Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is 10 books every X should read.
Since this is a kind of open week, I’ve decided to do 10 non-fiction books every feminist should read. Maybe one day I’ll also do a version of this list that features fictional titles.
Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldua
Anzaldua, a Chicana native of Texas, explores in prose and poetry the murky, precarious existence of those living on the frontier between cultures and languages. Writing in a lyrical mixture of Spanish and English that is her unique heritage, she meditates on the condition of Chicanos in Anglo culture, women in Hispanic culture, and lesbians in the straight world. Her essays and poems range over broad territory, moving from the plight of undocumented migrant workers to memories of her grandmother, from Aztec religion to the agony of writing. Anzaldua is a rebellious and willful talent who recognizes that life on the border, “life in the shadows,” is vital territory for both literature and civilization. Venting her anger on all oppressors of people who are culturally or sexually different, the author has produced a powerful document that belongs in all collections with emphasis on Hispanic American or feminist issues.
Transforming a Rape Culture by Various
First published in 1993, Transforming a Rape Culture has provided a new understanding of sexual violence and its origins in this culture. This groundbreaking work seeks nothing less than fundamental cultural change: the transformation of basic attitudes about power, gender, race, and sexuality.
The editors thoroughly reviewed the book for this new edition, selecting eight new essays that address topics such as rape as war crime, sports and sexual violence, sexual abuse among the clergy, conflict between traditional mores and women’s rights in the Asian American and Latin American communities, as well insightful analyses of cyberporn.
Conquest by Andrea Smith
A recognized Native American scholar and co-founder of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, the largest grassroots, multiracial feminist organization in the country, Andrea Smith (Cherokee) is an emerging leader in progressive political circles. In Conquest, Smith places Native American women at the center of her analysis of sexual violence, challenging both conventional definitions of the term and conventional responses to the problem.
Beginning with the impact of the abuses inflicted on Native American children at state-sanctioned boarding schools from the 1880s to the 1980s, Smith adroitly expands our conception of violence to include environmental racism, population control and the widespread appropriation of Indian cultural practices by whites and other non-natives. Smith deftly connects these and other examples of historical and contemporary colonialism to the high rates of violence against Native American women—the most likely women in the United States to die of poverty-related illnesses, be victims of rape and suffer partner abuse.
Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins
In spite of the double burden of racial and gender discrimination, African-American women have developed a rich intellectual tradition that is not widely known. In Black Feminist Thought, originally published in 1990, Patricia Hill Collins set out to explore the words and ideas of Black feminist intellectuals and writers, both within the academy and without. Here Collins provides an interpretive framework for the work of such prominent Black feminist thinkers as Angela Davis, bell hooks, Alice Walker, and Audre Lorde. Drawing from fiction, poetry, music and oral history, the result is a superbly crafted and revolutionary book that provided the first synthetic overview of Black feminist thought and its canon.
Feminism Without Borders by Chandra Talpade Mohanty
Feminism without Borders opens with Mohanty’s influential critique of western feminism (“Under Western Eyes”) and closes with a reconsideration of that piece based on her latest thinking regarding the ways that gender matters in the racial, class, and national formations of globalization. In between these essays, Mohanty meditates on the lives of women workers at different ends of the global assembly line (in India, the United Kingdom, and the United States); feminist writing on experience, identity, and community; dominant conceptions of multiculturalism and citizenship; and the corporatization of the North American academy. She considers the evolution of interdisciplinary programs like Women’s Studies and Race and Ethnic Studies; pedagogies of accommodation and dissent; and transnational women’s movements for grassroots ecological solutions and consumer, health, and reproductive rights. Mohanty’s probing and provocative analyses of key concepts in feminist thought—”home,” “sisterhood,” “experience,” “community”—lead the way toward a feminism without borders, a feminism fully engaged with the realities of a transnational world.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf imagines that Shakespeare had a sister. A sister equal to Shakespeare in talent, and equal in genius, but whose legacy is radically different. This imaginary woman never writes a word and dies by her own hand, her genius unexpressed. If only she had found the means to create, argues Woolf, she would have reached the same heights as her immortal sibling. In this classic essay, Virginia Woolf takes on the establishment, using her gift of language to dissect the world around her and give voice to those who are without. Her message is a simple one: women must have some money and a room of their own in order to have the freedom to create.
Living for the Revolution by Kimberly Springer
The first in-depth analysis of the black feminist movement,Living for the Revolution fills in a crucial but overlooked chapter in African American, women’s, and social movement history. Through original oral history interviews with key activists and analysis of previously unexamined organizational records, Kimberly Springer traces the emergence, life, and decline of several black feminist organizations: the Third World Women’s Alliance, Black Women Organized for Action, the National Black Feminist Organization, the National Alliance of Black Feminists, and the Combahee River Collective. The first of these to form was founded in 1968; all five were defunct by 1980. Springer demonstrates that these organizations led the way in articulating an activist vision formed by the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality.
Disposable Domestics by Grace Chang
Illegal. Unamerican. Disposable. In a nation with an unprecedented history of immigration, the prevailing image of those who cross our borders in search of equal opportunity is that of a drain. Grace Chang’s vital account of immigrant women—who work as nannies, domestic workers, janitors, nursing aides, and homecare workers—proves just the opposite: the women who perform our least desirable jobs are the most crucial to our economy and society. Disposable Domestics highlights the unrewarded work immigrant women perform as caregivers, cleaners, and servers and shows how these women are actively resisting the exploitation they face.
The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
A Chinese American woman tells of the Chinese myths, family stories and events of her California childhood that have shaped her identity.
Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
Since its publication in 1990, Gender Trouble has become one of the key works of contemporary feminist theory, and an essential work for anyone interested in the study of gender, queer theory, or the politics of sexuality in culture. This is the text where Judith Butler began to advance the ideas that would go on to take life as “performativity theory,” as well as some of the first articulations of the possibility for subversive gender practices, and she writes in her preface to the 10th anniversary edition released in 1999 that one point of Gender Trouble was “not to prescribe a new gendered way of life […] but to open up the field of possibility for gender […]” Widely taught, and widely debated, Gender Trouble continues to offer a powerful critique of heteronormativity and of the function of gender in the modern world.