15 Nonfiction Books About Modern Women & Society To Read This Women's History Month
Even though we celebrate women every single day on Bustle, Women's History Month always feels like a special time to really dive into the books that celebrate women. And while it's easy to hone in on all of the incredible things women have done historically, politically, and socially, I think it can be just as valuable to remind ourselves of all the challenges that modern women are still facing every single day in all sectors of life. Not only do we have some major work to do as a society when it comes to affording women — especially marginalized women — the equality and autonomy they deserve, we also still have a lot to learn about the small and sometimes seemingly innocuous microagressions that are affecting women physically and psychologically.
The 15 books below do just that: examine the many challenges that modern women are grappling with, and how they are, as they have done for centuries, finding ways to triumph in spite of them. Featuring both non-fiction and memoir, that delve into some of the biggest feminist issues of the day — race, immigration, online harassment, sexual assault, rape culture, reproductive health, body image, motherhood, and more — in ways that are both accessible, enlightening, and ultimately, hopeful.
'Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong—and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story' by Angela Saini
Science-backed "inferiority" has long been a cross that women have had to bear in every aspect of life. But Inferior sheds light on controversial research and investigates the ferocious gender wars in biology, psychology, and anthropology to take readers on an eye-opening journey to uncover how women are being rediscovered. Author Saini explores what these revelations mean for us as individuals and as a society, revealing an alternative view of science in which women are included, rather than excluded.
'Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women's Pain' by Abby Norman
Abby Norman, who has endometriosis, describes in excruciating detail her frustrating journey to find doctors who would take her pain seriously and give her a proper diagnosis. By using her own health trials as a launching pad for an argument about broader societal dismissal of women's pain, Norman shows that women's bodies have long been the battleground of a never-ending war for power, control, medical knowledge, and truth.
'This Will Be My Undoing: Living At The Intersection Of Black, Female, And Feminist In (White) America' by Morgan Jerkins
In This Will Be My Undoing, Morgan Jerkins tackles this all-important question: What does it mean to “be” —to live as, to exist as— a black woman today? Setting herself up as both the narrator and the subject, Jerkins exposes the social, cultural, and historical story of black female oppression that influences the black community, as well as the white, male-dominated world at large.
'Body Full Of Stars: Female Rage And My Passage Into Motherhood' by Molly Caro May
What if labor does not end with pregnancy but continues into a mother's postpartum life? How has society neglected honest conversation around the significant physical changes new mothers experience? Molly Caro May grapples with these questions as she experiences unexpected health issues after the birth of her first child: pelvic floor dysfunction, incontinence, hormonal imbalance. As she navigates new parenthood, May also moves between shock, sadness, and anger over her body’s betrayal. Her journey prompts May starts a conversation about the dangerous disconnect with their bodies that many modern women experience, and how we can find true healing.
'Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship' by Kayleen Schaefer
We hear it all the time: women can't be friends. But from Parks and Recreation to Bridesmaids, the female friendship has taken an undeniable front seat in pop culture. Schaefer's Text Me When You Get Home utilizes real-life anecdotes along with historical research and pop culture references to lay out a personal and sociological perspective — and ultimately a celebration — of the evolution of the modern female friendship.
'In the Country We Love: My Family Divided' by Diane Guerrero
Race and immigration are two of the issues at the forefront of the public's consciousness right now, but these struggles are nothing new for many women, including Diane Guerrero. She was just 14 years old on the day her parents and brother were arrested and deported while she was at school. Born in the U.S., Guerrero was able to remain in the country and continue her education — but she was forced to do so without the support system of her family. Her heartbreaking story of resilience casts a much-needed light on the fears that haunt the over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
'The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America' by Tamara Winfrey Harris
The Sisters Are Alright exposes anti–black-woman propaganda that is still prevalent in modern society, and shows how real black women are pushing back against distorted cartoon versions of themselves. Fighting against the persistent stereotypes, Tamara Winfrey Harris delves into marriage, motherhood, health, sexuality, beauty, and more, taking sharp aim at these harmful stereotypes about black women. She counters warped prejudices with the truth about being a black woman in America.
'Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life And How We Can Win The Fight Against Online Hate' by Zoe Quinn
Online harassment is unfortunately nothing new to women on the web, but it still seems like very little is really being done to protect the victims of these taunts and threats. Video game developer Zoe Quinn experienced this firsthand when her ex-boyfriend published a blog post with private information, and a rallying cry to the online hordes to go after her. They answered in the form of #gamergate — hacking her accounts, stealing nude photos of her, harassing and threatening her. Crash Override offers an up close look inside the controversy, and provides an accessible look at the ways the internet impacts our lives and culture.
'All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation' by Rebecca Traister
Today, only 20 percent of Americans are wed by age 29, compared to nearly sixty percent in 1960. And yet, many people still equate being unmarried at 30 with being a lonely spinster, but Rebecca Traister uses vast research and more than a hundred interviews with academics and social scientists and prominent single women to validate the positive aspects of this social change.
'Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body' by Roxane Gay
Body image has long been an issue for many women, and Roxane Gay is no exception. In Hunger, she writes with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. Focusing on her own past —including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life — Gay brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.
'Women & Power: A Manifesto' by Mary Beard
Mary Beard addresses the misogynists and trolls who mercilessly attack and demean women the world over, including, very often, Beard herself. In Women & Power, she traces the origins of this misogyny to its ancient roots, examining the pitfalls of gender and the ways that history has mistreated strong women since time immemorial. Along with personal reflections on her own online experiences with sexism, Beard asks: If women aren’t perceived to be within the structure of power, isn’t it power itself we need to redefine? And how many more centuries should we be expected to wait?
'A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America' by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong
On August 11, 2008, 18-year-old Marie truthfully reported that a masked man broke into her apartment near Seattle, Washington, and raped her, but within days, police became suspicious of her story and began investigating her instead. Based on investigative files and extensive interviews, A False Report unveils the disturbing reality of how sexual assault is investigated today — and the long, damaging history of skepticism toward rape victims.
'The Mother Of All Questions' by Rebecca Solnit
In this follow-up to Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit offers commentary on women who refuse to be silenced, misogynistic violence, the fragile masculinity of the literary canon, the gender binary, the recent history of rape jokes, and much more.