). Set in the Philippines and exploring the civil and political conflict of the 1970s-1990s, it is complex, nuanced and beautiful. More interestingly, it deliberately evades easy answers and is brutal towards well-intentioned white liberals, local tyrants, shallow politicians and media; it prefers to spell out the complexities of faith and love and humanity that are sometimes fought over with AK-47s and hand-grenades. It is a novel about memory and forgetting – who ought to, how and why one would or should – in the face of conflict and community suffering and loss. The plotting focuses on the forced disappearances in the town of Iraya, where dozens of bodies are pulled from the local river, victims of either guerrilla, paramilitary or military forces. The characters are lost Australian journalists, corrupt political warlords, small-town gravediggers and midwives, drug-addicted children of victims, their stories told in a complicated but satisfying interesting of stories told as magic realism, journalism, travel-horror, political thriller, village tragedy, hideous farce. A truly rich book, I’m so glad to have read it and to now have Bobis on my radar.

A graphic novel/memoir of the story of Yang’s father’s family in China during the Second World War and struggling to overcome poverty, famine, and Communist oppression

Firoozeh Dumas’ collection of stories about her family is not just funny but also an interesting commentary about adjusting to life in the US, during an especially hard for Iranians – the hostage crisis and the revolution.

“A compelling African American novel mixing fantasy and historical realities.

Evil exists, as the African Americans living in Money, Mississippi, know all too well. But so do goodness and love, bringing life joy as well as pain, as Bernice McFadden shows readers in Gathering of the Waters.”

The most exquisite book I have read this year; a beautiful, lyrical novel about a family of African migrants striving for success and never being successful enough.

Through small details and large events like births, deaths, and betrayals, the characters are woven so effortlessly that the reader feels like a voyeur peering into their lit-up living room windows.

An intriguing fantasy about a young Chinese Malaysian woman of the 1890s pursued by ghosts and exploring the afterworld of Chinese folktales.

Above all, Kwok’s strength in Girl in Translation is world-building. Though this is usually associated with fantasy or science fiction, Kim’s New York is a parallel universe: her life at home with her mother is so far removed from the world she finds at school that they might as well be different planets.

Though there were sections of the book that felt overly drawn-out, in the end their slowness seems to be purposeful; even in the pacing of her novel, Adichie conveys the extended waiting periods that accompany war — waiting for food aid to arrive, to hear word of relatives’ whereabouts, to feel early idealism give way to desperation.

What a fabulous book: interviews with dyke writers, publishers, mavens, archivists and booksellers, conducted in the early 1990s, to catalogue the lesbian passion for publishing in the USA. Just great. All these women so passionate about words, books and their community, I loved them all – especially the book publishers, of course, since that’s my great wordy love. Among those interviewed were Asian, Black, Chicana and Hispanic women, and women from different classes, cultural backgrounds, political identities and historical eras, quite a few of whom were on my radar already.

I’d thought this was a reread, but I was feeling particularly guilt-ridden/animated by the Global Women of Colour Challenge so I grabbed it again from the library’s abandonment shelves. It came back to me as I read: (clearly autobiographical) contemporary indigenous woman lawyer researching her past, as a pretext for historical fiction on the dispossession of Australian Aboriginals. An axe to grind, indeed, as Behrendt doesn’t fail to implement in the extremely painful framing-story intro (so badly written! so heavy handed! so infuriating!). Thankfully for all concerned, including the unfortunate audience to my reading experience, the body of the book is better written, and Behrendt learnt the valuable maxim “Don’t tell, show.” The stories of Garibooli’s kidnapping from her family in the early 1900s, and the trajectories of her children and grandchildren, are diverse, well-informed and emotive without being overly emotional. A recommended book, although I do suspect it was such a successful prize-winner because of a wee bit of white-man guilt. Never mind, at least the awards got more people to read this novel. Enjoy.

“I recommend this book for those who do enjoy retellings of familiar stories. This creation of complex characters who are not stereotypes in pitch perfect language”h

A superb history and memoir written as a dialogue between an Australian Indigenous elder and a prize-winning novelist who share some of the same ancestors. A history of the Noongar and a discussion of issues around who should tell their history and how.

an emotion filled memoir of injustice and mental illness

This book is Iraqi history seen through the eyes of the Chalabi family, who have pretty much seen it all – royalty, politicking, intrigue, military coups, exile. But throughout all of that, their love for Iraq is unshakable.

Another of Nunn’s fine mystery novels set in South Africa in the 1950s and revealing the confusion and complexities of apartheid.

An entertaining story of a man and a woman from different strata of Peruvian society by an author who grew up in the country.

In her insightful memoir, the daughter of a Edward Said, the professor at Columbia University who helped shape post-colonial scholarship, and his Lebanese wife, tells how she rejected her identity as an Arab as a child and how she came to claim it as she matured.

set in the modern world, these short&concise stories are about people from all over china but sometimes verge on the opaque

A brilliant, bittersweet novel about a large Sudanese family, divided over old values and new ones, and facing an accident of one of its sons that upsets its delicate balance.

Madras on Rainy Days is narrated by Layla, a young woman who has spent her life traveling back and forth between India and the United States.  The novel opens with the sounds of Layla’s mother crying from outside the room in which she has locked herself, as a form of protest against her arranged marriage.

Eloquent and radical analysis of environmental problems as caused by corporate greed.

Mythic retelling of the woman who was Cortez’s translator and lover during the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Esquivel views her positively as the “mother” of the new, mixed-race, the mestizos. The book is full of Malinche’s spirituality. Don’t expect to like it unless you like that approach. See Olduvai’s review above for a less favorable account of the book.

Historical fiction featuring the almost mythical character of Malinalli, a Nahua slave turned interpreter turned lover of Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes, who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire.

“A novel both funny and moving by a Middle Eastern woman about a girl growing up in an eccentric family in Kuwait who became refugees when their country was attacked and who eventually come to Texas.

The narrator of A Map of Home is Nidali, a young woman struggling to come of age at the same time she is uprooted from her home by war and forced to become a refugee in a foreign country.”

“you get a sense of these histories and realities that place Egypt securely into the modern world couched within an intriguing plot full of individuals who break the mold and a beautiful ease of language.”

“Coercion and resistance, friends and rivals, tradition and revolution: the boundaries of politics, marriage, and class are examined and challenged in Maru.”

Maya’s Notebook was one of my favourite reads of April – spanning Berkeley, Las Vegas, Oregon, Chile, well-stocked with unconventional characters, full of life, full of heart.

Chapter One of Mazin Grace is titled ‘Minya wunyi wonganyi’, the Kokatha words for ‘small girl talking’. The small girl is Grace Dawn, and the opening of her narrative signals that this is a novel about naming and identity. It’s a fictional account of Dylan Coleman’s mother’s childhood at the Koonibba Lutheran Mission in the 1940s and 50s.

Ward grieves over losing five young men who were dear to her, including her younger brother, in a span of five years. She charts her own family’s history and the region and argues that her friends and her ancestors all died because of their poverty, environment, and the fact that they were Black men.

Miles from Nowhere is the kind of book that leaves you feeling off-balance, tripping on the characters’ sudden movements between horror and hope.

A moving, well-written novel about a young, westernized woman from Sudan who is exiled after a coup and works as a maid in London. The Muslim faith and community come to sustain her.

A woman’s outer and inner journeys through India’s geography, history, religions, mythology, languages, and archeology in search of early images of the divine female as well as new ways of understanding the world.

Fascinating if not wholly convincing study of representations of female divinity in ancient Indian culture.

This is the story of Jo Breen who, with her divorce settlement, buys a farm in the Byron Bay hinterland, in the hope of connecting to the land of her Aboriginal ancestors. As a foil to – and interwoven with – Jo’s means of acquiring land is the attempt of her boyfriend Twoboy, to lodge a native title claim.

Again, this looked like the lightest and most entertaining book on my TBR pile, and it turned out to be quite the surprise. Slap my wrist for doubting a local writer. Lucashenko’s novel is unabashedly the Northern Rivers made print, told by politicised and creative Bundjalung woman. There’s the quirky characters, dreaded and not; the references to BluesFest and the Writers’ Festival and Mardi Grass and Sangsurya; the evocation of the river at Bruns and Wollumbin and Mount Chincogan; the abundant queers (I love it when a dyke’s just called a dyke); the rain, the rainforest, the beach… Such a pleasure to read this place rendered with such smart-arsey love. The multifaceted examination of indigenous rights is smart-thinking and smartly plotted, the narrative trips along, the characters are human, the language vernacular and gritty, and the book an accessible, informed, good-timer. Well recommended.

“In this memoir Aboriginal woman, Doreen Kartinyeri gives her explanation of the Hindmarsh Island Bridge controversy of the 1990s. Kartinyeri shares the story of her life and explains how she came to know about the secret women’s business that was at the core of the controversy. Her life story clearly establishes her expertise in Aboriginal knowledge and her identity as a Ngarrindjeri woman.

This is a well written and constructed book. I am grateful I had the opportunity to read it.”

An unusually perceptive novel explores the gains and losses of education and “westernization” for a teenage Rhodesian girl.

Crime fiction set in a contemporary working-class Japanese neighborhood. Warning: quite graphic.

“Claire Henty-Gebert has an amazing story to tell. She was taken from her Aboriginal mother at a young age, caught up in the government policy that was then ruling, to remove lighter-skinned Aboriginal families from their families and bring them up to ‘assimilate’ into white society. Just days before the attack on Pearl Harbour she and other Aboriginal children were moved from central Australia to an island off the north coast of Australia. Then the Japanese bombed Darwin…

Claire Henty-Gebert has lived a full life in the Northern Territory. In this small memoir she shares her experiences of World War II and cyclone Tracy as well as ordinary life for an Aboriginal woman who was part of Australia’s ‘Stolen Generations’. Yet even the ordinary is extraordinary to non-Aboriginal Australians.”

Did I enjoy it? Yes, but not so much as a piece of literature because my reading interests lie elsewhere, but as a work written by a savvy writer with a political purpose. This purpose is not simply to show that young, urban, professional indigenous Australians exist but, as she also said in her address, to create the sort of world she’d like to live in, a world where indigenous Australians are an accepted and respected part of Australian society, not problems and not invisible.

“I can see this being too sentimental or melodramatic for some but there was just enough plot and I got drawn so far into the family that I forgave it. Instead, I just gave my mother a call just to make sure she didn’t get lost.”

In the latest of her gripping mystery series, the South African/Australian author brings her detective into Johannesburg and focuses more closely on problems being caused by the introduction of apartheid.

Kambali is a 15-year-old girl growing up under the harsh rule of her abusive father. A brief stay at her aunt’s house shows her just how different life could be, but a military coup soon shatters her peaceful environment.

A sweet and gentle story told from the point of view of Sunny, an Indigenous girl raised by her Aunties.

“A delightful novel by an Indigenous author about a loving childhood in the Gundagai region of New South Wales.

Sunshine, or Sunny as she is called, is the bright, inquisitive girl, who narrates this collection of episodes from her childhood. She and her sister, Star, are being raised by her grandmother and two aunts, wonderful self-sufficient women who love to tell stories. In many ways, Sunny’s account could be that of any children anywhere, but in fact, their experiences are shaped by the fact that her family are Indigenous people, living in an area of white farmers in Australia. They are “different” as Sunny discovers and laments, but the aunts point out that difference is a good thing like purple, or black, threads in white cloth.”

there are other better books to read about life in “the ghetto”

An epic historical novel about a woman in India who was the daughter of one Raj, wife of another, and mother/regent for another during the last half century of British rule.

Real World is less about the murder than the insight into the life of Japanese teenagers, trying to make their own path in this loud, brash, uncertain world

Twelve-year-old Ji-li’s future is all bright and shiny, but with the Cultural Revolution, her late grandfather’s landlord status brings scorn, taunts, and constant fear. This memoir offers a young girl’s view of life during the Cultural Revolution in China

This collection of stories prods at you, like that dream that isn’t quite a nightmare yet you can’t shake it in the morning when you wake up.

A wise and beautiful novel in which two young women, raised “like sisters” in Calcutta, find that marriages and pregnancies call on them to make difficult choices between competing loves.

This is probably one of the most heartbreaking stories I have ever read. It is a remarkable, fascinating read, a love story of Tibet and its people.

Somehow, although she writes of ‘heavy’ topics in a powerful way, the essays have a lightness to them that is all too often missing from social science books. This is essay writing at its best, and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s at all intrigued by my post!

Somehow, although she writes of ‘heavy’ topics in a powerful way, the essays have a lightness to them that is all too often missing from social science books. This is essay writing at its best, and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s at all intrigued by my post!

A moving account, in the form of a letter, of joys and tribulations of a Senegalese woman and her determination to deal with the personal and social changes.

Australian poet, three very brief “novellas” as one of her multiple fictional offerings. The whole book was only 122pp, but even that seemed too long. Remotely fictional and uninteresting in any case.

Aghdashloo was the first Iranian to be nominated for an Academy Award (for House of Sand and Fog). She writes about her childhood, becoming an actress in Iran, then having to leave her country and start all over again when the Islamic Revolution began.

Four friends on the verge of turning 30 are ready to have the best year of their lives, find success, and find their soul mate, but life has other plans in store for them first.

A superb speculative novel about humans with different genetic make-up and culture learning about each other and finding ways to cooperate.

Read this one for the splendor that was Persia, for the wondrous fables nested within the narrative, for an appealing protagonist who makes plenty of mistakes but never repeats them, for thoughtful explorations into the knotty relationship between desire and love, for the profound questions raised about the purpose and duty of art, and oh, for a vivid, juicy, richly-detailed read that reminds you just how enthralling a good story can be.

This book was frankly annoying after a while. Quirky lost-soul Kerewin Holmes (remind anyone of the author’s name?) meets Joseph, Maori adoptive father of mute, mystery lost-boy Simon P. Gillayley. The three bond. Many beatings occur. Much Maori soul-work is done. A surfeit of splendid convoluted language is used. Love is found and held in the tricephalous being. Why oh why did it go on for so long?

Written to accompany the film of the same name, The Cave of the Yellow Dog shows a few days in the life of the Batchuluun family from the steppes of Mongolia. The film was made by Mongolian woman filmmaker, Byambasuren Davaa, with German funding and assistance, and the stills included in the book are both lovely and informative. As a book, the narrative is a bit thin, but it’s easy to imagine that grand cinescapes must have filled those gaps onscreen. A good and picturesque taster of ger living and traditions. Recommended.

El Sadaawi prefaces this “novel” (read: novella) by explaining about a particular child’s game which involves singing and dancing in a circle, holding hands with other children, losing sight of beginnings and endings and who is whom. I would have done well to remember that as I read her little piece, which swirls between the twins Hamida (girl) and Hamido (boy), who live and die and kill and are beaten and raped and genitally mutilated and what exactly is happening to whom has little to do with what I knew the previous paragraph and even less bearing on the following one. That is, I think I need to reread this one day as poetry, because it is remarkably fluid, and quite powerful emotionally in terms of the horrors visited on the preadolescent twins in (we are given to understand) daily Egyptian life in the early 1970s. I would recommend it for cultural insight and its emotive power.

A fascinating memoir of Gioconda Belli’s life and loves while working with the Sandinistas to overthrow the Nicaraguan government.

A moving novel by a woman from Bangladesh exploring how people coped after their war for independence is won.

“A brilliantly constructed novel about Ceylon, the British Empire, and conflicting perceptions of truth by a woman who lived there as a child and knew its mysterious beauty and danger.

Michelle de Kretser is an amazing writer, both creative and thoughtful. Her words are meant to be savored and the larger patterns explored long after the book has been read.”

Compassionate but clear-eyed novel about a “perpetrator” of the Stolen Generation, written by the grand-daughter of a stolen child.

Short pieces narrated by a girl approaching adolescence about the people and events in the Hispanic neighborhood where she lives. Incredibly sensitive and lyrical.

Contemporary Japanese novel. A housekeeper is to attend to a mathematics professor whose brain damage leaves him an 80-minute span of memory. But it’s so sweet, ‘cos the housekeeper and her son can bond with him over maths problems! Ergh. Initially kind-of-but-not-quite novel (see Reminds me, below), but then just boring to one not enchanted by mathematical elegance. Abandoned not even half-way through. Sigh. I thought I’d make some inroads on the Global Women of Colour Challenge, but not with this title I won’t.

This is utterly brilliant dystopian spec fic. There’s just enough world building to get me wanting so much more about this post-Reckoning world. The novel is structured in three almost-perfect acts, and despite being marketed as part of a series, works absolutely as a stand-alone book.

A speculative fiction, young adult novel about a society that was destroyed in an environmental catastrophe. Its surviving people try to live in harmony with each other and their surroundings, and to keep ‘the Balance’. However, some of these people have abilities such as controlling fire, and they’re feared, so they’re caught and locked up in detention centres. Ashala ran away to escape this and lives with other runaways in a forest, until she’s captured and interrogated by the authorities at a detention centre, and must find a way to escape.

Nigerian-born Emecheta moved to the UK in her early twenties and made a living as a novelist. This book, with its ironic if not scathing title, tells the marriage and motherhood woes of Nnu Ego, daughter to a chief and wife to a washerman in the newly burgeoning city of Lagos. Set between (about) the 1920s-1940s, the characters play out the struggles associated with the modernisation of Nigeria under British colonial rule, and particularly looks at how women were impacted by changing societal norms. An absorbing read, gritty, rich with real-life details that make it so interesting to the non-Nigerian. Highly recommended.

not read for the challenge but definitely recommended for people looking for suggestions

A powerful novel about friendship, betrayal, and love in the violence of post-colonial Sierra Leone. One of the best novels I have read this year.

A family saga set in the Malaya Peninsula about a strong woman and her descendants.

So often books narrated by children or adolescents seem to use their narrators’ youth as a gimmick, but it truly works in The Round House. His mother’s attack and subsequent breakdown marks the end of Joe’s childhood and ushers in a new understanding of harsh reality that his parents deal with every day.

A powerful speculative novel about African people in different times and places living in hopeless situations finding ways to live with grace. The Salt Roads is the most ambitious and moving of NH’s novels that I have read. In it, she brings together the suffering of peoples from Africa in the sugar plantations of the Caribbean in the mid-eighteenth century, the parlors of Paris in the nineteenth century and the deserts of the Middle East in the fourth century. Connecting them is Ezili, a timeless spirit with her own personality who can enter individuals and “ride them.”

This is also a fairly easy way to learn a bit about Nigerian polygamist culture-an enjoyable glimpse into the difficulties of strong personalities all cohabiting.

This is a difficult book to review. I had seen this book on Spinifex’s shelves years ago and had it on my mental TBR shelf, so I selected it when my blog-name was drawn out of the GWC hat a couple of months ago. Written by a woman from Australia’s Western Deserts (the Kimberley), it is a comparison of stellar lore and behaviours from various global cultures (Australian indigenous, Ainu Japanese, Maori and Pacific Islander, Native North American, etc.) as they relate to myths, astronomy, theosophy, and the beginnings of the world. …

A compelling story about a mute boy in the slums of Manila, the American woman he tries to rescue, and the furor caused by her disappearance.

Set in post-World War II Shanghai, The Song of Everlasting Sorrow is a life portrait of Wang Qiyao, a girl of the working-class neighbourhoods, and a story of Shanghai from the 1940s to the 1980s.

“Class divides and isolates the women in this novel from each other and fails to offer ways to combat the patriarchal society in which they live.”

Another brilliant and beautiful novel by a talented Indigenous Australian who writes about belonging and what it means to Indigenous people, and all of us, to have and to lose a homeland. Set in the near future as climate change affects the globe.

One that ticks the boxes of KAM’s List and the Global Women of Colour Challenge, reputedly the world’s first novel, written by a lady-in-waiting to the Japanese Imperial Court in the 9th or 10th century. Lady Murasaki (a pen name) wrote this ten-volume work – the first is plenty for me – with the glorious, beautiful, poetic, musical Prince Genji as the hero. Characters are highly confusing and the plot is desperately slim, focussing only on late-adolescent Genji’s romantic trysts with everyone from his father the Emperor’s wife to an elderly waiting maid to slum dwelling dream lovers to ten-year-old girls he kidnaps so they can marry when she’s old enough. U-huh. Anyhoo, the reason this book was interesting was the rites and rituals and social performances which were standard court fare in mediaeval Japan. Most fascinating was the recital and writing of poems – couplets, acrostics – as a prime means of communication, either when flirting with a potential lover (that’s most of the time, if this novel’s anything to go by), and the evaluation of people’s worth according to the calibre of their handwriting and the wit of their poetry. Two details I just loved. Has its historic value, and isn’t all terribly written, Genji is just a shallow twat and 189pp of his romances is a bit thin.

Women are the main truth of this book-they are the glue that brings these stories together.

An exquisite novel about a Muslim woman, her life, her religion, and her love for a man from outside her culture. Leila Aboulela is one of my favorite authors because she writes beautifully and her books are simply a joy to read.

A superb and strange novel by an Indigenous woman about several generations of a family living on the southern savannas of Guyana.

My second Samoan novel, tracing the women descendants of two tattooed best friends, and their life paths in traditional Samoa, America and “Giu Sila” (New Zealand). Well written, in a rich array of voices from diverse worlds, it is brutal, powerful and poetic. Well recommended.

It is a painful, bleak read, full of suffering, yet these women still manage to hold onto their sense of humanity. Their stories offer just the slightest of a hint of redemption.

This book is a thorough, almost dissecting, portrait of everything that a middle class wants, desires, and loses. Really not to be missed.

EC and SL had both highly recommended Jackie Kay’s writing and/or humour, so I snaffled this on my latest library shelf-trawl, and what a good (first!) novel this one was. In a chorus of voices – widow, son, mother, hack journalist, etc. – characters respond to the death of jazz trumpet great Joss Moody: ta-da, Joss was actually Josephine Moore but had been living as a man for at least 40 years. Sensitive, matter-of-fact, written with delicacy and aplomb, it’s a very good, very absorbing novel. Highly recommended. PS Love the sly titling.

A beautifully written and engaging memoir about a Cambodian Australian woman, her mother and her grandmother.

Set in the early 1850s, Wench tells a story not usually seen on bookshelves. Not only is the novel set well before the Civil War, but it focuses exclusively on the lives of the women who are brutalized and manipulated by the white men who own them. Though their stories are often sad or terrible to read, they feel all the more real for not glossing over the harshest scenes.

Hypnotic and provoking. Lai takes Chinese folktales about Foxes (mystical tricksters), blends them with historical accounts of women poets, and leads those stories into the lives of a group of queer Chinese Canadian young women in contemporary Vancouver. It’s a highly sophisticated diaspora novel, questioning identity, race, sexuality and gender in classic 90s fashion, but with genuine and innovative flair. I found the 20-somethings’ dramas a little wearing – thank god for age — but that would be the author successfully reaching her intended audience. A really interesting book, worth chasing down.

A wise and wonderful novel by a classic South African writer about an insular man who escapes to Botswana and joins a drought-stricken farming community there as a refugee.

The prose in When the Emperor Was Divine is simple and elegant, effortlessly conveying the stark reality of the internment camp and the hopelessness of its occupants.

An anthology of contemporary Zimbabwean fiction which offers slices of life of Zimbabweans at home and as migrants in the UK and South Africa. Well written, most informative, I’m glad I read it – no matter how terrible some of the scenes of daily life were, what with backyard abortions, family-sponsored rapes, murders, theft and pillage of prosperous farms. Recommended.

Purchased because of Bobis’ splendid novel Fish-Hair Woman. I’m not very fond of short stories as a genre – I find them too neat, too writing-school trim to be truly emotive; I also love narrative absorption, which the genre cannot by definition [‘short’] provide. I think this collection is competent enough, interesting in terms of cultural awareness of the Philippines and a Filipina experience in Australia, but I’m not enamoured. If you’re planning to read Bobis, I’d recommend putting your energies into the above novel first.

A perceptive novel about the impact of racial hatred in a rural Wisconsin town in the mid-1970s. A Japanese American girl sympathizes with the African American couple who come to the town and are harassed by residents. A moving account of racism.

Women with Big Eyes consists of brief stories about 39 ‘aunts’, based on relatives and friends of Mastretta.While most of the aunts’ lives fit within relatively traditional gender roles, they are not passive by any means.

An enjoyable fantasy by an African writer about a dark-skinned girl on another planet, her quest to save her friend’s life, and her own coming of age.

Bodour, a distinguished literary critic and university professor, carries with her a dark secret. As a young university student, she fell in love with a political activist and gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, Zeina, whom she abandoned on the streets of Cairo.