Not girls but WOMEN

A post to celebrate women. A new trend in titles began a few years ago when it became fashionable to include the word ‘girl’ in the title of novels, especially mystery or horror novels featuring young women and violence. We are in an age which makes a fetish of youth and devalues maturity, especially in women. I hate the patronising use of the word girl to refer to a young woman. In this themed post I celebrate ten titles that have claimed woman and celebrate maturity.

Of the ten books in this list, 9 are novels and one is an edited diary. They were all reviewed on Bookword and the links are included.

Woman at Point Zero by Nawal el Saadawi (1975)

Translated from the Arabic by Sherif Hetata

Firdaus is awaiting execution for murder, having lived a life of exploitation by a series of men. It was an indictment of gender relations in Egypt at the time.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (2016)

Translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Keiko lives a very small life serving in a convenience store. Her family try to encourage her into a more normal life, which risks overwhelming her. This is a critique of the pressures to conform in Japan, which can make young women childlike.

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud (2013)

An angry woman lives on the upper floor of a house in Boston, USA. Is she a mad woman in the attic? Loneliness and betrayal are the themes of this novel.

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym (1952)

Mildred also lives above the action, in this case over a flat let to a rather stormy couple. She is a mature woman who understands that most people live with ‘the small unpleasantnesses rather than the great tragedies, the little useless longings rather than the great renunciations and dramatic love affairs of history or fiction’.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (2019)

The prize-winning novel celebrates girls and women and never confuses the two. The lives of many women of colour are connected in this novel, mostly set in London. It was the best book I read in 2019.

A Notable Woman: the romantic diaries of Jean Lucey Pratt (2015)

This is the title given to the diaries of Jean Pratt. She kept it for sixty-one years from 1925 carrying on through the war. She lived in Burnham Beeches, outside London and never married. The title explains her life.

Older Women in fiction series

Here are four titles from novels in the older women in fiction series. Of course these are about women in their 60s and over, and such subjects are not usually referred to as girls. I still think it is important to celebrate their titles. I notice that three of them are about Arabic women. None are from Europe or North America. I am not sure what that tells us, but perhaps only that there are different traditions in titles for novels.

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso (2016)

This is the story of a rivalry between two neighbours, Hortensia and Marion in Cape Town, South Africa and how they manage to argue and become reconciled. 

The Woman from Tantoura by Radwa Ashour (2014)

Translated from the Arabic by Kay Heikkinen

The Palestinian diaspora is retold by an old woman, Ruqayya, who was born into a village taken over at the time of the Nakba. Family life must continue despite living in exile.

The Old Woman and the River by Ismail Fahd Ismail (2016)

Translated from the Arabic by Sophia Vasalou

A mystical story with its origins in real events about an old woman who returns to her village in the military zone on the border of Iraq-Iran during their war. Her simple approach to life and her donkey inspire the soldiers.

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine (2013)

Set in war-ravaged Beirut a widow is determined to hold on to her apartment. She leads a secret life translating western literature into Arabic.

Over to you

Can you suggest more titles to add to this list?

12 Comments

Filed under Books, Older women in fiction, Reading, Reviews, Women in Translation

12 Responses to Not girls but WOMEN

  1. Totally agree. It’s part of the infantilisation of women and it’s stupid and patronising. We should have moved on past this stage but we do seem to be moving backwards…

  2. Jennifer

    Little Women? Are girls little women with their destinies laid out? To become Good Wives?
    Even Jo…
    A Tory Councillor always insisted on calling me ‘Young Lady’. I had to point out that I was as old, or even a older than he was.

  3. I so hope we are done with this “girl” thing.
    You’ve highlighted some excellent reads. I especially liked the portraits of the two women in The Woman Next Door

  4. Bravo! I feel the same way about this “girl” trend (and the violence against women as entertainment trend, too).

  5. Lynda Haddock

    Yes! Well said. And thank you for the excellent recommendations

  6. Carole Jones

    Absolutely Caroline!
    I’m reading a lot of literature (factual/biog/autobiog/fiction) from and about WWI … which is also by and about women … and ‘boy’… even the girls are women. Yet a quite a lot of it took some searching out: even after all the stalwart work by Virago, Women’s Press, etc. We have to be vigilant to ensure all is saved, written about and read.

    • Caroline

      Hi Carole,
      an interesting focus for your reading, on WW1. I have reviewed a number of books from that time on the blog, eg The Retufrn of the Soldier by Rebecca West.
      Women are frequently underestimated, and yet – they hold up half the sky.
      Caroline

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