Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault and Violence
The closer summer gets, the greater the need to know what our summer reading lists consist of! In this political climate, we are seeing more and more about women who are standing up for what they believe in, advocating for themselves and for others, and being very vocal and open about their passions and beliefs. With this in mind, what better way to fill up our summer reading lists than with books about women who are doing just that? This not a comprehensive list of all the amazing books about women who stand their ground, just a few of the many!
I Am Malala By Malala Yousafzai
Malala wrote this book about her experiences standing up for girls’ education in Pakistan. She and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, are advocates for girls’ education. Ziauddin started one of the first all girls’ schools in Pakistan, and he and his family worked with families to enroll as many girls as possible. Before the regime change, this was easier. Afterward, as terrorism became more prominent, the Yousafzais had to be increasingly careful and teach the girls in private. Malala herself was always on debate teams and quickly became one of the biggest advocates for women’s education. Just as quickly, she rose to the top of the Taliban’s most wanted list. Her family was aware of the constant threat to her life, but she continued to fight for her right for an education. One day, A Taliban member ran onto the school bus, amid the bus driver’s protests, and said, “Who is Malala?" Malala stood up and raised her hand, knowing what was coming. He shot herin the face, nearly killing her. She was life-flighted to the UK and underwent extensive medical treatment. Malala survived and has since become a best-selling author of children’s and adult’s books, worked with her father on countless projects for women’s rights/education and supporting refugees, and won the Nobel Peace Prize. Amidst all of this, she has even had the time to graduate college. Malala Yousafzai is an incredible woman who does not stand down!
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
This novel is about a woman who rebelled against the patriarchal and racist values ingrained in her society. Set in the 1937 in the deep South, the novel follows Janie Crawford as men frequently tell her where to go, what to do, and how to do things. Janie has a passionate and fiery personality and often does not take kindly to being told what to do. Janie forges her own path against what others are saying to and about her, and against the society’s standards. Janie stands her ground against patriarchy, racism, and society, in the face of danger, malicious treatment, and obstacles that would make anyone cautious to continue. Janie Crawford is a fictional feminist hero!
Women Talking by Miriam Toews
A novel based off of actual events in a Mennonite village in Canada, this book discusses events in which Mennonite men were drugging women of all ages and sexually assaulting them. While the men are in jail in the nearest city, the women rush to plan their next step before the men come back. They focus on what being a woman in the world means, being a good Mennonite, protecting themselves and their children, and the definition of being a woman within religion. The book feels more like a historical document in the way that it is written, but these women truly stand their ground in the face of evil that they see within their men.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Terrifyingly relevant today, this book describes a dystopian society that controls everything about women, especially their reproductive rights. Those who rebelled against it are publicly hung and ridiculed. The underground movement of people who fought against this is highly secretive and does its best to protect women and remove them from the society into the much safer Canada. This book does not show one specific woman fighting back, but a quiet, large group of many that carefully try to save many others. This book is very relevant as we continue to see more and more control over and restrictions on reproductive rights. Many people in this book stand their ground against the new society, constantly finding new ways to fight back.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
This may be a more graphic read, as it is the story of a woman who does not give up in the face of extreme adversity. It is a beautiful, harrowing, and traumatizing story. In the face of the violence perpetrated against her, Celie continues to protect herself and her kids, and to work towards a future for herself. It is not a pleasant story, but an important one.