by Leah Hocking.
This March, to celebrate Women’s History Month, which highlights and commemorates women’s contributions to history and society, I’ve put together a (non-exhaustive) recommendations list of books, by women and about women, which are perfect to read this month:
Hood Feminism – Mikki Kendall
As the front cover of this feminist non-fiction states, ‘Hood Feminism’ is an exploration of the important issues and topics which are often excluded from mainstream, white-washed feminism. Kendall touches on a range of issues including gun violence, food insecurity, poverty, and education, reframing them through a feminist lens and examining how women, particularly women of colour, are disproportionately affected by systemic inequalities in society. This book also provides a deep look at the intersection of race and feminism, calling for what Kendall calls ‘hood feminism’: a feminism that would include and combat the issues that many women of colour face, instead of a feminism that places the priorities of only white women at the forefront. If you call yourself an ‘intersectional feminist’, you should definitely pick this one up!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid
Despite what the title may lead you to believe, this book is just as feminist as the others on this list. This story revolves around the fictional 1950s Cuban-American Hollywood starlet Evelyn Hugo, who picks the relatively unknown magazine reporter Monique Hart to write her life biography. Throughout the chapters, Evelyn’s tumultuous life and scandalous career are revealed for the first time, following her rise to fame as an actress in the 1950s/60s, the seven husbands she acquired along the way, and the forbidden yet truest love of her life. Evelyn Hugo herself is a riveting and incredibly complex character, and similarly to Jenkins-Reid’s 2019 novel Daisy Jones and The Six, the characters are written so viscerally that you may be tempted to google them just to ensure they’re not actually real. Along with the glamourous backdrop of 1950s Hollywood, this book also explores the struggles of being taken seriously as a woman in the film industry, clawing your way to the top, and doing whatever it takes to survive.
Becoming – Michelle Obama
It wouldn’t be a feminist book recommendations list if this book wasn’t included somewhere. This best-selling memoir chronicles the life of the first Black American first-lady Michelle Obama – from her childhood in Chicago, her law career, her marriage, her experience of motherhood, her time in the White House and her work as First Lady. The book is witty, honest, and reflective, and Michelle shares her life experiences with striking vulnerability. She shares both her highs and lows, offering the reader pearls of wisdom that she’s learned over the years. It’s a remarkable story of an incredible woman and will be inspiring to anyone, women and men alike, who is struggling to figure out the right path.
Know My Name – Chanel Miller
Previously known as ‘Emily Doe’ in the Stanford University sexual assault case, this powerful memoir recounts Chanel Miller’s journey to reclaiming her identity and bravely sharing her trauma with the world. Chanel details her story of sexual assault and healing with unflinching honesty, guiding the reader through the days and months after the assault, sprinkling in powerful and beautiful metaphors to express her emotions. She describes her frustration and anguish at how sexual assault survivors are treated by the legal system, the media, and society in general, explaining the common struggle of victims having to constantly relive their trauma and be victimized all over again. Although difficult and heart-breaking, this is also a hopeful and incredibly inspiring book that should be required reading.
Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo
Winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ is an amalgam of 12 women’s experiences in Britain, spanning across the 20th century and into the present day. Evaristo has a unique writing style in terms of her lack of punctuation and capitalisation, creating lyrical, run-on prose which reads like poetry. Through the characters’ experiences, all of which have an overarching connection, this book offers a deep exploration of human nature and all that comes with it – gender, sexuality, race, relationships, motherhood, religion, and much more. It serves as a pure celebration of Black British history, placing emphasis on Black women and their stories, and therefore painting a vibrant picture of the Black British experience.
Educated – Tara Westover
This memoir tells the story of Tara Westover’s life and journey to getting an education. Born to survivalist Mormon parents who distrusted the government and didn’t believe in public schools or healthcare, Westover and her siblings spent their childhoods preparing for the end of the world and working on their father’s junkyard in Idaho. As Tara never had a formal education, she dedicated her time to educating herself at home until she was accepted into university, which was the first time she had been in a classroom or learned of historical events like the Holocaust and the Civil Rights movement. Tara’s grit and determination to learn more about the world are prevalent throughout the book, and her journey highlights the important and transformative nature of education. It’s an inspiring book about a woman taking her life back into her own hands.