On June 24, 2022, Roe v. Wade—the legislation that allowed women’s access to abortion as a right in healthcare—was overturned. Since then, communities of women—with and without uteruses—have been scrambling for ways to support one another during these bleak times. For some, especially for those who feel the impact of the overturn in our personal lives, a good story with a strong woman protagonist to ignite the fire within and remind us of the strength that we possess is just what we need. Strength comes in many forms and this book list explores many of them.
For this list, I am presenting to you five books about women, by women, so that as we explore these forms of strength, we too are supporting fellow women.
- 1. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
This beautiful creative nonfiction book is written by writer and scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer who is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. In this breathtaking book, Kimmerer’s ethereal prose braids stories of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the science that surrounds us in our everyday lives, and the never ending offerings that plants have within their medicinal properties. A delicious treat.
- 2. Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur
This autobiography takes us back to the 1970s when political activist and Black Panther Assata Shakur—godmother of Tupac Shakur—finds herself in custody after a tantalizing battle with the FBI and local police. She was incarcerated for four years before flimsy evidence led to her conviction. Assata’s story is unlike anyone else’s and her personal account of the Black Liberation movement of the 1970s will teach you the strength of Black womanhood and motherhood and the reason to fight for police abolition.
- 3. Heartbroke by Chelsea Bieker
Bieker is Portland State’s very own MFA graduate who debuted with her book Godshot last year. While her debut had a very strong female protagonist, I’m recommending her short story collection, Heartbroke, in this article. Why? Because this story collection hosts a variety of strong women who come in all shapes and sizes. From a houseless mother in a shelter to teen girls in an online game that plays on their fate, and even a sex phone operator who chases around a cowboy in the pursuit of a better life, this is an enthralling collection.
- 4. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
In The Poet X, Dominican American poet and author Elizabeth Acevedo introduces Xiomara Batista into the world—and I must say, my life has been better ever since. In this novel written entirely in profound poetic prose, Xiomara finds refuge in her own poetry while navigating through a tough teenagehood where the church is law and her Mami’s word is God. Xiomara encompasses all the strength I strive for in life.
- 5. The Dragons, the Giants, the Women: A Memoir by Wayétu Moore
Last but not least, Moore’s creative memoir The Dragons, the Giants, the Women shares the gripping details of when the First Liberian Civil War broke out and how she and her family escaped. This book leads up to the life she has built for herself here in the United States and shares intimate details of the strife that she overcame in between. If you are ever second-guessing the power to behold in a woman who faces crisis, this book will convince you that Moore, and women like her, can achieve anything that is possible in a show of true resilience.