Women Unbound: A reading challenge


Women Unbound is a reading challenge starting this month and going until November 2010. It involves reading fiction and nonfiction books related to women’s studies. I’ve been waiting for this type of challenge since I started blogging only a few months ago. I read a lot of work written by and about women and think a reading challenge devoted to this work would be a great place for discovery and sharing. Full details about the challenge are at the Women Unbound blog. I’m participating at the Suffragette level which includes reading at least eight books three of which must be nonfiction.

I immediately scoured my shelves pulling out all books that would qualify and separated them into fiction and nonfiction stacks. I have way too many to successfully include in the challenge and thought it might be helpful to spend some time reading the summaries and making a list of books to pick from. My one-liners surely don’t do any justice to the work, but here’s what I came up with.


  1. A Double Life by Karolina Pavlova: Cicely is being trapped into a meaningless life and marriage by both the women and eligible men that surround her
  2. Brick Lane by Monica Ali: Nazneen moves to London from Bangladesh after an arranged marriage.
  3. Brown Girl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall: The daughter of Barbadian immigrants tries to find her own identity in New York during the Depression
  4. Corregidora by Gayl Jones: A difficult look into the lives of women during slavery
  5. The Changelings by Jo Sinclair: Tensions between the Jewish and Black community as seen through the eyes of two young girls who try to build a friendship despite the happenings in their 1950s Midwestern city
  6. Daughters of Copper Woman by Anne Cameron: These are stories that have been shared with the author by native women living in Vancouver Island
  7. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Three male explorers encounter an all-female society
  8. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros: A coming of age story of a young girl growing up in Chicago
  9. The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta: The mother of 8 children experiences cultural shifts in Nigeria
  10. The Land of Women by Regina McBride: Fiona struggles with difficult memories of her last summer in Ireland
  11. Living, Loving, and Lying Awake at Night by Sindiwe Magona: These short stories highlight South African women’s experiences
  12. Molly and the Muslim Stick by David Dabydeen: A difficult past in Lancashire affects Molly into her adulthood
  13. Plum Bun by Jessie Redmon Fauset: A young black girl passing for white during the Harlem Renaissance realizes that being a woman elicits burdens beyond the color of one’s skin
  14. Seed to Harvest by Octavia Butler: An omnibus of 4 novels about a female demigod who mates with a male deity and the aftermath of their offspring. I have a lot of Butler that I’d want to include
  15. That Long Silence by Shashi Deshpande: A woman leaves her Bombay home and tries to erase a life of silence and constraint
  16. Thousand Pieces of Gold by Ruthanne Lum McCunn: A young girl is sold by her father to an American after famine devastates China in the 1800s
  17. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf: Follows the daily life of a family with lots to say about relationships and life
  18. Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy: Connie Ramos is committed to a mental institution, she can communicate with the future


  1. Ain’t I a woman: black women and feminism by bell hooks: “Examines the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the historic devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism within the recent women’s movement, and black women’s involvement with feminism”
  2. Double Stitch: black women write about mothers and daughters by Bell-Scott et al: A collection of poems, essays and stories
  3. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer: Greer looks at women’s liberation, differences between men and women, and social conditioning
  4. Feminist theory from margin to center by bell hooks: bell tackles sexual politics, solidarity among men and women, and the feminist movement to end violence
  5. Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity by Judith Butler: Gender is a social construction, it is something that we ‘do’
  6. On our own terms by Leith Mullings: Mullings is a professor of anthropology and shares the results of her research on how race, class, and gender interact
  7. The second shift by Arlie Russell Hochschild: A study that looks at dual-career households and women’s responsibilities
  8. Wild swans by Jung Chang: This story covers three generations of women in China
  9. Women, race, and class by Angela Y. Davis: Davis explores the women’s movement in the context of race and class

(Of course the list is subject to, and will change at a moment’s notice and I’m open to suggestions to make it so)

4 responses to “Women Unbound: A reading challenge

  • Claire

    Great list! Some of those sound fascinating and we share others. I have The Joys of Motherhood on my shelves and forgot to include it on my list.

  • aartichapati

    Wow, those nonfiction titles sound fascinating! I can’t wait to read your reviews 🙂

    If you have time, please also fill out the start-of-challenge meme on the homepage. Thanks!

  • susan

    Love your list. I’ve read Cisneros. I’m planning to read Marshall and Jones. I have Changelings. Maybe it’s time to read it.

  • Brigindo

    Cisneros is great and you know I can’t recommend Butler or Woolf enough. That is also my favorite Marge Piercy and I highly recommend it. I’ve never read Herland but have always meant too, so maybe I’ll add that to my list. Also Joys of Motherhood sounds right up my alley.

    I haven’t read On Our Own Terms by Mullings but I’ve read chapters of her and think it will be brilliant. Can’t wait to hear more about these.

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