A booklist to celebrate woman and women.
When I asked the Porchlight staff if they had any recommendations for our Women’s History Month booklist, it was hard to define for them what exactly a “Women’s History Month book” is or can be. The concept initially elicited images in my mind of books with women on the cover— the stoic oil portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsberg (My Own Words), the luminous smile of Michelle Obama (Becoming), Malala Yousafzai’s radiant face framed by a brilliant dragonfruit pink headscarf (I Am Malala). So does that mean that a Women’s History Month book is a book written by a woman who changed history?
Beyond biographies and memoirs, other outlets’ booklists for this month highlight female-centric experiences like periods and childbirth as well as fiction and nonfiction that tackle matters that impact all genders: LGBTQ+ rights, childhood trauma, race, belonging, siblinghood, and more. So, if it's not a story about a prodigious woman, what makes any of these books Women’s History Month books?
I think that to celebrate Women’s History Month means to celebrate the voices of individual women. We do this by acknowledging women’s collective and individual experiences throughout history and throughout literature, by paying attention to the voices that have collectively been muffled or ignored. We can learn about women’s historical unequal treatment through an individual woman’s struggles and successes. We can celebrate women’s historical progress by learning about an individual woman’s personal ideals and progress. “The personal is political.”
Here are books about both woman and women that we recommend reading—this month or any month. And as always, if you have more recommendations that we can include in future lists, please send them our way. —GMC
AWARDS WINNER | Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?: A Story of Women and Economics by Katrine Marçal, Pegasus Books
Editor’s Choice Review by Dylan Schleicher
“How do you get your dinner? That is the fundamental question of economics.” So begins the first chapter of Katrine Marçal’s powerful new book, Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?
The field of economics is built around the ideal of “economic man,” an independent, rational being that always acts in his own self-interest. And even though we’ve known for at least thirty years that "economic man" is an absurd, incomplete idea, and there have always been economists that argued against that supposed ideal, he still sits at its center. Even the burgeoning field of behavioral economics uses economic man as a starting point, if only as a simplified straw man to knock down or light aflame. And yet, behavioral economists also tend to see acting rationally and in our own self interests as the ultimate goal, and study ways in which we can all be nudged in that direction.
AWARDS WINNER | She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey, Penguin Press
Review by Rebecca Schwartz
This critically important book by Kantor and Twohey tells several essential stories at once: of the persistent and painstaking investigative journalism that not only changes lives but propels a movement, of how the complicity of others is necessary to allow those with power to abuse it, of the risks taken by those within a company who finally came forward to share what they know, and of the victims’ bravery to break their silences and tell their truths.
What does it mean to be a “woman” in America?
In her new book, Woman: The American History of an Idea, award-winning gender and sexuality scholar Lillian Faderman traces the evolution of the meaning from Puritan ideas of God’s plan for women to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and its reversals to the impact of such recent events as #metoo, the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the election of Kamala Harris as vice president, and the transgender movement.
Our interview with Lillian Faderman was conducted by our Managing Director Sally Haldorson on March 23rd, 2022.
Julie Gerstenblatt quit her job as a middle school English teacher to pursue her dream of publishing a novel. Her dedication pays off in this fully realized historical fiction novel that follows three women in Nantucket, a small town where most all lives intersect intimately—out of ambition, out of necessity, and out of love. These three main characters all face internal and societal conflicts relating to race, sexuality, and obligation in the days leading up to the Great Fire of 1846.
In these funny and insightful essays, Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better, coming from one of our most interesting and important cultural critics.
STAFF PICK | Black Women Writers at Work, Edited by Claudia Tate, Haymarket Books
Through candid interviews with Maya Angelou, Toni Cade Bambara, Gwendolyn Brooks, Alexis De Veaux, Nikki Giovanni, Kristin Hunter, Gayl Jones, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Sonia Sanchez, Ntozake Shange, Alice Walker, Margaret Walker, and Sherley Anne Williams, the book highlights the practices and critical linkages between the work and lived experiences of Black women writers whose contributions to the literary world laid the foundation for many who have come after.
Responding to questions about why and for whom they write, and how they perceive their responsibility to their work, to others, and to society, the featured playwrights, poets, novelists, and essayists provide a window into the connections between their lives and their art.
Finally available for a new generation, this classic work has an urgent message for readers and writers today.
Think punk was only a boys club? Read about the women who were the punk revolution!
Women have been kicking against the pricks of music patriarchy since Sister Rosetta Tharpe first played the guitar riffs that built rock-n-roll. The explosion of punk sent shockwaves of revolution to every girl who dreamed of being on stage. Punk godmothers Suzy Quatro, The Runaways, Patti Smith, Poison Ivy, Tina Weymouth, Debbie Harry, The Go-Gos, and Fanny’s Millington sisters provided the template for thousands of girls and women throughout the United States to write and record their songs.
Hit Girls is the story local and regional bands whose legacy would be otherwise lost. Despite the modern narrative labeled women anomalies in rock music, the truth is: women played important roles in punk and its related genres in every city, in every scene, all over the United States. The women and bands profiled by Jen B. share their experiences of sexism and racism as well as their joy and successes from their days on stage as they changed what it meant to be in a band. These pioneering women were more than novelty acts or pretty faces–they were fully contributing members and leaders of mixed-gender and all-female bands long before the call for “girls to the front.”
The women of Hit Girls are now rightfully exalted to cult status where their collective achievement is recognized and inspiring to new generations of women rockers. Included are interviews with: Texacala Jones, Stoney Rivera, Mish Bondaj, Alice Bag, Nikki Corvette, Penelope Houston, and many more formidable and infamous women who made their voices heard over the screaming guitars.
Hit Girls includes over 100 rare and never-before seen images. Author Jen B. includes a comprehensive playlist of all the artists. Foreword by punk journalist, Ginger Coyote
The national bestseller from the acclaimed author of The Wives of Henry VIII. France's beleaguered queen, Marie Antoinette, wrongly accused of uttering the infamous "Let them eat cake," was the subject of ridicule and curiosity even before her death; she has since been the object of debate and speculation and the fascination so often accorded tragic figures in history. Married in mere girlhood, this essentially lighthearted, privileged, but otherwise unremarkable child was thrust into an unparalleled time and place, and was commanded by circumstance to play a significant role in history. Antonia Fraser's lavish and engaging portrait of Marie Antoinette, one of the most recognizable women in European history, excites compassion and regard for all aspects of her subject, immersing the reader not only in the coming-of-age of a graceful woman, buaimedt also in the unraveling of an era.
Writing in an age when the call for the rights of man had brought revolution to America and France, Mary Wollstonecraft produced her own declaration of female independence in 1792. Passionate and forthright, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman attacked the prevailing view of docile, decorative femininity, and instead laid out the principles of emancipation: an equal education for girls and boys, an end to prejudice, and for women to become defined by their profession, not their partner. Mary Wollstonecraft's work was received with a mixture of admiration and outrage - Walpole called her 'a hyena in petticoats' - yet it established her as the mother of modern feminism.
STAFF PICK | They Called Me a Lioness: A Palestinian Girl’s Fight for Freedom by Ahed Tamimi and Dena Takruri, One World
Recommended by Gabbi Cisneros
“What would you do if you grew up seeing your home repeatedly raided? Your parents arrested? Your mother shot? Your uncle killed? Try, for just a moment, to imagine that this was your life. How would you want the world to react?”
Ahed Tamimi is a world-renowned Palestinian activist, born and raised in the small West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, which became a center of the resistance to Israeli occupation when an illegal, Jewish-only settlement blocked off its community spring. Tamimi came of age participating in nonviolent demonstrations against this action and the occupation at large. Her global renown reached an apex in December 2017, when, at sixteen years old, she was filmed slapping an Israeli soldier who refused to leave her front yard. The video went viral, and Tamimi was arrested.
But this is not just a story of activism or imprisonment. It is the human-scale story of an occupation that has riveted the world and shaped global politics, from a girl who grew up in the middle of it . Tamimi’s father was born in 1967, the year that Israel began its occupation of the West Bank and he grew up immersed in the resistance movement. One of Tamimi’s earliest memories is visiting him in prison, poking her toddler fingers through the fence to touch his hand. She herself would spend her seventeenth birthday behind bars. Living through this greatest test and heightened attacks on her village, Tamimi felt her resolve only deepen, in tension with her attempts to live the normal life of a daughter, sibling, friend, and student.
NEW RELEASE | I'm Still Writing: Women Writers on Creativity, Courage, and Putting Words on the Page by Virginia Ann Byrd, St. Martin’s Press
Female voices to challenge, encourage, and inspire your writing.
In I’m Still Writing, beloved female writers, both past and present, share their thoughts on the joy and struggle of writing. Their words will nurture and challenge your writing, inviting you to dive deeper into your creativity and find power on the page.
Author Virginia Ann Byrd has gathered the words and wisdom of women writers—from different backgrounds, traditions, and times—pairing them with thoughtful reflection questions and inspiring writing prompts. From Jane Austen to Toni Morrison, Isabel Allende to Virginia Woolf, 52 authors offer their wisdom on every facet of writing—from the logistics of finding the time to write to the nuances of craft and the particular burden faced by female artists.
Divided into weekly chapters, I’m Still Writing is a joyful chorus of women’s voices and a wise guide on your own writing journey. I’m Still Writing will help you learn from the very best, nourish your own creativity, and build a thriving, expressive writing practice.
MARCH RELEASE | The Everyday Feminist: The Key to Sustainable Social Impact—Driving Movements We Need Now More than Ever by Latanya Mapp Frett, Wiley
In The Everyday Feminist: The Key to Sustainable Social Impact-Driving Movements We Need Now More than Ever, accomplished feminist activist and executive Latanya Mapp Frett delivers a powerful and practical exploration of the factors that make a feminist social movement impactful in its place and time. In the book, you'll discover popular and not-so-popular social movements and the leaders, art, research, and narratives that drove them.
The author explains what made these social movements so effective and explains the steps that organizations, nonprofits, and social impact professionals can take to replicate that success on the ground and in the present.
The book also includes:
- Discussions of the importance of feminist funds in bankrolling critical feminist movements
- Explanations of the roles played by men and boys in building a feminist future
- Actionable and straightforward advice applicable to everyone trying to make a difference for women around the world
An essential text for feminist advocates who find themselves in an increasingly challenging political and social environment, The Everyday Feminist is the practical blueprint to social change that lawmakers, activists, entrepreneurs, and non-profit professionals have been waiting for.
MARCH RELEASE | Birthing Liberation: How Reproductive Justice Can Set Us Free by Sabia Wade, Chicago Review Press
Sabia C. Wade, renowned radical doula and educator, speaks to the intersections of systemic issues—such as access to health care, house transportation, and nutrition—and personal trauma work that, if healed, have the power to lead us to collective liberation in all facets of life.
Collective liberation rests on the idea that in order for us all to have equity in this world—from the safety of childbirth, to the ability to bring a baby home to a safe community, to having access to resources, safety, and opportunities over the long term—we must all become liberated individuals.
Birthing Liberation creates a path to social and systemic change, starting within the birthing world and expanding far beyond.