5 Feminist Books for Your Summer Reading List

The female experience, in a lot of ways, is universal. But there are often differentiating factors, such as race or country of origin, that can highlight the many different versions of how women experience life. Many of these books shed light on this universality, but provide a perspective that is so different from our own, helping us as readers understand what it means to be a female in different parts of the world.

  • 1. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    We Should All Be Feminists by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a book-length essay that sheds light on what Adichie believes being a feminist means. Many of the anecdotes that she recounts in this book explore the topic of intersectionality, with particular reference to being a feminist in an African country. The word “feminist” was often used as an insult in her homeland, further allowing Adichie to develop her identity as a feminist which led to the overarching message of this book: that “feminist” is a label everyone should embrace.

  • 2. Becoming by Michelle Obama

    While not a book focused explicitly on feminist theory, Becoming is a memoir of former United States First Lady Michelle Obama which delves into the themes of feminism in exploring how Obama found her voice as a woman, both in her childhood, and while occupying one of the most powerful positions in the world. The book explores Obama’s personal experiences with intersectional feminism, particularly through her recounting of her childhood in south-side Chicago, and the various personal sacrifices she made in order to support her husband. Ending on an extremely optimistic note, Obama makes it clear that she will dedicate the rest of her life prioritizing herself, her needs, and her personal duty to society.

  • 3. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

    Roxane Gay

    Bad Feminist is a book comprised of a series of essays that delve into the complicated nature of what it means to be female in the modern world, and what the word “feminist” has come to mean. Gay explores her identity through this lens and talks about the many things she enjoys that are allegedly at odds with the feminist ideology. The book is divided into five sections that address cultural concerns, as well as concerns personal to the author. Gay describes the book as “not even about feminism per se, it’s about humanity and empathy.” (Time, 2014)

  • 4. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

    Jean Rhys

    Jean Rhys wrote Wide Sargasso Sea as a feminist and anti-colonial response to the depiction of Mr. Rochester’s wife in Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre. The original character that had been relegated to being simply the “mad woman in the attic” is given an identity, voice, and perspective as a Creole Heiress, Antoinette Cosway. Rhys explores Cosway being stuck in a patriarchal society through an intersectional approach, by commenting on her roots that belonged neither to Jamaica, nor to England. Through this novel, Rhys not only explores these themes, but makes an important feminist statement about the erasure of female voices in many classical novels.

  • 5. Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Muslim Society by Fatema Mernissi

    Fatema Mernissi

    Beyond the Veil is a classic in the fields of anthropology and sociology, specializing in women in the Arab World and Muslim soceities. This book is especially recognized for breaking down the ethnocentric stereotypes Western society has developed towards Islam and Islamic women. Mernissi has, through this book, fought to overcome Western assumptions that Muslim women are helpless victims of both their religion and the men of their religion. She instead argues that a veil covers women across the world and creates a revolutionary space for highlighting the necessity of a global feminist movement.

    These books are key in establishing not only the universality of the feminist movement, but the importance of using an intersectional lens when exploring what it means to be female for women around the world.

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