Feminism. The “other” F-word. And now, apparently, it has shown up on Time Magazine’s list of words we should ban in 2015 — at a time when we need it more than ever. Here are some of my favorite feminist books — not necessarily about feminism per se, but books written by feminist women, with unabashedly powerful female characters and stories that refuse to be silenced.
Dora: A Headcase by Lidia Yuknavitch
This book- a modern, feminist re-telling of Freud’s Dora, follows a young woman and her dynamic group of friends. They plan “art-attacks,” shake up conventional norms, and face very real challenges. The book is a smart commentary on the mental health system and reminds us how many female historical characters still have to tell their own stories. Dora is a wittier, tougher, amped-up version of Holden Caulfield, who has nothing on her.
Home/Birth: A Poemic by Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker
Whatever your views on home birth, this book is a must-read. Structured in a prose-poem-essay style, the writers examine the culture of birth, women’s lives, and societal norms regarding pregnancy and birth. Personal anecdotes, evidence-based information, and history all come together in these pages, providing the reader with new perspectives and plenty to think about.
Inferno: A Poet’s Novel by Eileen Myles
I’ve read this several times, and every time I read it I find new sentences to highlight because of their lyrical beauty, or new phrases to underline because of their accuracy. This story about a young female writer in the punk days of New York City is raw, muscular, and beautiful. The writing spares the reader nothing in its descriptions of sexuality, the process of making art, and the struggles that accompany an artist’s life.
If you were a teenager in the 90s, Riot Grrrl may bring back memories of Bikini Kill, zines, Sleater-Kinney, and more. This book tells the story of how the RG movement came about and how it intersected with the feminist punk culture that was emerging at the same time. Not only does it provide a thorough and compelling history, but it is passionate and enthusiastic enough to be inspiring for any Riot Grrrls of the future.
The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde, an activist, writer, poet, and professor, wrote about her experiences while being treated for breast cancer. She examines the role of women’s bodies and how society views the body, as well as how it relates to concepts of femininity — and what cancer does to all of that. Her writing and ideas challenge norms and force readers to examine their own beliefs. This is not simply a journal, it is a commentary on politics and community.
There are so many other writers I could list here — Nikki Giovanni, Alice Walker, Laurie Weeks, bell hooks, Naomi Wolf, Eve Ensler, Virginia Woolf, Betty Friedan, Nancy Chodorow — that I could go on forever. I’m interested in broadening the conversation, exploring writers I don’t yet know about or haven’t read. What are your favorite feminist books, who are your favorite feminist writers?