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Empowered. It is a word that means having knowledge, power, and confidence. It’s everything for becoming yourself, becoming what the world needs, and finding your niche in this universe. Empowerment is the force behind movements -- and we know that women are at the heart of many. 

We also know that women are always in the crosshairs. They face the brunt of climate impacts. They are still paid less than men and hold fewer leadership roles in our governments. We see that in the U.S. Congress, the women of color, few in number, are painting the future of politics. 

Black women navigate a world where disrespect is a phenomenon woven into their daily lives. There is the human-rights crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMWI). Despite everything women face -- across the globe, across generations -- we are also the catalysts of change. We have the empathy and solutions to move the needle toward justice. Community. The systems of the future will be more feminine and motherly. 

It is my belief that empowered women will change the world. To that end, we need to build knowledge, power, and confidence. One leads to the other, starting with knowledge. With strong women to lead the way, here are some books to build your own power and confidence:

1. “All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis," edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Wilkinson

This has been my favorite read in a long time. An ecofeminist anthology, “All We Can Save” centers women, people of color, and community cover-to-cover. It is filled with the wisdom, poetry, and expertise of over 50 women. It’s a powerful tool for the climate movement, offering collective action and storytelling as solutions for the climate crisis. If you are a human being in this world on fire, “All We Can Save” is for you. It’s healing, human, and empathetic. It makes you feel like part of the roots of the earth.

2. “Women Don't Owe You Pretty” by Florence Given

“Women Don’t Owe You Pretty” is another book for everyone. Written by a UK-based feminist, activist, and illustrator, it explores sexuality, confidence, and freedom. It’s self-love without any pressure to conform to an ideal. If you are learning how to embrace boundaries, say no (or yes), and affirm your needs and desires -- Florence Given is here to offer you direction. One of her sayings is, “You are the love of your own life so act accordingly.” 

3. “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country” by Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem called for unity, justice, and a reality check to America’s history (and present) of oppression. A reminder here that Joe Biden is not the end of the work for racial justice -- he has not shifted the needle very far at all. Let Gorman’s poetry remind you of the work that needs to be done. Let it also be joy from a Black artist.

4. “Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America” by Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams is one of many Black organizers that flipped Georgia and kept us from another Trump presidency. In this book, she shares her vision for democracy -- and how we get there. From the Washington Post: “The tensions between patience and urgency, between fear and resolve, between the promise of someday and the demands of right now, are at the heart of ‘Our Time Is Now.’ Abrams covers plenty of territory―identity politics, voting rights, and the frustrations and revelations of her gubernatorial race but above all, she writes about the grinding work required to make real the compact of democratic participation.”

5. “Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History” by Blair Imani

Another illustrated book on this list and perfect for all ages, “Modern HERstory” is the book to catch you up on inspiring social justice activists. It features women and nonbinary people who changed history and ARE changing history today. Reading it will make you want to find your power and take action to become a role model for those around you, far and wide. 

6. “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi

“Homegoing” is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of two half-sisters from Ghana in the 18th century and the generations of their family that follow. It spans time and space through the slave trade, colonization and plantations in America, the Civil War, and Great Migration, to the Harlem jazz era and present day. It is powerful and visceral. The novel brings insight into the forces of racism and colonialism that govern America’s past and present through beautifully-woven stories. 

7. “The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love” by Sonya Renee Taylor

This book is about radical self-love and body empowerment -- not just acceptance, but resistance through loving your mind and body. Sonya Renee Taylor frames the relationship we have with our bodies through the lens of social justice. In “The Body Is Not an Apology,” she argues that self-love, including rest, is a means of protest against systems of oppression -- it is a way to a better, different world.

Learning more about yourself, others, and the world around you is part of being human. These books are just one way to become more confident in your power to take action and change the world. They can inspire you, offer empathy, and present solutions big and small. They give you context for the world in which you exist, which never hurts… Happy reading and remember to buy your books secondhand!

Sophia Chapin

George Mason University '21

Sophia Chapin is an alumni of George Mason University. Her articles reflect a journey of learning about environmental and social justice issues.
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