Welcome to International Women’s Day at Book Riot

This post is part of our International Women’s Day celebration. See all the posts here.


It’s International Women’s Day, a day to “celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women” while also remembering that “urgent action is needed to accelerate gender parity.” In this spirit, all the posts on the site today are from women–from readers and writers both, writing about whatever issue or topic is in the front of their minds at the moment. Some wrote about diversity. Some about raising the next generation of readers. Some wrote about kitties and the work of writing.

This year’s IWD feels particularly necessary. In my own country, abortion access is being passive-aggressively whittled away by condescending patronizers who claim to only have women’s best interests at heart. One of our leading Presidential candidates is a raging misogynist whose hateful idiocy would, I believe, actively lead to more violence toward and oppression of women. One in seven women in the U.S. lives in poverty–a state a woman is even more likely to find herself in if she is not white, or has a disability. The work of feminism feels like a one-step-forward-two-steps-back game.

Over 800,000 people are trafficked into slavery every year across international borders– 80% of those people are women. Over 10 million underaged girls across the world are married off before they turn 18. Women carry the greater burden of poverty globally. Racism and its feminist counterpoint (“White feminism”) ensure that the problems most relevant to white, Western, straight, able-bodied women are focused on the most, while issues facing women of color, women in poverty, LGBTQ women, and disabled women are ignored or erased (for example, 2015 saw the highest murder rate of trans women in U.S. history–almost all of the victims were women of color–and media coverage of the crimes was almost non-existent).

The book world has its own sexism issues. Every year, the VIDA count shows us how books by men are reviewed more than books by women, and how male reviewers are given bylines more often than female reviewers. Over 85% of the literary Nobel Prize winners are men. On a personal note, the days when we publish articles here at Book Riot about sexism in the book world are the days I get the most harassment on social media for daring to let it happen. Men have attacked my character, my appearance, my ability to parent my children, and my sanity, all in response to things I have said about sexism in the book world. The men on our staff do not experience this. Not ever.

Obviously, we have more work to do for women. We’ve decided to focus on International Women’s Day today here at Book Riot because we believe that books can change people. Reading can make you more empathetic, and that’s where social change begins, isn’t it? At the place where you begin to empathize with other human beings, recognize their humanity and give weight to their suffering, feel anger at the injustices they experience.

So today, we give the platform over exclusively to women writers and readers from all over the world, and from all backgrounds. We will talk about fantasy novels, comic books, literary fiction, nonfiction, essays, young adult novels, and children’s books that have moved us. Tonight, we will go home and read them. And tomorrow (and beyond tomorrow, until we close up shop), we will continue to talk about sexism in the book world and out of it, and all the ways it affects our lives as readers and writers, and to yell loudly about excellent work from women authors.

Happy International Women’s Day, Rioters.

Terry Tempest Williams on Women and Books

This post is part of our International Women's Day celebration. See all the posts here. This is a guest post from Terry Tempest Williams. Terry is the award-winning author of fifteen books including When Women Were Birds. Her forthcoming book, The Hour of Land - A Personal Topography of America's National Parks will be published on June 7, 2016. Follow her on Twitter @TempestWilliams.   Woman and books.  My mother loved novels:  Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann (1967). My grandmother Lettie loved biographies: Tallulah – My Autobiography by Tallulah Bankhead (1952).  My grandmother Mimi loved psychology: The Way of...Continue Reading

Feminist-Friendly Comic Books

This post is part of our International Women's Day celebration. See all the posts here. Comics are gaining more women creators and more books than ever are directly aimed at women readers. This is a big shift given that comics have been aimed at young boys for so many years. It’s been a slow change, but a perceptible one, and despite pushback and regression from Marvel and DC (the big two comic book publishers) many great women-oriented reads are now available. A sea change is happening in the comic book industry and even if you have never read a comic...Continue Reading

Lauren Beukes On Writers and Their Cats

This post is part of our International Women's Day celebration. See all the posts here. This is a guest post from Lauren Beukes. Lauren is a former journalist who got to interview homeless sex workers, electricity cable thieves, and township vigilantes among other interesting people, before she turned to writing kids cartoons and full-time novel-writing. Her books include Zoo City, Broken Monsters, and The Shining Girls and have been translated into 26 languages and won multiple awards, including the Arthur C Clarke Award, the University of Johannesburg Prize, The Strand Critics Choice Award, and the August Derleth Prize. She lives in...Continue Reading

Fatima Mernissi, Morocco’s Feminist Icon

This post is part of our International Women's Day celebration. See all the posts here. This is a guest post from Ausma Zehanat Khan. Ausma holds a Ph.D. in international human rights law. She is a former adjunct law professor and was editor in chief of Muslim Girl magazine, the first magazine targeted to young Muslim women. A British-born Canadian, Khan now lives in Colorado with her husband. The Language of Secrets is her second novel, following The Unquiet Dead. She is currently at work on her third mystery in the series. Follow her on Twitter @Ausmazehanat. In honour of International...Continue Reading

Sonali Dev on Why She Writes The Heroines She Writes

This post is part of our International Women's Day celebration. See all the posts here. This is a guest post from Sonali Dev. Award winning author Sonali Dev writes Bollywood-style love stories that let her explore issues faced by women around the world while still indulging her faith in a happily ever after. Sonali’s novels have been on Library Journal, NPR, and Kirkus Best Books lists. She won the American Library Association’s award for best romance in 2014, is a RITA Finalist, RT Reviewer Choice Award Nominee, and winner of the RT Seal of Excellence. Sonali lives in the Chicago...Continue Reading

All Around the World: Women Writers from Every Continent

This post is part of our International Women's Day celebration. See all the posts here.   Whenever I get the bright idea to write lists of my favorite women writers, I quickly remember that it’s much more complicated than “I love Toni Morrison!” Who, to be clear, I dearly love, but she is one of the women writers who did not make my list. This list of women writers from all seven continents* was inspired by International Women's Day, but really came to life when I realized I was sorely deficient on reading books by Australian authors. (The * is...Continue Reading

On Worldviews and Reading Widely

This post is part of our International Women's Day celebration. See all the posts here. In the last few years, mostly by the influence of the rad community here, I've made my reading choices 100% more deliberate than they ever were before. In addressing that, I've read some awesome books that have significantly affected my worldview and broadened my cultural knowledge in ways my anthropology classes during university didn't. And since we're talking about this on International Women's Day, I'm going to narrow the scope down to a few lady-authored books. I'm a teacher. My first couple of years teaching...Continue Reading

50 of the Best Heroines from Middle Grade Books

This post is part of our International Women's Day celebration. See all the posts here.   Some of the wisest people I know I met from children’s books, particularly from middle grade books (stories geared toward eight-to-twelve year olds, but they are great for adults too!). Ever since I could read, I have stored treasures of wisdom from so many amazing girls who stood up for themselves, overcame overwhelming challenges, made mistakes and made things right again, were wronged and extended grace, fell down and got back up, and stood by their convictions despite persecution. You can say that even now,...Continue Reading

Between Worlds: Finding Home in Fantasy

This post is part of our International Women's Day celebration. See all the posts here.   I understand that International Women’s Day is so named in order to celebrate women all over the world, but recently it’s become a day to ponder the “international” side of my identity. As an Indian woman who’s lived in India for a mere seven years, the migrant experience is certainly the one I can relate to the most. Even before I knew the existence of novels on migration—some of which I’d later studied and found objectively interesting, but subjectively Not For Me—I knew there...Continue Reading

How to Raise a Well-Read Woman

This post is part of our International Women's Day celebration. See all the posts here.   Start by telling her stories out of your own mind when she can't fully understand you yet. As she grows up and starts understanding your tales, she will learn that stories and books come from the imagination of humans just like you and her. Make storytelling a sacred activity for you and her, and when you run out of stories from your own head, take her to a book shop and let her pick the books she wants. Explain that those books are just...Continue Reading

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