2016 has been a difficult year, one that’s seen a type of social and political heartache many would like to forget. With this in mind, it’s also been a year filled with strong female voices speaking out against racism, sexism and all types of discrimination white nationalism perpetuates. We, at A Women’s Thing, look to these women’s writings as a source of inspiration through what they teach us about how to persist in the face of tyranny, how to heal our pain and how to rally together to make our culture more accepting. These 6 2016 feminist books should not be missed—check them out!
1. All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister
In this richly detailed and thoroughly researched portrait of the twentieth-century woman, award-winning journalist Rebecca Traister uncovers how the phenomenon of the single woman is not a new one, but in fact one that dates back for centuries and is collectively the site of many of the most history-defining cultural changes: temperance, abolition, secondary education, and, of course, women’s suffrage. Filled with fascinating anecdotes of contemporary and historical figures, All the Single Ladies offers a greater understanding of American life through an economic, political, and social analysis of one of America’s most powerful populations: single women.
2. Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett
You’ve probably seen the graffiti-esque font on the cover of Bennett’s debut book staring at you from bookshelves at your local bookshop, calling to you to investigate what it’s all about. Our advice: do it. In this part manifesto, part manual, Bennett offers cutting-edge social science research blended with personal stories and anecdotes from other working women to provide practical, actionable advice for how to fight everyday sexism. She coins a new vocabulary to help articulate the subtle, nuanced and often overlooked sexist behaviors women endure in the day-to-day, and Broad City’s Ilana Glazer called it “a classic, fuck-you feminist battle guide.” The best part? It’s 21 percent more expensive for men.
3. Black Wave by Michelle Tea
Described as “a Gen-X queer girl’s version of the bohemian counter-canon” (New York Times) that “powerfully expresses the intensity both of attaining sobriety and of the writing process” (The New Yorker), set in 90s Los Angeles, Black Wave is a lyrical yet blunt meditation on addiction and recovery, erasure and assimilation, love and isolation in the face of the apocalypse, and how writing has life-saving effects. Michelle Tea’s loose and gorgeous prose pull her readers into a new kind of feminist imagination within a literary environment that doesn’t need to fit into that of older eras.
4. Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation by Carolyn Cocca
We’re all familiar with the tropes of classic superhero depictions: they’re always fiercely moral, supernaturally strong, agile, fast, and, perhaps most unsurprisingly, they’re all predominantly white, straight, cisgender men who always get the girl. Thankfully, this is changing, with more women, POC and minority groups assuming these heroic roles, but there is still a notable disparity between the number of white male superheroes and, in particular, female superheroes. In this exciting examination of the social function of these super humans, Cocca examines how female superheroes—with special focus on Wonder Woman; Batgirl and Oracle; Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel; Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Star Wars’ Padmé Amidala, Leia Organa, Jaina Solo, and Rey—are frequently the site of struggles over gender, sexuality, race, and disability, and why representations of superheroes matter, particularly to historically underrepresented and stereotyped groups.
5. Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith has been called the most influential contemporary author who grapples with the complexities of race, class, and gender—and Swing Time is nothing short of a much-needed meditation on how these issues continue to be inseparable. In the same style as Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series, Swing Time follows two childhood girls’ divergent paths and how their early friendship helped shape their adult lives. Swinging from different countries during different eras, Swing Time traces the power of dance and rhythm and how this art form helps to imagine each girl’s future. The novel’s arrival feels especially relevant in light of the global, white nationalist movements that elected Trump and voted in favor of Brexit, a sentiment impossible not to feel while reading Smith’s lyrical prose.
6. Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti
Founder of the popular feminist blog Feministing, Jessica Valenti is considered to be one of the prominent feminist leaders of our age. In this prescient, insightful memoir, Valenti examines her own life and how she has repeatedly been objectified and her initial obliviousness to it. Through her personal anecdotes, she offers a piercing and culturally urgent understanding of feminism and why it’s necessary to ending the normalized (and institutionalized) sexual objectification of women’s bodies.
Chaos is frequently considered a state in which the strongest, most influential types of art are created, and we have to agree. We see reading the works of prominent feminist writers–both present and past–as essential to elevating our collective consciences to fighting sexism and racism. Hopefully, one day we, as a culture, will have healed from this type of discrimination. But until then, read on.