Skip to content

Women’s History Month Book Recommendations

The McGill Daily editorial board recommends…

March is Women’s History Month! To celebrate, the Daily’s editorial board has compiled a list of book recommendations related to women’s history. Below are works that are written by female authors, contain plots that focus on women’s achievements, or have a unique take on gendered subject matter overall. Enjoy! 

Bunny by Mona Awad

Bizarre, beautifully evocative, and darkly humorous, Mona Awad’s Bunny tells the story of New England MFA student Samantha Mackay as she uncovers the supernatural underbelly of her English major classmates. Surrounded by “the fake poor and fashionably deranged” of an art school student body, Samantha’s classmates appear at first glance to be caricatures of privilege and hollow femininity. However, when the workshop’s central group — four close female friends with a penchant for calling each other “Bunny” — invite Samantha to their personal writing getaway, she is suddenly faced with their strange, grotesque reality. In part satirical, the novel reflects Awad’s own experience in her BFA program, as she criticizes the hypocrisy entrenched in modern literary institutions. Bunny covers a range of themes from girlhood to cults to the destructive power of love, imbued with stylish elements of cult classic horror. 

— Michele Fu, Culture Editor

Glory by Noviolet Bulawayo

Bulawayo’s second novel is a unique take on the 2017 Zimbabwean military overthrow of then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe. She draws inspiration from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, setting the story in the fictional African nation of Jidada, whose residents are all animals. The word ‘people’ never appears in this novel, and gender is not defined by men and women, but by ‘mals’ and ‘femals.’ This post-colonial masterpiece tackles the long-standing effects of European colonization on Zimbabwe’s political systems, ultimately culminating in the 2017 coup. This brilliant work of political satire uses familiar allegories in a groundbreakingly new way. 

— Eliana Freelund, Culture Editor

Severance by Ling Ma

In her debut novel Severance, Ling Ma tells the story of apocalyptic dystopia, alienation and cruelty under global capitalism, and the moving struggle of reconnecting with a mother’s heritage. Our protagonist Candace Chen embodies the millennial condition — she is a first-generation American and corporate office drone, grasping for comfort in routine following the passing of her Chinese immigrant parents. Although published in 2018, Ma’s novel centers around an eerily familiar pandemic in NYC, as we witness the self-destructive nature of loneliness and grief. A post-capitalist satire under the guise of one Asian-American woman’s journey into adulthood, Severance is a delightful treatise on the human condition.

— Michele Fu, Culture Editor

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Jackson’s final work is widely considered to be her best. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a gothic mystery novel that follows the lives of sisters Mary Katherine ‘Merricat’ and Constance Blackwood. This novel takes the idea of the ‘home’ and its association with traditional femininity, and flips it on its head. In the Blackwood home, food always has a chance of being poisoned, eerie wards surround the house to “keep it safe,” and family members can be mysteriously killed off at any time. Although Jackson’s novel can be quite jarring and unsettling at times, the story ultimately hinges on close female relationships; in this case, the unwavering love the two sisters have for one another. In a world where everyone else — the townsfolk, their childhood friends, and even their own family — has turned against them, Merricat and Constance find their strength in each other. 

— Eliana Freelund, Culture Editor

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass is a nonfiction book about the traditional Indigenous uses of plants in medicine and science. Robin Wall Kimmerer, a Potawatomi professor of Environmental and Forest Biology at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), organizes her book as a series of essays divided into five sections. “Planting Sweetgrass,” “Tending,” “Picking,” “Braiding,” and “Burning Sweetgrass” each give wonderful insight into the world of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and ethnobotany. A must read for everybody!

— Frida Sofía Morales Mora, Social Media Editor

Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism by Kristen R. Ghodsee

Kristen R. Ghodsee, professor of Russian and East European studies at the University of Pennsylvania, offers an engaging and deeply researched analysis of the lives of women under state socialism in Eastern Europe. She examines the lives and legacies of prominent female activists and politicians in state socialist countries, as well as how policies shaped the daily lives of women and in many cases, afforded them more independence and opportunities than before. She argues that socialism done right leads to increased economic independence, better work-life balance, and more political participation for women.

— Emma Bainbridge, News Editor