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Know Your French Feminists

20 titles for and by feminists


This fall, the French Embassy and Albertine Books are celebrating women, their achievements, their plights, and their fights.

Curated by pioneering feminist writers and activists Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan, Albertine Festival, will offer from November 1, to November 5, 2017, a spirited exchange of ideas between leading thinkers and artists from both sides of the Atlantic. The event is a timely new chapter of a longstanding and mutually-energizing international dialogue that stretches back to the mid-20th Century, when Simone de Beauvoir published her groundbreaking 1949 book The Second Sex, and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique debuted in 1963, inspiring the establishment of the National Organization for Women. The festival will host Christina Taubira, Cecile Richards, Roxane Gay, Marie Darrieussecq, Laure Adler, Nassira El Moaddem, the Guerrilla Girls, Mona Chollet, Anne Garréta, Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur, Houda Benyamina, Heidi Steltzer, Carol Jenkins and others.

The U.S. and France have long produced some of the most influential feminist thinkers and still do. The fight that was theirs and ours is ongoing and women are continuing to lay the foundation for the future. We have compiled a list of 20 texts, by women and men alike, an (incomplete) selection of contemporary French titles (some mainstream, others more controversial) with a feminist streak or by a notable feminist writer. Among the selected titles are philosophical essays, historical accounts, works of fiction, and graphic novels published mostly after 2015. They address, in their own way, issues of domination, male-female and LGBTQI relationships, explore our identities as they pertain to gender issues, sexuality, religion, work and play, and give a voice to those silenced or forgotten by history…


Please explore this guide: it serves as a sneak peak of the prolific feminist oeuvre. Want to suggest a title? Tweet your favorite recent French feminist title with the hashtag #FrenchFeminism.

A literal translation of titles that have not been translated in English is included in brackets.  


Christine DÉTREZ Les femmes peuvent-elles être de Grands Hommes ? Belin éditeur, 2016 [“Can women be Great Men?”]
The sociologist and novelist Christine Détrez demonstrates how women have been underrepresented in the history of literature, arts, and science and analyzes the reason behind their invisibility throughout history. Publisher’s website

Caroline DE HAAS Osons la politique !, la Ville brûle, 2016 [“Daring politics“]
The short manual by feminist activist and politician Caroline De Haas addresses young citizens, answering twenty pressing questions such as: What is politics? How has it come to exist? Why should you get involved?
Nota Bene: Caroline De Haas will be present at the talk “An Egalitarian Future” in the context of the Albertine Festival, on Nov 5, 2017 at 6pm. Publisher’s website

Elisabeth BADINTER, Le pouvoir au féminin, Flammarion, 2016 [“The feminine power“]
Philosopher and historian Elisabeth Badinter examines the life of Empress Marie-Thérèse of Austria, mother of 16 children including Queen Marie-Antoinette, and leader of the most powerful European empire for 40 years. Publisher’s website

Geneviève FRAISSE, La sexuation du monde. Réflexions sur l'émancipation, Presses de Science Po, 2016 [“The sexual differentiation of the world. Thoughts on enpowerment“]
Geneviève Fraisse, a philosopher and historian of feminist thought, gives an account of the endless work needed to establish the equality between men and women, demonstrating how feminism propels the modern gender tradition forward. Publisher’s website

Christiane TAUBIRA, L'Esclavage raconté à ma fille, Philippe Rey éditeur, 2002 [“Slavery Explained to My Daughter“]
L'Esclavage raconté à ma fille is structured as a conversation between a young woman and her mother, a politician, who describes the history of slavery in the French colonies and its moral, social, economic, and political consequences in the present day.
Nota Bene: Christiane Taubira will be present at the talk “From the Voting Booth to Your Living Room” in the context of the Albertine Festival, on Nov 1, 2017 at 7pm. Publisher’s website

Françoise VERGÈS, Le Ventre des femmes : Capitalisme, radicalisation, féminisme, Albin Michel, 2017 [“The women’s womb: Capitalism, radicalization, feminism“]
Françoise Vergès explores the contradiction of French Government policies, focusing on legislation that pertains to a woman’s right to abortion and to control of her own body in the 60s-70s. Although the government forbade abortion and contraception in France, it promoted these practices in the French territories. Publisher’s website

Michelle ZANCARINI-FOURNEL, Les luttes et les rêves, Editions La Découverte, 2016 [“Struggles and dreams“]
Deviating from “official” historical narratives Michelle Zancarini–Fournel focuses on those reduced to silence, on the minorities, on women, and men who remained nameless despite their contributions in building French society. Publisher’s website

Elsa DORLIN, La Matrice de la race, Editions Zones, 2017 [“The race’s matrix“]
A historical account of wholesome and unwholesome women and their positions in society, their contradictory roles since the Middle Ages, and the beginnings of colonization, when the presence of feminist figures started to emerge. Publisher’s website

Ivan JABLONKA, Laëtitia ou la fin des hommes, Editions du Seuil, 2016 [“Laetitia or the end of men“]
Ivan Jablonka follows the true story of the young Laetitia, who was murdered near her home at the age of 18. Numbed to violence since her early childhood, Laetitia is a tragic emblem with which Ivan Jablonka analyses our society, a world where women are harassed, abused, raped, and killed. Publisher’s website

Lilian MATHIEU, Prostitution, quel est le problème ?, Les éditions Textuel, 2016 [“Prostitution : what is the problem ?“]
Lilian Mathieu tackles the debate on prostitution: is it an activity to be abolished or to be recognized? He outlines the points of both sides as well as the crux of the problem: the neoliberal capitalist system. Publisher’s website

EMMA, Un autre regard, Massot éditions, 2017 [“Another look“]
In her graphic novels, the blogger, feminist, and revolutionary sheds light on the failure of our society to support women. In Un autre regard Emma tackles the violence suffered by women, talks of sexuality, and maternity. Publisher’s website

Margaret MARUANI, Travail et emploi des femmes, Editions La Découverte, 2017 [“Labor and women’s employment“]
In an era of paradoxes and contradictions, Maruani, a sociologist, focuses on the difference between sexes as an indispensable tool with which we can understand society and proposes a comprehensive view of women’s work and employment. She is also the author of Femmes, genre et sociétés, l'état des savoirs, Editions La Découverte, 2016. Publisher’s website

Christine DELPHY, Close to Home: A Materialist Analysis of Women's Oppression, Verso books, 2016 | Translator Diana Leonard
Delphy is a French sociologist, feminist, and novelist who co-founded Mouvement de Libération des femmes reflects on the strategies and politics of female emancipation from the family structure. She was the subject of filmmaker Sylvie Tissot’s The Alphabet  of Christine Delphy and Je ne suis pas feminist mais… Publisher’s website

Sam BOURCIER, Homo Inc.orporated, Cambourakis, 2017
Sam Bourcier continues his reflection on themes that were addressed in «Queer Zones». From reproduction rights to marriage equality to work issues, he criticizes LGBT politics and addresses queer and trans-feminists activism for an economic and social agenda that goes beyond integration. Publisher’s website

Annie ERNAUX, The Years, Seven Stories Press, 2017 | Translated by Alison L. Strayer
The Years, a breakout bestseller in France, will soon be published here. It is a personal narrative told through the lens of memory via books, photos, headlines, and experiences. Ernaux is a prolific author whose previous works explore a love affair, the loss of her mother, and poignant histories of women in French society. Publisher’s website

Marie DARRIEUSSECQ, Being Here is Everything: The Life of Paula M. Becker, Semiotext(e), 2017 | Translated by Penny Hueston
Being here is everything follows the life of German painter Paula M. Becker, who became one of the most well-known impressionist artists of her generation. Darrieussecq is a French novelist with a Phd in Literature.
Nota Bene: Marie Darrieussecq will be present at the talk “The Politics of Language” in the context of the Albertine Festival, on Nov 4, 2017 at 5pm. Publisher’s website

Virginie DESPENTES, Bye Bye Blondie, The Feminist Press, 2016 | Translated by Sian Reynolds
Virginie Despentes is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and a noted French feminist and cultural critic. In Bye Bye Blondie, Gloria and Eric are homeless, high, and in love. But psychiatric institutions and class differences doom their budding romance. Despentes is the author of the Vernon Subutex trilogy and feminist manifesto King Kong Theory, published by the Feminist press. Publisher’s website

Pénélope BAGIEU, Les Culottées, Gallimard, 2016 [“Brazen“ to be published by First Second Books on 2018]
Pénélope Bagieu, illustrator and writer of Ma vie est tout à fait fascinante, has written various comic books including Les Culottées and California Dreamin’. Les Culottées comprises short biographies of historical women with extraordinary destinies. Publisher’s website 

CATEL & Jose-Louis BOCQUET, Josephine Baker, SelfMade Hero, 2017
Josephine Baker is a graphic novel about dancer, civil rights activist & mother to the “Rainbow Tribe” who had a significant impact on the French civil rights movement. Catel & Jose-Louis Bocquet also co-authored Ainsi soit Benoîte Groult ? Publisher’s website

Camille LAURENS, Who You Think I Am, Other Press, 2017
This psychological thriller dissects online relationships, offering a stunning indictment of the way society perceives women in contrast to men when age comes into play. A Dangerous Liaisons for our times, Who You Think I Am exposes the disconnect between fantasy and reality. Publisher’s Website