Feminist Books for International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day happens around the world every year on March 8th! (Which is also my pal Carla’s birthday! Happy birthday, Carla!) It’s the perfect day to party like it’s 1999 or whatever (if you’re a lady, or another lovely, non-cis person)! One of my favourite parts of women’s day is seeing what designs a local doughnut shop makes. That is maybe less important than… everything else about women’s day but if I want to celebrate with cute themed treats, I will, dammit! HOWEVER, I’m also aware of the actual importance of Women’s Day and the fact that we still have a long way to go to reach equity and equality.  As Audre Lorde said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different than my own.” Our own experience of the world is not everyone’s and we have to recognize that and get to work. So, I’m bringing you some feminist books for International Women’s Day, both fiction and nonfiction, to commiserate, validate, and get perspective. Grab one and go read it over coffee and feminist doughnut. Or is that just a me thing?

feminist books for international women's day

Women Are Some Kind of Magic poetry series by Amanda Lovelace

If you click on author link above, you’ll find out how deep my Amanda Lovelace obsession goes. This is the perfect series to read for Women’s day! the princess saves herself in this one is the perfect book to kick off with 🙂

the princess saves herself in this one:

“Ah, life- the thing that happens to us while we’re off somewhere else blowing on dandelions & wishing ourselves into the pages of our favorite fairy tales.”

A poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. the princess, the damsel, & the queen piece together the life of the author in three stages, while you serves as a note to the reader & all of humankind. Explores life & all of its love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, & inspirations.

Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper

This is the book I’m reading right now! It’s so good I had to put it on this list.

Far too often, Black women’s anger has been caricatured into an ugly and destructive force that threatens the civility and social fabric of American democracy. But Cooper shows us that there is more to the story than that. Black women’s eloquent rage is what makes Serena Williams such a powerful tennis player. It’s what makes Beyoncé’s girl power anthems resonate so hard. It’s what makes Michelle Obama an icon.

Eloquent rage keeps us all honest and accountable. It reminds women that they don’t have to settle for less. When Cooper learned of her grandmother’s eloquent rage about love, sex, and marriage in an epic and hilarious front-porch confrontation, her life was changed. And it took another intervention, this time staged by one of her homegirls, to turn Brittney into the fierce feminist she is today. In Brittney Cooper’s world, neither mean girls nor fuckboys ever win. But homegirls emerge as heroes. This book argues that ultimately feminism, friendship, and faith in one’s own superpowers are all we really need to turn things right side up again.

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

This is another one I’m reading and had to include! Lindy West is just so good. I loved Shrill (which you should absolutely read if you haven’t!), and really enjoy her columns!

THIS IS A WITCH HUNT.
WE’RE WITCHES,
AND WE’RE HUNTING YOU.

From the moment powerful men started falling to the #MeToo movement, the lamentations began: this is feminism gone too far, this is injustice, this is a witch hunt. In The Witches Are Coming, firebrand author of the New York Times bestselling memoir and now critically acclaimed Hulu TV series Shrill, Lindy West, turns that refrain on its head. You think this is a witch hunt? Fine. You’ve got one.

In a laugh-out-loud, incisive cultural critique, West extolls the world-changing magic of truth, urging readers to reckon with dark lies in the heart of the American mythos, and unpacking the complicated, and sometimes tragic, politics of not being a white man in the twenty-first century. She tracks the misogyny and propaganda hidden (or not so hidden) in the media she and her peers devoured growing up, a buffet of distortions, delusions, prejudice, and outright bullsh*t that has allowed white male mediocrity to maintain a death grip on American culture and politics-and that delivered us to this precarious, disorienting moment in history.

West writes, “We were just a hair’s breadth from electing America’s first female president to succeed America’s first black president. We weren’t done, but we were doing it. And then, true to form—like the Balrog’s whip catching Gandalf by his little gray bootie, like the husband in a Lifetime movie hissing, ‘If I can’t have you, no one can’—white American voters shoved an incompetent, racist con man into the White House.”

We cannot understand how we got here-how the land of the free became Trump’s America—without examining the chasm between who we are and who we think we are, without fact—checking the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and each other. The truth can transform us; there is witchcraft in it. Lindy West turns on the light.

rage becomes her by soraya chemaly book coverRage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly

This book is so good and so inspiring that I decided to do my graduate thesis on female anger on TV. This one is a must read.

Women are angry, and it isn’t hard to figure out why.

We are underpaid and overworked. Too sensitive, or not sensitive enough. Too dowdy or too made-up. Too big or too thin. Sluts or prudes. We are harassed, told we are asking for it, and asked if it would kill us to smile. Yes, yes it would.

Contrary to the rhetoric of popular “self-help” and an entire lifetime of being told otherwise, our rage is one of the most important resources we have, our sharpest tool against both personal and political oppression. We’ve been told for so long to bottle up our anger, letting it corrode our bodies and minds in ways we don’t even realize. Yet our anger is a vital instrument, our radar for injustice and a catalyst for change. On the flip side, the societal and cultural belittlement of our anger is a cunning way of limiting and controlling our power.

We are so often told to resist our rage or punished for justifiably expressing it, yet how many remarkable achievements in this world would never have gotten off the ground without the kernel of anger that fueled them? Rage Becomes Her makes the case that anger is not what gets in our way, it is our way, sparking a new understanding of one of our core emotions that will give women a liberating sense of why their anger matters and connect them to an entire universe of women no longer interested in making nice at all costs.

The Red Word by Sarah Henstra

For fans of The Secret History by Donna Tartt! The Red Word  is a university story in the past about female students who live together and study Greek myths together (sound familiar Tartt lovers?). But there is something more stirring under the surface on campus.

A smart, dark, and take-no-prisoners look at rape culture and the extremes to which ideology can go, The Red Word is a campus novel like no other. As her sophomore year begins, Karen enters into the back-to-school revelry — particularly at Gamma Beta Chi. When she wakes up one morning on the lawn of Raghurst, a house of radical feminists, she gets a crash course in the state of feminist activism on campus. The frat known as GBC is notorious, she learns, nicknamed “Gang Bang Central” and a prominent contributor to a list of rapists compiled by female students. Despite continuing to party there and dating one of the brothers, Karen is equally seduced by the intellectual stimulation and indomitable spirit of the Raghurst women, who surprise her by wanting her as a housemate and recruiting her into the upper-level class of a charismatic feminist mythology scholar they all adore. As Karen finds herself caught between two increasingly polarized camps, ringleader housemate Dyann believes she has hit on the perfect way to expose and bring down the fraternity as a symbol of rape culture — but the war between the houses will exact a terrible price.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Anything Roxane Gay does is <3 If you haven’t read Bad Feminist, I would definitely start there! It’s a great read and helps you get to know Gay. Hunger takes it deeper, exploring Gay’s relationship with her body and with food. Have a box of tissues handy.

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde

I thought it best to include a classic feminist work! This is a collection of speeches and essays from the amazing Audre Lorde.

Presenting the essential writings of black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider celebrates an influential voice in twentieth-century literature. In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope.
This commemorative edition includes a new foreword by Lorde scholar and poet Cheryl Clarke, who celebrates the ways in which Lorde’s philosophies resonate more than twenty years after they were first published. These landmark writings are, in Lorde’s own words, a call to “never close our eyes to the terror, to the chaos which is Black which is creative which is female which is dark which is rejected which is messy which is . . . “

Sawkill Girls by Clare Legrand

When I read this, it instantly became a favourite. It’s feminist, queer, creepy, and mysterious. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a novel. I LOVE IT. If you don’t mind a little spook this midwinter, definitely pick this up! I’m sure it will become feminist horror classic!

Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.

He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.

Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.

We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib

We Have Always Been Here is a queer memoir about Habib’s experience as a queer muslim woman.

How do you find yourself when the world tells you that you don’t exist?

Samra Habib has spent most of her life searching for the safety to be herself. As an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, she faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed the small, dynamic sect to be blasphemous. From her parents, she internalized the lesson that revealing her identity could put her in grave danger.

When her family came to Canada as refugees, Samra encountered a whole new host of challenges: bullies, racism, the threat of poverty, and an arranged marriage. Backed into a corner, her need for a safe space–in which to grow and nurture her creative, feminist spirit–became dire. The men in her life wanted to police her, the women in her life had only shown her the example of pious obedience, and her body was a problem to be solved.

So begins an exploration of faith, art, love, and queer sexuality, a journey that takes her to the far reaches of the globe to uncover a truth that was within her all along. A triumphant memoir of forgiveness and family, both chosen and not, We Have Always Been Here is a rallying cry for anyone who has ever felt out of place and a testament to the power of fearlessly inhabiting one’s truest self.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

This books reads like an episode of Black Mirror.

Nestled in the Hudson Valley is a sumptuous retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, private fitness trainers, daily massages—and all of it for free. In fact, you get paid big money—more than you’ve ever dreamed of—to spend a few seasons in this luxurious locale. The catch? For nine months, you belong to the Farm. You cannot leave the grounds; your every move is monitored. Your former life will seem a world away as you dedicate yourself to the all-consuming task of producing the perfect baby for your überwealthy clients.

Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines and a struggling single mother, is thrilled to make it through the highly competitive Host selection process at the Farm. But now pregnant, fragile, consumed with worry for her own young daughter’s well-being, Jane grows desperate to reconnect with her life outside. Yet she cannot leave the Farm or she will lose the life-changing fee she’ll receive on delivery—or worse.

Heartbreaking, suspenseful, provocative, The Farm pushes our thinking on motherhood, money, and merit to the extremes, and raises crucial questions about the trade-offs women will make to fortify their futures and the futures of those they love.

Shout Your Abortion by edited by Amelia Bonow and Emily Nokes with the foreword by Lindy West

Read more about risks to equitable abortion access here. If you’re into coffee table books, this is a great one that makes a great conversation starter. This book was published because of a kick-starter campaign and now it’s a hashtag and a movement! This book actually centres women and their lives and experiences.  #ShoutYourAbortion #SYA #ThankGodForAbortion

Following the U.S. Congress’s attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion became a viral conduit for abortion storytelling, receiving extensive media coverage and positioning real human experiences at the center of America’s abortion debate for the first time. This online momentum quickly launched a grassroots movement, inspiring countless individuals to share their stories in art, media, and community events. Shout Your Abortion is a collection of photos, essays, and creative work inspired by the movement of the same name, a template for building new communities of healing, and a call to action. This book sheds light on the individuals who breathed life into this movement, illustrating the profound political power of defying shame and claiming sole authorship of our experiences.

What feminist books will you be reading for International Women’s Day?Check out more feminist content here from the archives! 🙂