Every March, we come together to celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month, shining a light on women’s contributions in American history, culture and society. A supportive way to celebrate women throughout this month — and every day after — is to read feminist books written by women that dive deeper into how we can continue the conversation surrounding gender equality.
Personally, Women’s History Month is when I remind myself and others to shop at women-owned businesses and educate ourselves about women in history and today’s women who are making history. As a self-certified bibliophile, here are my top five picks for feminist books that you should be reading, as well as women-owned bookstores to purchase from in celebration of Women’s History Month.
This Is Major: Notes on Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope is full of thought-provoking essays about Shayla Lawson’s experience as a Black woman and her views on Black women in media, pop culture and online spaces. Lawson asks questions like, why are Black women invisible to AI? What is “Black girl magic”? These essays reveal just how much Black girls and women have influenced pop culture, which is what makes them “major” and not a minority.
Each essay is a personal journal entry in which Lawson delves into different thoughts and perspectives by adding her own personal reflections and memories to the discussion. For example, Lawson shares the time she performed in the play “For Colored Girls” and how it impacted her youth. She also discusses her interactions with Black Twitter, as she reveals her honest opinions on its influence and place in culture, like how much social creativity arises from Black Twitter while simultaneously appropriating content. These moments added a very personal touch and allowed me to connect with her narrative as a Black woman who’s invested in the media and pop culture. I found her personal essays well-written, thoughtful, entertaining and most of all, celebrate Black Girl Magic.
You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain sets out to entertain and educate readers about being from the BIPOC community in today’s society. Each chapter is an essay that sheds light on a variety of crucial topics, such as racial profiling when shopping, the NFL’s treatment of women, gender equality and racial hair politics. Though the serious discussions can get heavy at times, comedian Phoebe Robinson manages to balance them out with humor while simultaneously bringing awareness to race and gender issues that should inspire us to take action.
I loved her sarcastic and humorous tone with a realistic edge on her debates, which range from issues that are lighthearted (ordering too much food at McDonald’s) to the more serious (the choice to wear natural hair versus relaxed hair). Many of the topics were relatable to my own life experiences as a Black woman, like when non-Black people ask if they can touch my hair or tell me to speak “proper” English. While the book offered some laugh-out-loud moments, it also evokes a powerful narrative. Reading Robinson’s memoir felt like talking with a longtime friend who went through the same issues as I did, and that factor helped me connect with the text on a deeper level.
Based on the beloved Dead Feminists letterpress poster series, Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color compiles the stories of 27 historical women who have left a large imprint on the world. I love typography and feminist books, so when I discovered that it was the perfect blend of feminist history storytelling and intricate art and photography, I was hooked. Each chapter focuses on three feminists and gives a bit of background about their lives and legacy. Some of the women featured include Eleanor Roosevelt, Gwendolyn Brooks, Rachel Carson and Harriet Tubman.
I loved and appreciated the whole idea of the Dead Feminists poster series, as it gave tribute to leading ladies while simultaneously donating the proceeds to organizations such as Oceana and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. What’s more, the book also examines the creation behind each print, as well as the artistry and awareness it creates. For example, the print “Drill Baby, Drill” discusses marine life and was created as a response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon/British Petroleum oil spill.
I’m a fan of Franchesca Ramsey’s work and I like the variety of content she covers on her YouTube channel — even though she hasn’t uploaded a video in two years — like “How to Journal Your Productive Year” and “Can You Help End Police Violence?,” as well as her show “Decoded.” Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist is a raw and very honest memoir as Ramsey describes her rise to YouTube fame and her backlash from those who didn’t and still don’t agree with her views. She talks very openly about her vulnerability to be vocal about social issues online and even how the toxicity of social media affected her mental health.
I learned more about her career as a TV writer, producer and actress, how she got started with her activist work and got a closer look at what goes on behind the scenes of her projects. Nobody is perfect, and she teaches her audience that not only can we grow from our mistakes but also learn more about the world around us. I was reminded that we should also be willing to listen and learn, especially when it comes to feminism and how we interact with each other online. Ramsey also offers adivce on how to handle haters and trolls in the digital realm and real life.
Alida Nugent starts You Don’t Have to Like Me: Essays on Growing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding Feminism by discussing the overview of women in the modern world, why feminism is important and what the umbrella term really means. Throughout the book, Nugent mixes her own experiences while picking apart women’s issues and topics such as birth control, periods, being multiracial, beauty and friendships.
She brings up many valid points about how society focuses on gender from birth; re: how girls are taught to play with dolls and boys are taught to play with trucks — sound familiar? Why should it matter?
The takeaway message is that you, the reader, should be a proud feminist. Nugent also talks about how important it is to have feminism and how much the fight for gender equality is needed in today’s society. “WANTING to be anything is the whole point of feminism. HAVING TO BE SOMETHING is what feminists fight against, or at least the ones I know,” she says.
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