Originally published at MACUHO Diversity

Closing is (finally) finished and summer is HERE! That means summer dresses, outdoor concerts, farmer’s markets and if you’re like me- a new book list. Though you’re probably getting inundated with Buzzfeed articles about the top 10 beach books to accompany you on your vacation this summer, I want to offer an alternative book list just for us Student Affairs folks. Many of us are self-identified lifelong learners who love to expose ourselves to new topics and stay aware of what’s happening in the world. So- this summer in between Jodi Picoult and the new John Green, why not add a book or two about one of my favorite topics- feminism!

From #MeToo to #TimesUp to Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer to the leading ladies of Black Panther (the #1 best selling superhero movie of all time- still in theaters and a must-see), this year women have taken center stage fighting for equal pay, representation, sexual justice and more. More than ever, we are being called to educate ourselves on how to better support and advocate for women. Below are 10 books that can help with that journey!

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Book Type: Fiction

Major Theme: Mental Health

This classic by Sylvia Plath tells the story of Esther Greenwood- a young college student who slowly struggles to keep a grasp of reality as she endures a psychological breakdown. This is a great story for people who are interested in learning about how women’s rights intersect with mental health stigma, mental health wellness, and resilience. The writing is absolutely beautiful and the story will most definitely grip you from beginning to end.

Quote: “To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.”

2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Book Type: Fiction

Major Theme: Immigration

Americanah follows the story of a Nigerian student named Ifemelu who moves to America to pursue her education at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. While there, she struggles to make meaning of her new identity as an “Americanah” (neither fully Nigerian nor fully American) while navigating predominately white higher education spaces. Americanah is part love story, part immigrant’s tale, and part intersectional feminist rant (you may have heard of Adichie by the way from her voiceover in Beyonce’s Flawless!).

Quote: “She had always liked this image of herself as too much trouble, as different, and she sometimes thought of it as a carapace that kept her safe.”

3. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Book Type: Fiction

Major Theme: Immigration

The Joy Luck Club is the story of two generations of Chinese mothers and daughters who struggle to connect with each other and their culture while living in San Francisco, California (you most likely read it while you were in high school). What I love most about this book are the rich descriptions of Mah Jong and the heart-wrenching mother/daughter moments. Tan is an amazing, haunting writer whose words will stay with you long after the summer.

Quote:  “I will use this sharp pain to penetrate my daughter’s tough skin and cut her tiger spirit loose. She will fight me, because this is the nature of two tigers. But I will win and give her my spirit, because this is the way a mother loves her daughter.”

4. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Book Type: Fiction

Major Themes: Sexual Assault, Sexual Orientation

Before The Color Purple was a hit film (starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and OPRAH no less), it was a book written by womanist writer Alice Walker. The novel is written in a series of letters written by the main character Celie, a fourteen year old girl in the South who is forced to marry an abusive man. In the letters, Celie writes about her hopes, dreams, and how much she misses her sister, Nettie. Fair warning- this book will make you cry a ton!

Quote: “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

5. Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

Book Type: Memoir

Theme: Trans Identity, Intersectional Feminism

In Redefining Realness, Mock tells the story of how she is able to step into her trans identity while growing up as a young girl in Hawaii. The memoir is a story of hope and resilience that calls each of us to be our true selves and live our deepest truth. While you read this, you will find yourself highlighting and underlining many of Mock’s awesome one-liners.

Quote: “I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community.”

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

Book Type: Essays

Major Theme: Sexual Assault, Sizeism

Through a number of poignant essays, Roxane Gay (famously known for her book of essays entitled Bad Feminist) takes on the topic of sizeism. Gay encourages us to consider why we are so obsessed with size as a culture, and tells stories of how size has personally affected her as a professor and feminist. This book will definitely check you a ton so get ready for learning!

Quote: “This is what most girls are taught — that we should be slender and small. We should not take up space. We should be seen and not heard, and if we are seen, we should be pleasing to men, acceptable to society. And most women know this, that we are supposed to disappear, but it’s something that needs to be said, loudly, over and over again, so that we can resist surrendering to what is expected of us.”

7. Zami, A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde

Book Type: Memoir (Biomythography)

Major Theme: Sexual Orientation & Ethnicity

Audre Lorde is a prolific feminist writer who is most widely known for quotes like “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” and “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” Lorde’s prose is just as poignant. In Zami, Lorde tells us the story of growing up as a black (West-Indian) lesbian in New York City and eventually moving and living in Mexico. Zami is a coming-of-age story and a love story that focuses on communities of women who support and nurture each other.

Quote: “I remember how being young and Black and gay and lonely felt. A lot of it was fine, feeling I had the truth and the light and the key, but a lot of it was purely hell.”

8. Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Book Type: Nonfiction

Major Theme: Feminist Spirituality, Mythography

Estes is a Jungian analyst, storyteller, and poet who utilizes mythology to uplift women and help them to gain greater clarity in their lives. Each chapter of this book starts with an ancient myth and ends with a message on how it can apply to our lives as “wild women.” The book talks about everything from motherhood, to sex, to dream interpretation. I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in thinking about global womanhood and feminism.

Quote: “I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories… water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.”

9. Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur

Book Type: Poetry

Major Theme: Intersectional Feminism, Love, Sexual Assault

Kaur has become THE poet of this generation offering up hundreds of poems that encourage readers to think about love, loss, abuse, longing, violence, and womanhood. Originally known for her popular Instagram poems, Kaur has reached international acclaim by performing her relatable poems around the world (she recently even made a stop at my institution!). The poems in Milk & Honey, accompanied by small gorgeous drawings, are perfect for those of you who may be at a loss for time and want to read something short and sweet.

Quote: “Loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself.”

10. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Book Type: Fiction

Major Themes: Sexual Assault

Let’s end with a little teen fiction (no vampires or werewolves, I promise)! Speak is a book that has stuck with me since I was a teenager. It chronicles the story of Melinda, a high school student who stops speaking after being raped at a party by her classmate. Melinda struggles to cope with what happened, but is able to seek out healing and freedom by expressing herself in her art class. This book is definitely a tear jerker (let’s be honest-all of these are), but it is also a powerful story of resilience and hope that will remind you how important it is to speak and live your truth.

Quote: “You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.”

Though I’m sure you’re ready to add all of these to your list, I know that 10 books is limiting. If none of these interest your fancy, check out the links below to discover other feminist books. Happy reading!





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