Jane at ItsJaneLindsey has announced that she will be hosting Feiminist Lit February, and I’m super excited to participate in a readathon focused on reading feminist books. It’s going to be awesome!
If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check out her announcement video here for all of the details and challenges. You should also check out her recommendation video, as I’ll be building off her recommendations in this post.
It was interesting putting this list together because it made me realize that I don’t read that many overtly feminist fiction books. At the same time, I think a lot of the fiction I pick up is inherently feminist as it’s written by women and oftentimes for women, and since 84 percent of the books I read last year were written or cowritten by female authors, I’m not too concerned about it. It just made it a bit harder to put together this list, though I would say for me personally that it’s more important for me to read feminist nonfiction since it then informs my fiction reading.
Let’s start out by getting a few big ones out of the way. I absolutely second Jane’s recommendation of The Female of the Species, which is amazing and was one of my favorite books of 2017. It’s basically about a girl who kills men for raping or sexually assaulting women, and it’s such a powerful read. I also recommend checking out Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl if you haven’t yet. It’s a super readable thriller, but it also has a lot of really interesting insights into the expectations society has for women, and it plays on a lot of stereotypes to throw you off your game.
Speaking of my favorite reads of last year, I totally back up Jane’s recommendation of The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I was actually never assigned to read it in school and I wound up loving it when I picked it up for Banned Books Week. And while I personally didn’t like The Handmaid’s Tale, I do still think it’s worth the read and I would also second that recommendation.
And if you haven’t read Bad Feminist yet, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! That book is so important and is the one book I recommend reading this month if you haven’t already. Hunger is also an excellent read if you haven’t checked that out yet.
It should also come as no surprise to see We Should All Be Feminists and Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on this list, especially since Dear Ijeawele was also one of my favorite books of 2017. If you haven’t read them yet, they’re both less than 100 pages, so there’s really no excuse not to read them.
Ok, I think those are some of the heavyweights out of the way. Now on to some books you might not have read just yet!
Iran Awakening by Shirin Ebadi
It really doesn’t get much more feminist than Iran Awakening, Shirin Ebadi’s memoir about advocating for the rights of women and children in Iran. She was the first female judge in Iran before religious authorities deemed women unfit to serve on the bench. She then turned to human rights work, which helped her earn the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. Ebadi’s work has led to her being the target of assassination attempts, and I believe she’s now an exile from her homeland. It’s an incredibly powerful and inspiring read that I highly encourage you to check out.
Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Kzizhnik
Notorious RBG is a short and fun read, but it’s also an excellent introduction into what an amazing person Ruth Bader Ginsberg is. Seriously, that woman is a rockstar, and she’s done so much to advance gender equality throughout her life. It’s actually horrifying to realize how recently women didn’t have a lot of the rights that we now take for granted, and RBG was instrumental in helping obtain those rights and advance feminism. This book is incredibly inspiring and does a great job balancing the memes with RBG’s Supreme Court briefs and opinions, and I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already.
Ashley’s War by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
I’m actually a little hesitant to recommend Ashley’s War as I didn’t think it was that thorough or well written, by Lemmon definitely hit on a fascinating and powerful story that I highly recommend checking out. This book follows the story of the first women allowed into combat roles in Afghanistan and Iraq (though they couldn’t technically be called combat positions) and the hurdles they had to go through in order to get to those roles, focusing specifically on a soldier named Ashley. Honestly, how can you not want to learn more about that? Like I said, I had some reservations about the writing style and I’m not sure enough history and context were included in this book, but despite those things, I definitely think this is a book worth reading.
One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
I just read One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of this Will Matter earlier this month and definitely recommend checking it out. It’s an essay collection by Buzzfeed writer Scaachi Koul about her experience growing up as the children of Indian immigrants in a white Canadian suburb, and she touches on a ton of different topics, including feminist ones. I was laughing out loud for a good part of this book, but what I really recommend it for is all of Koul’s insights that really make you reflect on your own life.
Eleanor Roosevelt Vol. 1 by Blanche Wiesen Cook
I can’t say that Blanche Wiesen Cook’s biography of Eleanor Roosevelt is the best biography I’ve ever read as I felt it was a bit slower paced than a number of other biographies I’ve read and it went way too in-depth for me (strong way to start my recommendation, right?). But that said, this book is meticulously researched and does an excellent job helping you get to know an incredibly fascinating woman and an important figure in American history. I can’t say I necessarily wanted to learn more about Eleanor Roosevelt before being gifted this book, but now that I’ve read it, I definitely think she’s someone you should know more about, and this biography is possibly the most comprehensive way to do so. I’ve only read the first volume, which details her life up until FDR is elected president, so technically that’s all I can recommend so far. But this is a three-party biography, with the second part covering the New Deal years of FDR’s presidency and the third part covering the war years.
Jane Steele by Lindsay Faye
Ugh, Jane Steele is another book I’m recommending but prefacing by saying that I had some issues with the ending, though I still thought this was a good book and would recommend it if it sounds interesting to you. It’s basically Jane Eyre meets Dexter, following a young girl as she kills men who harm women while struggling as a young orphan in Victorian England. It’s not quite a Jane Eyre retelling, as Jane Eyre is a book that Jane Steele has read and identified with, but it definitely gives off a similar vibe, I think. It’s a really interesting book, and I really liked how Faye incorporated the history of the Sikh Wars into it. In fact, that was one of my favorite parts of the book. While I personally didn’t connect that much to Jane (though to be fair, I’m not sure how much you’re supposed to) and had some qualms about the ending, I still think this was a really interesting read and would make a great pick for Feminist Lit February.
Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
Honestly, anything by Tamora Pierce is an excellent choice when you want a feminist read. I’ll admit, it’s been several years since I’ve read Pierce’s books, but she’s one of the first to write YA fantasy about women and she’s still looked up to for good reason.
I assume (hope) that a lot of you have read Pierce’s books before, but if you haven’t, I think the best place to start is probably Alanna: The First Adventure. Alanna has always wanted to be a knight, while her twin brother Thom is desperate to learn magic. So one day they decided to switch places, and disguised as a boy, Alanna starts her journey to become the first lady knight in Tortall. Personally, I’m hoping to reread all of the Tortall books soon, and I might just have to start during Feminist Lit February.
Yes, I’m grouping an entire genre together here because I don’t think it gets much more feminist than having an entire genre written by women for women. I hope I’m preaching to the choir here when I say that romance novels are feminist, but if you haven’t picked one up yet, I highly recommend checking out Maya Rodale’s article That Thing with Hillary Clinton and Romance Novels…, which she wrote in response to Clinton’s comment in an interview that romance novels are about “women being grabbed and thrown on a horse and ridden off into the distance.” Bustle also has a great article titled Are Romance Novels Feminist? 7 Ways the Genre Promotes Gender Equality. And don’t forget about Jennifer Weiner’s super timely article, We Need Bodice-Ripper Sex Ed.
So what exactly do I recommend? Well, if you’re newer to the genre and haven’t read them already, Sarah MacLean, Tessa Dare, and Lisa Kleypas are some of my favorites. I especially enjoy Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, Romancing the Duke, and Scandal in Spring, though you really can’t go wrong with any of their books.
I also just read and loved Indigo by Beverly Jenkins, and An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole was one of my favorites of 2017. I’m a big fan of Magnate by Joanna Shupe, which is a Gilded Age historical set in New York, and in a rare contemporary (since I’m a historical diehard), I really enjoyed Going Dark by Monica McCarty.
If you need more recommendations, just poke around my blog a bit more, especially in my monthly wrap ups, and you’ll be sure to find tons. After all, 41 percent of the 150-plus books I read last year was romance.
But yeah, I highly encourage you to read a book from one of the most popular genres written by women during Feminist Lit February!
Anyways, I think that’s plenty of recommendations to keep you busy in February if you don’t know where to start. Hopefully this readathon encourages you to pick up some of those feminist books you’ve been meaning to get around to for awhile now!
Stay tuned for my own Feminist Lit February TBR later this week, and please drop your own feminist recommendations in the comments; I’m always looking for more!