Books for Feminists – Big and Small, Part 3: Adult Contemporary

Hello again and welcome to our next series in the Books for Feminists book list. If you didn’t catch the first two parts of this blog, we’ve covered feminist books for children and feminist books for teens. Our next list up is contemporary books for the feminist reader.

But before I launch into adult contemporary literature, let’s review what I mean when I say feminist (you can skip this part if you’ve read the other blog posts). A feminist is simply a person, male or female, that believes that all people are equal and that women are people too.

Now, onto the books!

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How to Be a Woman

Did you forget how to be a woman? Well, this book will help you with that, or at least, it’ll make you laugh. Author Caitlin Moran mixes snark, profanity, and cutting humor within her book. She is often called “the UK Tina Fey” and this book has made it onto the New York Time’s best sellers list. If you want to read about serious issues facing women from the UK to the US today, but maybe laugh while doing it, this book is the one for you.


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The Beauty Myth

Did you know that women don’t naturally come with hot pink lips, inch long eyelashes, or the ability to walk in high heels while cooking the most delicious dinner you’ve ever tasted? Sorry to dispel those myths for you. Naomi Wolf takes a look at how our society perceives beauty in women and how beauty is wielded like a social weapon to keep women perpetually chasing a standard that is unobtainable and costly. No one is naturally flawless, and, let’s face it, chasing perfection in the way of plastic surgery and makeup is an endless endeavor.


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Book of Negros

Author Lawrence Hill creates a captivating narrative about an eleven year old girl being abducted from her home in West Africa, her journey by sea, and her eventual slavery in South Carolina. And, here’s the kicker—this isn’t a fictional story. This is the story of Aminata Diallo, born in Bayo, West Africa, in 1745. Book of Negros is a carefully constructed piece that takes historic evidence to recreate the events in Aminata’s life and struggles.


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The Nightingales of Troy

This collection of short stories is connected by a common thread—through members of an Irish American family starting in 1908. The author, Alice Fulton, shows her talent as a poet with carefully constructed sentences and brilliantly specific word choices. Not only is this a great read for any writer who appreciates craft, but the uniqueness of this short story collection makes it a great read for all. The linage of the family is explored from the jazz age to the time when the Beatles ruled teenage girl’s hearts.


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The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine

From Sue Monk Kidd, best-selling author of The Secret Life of Bees (another great feminist novel, for those interested), comes her autobiographical tale. Her journey starts with her being the ideal Christian wife and mother until she starts to question her life. She realizes that there might just be more for women out there beyond what her religious values instilled in her. She found her feminist awakening and her faith at odds. She uses her theological background, mythological understanding, and passion for the arts to work her way through her life-crisis and she shares all of that with her readers throughout the chronicles of her journey from traditionalist to feminist.


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The Edible Woman

I could write a whole list of just books by Margaret Atwood, from The Handmaid’s Tale written in 1985 to her latest book, MaddAddam released in 2013. The Edible Woman is the story of Marian McAlpin and her engagement. Being engaged is the happiest time in a woman’s life, right? It’s the pinnacle aspiration for women everywhere! Except, Marian doesn’t feel all that excited about it. In fact, she feels kind of sick over it. Too sick to eat. First she can’t eat meat, then she loses her apatite for eggs, vegetables, and cake until she eventually doesn’t want to eat anything. It could just be nerves, right? Except, she has this horrible feeling that she’s being eaten now that she’s stopped eating.


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Boy, Snow, Bird: A Novel

Helen Oyeyemi modernizes the classic fairy tale of Snow White. In Oyeyemi’s version, jealousy and the pursuit of beauty in an unknown kingdom are exchanged for race in 1950’s America. Boy Novak falls in love with the Whitman patriarch and finds herself step-mother to Snow Whitman. When Boy has a daughter, Bird, the secret of the Whitman family is revealed—that they are not, in fact, white, but a family passing as white. Bird’s dark skin reveals their secret to the town. Now Boy, Snow, and Bird must face the racial prejudices and injustice in this small American town, where they only have each other to rely on.


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So Long a Letter

I first read Mariama Ba’s novel So Long a Letter in my Post-Colonial Literature course and I fell in love with it. This semi-autobiographical tale tackles complex issues of tradition, marriage, polygamy, family, education, colonial influences, male and female roles, and how the next generation inherits the problems of the generation before it. Ramatoulaye married for love. She and her friend Aissatou both married for love. These two women were in a cultural revolution Senegal where the patriarchal, polygamist ways of marriage were giving way to a western-influenced binary family model. Only, that’s just what these women think in the early days of their marriage. Both Ramatoulaye and Aissatou’s husbands take on second wives. This story, told in the form of a long letter, shows the struggles of these women against the previous generation of women that fight for tradition and the next generation, that of Ramatoulaye’s daughters, and the move even further away from Senegalese tradition and towards more western ways.


For more contemporary feminist novels, check out this great list by Flavorwire.Com of 50 Excellent Novels by Female Writers Under 50 That Everyone Should Read and Goodread.Com’s list of the Best Feminist Fiction.

Also, be sure to check back for our final installment of books for feminists—classic feminist novels.

Amanda Riggle
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Amanda Riggle

Managing Editor at The Poetics Project
Amanda is the Managing Editor at The Poetics Project and of The Socialist, the national magazine of The Socialist Party USA, as well as the Lead Editor of Pomona Valley Review's upcoming 11th issue. She graduated with a BA in English Education and a minor in Political Science. She is currently enrolled in an English MA program with an emphasis in Literature. During her free time, Amanda enjoys writing poetry, reading, traveling, crocheting, watching entire seasons of campy shows on Netflix, and, of course, writing blogs.

You can follow Amanda on Twitter @ThePandaBard, on Pinterest @ThePandaBard, or on Medium @ThePandaBard. You can also find her research on Academia.Edu at Cpp.Academia.Edu/MandaRiggle.

Amanda Riggle
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