Feminist-in-Training: Essential Reading

For every feminist-in-training, learning from other women and femmes who have made substantial contributions to the discourse on intersectional feminism is extremely important. Thus, I've compiled a list of books I think we all should read in order to expand our understanding of intersectionality, feminism, womanism, and any movement that works to dismantle patriarchal capitalist systems of oppression. The books are not listed in order of importance. 

Sister Outsider: Essays & Speeches by Audre Lorde

Presenting the essential writings of black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, SISTER OUTSIDER celebrates an influential voice in twentieth-century literature. In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope. This commemorative edition includes a new foreword by Lorde scholar and poet Cheryl Clarke, who celebrates the ways in which Lorde's philosophies resonate more than twenty years after they were first published. These landmark writings are, in Lorde's own words, a call to “never close our eyes to the terror, to the chaos which is Black which is creative which is female which is dark which is rejected which is messy which is. . . .”

Women, Race & Class by Angela Davis

A powerful study of the women's movement in the U.S. from abolitionist days to the present that demonstrates how it has always been hampered by the racist and classist biases of its leaders.

Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks

When Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center was first published in 1984, it was welcomed and praised by feminist thinkers who wanted a new vision. Even so, individual readers frequently found the theory "unsettling" or "provocative." Today, the blueprint for feminist movement presented in the book remains as provocative and relevant as ever. Written in hooks's characteristic direct style, Feminist Theory embodies the hope that feminists can find a common language to spread the word and create a mass, global feminist movement.

Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks

A classic work of feminist scholarship, Ain't I a Woman has become a must-read for all those interested in the nature of black womanhood. Examining the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism among feminists, and the black woman's involvement with feminism, hooks attempts to move us beyond racist and sexist assumptions. The result is nothing short of groundbreaking, giving this book a critical place on every feminist scholar's bookshelf.

Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment 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 Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks

What is feminism? In this short, accessible primer, bell hooks explores the nature of feminism and its positive promise to eliminate sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. With her characteristic clarity and directness, hooks encourages readers to see how feminism can touch and change their lives―to see that feminism is for everybody.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In this personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-admired TEDx talk of the same name—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author of Americanah, offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

Black Women in White America: A Documentary History by Gerda Lerner

"Gerda Lerner has collected...material which can change images that whites have had of Blacks, and possibly even those which we, as Blacks, have of ourselves."--Maya Angelou

This Bridge Called My Back, Fourth Edition: Writings by Radical Women of Color by Cherrie Moraga

Originally released in 1981, This Bridge Called My Back is a testimony to women of color feminism as it emerged in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Through personal essays, criticism, interviews, testimonials, poetry, and visual art, the collection explores, as coeditor Cherríe Moraga writes, “the complex confluence of identities—race, class, gender, and sexuality—systemic to women of color oppression and liberation.”

In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose by Alice Walker

In this, her first collection of nonfiction, Alice Walker speaks out as a
black woman, writer, mother, and feminist in thirty-six pieces ranging
from the personal to the political. Among the contents are essays about
other writers, accounts of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the
antinuclear movement of the 1980s, and a vivid memoir of a scarring
childhood injury and her daughter’s healing words.