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Recommended Reads - Women's History Month 2017

 

1- This Bridge Called My Back

Author(s): Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua

Description: Originally released in 1981, This Bridge Called My Back is a testimony to women of color feminism as it emerged in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Through personal essays, criticism, interviews, testimonials, poetry, and visual art, the collection explores, as coeditor Cherríe Moraga writes, “the complex confluence of identities—race, class, gender, and sexuality—systemic to women of color oppression and liberation.”

Reissued here, nearly thirty-five years after its inception, the fourth edition contains an extensive new introduction by Moraga, along with a previously unpublished statement by Gloria Anzaldúa. The new edition also includes visual artists whose work was produced during the same period as Bridge, including Betye Saar, Ana Mendieta, and Yolanda López, as well as current contributor biographies. Bridge continues to reflect an evolving definition of feminism, one that can effectively adapt to, and help inform an understanding of the changing economic and social conditions of women of color in the United States and throughout the world.

Review: “Immense is my admiration for the ongoing dialogue and discourse on feminism, Indigenous feminism, the defining discussions in women of color movements and the broader movement. I have loved this book for thirty years, and am so pleased we have returned with our stories, words, and attributes to the growing and resilient movement.” — Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe), Executive Director, Honor the Earth

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2- I Am Malala

Author(s): Malala Yousafzai

Description: "I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday."

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I AM MALALA will make you believe in the power of one person's voice to inspire change in the world.

Review: "Riveting.... Co-written with Christina Lamb, a veteran British journalist who has an evident passion for Pakistan and can render its complicated history with pristine clarity, this is a book that should be read not only for its vivid drama but for its urgent message about the untapped power of girls.... It is difficult to imagine a chronicle of a war more moving, apart from perhaps the diary of Anne Frank. With the essential difference that we lost that girl, and by some miracle, we still have this one."―Marie Arana, Washington Post

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3- Anne Frank: The Biography

Author(s):  Melissa Muller

Description: Praised as "remarkable," "meticulous," and "long overdue," Anne Frank: The Biography, originally published in 1998, still stands as the definitive account of the girl who has become "the human face of the Holocaust." For this nuanced portrait of her famous subject, biographer Melissa Müller drew on exclusive interviews with family and friends as well as on previously unavailable correspondence, even, in the process, discovering five missing diary pages. Full of revelations, Müller's richly textured narrative returned Anne Frank to history, portraying the flesh-and-blood girl unsentimentalized and so all the more affecting.

Review: “Müller pays respect to the legend, but she also does something long overdue. She saves Anne Frank from idolatry and impersonal symbolism by restoring her physical presence.” ―R.Z. Sheppard, Time

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4- A Woman Among Warlords

Author(s): Malalai Joya

Description: Malalai Joya was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2010. An extraordinary young woman raised in the refugee camps of Iran and Pakistan, Joya became a teacher in secret girls’ schools, hiding her books under her burqa so the Taliban couldn’t find them; she helped establish a free medical clinic and orphanage in her impoverished home province of Farah; and at a constitutional assembly in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2003, she stood up and denounced her country’s powerful NATO-backed warlords. She was twenty-five years old. Two years later, she became the youngest person elected to Afghanistan’s new Parliament. In 2007, she was suspended from Parliament for her persistent criticism of the warlords and drug barons and their cronies. She has survived four assassination attempts to date, is accompanied at all times by armed guards, and sleeps only in safe houses.

Review: “One of the few women, and the youngest, to win a seat in Afghanistan's Parliament, Joya recounts in strong, uncompromising language her march to activism, from her humble origins to recognizing a burning need to bring the corrupted leaders to justice in her war-torn country. Native to the western Afghan province of Ziken, and later Farah City, Joya—a name she had to adopt in order to protect her family—grew up mostly in desperate, unsafe refugee camps in Pakistan after the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1978. With only a high school education (and one wonders how she wrote this book in English), she nonetheless became a teacher in the camps, then worked to organize underground classes for girls in Herat in defiance of Taliban edicts. Her activism grew, supporting orphanages and war victims after the Taliban fled and the U.S. began air strikes and became an armed presence; Joya is adamant in underscoring the responsibility America holds in reinstalling to power the same warlords (commanders she names in the Northern Alliance) who once tore the country apart during the civil war of the 1990s. Having won election to Parliament in 2005 at age 27—Eva Mulvad's film Enemies of Happiness documented her election—Joya was outspoken in condemning these warlords she called criminals and antiwomen, enduring the shutting off of her microphone, assassination threats and, finally, suspension from Parliament. Joya is on a dangerous, eye-opening mission to uncover truth and expose the abuse of power in Afghanistan, and her book will work powerfully in her favor.” - Publishers Weekly

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5- Make a Beautiful Way

Author(s): Barbara Alice Mann

Description: Make a Beautiful Way is nothing less than a new way of looking at history—or more correctly, the reestablishment of a very old way. For too long, Euro-American discourse styles, emphasizing elite male privilege and conceptual linearity, have drowned out democratic and woman-centered Native approaches. Even when myopic western linearity is understood to be at work, analysis of Native American history, society, and culture has still been consistently placed in male custody. The recovery of women’s traditions is the overarching theme in this collection of essays that helps reframe Native issues as properly gendered.

Paula Gunn Allen looks at Indian lifeways through the many stitches of Indian clothes and the many steps of their powwow fancy dances. Lee Maracle calls for reconstitution of traditional social structures, based on Native American ways of knowing. Kay Givens McGowan identifies the exact sites where female power was weakened through the imposition of European culture, so that we might more effectively strengthen precisely those sites. Finally, Barbara Alice Mann examines how communication between Natives who have federal recognition and those who do not, as well as between Natives east and west of the Mississippi, became dysfunctional, and outlines how to reestablish good relations for the benefit of all.

Review: “[Make a Beautiful Way] goes beyond women's studies alone, maintaining that elements unnatural to Native ways of knowing have been imposed on the study of Native America's elements consisting of European prejudice and male privilege. This focus on women’s traditions provides essays which examine Indian lifestyles and history through women’s lives and eyes. A fine approach which adds different perspective to Native history and issues.”—Bookwatch

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6- Frontier Grit

Author(s): Marianne Monson

Description: Discover the stories of twelve women who heard the call to settle the west and who came from all points of the globe to begin their journey.

As a slave, Clara watched helpless as her husband and children were sold, only to be reunited with her youngest daughter, as a free woman, six decades later.

As a young girl, Charlotte hid her gender to escape a life of poverty and became the greatest stagecoach driver that ever lived.

As a Native American, Gertrude fought to give her people a voice and to educate leaders about the ways and importance of America's native people.

These are gripping miniature dramas of good-hearted women, selfless providers, courageous immigrants and migrants, and women with skills too innumerable to list. Many were crusaders for social justice and women's rights. All endured hardships, overcame obstacles, broke barriers, and changed the world.

The author ties the stories of these pioneer women to the experiences of women today with the hope that they will be inspired to live boldly and bravely and to fill their own lives with vision, faith, and fortitude. To live with grit.

Review: ''This little nugget is a delightful find and carries quite a punch for a small book. The stories of 12 fascinating women will captivate you while exposing you to the history they did not teach us in school. The author purposefully chose 12 women of different nationalities, ethnic backgrounds, and socioeconomic status, to illustrate the diversity of the American West. Contrary to what our history textbooks and the Hollywood movies claim, white males were not even half the true story of the West much less the whole story. Monson wants to help correct that distortion. She hopes that by understanding the severe restrictions on women in the 19th century, modern women will understand how much we owe those who came before us, and understand what they were risking by pursuing their goals.'' ---Coastal Breeze News, Florida

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7- When Everything Changed

Author(s): Gail Collins

Description: When Everything Changed begins in 1960, when most American women had to get their husbands' permission to apply for a credit card. It ends in 2008 with Hillary Clinton's historic presidential campaign. This was a time of cataclysmic change, when, after four hundred years, expectations about the lives of American women were smashed in just a generation.

A comprehensive mix of oral history and Gail Collins's keen research--covering politics, fashion, popular culture, economics, sex, families, and work--When Everything Changed is the definitive book on five crucial decades of progress. The enormous strides made since 1960 include the advent of the birth control pill, the end of "Help Wanted--Male" and "Help Wanted--Female" ads, and the lifting of quotas for women in admission to medical and law schools. Gail Collins describes what has happened in every realm of women's lives, partly through the testimonies of both those who made history and those who simply made their way.

Review: Gail Collins, New York Times columnist and bestselling author, recounts the astounding revolution in women's lives over the past 50 years, with her usual "sly wit and unfussy style" (People).

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8- Cosmetics Fashions and the Exploitation of Women

Author(s): Joseph Hansen, Evelyn Reed, Mary-Alice Waters

Description: How big business plays on women's second-class status and social insecurities to market cosmetics and rake in profits. The introduction by Waters explains how the entry of millions of women into the workforce during and after World War II irreversibly changed U.S. society and laid the basis for a renewed rise of struggles for women's emancipation.

Review: "…a lively and surprisingly timely historical lesson in the ever-raging controversy surrounding women, beauty, and oppression." -- Ms. Magazine, November 1986

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9- Uprising

Author(s): Sally Armstrong

Description: The earth is shifting under the status of women. UPRISING tells a remarkable story about women claiming their own space - against all odds - and how this shift from oppression to emancipation will improve the economy, reduce poverty and curtail conflict. Sally Armstrong, also known as the war correspondent for the world's women, has been following the action on the front line for women and girls in Bosnia, Egypt, Congo, The Middle East, Afghanistan and America for twenty-five years. She says the manifesto for this revolution is being written in mud-brick huts in Afghanistan and on Tehrir Square in Egypt and in the forests of the Congo, as well as on the streets of Kenya, where 160 girls sued their government for failing to protect them from being raped, and won, and in Pakistan, where Malala Yousafzai, is fighting for the rights of all girls. Uprising is about the final frontier for women: having control over your own body, whether in zones of conflict, in rural villages, on university campuses or in your own kitchen. Armstrong has been an eye witness to the worst atrocities and is now the first to write about the astonishing changes that are happening in Asia, Africa and the Americas

Review: “In this remarkably moving and fascinating book, Sally Armstrong will introduce you to the extraordinary women and girls across the globe who have inspired her and who are working to create a new world.” ―Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club

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10- Women  of Steel and Stone

Author(s): Ana M. Lewis

Description: Women of Steel and Stone features 22 thoroughly researched and engaging profiles of architects, engineers, and landscape designers, describing these groundbreakers' strengths, interests, and challenges as they were growing up and starting their careers, and what they achieved. Inspiring a new generation of girls who are increasingly engaged in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields, the biographies stress hard work, perseverance, and creativity. Set against the backdrop of landmark events such as the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements, the industrial revolution, and more, the profiles offer not only important historical context but also a look at some of the celebrated architects and engineers working today. Sidebars on related topics, source notes, and a bibliography make this an invaluable resource for further study.

Review:

“An engaging book that will open up the world of architecture, landscape architecture, and engineering to young people. It reveals the inspiring and sometimes bittersweet stories of successful women.” —Judith B Tankard, landscape historian and author, Gertrude Jekyll and the Country House Garden

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11- Bad Feminist

Author(s): Roxane Gay

Description: In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.

Review: “Arresting and sensitive. . . . An author who filters every observation through her deep sense of the world as fractured, beautiful, and complex.” (Slate)

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12- Choosing The Hero

Author(s): K. Riva Levinson

Description: With gripping anecdotes, Levinson describes her adventures working in some of the most dangerous places on earth from Mogadishu to Baghdad. But it is her efforts on behalf of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that form the heart of CHOOSING THE HERO. Levinson chronicles her behind-the-scenes lobbying for the exiled Sirleaf in Washington, D.C. as well as her on-the-ground work in Liberia. It took three tries for Sirleaf to finally win the presidency in 2005. Since her inauguration, President Sirleaf, who won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, has transformed her war-ravaged country into one of the world's post-conflict success stories.

CHOOSING THE HERO can be read on many levels. It is an exciting narrative about Sirleaf's struggle to create a future for Liberia. It's a bird's-eye view of the inner workings of the lobbying and public relations business in Washington, D.C. and the making of U.S. foreign policy. But most of all, it is Riva Levinson's personal story of how she found a hero, fought for a worthy cause, and in the process, discovered her soul.

Review: "A riveting geopolitical thriller . . which only makes this true life story more compelling.  The voice is unique, authentic, and enlarges the world as we know it."

- Foreword Reviews

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List compiled by Zamzam Yusuf