Resilient Women in Non-Fiction
By Maisie Jane Garvin, Juliette Tulloch and Beth Gater
Given the movement sparked by the horrific murder of Sarah Everard earlier in March, along with International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day in the same month, we wanted to explore resilient women who have taken their experiences and created inspiring non-fiction books. Each woman has a story to tell which unveils the need for improved legislation to help women feel safer.
Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller
Chanel Miller’s memoir is a poignant uncovering of the 2016 Stanford Sexual Assault Case. Brock Turner was sentenced to just six months in jail after being caught sexually assaulting Miller, and her story has sparked an international outrage towards the criminal justice system. Not only is this a courageous move for Miller (to reveal her identity and put into words such a traumatic experience), but it is also one that sparks change. Her memoir puts a spotlight on the patriarchal culture that protects rapists, explores her struggles with pain and reveals her journey to living the most peaceful life she can now have. The 2020 paperback’s cover goes one step further in giving a voice to the women let down by the law by placing a focus on Miller’s identity. This simple but striking design depicts a resilient woman who will hopefully bring comfort to fellow survivors of sexual assault. However, the need for her to write a memoir while the justice system fails her shows how far we have to go in achieving equality for women.
My Past is a Foreign Country: A Muslim Feminist Finds Herself by Zeba Talkhani
My Past is a Foreign Country: A Muslim Feminist Finds Herself, is the passionately honest story of author Zeba Talkhani’s journey to forging an identity away from the confinements of family and religion. Published in February 2020, the cover design is by the Woodbine Workshop and, although simple, encapsulates the essence of going on a journey. The different colours and patterns seem to create a mountain range, perhaps representing Talkhani’s journey; from growing up in Saudi Arabia, to moving abroad, to finding her individuality as a woman. Talkhani’s story of rejecting the traditional path her family perhaps preferred for her shows a brave young woman navigating the world on her own terms, rejecting patriarchal systems and refusing to let negative experiences bring her down.
Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World by Leslie Kern
Leslie Kern’s Feminist City was published in 2020 and explores the issue of inequality for women today. Kern suggests that uniforms, public spaces and transport – along with other daily necessities – are built upon patriarchal foundations and are not as functional for women as they are for men. The book suggests the concept of a “feminist city” that is designed to be functional for women too, and which will greatly shape the values of urban society. Kern states that there are few places where women can walk alone without the fear of being harassed. Stairwells and car parks are some of the most common places for female abduction and this is clearly highlighted on the front cover: the woman walking alone on a staircase represents the fear each woman possesses. Kern encapsulates the concrete foundations of cities with the staircase and the isolation of women in modern society through her cover design.
A Kick in the Belly: Women, Slavery and Resistance by Stella Dadzie
Published in September 2020, A Kick in the Belly is written by Stella Dadzie, who is a British historian, as well as being one of the founding members of the Organisation for Women of Asian and African Descent (OWAAD). Using evidence surrounding enslaved West Indian women and their role in the development of anti-slavery culture, Dadzie shows that even in the most inhumane of conditions endured by the women kept as slaves on the Caribbean islands, their loyalty to their traditional cultures ensured their lives still had purpose. The most revolutionary takeaway is the proof that subtle acts of insubordination were able to undermine the very system of West Indian slavery. The cover design is representative of the stories of the countless women Dadzie is making public within her book. Only showing half the face of the West Indian woman perhaps represents how long this account of women's slave history was covered for and how much is still left to tell.
We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir by Samra Habib
We Have Always Been Here was published in 2019 by Samra Habib and shares her experiences as a queer Muslim woman and the prejudice she has faced. She explores the fears surrounding revealing her true identity to her family and the restrictions of her culture. The book explores Habib’s fruition into her true self and the learning she has embodied on the journey. The cover design presents many silhouettes of people in all different colours which perhaps signifies that every individual is unique and cannot be bound to specific cultural or gender norms. The silhouettes possibly resemble a community of all different people coming together to fight for fundamental issues regarding gender, race and sexuality. These issues that are readily disregarded by the patriarchal society we live in, and experiences like Habib’s, are fundamental to changing our culture.