HC UPR Recommends: 4 Mighty Books Of Becoming Empowered

Empowerment can be achieved in many different ways. It isn’t one-size-fits-all. But overall, it’s a way of becoming stronger and more confident, especially when it comes to controlling our lives, claiming our rights, and restoring the power that has been denied or stripped from us. These books portray the journey to acquire this strength and confidence through experiences and the people met along the way, inspiring readers to do the same.

  1. 1. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

    Juliet Takes a Breath is a young adult, coming-of-age novel about Juliet Milagros Palante, a “closeted Puerto Rican baby-dyke” and new feminist from the Bronx who leaves to Portland, Oregon for an internship right after coming out to her family. In Portland, she’ll be under the wing of the author of her favorite book, Harlowe Brisbane, and find heartbreak, community and maybe herself. The book provides some much needed representation for queer brown girls and contains great lessons on intersectionality, self-acceptance, feminism and family. It’s funny, sweet and encouraging. The author, Gabby Rivera (who has also written the America Chavez Marvel comics), who’s also a gay Puerto Rican from the Bronx committed to spreading radical creativity and queer Latinx joy.

  2. 2. Oh, the places you’ll go! by Dr. Seuss 

    This charming illustrated book is a great read for when you’re preparing for changes and new challenges. Through his classic rhymes and trademark illustrations, Dr. Seuss lays out the realities of growing up. Ups and downs, loneliness, disappointments, accomplishments- they’re all discussed in this uplifting little book, reminding us that even if the journey is difficult, the destination is worth it. 

  3. 3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

    Little Women is a semi-autobiographical novel that tells the story of four sisters growing up in late eighteenth-century Massachusetts. The two-part story of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March follows them through childhood, adolescence and adulthood as they each come of age and search for happiness despite economic and social obstacles. They play, work, fall in love, mourn, and thrive beyond expectations for women of their time. Jo, based on Alcott herself, is a feminist with dreams of becoming a writer and living on her own terms. The book exemplifies the power of determination and authenticity.

  4. 4. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

    In 1964, fourteen-year-old Lily Owens has been forever haunted by her mother’s death, which left her alone with her abusive father. When her black surrogate mother Rosaleen gets into legal trouble, they run away to Tiburon, South Carolina, where Lily hopes to find some answers about her mother. Her search leads her to the Boatwright residence, where sisters August, June, and May live and produce honey. The Boatwrights take Lily and Rosaleen in. There, Lily learns from these black women the power of sisterhood, faith, and community, as well as the truth about her mother and, eventually, about herself. The novel has beautiful themes about found family, racial justice, overcoming trauma, and forging one’s one path in the world. 

These four books, through different tales of people from different backgrounds, find their own way towards empowerment. The characters in these works discover that becoming empowered is a process that requires making mistakes, forgiving oneself, and taking chances. These books have the potential to make us see that we, too, can find the fortitude to stand up for ourselves and decide our futures.