Seven books with strong woman protagonists

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Pic: Danielle Kate Wroe

International Women’s Day is a day where we celebrate all the women we know, regardless of our gender.

The women who are strong, resilient, compassionate, caring, loving, funny, intelligent. The mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties, friends that you admire and who helped to shape the person you are today.

The theme of the 2022 International Women’s Day is ‘Break the Bias.’

While it may not be noticeable to many of us, gender biases and stereotypes have been deeply ingrained into our lives, and it’s our job to change this.

With our small actions, we may not be able to single-handedly change the world, but we can certainly take small steps in the right direction.

That’s why at InYourArea, we wanted to introduce you to some woman-led stories with women protagonists so you can expand your reading horizons.

These books highlight the complexity of being a woman, and will help to enrich your reading list.

First up, fiction recommendations.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree. Pic: Bloomsbury Publishing

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter of her to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door of her.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

Filled with strong women who know how to get exactly what they want, this 700+ page book is a must read for fantasy lovers who would love nothing more than to read a feminist Game of Thrones.

Goodreads rating: 4.2
InYourArea Book Club rating: 4.5

You can buy ‘The Priory of the Orange Tree’ here.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other. Pic: Penguin

If you’re looking for a novel which celebrates the diversity of womanhood, and has also won the Man Booker Prize (2019) then look no further!

Teeming with life and crackling with energy, this book is a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood.

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of 12 very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.

Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.

Goodreads rating: 4.35
InYourArea Book Club rating: 5

You can buy ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ here.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing. Pic: GP Putnam’s Sons

For years, rumors of the ‘Marsh Girl’ haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village.

Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.

But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life’s lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies, but while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she years to be touched and loved.

Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world—until the unthinkable happens.

Owens’ debut novel reminds us that we are forever shaped by the child within us, while also subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

The story asks how isolation influences the behavior of a young woman, who like all of us, has the genetic propensity to belong to a group. The clues to the mystery are brushed into the lush habitat and natural histories of its wild creatures.

Kya is a unique character who you will potentially find it hard to trust, but once you do, the story is bound to be a tearjerker.

Goodreads rating: 4.46
InYourArea Book Club rating: 4.5

You can buy ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ here.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Clap When You Land. Pic: HarperCollins

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic, but this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people.

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

Then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

A really touching story about the strength of sisterly bonds, and the hope which can come out of dark places.

Goodreads rating: 4.29
InYourArea Book Club Rating: 4.5

You can buy ‘Clap When You Land’ here.

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

This Poison Heart by Kaylnn Bayron

Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.

When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer.

Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift, nut their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined.

It comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.

When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them.

One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community.

There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it, until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir.

Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.

Bri is one of the strongest, sassiest characters in YA, but people of all ages will enjoy this fast paced and mysterious book.

Goodreads rating: 4.19
InYourArea Book Club rating: 5

You can buy ‘This Poison Heart’ here.

Now, here are some accessible non-fiction recommendations where you can learn more about yourself, feminism and the patriarchy.

Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given

Women Don’t Owe You Pretty. Pic: Cassell

London-based Florence’s debut book will explore all progressive corners of the feminist conversation – from insecurity projection and refusing to find comfort in other women’s flaws, to deciding whether to date or dump them, all the way through to unpacking the male gaze and how it shapes our identity.

Women Don’t Owe You Pretty is an accessible leap into feminism, for people at all stages of their journey who are seeking to reshape and transform the way they view themselves, and others.

Florence’s book will help you to tackle and challenge the limiting narrative you have been bombarded with your whole life, and determine feminism on your own terms. After all, you are the love of your own life.

Goodreads rating: 3.86
InYourArea Book Club rating: 4

You can buy ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ here.

Block, Delete, Move On: It’s not you, it’s them by Lalalaletmeexplain

Block, Delete, Move On. Pic: Transworld Digital

This book will teach you how to love yourself more, things to look out for in relationships which are huge red flags and generally how to take care of you.

The sad truth is that when it comes to modern dating, there are a whole host of challenges and hurdles to overcome.

From ghosting and negging to gaslighting and abuse, this book teaches you what to look out for, to make sure that you’re not accidentally dating people with toxic traits.

This is not a book that promises to find you a person to love – instead, it will help you spot the troublesome ones before it is too late, and how to love yourself.

Most importantly, this book will give you the power to block, delete and move on with living your best life.

Goodreads rating: 4.63
InYourArea Book Club rating: 5

You can buy ‘Block Delete Move On’ here.

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