Women's History Month 2017 Reading List
March 8th is International Women’s Day! For the rest of Women’s History Month, consider reading literature written by women. Here are some novels, poetry collections, and essay anthologies that are worth reading this month, and all year long!
Citizen (2014) — Claudia Rankine
“How difficult is it for one body to feel the injustice wheeled at another? Are the tensions, the recognitions, the disappointments, and the failures that exploded in the riots too foreign?”
Citizen is a genre-blending collection of poetry, essays, political criticism, and visual art. The collection focuses on both the individual and collective experiences of African American citizens living in modern-day America. Rankine masterfully depicts firsthand experiences of racial tensions and the everyday oppressions that establish the hierarchies of race and gender. The collection was a National Book Award Finalist, and continues to be an essential literary installment within our current cultural climate.
To The Lighthouse (1927) — Virginia Woolf
“There was a sense of things having been blown apart, of space, of irresponsibility as the ball soared high, and they followed it and lost it and saw the one star and the draped branches. In the failing light they all looked sharp-edged and ethereal and divided by great distances.”
To The Lighthouse is a quintessential modernist novel, brimming with anxieties, internal struggles, and repressed emotions. The novel explores the life of the Ramsay family, an emotionally-distant group of individuals with conflicting fears and desires. The novel explores the challenges of human connection, the passage of time, and the difficulties of being both a mother and a Mother Figure. You will never forget a character like Mrs. Ramsay. By reading this novel, you will be inhabiting her thoughts, attending her dinner parties, and admiring her ability to charm everyone she meets.
The Dream of a Common Language (Poems 1974-1977) — Adrienne Rich
“I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or week
the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.”
The Dream of a Common Language is a powerful poetry collection that discusses the possibility of a “common language” for all people, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. Rich’s beautifully dense words provide the reader with a sense of how this common language can be understood through the impact of poetry. In “Diving Into the Wreck,” Rich excavates the masses of women’s literature that have been abandoned to “the wreck” and relegated to the bottom of the male literary canon. With this stunning poetry collection, Rich provides her readers with yet another “treasure that prevails” throughout contemporary literature and beyond.
Women, Race, & Class (1981) — Angela Y. Davis
“‘Woman’ was the test, but not every woman seemed to qualify. Black women, of course, were virtually invisible within the protracted campaign for woman suffrage.”
Women, Race, & Class is an essential work that discusses the restrictions placed on women of color from both the women’s liberation movement and from society at large. It is an engaging analysis of intersectional issues and the problem of exclusion within a community trying to move toward empowerment and acceptance. It is also a necessary historical analysis of Angela Davis’ activism and her continued strength, despite all external attempts to stifle her. It illuminates some of the restrictive tendencies within contemporary society, and offers powerful alternatives.