Contemporary Women Writers You Should Know

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Today’s literature is filled with a variety of talented women writers with life-changing stories. While women writers may have been historically overlooked, many of them are now considered literary pioneers and have gained recognition around the world. Whether they write fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, or memoirs—the range of genres today’s female authors specialize in is vast. Let’s take a look at some of the most influential contemporary female authors of today.

Toni Morrison

The late Toni Morrison holds a special place in the hearts of many for her Nobel Prize-winning novels. Her works often confront racism and celebrate African American culture. Her classic novel, “Beloved”, is considered one of the greatest works of American literature. This haunting story of a runaway slave won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 and was subsequently adapted into an iconic film of the same name. Toni Morrison continues to be studied in classrooms across the world.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian-born author whose work explores feminism, racism, and postcolonialism. Her 2012 TED talk “We Should All Be Feminists” was turned into a hugely successful book of the same name that has been translated into more than thirty languages. Adichie is celebrated around the world for her bestselling novels, including “Americanah”, “Half of a Yellow Sun”, and “Purple Hibiscus”.

Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi is a young, Ghanaian-American novelist who made literary history for her debut novel, “Homegoing”. This epic novel follows two sisters as they make a heartbreaking journey through three centuries of African-American history. Homegoing won the PEN/Hemingway award for debut fiction and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize. Her newest novel, Transcendent Kingdom has received critical acclaim and continues to captivate readers.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri is a highly celebrated novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Her books, including “Unaccustomed Earth” and “The Lowland”, explore the experiences of immigrants and their cultural identity. Lahiri is the first Asian-American to win the Pulitzer Prize and was awarded a fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation in 2012.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a critically-acclaimed essayist, journalist, and novelist. His work is often centred on race and culture in the United States. Coates’ essay, Between the World and Me, is a letter addressed to his son about his experience as a Black man and the oppression of racism. This essay won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2015 and was adapted into an HBO special by the same name.

Kamila Shamsie

Kamila Shamsie is an acclaimed British Pakistani novelist, poet, and essayist. Her debut novel, “In the City by the Sea” won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and her 2008 novel, “Burnt Shadows”, was a finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Her latest novel, “Home Fire”, was voted the best book of 2017 by the Washington Post, as well as the BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime.

Gish Jen

Gish Jen is a renowned American author who was born to Chinese immigrant parents. She is best known for her debut novel, “Typical American”, which was recognized with the Ha Jin Award for fiction. Jen’s other books, such as “World and Town”, “Mona in the Promised Land”, and “The Resisters”, have won numerous awards and been praised for their exploration of identity and the Chinese American experience.

Jill Alexander Essbaum

Jill Alexander Essbaum is an American poet, novelist and professor. Her debut novel, “Hausfrau”, tells the story of Anna, a married mother of three living in Switzerland, struggling with her place in the world. Essbaum is beloved by readers for her frank take on the complexities of matrimony and the female psyche. She is also a respected poet and has written two collections of poetry that were met with high praise.

Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith is a critically acclaimed British writer, who is best known for her novels, “White Teeth” and “NW”. Her works explore identity, comedy, and gentrification in different communities. Smith writes honestly and poetically about culture, race, and class. She is frequently praised for her literary genius, and she has been a professor at various universities throughout Europe and the United States.

Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel is an acclaimed Canadian author whose apocalyptic novel, “Station Eleven”, was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award. The book follows a Hollywood star, a nomadic group of performers, and a crew of scientists who are trying to rebuild society after a pandemic has wiped out most of the population.

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston is not only a pioneer for women’s writing but for African American literature as well. Born in 1891, she is best remembered for her 1937 novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God”. This book follows Janie Crawford, a brave black woman on an empowering journey of self-discovery. Hurston’s works, which also includes novels, short stories, plays and essays, helped to shape the Harlem Renaissance.

Today’s readers are lucky to have a multitude of women writers to choose from. This list just scratches the surface of the rich pool of contemporary authors writing about the many stories of women and people of colour. While reading their works, you can look forward to gaining new perspectives, challenging your views and being moved by rich and vivid characters.

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