Several years ago, Book Riot assigned a feminist book for one of its reading challenge prompts, and people seemed to keep picking from the same 2-3 titles over and over and over. But one can find feminist themes in pretty much every genre, and to prove it, I created a list of feminist book recommendations for every single prompt. I’ve been doing it ever since.
This year, I’m changing things up and doing POPSUGAR’s challenge instead of Book Riot’s. I won’t do the whole list — because whewwww … time consuming! — but here are some feminist recommendations for several prompts:
PUBLISHED IN 2020
ABlack Women’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry & Kali Nicole Gross
Conditional Citizens by Laila Lalami
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
We Served the People: My Mother’s Stories by Emei Burell
Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country by Sierra Crane Murdoch
Leila Abid’s parents got together the old-fashioned way: via arranged marriage. Decades later, their relationship is one of mutual love and respect. Naturally, they want the same kind of stability for their daughter. And now that Leila is practically on the verge of spinsterhood — at the ripe old age of 26 — they feel that it’s time for their picky, flighty daughter to settle down.
Leila is a progressive American woman with a long list of traits she wants in a potential husband. She wants a Bollywood love story with a handsome hero. She wants a partner who will treat her as an equal. She wants someone who won’t mind that she’ll never be the type of Indian wife who can naturally cook traditional Indian meals. And of course, he needs to be drop-dead gorgeous with an amazing smile with an exciting life and intellectual pursuits. Even her friends tell her that her expectations are unrealistic.
Constantly at odds with her parents, she makes a deal: if she’s not engaged in three months, she will let them arrange her marriage.
I am a librarian now, but for the last year and a half I had the opportunity to put my Women’s History degree to use and teach some History 1301 and 1302 classes. One topic I was constantly searching for added readings or movies on was Executive Order 9066, which gave the green light for the forced relocation and imprisonment of about 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry in the United States during World War II.
Oh, how I wish I’d had this book for supplementary material!
They Called Us Enemy is co-written by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott, and gorgeously illustrated by Harmony Becker. It focuses on Takei’s childhood experiences, when his family was sent to live at the Rohwer camp in Arkansas. Later, his parents refused to mark “yes” on a survey declaring that they were wiling to serve in the US armed forces and disavow the Japanese emperor. As “no-nos,” his parents were treated as enemies of the state, and the family was sent to a higher security camp, Tule Lake in California. It was particularly sobering to realize that his parents were about my age when all of this was happening; they lost everything and were forced into an uncertain future with very young children in tow.
What it is: A young adult novel about a 16-year-old girl named Bri who wants to become the next great rapper. Her father was a rapper who died before his time, but she doesn’t want to be a mini version of him, the way everyone thinks she’ll be; Bri is her own person with her own style. She’s feeling the pressure to succeed: her mother has lost her job and her neighborhood is ruled by gangs. If she can make it big, she can help her family.
Why I read it: Angie Thomas is a great writer.
What I thought: I read Thomas’s debut, The Hate U Give, and while I wasn’t as blown away by it as so many others were, I could appreciate the book; it just felt like Thomas was throwing too much in at once. I didn’t feel like that about On the Come Up; in fact, I liked it more than The Hate U Give. Here, all of the plot points — even the over-the-top ones — felt appropriate; Bri is trying to make it big as a rapper, after all. Thomas beautifully balances bigger social and political issues with the important, personal questions that teens face as they come of age.
Graciela Iturbide is a Mexican photographer and artist whose photographs seem to straddle the line between stark reality and another dream world. She was a creative child who dabbled with a camera in her youth, but she didn’t dedicate herself to photography until after marriage, motherhood, and the devastating loss of one of her children. She became an apprentice for the photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo, honing her skills and learning to wait for the right shots.
Her career took off; she’s known for photographing indigenous communities in Mexico and the United States, but she has traveled the world to photograph landscapes and communities for international publications. When Frida Kahlo’s bedroom was unsealed in 2004, Iturbide one of the few artists granted access to the private quarters.