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  • Writer's pictureJessie Cheng

need a new book to read? (International Women's Day edition!)

The conversation on women's issues persists, rightfully so. As we recognize International Women's Day today, we not only celebrate women around the world but also remember how much more work must be done to create a safer, more just, and more equitable society for all women to thrive and to be seen in their full dignity. Whether it's learning about the pervasiveness of sexual violence or how intersectionality plays a role in social justice, we can each gain better understanding of women's issues and how they're connected to other social issues or movements.

Here are some of my favorite books that I'd recommend in a heartbeat!

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

This contemporary young adult novel written by Pakistani American author Sabaa Tahir follows the lives of two teenagers, Salahudin and Noor, as they navigate familial struggles and racial prejudices in a small town in California.

Tahir carefully and bravely explores topics of alcoholism, family trauma, educational inequity, racism, and sexual abuse through her two characters, who remain hopeful and enduring through their camaraderie, despite their insufferable circumstances.

I've been a fan of Tahir since she released her An Ember in the Ashes series. Her characters are complex, well-developed, relatable, and hope-giving. I saw Tahir in March 2022 during her book tour for All My Rage and was incredibly moved by the heart she uses when writing about difficult topics. This is absolutely a must-read novel.

Opinions by Roxanne Gay

Often, there is nothing more dangerous than an opinion, especially when it is held by a woman. What moves me most about Roxanne Gay is her thoughtfulness as she speaks on a variety of topics, including identity politics, racism, LGBTQ+ rights, culture and media, and civic responsibilities including voting. Gay is a queer Black feminist author, essayist, professor, and opinion writer for The New York Times, and what I appreciate most in her writing is how she explores intersectionality when delving into complex social issues. Her writing, charged with an appealing balance of conviction and hope, leaves us with the itch to evaluate our own opinions on the topics she explores.

The goal of reading Opinions isn't to agree 100% with Gay; it is to have the curiosity to understand others' opinions before jumping to assumptions about them. It is to then have the courage to develop, challenge, and express our own opinions with wisdom and due diligence.

The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by Bell Hooks

This was the first book I ever read that focuses on boyhood and the ways patriarchy has affected men. Hooks is my favorite feminist theorist, as she explores the topic of love in relation to gender equality. She shines light on how the patriarchy has taught boys to construct an identity that is rooted in sexism and is enforced through emotional neglect, shame, and the violence-perpetuating saying “boys will be boys.”

I recommend this book to women and men alike who wish to be convinced that eliminating patriarchal thinking is necessary for both genders to know love, connection, and true emotional liberation. By inviting men into the feminist movement, Hooks encourages men and women to be aligned as we resist the patriarchy, so that we can experience our fullest humanity, love without fear, and emotional connection with ourselves and others. 

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This was one of the first essays I ever read exploring feminism. Adichie defines feminism, not as a movement that holds women above men, but as a movement that will allow all people to be viewed as full human beings. She argues that feminists must be committed to the liberation of both men and women, and in doing so, think more deeply about gender roles, education, and the ways women's issues affect White women and women of color differently.

What I enjoyed most was learning about Adichie's experiences growing up in Nigeria and being reminded of how different everyone's experiences with gender roles and expectations are. If you enjoyed Adichie's TED Talk "The danger of a single story," I am confident you will also learn a lot from this essay.

I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

Though we may know McCurdy only as a glamorous Nickelodeon star, McCurdy reminds us of our common humanity as she sheds light on her relationship with her controlling mom, who exploited and abused McCurdy. This memoir ditches the seductive facade of the entertainment industry as McCurdy shares how her mother's abuse manifested in eating disorders, unhealthy relationships, and extreme shame she must continue to unlearn, even with her mom's passing.

Though it's easy to assume we'd act differently if we were in McCurdy's situation, I think this is a memoir we must learn to just listen to. To sit in silence as we mourn what McCurdy had to go through, and to scream in frustration at what she had to endure. This is a moving memoir with raw and open reflections - it is one that deserves truly to be read and shared.

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