We Should All Be Feminists
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In this personal essay, adapted from the TED talk she gave in 2012, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers a new definition of mainstream feminism. Adichie defines feminism in the twenty-first century as someone who is rooted in inclusion and awareness, who understands that “there is a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it, we must do better.” Drawing on her Nigerian upbringing, Adichie explores what it means to be a woman thriving in the world today.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
In Angelou’s famed novel, Marguerite (or Maya, as she’s known) Johnson is a black girl growing up in the prejudiced town of Stamps, Arkansas. Thoughtful and quiet Maya does not understand the adult world, including its racism, so she spends her time observing as opposed to engaging with it. After a devastating assault at the hands of a much older man, Maya stops talking. She eventually finds her voice again in a new city, surrounded by new people and finally learns to trust herself in this stunning work in the American canon.
A Taste of Power
It takes a lot of courage to incite change and Elaine Brown, the first female Chairman for the Black Panther Party, knows this firsthand. In her memoir, Brown explores every aspect of her self-discovery: from her upbringing in a Philadelphia ghetto to her college years working as a waitress, but it’s her later political awakening, marked by a feminist perspective, that will help you understand her eventual departure and exile from America during one of the most turbulent times in its history.
As a young girl, you could always find me with my face buried in a book. I used reading as a way to escape my routine life and meet characters that I simultaneously aspired to be like but also saw myself in. But the stories that featured black heroines—both real and imagined—interested me the most. I was—and still am—drawn to their stories like fly to honey and the women in them are nuanced, unique and smart. Though they experience trials and tribulation—trauma, racism and misogyny—they face it all with a mix of sass, intelligence and silent determination. You can’t help but root for them. In the spirit of Black History Month, here are my favorite five literary gems starring fearless black heroines.
List curated by Carla St. Louis
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