Right now, the world kind of feels like it’s in the trash can. But, there are ways that everyone can help make it less trash can-y. One of those ways is obviously to VOTE but the fight doesn’t stop after midterm elections. We have to figure out the next steps and to do that we need to get educated and get empowered.
One way I get (and stay) empowered is reading about strong women in books by strong women. Below is a list of twelve books that have taught me about feminism, empowerment, and about women who I can look to for inspiration. These books cross different genres and time periods but they will all make you feel something in the end. I hope that you take that feeling and turn it into an action that will help our trash can problem.
by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Credit: @_CreativeAccess on Twitter
This nonfiction book is about race and racism and how white people usually lead the conversations about both. This book was started by Reni Eddo-Lodge’s blog post about her frustrations over the discussions about racism. Her book discusses the eradication of black history in Britain, white dominance, the link between class and race, and whitewashed feminism. Even though this book mainly focuses on Britain, it is a must-read for people of any country.
by Roxane Gay
This is a memoir that deals with psychological struggles, anxiety, and the tension between self-comfort and self-care. Roxane Gay discusses vulnerable things like when she was raped at a very young age and how that affected her relationship with food and her body. She does not shy away from tough subjects and does not hold back, which makes the book even more powerful. When you read this book, you go along on her journey of her struggles with anxiety and her body and you come out on the other side more empowered and more willing to speak up.
by Alice Walker
Alice Walker tells the story of a girl, Celie, who has always had things happen to her and has never had control of her life. Throughout the novel and with the help of the other women in the book, she changes and becomes a woman who will not let men control her. This book shows the insignificance of gender roles and that when women support women no one can stop them.
by Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem is a writer, activist, and an all-around inspiration. In this memoir, she details the beginning of her life and how she grew to be a part of the women’s equality movement. Steinem discusses her work as a journalist in the 1960s, the founding of Ms. Magazine, and her social activism in India and the United States. Her “life on the road” taught her how to connect with people and how to be a leader for change.
by Margaret Atwood
Credit: Penguin Random House
This novel is set in the future (seems not that far away when looking at the political landscape right now, another reminder to VOTE!) where women are stripped of all of their rights and their sole purpose is to procreate. The society, called the Republic of Gilead, follows the Book of Genesis to the word which calls for drastic measures that lead to dire consequences for the people of Gilead. The novel follows Offred, one of the handmaids, who has to go through horrific situations while trying to fight the patriarchal regime.
*It’s also a TV show on Hulu so check that out too, just know that you will not be able to breathe while watching the show — it’s very intense.
by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Half the Sky is a nonfiction book describing the lives of women in Africa and Asia. The stories of these women are honest and horrific as they will make you cry, scream, and make your jaw drop. Even though these stories are hard to read, they can also show hope. With these stories, the authors are trying to show that the greatest unused resource is women. The key to changing the world is inside these stories so you must keep reading and you must keep fighting.
by Rupi Kaur
This is a book of poems that is split into four chapters that all deal with different topics. Rupi Kaur writes about violence, love, loss, and femininity. I know some people dislike poetry because they find it confusing or unclear but these poems are the opposite. They are short and get to the point while also being extremely raw and personal. When you read one of the poems, you will understand immediately what she means and you will connect to it.
by Maya Angelou
This book gives readers a backstory to Maya Angelou’s famous autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In this memoir, she writes about her relationship with her mother. This story is deeply personal because Angelou reveals the time her mother sent her away to live with her grandmother and she also discusses the later reunion between the two. Every mother-daughter relationship is complicated and this one is no different.
by Eve Ensler
Credit: Penguin Random House
This book is a conversation about female sexuality and sexual self-discovery. The word, vagina, and anything to do with female sexuality has always been taboo but this book celebrates women and their bodies. Eve Ensler talks with women about their vaginas and sex and doesn’t hold back. This book allows women to reclaim those parts of themselves that have been shamed away and has also sparked a movement, called V-day, to end violence on women.
By Holly Bourne
This book is about a teenager named Lottie who has decided to perform a feminist experiment. For one month, she is going to call out every act of sexism she sees. Of course, when a woman speaks up, so do the trolls, which forces Lottie to choose: will she let the trolls win or will she keep fighting the patriarchy? This novel is hilarious but it is also very important because everything Lottie goes through is universal for women.
by Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie
Adapted from the TEDx talk, this book is an essay on feminism and the importance of equality. Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie writes about her own definition of feminism and how necessary it is for everyone to be included and aware of it. She describes her own experiences with feminism and the stereotypes that come with being a woman. This essay is a call-to-arms for people everywhere to fight for intersectional feminism.
12. I Am Malala
by Malala Yousafzai
This autobiography details the life of Malala Yousafzai, the girl who was shot by the Taliban for going to school. Most people know of this story and her recovery but this book describes what happened next. Malala Yousafzai writes about her continuing fight for education for girls and how the complete uprooting of her family changed her. She shows everyone how powerful one voice can be and how important it is for everyone to speak up for what they believe.
All of these books scream girl power and will make you want to cry, punch a wall, and start a protest. I encourage you to do all three (as long as you’re safe about the punching) and then keep going. Everyone always says it’s on our generation to fix the world and these authors are helping us do that. They are writing authentic, honest stories about women to inspire us. I hope these books inspire you; even if you read just one I guarantee you will want to help change the world.
Go read those books and smash that patriarchy!