12 Books to Keep Your Feminism Intersectional

by Crystal Paul

Everyone should be feminist, and everyone’s feminism should be intersectional. Don’t know what intersectional feminism is? To put it as simply as possible, it is the idea that feminism must be completely inclusive, that it cannot be separated from race, class, religion, gender, disability....

Basically, if when you hear the word “feminism” the only images that come to mind are of white suffragists and white women burning bras in the '60s, then you might want to invest in a few of these books that show that feminism is a lot more colorful and a lot more complicated than that.

If you want a more thorough definition, feel free read Kimberlé Crenshaw’s scholarly essay that coined the term. Crenshaw might’ve coined the term “intersectionality theory,”but the demands for inclusive feminism have been around for ages. Crenshaw stands on the shoulders of Sojourner Truth, Gloria Anzaldúa, Audre Lorde, and many many others.

Happily, that means there’s a whole lot of great reading material out there that’ll broaden your mind and expand your feminism. Whether you’re an intersectionality noob or if you had a side of bell hooks with breakfast this morning, one of the great things about intersectional feminism is that there’s always more to learn. So, dig in.

1. Women, Race, and Class by Angela Y. Davis

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This book is definitely one of the must-reads for any intersectional feminist. A bit dated at this point, but still important, it takes a look at the very issues of exclusion that have hindered the feminist movement since abolition days.

2. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

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Honestly, this will just be one of the best books you’ll ever read. It’s not only an important queer, feminist book, it’s also just a beautifully told story of struggle and love.

3. Woman, Native, Other by Trinh T. Minh-ha

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Minh-ha delivers a full-frontal attack against the notion of erasure as a means of unified feminism. She argues for a feminism that fights against oppression of all kinds, because women all over the world face oppression at the hands of different forces and factors. And she attacks everything that “others” everything non-white or non-Western. It’s bold and awesome and a classic of postcolonial feminist theory.

4. Assata by Assata Shakur

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Assata is part memoir of the radical awakening of a young black woman in the '60s and '70s, part personal testimony of a broken, racist justice system. In all its parts it’s a lyrical, addictive read that immerses you in one of the most important eras in the Black liberation struggle. By the end you’ll be outraged, angry, and itching for revolution.

5. Random Family by Adrian LeBlanc

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Adrian LeBlanc took a lot of care with this book. Working over 10 years and forming close relationships with the families she writes about, LeBlanc offers up an intimate portrait of the lives of two women in a social class that often goes overlooked or misrepresented in popular U.S. culture and scholarly study. It’s importance is in the deeply personal rather treatment, rather than the almost zoological portrayals that often befall lower economic classes.

6. Sex Workers Unite! A History of the Movement from Stonewall to Slutwalk by Melinda Chateauvert

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Sex workers are often cast as unwilling victims. Melinda Chateauvert challenges this portrayal by showing that many sex workers are in fact empowered, legitimate workers and have been powerful agents of social change throughout history. This book will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about sex work.

7. The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions by Paula Gunn Allen

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An oldie but a goodie, The Sacred Hoop is a corrective on the crucial role of indigenous women in history and tribal tradition. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s an important one that asserts the presence of Native American women.

8. This Bridge Called My Back by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa

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This anthology is incredible! It’s got essays, interviews, poetry, and even visual art from women of so many different backgrounds. It’s kind of what intersectional feminism should look like in book form. Or, at least, darn close to it.

9. Women and Gender in Islam by Leila Ahmed

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Need to check your assumptions about Islam and the treatment of women in the Middle East? Leila Ahmed’s book is an invitation to do just that. So many stereotypes and assumptions about Muslim women and their treatment under Islam abound, but one can hardly make snap judgements about Islam any more than you can about any other religion. Ahmed dives into the text itself and the history of the Western gaze that has led to misunderstanding about Islam and gender.

10. Gender Trouble by Judith Butler

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With Gender Trouble , Judith Butler went straight for bold by questioning the very notion of gender as a part of feminism. If you took a Gender Studies course in college, it was probably on the syllabus. But it’s always worth another look, considering the book was originally written in the '90s, when Butler’s straight talk about the complexity of gender and sexuality was pretty ground-breaking. Since then, Butler’s reconsidered some of her ideas in newer books that are also worth picking up.

11. Brick Lane by Monica Ali

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Not every book you read has to be a heavy non-fiction read. Actually getting a little fiction into your intersectional diet is a healthy way to dig into perspectives outside of your own on a more personal level. Brick Lane is a look at a young Bangladeshi woman coming of age in the middle of an arranged marriage and thrust into a new culture miles away from home. Whatever perspectives you’re looking to explore, there are so many stories out there that want to be read!

12. On Intersectionality by Kimberlé Crenshaw

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Since an intersectional feminist’s work is never done, naturally, you can look forward to a new book on intersectionality straight from the woman herself. Kimberlé Crenshaw’s latest comes out in October this year.

Image: Firelight Films