Strong women in writing: women who will make your jaw drop | Feminist Book Fortnight

It’s Feminist Book Fortnight but, to be honest, every day is a feminist book day for us. Women inpiring women is our bread and butter so we were, oh, so happy to compile this list of women who have smashed it in their respective fields, whether in their professional, financial, or emotional lives. Sisters are doing it for themselves.

Vulcana by Rebecca F. John
Honno Welsh Women’s Press // 9781912905805 // PB // £9.99 // 4/5/2023

That’s right, we love strong ladies and this novel has got a mighty one. Vulcana is a novel based on the true story of a Victorian strong woman. If you haven’t heard of her already, you’re welcome.

Vulcana is a fictional telling of the real story of Victorian ‘strongwoman’ Kate Williams (born 1874) starting when she runs away from home at 16 to travel with the love her life, William Roberts. They perform in music halls as Atlas and Vulcana -the climax of their act is that Kate can lift William over her head. She and William present themselves to the public as brother and sister as they travel the world because William is already married, and William’s wife brings up Kate’s children on her own. How long can this secret be kept? Kate is driven by love: for William, for her children, for performing, and for life, and Rebecca’s gorgeous, immersive writing fits perfectly this brave, unconventional woman and her amazing story.

Kate Williams is an important figure in challenging conventions of female beauty and, ugh, we will never not want to read about her.

You’re Funny For A… Illustrated Guide to Trans Comedians, Non-Binary Comics, & Funny Women by Sophia Zarders
Silver Sprocket // 9781945509995 // PB // £13.99 // 1/12/2022

And if you’re looking for an entire spread of women and non-binaries who are killing it in an almost exclusively male industry, look no further. You’re Funny For A… is an engaging, illustrated guide to comedians of marginalized genders.

Looking for your next laugh? This illustrated guide to women, non-binary, and trans comedians has what you’re looking for! Showcasing emerging talent along with well-loved icons, you’re certain to discover your new favorite comic in the stand-up scene.

Call Me Anne by Anne Heche
Viva Editions // 9781627783316 // PB // £15.99 // 26/1/2023

A deeply personal and inspiring memoir from Emmy-award winning actress Anne Heche, who tragically died in 2022. Heche was an Emmy-award winning actress who starred in iconic films such as Donnie Brasco (1997) and Volcano (1997).

Call Me Anne is the sequel to Heche’s first book, Call Me Crazy. It is a memoir consisting of personal anecdotes of her rise to fame: how Harrison Ford became her on-set mentor, her relationship with Ellen Degeneres, her encounter with Harvey Weinstein, her history of childhood sexual abuse, her relationship with God, her journey to love herself, and more. Part memoir and part self-acceptance workbook, Anne’s personal stories are interwoven with poems, prompts, and exercises that got Anne through tough times. Readers are encouraged to try them as they navigate their own journey to self-love, acceptance, forgiveness, and faith.

Faltas: Letters to Everyone in My Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist by Cecilia Gentil
Littlepuss Press // 9781736716823 // PB // £14.99 // 04/10/2023

This story is going to take bookshops by storm, and we can’t wait to see it. A rich and moving epistolary memoir about transgender childhood, sexual trauma, motherhood, and a young queer life in 1970s Argentina.

In these hilarious and heart-breaking letters, Cecilia Gentili reinvents the trans memoir, putting the confession squarely between the writer and her enemies, paramours and friends. Writing to childhood figures such as her rapist’s daughter, her father’s mistress, her best friend, and her mother, Gentili probes deeply into the bitter cruelty, buried secrets, and delicious gossip of a small town. Is she here for revenge, or forgiveness? Both! And more! A story of sex, theft, murder, motherhood, and outrageous fashion choices, Faltas is a beautiful, messy meditation on what it takes to heal, and even grow.  

Heart of Fire: An Immigrant Daughter’s Story by Mazie K. Hirono
Penguin Books (USA) // 9781984881625 // PB // £15.99 // 21/4/2022

Women… in politics? Have you ever heard of such thing? Just kidding, unless you’re stuck in a cave, you’ll know that women today are quietly (for now) taking the political world by storm, and this is the inspiring life story of the only immigrant — and first Asian-American woman — serving in the US Senate.

Raised on a rice farm in rural Japan, Mazie Hirono was seven years old when her mother, Laura, left her abusive husband and sailed with her two elder children to Hawaii in search of a better life. Though she did not speak or read English when she entered first grade, Hirono would go on to serve as a state representative and as Hawaii’s lieutenant governor before winning election to Congress in 2006. In this deeply personal memoir, she traces her remarkable life from her earliest days in Hawaii, when the family lived in a single room in a Honolulu boarding house, to her emergence as a highly effective legislator whose determination to help the most vulnerable was grounded in her own experiences of economic insecurity, lack of healthcare access, and family separation.

American Refuge: True Stories of the Refugee Experience by Diya Abdo
Truth To Power // 9781586423421 // PB // £15.99 // 22/9/2022

That’s right, this blog isn’t just about each book’s focus, it’s about the woman behind the pen as well. What’s more inspiring than a woman who channels her words and platform to spread advocacy and elevate the words of others? American Refuge is a provocative, conversation-sparking exploration of refugee experiences told in their own words.

In this intimate and eye-opening book, Diya Abdo — daughter of refugees, U.S. immigrant, English professor, and activist — shares the stories of seven refugees. Coming from around the world, they’re welcomed by Every Campus A Refuge (ECAR), an organization Diya founded to leverage existing resources at colleges to provide temporary shelter to refugee families. Bookended by Diya’s powerful essay ‘Radical Hospitality’ and the inspiring coda ‘Names and Numbers,’ each chapter weaves the individual stories into a powerful journey along a common theme.

The Woman Who Would Be King: The Madusa Story by Debrah Miceli & Greg Oliver
ECW Press // 9781770416710 // HB // £28.99 // 18/5/2023

More strong ladies? It’s as if they’re limitless? The Women Who Would Be King is the spellbinding story of a WWE and WCW star, and a trailblazer for women in wrestling.

For nineteen years, Debrah ‘Madusa’ Miceli was a star in professional wrestling — WWE champion Alundra Blayze. She jumped into the world of monster trucks with reckless abandon, earning the nickname ‘The Queen of Carnage.’ For the first time, Madusa reveals her childhood traumas, her triumphs and tragedies, her loves and heartbreaks. Through four decades of entertaining, in the wrestling ring and on the monster truck circuit, Debrah ‘Madusa’ Miceli never could sit still. But her desire to learn, grow, and inspire legions of followers masked deep secrets… Her upbringing was a lie from the start, and the dark truths of her childhood, revealed here for the first time, are the earliest examples of Debrah’s determination to persevere. Professional wrestling may have been an odd choice for a nursing student, but Madusa went all-in. Miceli is a social media queen, sharing her opinions on gender stereotyping on Twitter where she has over 84K followers. As an international wresting superstar who held the AWA World Women’s Championship and the first woman to be awarded Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Rookie of the Year, dare she be showing us how it’s done?

Starstruck: A Memoir of Astrophysics and Finding Light in the Dark
by Sarafina El-Badry Nance
Dutton // 9780593186794 // HB // £25.99 // 6/6/2023

Egyptian-American astrophysicist Sarafina Nance shares her personal story of overcoming sexism, racism, and adversity by focusing on her lifelong love of the stars. At once inspiring story about a woman in science, Starstruck is a deeply personal story about overcoming illness.

As a child, Sarafina Nance spent nearly every evening with her father, gazing up at the flickering stars and pondering what secrets the night sky held. She dreamt of becoming an astronomer from this early age, but it wasn’t long before she was told, both explicitly and implicitly, that girls just weren’t cut out for math and science. In Starstruck, Sarafina captures both the wonders of the Universe and traces more earthbound obstacles – of misogyny and racism, anxiety and self-doubt, cancer diagnoses and recovery – she faced along the way. The strategies and mindset Sarafina developed to thrive in a space that is, by design, not for women and especially not for women of color, are not only applicable to her career in Astrophysics but directly carry into other areas of life. Honest and empowering, Starstruck sits at the intersection of the study of our Cosmos – itself constantly changing – and the messy and transformative experience of pursuing one’s passion through life’s inevitable challenges.

bell hooks: The Last Interview, And Other Conversations by bell hooks
Melville House Publishing // 9781685890797 // PB // £13.99 // 20/7/2023

This collection remembers the legacy of bell hooks, the trailblazing author, cultural theorist and activist, public intellectual, teacher and feminist writer. bell hooks: The Last Interview is a fantastic collection of interviews that range from feminism to sexuality, anti-racism, masculinity, and love.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins, bell used her pen name to centre attention on her ideas and to honour her courageous great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. hooks’s unflinching dedication to her work forged deep grooves for the feminist and anti-racist movements. In this collection of interviews, from early in her career until her last interview before her death, she discusses feminism, the complexity of rap music and masculinity, her relationship to Buddhism, the ‘politic of domination,’ sexuality, and love and the importance of communication across cultural borders. Whether she was sparking controversy on campuses or facing criticism from contemporaries, hooks relentlessly challenged herself and those around her, inserted herself into the tensions of the cultural moment, and anchored herself with love.

All You Have to Do Is Call by Kerri Maher
Berkley // 9780593102213 // HB // £24.99 // 19/09/2023

The best-known secret in Chicago in the 1970’s, Jane was an underground women’s health organisation composed entirely of women helping women, empowering them to live lives free from the expectations of society by offering reproductive counseling and safe, illegal abortions. This novel is based on the inspiring true story of the women who fought for our right to choose.

Veronica, Jane’s founder, prides herself on the services she has provided to thousands of women, yet the price of others’ freedom is that she leads a double life. When she’s not at Jane, Veronica plays the role of a conventional housewife — which becomes even more difficult during her own high-risk pregnancy. In this historic moment when the personal was nothing if not political, when television, movies, and commercials told women they’d “come a long way, baby,” Veronica, Margaret, and Patty must make choices that will change the course of their lives forever.

Leave a Reply