There are certain books out there that just make you better. They resonate with you. They hit something deep and fundamental, and you're never quite the same after reading them. Many books are capable of that, but today, I want to focus on some of my favorite books with fierce, feminist lessons about life, love, sisterhood, and womanhood. Some of them aren't necessarily what you'd expect, either, but they've taught me necessary lessons and, in many cases, reminded me of my strength when I needed to be reminded. Please don't be put off by thinking these are feminist books, per se, they're just novels with a fabulous feminist twist.
1 Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
This book is lovely – lovely, horrible, painful, and full of true. It's female-focused, which is but one of the aspects that make this, at heart, a feminist novel with a fierce message. It's a great read in and of itself, but the flashback sequences, especially, showcase a variety of feminist lessons and show the reader how far women have come.
2 The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker
To be honest, I don't think there's a single book, story, or poem written by Alice Walker that doesn't include some kind of feminist message. The Temple of My Familiar, however, is … oh, it's special. This book made me love myself. It made me love my body, my mind, my heart, my flaws, and all the versions of myself I've ever been or ever will be. Lissie is probably my favorite character in all of literature, and she's a fountain of Wisdom.
3 The Color Purple by Alice Walker
This is the only time I'm double-dipping, but I couldn't get through this without mentioning The Color Purple. The amazing thing about this book is that, if you allow it, it will open you up to experiences and perspectives you never even considered, while simultaneously resonating with your own life. So much about the story is revolutionary, from the ideas and the ideals to the stories of love, friendship, and abuse told therein.
4 Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
What? A young adult book that's older than the hills has something to say about feminism? Well, yeah. I'm sorry, have you met Anne Shirley? For that matter, have you met Marilla Cuthbert? To get the full impact of the story's message, however, it pays to continue reading the series. Anne's dreams, her goals, and her desire to learn as much as possible never change, they never sway, and she never compromises them – not even for marriage.
5 The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
This idea that marriage – a perfect marriage, in particular – is the end-game for women isn't new. It spans across cultures. It's the ideal all over the world. The way Amy Tan explores that idea as it applies to Chinese and Chinese-American culture is often poignant, frequently heartbreaking, and always beautiful. There are so many stories in this one book, which compares generations and cultures in a way that makes you feel like these are your experiences, too.
6 White Socks Only by Evelyn Coleman
I can't put into words how amazing this book is, what it teaches, or how it cuts you. I just tried for fifteen minutes and words fail me. I urge everyone to read White Socks Only, though. The person who finishes it won't be the same as the person who started it.
7 Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own by Kate Bolick
There are worse things to be than a spinster, which is a silly, outdated term anyway. This is one of only two non-fiction books on this list, but it's such a deeply personal, incredibly relatable story, especially for women who get boxed in and feel like they constantly have to explain their decision to be single. I just don't understand how there are still people who believe that all every woman wants is to get married and have children, and that anyone who doesn't feel that way is wrong or broken or weird.
8 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Well, of course. Of course, Pride and Prejudice is here. This is a badass story with enormous feminist implication. I don't know about you, but I didn't need the introduction of zombies to know that Elizabeth is a queen.
9 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
This book is all things. It is a bible, a primer, a love story, a tragedy, and a rebirth. It's everything. It can soothe girls and women who have ever felt ugly, been abused, been violated, or been made to feel as if they are not enough, not worthy, not worthwhile. Maya Angelou's voice, her words, and her story still ring loudly, they still reach out, grab you, and shake you in the best way.
10 The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
People aren't always who you think they are. There is no good to be gained from blindly following someone just because he's sure of his own delusions. To be a woman is to forge ahead with your own choices, to create your own path, and to deal with the consequences that emerge from your choices. To be a woman is to break away, to grieve, to love fiercely, and to sacrifice.
11 A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
Have you ever had to fight for your own room? For recognition? For permission to simply be? I know that many of you have, and I am so sorry for that. Women still have to fight for space, for a room, for their voices to be heard. Having a room of our own is still a big deal.
What about you? Are there any books that resonate with you on a deep, personal level? What lessons did they teach you?
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