The Literary Edit: Our Feminist Reading List

A reading list for those who are striving to push through this week: 12 books by some of our favorite female authors.
Publish date:
Illustration by: Samantha Hahn

Illustration by: Samantha Hahn

In the wake of Christine Blasey Ford's historic and brave testimony against yet another controversial SCOTUS nominee courtesy of the current White House administration, a strong community of women raising their voices and sharing their stories have emerged over these past few weeks, bringing with them the rallying cry that time is up, and things have to change. With our shared stories in mind, and the hopeful anticipation of the November general elections, we asked editor and Quarterlane friend, Lisa Butterworth, for her take on a feminist reading list.

This list was thoughtfully compiled by Butterworth in conversation with Quarterlane Editorial and Creative director, Samantha Hahn. (originally posted on The QL Edit, January 2017)

Read on . . .

Lisa Butterworth: Last year, my only New Year’s resolution was to read more. And for the most part, it worked! Despite an extended break during which catching up on mindless television was the only cultural exposure my brain could handle (I blame the election), I devoured a not-too-dinky list of novels (which included Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend and Emma Cline’s The Girls) and memoirs (by Mindy Kaling, Mary Kerr, and omg Patti Smith) that left me feeling fortified, connected, and wanting more. I realized by the end of 2016 that without even meaning to my reading list, minus one work of fiction, was populated entirely by women writers. For 2017, I’m sticking to the same resolution, but this time with some considered curation. During this first year of the Trump administration, I’ll need every tool possible to keep up my emotional and intellectual stamina for maintaining daily resistance. Which in part for me means delving even deeper into women’s stories, real and imagined; revisiting crucial books from my past that helped spark my independence and intersectionality; and finally cracking open some of those classic feminist texts that I’ve been “meaning to read” for ages. Below is my list of books for the year, just a small slice of the incredible wealth of options out there, and what I hope is only a fraction of what I’ll actually get to read.

Girl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon

I kicked the year off by blasting through Kim Gordon’s memoir, which was as raw and honest as I had hoped. The Sonic Youth founder’s evolution as a rock star, artist, mother, former wife, and self-possessed icon is one I’ve turned to for guidance since sporting my X-Girl shirt in high school was the only thing that made me feel cool.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Staring down the barrel of the reproductive restrictions heading our way makes The Handmaid’s Tale more pertinent than ever. Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of a near-future U.S. where women have been stripped of just about every human right is a too-close-for-comfort harbinger of the unjust power unbridled patriarchy can exact.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is a crucial voice for gay women. For women of color. For all damn women. So many of her opinion pieces—for the New York Times, the Guardian, and others—make me vocalize my agreement, which is only weird if I’m not alone. I can’t wait to dig into her short story collection that came out earlier this month, ’cause I think the title—which I view as a rallying cry—says it all.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur first came on my radar when Instagram deleted a photo on her account that showed a fully clothed woman with a period stain on her pants. So yes, I want to devour this boundary-pushing writer’s poetry, especially since it offers so many emotional, empowering nuggets.

Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

I remember the day in 1989 when my tiny tween self picked up an issue of Sassy at the library and read the magazine’s glowing review of Weetzie Bat. I immediately checked out the fantastical YA novel by Francesca Lia Block, which opened my impressionable mind to punk shows, gay lovers, loving sex, and chosen family. I can’t wait to revisit it.

In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from Over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs by Grace Bonney

This incredible tome is one I know I’ll turn to again and again throughout the year. Design*Sponge editor Grace Bonney interviewed an incredible range of creative women (from designer Justina Blakeney to multi-hyphenate powerhouse Carrie Brownstein), and their perspectives on life, work, and how women can run the world is all kinds of inspirational.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Last year, I read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s, We Should All Be Feminists, over a solo Saturday brunch at my favorite L.A. eatery, Sqirl. This year, I can’t wait to dive into the Nigerian author’s novel about race and identity in a post-9/11 world, and fill my belly with more delicious brunches as I fill my mind with her powerful prose.

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

Credited for helping to mark the start of second wave feminism, this classic by French existentialist, Simone de Beauvoir, is one of those books that I can’t believe I haven’t read. That stops this year! The year that I will read it.

Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman by Lindy West

I take my feminism with a healthy does of hilarity, which is why I love writer Lindy West. She can make me cry as easily as she makes me laugh, whether she’s battling trolls or fighting for the space every woman deserves. I want to read all the notes from this loud woman.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem’s been at the forefront of the fight for women’s rights for far more years than I’ve even been alive. It’s high time I got a first-hand account of what makes this legendary leader tick.

The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde by Audre Lorde

The works of writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde offer an abundance of insight, understanding, and kick-in-the-ass motivation. Gonna keep this one on my nightstand all year long.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Coming-of-age stories are some of my favorites, but I’d never read one like Persepolis. Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution is both heartbreaking and illuminating. Returning to this graphic novel will only deepen my appreciation of it, and motivate me to seek more stories from women around the world.



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