This guest post on non-fiction books is written by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung, author of What women Want. What women Want is a non-fiction novel that stems from Maxine’s conversations with her patients.
This list of nonfiction books is in honor of all those women who showed me love and solidarity at my grandmother Constance’s house. The shoulders of women I’ve climbed on, learned from, and respected so that I, too, can lift up other women. I know Constance would approve of this book list, though I suspect she may have added a few of her own, which will no doubt include memoirs and all things clairvoyant…
And yet I get up by Maya Angelou
It would be impossible to celebrate International Women’s Day without acknowledging the mighty Maya Angelou, whose fierce grace, generosity of spirit, wisdom, and unwavering calm graced us readers in the summer of 1978 with: Yet I Rise . I was five years old at the time and had no idea the impact Angelou’s words would have on my life. Though I read, I know why the caged bird sings every year without fail, it is Yet I rise that rests; irate friend in my office when my confidence is shaken. Angelou’s poetry is playful, fearless and warm and speaks of love and longing. Phenomenal woman, that’s me, she wrote. And I know she was talking about all the women in that line and who can argue with that.
We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Adichie
Adichie should be part of the national curriculum, not just for literature students, but much sooner than that. Let’s bring her to our schools. We Should All Be Feminists is a call to arms for solidarity and a deeper understanding of culture with an emphasis on how men as well as women can gain from feminism, therefore Everything. The essay is based on Adiche’s own life experiences and her definition of feminism in the twenty-first century, which is a rallying cry for awareness, inclusion, and connection. Read it and get closer to realizing your feminist values and dreams for a brighter future.
Women Who Run with the Wolves: Getting in Touch with the Power of the Wild Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Women Who Run with the Wolves is written by Jungian psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes and is a stunning and life-enhancing book about how we, as women, can claim and reclaim our desire with a stronger and clearer sense of identity. Estes is generous with her personal narrative, research, and teaching, and offers an insightful critique of the Wild Woman archetype. The stories beautifully illustrate the Wild Woman across age groups and cultures with rites of passage and initiation, ongoing themes in the tales. Estes suggests that an initiation ritual can take many years, and in other cases it is just one important ritual. This is a book to pass on to our daughters and sons.
Communion: A Woman’s Search for Love via bell hooks
bell hooks, born Gloria Jean Watkins, chose her pen name in honor of her late grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks, and chose to have her first and last name lowercase so she could focus on her message rather than herself. And if that’s not a testament to how phenomenal the hooks were, then what is! Communion is a magnificent book by a truth teller of stories and ideas that sparkles and inspires with every page. hooks is intimate, challenging and provocative Communion and her quest to empower women of all ages to bring love into every aspect of their lives and throughout all the years of their lives is a testament to her solidarity and mission. I didn’t think I could fall more in love with hooks after reading this All About Love: Revisionsbut I found myself expanding and healing to meet her calling. Communion is a book full of heart. This is phenomenal.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxanne Gay
It’s a known fact in our house that as soon as a book, podcast, essay, or interview from author and speaker Roxanne Gay comes out, I immediately make time to engage as soon as possible. Tears (overcoming joy and pain) soon follow, as does rage and the utmost respect. And never more so than when I read The Hunger, which is a raw, unapologetic and authoritative memoir. With refreshing honesty, Gay asks what it means to be overweight in a world and time where the bigger you are, the less you’re seen. Deeply personal, Hunger is Gay’s commitment to describing his experience with his body and weight in relation to food and trauma.
Womb by Leah Hazzard
What does Hazard achieve so skillfully Womb is an advocate for one’s own sovereignty and insight into the health of the womb, as well as instructing us with her wise and compassionate view of the female body. After reading The Womb and learning so much, questions followed. Many questions about the future of reproductive freedom and the future of the uterus. Written with warmth, wisdom and advocacy, Hazard’s work as a midwife and academic shines throughout. To read this extraordinary book is to come closer to the autonomy, understanding and empowerment of our bodies. It is a celebration of ALL wombs. This is empowerment in a book by.
Sister outsider by Audre Lorde
Sister Outsider is passionate, uncompromising and full of hope with a sharp edge of rage. It is revolutionary in speaking truth to power and giving voice while challenging what society considers an “acceptable woman.” Lorde, in this collection of interviews, speeches and essays (including the phenomenal “The Master’s Tools Will Never Destroy the Master’s House”) discusses race, solidarity, desire, poetry and friendship. Dating from 1976 to 1984, Lorde’s work draws on her personal life experiences of oppression and the complexities of intersectional identity, while demonstrating the importance of facing adversity to achieve change.
Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind by Siri Husdvedt
Within this phenomenal collection of essays on art, sex, and the mind, Hüsved explores the age-old question of why there is such a divide between literature and science. I’ve been a huge fan of Husved’s work for years, and her ability to write lyrically while maintaining a breathtaking critique never fails to amaze me. The book is divided into three parts, all rich in their inquiries, and I found myself most drawn to the essays that weave the personal and the political where she digs into mother-daughter relationships and the journeys taken from girlhood to womanhood. A Woman Watching Men Watching Women is as refreshing as it is enlightening and challenging. My belief that fiction writers can also write about politics, science, psychoanalysis is evidenced in this book, as Hustvedt’s ability to shape contemporary culture, critical thinking and debate is full of curiosity and invites us to look at the world anew.
The history of art without men by Kathy Hessel
Winner of Waterstone’s Book of the Year 2022, Hessel has given us an incredible book that turns our gaze to women artists and asks: How many women artists do you know? Who makes art history? Did women even work as artists before the twentieth century? And what is baroque anyway? Beautifully curated and detailing the work of over 300 artists, Hessel’s passion drips on every page and her knowledge and deconstruction of a culture that has neglected women is sure to change the course and history of art. I love this book so much.
Sea beans by Sally Huband
This tender story and memoir, due to be published in April, about Huband’s search for sea bream begins when she moves home to the magical Shetland archipelago. Sea Bean is a fusion of body and landscape, of motherhood and treasure hunting. This is a book of hope, where the possibility of finding a grain of sea holds considerable luck and magical charm if one washes up on the shores of the Faroe Islands to the Orkney Islands. When pregnancy triggers a chronic illness and forces her to slow down, Huband hits the beaches, where she discovers a treasure trove full of history and curiosities that connect her to the world. This is the most inspiring nature writing. It is a testament to what it means to be human when human strength and vulnerability are challenged in nature and at home.
Not content with just ten books by ten phenomenal women, here are ten more PHENOMENAL books…
Credit: What Women Want by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung is out now (Hutchinson Heinemann, HBK, EBK, audio, £16.99)