Broaden Your Shelves: Women's History Month Edition

     For this edition of my Broaden Your Shelves series, we’re celebrating Women’s History (a.k.a. "herstory") Month. Oftentimes, reading the experiences of other women assures us that we are not alone in how we feel, and that other people are mad about the same issues; most importantly, reading woman authors can inspire us. I considered many works for this list, taking into account diversity, intersectionality, and of course the quality of the book overall. Below are eleven recommendations for books written about women, by women.  

    Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

     I recently read this short collection of essays over spring break, and my high expectations were satisfied. These pieces are loaded with facts and cover a variety of topics such as “mansplaining,” rape culture, and the 2014 Isla Vista killings. This book is perfect for those who haven’t read much feminist work, and for those who aren’t quite sure why feminism is still necessary.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

     A classic feminist read, Betty Friedan’s 1963 book gave women a voice and named the string of problems that were (and still are) so deeply ingrained in society. Friedan offers statistics and excerpts of other works to support her argument, as well as offer solutions. This book is often credited with sparking the second wave of feminism, so give it a read!

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

     Gay explores the storm of emotions we feel for liking things that are misogynistic in nature (i.e. music that is degrading to women, literature that stereotypes females, etc.) in this collection of essays on various topics.

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay

    The stories in this collection are written by authors from various walks of life and sexualities with widely different experiences. All pieces are accounts of rape culture and its debilitating effects.

Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World by Jennifer Palmieri

     Written by a member of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Dear Madam President is a first-hand account of how Clinton dealt with obstacles throughout her campaign because of her gender.

Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

     This book, written by an expert in her field, explores the historical oppression of women in literature and refers to many examples from commonly studied works of antiquity. Beard’s arguments are flawlessly constructed and will force you to reconsider the way we’ve always read female characters.

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler

     Originally a performed piece, this is a collection of various styles of writing. There are lists, interviews, and narratives on how sexuality influences womanhood. The Vagina Monologues has had a profound impact wherever it has been performed, and reading it is a must.  

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

     Although rarely considered a feminist narrative, Walker’s award-winning book is a beautiful and heartbreaking story of a woman struggling with poverty, life, and her sexuality. This work explores intersectionality through a poor, abused, and sexually curious African-American woman.

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

     Perhaps one of my personal favorite books, Allison describes the life of a young, impoverished girl who was raped and abused by her stepfather. These taboo topics are so impeccably integrated into the novel that you will find yourself crying for this young girl’s situation.

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde    

     Lorde masters writing through her personal experiences with intersectionality in this collection of essays and speeches. She is a black, lesbian poet, a feminist, a mother, and a cancer survivor. These titles are integrated into her work, and reading her voice on these topics is necessary.

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

     Woolf spins a tale of a young man who colorfully transforms from male to female and undergoes an internal change as well as an external one. Exploring cross-dressing, sexuality, and gender fluidity, this novel details the societal constructs surrounding gender.