Feminist books we both should read

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A few years back (in 2006!), I wrote a post about the feminist book canon, according to me. I am embarrassed to say that I have done a terrible job, since then, of keeping up with the new books that have been released in what I once thought would be my academic field, and what is still the field I imagine myself getting back to. To try to inspire myself (and maybe you, as well?) I thought I'd take a look and make a list of the newer books that look to be worth reading. I'm not recommending anything here--there is nothing on this list I've read--but here's where I feel like I should start if I am going to get back into reading academic feminist work.

(Please note that my choices, as before, are almost 100% United States oriented. This isn't at all because I don't think other countries have important feminist books to read, it's just that my training is in US history and that's pretty much all I know about.)

Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion by Jean H. Baker

I don't actually know much at all about birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, so I think I'd be well served to read the new biography of her, written by Jean H. Baker, set to be released in November. Baker is a prolific biographer, and I enjoyed another of her books, Sisters: The Lives of America's Suffragists.

Geek Girls Unite: How Fangirls, Bookworms, Indie Chicks, and Other Misfits Are Taking Over the World by Leslie Simon

I doubt Geek Girls Unite, due out next month, is an academic tome, but I am more and more interested in work about fandom, particularly female fandom, and how it coincides with art and politics and academia. This one is on my list especially because I thought so highly of Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them.

Those Girls: Single Women in Sixties and Seventies Popular Culture by Katherine J. Lehman

This is exactly the type of book I've been obsessed with since undergrad--a combo of women's history and media studies. Due in October, it's Lehman's first book, but has positive reviews from the likes of the brilliant Ruth Rosen, so I think it's probably worth a look.

College Women In The Nuclear Age: Cultural Literacy and Female Identity, 1940-1960 by Babette Faehmel

This one really excites me--the task taken on by Faehmel, in her first book (released just this month), is to explore the place of collegiate women in the age of the "Feminine Mystique." If the reviews I've read are correct, she eventually argues that while the post-WWII G.I. Bill was great for men, it hurt women. Can't wait to read that.

Women, Work, and Politics: The Political Economy of Gender Inequality by Torben Iversen and Frances Rosenbluth

Mostly out of laziness, I've tended to ignore the feminist economists. I need to stop that, as the older I get the more I realize it's allll about money. This book, written by a Harvard economist and a Yale political scientist, and claiming to tie the most micro level (household) to the most macro (international economics), might be a good place to start.

Battling Pornography: The American Feminist Anti-Pornography Movement, 1976-1986 by Carolyn Bronstein

I am absolutely fascinated by this book, released this past July, as it is the first I've seen that takes a historical, two-sided look at the feminist porn battle of the 70s and 80s. This particular fight is one of the internal struggles within the movement that I am most unsure about, so I'd love to read an account of the original argument.

The Rise of Enlightened Sexism: How Pop Culture Took Us from Girl Power to Girls Gone Wild by Susan J. Douglas

As far as I'm concerned, Susan J. Douglas is a straight-up genius. Her book Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media has influenced my thinking as much or more than any other. So, I'm really excited she released this new book last year, taking on the more recent "girl power" media blitz and how it has backfired. This one is pretty much at the top of my list.

America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation by Elaine Tyler May

Elaine Tyler May is another feminist historian for whom I have the utmost respect. Her book, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era, is amazing. So who better to write a long-overdue history of the influence of the Pill in the lives of American women? I suspect this book will be the best kind of cultural history, both fascinating and accessible and incredibly informative.

A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s by Stephanie Coontz

Stephanie Coontz wrote The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, which I have probably recommended to four dozen people. I heard her on NPR being interviewed about this new book recently--it's an interesting premise, a look at how and why women reacted so strongly to Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. What we should all be reading instead of watching Mad Men...

Naked in the Promised Land: A Memoir by Lillian Faderman

Released in 2004, this book is older than the rest of the list, but I wanted to mention it because I have been wanting to read it forever. Lillian Faderman is a lesbian feminist force (she's written several lesbian history books, including a new one, Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians, which I am sure is worth reading), and I often find autobiography and biography to be the best way to really "get" a writer (I loved Andrea Dworkin's autobiography so much I wanted to marry it).

Want to Start a Revolution?: Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle edited by Dayo Gore, Jeanne Theoharis, and Komozi Woodard

Even today, there aren't as many well-done books on Black feminism as there should be. This, however, has potential to be one of them. The contributors list is distinguished and the premise--to take a look at the Black women who had just as much to do with Civil Rights as their more famous male counterparts--is a good one.

Pedestals and Podiums: Utah Women, Religious Authority, and Equal Rights by Martha Sonntag Bradley

This is another slightly older book, but I've heard so many good things about it, I wanted to include it. Bradley, a professor at University of Utah, gives a great account of the LDS influence on the International Women's Year (IWY) conference held in Utah in 1977 and the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment. The book is apparently based heavily on oral historical accounts given by Mormon women in Utah, which is a great basis and one I'm very curious to read.

I could go on and on, but rather than completely overwhelming both you and myself, I'll stop here for now. Anything on this list strike your fancy? Want to read it together?

8 Comments

I think I'm going to have to grab that book on pornography and A Strange Stirring. those two look really good.

Many of these look great! I did a report on Margaret Sanger for a Women's Studies class in college, so the book about her is definitely right up my alley. Women, Work & Politics definitely speaks to me now. But I'd be open to reading any if you were going to lead a book club-type discussion through the blog.

Great post! I hadn't heard of all of these, and promptly put them on my Goodreads "to read" list!

Thanks for including "Geek Girls Unite" in your list! So awesome!!

I'm Carolyn Bronstein, the author of Battling Pornography, one of the books on this to-read book list. Thanks for including my work here. If anyone would like to hear me discuss the major themes, I'll share an audio link from November 1, 2011--this is me being interviewed by Alison Cuddy of the Eight Forty-Eight Show on Chicago Public Radio. Thanks!

http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/segment/audio/2011-November/2011-11-01/84820111101c.mp3

I love reading new and old feminists books - just to see how things have changed (or not). Definitely bookmarking this post for future reading!

-India Jones What is Spice?

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