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Book Suggestions > Fiction Set in Gender-Equal Societies

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message 1: by Holly (last edited Feb 27, 2016 03:34PM) (new)

Holly | 4 comments Hi everyone, I'm looking for recommendations for fictional books set in a setting where gender quality is not, and has never been, an issue. I love reading fiction, especially historical or fantasy fiction, but it's pretty exhausting reading books where it's basically the default that women are treated as inferior to men (apparently, even if there's magic and dragons, a capable and successful women is too 'unrealistic!!!') I read to relax, but I often end up wanting to throw the book at the wall instead!

I suppose I'm not really after a feminist book so much a book set in a place where feminism has never been needed. A place where people are judged by their abilities rather than by their gender and where women are free to be warriors, blacksmiths, leaders, both strong and muscular and weak and frail, ugly or beautiful etc and either way they are judged as a person and not as an object.

I don't really want a book about a woman overcoming obstacles in a male-oriented world, I'm looking for book that doesn't HAVE a male-oriented world. Gender equality is accepted and has never even been an issue in the first place.

I enjoy history, fantasy and romance but I'm not too picky about genre as long as the book is good. Thanks in advance!

message 2: by Bunny (last edited Feb 27, 2016 03:52PM) (new)

Bunny Flora Segunda is a YA story set in an alternative history California. Flora's mother is a General her (cis male) best friend loves clothes and shopping and dressing up and Flora wants to be a spy. No one ever comments that any of those people are in any way odd unusual or acting out of their gender roles. They are just depicted as having their own unique personalities.

message 3: by Toyah (new)

Toyah Gemmill | 1 comments Hello Holly, I'm not sure if this is exactly what you're looking for but sounds really interesting anyway. I haven't read it yet - my flatmate recommended it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancilla...

Apparently they don't mention gender pronouns in the book so gender is completely erased. It can be a very insightful read because you may find yourself assigning genders to people based on their characterisation and you'll never know if you're right!

Have you heard of it/read it before?

message 4: by Bunny (last edited Feb 27, 2016 05:29PM) (new)

Bunny I have read them:
Ancillary Justice
Ancillary Sword
Ancillary Mercy

The protagonist of the series is an AI (artificial intelligence) who doesn't really understand the gender rules for all of the many societies that she encounters, and finds them contradictory and confusing anyway. So she just decided to call everyone she/her in her head rather than trying to figure out this weird thing that people do. In this case therefore, she/her doesn't mean that the character is female just that the AI doesn't bother to figure out how or if people gender in the various societies. This means that we as readers often do not know what gender the various characters are, although there are sometimes context clues.

The Ancillary series is also about a number of other things,

message 5: by Viatororis (new)

Viatororis | 13 comments Holly wrote: "Hi everyone, I'm looking for recommendations for fictional books set in a setting where gender quality is not, and has never been, an issue. I love reading fiction, especially historical or fantasy..."


I have to agree with you. Sometimes you want to read, simply for the enjoyment of reading, to lose yourself in a story without having to be reminded of social issues. This list is just off the top of my head, but I think you should find these books to your liking. It’s been a while since I read a few of them, so I won’t say they don’t touch on gender inequality, but I don’t believe it’s a major plot point in any of them, and yes, they all have strong female protagonists.

Anything by Elizabeth Moon. She writes more science fiction, than fantasy, so if you’re into space, military fiction, and planetary travel, then you’ll really enjoy her work. Her stories have an even distribution of female and male characters with no gender inequality. If you’re more into fantasy, then you have to read “The Deed of Paksenarrion”; it’s still one of my favorites.

Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series, starting with “Green Rider." It’s been a while since I read these, but I don’t believe gender inequality was ever an issue.

Kim Harrison’s Hollow series, starting with “Dead Witch Walking.” I mean, how can you go wrong with a witch who teams up with a vampire and a pixy to solve crimes?

G. T. Spoor’s Veller Series, starting with “Hunter’s Beginning.” This one may not be what you’re looking for, but for a self-published author, it’s pretty good. It does, however, touch on gender inequality, but it’s not an in-your-face problem, or even a relevant part of the story. Unfortunately, it suffers from bad editing, so keep that in mind if you decide to read them.

message 6: by Holly (last edited Feb 29, 2016 01:51AM) (new)

Holly | 4 comments Thanks for the recommendations everyone!

You're so right Viatororis. Dealing with everyday sexism is a drag so it's so great to escape into a different world!

Thanks so much for the recs. I don't even mind the gender of the protagonist really, but it's always good to have capable female characters, since they're in short supply compared to male ones! *runs off to get books*

message 7: by Nenda (last edited Feb 29, 2016 03:28AM) (new)

Nenda | 5 comments How about The Left Hand of Darkness, it's a science fiction set in a world that people are androgynes, or "ambisexual," thus are blind to usual gender concept.

message 8: by Aglaea (new)

Aglaea | 987 comments This and the suggestions for genderqueer etc. novels has made me grab the Gender and Sexuality book I've had forever on my TBR shelf.

Will pay attention to further comments!

message 9: by Bunny (new)

Bunny I am fascinated by The Left Hand of Darkness and have read it multiple times. The protagonist, Genly Ai is a sexist, its not explicitly stated but his behavior makes it very clear. He comes to a planet on which all of the people are androgynous most of the time and only become male or female when they enter "kemmer" a sort of heat cycle which is the only time they can reproduce. And the same person can be female in one cycle and then switch and be male in another. Genly has to struggle with how to come to terms with this society.

When later asked why Genly was such a sexist the author, Ursula LeGuin said that at the time (1970) she didn't think her readers would believe in a character, even in the future, who wasn't a sexist.

message 10: by Jade (last edited Feb 29, 2016 05:35PM) (new)

Jade | 1 comments I'm gonna throw this out there even though I can't vouch for it myself since I haven't read it. It may not fit what you're looking for...however, when I saw your post, comments my good friend has made about the series he's currently reading came to my mind. It is called Malazan Book of the Fallen (a long fantasy series with a very extensive world) https://www.goodreads.com/series/4349... . I decided to ask him if it'd fit your request and his response was this:

"Yeah definitely...more than any other fantasy I've read. It's a huge world with tons of civilizations, so women in some are more subservient than others, but mostly it's equal--especially the main people." He also mentioned reading an article once that lists top fantasy series in which Malazan was mentioned as being one that "breaks those fantasy tropes" about gender.

So, make of that what you will. :p He's a pretty avid fantasy reader, though not extremely well-versed in gender issues. My guess is that the series is not perfect as far as being completely, entirely free of any gender issues, but it may be more toward that end of the spectrum than a lot of fantasy out there. I will warn you though that it contains quite a lot of violence as well as many heartbreaking events. So a lot of the topics covered could be very triggering or difficult (rape of all genders, war, suicide, etc. to name a few that I remember him mentioning off the top of my head).

I'm excited to try out many of the great recommendations that have been made so far! Thanks for starting the topic and to everyone who's answering.

message 11: by Phd (new)

Phd | 4 comments Well, in a nutshell, I read book 1 of a pretty awesome sci-fi/adventure saga in which not only women are equal but the main super heroine is...a supra woman!

Her name is Neath Pilgrim and she teams up with an ex valet, Baxter. The book's main characters ( and there are quite a few) got some praise from an Ex Litterary Editor for Georges Lucas, Lindsay Smith.

I heard that book two is on its way. I never read anything so compelling since adventures like Sherlock or Indiana Jones...

Here is the book 1


Hope you gals and guys read it...

message 12: by Agatha (new)

Agatha (agatutza) | 2 comments While not dealing especially with gender, i thought that Embassytown would fit the bill:

The alien species, Ariekei is not described in terms of gender and the human society is divided by the capability of interacting with aliens rather than gender - at least this is what i remember.

message 13: by Bunny (new)

Bunny Another strange and marvelous book that is set in a pretty close to gender equal society is Lifelode. In the world of this novel people choose their calling or "lifelode" according to their skills and gifts not their genders. One of the main characters is a woman whose lifelode is running a household but she lives in a family with other characters both male and female whose lifelodes are to be artists, farmers, musicians, counselors, and none of them treat the others as inferior because they have different callings. The woman who has the householding lifelode also has the ability to see through time. She can look at a person and see them at one minute as their childhood self and at another as an old person. Which is sometimes confusing for her, and occasionally confusing for me as a reader but I loved wrestling with the trickiness of that kind of narrative!

message 14: by Holly (new)

Holly | 4 comments Lots of interesting sounding books, thanks everyone :)

message 15: by Meike (new)

Meike | 1 comments Holly wrote: "Hi everyone, I'm looking for recommendations for fictional books set in a setting where gender quality is not, and has never been, an issue. I love reading fiction, especially historical or fantasy..."

Hi Holly, i think you might like the setting of the Realms of Arkadia/ The Dark Eye (Das Schwarze Auge) stories.
The world they play in started as a fantasy role playing game. Some parts of this world are very sexist, others are "normal" but the main realm, where many characters in the series will come from, is extremely gender equal. This extends to the whole world building. While the god of law and rule, Praios, is male, the equally important 'god' of fighting, of chivalry, warfare, the goddess Rondra, is female. The authors (at least of the rpg-rule books) seem to be very conscious about this goal. When they describe professions in the rule book, these are listed alphabetically, but one profession is described es female, the next as male, then female again, and so on.
Several different authors have written stories set in this world, so if one authors writing style is not to your liking you can always try another one. (though i don't know how many of the books have been translated into english. But what is goodreads for after all?)
In some cases their attempts to be gender equal or turn stereotypes on their head is (unintentionally funny). I have once found the fair and noble young man that was waiting to be saved (from boredom) by his strong and able saviour(ess). Unknowingly a travelling (female) knight, found herself in his parents castle and at the recieving end of poetry and loveletters. When she had to continue on her way to do some duty for her king, the young noble cried after her and promised to wait patiently and faithfully for her return.
I find myself more and more enjoying not only the stories themselves, but also the moments, when i find another gender stereotype i walk around with, but wasn't aware i held.

message 16: by Holly (new)

Holly | 4 comments Thanks for the rec!

I've created a list to help me keep track of these books. If anyone wants to add recommendations, I'd appreciate it!


message 17: by Alia (new)

Alia Brave New World by A. Huxley.

message 18: by K.A. (new)

K.A. Lentz (kalentz) | 2 comments While I know such things are generally frowned upon, please allow me to explain why I'm recommending my own book. I took special care with my characters and world creation. Not only did my mind possess a story eager for the page, I also desired to write a book where anyone could save the day and everyone's included. Women in my book are sea captains, war-front commanders, leaders, villains, etc. When you meet a new person in this story, whatever their role in its' tale, the character may be a man or a woman.

I'm with you; I wished for a story where gender equality wasn’t an issue, so I made up my own. The book’s genre is that of epic fantasy with two main characters, female and male. There is light romance within, however, this story is first and foremost an adventure. Warning I am an indie author, and I did do ninety-percent of its' editing, but I think the product of my hard work speaks of an author's dedication to present their best.

Also, I skipped general descriptions for most of my characters so readers may see the book's players from their personal viewpoint.


Good Luck on your search and thanks for this thread. I look forward to seeing all the books that get posted here.

message 19: by Etta (new)

Etta Einschlag (ettaee) | 26 comments The Dispossessed!! - One of my all-time favorite books. It is not as overtly feminist as Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, but I think it is the better book. It has deep feminist undertones, as well as a very female perspective on world issues like war and revolution. Le Guin is one of those very talented authors who never lets her (rather radical) feminist ideas become didactic. They flow into the story, normalizing even the strangest ideas by never turning the story into a lecture.

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