Friday 8 March is International Women's Day. In 2019, the theme is #BalanceforBetter.
We asked our very well read staff at Brisbane Writers Festival to tell us about books by women that have changed the world for the better, books that have made an impact on them or the community and shifted their thinking.
Zoe Pollock, Artistic Director and CEO
Anne Summers - Unfettered and
Anne Summers has made an
incredible contribution to feminism and the lives of Australian women. Damned
Whores and God's Police is the obvious work, but the End of Equality
was another book that brought detailed, evidence based arguments to bear on the
experiences of everyday Australian women.
Summers' memoir is a fantastic
read and really gives insight into the tests a life-long advocate for change
can experience. When I think of Summers I see a fearless, resilient woman who
has stood up time and time again to advocate for women. She's still doing it
everyday and this week made some insightful comments on Australia's
parliament. I think this book is a wonderful resource for younger
feminists to gain insights into how change has been achieved and as
an example on how to be unrelenting and fierce in the face of the
patriarchy. The road is long and hard, but women like Anne Summers have never
let this be a barrier to fighting for and achieving equality.
LA Houghton, COO
Helen Garner - Monkey Grip
For me, Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip created a whole new direction in Australian fiction, portraying the reality of women’s lives in a way that hadn’t been written about before. She captured so beautifully, and heartbreakingly, the challenges and changes of a very specific time in Australia. It would have been the first time many would have seen their own story brought to life, changing our perception of Australian literature and storytelling. Through all her writing, Helen Garner has, of course, continued to challenge and confront how we think about ourselves and our place in the world. She is so very deserving of her recent Lifetime Achievement Award in Literature.
Amy Hyslop, Marketing Manager
Angela Carter - The Bloody Chamber
"The invisible is only another unexplored country, a brave new world.”
This collection of subversive and dangerous tales is as shocking and provocative as it was when it first appeared in 1979. These are not retellings of fairy tales. Angela Carter was very clear in wanting to write "gothic tales, cruel tales, tales of wonder, tales of terror, fabulous narratives that deal directly with the imagery of the unconscious".She thought of such tales as "science fiction of the past" - a way to explore how things might be different.
The princesses, reluctant brides, shape shifting maidens and lost girls who wander through the pages of the collection are wise, radical, difficult and never passive. In Carter's worlds passivity and death are the same thing. Her women pursue change, straying into dark and terrifying liminal territories. Women become wolves. Beauty is transformed into the Beast. It's a must read - compelling, transformative and brutal.And as relevant now as it was when it was first published.
Rachel Fry, Adult Programs Coordinator
Maria Tumarkin - Axiomatic
I want stories and connection. I want truth laid bare. I want art and our humanness dancing together. I want love and assuredness of our ability to share, explore and navigate difficult/traumatic experiences. I want to know how we shape a more compassionate culture.
I want, I want, I want! And Axiomatic...it gives and gives and gives! Maria Tumarkin brings love, care and a fierce emotional intelligence to the depths of human experience. This book respectfully manoeuvres through life’s grey areas (those hard to digest traumas that truly need our attention).
Axiomatic delivers stories on human complexities with grace and a compelling honesty. The best of us, the worst. All woven around these five axioms: time heals all’s wounds; those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it; history repeats itself; give me a child before age seven and I’ll show you the woman; you can’t enter the same river twice.
Read, digest, move towards compassion.
Ella Peile, Children and Young Adult Programs Coordinator
Charlotte Wood - The Natural Way of Things
The Natural Way of Things is a modern allegory about what it is to be a woman in a society dominated by male violence. The situation is bleak, awful, and yet discomfortingly relatable. Although the characters’ experiences are dreadful, the writing is beautiful; I found it compelling and haunting. The setting is a liminal space – obviously Australia, and yet strange; existing entirely disconnected from reality and yet reflecting real-world truths.
I’ve chosen this as my book changing the world because it seems to be reaching male audiences, and opening discussions about female experiences that cannot be achieved through the usual polemics.