Teenage feminist reading list

So, my friend L. recently mentioned her cool new job and asked a question:

Gonna be helping some rough teenage girls. Try to turn them into confident, proud young women. We will see. My Barnard roots are re-rooting. If you have any opportunity to guide me towards some good feminist/woman focused literature, I would be eternally grateful!

Yeah! Let’s do it! Here’s my super quick list, so quick I won’t make links to them or anything because, you know, kids these days with the Google and whatnot.

What books shaped you as young women, you wise women blog reader pals?

The Bell Jar, which must always and forever top all lists like this

Also, Plath’s book of short stories, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams

Also, Plath’s letters to her mother, called Letters Home

Everything by Toni Morrison

The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing

Franny and Zooey, of course, and Nine Stories

Judy Blume barely needs to be mentioned. I recently reread her entire oeuvre and felt the same rush I did as a kid, don’t you love it when that happens?

I guess Virginia Woolf isn’t typical teenager reading, but Mrs. Dalloway is nice and approachable.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, naturally.

I liked Banana Yoshimoto as a teenager, these days I can’t quite get into her so much.

When I was a teenager I read a lot of Erica Jong, but I can’t exactly recommend it, I think she melted my brain a bit. I also read a lot of Ayn Rand, but I’m done talking about that…

Everything by Ruth Ozeki, particularly All Over Creation

Everything by Jennifer Egan

I loved My Antonia by Willa Cather, so so so much that I vowed to name the cats in my life Antonia forever. Then I met an Antonia I didn’t like and the name was ruined for me.

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange.

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf (nonfiction, required reading)

No Logo by Naomi Klein (nonfiction, required reading), (but not The Shock Doctrine, because that will make them kill themselves).

Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel by Jean Kilbourne (nonfiction, required reading)

The super great graphic novel Fun Home by the super great Alison Bechdel, and if they like graphic novels, of course Persepolis (1 and 2) by Marjane Satrapi

The Way The Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald, a beautiful juicy, toothy novel all about childhood. Loved it loved it loved it.

THE RED TENT by Anita Diamant, especially for those churchy kiddos

Woman, an Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier (nonfiction)

Barbara Kingsolver? I’m talking the good novels of course, not the book I have an issue with.

CRUDDY BY LYNDA BARRY!!! Oh my gosh, have you all read this one? Do you all ADORE Lynda Barry like I do? Did you know she’d written a novel? LOVE IT.

The Color Purple

Zami, A New Spelling of My Name, Audre Lorde’s autobiography.

The Great Gatsby, blah blah

The Gaia Girls set of books is for younger girls, but I read them when I was 31 and they were my favorite books of the year. Written by Lee Welles, they are SO WONDERFUL!

To Kill a Mockingbird, obvs

Anne of Green Gables, why not?

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

On the Road?

Kurt Vonnegut? Ray Bradbury?

Cry, the Beloved Country, which I have four copies of, weirdly

I loved Don DeLillo my senior year in high school, but now I can barely get through a page of his. What does that say about me, and about him?

I guess that will do for now. What are your favorites, smarties?

PS: Need some bookshelves?

20 Responses to “Teenage feminist reading list”

  1. Fiona

    The Passion + Oranges are not the only fruit + Written on the body all by Jeanette Winterson. (I was a big fan.) For the smarties: Gender Trouble by Judith Butler? I love your list. (And your blog).

    • lagusta

      Oh, yes. Love her. I can’t actually get too into her books, but I love her more as just…her.

  2. britt

    HOLY CRAP, i have been majorly slacking. no wonder i’ve been in a cranky mood!

    the focus/crop is probably the best blog entry i’ve ever read. ever. ever.

    also, i’ll get on this as soon as i have them all unpacked!

  3. britt

    OMG. i just looked at other blog and 1) banner = amazing, 2) teach me how to do a balsamic reduction without coming up with a tarry mess, 3) OMFG, WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY DIDN’T I ORDER THIS WEEK??? with the exception of the obvious gross toxic poison thing, everything sounds SO GOOD! boo.

    • lagusta

      Hmm. Balsamic reduction. Totes e-z. Take 1 cup of balsamic syrup, OPEN ALL YOUR WINDOWS, then bring it to a boil. Turn it down to a low simmer and reduce it to 1/4 of a cup (you can stick a chopstick in and mark where 1 c is, the estimate when it’s 1/4 of that, or pour it into a measuring cup). Keep it barely bubbling, not boiling all over the place. It’ll take a while. When it’s at 1/4 of a cup, pour it into another container, or it will keep reducing into a tarry mess, even if you turn off the heat. Yums await you!

    • lagusta

      aww, of course! actually, i was just thinking of that, then forgot to put it on. I also like “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.”

  4. kazari

    Puberty Blues.
    That’s all I could think of that wasn’t on your list.
    Beautiful blog : )

  5. ruby

    Why, The Sexual Politics of Meat, of course! When my cousin Nathan, who was vegan, in college and home for vacation, leant me his warm copy it was like someone handing me a lifeline in the stormy sea. I was vegetarian and feminist, but that book distilled so many things I believed but had never been able to put into words. It was immediately empowering! (I started a group at school called SPAM (Students Promoting Awareness of Meat: A Feminism & Animal Rights Group) that basically consisted of my forcing my friends to read that book.) I think Neither Man nor Beast is an even easier read – slightly less academic feeling.

    The Weetzie Bat books by Francesca Lia Block. Their whimsy grates slightly when I read them now, but I think they are perfect for younger teens.

    Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson. Has anyone else read this? I read it when I was fourteen and obsessed with the Beats. A memoir by a old girlfriend of Kerouac’s – a writer in her own right – it’s essentially about how shitty those jerks were to women. How unreliable and tiring they were as friends and lovers. She hung out with Diane DiPrima and Hettie Jones. I haven’t reread it since high school, but I read it bunches then.

    The Gingerbread books by Rachel Cohn are solid, newish YA novels by Rachel Cohn.

    I loved Girl by Blake Nelson.

    Brand new is Jessica Hopper’s The Girls Guide to Rocking! A must-read for every young girl.

    My Antonia has been on my bedside table forever. I am now determined to crack it.

    • ruby

      Ugh, I meant “worn copy” and I just almost wrote “worm copy” as a correction. I also only intended to write Rachel Cohn’s name once (and now it’s 3!) Plus, Girls Guide To Rocking is for young women (and their parents/mentors), not super young girls. I cannot write this week. What are everyone’s favorite books for over-tired, stretched too thin, stressed to the point of breaking, 20-something feminists? woo-hoo!

    • lagusta

      YEAH! How could I forget? I think sometimes that the Pornography of Meat is a bit easier to read too.

      • lagusta

        (Also you and I were the same people as kids.)
        (And are the same now: overtired, stretched too thin, great bangs, etc.)

  6. Janice

    I read you for food but look at what you posted! I have forwarded the list to the teenaged girls I know (one of whom is my daughter). Great list.

  7. Katie

    Just discovered your beautiful blog and, lo, catapulted back to me age 14 reading Simone de Beauvoir… Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter broke me apart and remade me. And if I was gonna pick a V. Woolf for proto-feminists, I’d make it A Room of One’s Own…

    • lagusta

      Oh I love Beauvoir. And yeah, of course, A Room of One’s Own!!! Better than Dalloway for kiddos.

  8. Julia

    Loved Cruddy. Love Linda Barry. And a lot of other stuff here. Makes me want to read. Now.

  9. brittany

    ok, i’m not done unpacking yet, but glancing at my shelf in it’s current semi-color-coded-condition… i’ll skip what’s already been mentioned, unless you’d like some “ditto”s…

    these aren’t all what i would gush over now, but they’re what i did (or would’ve) gush(ed) over when i was that age…

    – guide to getting it on
    – colonize this
    – manifesta
    – cunt
    – women: images and realities (sooo not just a textbook!)
    – to be real
    – the secret life of bees
    – the education of a wasp

    more to come…

  10. lagusta

    NICE! Except, I didn’t like the secret life of bees, and now can’t remember why. But whatevs. I loved manifesta. And cunt!!!


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