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Women Unbound: a New Reading Challenge

October 30, 2009

unbound4smallerYesterday afternoon, after finishing up Adventure Divas, I popped on to Twitter and mentioned that it would be neat if someone hosted a women’s studies reading challenge next year. Somehow, the idea took off, and pretty soon lots of book bloggers were all brainstorming, and two hours later we had a challenge name Women Unbound, rules, dates (November 2009-November 2010) and by two hours after that we had the blog and some beautiful buttons.

I’m still not sure how it all happened, but Aarti of BookLust, Care of Care’s Online Book Club, and I are now co-hosting a shiny new challenge that begins on Sunday. What I really love about how it came together was that so many different people were involved, and every small contribution built up into a whole challenge! On that theme, Aarti has some great ideas for activities and events to do to make the challenge more interactive, and we are definitely looking for contributors, so if you have any interest in women’s issues hop on over there!

We ended up deciding that the challenge would include both nonfiction and fiction books. But I know that many book bloggers tend to shy away from nonfiction, and trying to figure out which fiction books ‘count’ can be tricky. So I went through the books I’ve read this year and last, and picked out all of the ones that I gave at least three stars (i.e.: I liked it) that I think would be great challenge choices. I’m going to list them all here, with links to my reviews whenever they exist and a brief explanation of why they’re ‘women’s studies’ books, so that if you’re not sure what the challenge is asking of you, you have some examples. I’ll be making a list of the books I plan to read for the challenge in the next few days, but for now I figure this is enough. :) I’ve only included one book by each author, even if I’ve read more of theirs, so be sure to look up an author’s backlist of they sound interesting! (Oh, and the only order they’re in is reverse chronological order of when I read them, and I list all the ones with reviews first and the non-reviewed ones last. It would be too much work to alphabetise them all!) ETA: Just to clarify, I’ve already read and enjoyed all of these books, and the links are to my reviews. So this is a resource for other challenge participants!


As I went through my ‘books read’ lists, I realised I was consistently picking fiction that had the following qualities: 1) woman protagonist, 2) women were always the subjects and never felt like objects, 3)the woman-ness was essential to the book; take it away and the book wouldn’t hold together, and 4)the book made me reflect on myself as a woman, either my coming-of-age or how my society affects me or something else. I’m not saying this is the only way to decide if a work of fiction should count as ‘women’s studies,’ but if you’re not sure where to begin, these make good criteria.

32 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2009 2:17 am

    See? This is what I miss by working nights!! Only being able to Twitter at night makes me feel like I’m missing something!!

    Of course, I COULD join the challenge!! Sheesh, I need another challenge like I need a hole in my head!! But this one does look fun…..

    You are evil!! Just so you know! :)

  2. October 30, 2009 3:08 am

    Just wrote up my post and it will go live tomorrow! I’m looking forward to this challenge. Thank you so much for the huge list – it really clarified that I *could* do this one and I used it to make up a reading list for myself. =)

  3. October 30, 2009 5:15 am

    Your list is inspiring. Did you have Chopin’s The Awakening on the list? I love the NF choices.

  4. October 30, 2009 5:22 am

    Oh, man, this is great! I can’t wait to make my list. To-Do list for the weekend…

  5. October 30, 2009 6:10 am

    Looks like a great challenge! Count me in!

  6. October 30, 2009 6:16 am

    I love these choices. I wasn’t sure about I’m Looking Through You so I left it off my initial list, but after seeing it here, I’ll add it. I hope to get a full list together and join the challenge within a week or so.

  7. October 30, 2009 6:54 am

    So excited to see you already have this list up!!! I was hoping there would be some idea lists and man did you deliver!!

  8. October 30, 2009 7:34 am

    What a list! You’ve included many of the books I was going to recommend. (We think alike). You’ve added a few books to my reading list.

  9. October 30, 2009 8:02 am

    I love it! How cool that you all came up with the ideas together!

  10. October 30, 2009 8:07 am

    Gosh, Eva, you are the most productive person ever! I think I am going to be bold and choose all non-fiction for this challenge. Which probably means I won’t actually complete it ;-) Well, maybe I’ll throw in a couple fiction in…

    Also, I think another good fiction book to go on the list might be The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which tells the Arthurian legend through the POV of all the women in the story.

  11. beastmomma permalink
    October 30, 2009 8:54 am

    This looks fantastic! I am preparing for an exam over the next week, but I am excited to join. I think that I will have more luck completing because I, too, naturally enjoy books with strong female characters. Also, if you need additional hep, I would be glad to provide it once I am not freaking out about passing exams.

  12. October 30, 2009 9:46 am

    Wow that is such an inspiring list of books! I’m going to have quite a few of them to my list (and hopefully sign up by the weekend!)

  13. October 30, 2009 10:41 am

    That is quite the list! I look forward to looking at it in detail later on today. :)

  14. October 30, 2009 10:45 am

    sounds wonderful. count me in too.

  15. October 30, 2009 10:48 am

    Oh God I don’t need another challenge…But I like this one Eva :) And YOU are hosting it!! Yeah, I think I’m going to sign up for it, but I think I’m going to wait until after NaNo and be late to the game…you may just have to remind me!!

  16. October 30, 2009 11:29 am

    Great idea! I used to read droves of Women’s Studies non-fiction, though I’ve never gravitated toward female protagonists necessarily (weird). Anyway, this would be a great way for me to get back in the swing of reading more women-centric books. And the buttons ROCK! I’m a sucker for a great button. :)

  17. October 30, 2009 2:14 pm

    Just wanted to say thanks so much for including my book on your list — the challenge sounds terrific, and you’ve given me lots of great titles that I’d like to read, too.

    Dara Chadwick
    You’d Be So Pretty If…

  18. October 30, 2009 3:26 pm

    Sounds like a really fun challenge. I love books with women’s themes, so I’ll have to serious consider it. I’m awful at challenges though!

  19. October 31, 2009 9:40 am

    I love how this idea of yours just took off and developed into something so great!

  20. October 31, 2009 4:01 pm

    Wow! This is a fantastic list. What a fun challenge. Wish I had more time to participate, but my reading time has really gone downhill since I went back to work full-time.

    About the list…

    I enjoyed Nora Ephron’s essays and found myself laughing out loud on several occasions. Other times she came across as quite the elitist.

    Their Eyes Were Watching God has some incredibly lyrical passages.

    I read about 2/3 of Wild Swans, but got bogged down toward the end. Never did pick it back up again.

    I haven’t read Wit, but I did watch the movie. Very powerful! Emma Thompson is incredible.

    I could go on and on. This is a list to hang on to future ideas. Thanks for posting it!

  21. October 31, 2009 4:36 pm


    Are you posting recommendations as well as our proposed reading list on our blogs?

    Love your list as always.

  22. October 31, 2009 9:00 pm

    I LOVE this challenge! I’m definitely going to join, I just need a few days to get a tentative list together and put a post up!! Thanks for the info! :)

  23. October 31, 2009 9:15 pm

    Stephanie, lol! You only have to read two books. ;)

    Meghan, awesome!

    Care, I haven’t read The Awakening, so it’s not on this list.

    Pam, thanks!

    Lola, can’t wait to see your list! :)

    Amanda, I figure transgendered women are still women, so they should be in the challenge. :)

    Rebecca, I’m glad it helped you!

    Vasilly, we do think alike. :D

    Amy, isn’t it cool? And so women-like, hehe.

    Aarti, LOL. Yay for nonfiction! Mists of Avalon would definitely be a fun fiction choice.

    Beastmomma, can’t wait to see your choices!

    Olduvai, great. :D

    Kailana, thanks!

    Velvet, awesome!

    Chris, yay for signing up! Don’t worry about having to wait until December; I originally thought it wouldn’t begin until new year, but then people wanted to start reading right away!

    Andi, thanks! Are the buttons all gorgeous?!

    Dara, thank you for visiting-I loved your book!

    Kim, lol-I promise I won’t arrest you if you don’t finish it. ;)

    L, I love it too-so many great bloggers on twitter!

    Les, I agree-I read all of these already and loved them. :D

    Susan, thanks! Feel free to do a list of recommended books awell!

    Heather, I knew you’d love it! I was looking for you on Twitter that afternoon. :)

  24. November 1, 2009 8:02 am

    this sounds like an awesome challenge! i have had Cunt and Woman: An Intimate Geography on my tbr list since i directed The Vagina Monologues five years ago. now i have to find these books and read them. :)

    p.s. i would also recommend The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf for your book lists for challenge participants.

  25. November 3, 2009 3:22 pm

    Love the idea of this challenge! You guys come up with a great one. And, yep, I’m definitely joining. I’m putting my list together and will be posting it soon.

  26. November 4, 2009 10:08 pm

    question-do we also place links to our reviews on Mr Linky? is there a seperate mr linky for reviews-really looking forward to see all the reviews that will come from this Challenge


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