In honor of March being Women’s History month I have made it my mission to post about one woman per day. I’m posting about a variety of women, women who are brave or admirable. Women who in some measure make the world a better place to be. However, I have also decided to put together a Women’s History Month reading list. It’s short, but Women’s History Month is only 31 days long. Here are a few of my favorite books that have been written by women that explore the idea of what it means to be a woman. All of the books on this list have resonated with me in some manner, I feel like each of them changed or shaped my thinking in some way, and after the completion of each book I haven’t been able to let any of them go. I hope you enjoy!
a mercy, by Toni Morrison. I’m actually going to devote a WHM post to Toni Morrison, because, duh. But I’m for sure going to include her here, also because DUH. Truthfully any of Morrison’s works would be appropriate for this list, but a mercy is undoubtedly my favorite of her novels. All of Morrison’s novels are profound and moving, you can read any one of her books that you choose and be forever changed after. This one in particular resonated with me. In this novel, as in each of her novels preceding and following this one, Morrison explores the ideas of what it means to be human, paying special attention to race and gender. Set against the backdrop of early colonial America,this novel explores the relationships between mothers and daughters. It pays homage to the countless ways women have suffered or been marginalized for generations, yet have managed to find means of survival. a mercy is a hauntingly beautiful story, and is truly one of the most moving novels that I have read in my life time.
There is no protection. To be female in this place is to be an open wound that cannot heal. Even if scars form, the festering is ever below.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Many may groan with this suggestion, it may perhaps seem like too obvious of a choice. But there is a reason that this book is remembered with such fondness, and still to this day has such a devoted following. Much like a mercy, this book focuses on the relationships between mothers and daughters. It speaks of the courage and strength that women are capable of, and sheds light on the importance of education and imagination.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. This one is another no-brainer, but I’m including it in case you have never been previously required to read it. A Room of One’s Own is a landmark feminist work, comprised of two speeches Woolf gave on two separate occasions. It makes the argument that every would-be woman writer should have her own money and a room of her own, free from distraction in which to write. In this essay, she discusses the history of women and literature, and the reasons that women have had (at that time) far fewer contributions to the literary world. She concludes (accurately) that women had fewer opportunities because of the long standing expectation that they exclusively function as wives and mothers, and that they have a more difficult time accessing education, finances, or free time in which they may write.
Solar Storms by Linda Hogan. This book. I do not even know where to start. Even thinking the title is enough to make me emotional. Set amidst the glimmering backdrop of the boundary waters between Minnesota and Canada, this book questions the relationship between humans and nature while focusing on the strength of feminine relationships and the bonds of family, blood or otherwise. It is the coming-of-age story, of the very troubled 17-year-old Angela Jensen, as she learns to accept her cultural identity and the complexities of loving her family.
I am Malala: the Girl who Stood up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb In my opinion, the title says it all. Malala is a real-life heroine. Her story is courageous, heart-breaking and admirable. In her short lifetime, Malala has endured more horrors than most of us will ever even dream of. Yet, as a young girl she bravely stood up for what she believed in and almost paid the ultimate price. Prior to being shot, Malala and her father were advocates for girls’ rights and education in Pakistan, now she is world renowned and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. This book provides a detailed description of the daily challenges Malala faced as a young girl attending school when she was told not to, and gives a harrowing account of how she survived her shooting. It also serves as a call to action, Malala shows us that every girl deserves access to an education and that anyone can make a difference.