March 18, 2023
As Maya Angelou put it: “It’s the fire in my eyes/And the flash of my teeth/The swing in my waist/And the joy in my feet/I’m a woman Phenomenally.” This week, in celebration of Women’s History Month, we are featuring five female novelists. Their characters are all searching for their true identities in quite different ways. Together, these gifted authors represent some of the most inventive women writers you’ll want to read.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
The Gospel According to the New World
By Maryse Condé
Published by World Editions
Translated by Richard Philcox
Condé’s many literary awards include the 2018 ‘Alternative Nobel’ for Literature and she just became the oldest writer to be longlisted for the International Booker Prize. Her latest fiction is set in contemporary times in her native Guadeloupe. Pascal, a beautiful child thought to be the son of God, is born to an unwed mother, Maya, in a shed owned by a prosperous couple (who happen to be inside their home watching a large flat-screen TV). Maya knows she must leave the baby in the shed—from there Pascal’s fate will be to go out and seek his destiny. Satisfyingly, Condé is having a surge in public acclaim. Her reputation as one of the finest living Caribbean writers is well deserved.
Your Driver Is Waiting
By Priya Guns
Published by Doubleday
In this unconventional homage to Taxi Driver, the heroine is a young Tamil woman who drives for an Uber-like app in an unspecified city. Damani’s days are either monotonously boring or threatening (she travels with several often-ingenious weapons). “My wrists hurt…my back ached…I needed a cigarette.…” It’s an undignified job but she needs the money. When she picks up Jolene (whose privileged life is in glaring contrast to Damani’s own) she falls for her in an instant. In her debut novel, Guns, who was born in Sri Lanka, has fashioned a gutsy, memorable protagonist through which to explore anti-capitalism and the challenges of connection between two people of different races and classes. It’s fierce and darkly comic..
By Sophie Haydock
Published by FSG
The muses of the fascinating Austrian artist Egon Schiele are the fertile subject of Haydock’s meticulously researched first novel. His sister Gertrude was a dominating force in his life (a hint of incest here?); Adele and Edith were aristocratic sisters both in love with the painter; and Vally, whose subtly erotic portraits are among the artist’s finest, completes the circle of women most influential in his short life. These women, sexualized and immortalized on canvas, all fell under his spell that lasted far beyond his untimely death from the Spanish influenza. Their stories paint a portrait of Secessionist Vienna, capturing the bohemian glamour of the early 20th century.
What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez
By Claire Jiménez
Published by Grand Central
One day 13-year-old Ruthy doesn’t come home from school. Her sisters consider Ruthy invincible, but she’s never late. The Staten Island family is emotionally torn apart by her disappearance. Over a decade later, they are still living under the horrible spell of their absent sister. One night they are watching a late-night TV reality show called Catfight and a red-haired contestant appears, looking suspiciously like Ruthy…. Jiménez, the cofounder of the Puerto Rican Literature Project, has created a highly compulsive novel addressing the lack of attention for non-white missing girls, which has become a national epidemic. Her timely story is also a page-turning debut..
By Esther Yi
Published by Astra House
Yi is a writer whose peripatetic childhood with Korean American parents informs her protagonist’s search for identity. The unnamed protagonist of Y/N is a 29-year-old copywriter living in Berlin. She prefers a quiet life and resists her roommate’s insistence that she come to a concert to watch the hugely popular K-Pop boy band on tour there. At her first concert she is immediately smitten with the performer named Moon, and her obsession begins. She starts to compose a fanfiction novel in which the reader inserts their name (Name). Yi’s heroine is now determined to meet Moon—sending her to Seoul on an adventure that is both funny and poignant.