Columns > Published on March 8th, 2017

8 Books for March 8th: International Women's Day

image via Hercampus

International Women's Day is March 8th every year, but it picked up extra significance in 2017 when it also became A Day Without a Woman, a strike to highlight the economic significance women have around the world. Many of us are only beginning to recognize the importance of this day, which has been used to bring attention to everything from economic disparity to human rights. My booklist for International Women's Day is by women who inspire me through their strength in the face of opposition and strife.

'Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg' by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

Who would have guessed that an aging, grouchy Supreme Court Justice would capture the popular imagination the way Ruth Bader Ginsburg has? Ginsburg has spent a lifetime fighting for women's rights and gender equality. She was the first Supreme Court Justice to officiate a same-sex marriage. Her dissents are legendary and accompanied by a sparkly jabot. She's salty, and we love her for it. This book, which is both lighthearted and well-researched, puts RBG into historical perspective, tells the story of her very interesting life, and directs readers on how to be more like her.

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'The Meaning of Freedom: And Other Difficult Dialogues' by Angela Davis

Angela Davis has led an amazing life as a scholar, teacher, and activist. She became internationally known in 1969 when Ronald Reagan, as Governor of California, urged the University of California regents to fire her because of her membership in the Communist Party. Today, she is Professor Emerita in multiple departments at UC Santa Cruz. After her own 16-month incarceration while she awaited trial and subsequent acquittal, Davis became a staunch advocate for prisoners' rights. This collection of speeches by Davis highlights issues related to racism, marginalized communities, and the fundamentals of democracy.

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'In the Shadow of Man' by Jane Goodall

If you have never heard Jane Goodall speak in public, go the next time she's in your town. She is compelling and interesting and an amazing storyteller. It would be easy for some to forget just how significant her work is. Jane Goodall permanently changed the public and scientific discourse on primates, specifically on chimpanzees, our closest living relative. Until she studied chimpanzees in Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in Tanzania, it was believed that only humans made and used tools. She also uncovered the complex social hierarchies at play in chimpanzee communities. This book is the story of her great work and discoveries with chimps. It has inspired an entire generation of women to trailblaze in their fields in spite of the adversity they encounter.

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'We Should All Be Feminists' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie wrote this short publication after delivering a TED Talk by the same name in 2013. She is a storyteller by profession and wonderful to listen to. She manages to talk about the behaviors and issues that feminism addresses with nuance and humor. Her examples take place in her home country of Nigeria, a country with attitudes reminiscent of the Mad Men era, yet all women will find themselves somewhere in her stories. She is pointed and direct about what societies are doing to perpetuate sexist attitudes and stereotypes. She offers suggestions on how we can raise our children better to create a future of respect and equality.

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'I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban' by Malala Yousafzai

Malala is an internationally-recognized activist for girls' rights to an education. She was born and raised in the Swat Valley in Pakistan. In 2012, she was shot in the face by a member of the Taliban while attempting to travel to school after a ban on girls in schools had been announced. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her efforts to raise awareness on the fundamental right to an education. Her book is inspiring and drives home the message that it is worth fighting for the things you believe in, even in the face of violence and oppression.

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'Moving Beyond Words: Essays on Age, Rage, Sex, Power, Money, Muscles: Breaking the Boundaries of Gender' by Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem is one of the best-known women from the feminist movement of the '60s and '70s. She co-founded Ms. magazine in 1972, which was the first mass media publication to tackle feminist issues (and is still doing so). She has devoted her career to advancing the cause of gender equality. This publication is a collection of old and new speeches and essays on a variety of issues that connect to gender. Steinem's style is both academic and journalistic and she clearly communicates that feminism will only advance if members of all generations talk to one another. If you have never dipped your toes into the feminist canon, this is a fantastic place to start.

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'The Complete Persepolis' by Marjane Satrapi

I wish more non-fiction was told in graphic novel form because it is so effective. Persepolis is heart wrenching and touching and beautiful and scary and prescient. Originally published over 10 years ago, it tells Satrapi's autobiography as a girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution that created an Islamic state and her later departure to Europe to escape the Iran-Iraq war. Persepolis is a primer in authoritarian government. Satrapi sees family members imprisoned for dissenting opinions and the rights of women curtailed. She is also determined to live her life in spite of the turmoil around her, which includes hanging out alone (!) with her boyfriend (a punishable offense), and pursuing her dream of becoming an artist. It's a story of love and loss and a reminder that freedom must be fought for and can so easily be taken away.

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'Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box' by Madeleine Albright

Last but certainly not least, we have this interesting aside from the first female Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. She started wearing decorative pins to comment on diplomacy after she spoke out about Saddam Hussein and his poet referred to her as "an unparalleled serpent." The snake pin she wore the next day spoke to her defiance in the face of a dictator. The many pins she wore after that event served as subtle communicators or bon mots on specific issues. This book dives into some of these stories and includes a "pindex" of all her pins.

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What titles do you recommend for International Women's Day?

About the author

Stephanie Bonjack is an academic librarian based in Boulder, Colorado. She teaches the relentless pursuit of information, and illuminates the path to discovery. She has presented at national and international library conferences, and is especially interested in how libraries evolve to serve the needs of 21st century patrons. When she’s not sleuthing in the stacks, she enjoys chasing her toddler across wide open spaces.

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