I’ve always been proud of the literary background I acquired in school, we had what I consider to be a very robust and varied selection of books in our school pensum. That is until I started to look closely into it: I realized I could not remember a single book written by a woman that was assigned in school as a mandatory reading in any of my literature classes. There was the odd poem here and there by Emily Dickinson… and I did have a vague memory of maybe reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? but that could have been something I read in my own time like the rest of the female authors I’ve come across in my lifetime all without exception have been something I’ve read “on my own time”.
Have you ever wondered where were the female versions of Shakespeare or Cervantes? Virginia Woolf certainly did and it did not take her long to see “Any woman born with a great gift in the sixteenth century would certainly have gone crazed, shot herself, or ended her days in some lonely cottage outside the village, half witch, half wizard, feared and mocked at.”
She realized the impact that “the empty shelves” of common spaces in which women spent all their time cooking, sewing, cleaning etc “up to the beginning of the nineteenth century” would have in future female literary generations and I say “up to the nineteen century” only because I am a nerd and can’t possibly miss an opportunity to quote Mrs. Woolf, but think about how many women have had to take the common house spaces to WHF this last year while simultaneously having to homeschool and keep an eye on the oven while most men have taken over the home office where silence reigns and secures the benefits of a room of one’s own.
That’s when it clicked, we need a room of our own or an updated version of it… we need literary spaces of our own. I soon decided to reach out to the other women I knew who also had to bear the injustice of a school pensum empty of female writers; my school friends. We would start a bookclub where we would catch up on all those unread stories written by women all around the world, in memory of Judith Shakespeare the imaginary sister of William Shakespeare; the writer who never was.
“The Female Voices of the World Bookclub”
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is a big-hearted story of race and privilege.
Home Going by Yaa Gyasi is a beautiful story of two half-sisters and how the transatlantic slave trade transformed the story of their families.
Good Talk by Mira Jacob for graphic novel lovers is a touching memoire of a first generation born Indian American.
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson a brave story about family, gender, love and identity.
The vegetarian by Han Kang a universal tale of desire, shame and violence.
Crudo by Olivia Laing an apocalyptic raw novel about global anxiety
An Egyptian Novel by Orly Castel Bloom an exploration of Jewish identity and family roots dating back 500 years.
The Lulo Project Family