A Teen Feminist Reading List | Read Woke

These titles raise awareness and educate young people in the #MeToo era.

One day in the library, a student told me that she and her sisters had to clean their rooms and their brothers’, too. They had a curfew; her brothers did not. Her brothers would go to college; she was expected to marry and start a family. This was her family tradition. But she didn’t want to live that way.

We read S.K. Ali’s novel Saints and Misfits together and talked. I gave her more books, but told her to be careful, because her father monitored her reading. She moved to a different school and ran away. I wish I could have done more to help her. We can use woke books to raise awareness about a range of misogynist and feminist ­issues. These titles are suggested for YA readers unless ­otherwise noted.


We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Anchor. 2014.
In this adaptation from Adichie’s TEDx talk, the Nigerian author points out that a focus on “human rights” overlooks the specific problems of gender. This short yet poignant work is a great way to begin the conversation with teens. Quotes from Beyoncé’s hit song “Flawless” boost Adichie’s message.


Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali. Salaam/S. & S. 2017.
Jana has a terrible secret: Farouq, an upstanding member of her local mosque, assaulted her. In this riveting story of a girl navigating her way in a world that tries to define her, teens will learn the importance of speaking out.


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. McClelland & Stewart. 1985.
A cautionary dystopian story about women’s reproductive rights that resonates today. Thanks to the Hulu adaptation and The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel, illustrated by Renée Nault (Nan A. Talese, 2019), more young people know Atwood’s classic work.


Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake. HMH. 2018.
In this powerful story, teen Mara learns that her beloved twin brother, Owen, may have committed an unspeakable crime. Her own secret has alienated her from her family and hindered her relationship with best friend-turned girlfriend, Charlie. Mara is torn between family and her obligation as a feminist.


Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison. Gr 3-7. Little, Brown. 2017.
A beautifully illustrated collection of biographies of those who have fought for social justice and broken barriers. Many are major figures, including Oprah Winfrey, Nina Simone, and Harriet Tubman; others are lesser known, such as social psychologist Mamie Phipps Clark and Air Force general Marcelite Harris.


No More Excuses: Dismantling Rape Culture by Amber J. Keyser. Twenty-First Century. 2019.
This book can help students develop the vocabulary to discuss these topics. Keyser includes Twitter posts, references to pop culture, and discussions of court cases. She defines terms such as “intersectionality” and features biographies of key activists.


Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu. Roaring Brook/Macmillan. 2017.
Vivian is outraged by the unfair treatment of girls in her high school, where boys wear sexist T-shirts and yell demeaning comments. She and her friend Lucy Hernandez stage a series of creative protests. A book that empowers teens to stand up for what’s right.


As Roxane Gay writes in Bad Feminist, “All too often, when we see injustices, both great and small, we think, That’s terrible, but we do nothing….When we do nothing, we are consenting to these trespasses against us.”
I hope my former student finds her voice and roars so loud that the whole world hears.

Cicely Lewis (Twitter: @cicelythegreat) welcomes your ­suggestions.

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Sonia Adams

Ms. Lewis, you feature very interesting texts that speak to the current issues of gender as it pertains to social justice awareness and activism. Your experience with the young female student attests to the importance of having these books available to young adults as well as adults.

Posted : Jul 23, 2019 09:50



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