10 women writers you might not know

world of authors.001I’m always on the look out for writers outside the tradition of the western literary canon. So this article from Signature e-magazine was a welcome change from the usual fare of promotions – there is still a long way to go before literature in translation becomes part of our stable diet unfortunately.

The columnist Kate Schatz has found 10 women writers she thinks deserve more attention because they “have produced or are producing beautiful, necessary works of literature.”  These are women she believes whose work show us worlds, cultures, lives, and truths that need to be known.

The 10 come from Iran, Mexico, Palestine, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Japan Italy and Great Britain. I’m not convinced that Elena Ferrante needs any more exposure and Helen Oyeyemi surely doesn’t need an introduction? But there are certainly names on this list that are unfamiliar to me even if you all know them well.

Shahrnush Parsipur from Iran appeals, not because her novels weave use fantasy (not one of my favourite genres) but because she has been imprisoned for her writing. Reading her books is one form of protest I can make against her treatment.

The other writer who is calling to me is Doris Pilkington Garimara, an  indigenous writer from Australia whose 1996 novel Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence sounds a remarkable story about a real-life episode in the country’s history – a government-sanctioned removal of mixed-race children from their families. This isn’t something from ancient history but occurred in the 20th century remarkably. I’ve been promising Lisa at ANZLitLovers and Sue at Whispering Gums that I would read more authors from their parts of the world. So this could be my chance (not promising it will happen any time soon though).

I also have a few names on my own list of authors I want to explore. This includes Dalene Matthee from South Africa whose novel  Fiela’s Child which deals with ethnic acceptance I enjoyed last year. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala from India who won the Booker prize in 1975 with Heat and Dust which I didn’t rate very highly but I wonder if that was really her best novel? And then of course there are my latest finds (Ok, I know I am late to this party) of Yoko Ogawa whose novella The Housekeeper and the Professor and Amelie Nothomb, who wrote  Fear and Trembling gave me some of the most interesting reading this year.

I could go on….and on…. and on with names but don’t want to overwhelm you but just take a look at some of the recommendations from the bloggers in several countries that have done guest posts about literature from their country.More than enough for you to get your teeth into.



What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

16 thoughts on “10 women writers you might not know

  • awesome! Ogawa and Nothomb, yes!
    there’s also, from books I have read:
    Nigeria: Half of A Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    Bangladesh: A Golden Age, by Tahmima Anam
    Guatemala: Maya Roads: One Woman’s Journey Among The People of The Rainforest, by Mary Jo McConahay
    Iran: Equal of the Sun, by Anita Amirrezvani
    South Korea: The Vegetarian, by Han Kang

    an author I really enjoy in Australia, nt a woman, is Patrick White

  • I came across this article too and got really excited! So many names to add to my TBR.

  • I saw the list last week and added several books to my tbr!

  • Thank you for the link; it’s nice to see the writers come from all over the world. I’ve only read Oyeyemi so far, but had a few on my radar already. The writers from Iran and New Zealand tempt me the most at the moment.

  • I dont know many of the writers that you mentioned. I did read Ogawa recently. The House keeper and the Professor is a nice, calm read.

    • I remember last year reading a review of The Door but then couldn’t find it again – now you have given me the link I shall add to my wishlist./

  • One new female writer to me that I would highly recommend is Magda Szabo, I discovered her purely by chance because I was in Hungary and wanted to read something Hungarian. Love this book

  • Great post! The blogging world’s a great place to discover names not surrounded by the brouhaha that publisher’s publicists manage to whip up.

    • It can be hard to find these because of so much being pushed out by the publishers from mainstream authors – then of course finding one in translation at a reasonable price is another challenge. But I keep pushing on!

  • Some interesting names in that list, including quite a few I don’t know. I have heard of Clarice Lispector and have had her on my radar for a while. I have read and can recommend New Zealand’s Janet Frame. There are some writers though in that list that I’d love to read. My main reading of lesser known women writers has probably been in Japanese literature, but I would like to read more from Africa and the Middle East in particular.

    Oh, and thanks for the mention, Karen.

    • I have one Clarice Listpector to read – the Hour of the Star which is a short novella apparently about an uneducated woman’s struggle to survive in a sexist society. It’;s been gathering dust for about four years…….

      I’ve had mixed experiences with Africa – one or two writers were trying to hard for me. but I did enjoy Dalene Matthee, maybe because I have had the chance to visit that area so the setting resonated.

      • TThat would help I’m sure Karen. I’ve read a few African writers but not enough contemporary ones to really have a feeling. I did like Things fall apart this year, but that’s a classic.

  • I’ve only read Danticat, but I’ve been wanting to read Oyeyemi. This is an interesting list and I’ll have to look up some of these books. I used to do a reading challenge where you had to read books from around the world. I miss that, because I don’t always seek out diverse books on my own.

    • There are a number of reading challenges like that but I haven’t joined them because they count books set in particular countries rather than written by local authors which is what i prefer. My world literature project has stalled a bit lately but it’s been wonderful so far to get to know some authors I would never have come across just by browing book stores for example. Long live the power of other bloggers who give me ideas. if you want one recommendation – Chimamande Adichie from Nigeria is superb


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