14 Books That Should Be On Every Black Feminist’s Bookshelf
Words: Satya Nelms
While the exact definition of a feminist seems to be up for interpretation, these books written by a few of our sheros can certainly help you to discover what it means to you.
Feminism has been getting a lot of attention lately in popular media, and the more people use the term, the more discussion emerges about who should get to call themselves a feminist. There has even been some tension between life-long feminists and those who seem to have hopped on the bandwagon as the word has become almost trendy.
But what does it mean to be a feminist? And what does it mean to be a black feminist more specifically in a culture that has often put black womanhood at odds with feminism and white feminists at odds with black ones? Is there a difference between being a black feminist and being a feminist?
We may not have the answers to all of these questions, but we’re certain they can be found in the works of the amazing women whose books are listed below. Whether you’re a budding black feminist, a long-time card-carrying one, or just someone looking for a great book about being a black woman in America, this list is for you.
1. In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, by Alice Walker
In this book that is sometimes personal, sometimes political, and sometimes a mixture of both, Walker pens essays that cover topics from womanhood to motherhood to feminism and more.
2. Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, by bell hooks
hooks, known for being an evocative writer, provides a critical analysis of black activism and white feminism’s neglect of black women.
3. Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde
In these essays and speeches from the prolific lesbian poet, Lorde challenges homophobia, sexism, racism, classism, and ageism in addition to calling for action and change.
4. Sister Citizen, by Melissa Harris-Perry
Harris-Perry breaks down the many degrading stereotypes faced by black women in America, and charts the difficult road to confronting and changing them.
5. Women, Race, and Class, by Angela Davis
Davis analyzes the women’s movement from abolitionist times to the modern day, and critiques the racism and classism demonstrated by its leaders.
6. When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, by Joan Morgan
Morgan speaks on feminism with the voice of the hip-hop generation, examining the contradictions present in black feminism and how modern black culture affects black women.
7. Homegirls: A Black Feminist Anthology, edited by Barbara Smith
The radical lives of black women take center stage in this compilation of essays by black feminists and lesbian activists.
8. Assata: An Autobiography, by Assata Shakur
Assata Shakur is a revolutionary who put everything on the line fighting for a cause she believed in. These reflections on her life of activism and participation in the Black Power Movement are a poignant account of the American black woman's experience.
9. When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America, by Paula J. Giddings
Giddings’ book is a testament to the extraordinary impact of black women throughout American history, which is often overlooked.
10. Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay
In this witty and, at times, all-out-funny collection of essays, Gay takes us through her own journey into womanhood as well as a journey through what it means to be a woman in American culture.
11. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, by Ntozake Shange
Shange’s choreopoem is an ode to the strength, resilience and courage of black women, and takes a hard look at some of their struggles.
12. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness & the Literary Imagination, by Toni Morrison
This work identifies and speaks to the role black people played in creating some of literature’s great works—a revolutionary analysis in a canon that often ignores our existence.
13. The Black Woman: An Anthology, edited by Toni Cade Bambara
This compilation of essays from celebrated black female writers covers sex, body image, politics, and more.
14. This Bridge Called My Back, Fourth Edition: Writings by Radical Women of Color, edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua
This volume features voices that are often silenced in mainstream America and exposes the stories of women left out of history books.
What do you think of this list? Would you add anything to it? Let us know in the comments below!
Satya Nelms is a writer, author, and mother of three living with her family outside of Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter @satyanelms.