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Women's History Month: 11 books written by women focusing on women's experiences
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CHARLESTON, S.C. - March is Women's History Month, a great time to delve into the historic moments led by women and the stories they've collected along the way. This week Programming and Outreach Librarian Jackie Lyonsat Main Library put together this collection of reads that feature women authors writing about women's experiences. These are especially great reads for anyone looking for a strong female lead character!
"I am an Adult Services Librarian at Main Library who loves memoir and contemporary fiction," Lyons said. "All of these books are written by women, focus on women's experiences, or include a strong female perspective, so reading or listening one of these titles is a great way to celebrate Women's History Month!"
Did you know we also provide personalized book recommendations for teens and adults? Check it out here.
Let's jump into that list!
In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park
Yeonmi Park has told the harrowing story of her escape from North Korea as a child many times, but never before has she revealed the most intimate and devastating details of the repressive society she was raised in and the enormous price she paid to escape.
Park's family was loving and close-knit, but life in North Korea was brutal, practically medieval. Park would regularly go without food and was made to believe that, Kim Jong Il, the country's dictator, could read her mind. After her father was imprisoned and tortured by the regime for trading on the black-market, a risk he took in order to provide for his wife and two young daughters, Yeonmi and her family were branded as criminals and forced to the cruel margins of North Korean society. With thirteen-year-old Park suffering from a botched appendectomy and weighing a mere sixty pounds, she and her mother were smuggled across the border into China.
I wasn't dreaming of freedom when I escaped from North Korea. I didn't even know what it meant to be free. All I knew was that if my family stayed behind, we would probably die--from starvation, from disease, from the inhuman conditions of a prison labor camp. The hunger had become unbearab≤ I was willing to risk my life for the promise of a bowl of rice. But there was more to our journey than our own survival. My mother and I were searching for my older sister, Eunmi, who had left for China a few days earlier and had not been heard from since.
Park knew the journey would be difficult, but could not have imagined the extent of the hardship to come . Those years in China cost Park her childhood, and nearly her life. By the time she and her mother made their way to South Korea two years later, her father was dead and her sister was still missing. Before now, only her mother knew what really happened between the time they crossed the Yalu river into China and when they followed the stars through the frigid Gobi Desert to freedom. As she writes, "I convinced myself that a lot of what I had experienced never happened. I taught myself to forget the rest."
In In Order to Live, Park shines a light not just into the darkest corners of life in North Korea, describing the deprivation and deception she endured and which millions of North Korean people continue to endure to this day, but also onto her own most painful and difficult memories. She tells with bravery and dignity for the first time the story of how she and her mother were betrayed and sold into sexual slavery in China and forced to suffer terrible psychological and physical hardship before they finally made their way to Seoul, South Korea--and to freedom.
Still in her early twenties, Yeonmi Park has lived through experiences that few people of any age will ever know--and most people would never recover from. Park confronts her past with a startling resilience, refusing to be defeated or defined by the circumstances of her former life in North Korea and China. In spite of everything, she has never stopped being proud of where she is from, and never stopped striving for a better life. Indeed, today she is a human rights activist working determinedly to bring attention to the oppression taking place in her home country.
Park's testimony is rare, edifying, and terribly important, and the story she tells in In Order to Live is heartbreaking and unimaginable, but never without hope. Her voice is riveting and dignified. This is the human spirit at its most indomitable.
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
A riveting true story about the sex lives of three real American women, based on nearly a decade of reporting.
Hailed as "a dazzling achievement" (Los Angeles Times) and "riveting page-turner that explores desire, heartbreak, and infatuation in all its messy, complicated nuance" (The Washington Post), Lisa Taddeo's Three Women has captivated readers, booksellers, and critics--and topped bestseller lists--worldwide.
In suburban Indiana we meet Lina, a homemaker and mother of two whose marriage, after a decade, has lost its passion. Starved for affection, Lina battles daily panic attacks and, after reconnecting with an old flame through social media, embarks on an affair that quickly becomes all-consuming. In North Dakota we meet Maggie, a seventeen-year-old high school student who allegedly has a clandestine physical relationship with her handsome, married English teacher; the ensuing criminal trial will turn their quiet community upside down. Finally, in an exclusive enclave of the Northeast, we meet Sloane--a gorgeous, successful, and refined restaurant owner--who is happily married to a man who likes to watch her have sex with other men and women.
Based on years of immersive reporting and told with astonishing frankness and immediacy, Three Women is both a feat of journalism and a triumph of storytelling, brimming with nuance and empathy. "A work of deep observation, long conversations, and a kind of journalistic alchemy" (Kate Tuttle, NPR), Three Women introduces us to three unforgettable women--and one remarkable writer--whose experiences remind us that we are not alone.
Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur
On a hot July night on Cape Cod when Adrienne was fourteen, her mother, Malabar, woke her at midnight with five simple words that would set the course of both of their lives for years to come:Ben Souther just kissed me.
Wild Game is a brilliant, timeless memoir about how the people close to us can break our hearts simply because they have access to them, and the lies we tell in order to justify the choices we make. It's a remarkable story of resilience, a reminder that we need not be the parents our parents were to us.
Long Bright River by Liz Moore
Two sisters travel the same streets, though their lives couldn't be more different. Then one of them goes missing.
In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don't speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling.
Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey's district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit--and her sister--before it's too late.
Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters' childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is at once heart-pounding and heart-wrenching: a gripping suspense novel that is also a moving story of sisters, addiction, and the formidable ties that persist between place, family, and fate.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Connell and Marianne grew up in the same small town, but the similarities end there. At school, Connell is popular and well liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation—awkward but electrifying—something life changing begins.
A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.
Normal People is the story of mutual fascination, friendship and love. It takes us from that first conversation to the years beyond, in the company of two people who try to stay apart but find that they can’t.
Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
From the author of Me Before You, set in Depression-era America, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond
Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve, hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt's new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.
The leader, and soon Alice's greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who's never asked a man's permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.
What happens to them--and to the men they love--becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity, and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they're committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.
Based on a true story rooted in America's past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic--a richly rewarding novel of women's friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.
Maid by Stephanie Land
At 28, Stephanie Land's plans of breaking free from the roots of her hometown in the Pacific Northwest to chase her dreams of attending a university and becoming a writer, were cut short when a summer fling turned into an unexpected pregnancy. She turned to housekeeping to make ends meet, and with a tenacious grip on her dream to provide her daughter the very best life possible, Stephanie worked days and took classes online to earn a college degree, and began to write relentlessly.
She wrote the true stories that weren't being told: the stories of overworked and underpaid Americans. Of living on food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) coupons to eat. Of the government programs that provided her housing, but that doubled as halfway houses. The aloof government employees who called her lucky for receiving assistance while she didn't feel lucky at all. She wrote to remember the fight, to eventually cut through the deep-rooted stigmas of the working poor.
Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it's like to be in service to them. "I'd become a nameless ghost," Stephanie writes about her relationship with her clients, many of whom do not know her from any other cleaner, but who she learns plenty about. As she begins to discover more about her clients' lives-their sadness and love, too-she begins to find hope in her own path.
Her compassionate, unflinching writing as a journalist gives voice to the "servant" worker, and those pursuing the American Dream from below the poverty line. Maid is Stephanie's story, but it's not her alone. It is an inspiring testament to the strength, determination, and ultimate triumph of the human spirit.
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
This bestselling book from the author of Wild collects the best of The Rumpus's Dear Sugar advice columns plus never-before-published pieces.
"Wise and compassionate" (New York Times Book Review), and rich with humor and insight--and absolute honesty--this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.
Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can't pay the bills--and it can be great: you've had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar--the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild--is the person thousands turn to for advice.
Educated by Tara Westover
To the Westovers, public education was the quickest way to put yourself on the wrong path. By the time the author, the youngest Westover, had come along, her devout Mormon parents had pulled all of their seven children out of school, preferring to teach just the essentials: a little bit of reading, a lot of scripture, and the importance of family and a hard day's work.
Westover's debut memoir details how her isolated upbringing in the mountains of Idaho led to an unexpected outcome: Cambridge, Harvard, and a PhD. Though Westover's entrance into academia is remarkable, at its heart, her memoir is a family history: not just a tale of overcoming but an uncertain elegy to the life that she ultimately rejected.
Westover manages both tenderness and a savage honesty that spares no one, not even herself: nowhere is this more powerful than in her relationship with her brother Shawn, her abuser and closest friend.
In its keen exploration of family, history, and the narratives we create for ourselves, Educated becomes more than just a success story.
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
In Not That Kind of Girl, Dunham illuminates the experiences that are part of making one's way in the world: falling in love, feeling alone, being ten pounds overweight despite eating only health food, having to prove yourself in a room full of men twice your age, finding true love, and most of all, having the guts to believe that your story is one that deserves to be told.
"Take My Virginity (No Really, Take It)" is the account of Dunham's first time, and how her expectations of sex didn't quite live up to the actual event ("No floodgate had been opened, no vault of true womanhood unlocked"); "Girls & Jerks" explores her former attraction to less-than-nice guys--guys who had perfected the "dynamic of disrespect" she found so intriguing; "Is This Even Real?" is a meditation on her lifelong obsession with death and dying--what she calls her "genetically predestined morbidity." And in "I Didn't F*** Them, but They Yelled at Me," she imagines the tell-all she will write when she is eighty and past caring, able to reflect honestly on the sexism and condescension she has encountered in Hollywood, where women are "treated like the paper thingies that protect glasses in hotel bathrooms--necessary but infinitely disposable."
Exuberant, moving, and keenly observed, Not That Kind of Girl is a series of dispatches from the frontlines of the struggle that is growing up. "I'm already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you," Dunham writes. "But if I can take what I've learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine will have been worthwhile."
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
From the worldwide bestselling author of Eat Pray Love and City of Girls: the path to the vibrant, fulfilling life you've dreamed of.
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert's books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the "strange jewels" that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magi c cracks open a world of wonder and joy.