International Women's Day is here and what better way to celebrate than to read a book by one of Australia's talented women and female-identifying writers. Rather than choose them ourselves, this year ArtsHub reached out to Australian women writers for their recommendations.
Here they share the books that made them cry or laugh out loud, and left them with that singular feeling of fulfilment that only a good piece of writing delivers.
You'll find authors you may have never heard of alongside familiar names. Recommendations of literary fiction, memoir, and poetry that are significant to Australia's cultural imagination and deserving of a wider readership. Happy reading.
Charlotte Wood. Image by Chris Chen.
Charlotte Wood recommends The Details by Tegan Bennett Daylight (2020)
'The book that has most excited me recently is not yet published, but will be in July: The Details by Tegan Bennett Daylight. It’s an essay collection pairing the reading of literature with the messy business of family and professional life for a contemporary Australian woman, and it’s about how each of those things informs and enlarges the other. Tegan is a fiction writer, teacher and critic and her prose is incredibly supple, discursive, funny, restrained and candidly loving. The book is about – well, the details of life: birth and death, laughter and misery, mothers and children, the body and the spirit, and the part literature plays in the author’s understanding of all of it. It brings to mind Flaubert’s instruction to "read, in order to live". And anyone who, like me, can’t separate their reading life from the rest of experience will close the book feeling remade, and understood.'
Charlotte Wood is the author of The Weekend (2019) and The Natural Way of Things (2015).
Marion May Campbell recommends Rogue Intensities by Angela Rockel (2019)
'Angela Rockel’s Rogue Intensities is a magisterial achievement, which was fittingly awarded the Dorothy Hewett Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript. A "calendrical" work of wonder, it registers with a rare poetic sensibility the thoughts and sensations arising in intimate relation with place – the hilly country south of Hobart, In Tasmania. It wears lightly its wide-ranging erudition to celebrate the intensities of encounter with a fragile and threatened natural world. I would take this work with confidence into solitary confinement, knowing its intellectual brilliance, its extraordinary poetry and wisdom would sustain me through any external deprivation.'
Marion May Campbell, writer and Associate Professor of Writing & Literature at Deakin University.
Poet and critic Thuy On. Image Leah Jing.
Thuy On recommends Lucky Ticket by Joey Bui (2019)
'Joey Bui’s debut book, Lucky Ticket, a collection of short stories, is international and ambitious in scope. There are several tales based on Vietnamese diaspora around the world and within Vietnam itself but the book also depicts the hardscrabble lives of other PoC characters with great insight and empathy.With its intersections of race, gender and politics and Bui’s robust, unflinching eye, Lucky Ticket is one of the most dynamic, intelligent and provocative books I’ve read recently.'
Thuy On, literary journalist, critic, and author of the forthcoming poetry collection Turbulence (2020).
Michelle Johnston recommends Fish Song by Caitlin Maling (2019)
'Caitlin Maling’s third volume of poetry, Fish Song, is not much about fish. It does, however, sing, and is one of those books I keep in my handbag to pull out and dive into when I’m in need of delicious verse. Caitlin is a poet of intensity, raw and real, with tight, musical lines and imagery I never knew I needed. She dances with paradox, vaulting from the haunting beauty of coastal Australia to the visceral tragedy of her father’s cancer, sometimes in the space of a line. This is what I want poetry to do; astonish me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Caitlin has deservedly won many awards for her work, the most recent being Highly Commended at the 2020 Dorothy Hewett award for an unpublished manuscript, for her fourth volume, currently entitled Fish Work, also not about fish.'
Michelle Johnston, author of Dustfall (2018).
Angela Rockel recommends A Fixed Place by Kathleen Mary Fallon (2019)
'Kathleen Mary Fallon’s A fixed place – the long and short of story is a moving, funny, savage, gripping negotiation of Australian memory-scapes and the speech they give rise to. Interconnected stories bring into language shocks of pleasure and horror that inscribe coming-into-being in family and culture, and the experiences of gender, sexuality and race they inculcate. Fallon is Australia’s foremost storyteller-poet of intersubjectivity.'
Angela Rockel, Dorothy Hewett winner 2019 and author of Rogue Intensities (2019).
Natalie KonYu recommends A Leaving by Eleanor Jackson (2018)
'Eleanor Jackson's book A Leaving excited and impressed me. Her poems are beautiful - erudite and accessible at the same time. I don't read a lot of poetry, but I read this book in one, breathless, sitting.'
Dr Natalie Kon-yu writer, editor and Senior Lecturer at Victoria University. Co-commissioning editor of
#Me Too: Stories from the Australian Women's Movement (2019).