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The five most exciting feminist books in 2016

The Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 lamented the lack of “shouty” books for women, but The Independent begs to disagree


Rachael Revesz
New York
Monday 21 March 2016 19:45 GMT

It was only this year that BBC 4 Radio Woman’s Hour was lamenting the lack of strong, “shouty” feminist fiction over the last decade or so.

In a world clamoring for psychological thrillers, “domestic noir” and yet more crime series written by women but abbreviated to pretend they are written by men - hello S D Sykes - it can be easy to forget strong contenders in the book world like Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, or Ali Smith’s How To Be Both - and countless others.

But there is also a genuine and exciting wealth of feminist non-fiction hitting our shelves. 2014 and 2015 were two good years, with Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and Gloria Steinem’s My Life On The Road.

This year looks set to promise more gems for men and women who want to laugh, cry, get angry, or simply learn more on gender equality.

The Independent looks at five of the most exciting feminist books of 2016.

Rebecca Traister, All The Single Ladies

Did you know that, between 1890 and 1990, the average age of marriage for women in the US was between 20 and 22?

It has since jumped to 27, and is even older in urban cities.

Award-winning US journalist Rebecca Traister, who recently married herself, compiled hundreds of interviews from women of different races and backgrounds to discover why this change is taking place - and to delve deeper than the depiction of “glamorised single life on television and movies“.

She discovered that women marrying later resulted in massive social change, including abolition and further education - not to mention Beyonce.

“It drives me bananas that women who are living that unprecedented fullness of adult life are cast as selfish children,” she said at a recent event to promote her book in New York.

Suddenly, those lazy Sunday Netflix and chill nights do not seem so pathetic.

Caitlyn Moran, Moranifesto

Caitlyn Moran, the chatty columnist and author who uses a lot of capital letters and exclamation marks, is back with a new book on women and politics.

She told Woman’s Hour radio host Jenni Murray that the fact that there is a professional political class has meant other people have become disenfranchised by politics. Her bestseller How to Be a Woman in 2011 resulted in a large following for Ms Moran, but she said it took her years to become comfortable with writing about Westminster.

As a 17-year-old working at The Times, and having grown up in a large family on benefits in Wolverhampton, she said she would feel like an "idiot" if she tried to write about the subject. She realised, however, a lot of it came down to common sense and noticing trends.

She argued that it should not just be the “Oxford boys in suits” that get to write columns on politics.

“If you’re a working class woman, then you can’t afford to be pessimistic about the future because you are going to be on the front line if it all goes wrong,” she said.

Moranifesto was released on 10 March.

Laura Bates, Girl Up

It’s about time - or it will be on 21 April. The founder of pioneering project Everyday Sexism, which compiles women’s personal accounts of being abused, harassed, catcalled and undermined, is writing a new project and it is eagerly awaited.

For any woman who is sick of being told how to act, how to dress, or how to ward off unwanted advances, this book could be for you.

Girl Up is about the pressures of body image, false representations of women in the media, sex and relationships, social media “and all the other lies they told us”.

Ms Bates has also used her incredibly articulate voice to weigh into the most controversial debates about women, not least when award-winning costume designer Jenny Beaven was ridiculed for not dressing up at the Oscars, or when tabloid newspapers focused more on Home Secretary Theresa May’s cleavage than her budget proposals.

The new book follows the popular launch of a book called Everyday Sexism in 2014.

Jessica Valenti, Sex Object

The Washington Post has named Jessia Valenti “One of the most visible and successful feminists of her generation.” She names herself a “feminist killjoy”.

Either way, the prolific Guardian columnist and author Jessica Valenti is back.

If you like her witty, pithy and poignant columns, the new book by prolific writer Ms Valenti will be like one warm and familiar hug.

Out this summer, the book is an autobiographical account of Valenti’s upbringing and adolescence in New York City, and the painful and funny moments that have made her one of the most recognisable voices on gender equality today.

She has provided a loud and consistent voice in the pro-choice debate in the US as the anti-Planned Parenthood debate intensifies.

Iona Bain, Spare Change

Women often write about being women, but what will really empower women to continue writing about being women?

Money. And women writing about money, educating others to take steps to manage their own finances and thereby guarantee their independence - particularly young women - can be really powerful.

Funny then, why women’s magazines so often lack any advice or tips on the subject.

Enter Iona Bain, journalist and founder of the Young Money blog, following the likes of Evening Standard business journalist and six-time author Lucy Tobin.

Ms Bain's book, Spare Change, aims to help readers get the most from their finances, how to save, how to socialize on a budget, how to make an action plan and to analyse their own relationship with money.

Money and how to manage it is possibly the biggest issue for a good portion of female millennials today.

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