Today we are celebrating International Women’s Day by talking about books that center the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
In her memoir, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms.
Here is Megan Stack’s memoir of raising her children abroad with the help of Chinese and Indian women who are also working mothers. Stack grew increasingly aware of the brutal realities of their lives: domestic abuse, alcoholism, unplanned pregnancies. Hiring poor women had given her the ability to work while raising her children, but what ethical compromise had she made? Women’s Work is an unforgettable story of four women as well as an electrifying meditation on the evasions of marriage, motherhood, feminism, and privilege.
Even in this time of rethinking women’s roles, we define genius almost exclusively through male achievement. Janice Kaplan uses her unique mix of memoir, narrative, and inspiration and makes surprising discoveries about women geniuses now and throughout history, in fields from music to robotics. Through interviews with neuroscientists, psychologists, and dozens of women geniuses at work in the world today she proves that genius isn’t just about talent. It’s about having that talent recognized, nurtured, and celebrated.
In this personal essay—adapted from her much-admired TEDx talk of the same name—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah, offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.
Today’s feminist movement has a glaring blind spot. Mikki Kendall argues that mainstream feminists rarely talk about meeting basic needs as a feminist issue, but food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues. In her searing collection of essays, Mikki Kendall takes aim at the legitimacy of the modern feminist movement, arguing that it has chronically failed to address the needs of all but a few women. Drawing on her own experiences, along with incisive commentary on politics, pop culture, the stigma of mental health, and more, Hood Feminism delivers an irrefutable indictment of a movement in flux.
As a young woman coming of age in the late 1960s, Isabel Allende rode the second wave of feminism. Among a tribe of like-minded women journalists, Allende for the first time felt comfortable in her own skin, as they wrote about women’s issues. She has seen what the movement has accomplished in the course of her lifetime. So what feeds the soul of feminists—and all women—today? Allende gives a passionate and inspiring meditation on what it means to be a woman.
Based on years of on-the-ground reporting, The Daughters of Kobani is the unforgettable story of the women of the Kurdish militia that improbably became part of the world’s best hope for stopping ISIS in Syria. Drawing from hundreds of hours of interviews, author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon introduces us to the women fighting on the front lines, shining a light on a group intent on not only defeating the Islamic State on the battlefield but also changing women’s lives in their corner of the Middle East and beyond.
Cassie Chambers, an Appalachian lawyer, pays tribute to the strong “hill women” who raised and inspired her, and whose values have the potential to rejuvenate a struggling region. Appalachian women face issues that are all too common: domestic violence, the opioid crisis, a world that seems more divided by the day. But they are also community leaders, keeping their towns together in the face of a system that continually fails them. With nuance and heart, Chambers uses these women’s stories paired with her own journey to break down the myth of the hillbilly and illuminate a region whose poor communities, especially women, can lead it into the future.
Here is a powerful, emotional debut novel told in the unforgettable voice of a young Nigerian woman who is trapped in a life of servitude but determined to fight for her dreams and choose her own future. Despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in her path, Adunni never loses sight of her goal of escaping the life of poverty she was born into so that she can build the future she chooses for herself—and help other girls like her do the same. Her spirited determination to find joy and hope in even the most difficult circumstances imaginable will inspire others to reach their dreams, and maybe even change the world.