11 Feminist Memoirs and Essays to Ignite Your Rebel Side

Published April 26, 2018 | Updated July 18, 2020

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Below is a collection of books that have found themselves to me on my weekly strolls through the local bookstores of San Francisco, falling into my lap during sale bin escapades or by carefully reading each spine lining the shelves of non-fiction, my own supporting a contorted head, tilting and waiting for colors and titles to beg for my embrace.

Each and every one of these has sought me out, and I look forward to digging deeper to find the underrepresented minorities of which I have not had the honor of reading and learning.

11 SEXUALLY REBELLIOUS, BOLD, AND POWERFUL BOOKS TO BREAK THE STATUS QUO

Did you say femoral or femme oral?

1. Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski

A friend of mine recommend this book to me as I was pondering why I just didn’t understand the female orgasm. I mean, I am an adult woman of childbearing age, surely I’ve figured it out by now? I was happy to stumble across this exploration of why and how women’s sexuality works, based on groundbreaking research.

This book makes clear the differences in male and female orgasms. Nagoski describes how your brain and your life work together to create desire, and how to experience more pleasure and confidence within your relationships, and, most importantly, with sex. In the last few years, scientists have learned more about how women’s sexuality works. This book is about self acceptance, having patience with yourself, and recognizing the ways culture and media influence our body and sexual ideals.

2. You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

So, this is mainly on here because I have a frightening obsession with Phoebe. She’s actual LOL hilarz (you’ll get this joke once you read the book), yet poignant in her presentation of feminist and race issues.

Robinson has been dubbed “the Black friend” for most of her life, being questioned about her love of Billy Joel and obsession with U2. She talks about what it is like growing up Black and the societal pressures put on her because of her skin color and gender. And yes, she’s sick of people asking to touch her hair. She writes with humor and provides comedic relief as she takes you on her feminist journey.

3. Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit

Solint, you goddamn brilliant woman. She focuses on masculine fragility and male agression in history, literature, social media, pop culture, and more. She somehow always has this power to hook me from the moment I read the essay titles.

4. Sex Object by Jessica Valenti

“Who would I be if I lived in a world that didn’t hate women?”

Jessica Valenti’s Twitter is worth living for. While her essay collection is more biography than social commentary, I ate the whole book up.

She explores the toll that sexism takes on women’s lives and liberates herself, and her readers, throughout the process. She regales stories of subway gropings, imposter syndrome, sexual awakenings, and motherhood throughout her adolescence and young adulthood in New York City.

5. Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall

If you’ve ever wondered why Black women feel less than enthusiastic about the women’s movement, ponder no more. Intersectionality is often overlooked within feminism. Does your idea of feminism address ALL women? Specifically Black women?

Food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues. This book is important and a humbling read for white women. Kendall doesn’t feel the need to make you comfortable with politeness. A jarring collection of essays, and an essential piece of literature within the feminism movement.

6. Future Sex by Emily Witt

Emily Witt addresses the conditions that sexually active young women find themselves challenged with facing. In vivid detail, she takes us on a journey of her personal experiences with orgasmic meditation and BDSM, while also guiding readers through sexual online encounters where women on camera get paid to perform naked yoga routines.

7. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is another Twitter favorite. She is known for her New York Times bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist.

In Difficult Women, she shows her fierce stance against violence towards women. It is a collection of short stories that cover a wide range of modern women.

The women in her stories live lives of privilege and poverty, are in loving and forbidden marriages. She writes about a woman married to a twin who pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer.

8. Bukowski in a Sundress: Confessions from a Writing Life by Kim Addonizio

Kim Addonizio is a fantastic writer, but I just love the title and imagery (I love to hate to secretly, moderately admire Bukowski). Addonizio, a poet, writes about her love affair with writing itself.

“The truth is that writing is simply not reliable. You can’t count on it to be there just because you’ve made some space for it. In fact, making space might make it disappear….If writing were a person, you would be in an abusive relationship. The healthy thing to do would be to get a restraining order and shut it right out of your heart,” she writes.

9. A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

This selection, like art in a museum, is a poignant peek into the disparaging culture of women in demanding jobs from the 1960s to 1980s.

Berlin writes about everyday life for women, revealing moments in the laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and bad Christians.

10. Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements by Charlene Carruthers

Need a succinct starter book on Black queer feminism? For anyone who wants to know how to be in movement and a leader, this is your book.

This book challenges you to engage in the social justice struggle to make the movement for Black liberation more queer and feminist. Your go-to guide on how to be an effective activist, drawing on the Chicago model of activism, which features long-term commitment, cultural sensitivity, creative strategizing, and cross-group alliances.

11. The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

From Rupi Kaur, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Milk and Honey, is her second collection of poetry. This is a great bedside table read for quick bits of digestible literacy. A poetic journey about growth and healing from sexual trauma, and exploring her Ancestry.

Divided into five chapters and illustrated by Kaur, the sun and her flowers is a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. A celebration of love in all its forms.

Honorary Mentionables:

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Marina Keegan’s graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at the New Yorker.

Tragically, five days after graduation, she died in a car crash at the age of twenty-two. The Opposite of Loneliness is one last assem­blage of her essays and stories. This is a very hope-filled read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. “What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over,” she writes.

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

Miranda July gives me strong hipster vibes. She is an award-winning filmmaker and performing artist. The book is a series of essays that let you be a fly on the wall to the lonely, disconnected characters who try to find connection with others, often by acting out in bizarre ways.

Feminism is Lit-erature

Feminism’s most current reputation, especially that of modern-day movements following the marches of pussy-shaped caps of the Trump era and #metoo proclamations, leaves a heavy distaste in the mouths of many.

Sure, the misguided heretics of loud-mouthed, overgrown pits and shoved ideologies of women in victimhood do more harm than good in gaining likability with the very sex they wish to impose, but I don’t think the conversation of sexism should ever relinquish.

The way in which our actions take place in our contemporary society, and not just by our words of intent, shapes the views portrayed of women as a whole through the media, in the workplace, within the wage gap, and in domestic settings.

To say there is a divide between traditional, first-wave feminism and modern, new-wave feminism holds truth. While the women of Ancient Greece and China, for example, lived in a patriarchal society that condemned them to be seen as subordinate property, women still did not receive the right to vote in the US until 1920. Even the dualistic dynamic symbolism of yin and yang, of feminine and masculine energies as integral parts of a whole, has been generally presented as inherently hierarchical, especially in Chinese Confucianism.

Women in civilizations and societies around the globe, such as those in India, Africa, and the Middle East, to this day, the forgotten girls and villages of genocide, struggle with intense gender disparities and violence against them, not to mention the underlying subversive patriarchal dominance that is woven into the very fabric of our American Dream.

The most recent example of this severity is illuminated through the terrorist attacks of the ‘Incel’ organization, or the “involuntarily celibate,” a lonely hearts club turned into a Reddit gathering of violent misogyny, of rape fantasies and mass murder fueled on the very hatred of women alone, and their cursed fists at genetics, waving in anger for giving them small peepees.

Feminism is not the radical notion that men aren’t people, but a zest for equality between the sexes, fueled by a hatred not for men, but of injustice.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, American law professor and civil rights activist, coined the term Intersectional feminism in 1989. “All inequality is not created equal,” she says. “We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts.”

Different communities battle various contradictory issues all at once. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, the virus has exposed the deep-rooted inequalities and decades of systemic racism and discrimination.

There’s hope yet, demonstrated by triumphant hoards of masked civilians, battling a healthcare crisis and a cruel, fragmented government, uniting the fight to say together, “this is our problem.” The BLM movement fuels the momentum of liberation and justice, and above all, freedom for all.

Women that fall prey to the overlapping forms of oppression, you are the women who run with wolves. That strength, that fire, that pure, badass fuckery, we are here for it.

It’s about equality, at the end of the day, and honoring equally the divine energies of femininity and masculinity within us all.

It’s a human rights issue, end of story.

So, here’s to women who live beneath a glass ceiling, lobbing rocks into the abyss and hoping their culmination of cracks will cause its very weight to crumble, allowing a collective sigh of relief.

Thank you, and happy reading!

What are your favorite feminist novels? Xx

Posted by

Interested in social reform, integral studies, and meatless pizza.

2 thoughts on “11 Feminist Memoirs and Essays to Ignite Your Rebel Side

    1. Hi Trixie!

      If you lived near me, I would def let you borrow both her poetry books!! They are very sweet and succinct poems detailing Rupi’s quest for self-love and equality for women with her own little drawings. I definitely cried reading Milk & Honey- I found both books at my local bookstore in the poetry section, but I know you can get them online pretty easily too!

      And thanks for asking! Bukowski in a Sundress or Sex Object definitely stirred some rebel within me, and I love any novel that normalizes the sexuality of women in such humorous prose, especially for women deemed no longer young (so I guess anyone under 25? -_-).

      Xx

      Like

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