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7 Complex Female Characters in International Literature

Posted on August 21, 2016

“A woman could fall in love for a cheap word. That's women for you!" the street vendor Damao asserts in Ye Mi’s short story, “Love’s Labor.” Damao makes lots of confident pronouncements about women, but they are mostly, blessedly, proven false—the woman in the story is much too complex to conform to aphorisms.

Below, you’ll find that story, along with six other, similarly complex, perspectives on women. 

  1. Love’s Labor, a short story by Ye Mi, China: What kind of woman is Fan Qiumian? Wang Longguan and his friend Damao, both street vendors, have very different opinions of Fan—then, she suddenly disappears. (For educators interested in questions of women's characterizations, Teaching Idea 3 is especially relevant.) 
  2. The Guest, a short story by Miral Al-Tahawy, Egypt: Memories of a grandmother who was kidnapped into a Bedouin family at the age of twelve and forever referred to as “The Guest.” (Teaching Idea 2: "Labels.")
  3. Amina, a poem by Iman Mersal, Egypt: A poem reflecting one’s woman’s image of another, a “perfect friend.” (Teaching Idea 2: "Complex Friendships." )
  4. Cavities and Kindness, a short story by Nao-Cola Yamazaki, Japan: Femininity as perceived and embodied by a young Trans woman. (Teaching Idea 1: "The Complexity of 'Cute.'")
  5. The Memory, a short story by Mitsuyo Kakuta, Japan: Who is telling this story of a fashion model with a disturbing secret?  (Teaching Idea 2.)
  6. Sleepless Homeland, a poem by Carmen Boullousa, Mexico: Drug-war-ravaged Mexico, personified as a woman. (Teaching Idea 1.)
  7. My Madre, Pure as Cumulous Clouds, an essay by Liza Bakewell, Mexico: Why is it so “dangerous” to insult someone’s mother in Mexico? A linguistic researcher describes her search for answers to that question. (Teaching Idea 2.)

These links are only a sampling of all the literature by and about women on WWB Campus—visit the Find page for more, and try searching for “women authors.”