Writers drawing attention to real-life women’s issues through works of fiction
Novels are incredible tools for self-discovery, education and social commentary.
Often bringing important social and political issues to light, through both fictional and non-fictional formats, books can provide both an escape from and a confrontation with the state of our world.
In 2022, several women authors from Ontario are using their literary voices to examine, criticize and bring attention to a myriad of women’s issues. These authors cover topics such as abortion, race, sexuality and gender.
Heather Marshall, Farah Heron and Danielle Daniel are a notable few among the many Ontarian authors whose books deserve a spot on your to-read list.
Heather Marshall was born and raised in Canada and currently lives in Toronto with her family and golden retriever. She began a career in politics and communications before pivoting to pursue writing.
Released in February 2022, her debut novel, Looking for Jane, was a number one bestseller for five weeks; it remained on the list for 15 weeks.
The book follows three women in 2017, 1971, and 1980. After Angela Creighton uncovers a life-changing confession in a letter, her journey to discover the truth leads her to discover an illegal abortion system operating in Toronto during the 1970s, known by its code name “Jane.”
Looking for Jane discusses various issues such as motherhood, abortion and family. It looks at the limited freedoms of women in the past and what it means to give them a choice.
In an interview with Canadian Living, Marshall said about her novel’s theme, “The book covers pretty expansive territory, and abortion is definitely one facet of the story and propels the plot in a big way, but ultimately Looking for Jane is about motherhood and choices—wanting to be a mother and not wanting to be a mother and all kinds of grey areas in between.”
Marshall’s writing spins an unforgettable tale about current issues and women’s rights, giving a voice to those left unheard, making her a perfect candidate as an author to look out for.
For more information on Marshall, her novel, future works and book club questions, please visit her website here.
Farah Heron lives with her husband, two children, rabbit and two cats in Toronto.
Heron’s novels emphasize representing South Asians in the romance genre.
Her debut novel, The Chai Factor, achieved praise and recognition from The Globe and Mail and other large media outlets. However, Heron’s second book, Accidentally Engaged, drew attention after becoming a huge hit on social media platforms such as TikTok.
Accidentally Engaged is about a Muslim woman, Reena Manji, whose only focus is to win a cooking competition and achieve her dreams. On the other hand, her family wants her to marry her next-door neighbour, Nadim, who fits all their criteria.
After learning that the competition is couples-only, Reena asks Nadim to fake an engagement and the two soon learn more about themselves, and each other, while cooking up a storm.
Heron’s novels break the stereotype of romance books only involving white characters. By introducing diverse storylines, she ensures the representation of people of colour.
In an interview with Kathleen West, Heron alludes to the lack of representation in the publishing industry and its effects. “I honestly didn’t think there would be anyone interested in the light, frothy romances and women’s fiction that I wanted to write if the characters were South Asian Muslims like me,” she said.
Her writing encompasses the struggles of daily life for South Asians, all while giving them happily-ever-after endings in a genre not known for its diversity.
Heron’s newest, Kamila Knows Best, is another novel that contains characters and themes women of colour can identify with and enjoy.
To learn more about her novels, events and workshops, visit Heron’s website here.
Danielle Daniel was born and raised in Sudbury, Ont., and now lives on Manitoulin Island, Ont. with her family.
Daniel is a woman of Indigenous and settler descent with an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. She worked as an elementary school teacher before becoming an author and illustrator.
Inspired by her ancestors, Daniel’s debut adult novel, Daughters of the Deer, takes place during the 1600s in the Algonquin territory.
Marie, a member of the Deer Clan, is asked to marry a French soldier to secure the survival of her clan and its people. Years later, Marie’s daughter Jeanne finds herself torn between two ancestries and two ways; her father wants her to marry a man, though she is in love with a woman.
Confronted by the complicated intersection of her different identities and resulting lack of acceptance, Jeanne is forced to take a critical look at herself and her desires.
In an interview with CBC Radio, Daniel illustrates the importance of her novel for readers. “I’m hoping that (…) the reader will really see clearly — how what happened even 350 years ago is directly linked to what’s still happening today.”
Daniel creates a story in which violence against Indigenous people and women becomes the main point of discussion.
She draws attention to the generations-long harm committed against Indigenous people, representing both Indigeneity and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in an emotional and thought-provoking novel.