To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment (aka when women got the constitutional right to vote in the US), we’re continuing our series of the books every millennial woman should read. They’re all books by women, about women. And ICYMI: Part I of our series is riiiiiiight over here. Check that out, then read our next round of picks down below.
Let Curtis Sittenfeld be your guide. This 2005 coming-of-age novel put the "Rodham" author on the map. She was only 29-years-old when she wrote “Prep” about a high schooler from Indiana who goes to an elite boarding school in Massachusetts. There’s “Gossip Girl” vibes, commentary on class and privilege, and storylines about all the ache and angst of growing up. For anyone who loves “A Separate Peace” or “Dead Poets Society” this one’s for you. (Amazon, Bookshop.org)
Look no further. Published in 1969, the memoir covers Angelou’s childhood in the Jim Crow South. In it, she writes openly about everything from being sent with her brother to live in a segregated town in Arkansas, to her rape, to getting pregnant at 16. The prose is as powerful as the stories of racism she tells. In it Angelou writes: “If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat.” If you haven’t already read it, the time is now. (Amazon, Bookshop.org)
Get out the tissues. This powerful memoir is about what happens when you lose your child, spouse, house, all in the span of a few months. Levy expanded on her 2013 New Yorker essay “Thanksgiving in Mongolia” in which she reflects on the tragic experience of giving birth to her son at 19 weeks and seeing him die minutes later in a hotel room in Mongolia. It’s a harrowing (and beautiful) read that you can–and will–finish in one-sitting. (Amazon, Bookshop.org)
Malala’s memoir will do the trick. In 2012, Malala, then a Pakistani teenager, was shot in the head on a school bus by the Taliban for advocating for girls’ education. She survived the attack, and has continued to be a vocal crusader for girls’ rights since. (She also went on to become the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. Casual.) Her 2013 book, which was co-written by veteran journalist Christina Lamb, tells the story of her assassination attempt, her family, and her role as an advocate for girls. It’s a testament to the power of resilience and standing up for what you believe in. (Amazon, Bookshop.org)
Remember when you could go to bookstores? Well, this is the book you definitely would still be seeing on the table in the front. Published in 2018, Westover’s memoir about growing up in a survivalist family in Idaho has sold more than 4 million copies and spent more than two years on the NYT bestseller list. She chronicles her isolated childhood–from being kept out of school, to witnessing family tragedies that seem too harrowing to be true, to ultimately making her way to Harvard and Cambridge. There are so few books that’ll actually leave you breathless, but this is one of them. (Amazon, Bookshop.org)
FLOTUS to the rescue. Michelle Obama’s memoir charts her life from her childhood in the South Side of Chicago, to going to Princeton, to meeting Barack, and becoming the first African-American First Lady of the US. Divided into three parts–Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More–the book is a mesmerizing story of pressure and power. She made history. And this book is here to take you along for the journey. (Amazon, Bookshop.org)
Look no further. This memoir spent more than seven years on the NYT bestseller list. It’s a true life rags-to-riches story that chronicles Walls’s wildly turbulent life. Think: everything from growing up in poverty and her family’s constant nomadic lifestyle, to her father’s alcoholism and her eventual path to college in NYC. It’s a powerful story of dysfunction and drama–and one that’ll give you so many feels. (Amazon, Bookshop.org)
Get a copy of Wilkerson’s book. This 622-page epic chronicles the Great Migration through the lives of three Black people in the South. Each person represents a different part of the mass exodus that resulted in more than six million African-Americans leaving the South from 1915 to 1970. Wilkerson spent 15 years working on this book and interviewed more than 1,200 people during the course of her writing. It’s been praised by pretty much... everyone. So it’s time to add it to your list. (Amazon, Bookshop.org)
Meet its ideal companion. The lead character in this novel, (who’s named after the author) sets out to answer the titular question: how should a person be? Through examining her relationships with friends (who are modeled off the author’s real friendships), her struggles with writing a play, and her sex life, she seeks to answer her own prompt. It masterfully blurs the line between fact and fiction. And it’s perfect for your next book club. (Amazon, Bookshop.org)
Say hi to this iconic one. Published 100 years ago this year, the novel earned Wharton the Pulitzer Prize for fiction–making her the first woman to ever win that award. In it, you’ll follow a young lawyer named Newland Archer who’s engaged to a lovely, shy woman named May. But when May’s exotic cousin arrives from Europe to New York, a complicated love triangle emerges and threatens to ruin their society wedding. Martin Scorsese turned it into a popular film in the ‘90s and the book has continued to inspire generations of writers since its publication. (Amazon, Bookshop.org)
PS: These are editorially selected, but if you purchase, theSkimm may get something in return. Thanks.
Skimm'd by: Lindsay Schneider and Avery Carpenter Forrey
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