Dear Match Book: I’m Starting an International Feminist Book Club

Drawing Fire

Even the most contemplative graphic novels offer a kinetic sense of play guaranteed to hook your colleagues’ interest. Why not launch your feminist exploration with an illustrated book set in a place that may be unfamiliar to all of you? Marguerite Abouet’s six-volume “Aya” comics series, set in Ivory Coast in the 1970s (illustrated by Abouet’s husband, Clément Oubrerie, and translated by Helge Dascher), follows the lives of its ambitious but dutiful namesake protagonist and her more freewheeling friends, Bintou and Adjoua. In “Aya: Love in Yop City” — which encompasses the last three chapters in the series — Aya, now a medical student, is sexually assaulted by her biology professor. The shame she feels in the wake of her attack shifts over the course of the book as she plans a fiery revenge.

In her illustrated story collection “Boundless,” Jillian Tamaki flips the script: To read the first and last of her kooky and elegant tales, you often must rotate the book 90 degrees. The stories’ subjects — an eerie “mirror Facebook”; a promotional pitch for a skin care product — unfold with a deliciously wry feminist slant.

Stranger Things

A pair of mesmerizing and eccentric story collections would make excellent additions to your reading list. Carmen Maria Machado’s inventive, sexually exuberant debut, “Her Body and Other Parties” — which includes a novella-length section outlining 272 speculative, alternative views of “Law & Order: SVU” episodes — reveals characters with crystalline consciousnesses clouded by their fabulist circumstances. In Kōno Taeko’s “Toddler-Hunting and Other Stories” (published in Japan throughout the 1960s and translated by Lucy North and Lucy Lower), it is the women themselves — alienated, but composed — who push past boundaries to enact lucid waking nightmares.

The Marriage Trap

The domestic bonds that doom the female characters in the classics of the Western feminist cannon — from “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, to “Wide Sargasso Sea,” by Jean Rhys — find echoes in two arresting novels by Asian writers. “The Waiting Years,” Fumiko Enchi’s psychologically astute 1957 novel of stifled emotions, traces the protracted humiliation of Tomo, a 19th-century Japanese wife obliged to procure a series of mistresses for her husband over the course of their marriage.

In Han Kang’s propulsive, lacerating novel “The Vegetarian,” translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith, the bloodless union between Yeong-hye, a hushed bookworm, and her largely indifferent husband ruptures when she ceases to be a carnivore. “Stop eating meat, and the world will devour you whole,” Yeong-hye’s mother chides. And she’s right: When Yeong-hye asserts her dietary will, characters around her react with violent rage.

Island Women

For a change of pace, introduce your book club to Jessica Hagedorn’s raucous, warmly florid novel “Dogeaters,” set in the Philippines in the 1950s. The book is crowded with politics and crime, movie stars and soapy family stories. The extended cast features women caught in a culture that fetishizes glamour includes an unlikely beauty queen who denounces her crown, and the central narrator, a girl named Rio Gonzaga who is 10 when the book begins and already in possession of discerning tastes and an enviable wisdom about the world.

Yours truly,
Match Book

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