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Feminist lit club: our favorite books by women in 2021

Best feminist book recommendations of 2021 on a pink background with The Feminista logo

Happy (Cyber) Monday, Feministas! And happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate :) Hope you spent at least a little of your holiday weekend kicked back and chillaxing… maybe with a good book in hand? 

This year has been a truly fruitful one for feminist fiction, memoirs, essays, and beyond, centering powerful, complex women from all walks of life, exposing the many differences between us, and evolving our perception of womanhood. And, as we’re prone to do, we put together a list of our favorite reads of 2021—all of which happen to be written by women.

So, let’s dig in: here are our top ten recs for feminist readers, complete with a quick summary, our favorite quote, and a Feminista product pairing—in case you’re looking for a gift that’s both literary and totally lit, style-wise.


Feminist Book Recommendation: Outlawed

Feminist Book Rec #1Outlawed by Anna North

* Feminista Gift Pairing: In This Story Premium T Shirt

We’re kicking off our list with a New York Times bestseller and one of Reese Witherspoon’s official book club picks: Outlawed. It’s a witty, feminist take on the classic Western tale, featuring Ada, an 18-year-old girl who’s been married a year and has yet to be pregnant… in a town where women are hanged as witches when they’re unable to produce children.

Fleeing the fate she most fears, she takes off and joins a cast of outlaws and has to decide whether she’s willing to risk it all for a brighter future. It’s a female-focused alternate history of sorts and it goes perfectly with our lit-chick premium tee that proudly says, “in this story, the princess saves herself.” 

“Then I could feel the quiet that only comes with knowing what you need to know. And I could teach other people what I knew. I remembered what Mama had said, that you couldn’t just take away something people believed in. You had to give them something in its place.”


Feminist Book Rec #2: Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

Feminist Book Rec #2: Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

* Feminista Gift Pairing: Empowered Women Empower Women Graphic Tee

This intergenerational family drama follows a family of women from 19th-century Cuba to modern-day Miami. Touching on everything from immigration, ICE, and the threat of deportation to addiction, sexual abuse, motherhood, and the trauma that gets passed down through our relationships, this story is an emotional, raw, and ultimately rewarding depiction of how mothers and daughters in the most difficult circumstances work together—and sometimes despite one another—to stay afloat. 

In the end, it's a story of women who empower themselves to carry on, and who pass that legacy onto their daughters. For a gift, pair it with our Empowered Women graphic tee. It's a lyrical, heart-rending journey you won't want to miss. 

“María Isabel thought it had always been women who wove the future out of the scraps, always the characters, never the authors."


Feminist Book Rec #3: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

Feminist Book Rec #3: Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

* Feminista Gift Pairing: Stronger Woman Graphic Tee

One part memoir, one part cultural commentary, this essay collection is an intimate portrayal of a Korean American daughter of immigrants and the lies she was told about her racial identity. It’s smart, moving, and full of teachable moments. Plus, it won the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award Winner for Best Autobiography, so it’s been properly vetted for holiday gift-dom :)

At The Feminista, we love the quote: “A strong woman stands up for herself. A stronger woman stands up for everybody else." And because Cathy Park Hong wrote this book in part to affirm the experience of other Asian Americans, we think she qualifies as one of those stronger women. Make a gift of the two to celebrate the author and inspire your recipient in one fell swoop.

“The problem with silence is that it can’t speak up and say why it’s silent. And so silence collects, becomes amplified, takes on a life outside our intentions, in that silence can get misread as indifference, or avoidance, or even shame, and eventually this silence passes over into forgetting.”


Feminist Book Rec #4: Girlhood by Melissa Febos

Feminist Book Rec #4: Girlhood by Melissa Febos

* Feminista Gift Pairing: Feminist Script Gold Necklace

In this lyrical set of stories by Melissa Febos, we’re introduced to all of the societal forces that shape girls and the women they become. From the shame that girls are taught to feel about sex and their bodies as soon as puberty to the ways in which society neglects and often even subjugates the safety, freedom, and wellbeing of young women, she explores and explains it all in a way that feels searing and precise, but also accessible and affirming. 

Gift it to a young woman you know and love, perhaps with an empowering feminist script gold necklace? We think so.

“The more we want to exploit a body, the less humanity we allow it.”


Feminist Book Rec #5: Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Feminist Book Rec #5: Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

* Feminista Gift Pairing: No Wrong Way to Have a Body T Shirt

First and foremost, this is a smart and riveting story about trials of love and commitment and the never-ending search for self, but it also unabashedly touches on some of society’s most taboo subjects: gender, sex, mother- and womanhood. The plot follows a relationship between two transwomen, Reese and Amy, which starts to disintegrate when Amy decides to detransition, becoming Ames.

The change culminates in the end of their relationship, but the two remain messily intertwined and navigate the possibility of parenthood in an unconventional way. It’s a national bestseller and one of Roxane Gay’s Audacious Book Club picks and we think it goes nicely with our “No Wrong Way to Have a Body” t-shirt, because in the midst of all of the complexy in love and life, that’s one simple truth that remains unchanged.

“I got to a point where I thought I didn't need to put up with the bullshit of gender in order to satisfy my sense of self.”


Feminist Book Rec #6: Somebody's Daughter: A Memoir by Ashley C. Ford

Feminist Book Rec #6: Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir by Ashley C. Ford

* Feminista Gift Pairing: "Nevertheless She Persisted" Cuff Bracelet

An NYT bestseller and a remarkably honest and powerful memoir about a childhood fragmented by the absence of her incarcerated father. Ford shares moving details about her challenging relationship with her mother, their family’s poverty, the yearning she feels to better know her father, and eventually an abusive relationship, and shows how our circumstances both diminish and empower us. 

According to Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed, "this is a book people will be talking about forever," so don't miss it. Want to make it a gift? Pair it with our "nevertheless she persisted" cuff bracelet. Because that's what Ashley C. Ford shows us we can all do. Persist, persist, persist. 

“Kids can always tell the difference between adults who want to empower them, and adults who want to overpower them.”


Feminist Book Rec #7: We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida

Feminist Book Rec #7: We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida

* Feminista Gift Pairing: Babes Support Babes Premium Tee

This mysterious beauty starts with two best friends, Eulabee and Maria, as they experience the trials of teen-hood and wander around their foggy, coastal corner of San Francisco. On the way to school one day, they witness a horrible act and the varied ways they remember the details causes a rift in their relationship. Soon after, Maria disappears and what follows is a lovely tale. 

It’s got cliffhangers, heart ache, and a story that does justice to the complexity of youth and female friendship. The pairing? A baby blue “babes support babes” tee that understands the importance of the girl gang, even in the midst of adversity :) 

"We are thirteen, almost fourteen, and these streets of Sea Cliff are ours. We walk these streets to our school perched high over the Pacific and we run these streets to the beaches, which are cold, windswept, full of fishermen and freaks."


Feminist Book Rec #8: Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption by Rafia Zakaria

Feminist Book Rec #8Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption by Rafia Zakaria

* Feminista Gift Pairing: Resist Face Mask

Intersectional feminist Rafia Zakaria critiques and reimagines the movement by calling our attention to the biases and privilege of the wealthy white women so often heralded as the mothers of the movement. She takes aim at a kind of white female empowerment that uses the language of inclusion and liberation to uphold privilege while doing very little to uplift the Black and Brown women who are responsible for so much positive feminist change. 

Zakaria challenges us to center underrepresented voices and take a look in the mirror moving forward, making sure our actions match our language. For a feminist holiday gift, try this book and a matching face mask, featuring a fist held up in resistance to the patriarchy, white supremacy, and beyond.

"The goal here is not to expel white women from feminism, but to excise whiteness, with all its assumptions of privilege and superiority, so as to foster the freedom and empowerment of all women."


Feminist Book Rec #9: Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes: Essays by Phoebe Robinson

Feminist Book Rec #9: Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes: Essays by Phoebe Robinson

* Feminista Gift Pairing: Smash the Patriarchy Sticker Pack

Phoebe Robinson is a stand-up comedian, actress, writer, and producer—a.k.a. a straight-up boss. You may know her from 2 Dope Queens or her production company, Tiny Reparations, but today we’d like to introduce you to her latest book of essays. It’s funny as hell and focuses on some seriously feminist issues, from the societal expectation of motherhood to the mental health crisis and the glaring inequities of the self-care industry. 

If you like to laugh while you learn, we highly recommend the audiobook, but it reads like a breeze as well. For a holiday gift: wrap this baby, tie up a bow, and tuck our Smash the Patriarchy sticker 5-pack beneath the ribbon as a bonus. The decals feature some of the same kind of bra-burning, witty phrases Phoebe might say :) 

"If we lived in a world in which we were being properly taken care of, would self-care have the same appeal?"


Feminist Book Rec #10: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Feminist Book Rec #10: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

* Feminista Gift Pairing: Feminist Icons... And My Daughter T Shirt

This beautiful and resonant memoir lets us in on what it’s like for Michelle Zauner to grow up as a Korean American, complicated by the illness and eventual loss of her mother. Filled with food, family, grief, and an ever-urgent search for identity, this story unpacks the relationship she had with her mother and her family’s place in the world. 

Through their shared love of food and family recipes, she’s able to appreciate, if not begrudgingly, where she comes from and the language and history she inherited. Want to make it a gift? Pair this book with a t-shirt that shows any powerful role model you may have in your life that you’re grateful for them <3

“Cooking my mother's food had come to represent an absolute role reversal, a role I was meant to fill. Food was an unspoken language between us, had come to symbolize our return to each other, our bonding, our common ground.”


Thanks for reading, Feministas. And happy reading :) If you enjoyed these gift pairings and want more fo the same, check out our 2021 holiday gift guide, and slay your gift list this year with style and ease.

Otherwise, we'll see you next week for more of The "F" Word, our weekly newsletter and blog on all things feminist, from activism to fashion and beyond. Want it delivered? Scroll down, sign up, and we’ll send it straight to your inbox.

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