For those of us who love to read and consider ourselves feminists, it can be tricky finding books that align with our feminist ideologies. I’m always down for a good book list so I thought I’d put one together for you, dear reader. Here are a few great reads you might want to try out this summer.
32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter
32 Candles is the debut novel from Ernessa T. Carter. I loved this book so much, I can’t even tell you. The story follows Davie Jones from childhood in Glass, Mississippi to adulthood. Davie is a complex combination of strong, funny, intelligent, talented, ambitious, and even a little devious and controlling. The book doesn’t shy away from challenging issues of race and gender. Davie is a dark skinned woman who experiences colorism both within the black community and outside of it. This book is incredibly engaging. I read it in two days.
Categories: Adult Contemporary Fiction, Race
Wildthorne by Jane Eagland
Wildthorne is the story of Louisa Cosgrove, a seventeen year old queer woman living in Victorian England. Louisa’s childhood is shown through flashbacks. The reader learns that expressing an interest in male occupations like science and medicine and behaving in culturally defined masculine ways was extremely dangerous, especially in Victorian times.The book is heartbreaking in it’s realism. It’s based off the real life experiences of Victorian era women who were institutionalized for mental health reasons due to their refusal to act as women “should”.
Categories: Young Adult, LGBT, Historical Fiction
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
This is a touching story about two teenage Latinos living in the Borderlands of Texas in the eighties. It explores what it was like to be young, Latino, and gay at that time. Although I don’t feel it necessarily captured all the shame, guilt, and homophobia that would be associated with being Latino and gay in the eighties, it’s beautifully written and would be a fantastic story for young gay males to read and anyone who has an interest in Latinx culture.
Categories: Young Adult, LGBT, Fiction, Romance, Latinx Culture
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
This is a story about a seventeen year old Afro-Asian woman named Madeline. Yes, there’s a romance element here that’s strong. It does have that insta-love, tragic romance thing going on that books like Twilight really popularized but there’s so much more to this story. Madeline has an immune disorder which means she cannot leave her house. It has been commonly referred to as the “Boy in the Bubble Disease”. I don’t want to give anything away about this story because you will enjoy it so much more if you remain unspoiled but let’s just say that a lot of crazy shit happens and Madeline handles it because she’s a badass.
Categories: Young Adult, Fiction, Romance
Not if I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
Not if I See You First is about a high school student named Parker Grant who is blind. What I loved about this book is that it’s not a book about how her sight is magically restored or how being blind is the worst thing that can happen to you. This book goes the extra mile to avoid ableism. Parker makes her own rules about her blindness and ensures that others follow her lead. She is a well rounded character where so many other characters with disabilities are written as flat and undeveloped. Although there is a romance storyline, it’s not at all the focus. Some people have actually complained about the weak romance but I was totally fine with that. The story is more about Parker’s emotional journey following her father’s death.
Categories: Young Adult, Fiction, Romance (sort of)
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
This is an older book but it’s being made into a movie next year so now’s the time to read it. It’s a memoir written by a woman who quite possibly had the weirdest childhood of all time. Although her parents both seem to have mental health and substance abuse issues which contributes to their choice to lead their family on a nomadic adventure around the country throughout Jeannette’s childhood, the book is surprisingly light. There are dark moments, of course, that must have been painful for Jeanette to recall but the focus is on the resilience of herself and her siblings who made it through years of neglect and poverty. Each member of the family is a well drawn character. The book reads like fiction due to how well Jeannette Walls described her world. You feel like you’re really there with her.
Categories: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Now I’m going to throw a weird one at you. It’s weird because I’m not sure you can apply the feminist label to it but maybe….
Let’s talk about the Deanna Madden series.
The Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre
The Girl in 6E is the beginning of the Deanna Madden series which can only be described as erotic thrillers. Yup, it’s erotica but it’s also sometimes a psychological thriller, sometimes a crime novel, and sometimes a mystery. It’s hard to really pigeonhole it into one category.
The books follow Deanna Madden, AKA Jessica Reilly. She is a bit like Dexter from the Showtime series. She has a murderous streak for reasons I won’t spoil. She’s also a sex worker. What can put it squarely into the feminist category is that there’s no sex shaming in these books. It’s clear that sex work is powerful for Deanna. Because of her murderous impulses, she has locked herself away in apartment 6E to protect others. As the series progresses, particularly in the second book, there are descriptions of graphic physical and sexual violence towards women. It’s done more in the rape-revenge plot sort of way and by that I mean that if you’re a dude and you’ve got intentions to harm a woman in these books, you’re going to get yours. In other words, the violence against women is not celebrated or tolerated in these books. However, I could see how some would say that there are problematic elements here depending on which way you analyze this through the feminist lens.
How often do you see a woman character as complex as an empowered sex worker who (mostly) uses her homicidal tendencies for good? It flips the femininity script on it’s head.
So, if you’re okay with the graphic sex and violence, give this a try. It’s modern, fun, and sexy but not for everybody.
Categories: Erotica, Thrillers, Crime, Mystery, Adult Contemporary Fiction
There you have it, folks. I hope you enjoyed these suggestions for summer reads. Have a great summer and read some books!