Intersectionality in Feminist Literature
Updated: Feb 26, 2020
Yasmine and Molli run an intersectional feminist book club called TheMistressofBooks. They've taken the time to talk about their experiences with literature, with feminism, and with diversity.
While living in Paris, both Yasmine and Molli attended book clubs. While they felt that this was their introduction to feminism, they quickly realized that almost all existing bookclubs boasted reading lists with little to no diversity.
Yasmine and Molli, therefore, endeavoured to create a book club for intersectional feminists. They read books from a variety of authors, about the millions of different perspectives on what it means to be a woman. They only follow feminist figures who support all women - they make sure that the books on their reading list encompass authors of colour, LGBTQ+ perspectives, and works that showcase a "robust framework of race, power and class within the feminist movement of the United States".
"We refuse to run a white feminist bookclub".
The book club's first meeting was last October, and they've already discussed a wide range of books.
Yasmine's favourite bookclub read was Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis. Both Molli and Yasmine agree that the book shook them to the core, forcing them to reevaluate their views about suffrage. When talking about why they chose it specifically, they emphatically stated that they refuse to run a "white feminist book club", and Davis' writing represents so many of the intersectional ideals that TheMistressofBooks hopes to promote.
Another book that their members rate as a favourite would be The Years by Annie Ernaux. A translation from French, the majority of the book-club members had never been exposed to French literature - they loved how the book functions as the collective autobiography of French society. Many book-club members grew up during the events that influenced Ernaux's novel, but they'd never heard it from a uniquely French perspective. Listening to the voices of those in other nations gave them the ability to compare their American beliefs with those of the others.
Feminist writing has changed significantly in the past 50-odd years. When asked their opinions on this evolution, Molli and Yasmine love how much it has grown. What had once been a niche subculture has become a diverse array of titles spanning genres, minority experiences and authors. They particularly appreciate the emergence of LGBT literature within the feminist canon; specifically, how it has evolved beyond tropes and cliches and into something unique, positive and powerful. They highlighted the fading of the "Kill-Your-Gays" trope - LGBT couples are finally being given their happy endings rather than being relegated to shock-value murders and suicides.
They also love how women are being represented in today's literature. It's now commonplace to see female characters becoming as complex and nuanced as the male characters who have been dominating storylines for centuries. Female characters are allowed to be divorced, having affairs, exploring their sexuality and so forth. Readers of both classic and contemporary literature - as Molli and Yasmine both are - there are significant differences within female characters written in the 1900s and the female characters of today.
Finally, for anyone who's just discovering feminist literature, Molli and Yasmine recommend that you stick to genres you enjoy and find feminist works within them. Feminist literature doesn't have to be a dreary theoretical treatise - if you like sci-fi, try reading Kindred by Octavia E. Butler. Fiction? The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante. Non-fiction and graphic novels? Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Something new? Virtuoso by Yelena Moskovich.
Within the broad category of feminist literature, there's something for everyone. Through TheMistressofBooks, Yasmine and Molli hope to show the world that feminist writing can and should be intersectional, too.
The book club can be found on Instagram with the handle @themistressofbooks