As the Inauguration and Women’s March on Washington draws near, we thought it would be an apt time to compile a list of books that revolve around female activism and empowerment as a reminder to our daughters and sons the challenges that we’ve faced, and the struggles that still await us. We hope these books inspire you and your kids to take action to ensure that women’s rights are human rights, and to help create communities that champion inclusivity and diversity.
To find a Women’s March near you, check out the Sister March page at https://www.womensmarch.com/sisters.
1. Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl
Kate Schatz, the author of Rad Women A-Z is back with an equally (if not more so) cool and inspiring book covering extraordinary women from all over the world. The book includes 40 women, with a short bio for each and awesome paper cut portraits by Miriam Stahl. From more well known figures (Angela Davis) to the obscure (the Quintreman Sisters), from the ancient (Queen Hatshepsut) to the contemporary (Malala Yousafzai), Schatz’s book is as richly diverse as it is rewarding. There’s even an added 250 names of rad women included in the back of the book as a reference for readers to continue their own research. Age range: grades 5 and up, adults will love this book too!
2. For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai's Story by Rebecca Langston-George, illustrated by Janna Bock
Rebecca Langston-George offers a powerful tale, based on the true story of activist Malala Yousafzai’s life and struggle. Though she was raised in a culture where women rights were repressed, Malala was determined to make education accessible for every girl. Unlike similar books in the genre, For the Right to Learn stays true to historic fact, and is not overly watered down. But the engaging illustrations and brevity of the picture book text makes it a great pick for young readers grades 2-4.
3. Fight Like A Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, by Laura Barcella
Feminism is not an easily defined movement or label that can be wrapped up neatly in a box with a bow. Laura Barcella understands that, and instead of offering simple answers, she provides readers with a history of feminism by way of the leaders who defined it. Similarly to Rad Women Worldwide, Fight Like A Girl includes serious breadth and diversity. For each figure there is a short bio, a bullet point list of key take aways (called “cool credentials”), and famous quotes. The line drawn portraits and casual language give the book a zine-like quality that makes it an approachable and fun read for pre-teen to teen readers.
4. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March, by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, Elspeth Leacock (Adapter), Susan Buckley (Adapter), Illustrated by PJ Loughran
In this thought provoking, evocative book Lynda Blackmon Lowery offers a powerful account of just how it felt to be one of the youngest participant in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom does not gloss over the day-to-day racism and injustices Lynda experienced, but instead delves head first into the uncomfortable and ugly truth of our nation that we often try to forget. By the same token, the courage and strength needed to become a civil rights activist as a teenager is not underestimated. With a riveting narrative and a graphic novel feel, this book will be welcomed by readers grades 7 and up.
5. Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories, by Ellen S.Levine
Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Ruby Bridges are household names in the Civil Rights movement. But what about the children and teenagers who put their lives on the line to protest segregation, secure voting rights for people of color, and stand up against daily encounters of racism and hate? In this book, thirty young civil rights activists share their true stories of their struggles to secure freedom for future generations. Reading accounts of how it felt to enact sit-ins, walk-outs, and protests as a person under twenty is immensely humbling and influential, especially for a young readers whose feelings of helplessness or apathy prevent them from fighting against racism and hate in their own communities. These upfront, deeply personal and unapologetic stories are perfect for grades six and up.
6. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
In the summer of 1968, three strong-willed, close-as-can-be sisters board a plane from Brooklyn to Oakland, California to stay with their mysterious, unimaginably stern mother Cecile who treats them like unwanted pets. Neglected and confused, they spend their days at a community center run by the Black Panthers and try to piece together all the commotion in their neighborhood--men in berets shouting "Black Power" in the streets, flyers talking about revolution, and "Free Huey" graffitied on the walls. Over the course of the summer, the sisters come to find their place during this pivotal, turbulent moment in African American history, and learn to reconcile their relationship with their poet-activist mother who, while hardly a maternal figure, empowers her girls nonetheless. One Crazy Summer is a perfect read for grades four through seven.