5 Must-Reads for Feminist Bookworms
The Feminine Mystique – Betty Friedan
If you read one book on this list, choose this one. The book criticizes society for confining women to their sexual biological roles as wives and mothers, and explores “the problem that has no name:” The widespread misery of women in the 1950s and 1960s, despite material comfort, marriage and children. Friedan argues that women need to find and nurture their identity beyond that of a wife, mother, and homemaker.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo
Believe me, I debated whether to put this book on the list at all, but this book was one of the two most impactful I read in 2015, so here it is. (The other was Ghettoside by Jill Leovy, and if you have any interest in policing or social justice, close the blog and order Ghettoside right now.) Distilled, Ms. Kondo’s message is simple: Get rid of all your crap. I did. Fewer clothes, dishes, cosmetics and books litter our space, and the reward is a calmer home. It’s a quick read – just commit to her method, and Marie Kondo will truly offer you life-changing magic!
Men Explain Things to Me -- Rebecca Solnit
This book is for any woman who has ever had her expertise on a subject dismissed because she is a woman.
Mansplain: To explain something to someone, characteristically by a man to a woman, in a matter regarded as condescending or patronizing. Example: Man explains that women did not write in the Middle Ages, to Kathryn Maude, a woman with a PhD on medieval women’s writing.
This book of essays explores the centuries-long history of men silencing women into submission, of men questioning the veracity of women. A memorable exchange details a man at a dinner party laughingly telling the story of his neighbor running out of her home, naked, screaming that her husband was going to kill her. While the man recounting the story clearly views the naked woman as crazy, he is incapable of imagining that her affluent husband might have been homicidal. Solnit astutely points out that what was a funny anecdote to the story-teller illustrates the potentially fatal consequences of disbelieving women.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
Grab some peppermints, crawl out to the fire escape, and dive into this classic coming-of-age tale. The heroine, Francie Nolan, overcomes the uglier realities of life in Williamsburg through her love of books and writing. The attentive reader will love, admire, and empathize with Francie and her family. Available at any decent bookstore or library.
Saturday Night at the Pahala Theater -- Lois-Ann Yamanaka
An obscure book of colorful poetry, Saturday Night at the Pahala Theater explores the deprivations and adversities of an Asian-American girl growing up in a poor family in Hawaii. Prosaic enough to guarantee an enjoyable reading experience for the poetry skeptic, Saturday Night explores a rarely contemplated slice of Americana.
Rebecca Zipp is currently reading The Woman in Cabin Ten, and aspires to read the following: The Power and the Powerless; Russia and the Russians; and, When Affirmative Action was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America, all of which have been sitting on her night table for a minimum of six months.