Weekend Reads – Let’s Hear it for the Girls!

In celebration of women empowering other women and encouraging other women to do the same, here is a round up of incredible books to inspire, educate and shed light on issues that are impacting women.

Her Say, by Jackie Clark & The Aunties

In 2012, Jackie Clark launched The Aunties, a grassroots charity helping women to rebuild their lives after a period of trauma. She quit her job, turning her back on her comfortable life, to focus on The Aunties full-time, becoming Aunty in Charge and assisting hundreds of women with material needs and emotional support. Jackie has long dreamed of a publication that gives these women a voice.

This powerful new book features the stories of a number of very different New Zealand women, told their way. The collected stories chart their narrators’ lives and personal histories, through the lens of having lived with – and escaped – an abusive relationship.

Her Say is spoken from the heart, uncompromising but offering hope, redemption, personal triumph. It’s a book for all women, showing how owning our stories gives us the power to write daring new endings. It will challenge, illuminate, and empower readers – not to mention the storytellers themselves.

Rodham, by Curis Sittenfeld

What if Hillary Rodham had turned down Bill Clinton’s proposal of marriage?

In American Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld painted a picture of an ordinary American girl who found herself married to a President – basing it on the life of Laura Bush. In this new novel, she takes the life of another ordinary American girl, Hillary Rodham, and explores how her life might have developed if she had stayed an independent woman.

Women and Leadership, by Julia Gillard & Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

An inspirational and practical book written by two high-achieving women, sharing the experience and advice of some of our most extraordinary women leaders, in their own words.

As a result of their broad experience on the world stage in politics, economics and global not-for-profits, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Julia Gillard have some strong ideas about the impact of gender on the treatment of leaders. Women and Leadership takes a consistent and comprehensive approach to teasing out what is different for women who lead.

Almost every year new findings are published about the way people see women leaders compared with their male counterparts. The authors have taken that academic work and tested it in the real world. The same set of interview questions were put to each leader in frank face-to-face interviews. Their responses were then used to examine each woman’s journey in leadership and whether their lived experiences were in line with or different from what the research would predict.

Women and Leadership presents a lively and readable analysis of the influence of gender on women’s access to positions of leadership, the perceptions of them as leaders, the trajectory of their leadership and the circumstances in which it comes to an end. By presenting the lessons that can be learned from women leaders, Julia and Ngozi provide a road map of essential knowledge to inspire us all, and an action agenda for change that allows women to take control and combat gender bias.

Featuring Jacinda Ardern, Hillary Clinton, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Theresa May, Michelle Bachelet, Joyce Banda, Erna Solberg, Christine Lagarde and more.

The Wine O’Clock Myth, by Lotta Dann

‘I deserve this.’ ‘This is my reward.’ ‘I’m allowed to treat myself.’ Ever uttered these statements to yourself as you opened a bottle of wine at 5pm? If so, you’re not alone.

Women around the globe are buying and consuming alcohol at alarming rates never seen before. But is it doing us any favours? Is it really that treat or reward that we deserve? Lotta Dann thinks not.

In The Wine O’Clock Myth, Lotta takes an in-depth and eye-opening look at women’s drinking habits. Written through the lens of her own story and her work in the field of addiction and recovery, Lotta explores the privileged position alcohol holds in our society, the way the liquor industry targets women and the damaging ‘Wine Mum’ social media culture.

She reveals the damage alcohol is causing to women: physically, emotionally and socially; and the potential reasons why so many women are drinking at harmful levels.

And she talks to a number of brave women who share detailed, intimate stories about their personal relationships with alcohol. Stories that are at times brutal and heartbreaking, but also inspiring and heart lifting.

The Wine O’Clock Myth is a powerful, important book that may well change the way you think about alcohol forever.

Grief on the Run, by Julie Zarifeh

What happens when your life is rocked by unimaginable loss and grief? How do you survive and how do you keep going?

Julie Zarifeh shares the tragic story of losing her 27-year-old son, Sam, in a whitewater rafting accident just sixteen days after her 60-year-old husband, Paul, died of pancreatic cancer.

She describes how she and her surviving son and daughter dealt with this double whammy and how she embraced the notion of ‘active grieving’. This included a 450-kilometre cycle tour around Sri Lanka, raising money to give disadvantaged Kiwi children new bikes; trekking the 800-kilometre Camino de Santiago; and running the New York marathon on behalf of the Mental Health Foundation.

Julie’s account of learning to live with grief, plus her experience as a clinical psychologist, make this an inspirational and ultimately uplifting read.

Mackenzie’s Mission, by Rachael Casella

A story of triumph over adversity, the strength that can be found in love and kindness, and the power of one couple to effect positive change in the world.

‘A true love story’ – Mia Freedman, founder of Mamamia

Rachael and Jonathan were thrilled to welcome their baby Mackenzie into the world and to start their new lives as parents. Little did they know that in a few months they would be tested to endurance and beyond.

Like many other couples starting a family, Rachael and Jonathan had no idea they were both carriers for a genetic disease, and that 1 in 20 babies are affected by genetic birth defects. Their daughter was one of those babies, and Mackenzie’s Mission is Rachael’s beautiful and heartwarming account of Mackenzie’s life, child loss, and a journey through IVF.

Determined that other couples should not go through the same heartbreak, Rachael and Jonathan are now champions for genetic testing.

This is a story of triumph over adversity, the strength that can be found in kindness and the power of one couple to effect positive change in the world.

Sad Mum Lady, by Ashe Davenport
‘If people knew how bad this was,’ I said to a friend two weeks after the birth, nipples flashing red like emergency lights under my dressing-gown, ‘they would be sterilised on their thirteenth birthdays.’

It sometimes feels like there’s a rule for parents: if you’re going to say anything mildly unhappy about parenting, you must also be at pains to stress that it is all worth it. What joy! What wonder! How lucky we are!But then there’s the crying. And the body horror. The tearing and the leaking. And the crippling isolation. And the sleep deprivation. And somehow a dead rat in the cubbyhouse and the endless judgement of peers and neighbours and the internet.

But fear not. Ashe Davenport is here. And she’s not afraid to say it’s fucked.

Unapologetic and frank, Sad Mum Lady navigates the joys of motherhood in ways that will be familiar, hilarious and essential reading for parents and non-parents alike. Savage, true and deeply relatable – finally, a book that resists the sanitised, acceptable face of parenting. You might not feel better, but at least you’ll feel less alone.

Period Queen, by Lucy Peach

A practical and humorous guide that takes the worst thing about being a woman and turns it into the best thing, by ‘period preacher’, cult folk singer and former sex education teacher.

‘This will start a revolution for women.’ CONSTANCE HALL

As young girls, most of us were given the talk about how to manage our periods. It’s the beginning of a tedious bloody grind, one of the last great taboos. But the truth is, the menstrual cycle has benefits – big, fantastic, daily, monthly, even lifelong, benefits.

Every month, you have four hormonal phases that keep coming around. Each phase bears its own gifts and ways of making us feel: a time to dream, a time to do, a time to give and a time to take. Once you know what these phases are, you can predict them, plan for them and use them over and over again. In fact, harnessing your period superpowers will make you unstoppable (until you choose to stop, that is).

Period Queen takes the worst thing about being a woman and turns it into the best thing. Author and period preacher Lucy Peach urges us to stop treating periods like nature’s consolation prize for being a woman, banishing the notion that hormones reduce us to being random emotional rollercoasters. Become an expert in recognising what you need at different times of the month and learn how every cycle gives you a chance to cultivate the most important relationship of your life: the one with your precious self. It’s pretty bloody amazing.

Not That I’d Kiss a Girl, by Lil O’Brien

A heartbreaking and hilarious true story of coming out as gay in New Zealand.

When it comes to her sexuality, her relationships, and her failings within those, O’Brien is admirably frank. She beautifully renders experiences that many authors would find difficult, if not impossible, to delve into. Even better is her ability to recount what it’s like to come to terms, as fully as one can, with one’s own place in the world.’ Sam Brooks, The Spinoff

Lil O’Brien accidentally outed herself to her parents at the age of nineteen when they overheard her talking to a friend about liking girls. Half an hour later she found herself on the side of the road, with instructions to come back and pick up her suitcase the next day.

What follows is a heartbreaking yet hugely funny story of a young Kiwi girl – the deputy head girl from a posh private school – coming to grips with her sexuality in the face of stark disapproval from her parents.

Bit by bit, Lil finds the inner strength to pull herself into an entirely new world. Along the way she’s called out for looking too straight in a gay bar, tries to break in to the lesbian in-crowd and figures out how to send her internet lover back to America. She falls in lust over a knotted soccer shoelace, explores how the hell to have sex with a girl and dates four women at once – unsuccessfully.

Lil’s story is an insightful and honest look at how you figure out whether you’re gay, bi or whatever – and deal with what comes next. It’s an essential read for anyone who’s had to fight for who they are and what they believe in.

Enid, by Robert Wainwright

From the bestselling author of Sheila comes the story of a bewitching Australian socialite who fascinated the world.

Enid Lindeman stood almost six feet tall, with silver hair and flashing turquoise eyes. The girl from Strathfield in Sydney stopped traffic in Manhattan, silenced gamblers in Monte Carlo and dared walk a pet cheetah on a diamond collar through Hyde Park in London.

In early twentieth-century society, when women were expected to be demure and obedient, the granddaughter of Hunter Valley wine pioneer Henry Lindeman waltzed through life to the beat of her own drum. She drove an ambulance in World War I and hid escaped Allied airmen behind enemy lines in World War II, played bridge with Somerset Maugham and entertained Hollywood royalty in the world’s most expensive private home on the Riviera, allegedly paid for by her winnings in a game of cards.

Enid captivated men with her beauty, outlived four husbands-two shipping magnates, a war hero and a larger-than-life Irish earl-spent two great fortunes and earned the nickname ‘Lady Killmore’. From Sydney to New York, London to Paris and Cairo to Kenya, Robert Wainwright tells the fascinating story of a life lived large on the world stage.

Money for Something, by Mia Walsch

A captivatingly honest memoir about surviving, sex work, friendships, drugs, mental illness and need.

It’s easy to talk to these women, tell them my deepest secrets. Look where we are. What else do we have to hide?

When nineteen-year-old Mia is fired from her job at an insurance company, she makes the choice to answer an ad in the newspaper. The ad says: ‘Erotic Massage. Good Money. No Sex.’Mia takes to her new job with recklessness, aplomb and good humour. Over the next few years, as she works her way through Sydney’s many parlours, she meets exquisite and complex women from every walk of life who choose sex work for myriad reasons. While juggling the demands of her new job, she battles her problematic drug use, and the mental illness that has shaped her life.

But rather than needing saving from sex work, it is the work that sometimes helps to save Mia from herself.

This compelling memoir is not only told with raw honesty and grace, it also announces the arrival of a startlingly talented Australian writer.