If your feminism is not intersectional, then how feminist is it? That is the motto we are focusing on this Women’s History Month, where activism, intersectionality, equality and marginalized voices matter more than ever. We are experiencing some pretty crazy political changes across America as well as the world (pay attention to elections happening everywhere!) and it can be overwhelming or anxiety-inducing to say the least.
What has been encouraging to many is seeing the uprising against hate, fear, and division. After the huge turnout of the Women’s March the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, it is clear the resistance is woke and ready to fight back. But this hasn’t happened out of the blue, and nor can we celebrate today’s small victories and progressions without acknowledging the women who have come before us.
Although it is common to see women’s voices, stories and actions erased or silenced in favor of more prominent men (think back to how many women vs men you were taught about in history during your school years…) women have been fighting for equality and justice since the dawn of time. In honor of Women’s History Month, and with the hope that we can carry what we learn during these 30 days throughout the rest of the year, we’ve compiled a list of 10 essential books about and written by women of color you NEED to get your hands on.
We know carving out time to read a book can be asking a lot of your busy schedules, but with Audible’s 30 day free trial, downloading the following audiobooks means you can go about your day, and be inspired by some incredible women.
Most people are familiar with activist, scholar and writer Angela Davis who had close ties with the Black Panther Party through her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. She has been a controversial and polarizing figure throughout her political activism in particular, and has spoken out against the prison industrial complex which today enslaves more African American men that at the height of the Apartheid in South Africa.
In these newly collected essays, interviews, and speeches, world-renowned activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis illuminates the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world. Reflecting on the importance of black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism for today’s struggles, Davis discusses the legacies of previous liberation struggles – from the black freedom movement to the South African antiapartheid movement. She highlights connections and analyzes today’s struggles against state terror, from Ferguson to Palestine.
She is one of our favorite authors because she dares to take on a cultural climate that can cause some of the biggest political divisions today. Mona Eltahawy is an Egyptian author and activist who has spoken about being assaulted by the police during the Egyptian revolution. She wrote a groundbreaking piece about the way Muslim women are treated by Muslim men, which has led her to become an outspoken figure against the patriarchal traditions many women in Arab world face.
In this book she draws on her years as a campaigner and commentator on women’s issues in the Middle East, and explains that, since the Arab Spring began, women in the Arab world have had two revolutions to undertake: one fought with men against oppressive regimes, and another fought against an entire political and economic system that treats women as second-class citizens in countries from Yemen and Saudi Arabia to Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.
Eltahawy has traveled across the Middle East and North Africa, meeting with women and listening to their stories. Her book is a plea for outrage and action on their behalf, confronting the “toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend.”
North Korea has been in the news since Trump took office, with reports mainly focused on increasing tensions between the its leader and Trump’s stance on nuclear weapons. But it is not often we get to hear first hand accounts of people who have managed to successfully escape such an oppressive regime and live to tell the world what really happens in this country. That is, until Yeonmi Park, a young woman who endured a harrowing road to freedom, shared her story with the world.
She was born to a family of civil servants in the North Korean city of Hyesan, along the Chinese border. She grew up in a society in which the regime controls everything you do, everything you learn, where you go, what you say, even what you think. In this warped world, famine was a way of life and minor offenses, such as watching foreign videos, could prove fatal.
Yeonmi’s family was relatively privileged until her father, a party member, was arrested for smuggling. After that, life in North Korea became a ceaseless battle against starvation. Escaping with her mother, she began a long journey of unspeakable hardship and degradation (battling smugglers and human trafficking) through China and Mongolia, which finally yielded her freedom in South Korea. Today, Park is an influential leader of the younger generations of Korean dissidents and an internationally recognized advocate for human rights around the world.
Maya Angelou is an iconic American writer whose words are shared far and wide on social media. Her poetry and prose have become mainstays throughout decades of American socio-political change, as well person inspiration for many women around the world.
Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash”. At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age – and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns about love for herself and the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.
Immigration is one of the most talked-about issues globally, with more and more Syrian refugees fleeing their home cntry due to a seemingly never-ending civil war which began in 2011. With close to 5 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, hundreds of thousands attempting to reach a better life in Europe, and millions more displaced internally in Syria, the United Nations estimates this is the biggest refugee and displacement crisis of our time. How do we break through political rhetoric, fear-mongering, and media manipulation to understand the heart of this crisis? With books like this.
A story that has become all too familiar among many escaping refugees, 19 year-old Doaa Al Zamel is one of many who escaped Syria in an overcrowded boat on its way to Sweden, which ended up capsizing. Two young babies were thrust into Doaa’s arms by parents who could not swim. She also was unable to swim, but stayed afloat thanks to a small inflatable water ring around her waist.
This book is the courageous and heartbreaking story of an ordinary girls growing up in the midst of incredible turmoil, who’s only choice for survival was to escape her home. Survival takes on a new meaning when she becomes responsible for the lives of two babies in a stretch of water that has claimed many refugee lives. It is the kind of human story everyone with an opinion on the Syrian refugee crisis and immigration policies needs to read.
This award-winning, New York Times-bestselling novel is widely considered the “greatest Indian novel by a woman”. Set against a background of political turbulence in Kerala, Southern India, Arundhati Roy’s masterpiece tells the story of twins Esthappen and Rahel. Amongst the vats of banana jam and heaps of peppercorns in their grandmother’s factory, they try to craft a childhood for themselves amidst what constitutes their family – their lonely, lovely mother; their beloved uncle Chacko (pickle baron, radical Marxist and bottom pincher); and their avowed enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grand-aunt).
The twins see their world shaken irrevocably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie. It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest.
It was made into a feature film starring Oprah Winfrey, and is now a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. ‘The Color Purple’ is a story of survival, spirituality, and the strength of the bond between two sisters, spanning two continents and nearly three decades. Celie’s circumstances are unimaginable — poor, female, uneducated, motherless, and African American in the Deep South — she is without anyone to protect her, except her God.
As Celie survives sexual abuse from her stepfather, the death of her mother, the violent loss of her two children, and marriage to the monstrous and cruel “Mister”, she remains kind and loving through it all. When the beautiful and liberated singer Shug Avery comes into her life, Celie is opened up. Someone other than Nettie finally loves Celie, and she begins to truly see the beauty around her and believe her life is worth something.
‘The Color Purple’ is a study of the relationship between black lesbianism and traditional black female culture, told from the radical feminist perspective of one of America’s most famous black female writers.
Eva Peron was an Argentine feminist and political activist. After a career in radio and film, she went on to become one of the founders, alongside her husband President Juan Peron, of the Peronist political movement based on social justice, economic independence, and political sovereignty. She founded the country’s first large scale women-only political party and is considered a key figure in getting women the vote in Argentina. Peron also founded a society that supported orphans and provided housing for homeless women.
The story begins in a dusty village lost in the Argentine pampas, where a girl, born out of wedlock, scrambles her way to the capital city by the time she is 15. It ends with the embalmed corpse of Eva Peron being hidden away by nervous politicians for fear that if the working people of Argentina knew where it was buried, it would inspire them to revolution. In the colorful, tumultuous setting of postwar Argentina, she wielded a power, spiritual and practical, that has few parallels outside of hereditary monarchy. She was literally idolized by millions but was hated and feared by many as well. She became Evita the legend.
When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took office in late 2015, he vowed to do more to investigate the deaths of numerous indigenous women who had been brushed aside as “unimportant” by the previous government. Canada is facing a national crisis with missing and murdered indigenous women. However, this was not always the case. For decades it has been Canada’s dirty little secret. But the horrific murders of Loretta Saunders and Tina Fontaine in 2014 made headlines across Canada, ignited widespread outrage, and brought the crisis to the general public’s eyes and ears.
In Canada, while overall crime is at an all-time low, indigenous women and girls are more likely to be victims of violence, more likely to disappear, and more likely to be murdered by a serial killer than their nonindigenous counterparts. On a general level, centuries of discrimination, along with the effects of the residential school era and many other government policies, have led to systemic racism toward indigenous people. Attempts at genocide didn’t cease centuries ago, like many believe.
‘Invisible Victims’ is a shocking work that shines a spotlight on this national crisis and its root causes. It includes several specific cases and a review of the serial killers who have specifically targeted indigenous women and girls as a result of the apathy of Canada’s law enforcement, media, and government.
Our final book on this list (which is by no means exhaustive), is trans activist and media personality Janet Mock’s ‘Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More’. With acknowledgement of the Trump administration rolling back the rights of trans individuals to use the bathroom that they choose implemented under President Obama, once again the issue of disdain and indeed violence toward transgender people in America has reached fever pitch.
Solidarity rallies are being held, and an awareness of the need for progressive and inclusive understanding of what life is like as a trans individual today has never been more important. For example, Nigerian feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s controversial comments about trans women became a focal point recently, where many were angry that trans women were not included in her greater definition of what constitutes a woman today.
Janet Mock has become an outspoken figure in the media, bringing a nuanced, intelligent and authoritative voice to this discussion, along with other figures like actress Laverne Cox. Because of Janet’s willingness to speak out about her journey, we are seeing more and more trans men and women share their stories, break down misconceptions, and attempt to shed stigma about a community who have largely been misunderstood and misrepresented by mainstream politics.
We could keep this book list going forever, but we hope it gives you a glimpse into the importance of the stories and lives of women during Women’s History Month and beyond. Head over to Audible for your 30 day free trial and start downloading these books for your intersectional feminist collection.
This is a sponsored conversation written by us on behalf of Audible. The opinions and text are all ours.