Hi guys! Since March 8th is International Women’s Day, I want to spend this week celebrating women and books written by women. And what better way to start than by sharing some of my favorite feminist reads with you guys. Some of them are non-fiction texts about feminism, some are novels with feminist themes and some are books that aren’t necessary about feminism – but simply embody a feminist message.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics.
If I could make every single person on the planet read one book about feminism, it’d be the this one. It’s small, but it’s packed full of insight and wisdom anyone can learn from.
Men Explain Things to Me: and Other Essays by Rebecca Solnit
From rape culture to mansplaining, from French sex scandals to marriage and the nuclear family, from Virginia Woolf to colonialism, these essays are a fierce and incisive exploration of the issues that a patriarchal culture will not necessarily acknowledge as ‘issues’ at all. With grace and energy, and in the most exquisite and inviting of prose, Rebecca Solnit proves herself a vital leading figure of the feminist movement and a radical, humane thinker.
Rebecca Solnit’s my favorite non-fiction writer. Everyone needs to read at least one of her books and this one’s a great introduction, not just to her work, but to a lot of feminist issues as well.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Hermione’s captain of her cheerleading team and in tiny Palermo Heights the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and her chance at becoming a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.
There’s a lot of books out there that depict the brutal truth of how rape victims are often seen and treated by society. This is not one of those books. In a perfect world rape wouldn’t happen, but as long as it does – this book shows us how society should respond to it.
Asking For It by Louise O’Neill
Emma O’Donovan is 18. Beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma. The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened.But everyone else does. Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes.
On the other end of the spectrum there’s Asking For It. It reads like a horror story, exposing society’s tendency to victimblame and slutshame. It will leave you mad as hell and ready to fight the patriarchy.
I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This by Nadja Spiegelman
More than Nadja Spiegelman’s famous father, Maus creator Art Spiegelman, and more than most mothers, hers, French-born New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly exerted a force over reality that was both dazzling and daunting. As Nadja’s body changed their relationship grew tense. Unwittingly, they were replaying a drama from her mother’s past.
My mother’s always been the person I’m closest to, which I think is the case for a lot of women. Which is why I love the way this book sets mother-daughter relationships front and center, and explores the impact they can have.
The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years, a world where Zahra’s existence is illegal. But when the King of the Jinn offers her freedom from her lamp, she seizes the opportunity, only to discover she’s falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, she must decide if winning her freedom’s worth losing her heart?
This Aladdin retelling puts a feminist spin on the fairy-tale, with female characters who kick ass – both figuratively and literally, and no girl on girl hate.
The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.
Bardugo’s tales from the Grisha-verse are as dark as Grimm’s, but always with a feminist spin and twist that will leave you gaping. This collection’s a must read for Grisha fans, but stands just as well on it’s own.
The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente
A series of linked stories from the points of view of the wives and girlfriends of superheroes, female heroes, and anyone who’s ever been “refrigerated”: comic book women who are killed, raped, brainwashed, driven mad, disabled, or had their powers taken so that a male superhero’s storyline will progress.
I can’t have a recommendation post without a Catherynne M. Valente book and this one simply picks itself. I’m not a Marvel or DC girl, I couldn’t care less about superheroes and I still loved these feminist takes on superhero origin stories. I’m sure it’d be only be more awesome, if you actually know the stories.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.
All the Nnedi Okorafor novels I’ve read so far have some feminist themes, so it’s hard to pick one – but I love the fact that Binti’s not just the first woman, but the first person of the Himbla people to leave their home planet and study at university.
Unspeakable Things by Laurie Penny
Smart, clear-eyed, and irreverent, Unspeakable Things is a fresh look at gender and power in the twenty-first century, which asks difficult questions about dissent and desire, money and masculinity, sexual violence, menial work, mental health, queer politics, and the Internet.
I read this book at a point when I was starting to feel like every non-fiction feminist book I picked up was telling me the same exact thing over and over again, and it was such a breath of fresh air. It thought me a lot I didn’t know and provided fresh perspectives on familiar issues.
That’s it for today, but (hopefully) there will be a new post tomorrow and every day this week – all about women, books by women and women in books. I’d love to hear about your favorite feminist reads in the comments, I’m always looking for recommendations. And if you’ve read any of these books – let me know what you thought about them!