Must-Read Feminist Books of 2014

At Ms., we’re often the first to know which highly anticipated feminist books are coming out and which feminist giants have taken to the pen again. Countless new books pass through our editors’ hands, and then we pass our recommendations onto our readers. Now that the holidays season is winding down, we hope you’ll curl up with some of these books and enjoy them as much as we did!


Good Catholics: The Battle Over Abortion in the Catholic Church by Patricia Miller

Miller was the editor of the “Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report” and former editor of Conscience magazine, published by Catholics for Choice. Now she tells the story of the debate surrounding abortion in the Catholic Church and recounts the five-decades-long struggle over the right to an abortion. She describes the influence the Catholic Church has had on the U.S. political system regarding abortion and argues that Catholics have the right to disagree with Church leadership. The book lends a voice to Catholics who support abortion rights, giving legitimacy to a group that is often overlooked in the abortion debate.

A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernández

This coming-of-age memoir traces the life of Hernández, a Colombian Cuban woman, as she grows up in America. Struggling with conflicting identities, Hernández worries she is betraying her family by not continuing cultural traditions but betraying herself if she does. With poignant clarity and touching detail, Hernández recounts the lessons she learned about race, money and love, with special attention to explorations of her budding sexuality.

Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt

In her signature confident style, Pollitt argues persuasively that abortion must be considered a quotidian part of women’s reproductive lives and that the procedure can be a source for social good in today’s world. The longtime feminist and columnist for the Nation contests the idea that life begins at conception, dismantles several myths surrounding abortion, and demonstrates the strong link between opposition to abortion and anti-feminism.

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado

After her blog post, “Why I Make Terrible Decisions, Or, Poverty Thoughts,” went viral last year, Tirado was able to raise enough money to leave her job as a cook at a cheap chain restaurant and turn the provocative essay into her first book. In Hand to Mouth, Tirado draws upon her own life experiences to present a harrowing account of what it’s like to live and work within the cycle of poverty. She shows how a combination of sleep deprivation, taxing work hours and hopelessness lead poor people to make unavoidable “bad decisions.”

Good White People: The Problem with Middle-Class White Anti-Racism by Shannon Sullivan

African American studies and women’s studies professor Sullivan identifies harmful attitudes among well-meaning white liberals that contribute to racial oppression, namely being more concerned with proving themselves non-racist than actually dismantling systemic privilege. She outlines the ways this attitude is manifested: through branding lower-class white people as the “real racists”; through a focus on “colorblindness”; and through the harboring of white guilt. Sullivan argues that white liberals need to acknowledge their race privilege instead of self-righteously distancing themselves from it.


An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

Aging Aaliya Sohbi lives alone in her Beirut flat, childless, divorced and considered an “unnecessary appendage” to her family. She has translated nearly 40 books into Arabic and hoarded them in her cluttered house, but they’ve never been read by anyone else. In a coming-of-age story told in reverse, the novel documents Aaliya’s efforts to reconcile her aging body and mind with her nightmarish memories of the Lebanese Civil War.

The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Hemmings’ first novel, The Descendants, has been published in 20 other countries and was made into the Oscar-winning film starring George Clooney. Her much-buzzed-about second novel explores the fracturing and healing that takes place within a family after a tragedy. Sarah St. John, a single mother, is reeling after the sudden death of her son. Slowly, she comes to terms with a world without him, when a woman appears on her doorstep with her son’s child. The novel explores how parents ultimately forgive themselves.

China Dolls by Lisa See

The bestselling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Shanghai Girls released her newest novel, China Dolls, in 2014. Set in the raunchy Asian nightclubs of 1930s San Francisco, the book joins the destinies of three young Chinese women who wish to reinvent themselves through fame and fortune. They face the racial prejudice of their time, and their friendship and livelihoods are threatened after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Written with compelling characters and impeccable research by See into 1930s San Francisco, the novel explores the themes of identity, gender and race.

The Cost of Lunch, Etc. by Marge Piercy

Celebrated writer and activist Piercy has now written a collection of short stories that follow the lives of everyday women attempting to make sense of their worlds. From the story of a woman dealing with the gradual withering away of her sister from cancer to a young girl’s first love and sexual awakening, the collection explores death, family, friendship, sex and religion.               

All About Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color edited by Jina Ortiz and Rochelle Spencer

All About Skin addresses the dearth of short fiction by minority women with 27 stories by women writers of color whose work has earned them a range of honors, including John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships and inclusion in the Best American Short Stories and O. Henry anthologies. Demonstrating the exciting talent emerging from the fringes, this multicultural anthology addresses themes such as racial prejudice, media portrayals of beauty and family relationships.




Associate editor of Ms. magazine