In honor of International Women’s Day, it’s important to recognize the contributions of the women that came before us who worked tirelessly towards achieving political, economic, cultural, and societal equality. While there is still more work to be done, let’s use today to celebrate the achievements of influential women who have transformed society and let them inspire us to continue moving forward and working towards justice for women. I’m going to recommend books and memoirs to help you become inspired by all the progress that has been made, but aware of all that is left to be done.
- Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in 15 Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This must read is a letter that Adichie wrote to her childhood friend that includes fifteen detailed suggestions on how to raise your daughter to become a strong, empowered, and independent feminist. Some of the suggestions include rejecting likability, declining marriage as an achievement, exposing her to questioning culture, teaching her to love books as to acquire knowledge to answer questions, and accepting difference as ordinary.
- The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan: Sparking the beginning of second-wave feminism in the United States, this book traces the return of women to domestic life after pre-war emancipation. Friedan argues that women were socially pressured into becoming homemakers through education and popular media, which prevented them from developing full, autonomous identities. She encourages both men and women to reject the feminine mystique and rather pursue self-fulfillment through higher education.
- Becoming by Michelle Obama: The former First Lady says “I’m an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey. In sharing my story, I hope to help create space for other stories and other voices, to widen the pathway for who belongs and why.” In this powerful and intimate memoir, Mrs. Obama gives a candid account of her life inside and outside the White House.
- Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde: This book presents essential writings of the Black feminist, lesbian, poet, mother, and warrior Audre Lorde, celebrating her influential voice in twentieth-century literature. In the collection of these essays and speeches, Lorde takes on issues of sexism, racism, homophobia, and class, but offers messages of hope by suggesting social difference as a vehicle for action and change.
- Women, Culture, and Politics by Angela Davis: In this collection of speeches and writings by political activist, scholar, author, and speaker Angela Davis, she addresses the political and social changes of the past decade that are associated with the struggle for racial, sexual, and economic equality. Davis is an outspoken advocate for the oppressed and exploited, and is extremely knowledgeable on several topic areas such as Black liberation and prison abolition.
- My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg: This book is a collection of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s writing and speeches dating back to the eighth grade, showing the development of her political stance and the impact she’s had on law, women’s rights, and popular culture. She is idolized by many Americans for her strength, courage, and most importantly, for serving as an influential and powerful figure who speaks up for civility.
- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini: While this book wasn’t written by a woman, it’s still such an important read for all feminists, as it recounts the horrendous conditions Afghani women were subject to throughout the Soviet and American invasions including abuse, arranged marriages, and honor killings. This fictional novel highlights the realities that women had to face that is often ignored in Western media and literature.
- We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: In this essay-styled short read adapted from her popular TEDx Talk, Adichie argues that being a feminist means recognizing that sexism exists and fighting towards fixing that problem. She claims that teaching people to adhere to gender roles does a great disservice to them, and makes her argument through powerful personal anecdotes about her life in Nigeria.
- My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor: In this emotionally intimate memoir by the first Hispanic Justice on the United States Supreme Court, Sotomayor discusses issues like racism, class, immigration, and privilege, recounting on the hardships of her childhood. This memoir is moving, and President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court points out that her story is the embodiment of the American dream.
- You Don’t Have to Like Me by Alida Nugent: In this book, Nugent uses humor to document her journey to feminism while using personal experiences to expand on larger societal issues concerning women’s rights. Through anecdotes on growing up, speaking out, and finding feminism, she admits her own patriarchal complicity during periods of her life but explains how her experiences with sexual shame, harassment, and assault made her realize the importance of becoming a feminist, standing up for yourself, and not conforming to gender norms.
Hopefully these book recommendations make you appreciate the badass women who have worked towards making a difference. However, despite all the progress that has been made, the fight is not over. It’s important that you speak up and put your voice into existence. Don’t just stand up for yourself, but for all the other women in the world who are also struggling towards achieving equality. The fight is not over until all of us are free.