Penguin and Waterstones have opened a pop-up book shop selling works by women writers to mark International Women’s Day on March 8 and the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote.
Like a Woman is open in Shoreditch from March 5 to March 9. The shop stocks work by female writers and activists who have spoken out in support of women’s right and fought for change in their respective fields – from art to science and sport.
Titles are grouped by theme rather than category. A section on “women to watch” includes books by emerging writers while another groups together “essential feminist reads”. There’s also a children’s book section with inspiring books for younger readers.
Authors include Malorie Blackman, Margaret Atwood, Caitlin Moran, Irish Murdoch, Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir, Zadie Smith and Malala Yousafzai – the 20-year-old activist who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize and has travelled the world campaigning for women and girls to have equal access to education.
The bookshop is also hosting a series of events during its five-day run. Literary journal Five Dials will present an evening of “essays and stories from the female perspective” and Stylist magazine’s Executive Editor Mandie Gower will host Life Lessons for Remarkable Women, a panel discussion with contributors Lucy Mangan, Robyn Wilder and Alix Fox.
Proceeds from ticket sales will go to Solace Women’s Aid – a London charity helping domestic violence survivors. Shoppers can also opt to buy books for children in Solace Women’s Aid’s refuge shelters.
International Women’s Day often prompts a flurry of campaigns from brands trying to align themselves with female empowerment – often with mixed success. But Penguin and Waterstones’ bookshop is a genuine celebration of female stories and voices.
Women have long been grossly underrepresented in fiction. The Women’s Prize for Fiction was set up in response to an all-male Booker Prize longlist in the 1990s and a 2015 study of literary criticism found that reviews were still largely focused on books by men. In a 2015 article for the Guardian, author Kamila Shamsie argued that there was still a gender imbalance in the industry and suggested that 2018 could be “the year of publishing women” to raise awareness of the issue.
There are some encouraging signs of positive change: six women made it onto the Booker Prize long list in 2017 compared to just three in 2014 and women are now dominating the bestseller charts. Just one of the top 10 bestselling authors in the UK of 2017 was male (Huraki Murakami) and Margaret Atwood topped the list thanks in part to a TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale – her dystopian novel about a repressive patriarchy.
Given how hard women have had to fight to make their voices heard – not just in literature but in almost every field – it’s inspiring to see a store set up to promote and celebrate their achievements. It’s just a shame it’s only open for a few days.
Commenting on the store, Zainab Juma, Creative Manager at Penguin Random House, said: “Women’s voices being heard and taken seriously is key to achieving gender equality, and with The Like A Woman Bookshop we’re making room for those voices to be elevated and celebrated.”
You can find out more about the bookshop or events taking place there this week at penguin.co.uk/likeawoman