What’s it about: In a near-future dystopian United States, Hannah has been subjected to chroming – her skin genetically altered to bright red – to publicly indicate her guilt as a violent felon in a society that has moved quickly toward a theocracy.
What made me pick it up: I’d heard that this was a modern-day Scarlet Letter with a strong Handmaid’s Tale feel, which was impossible to resist.
My favorite things: While the latter part of the book didn’t wow me, the opening and the premise are nearly perfect. Jordan creates a complex main character who wrestles with her own values as she moves away from a total acceptance of the righteous and utterly restrictive laws that rule much of the country. Though she is in a world where religious moralism reigns supreme and bodily autonomy doesn’t exist, her struggle to find peace with herself and her actions gives hope in a time of what feels like insurmountable tension and divisiveness.
Who it’s great for: Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, Naomi Alderman’s The Power, and other dystopian stories with a strong feminist bent.
What it’s about: A book of poetry about abuse and assault and theoretical revenge. But mostly about how powerful women are, and how we will overcome.
What made me pick it up: It was available from my library’s downloadable collection on Freading so I could check it out right away. I had read Lovelace’s first collection and enjoyed it.
My favorite parts: I loved the messages of self love and acceptance. I could read poems that tell me how ass-kicking women are all day long. I also enjoy the reminders to pull other ladies up with you. We’re all in this together. I appreciated the trigger warning she included in the beginning. This content will punch you in the stomach, especially if you have familiarity with abuse, assault, or harassment. I definitely took screenshots of some of these poems to carry with me. Get angry, fantasize about getting even, but more than anything know how valuable you are.
Who it’s great for: Anyone sick of being quiet and nice and polite and proper in the face of abuse, harassment, threats, or assault. It’s our time.
What’s it about: In the near future when climate change has made winter a memory and evolution seems to be reversing, pregnant Cedar Songmaker connects with her biological family seeking answers about her origin. Her life and autonomy are put at risk in a society increasingly obsessed with protecting the human race by controlling reproduction.
What made me pick it up: I’ve never read Louise Erdrich before even though she’s been on my TBR list for years, so I decided to start with her newest release.
My favorite things: I didn’t really know anything about this book going in, knowing only that Erdrich is known to write mostly literary fiction featuring native characters. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I’d picked up her foray into dystopian and somewhat speculative fiction – one of my favorite areas to read. She does an incredible job of exploring themes of spirituality, identity, family, and resilience in the context of societal collapse.
Originally published in: 2016 (North American edition 2017)
What’s it about: This reads like a thought experiment gone very, very right.What would happen in a world where women developed a physical power that men couldn’t match?
What made me pick it up: I think I put this on hold because there was a blurb from Margaret Atwood on the cover. But I’m also just a sucker for speculative work that is (post)apocalyptic and/or dystopian.
My favorite things: Somehow this book is both a very heavy-handed critique of global patriarchy and an electrifying story. The novel is bookended by letters between two writers, Naomi and Neil, whose gendered interactions flip the script in a way that will entertain anyone tired of mansplaining.
Who it’s great for: Fan’s of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Readers looking for unapologetically feminist read that doesn’t sacrifice story for politics.
What it’s about: Roxane Gay reflects on her life in her body. She explores struggles with size, eating disorders, assault, and what it’s like to exist in a world that wasn’t designed to accommodate your body.
What made me pick it up: I love Roxane Gay’s work and I thought this book sounded important.
My favorite things: Take a deep breath before you dive into this because it is deep, raw, and painfully honest. She doesn’t shy away from details of her assault or the ways she thinks of her assailant to this day. She even takes the time to explain why she’s more comfortable identifying as a victim of sexual violence rather than as a survivor – without condemning or questioning those who do identify as survivors. The courage and openness throughout Hunger is consistently inspiring.
Who it’s great for: Fans of Roxane Gay’s other work. Memoir readers looking for something heavy to dig into.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman because I like his other stuff. Whereas by Layli Long Soldier because Native American poetry. White Working Class by Joan C. Williams because I read White Trash and am just on a jaunt on that subject.
What it’s about: COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg considers her own experiences and gives advice for women on investing fully in career and life. You can also read Erica’s review of Sandberg’s later book Option B.
What made me pick it up: I’ve been meaning to check it out for a while and the audiobook was available to check out.
My favorite things: Some will argue that this is geared only toward certain women, but Sandberg does a great job of identifying her own privileges and trying to adapt her advice to women who may not have the same opportunities. She also encourages women to fully commit to whatever decisions they make even if they aren’t the same ones she would make.
Who it’s great for: Women looking for advice on career and life or insight into one woman’s rise to the top. Readers who enjoyed Sandberg’s later book, Option B.
What it’s about: Feminist scholars Hannah and Marcelle re-read and watch all of the Harry Potter books and films and tear them apart. With love.
What made me tune in: There was no chance I would pass up a podcast with both the perfect premise and the perfect name.
My favorite things: If you love something, rip it to shreds. Or, that seems to be the guiding idea behind this podcast. Hosts Hannah and Marcelle rejoice in the strong characters and engaging storytelling that make Harry Potter what it is, but still aren’t afraid to challenge various aspects of the books and films that are problematic. I think my favorite recurring segment is the one where they consider that Harry’s narration may be unreliable and that the story should be read with a grain of salt. A very big grain of salt.
Who it’s great for: Anyone who loves the Harry Potter stories but has struggled with some of the details. If you’ve tuned in to listen to Harry Potter and the Sacred Text you might enjoy the way this podcast approaches the books from a new angle.
Find it for free wherever you access your podcasts. Or here.
What it’s about: Phoebe Robinson reflects on her experiences as a black woman in comedy and on her observations about race and gender. She challenges her readers to do better.
What made me pick it up: This one has been making the rounds at work so I’ve had it on my TBR list for a while.
My favorite things: Robinson easily discusses race and gender in a way that is both accessible and unapologetic. Her sharp wit is so compelling that you can’t help but laugh even if what she’s calling out is you or something you do. I appreciate that she writes the same way she talks – with a lot of unnecessary abbreviations. Although, I’m not sure I agree with her spelling of cazsh (casual).
What it’s about: The author uses the graphic novel format to recount her experiences growing up during the terror caused by the Yorkshire Ripper and reflect on her personal experiences of sexual assault.
What made me pick it up: I saw a colleague with it and was instantly fascinated.
My favorite things: Each aspect of this graphic memoir comes together in a powerful condemnation of rape culture and victim blaming. The art is incredible and occasionally so arresting that I had to put down the book. For me, the strongest part of the book was also the most difficult to get through- a series of illustrations imagining what the victims of the ripper would be doing today.
Who it’s great for: Don’t pick this up if you’re looking for a quick or light read – this is for readers looking for something very raw and real. A great choice for those interested in dissecting rape culture and understanding the experiences of survivors.
Intrigued? Find a copy at Amazon (affiliate link) or your local library.