10 Feminist Books to Read This Summer

This piece appears in the Summer 2017 issue of Ms. Subscribe today to get a copy and become a member of the Ms. community!


Refuge by Dina Nayeri

Like the main character Niloo, the author Nayeri spent two years in a refugee camp as a child. Though the story does not linger in the camp, moving from Iran to America and the Netherlands, it snags on memories along the way. The story is broadly about the global nature of the refugee crisis, focusing on one in particular that involves Dr. Hamidi, a dentist, and his daughter Niloo, a scholar of cultural anthropology. Niloo, though bolstered by a Yale education and a French husband, bears the trauma of both her father’s abandonment and the violation of her privacy and dignity as a child refugee.

Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea Ritchie

Attorney and activist ritchie draws on more than two decades of experiences fighting the systemic inequalities that plague women and LGBTQ people on city streets, in schools, at our borders and in the criminal justice system. Individual, up-close-and-personal stories vividly illustrate the broader battles women, LGBTQ individuals and people of color wage on a daily basis.

Off the Cliff: How the Making of Thelma & Louise Drove Hollywood to the Edge by Becky Aikman

Thelma & Louise was an exception, not the rule, of successful movie formulas. Getting it made took the efforts of countless women who had watched the media ignore and/or stereotype them for decades. In her thoroughly researched and compelling book, Aikman explores how the now-historic film was the product of many strong-willed women working behind the scenes, and how their fight for the Thelma & Louise story helped them to finally tell their own. Along the way, Aikman illustrates the sexism that permeated the entertainment industry long before Thelma—and which persists today.

The Untold Journey: The Life of Diana Trilling by Natalie Robins

Robins’ book is for the true bibliophile. meticulously researched and documented, the biography is a detailed foray into the lives of a generation of writers and into the mind of literary critic, writer and intellectual Diana Trilling. Among many other things, Trilling was a feminist, politically passionate and morally assertive. Consider the journey told.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

With Hunger, Gay confesses her craving for food, for safety, for belonging—anything that can protect her against a world still ripe with sexism and racism. In a series of essays, Gay examines her relationship to her weight, and to society’s relationship to her as a woman whose body—and color—defies the narrow standards of female attractiveness. With characteristic vividness, she describes the ways everyday situations can become more complicated for someone who takes up more space than society allots her.

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Award-winning poet Alyan’s debut novel, Salt Houses, tells the story of a Palestinian family forced to flee during the six Day War of 1967. As its members spread across the globe, they must navigate marriage, parenthood and assimilation while trying to stay rooted in a land they will never see again. Alyan explores human agency in the face of the harshest of realities without compromising the complex nature of the Palestinian diaspora. This is a heart-wrenching, intimate look at the intergenerational impact of losing a homeland.

The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God by Dr. Leona Stucky

Stucky was just 16 when her boyfriend, fearing she would leave him, raped her and threatened her life. Years later, after they were married and raising a child together, his abuse only became more severe and unrelenting. In her chilling and tumultuous memoir, Stucky recounts her attempts to play by the rules of the mennonite Church that failed to protect her, and her embrace of feminist notions of faith and survival that finally led her to a new life.

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

Kadish’s third novel begins with the discovery of a hidden cache of papers—the genizah of a blind 17th-century rabbi—behind a staircase panel in a North London home. This find opens up the possibility of academic glory for Helen Watt, an ailing historian nearing retirement who realizes that, against all odds, the papers’ scribe was a woman, an immigrant from Amsterdam. Told through two parallel storylines, the book follows Watt in the early 2000s and the mysterious young scribe ester Velasquez, a brilliant scholar and, above all, a survivor, who navigates 1660s London on the verge of the Plague.

New People by Danzy Senna

Protagonist maria Pierce is an outspoken biracial stanford graduate who is not afraid to call out racism and white privilege. she hates when black people are represented in the media as too normal because it suggests that they will someday be as boring as white people. The rub is that maria is being featured in The New York Times. she and her mixed-race fiancé, Khalil mirsky, are the same shade of beige—they’re perfect in the eyes of filmmakers and the Times. This novel will catch readers off guard with its plot twists and almost too-relatable characters. senna uses light humor to balance disturbing events that present maria with more than a few reality checks.

Ugly Prey: An Innocent Woman and the Death Sentence that Scandalized Jazz Age Chicago by Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi

The opening pages of Le Beau Lucchesi’s account of a Cook County Illinois courthouse handing down a death sentence to sabella Nitti are harrowing. Le Beau Lucchesi’s work offers a remarkable perspective on the female immigrant experience at the hands of the American criminal justice system in notorious 1920s Chicago.

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