I love reading my books according to a theme, and with March being Women’s History Month, I am planning to read a lot of books for, by, and about women throughout the month. Today I will share some of my past favorites, some I just finished, and some that I still plan to read that are for, by, and about women. As always, Amazon links are affiliate links and if you use them and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission.
Title: The Truths We Hold
Author: Kamala Harris
Publisher: Penguin Audio, 1/8/19
File Under: Memoir
Originally Reviewed in November 2020
I find Kamala Harris very inspiring and I enjoyed listening to her read her book, which is the story of her life as well as a testament to the issues she feels strongly about. She talks about her journey from prosecutor to senator, and while this book was written prior to her run for president, it is still relevant as now she will be our first woman vice president.
“Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’s commitment to speaking truth is informed by her upbringing. The daughter of immigrants, she was raised in an Oakland, California community that cared deeply about social justice; her parents–an esteemed economist from Jamaica and an admired cancer researcher from India–met as activists in the civil rights movement when they were graduate students at Berkeley. Growing up, Harris herself never hid her passion for justice, and when she became a prosecutor out of law school, a deputy district attorney, she quickly established herself as one of the most innovative change agents in American law enforcement. She progressed rapidly to become the elected District Attorney for San Francisco, and then the chief law enforcement officer of the state of California as a whole. Known for bringing a voice to the voiceless, she took on the big banks during the foreclosure crisis, winning a historic settlement for California’s working families. Her hallmarks were applying a holistic, data-driven approach to many of California’s thorniest issues, always eschewing stale ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric as presenting a series of false choices. Neither ‘tough’ nor ‘soft’ but smart on crime became her mantra. Being smart means learning the truths that can make us better as a community, and supporting those truths with all our might. That has been the pole star that guided Harris to a transformational career as the top law enforcement official in California, and it is guiding her now as a transformational United States Senator, grappling with an array of complex issues that affect her state, our country, and the world, from health care and the new economy to immigration, national security, the opioid crisis, and accelerating inequality.”
Issues discussed include big banks and the foreclosure crisis, immigration, healthcare, mass incarceration, minimum wage, women’s rights, national security, and climate change. I found this book interesting and well worth the listen!
Title: Make Me Rain
Author: Nikki Giovanni
Publisher: William Morrow, 10/20/20
File Under: Poetry
Originally Reviewed in November 2020
I read this poetry book in about an hour and it served as a window into Black pride and history. With poems about aging, childhood memories, etc, I enjoyed getting to know the writer.
“For more than fifty years, Nikki Giovanni’s poetry has dazzled and inspired readers. As sharp and outspoken as ever, she returns with this profound book of poetry in which she continues to call attention to injustice and racism, celebrate Black culture and Black lives, and and give readers an unfiltered look into her own experiences. In Make Me Rain, she celebrates her loved ones and unapologetically declares her pride in her Black heritage, while exploring the enduring impact of the twin sins of racism and white nationalism. Giovanni reaffirms her place as a uniquely vibrant and relevant American voice with poems such as ‘I Come from Athletes’ and ‘Rainy Days’—calling out segregation and Donald Trump; as well as ‘Unloved (for Aunt Cleota)’ and ‘When I Could No Longer’—her personal elegy for the relatives who saved her from an abusive home life.”
I appreciated this collection a lot!
Title: What Kind of Woman
Author: Kate Baer
Publisher: Harper Perennial, 11/10/20
File Under: Poetry
Originally Reviewed in November 2020
I read this poetry book in about an hour as well. With poems about adult life, marriage, and kids, I found many of the poems very moving and meaningful.
“‘When life throws you a bag of sorrow, hold out your hands/Little by little, mountains are climbed.’ So ends Kate Baer’s remarkable poem ‘Things My Girlfriends Teach Me.’ In ‘Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels’ she challenges her reader to consider their grandmother’s cake, the taste of the sea, the cool swill of freedom. In her poem ‘Deliverance’ about her son’s birth she writes ‘What is the word for when the light leaves the body?/What is the word for when it/at last, returns?’ Through poems that are as unforgettably beautiful as they are accessible, Kate proves herself to truly be an exemplary voice in modern poetry. Her words make women feel seen in their own bodies, in their own marriages, and in their own lives. Her poems are those you share with your mother, your daughter, your sister, and your friends.”
Some of my favorite poems in the book were: “My Friend Bethany Rages at the News,” “Like a Wife,” “Crescendo,” “Observations Through the Glass at the Human Zoo,” “For the Advice Cards at Baby Showers,” “Back To School Shopping,” “The Martian,” and “What Mothers Say.”
Author: Curtis Sittenfeld
Publisher: Random House Audio, 5/19/20
File Under: Fiction, Alternative History
Originally Reviewed in December 2020
I have to start by saying it was really weird to be reading an alternate story about a living person. I kept wanting to know what was true to her life and what wasn’t! However, I loved this book and thought it was what should have been for Hillary – if she had not married Bill and gone on to follow her own political career from the beginning.
“n 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Life magazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School, and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced. In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton. But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life.”
There were so many tidbits of humor in this book. The way Trump was portrayed was hilarious. Aside from thinking that I wish things had turned out the way they did in this book, I also was left thinking that Hillary deserved better.
Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Publisher: Balzer + Bray, 2/28/17
File Under: Fiction, YA
Originally Reviewed in July 2019
The Hate U Give is a must read for this generation and I hadn’t read it yet so I wanted to. I went for the audio version because I heard it’s well-narrated. I can see that this book could be controversial, but it presents the feelings of the narrator and her family and shows the way of life in a neighborhood that is considered dangerous very well.
“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”
Starr moves between two worlds, the world of her posh private school where she is one of the only black students, and the world of her neighborhood where violence and drugs are the norm. Starr has to deal with losing the second of her friends to gun violence, as well as the unfair fact that Khalil was shot by the police when he was unarmed. The story seems to run true to real life situations such as this one and shows the reader the hard reality of a teenager like Starr. This book is an important read about a difficult subject for sure.
Title: Rebel Daughter
Author: Lori Banov Kaufmann
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2/9/21
File Under: Historical Fiction, YA
Originally Reviewed in February 2021
Rebel Daughter was one of my anticipated releases from a Jewish author including Jewish representation. I am embarrassed to admit that I misinterpreted the subject of this book, thinking it was about Queen Esther from the Purim story. In fact, it is about another strong woman named Esther who lived during the time of the Roman occupation of the biblical Israel, up until the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE. I am sure I learned about this time period in Jewish history, and yet I did not know how difficult life was at the time and how the Jewish people were treated following the Roman success in the final battle that destroyed the Temple.
“Esther dreams of so much more than the marriage her parents have arranged to a prosperous silversmith. Always curious and eager to explore, she must accept the burden of being the dutiful daughter. Yet she is torn between her family responsibilities and her own desires; she longs for the handsome Joseph, even though he treats her like a child, and is confused by her attraction to the Roman freedman Tiberius, a man who should be her sworn enemy. Meanwhile, the growing turmoil threatens to tear apart not only her beloved city, Jerusalem, but also her own family. As the streets turn into a bloody battleground between rebels and Romans, Esther’s journey becomes one of survival. She remains fiercely devoted to her family, and braves famine, siege, and slavery to protect those she loves.”
Some of the characters in the book are based on real people, and if I had been more in tune to the history I might have realized who Joseph in the story was before it was revealed! Esther is not a person I have heard of, but I imagine she lived as she was described in this very detailed book. It is not an easy read, as it contains details of war time and some of it can be upsetting. I learned so much from this book and will certainly read anything else that this author writes in the future!
Title: One To Watch
Author: Kate Stayman-London
Publisher: Dial Press, 7/7/20
File Under: Contemporary Fiction, Body Positivity
Originally Reviewed in December 2020
Bea is a plus sized influencer who is tired of the lack of body diversity on Main Squeeze. She also has a broken heart. So when she’s asked to be the next star of Main Squeeze, she does it for her career, not for love.
“Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers—and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television? Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition—under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it. But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, wickedly observant debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men—and herself—for a chance to live happily ever after.”
This book made me smile so much. It was so sweet in so many ways. There was representation of many experiences, identities, and emotions. I loved the various formats included like blog posts, tweets, text and chat chains, etc. Bea was such an amazing character to route for! I could imagine the show as if I was watching it, but I was reading it – even better!
Title: The Four Winds
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publisher: Macmillan Audio, 2/2/21
File Under: Historical Fiction
I loved this book. It was about being brave when times are tough, raising a family, supporting oneself, and the power of love. This is historical fiction about the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl and it makes you feel like you are actually there.
“Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the bounty of the land is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage is a woman’s only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: marriage to a man she barely knows. By 1934, the world has changed; millions are out of work and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa’s tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive. In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa―like so many of her neighbors―must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family.”
I wrote down so many quotes from this book, including “Hard times don’t last. Love does.” It really makes you think about what matters in life and how we face hard times now, but with courage, we will make it through. This is definitely going to be one of my favorites of this month, maybe even of the year.
Author: Lisa Fipps
Publisher: Nancy Paulson Books, 3/9/21
File Under: Middle Grade Novel in Verse
Ellie is a middle schooler who deals with bullying on an every day basis, not only from the kids at school but from her own mom. Her mom tries to control what she eats and threatens her with weight loss surgery. Luckily her father is more supportive, and with the help of a therapist, Ellie learns to stand up for herself and to learn to love who she is. Starfishing is claiming the right to take up space, which is what Ellie must learn to do.
“Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules–like ‘no making waves,’ ‘avoid eating in public,’ and ‘don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.’ And she’s found her safe space–her swimming pool–where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life–by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.”
I loved this book and it touched me personally because my son was upset that his peers were teasing him about his hair and I did not know how to encourage him to stand up for himself. This book describes ways to stand up for yourself without attacking others. I was surprised and happy to discover that this book also contained Jewish representation.
Other books for, by, and about women that I hope to read this month or as soon as possible include:
A Boob’s Life by Leslie Lehr
Serena Singh Flips The Script by Sonya Lalli
Girls With Bright Futures by Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman
Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson
Widowish by Melissa Gould
The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Do you have any further recommendations for me and for others?