May 4, 2018

Books for the #metoo movement

“Me Too” was coined in 2006 by Tarana Burke as part of her work to help women and girls who have survived sexual violence, with a special focus on women and girls of color. When the #metoo movement came to the entertainment industry, it garnered worldwide attention and rocketed a discussion about violence and harassment of women to newspaper headlines, leading stories in the nightly news, and trending hashtags. The intense cultural scrutiny on violence against women is new, but women have been writing about their experiences navigating an unjust world whenever they found the freedom to put pen to paper. Like with all critical questions facing society, librarians are poised to respond by doing what we do best: providing ready access to the books our readers need.

Many writers have taken imaginative approaches to exploring gender and sexism through story. For the SFF fan in your library, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Left Hand of Darkness, and The Power are great recommendations. You can also try these suggested searches:

  • GN Social science fiction AND SU Gender
  • GN Science fiction AND SU Women’s role
  • GN Dystopian fiction AND AP Strong female

Thrillers and mysteries face some unique challenges to representing women and gender issues. The recently launched Staunch Prize is awarded to a novel in these genres that includes no violence against women. Despite the intention, many women writers have taken issue with the suggestion that they limit their stories and eschew depictions of trauma. In a recent Guardian article, Sophie Hannah suggests the award's focus would be productively aimed at honoring the novel “...that most powerfully or sensitively tackles the problem of violence against women and girls” and goes on to suggest A Dark Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine, Broken Harbour by Tana French, and -- a personal favorite -- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

Romance novels have a long history of being by and for women. While they’ve been hugely popular for decades, mainstream media is newly turning its attention to this genre and the possibilities (and failure) of these novels to be female friendly and diverse. Authors Sarah MacLean, Alisha Rai, Beverly Jenkins, and Alyssa Cole are some of the authors leading the discussion of romance in the #metoo era and write excellent books that will propel you to search for more.

For literary fiction fans, try classics and favorites like Wide Sargasso Sea, The Color Purple, Paradise, or The Woman Upstairs. Suggested searches to find more books like these are:

  • GN Literary fiction AND SU Violence against women
  • GN Literary fiction OR GN Mainstream fiction AND SU Gender identity
  • GN Literary fiction AND SU African American women
  • GN Mainstream fiction AND SU Women--Identity

Nonfiction presents a collection of titles equally as robust as fiction, from more recent publications like Hunger, Shrill, and Men Explain Things to Me to longstanding classics like This Bridge Called My Back and A Room of One’s Own. Try browsing through some of our nonfiction headings to find more.

  • GN Society and culture--Gender--Women
  • GN Society and culture--LGBTQIA
  • GN Society and culture--Race
  • GN Politics and global affairs--Civil and human rights
  • GN History Writing--Women's History
  • GN Life stories--Politics--Activists and reformers
  • GN Life stories--Identity
  • GN Life stories--Facing adversity

And lastly, if you or your patrons are particularly interested in women-authored titles, you can always narrow your search by author characteristics to find unique voices. The Advanced Search page offers a wide range of choices when searching NoveList by author characteristics or the types of characters featured in a story. You can type these suggested searches into the search bar:

  • GN literary fiction AND AG female AND AC African-American
  • GN Mainstream fiction AND AG Female
  • GN Literary fiction AND AC Native American AND AG Female

As always, there are limiters to the left of any NoveList search allowing you to narrow down a wide search to the types of books you are looking for. Limit your search further with subject headings, tone, writing style, time periods, award-winning, and more. Once you’ve created a list of books for you and your patrons, stash them in a NoveList folder to make them easy to find when you’re ready to create that display. Or, set up a search alert and have new titles added to your search emailed directly to you.

These suggestions should be a start to connecting your readers with increasingly relevant titles and are a great way to continue the conversation started by Tarana Burke.

Christine Wells is a Metadata Librarian II at NoveList.

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