It’s International Women’s Day. What in the world are you reading?
As International Women's Day is celebrated globally on March 8, here are 9 books chronicling the experiences of Black women, femmes, and nonbinary folks around the world.
March 8, 2022, also known as International Women’s Day, is a day to celebrate the varied experiences and accomplishments of women and femmes around the world. You may join the celebration by reading books written by women like this female mountaineer memoir. But within the African diaspora alone, there are a wealth of Black women’s narratives to engage with and learn from—and we’ve compiled a list of 9 you should explore.
The myth of American exceptionalism is one the United States has built its reputation on—much to its own detriment. Rebuking the hypocrisy of this narrative as well as the pervasive anti-Blackness that plagues America, Tiffanie Drayton decided to move herself and her young children to her birthplace, Trinidad and Tobago. As she likens her relationship with the U.S. to one with a narcissistic lover (an experience she also weathered), Drayton explores the parallels and perils of chasing—and escaping —the American Dream.
Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History by Blair Imani (Penguin Random House, 2018)
There’s history, and there’s HERstory. Activist-author Blair Imani chronicles both in this tribute to 70 women, girls, and nonbinary inspiring much-needed change around the globe. As described in its synopsis, Modern HERstory is “a radical and inclusive approach to history” fitting for middle schoolers and up.
The African Lookbook: A Visual History of 100 Years of African Women by Catherine E. McKinley (Bloomsbury, 2021)
Traveling through the countries of Africa, Catherine E. McKinley was often gifted small portraits; rare treasures from the giver she treated as precious relics. Those keepsakes birthed the McKinley Collection, which in turn inspired The African Lookbook. In its pages, the white colonialist gaze so often projected onto African women is replaced by one of self-possession, pride, and enviable style.
Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement by Tarana Burke (Macmillan, 2021)
Before it was a hashtag or rallying cry, Me Too was a point of empathy Tarana Burke realized could help affirm fellow victims of sexual violence. Unbound chronicles Burke’s own childhood assault and upbringing in the Bronx, her awakening as an activist and a mother, and the series of events and experiences that eventually inspired a global movement.
Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire (Penguin Random House, 2022)
Anglo-Somali poet Warsan Shire may have first come to widespread attention as a collaborator on Beyoncé’s opus, Lemonade, but her own emotional journey is as compelling as any global superstar’s. In her first full-length poetry collection, “poems of migration, womanhood, trauma, and resilience,” along with Shire’s brilliance, take center stage.
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika and Maritza Moulite (Inkyard Press, 2019)
This coming-of-age novel was co-written by sisters Maika and Maritza Moulite, who offer a lens into their own Haitian heritage through the eyes and escapades of American teenage heroine Alaine. Forced into an extended stay in her parents’ native Haiti, the vivacious Alaine learns to appreciate this aspect of her family’s history while also mining its secrets—all of which help her find herself.
In Every Mirror She’s Black: A Novel by Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2021)
Stockholm might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of Black women, but it is both the home of author Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström and the setting of this novel of love and loss. As described in its synopsis, “three Black women are linked in unexpected ways to the same influential white man in Stockholm as they build their new lives in the most open society run by the most private people.”
The Truths We Hold: An American Journey by Kamala Harris (Penguin Random House, 2020)
America’s first female, Black and Asian vice president has an origin story that parallels that of many Americans. A firstborn child of Jamaican and Indian parentage, Kamala Harris’ upbringing as a mixed-race child in America was also one in which her passion for justice was sparked early on. As she retraces her own American journey, Harris reminds us that she is a dreamer, too.
Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad by Waris Dirie (William Morrow, 2011)
Waris Dirie’s face may be known to many as one of the faces of fashion in the ’90s and early aughts. But before she stalked the runways of Paris and Milan, Dirie was a girl in her native Somalia, where she was among many subjected to female genital mutilation (FMG). Narrowly escaping that life, Dirie not only became an international supermodel but a human rights ambassador for the U.N., a journey that has become her life’s work in the battle against FMG.
Maiysha Kai is Lifestyle Editor of theGrio, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades’ experience in fashion and entertainment, a love of great books and aesthetics, and the indomitable brilliance of Black culture. She is also a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and editor of the YA anthology Body (Words of Change series).
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