The Soho Book Club: Afua Hirsch picks five powerful reads by women
To celebrate Women’s History Month, the journalist, filmmaker and bestselling author shares the female-penned page-turners at the top of her reading list
Thursday 3 March 2023 By Soho House
This month, the Soho Book Club is celebrating Women’s History Month with a spotlight on the works of five female authors, handpicked by none other than changemaking journalist, filmmaker and Soho House member Afua Hirsch. As the author of multiple bestsellers, including Brit(ish): On Race, Identity And Belonging, Equal To Everything and Look Again: Empire, Hirsch knows a thing or two about what makes a great book.
An advocate for social and political justice and reform, Hirsch – who is a former barrister and Guardian correspondent, and a current journalism professor at the University of Southern California – is known for championing women. She’s also a trailblazing creative, having founded Born In Me Productions – a multimedia company creating TV shows, movies and podcasts. So, who better to advise us on this month’s reading list?
Here, she shares the top five books by women that she recommends you read in March and beyond.
1. The Nigerwife by Vanessa Walters
This is the page-turner we all need in our lives – a sensitively told love story about a woman coming to terms with marriage and motherhood, while grappling with her place in the world as a Black Brit starting a new life in Nigeria. It seamlessly weaves together complex histories of global Black citizens, while also telling the story of personal and family tragedy, marriage breakdown and mystery that keeps on giving.
2. Body Work by Melissa Febos
Melissa Febos is a writer’s writer – a genius of language, poetry and storytelling, which she deploys with razor-sharp precision in this book that tells us it’s OK, important even, to write about ourselves. She is also a former dominatrix, recovered addict, and all-round brilliant mind. I read this book to help with a writing problem of my own, but would recommend it to anyone, writer or not, as a revelation that how you tell your own story, and those of others, is actually a metaphor for how you live.
3. A Spell Of Good Things by Ayobami Adebayo
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ayobami recently for a documentary I was filming, and was already a huge fan of her debut novel, Stay With Me. As part of our filming I had to read aloud from her new book A Spell Of Good Things at a poetry slam, which gave me a deep appreciation for language. Happily, reading this book is a lot less stressful than performing it in front of an audience. This story about 1980s elections in Nigeria conjures a past era, but also couldn’t be more timely. It’s as much about politics as it is a story of toxic relationships, coming of age, and finding the courage to do the right thing.
4. Rest Is Resistance by Tricia Hersey
This book has honestly left me changed and rearranged. As someone who prided myself on needing little sleep and being able to keep going at all costs, reading this was like an epiphany on the error of my ways. Hersey’s thesis is that ‘the grind’ – the idea that it’s admirable to keep plugging away at work that depletes us – is rooted in systems that see our bodies as expendable, rather than the divine beings we are. Coming from a woman with deep Christian faith, descended from those who were enslaved, it hits different. Hersey sees rest as a radical act of resistance against these exploitative forces, and now, I do too.
5. This Thread Of Gold by Catherine Joy White
Catherine Joy White is an extraordinary writer, the kind who turns non-fiction into poetry. Her forthcoming book This Thread Of Gold reveals beautifully how the legacy of Black women’s writing across generations has woven itself into her heart and soul, and the power of their legacies. It’s a stunning debut from a young author, and yet feels, and reads, like it has been decades in the making.