A Summer Reading List Challenge

Shira A list by student staff member, Shira Devorah 

Summer is here, which means I finally have time to do some leisure reading!  While I’ve been known to indulge in guilty pleasure novels, I know that there are a lot of amazing feminist books out there that I haven’t taken the time to read yet.

This summer,  I plan on undertaking a feminist book club challenge! I encourage anyone reading this to come along and read with me. There aren’t any real rules to this challenge – the challenge I’m proposing to myself is to read at least 10 books that contribute to my knowledge on feminism, activism and social justice. The list of possibilities is truly extensive, so I’m going to choose just a handful of books that I think i’ll enjoy reading. Each picture will be linked to a purchasable copy on Amazon, just in case you would like to read long with me (or even better, shop local)! 

* This list isn’t in any particular order, and I’m not sure which book I’m going to read first ( or simultaneously). They’re just numbered for convenience sake.* 

1.) The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley 

Image from Amazon.com

I was given this book as a present once, but I never got around to reading it, and eventually my father accidentally gave it away. Fortunately, I’ve recently acquired a new copy. This is a novel that centers on the stories of the female characters in Arthurian legend, focusing on the antagonist of King Arthur, Morgan le Fay. Instead of being portrayed as a one-dimensional evil woman, her story is fleshed out and given substance.

2.) How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Julia Alvarez 


I’ve heard of this book before, but I’ve never sat down to actually read it. This novel follows the lives of four Dominican sisters in reverse chronological order. I’m really excited to delve into the themes of acculturation, immigration and identity that the Garcia sisters face in this novel.

3.) Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde 


Audre Lorde is a feminist hero, and I think it is massively important to read her, especially if I’m going to call myself an intersectional feminist. In this collection of 15 essays and speeches, Lorde covers a broad range of important topics, including race, classism, sexism, ageism and homophobia. I’ve read an essay or two, but I’m ready to experience Lorde’s full power.

4.) The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath


I can’t believe that I’ve never read this book. I’ve picked it up a few times and read the back, but I’ve never actually sat down and read it. It’s a classic that focuses on mental illness and identity, and I cannot wait to finally take the time to read it.

5.) Redefining Realness, Janet Mock 


This is a memoir by the fantastic Janet Mock, discussing her identity as a trans woman of color. I’ve really enjoyed “Her Story“, and the creators mentioned the immense  influence of Janet Mock during a talkback at UMBC.  I haven’t read too many memoirs, but this New York Times bestseller is about to change that.

6.) Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay 


I often feel like a feminist killjoy. I know that once you begin to see the world through an intersectional feminist lens, all of your faves become problematic. This book of essays will hopefully help teach me how to enjoy things in life while continuing to be critical.

7.) Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, Joyce Carol Oates 


When I was a senior in High School, my english teacher suggested that I read this book. I distinctly remember going to the library and finding it, but putting it back on the shelf because I thought that it looked too boring. I don’t know how a thriller about a girl gang in the 1950s seemed boring to 17-year-old me, but I think now is a good time to revisit this novel.

8.) Saga, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples 


I’m a sucker for a good graphic novel,  yet I haven’t gotten my paws on this one just yet. Saga is a series about two lovers from different worlds trying to raise their daughter in a war-torn society. It’s beautiful, full of fantasy and sci-fi, and apparently has amazing representations of  ethnicity, gender and sexuality during a fictional war. It’s also illustrated by Fiona Staples,  a woman of color who is regarded as the  #1 female comic book artist of all-time by readers of Comic Book Resources in 2015. I can’t wait to finally read this installment (as well as the rest of the story).

9.) Gender Trouble, Judith Butler 


I’ve read (and watched) a bit of Judith Butler in class, and I’m super interested in Queer Theory. This book came out in 1990, but is still important as a fundamental reading for queer theorists, so I’m going to attempt to make it through some dense vocabulary and learn a bit. I plan for mass amounts of annotation, that’s how I tend to get through theory-heavy books.

10.) Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha


I have recently fallen for the poetry and all-together awesomeness of Piepzna-Samarasinha. While I’ve watched a bunch of her spoken word, I haven’t really gotten to know her outside of that. Remember how I said earlier that I haven’t read too many memoirs, and now there are two on my list? Wild, right? I’m just happy that Piepzna- Samarasinha has shared this journey of hers, I can’t wait to learn more about her.

So that’s my list!  Feel free to join in on this challenge and read these books during the summer, too! I’ll be back in a few months to tell you all how this little reading adventure went. If you want more than what’s listed here, check out this goodreads list of feminist books. Happy reading!

Fun Fact! Did you know the Women’s Center at UMBC has a lending library where you can check out some of these books for free?! Stop by this summer and stock up on your favorite feminists reads this summer. 



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