Etaf Rum recommends 6 empowering reads centered around women

The author suggests works by Zora Neale Hurston, Sylvia Plath and more

Etaf Rum.
Rum is the author of 'A Woman Is No Man' and 'Evil Eye'
(Image credit: Courtesy image )

Etaf Rum’s best-selling first novel, "A Woman Is No Man," focused on three Palestinian- American women pushing against tradition. "Evil Eye," her follow-up, is narrated by a woman who feels beyond such constraints until she’s reminded of a family curse. 

'Woman at Point Zero' by Nawal El Saadawi (1977)

Feminist thinker and writer Nawal El Saadawi delivers a true account in the voice of a woman awaiting execution in a Cairo prison for having killed a pimp. “Let me speak. Do not interrupt me. I have no time to listen to you,” the protagonist begins, describing her life, from childhood in a village to prostitution in the city, with a steely defiance of patriarchy. She ultimately welcomes society’s retribution for her act of defiance — death — as the only way a woman can finally be free. Saadawi’s novel paints a vivid picture of female oppression and of an unapologetic, burning desire for liberation. Buy it here

'Their Eyes Were Watching God' by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel manages to capture the challenges faced by Black women seeking liberation in a racist, misogynist world while also highlighting the liberating power of Black joy. Buy it here

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'Beloved' by Toni Morrison (1987)

Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel confronts us and asks us to open our eyes and bear witness to the parts of our history that would be easier to ignore. An important and transformative read. Buy it here.

'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath (1963)

In her only novel, Sylvia Plath brought awareness to the struggles of young women seeking to find their place in the “real world.” She also explored the ways in which women are continuously suffocated by what society thinks we should do or want. Buy it here.

'A Room of One’s Own' by Virginia Woolf (1929)

A powerful book for self-questioning and reflection. Woolf explores the ways in which women could never live their lives the way she had — writing for a living — without a steady income and a room of their own. Buy it here.

'Minor Detail' by Adania Shibli (2017)

A young Bedouin woman is raped and murdered by Israeli soldiers shortly after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which established Israel as a nation and displaced several hundred thousand people. A half-century later, a second woman seeks to recover and tell the victim’s story. Shibli uses an attention to the smallest details to convey that the dispossession that begun with that war carries on unabated. Buy it here.

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