A Novel Idea: Women Coming of Age in the Patriarchy

Women often don't fare well in patriarchal societies, yet somehow these societies continue. However, there is female rebellion, especially in the young realizing that they are about to become adults and responsible for propagating the culture. If you liked Gather the Daughters (see my review  here), then here are more books, but set in the recent past or in the present.

In Hanna Who Fell From the Sky by Christopher Meades, the title character is betrothed to be the fifth wife of her father's business associate in a matter of days. A chance encounter with a kind, handsome stranger causes Hanna to sort through what she wants as opposed to what is expected of her. Meades keeps a constant pulse of dread flowing in this coming-of-age story infused with magical realism.

Sixteen-year-old Eve is a Colony Girl in Thomas Rayfiel's story of rebellion in an ultra-conservative Christian sect. In one summer, Eve joins a road crew, tries to lose her virginity to one of either of a father and son, and reevaluates her relationship with the community's leader, who is behaving oddly and plan's to marry Eve's friend. Humor abounds in this tale of a determined teenager bent on thinking for herself.

Amy Scheibe's A Fireproof Home for the Bride follows Emmaline, a member of a strict Lutheran community in 1950's Minnesota. She's expected to marry her wealthy neighbor's son, but meets and falls in love with a Catholic boy. In the process, she uncovers the secrets and prejudices that run through her town. Scheibe masterfully combines the pop culture and social mores of the time for a book that speaks to our own era.

Dina is a Sotah, a woman accused of adultery, in haredim Jerusalem in Naomi Ragen's tale of traveling to find oneself. Fleeing Jerusalem for New York City under pressure from the religious vigilantes who police her community, Dina discovers the virtues of her arranged marriage to a kind scholar. Journeys end in lovers meeting in this sensually descriptive novel.

Hina Haq writes of a woman struggling with cultural divides and her own desires in Sadika's Way. Sadika is smart, good in school and betrothed to her cousin in America. When he comes back to Pakistan for a visit and instead chooses Sadika's younger sister for his wife, Sadika is scorned by the village gossips and considered unmarriageable. Sadika does make it to America, where she eventually takes community college classes and falls in love with a man of European descent, infuriating both families. As melodramatic as this sounds, this is an unsentimental look at women's lives and is shot through with humor.

Got more books of a woman coming of age in a man's world? Tell us about it in the comments.