May 10, 2021
Feminista lit club: 20 empowering reads for modern feminists
Hey Feministas! With April showers behind us and May flowers upon us, it finally feels safe to daydream about that take-a-book-to-the-park, read-on-the-beach kind of weather we've all been waiting for. And if you're looking for some feminist inspo to entertain and inform you this summer, we've got just the list for you.
By now, you're probably familiar with We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and The Handmaid’s Tale by prolific feminist author Margaret Atwood, but the books on this list also include a few surprises you may not be familiar with...
From contemporary fiction and thought-provoking essays to moving memoirs about our cultural (s)heroes and anthologies from the underrepresented, these are the books we turn to for inspiring stories from the resistance and important lessons from our feminist elders. They’ll make you angry, give you hope, and fire you up to fight the patriarchy.
So get ready to soak up the sun and enjoy our 2021 edit of essential, fiercely feminist reads:
Contemporary feminist thinking
These recently-published books get straight to the heart of 21st century feminism. Weigh the pros and cons of internet culture in the #MeToo movement, explore the changing landscape of body shaming and body positivity in our culture, and learn how white and class privilege here at home can have a harmful effect on women around the world.
1. The Witches are Coming by Lindy West
You may know Lindy West from Shrill, her NYT best-selling memoir turned TV series starring Aidy Bryant... but her latest book is just as hilarious and incisive. She unpacks the kind of misogyny, prejudice, and delusional thinking that shows up in response to female-led fights for change, from the #MeToo movement to presidential campaigns.
2. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
One of the best books in print on modern feminism and an important critique of the feminist movement as it exists today, and its lack of focus on fulfilling women’s most basic needs (i.e. food insecurity, the living wage and access to education). Mikki Kendall invites us to do better and shows us how.
3. Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino
Jia Tolentino is a long-time New Yorker culture writer who explores the ways in which a culture that revolves around the "self"--selfies, self-help, etc.--can warp our thinking over time. She covers body positivity, religion, our obsession with optimization, stories of sexual assault, and so much more within the context of social media, reality tv, pop music and modern American life at large.
4. Constellations by Sinead Gleeson
A beautifully written and deeply relatable book on what it's like to exist inside in a woman's body as told by an Irish woman navigating pregnancy, motherhood, illness, love, loss and more.
A non-exhaustive list of classics
These are the lady greats you’ve all heard of and haven’t read enough of. In these seminal texts on first- and second-wave feminism, these authors and activists will give you a sense of the trials they faced and triumphs they fought for and earned in solidarity with others.
5. Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks
If you're looking for an approachable entry point to the classics, this is it. And it's by one of the world's most famous feminist thinkers. In this book, hooks lays out her definition of "feminism" as well as some of the most important concerns of the movement, and reminds us why the fight is nowhere near over.
6. Women, Culture & Politics by Angela Y. Davis
This collection of speeches and writings by one of the most influential activists and scholars of our time, covering everything from her politics and perspective on peace to sexism, racism, classism, and beyond. If you're new to Angela Davis, this is the best place to start.
7. A Burst of Light by Audre Lorde
If you’re familiar with The Feminista, you know we love us some Audre Lorde--we’ve got a whole article on her if you’re interested: right here. This collection might not be her most famous, but these essays touch on everything from her battle against liver cancer to lesbian sexuality and the importance of community and intersectionality. A must-read.
8. Moving Beyond Words: Age, Rage, Sex, Power, Money, Muscles by Gloria Steinem
From the founder of Ms. Magazine and the woman who popularized one of our favorite feminist quips, “a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle,” comes a collection of radical essays about breaking the boundaries of gender.
Fun & empowering feminist fiction
These stories are the ultimate feminist beach reads, and cover issues important to the movement in engaging and creative ways. So dig in and get ready to challenge your perceptions about traditional gender roles, female friendship, and women and girls in power.
9. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
A story spanning almost sixty years which follows two friends in Naples as they navigate adolescence, love, motherhood, and beyond--together and on their own--with the kind of rich complexity that women's stories deserve. Oh, and if you find yourself in need of a break from all this reading, it's now an HBO series ;)
10. Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements edited by Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha
This collection of visionary short stories is named after legendary science fiction writer, Octavia Butler, and will open your mind to the experiences of marginalized communities and their fights for justice, both in fiction and in real life. Equal parts fun and challenging.
11. The Power by Naomi Alderman
This one's also got sci-fi, speculative fiction vibes, but we promise it's for everyone. In The Power, Alderman tells the story of what might happen in the world if teenage girls suddenly had all the power... and you better believe that in this story, the princess(es) save themselves :)
12. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
It's a modern-day retelling of the classic fairy-tale "Snow White" that is both a joy to read and deeply thought-provoking. Oyeyemi will sweep you up with her lovely prose and then challenge the patriarchal and often racist standards of beauty that are so engrained in our minds and culture.
Inspiring memoirs & autobiographies
It was nearly impossible to get this list down to four, but these feminists’ stories are our must-reads at the moment. (And listen: we’re making the assumption that you’ve already read Becoming, but if you haven’t, get on it! Michelle Obama is everyone's favorite feminist icon.)
13. The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel
From the woman who brought us the feminist Bechdel test for movies and TV (do two women have speaking roles, and do they talk to each other?), comes this funny and deeply moving story about her fascination with exercise and fitness trends and the ever-persistent need we all have to improve ourselves.
14. Persist by Elizabeth Warren
This one’s brand new and by one of our lady-faves: U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren, with a title that makes reference to one of the phrases we love so much, we wear it on our sleeves: nevertheless, she persisted. Learn all about the personal experiences that have shaped her policy over the years and get inspired to make some change.
15. Recollections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit
If you’ve ever heard the term “mansplaining,” you’ve heard from Rebecca Solnit, author of Men Explain Things to Me (another amazing feminist read, by the way). But it’s her most recent memoir that we wanted to feature in this list, about becoming a writer and feminist in San Francisco in the 1980s, and her experiences with gender violence and exclusion.
16. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
We’ve long waxed poetic on our love for RBG, but this autobiography from the very first Hispanic (and third female!) member of the U.S. Supreme Court is just as pow-her-ful. In it, you’ll get a sense of what it takes to make history as a woman in a room full of men and why she believes in the enduring power of empathy.
Empowering anthologies, curated by women
These collections represent women's stories we don't hear enough of. And who doesn't love a book of bite-sized feminist essays? Sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-warming, and sometimes hard-but-rewarding-to-read, these anthologies a window into the deeply personal, real-world experiences of women and femmes all over the world.
17. It’s Not About the Burqa edited by Mariam Khan
Created in response to Islamophobia and the politicization of the hijab and, this collection features seventeen Muslim women's perspectives on faith, love, sex, queer identity and beyond, as well as what it's like to live in the midst of a racist country and a disapproving community. Funny, sad, joyous--the full spectrum of experience from an underrepresented community of women.
18. The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifty-Seven Visions of a Wildly Better Future edited by Alexandra Brodsky and Rachel Kauder Nalebuff
Fifty-seven feminist writers were asked to write a creative story about a different, more feminist future and the result is a delight. Wildly enlightening and entertaining, writers from Sheila Heti to Janet Mock imagine radically brighter futures that include things like a new kind of birth control and a pivot in the way we think about sexual pleasure to a female-first U.S. constitution and some new thoughts on menstruation, Girl Scouts and more.
19. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay
Everything Roxane Gay writes is probably worth a read, but this anthology of essays tackles an incredibly important topic that doesn't get enough air-time. With stories of real women in the face of sexual harassment and violence of every kind, this unflinchingly honest collection will change the way you think about rape culture and how we treat survivors.
20. Feminists Don’t Wear Pink And Other Lies curated by Scarlett Curtis
This collection features the voices of extraordinary women from every walk of life, from teenage activists to Hollywood actresses like Reese Witherspoon and Lolly Adefope. Get the inside scoop on how real people think about and define their own modern-day feminism. Plus, the title offers a healthy reminder that it’s more than okay to smash the patriarchy and wear pink while you’re at it :)
Happy reading, Feministas! And if you want to stay in the loop on new products, promos, and our weekly feminist beat, scroll down and sign up for The F Word, our weekly newsletter :)