By Andrea Silva Santisteban Fort, March 9 2021—
In honour of Women’s History Month, I wanted to give you four book recommendations that are all about female empowerment. Happy reading!
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
In I am Malala, the youngest laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai, tells the reader the story of her passion for education in the midst of the invasion of her town in Pakistan’s Swat Valley by the violent Taliban regime. Yousafzai resisted this takeover and even rebelled against it. When Taliban authorities proclaimed that girls should not go to school, Yousafzai fought back by blogging undercover for the BBC about life under the Taliban’s rule. She became an advocate for women’s right to education. In October of 2012, she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban on the bus on her way home from school. Not only did Yousafzai survive, she stood up for her values and became the voice of girls’ right to education around the world. One thing I loved about her story is the influence her father had on her journey toward becoming an activist. He taught Yousafzai how to be fearless in the face of terror. He believed in her and encouraged her to find her own voice. In this book, you also get to learn a lot about the history of Pakistan and the impact the Taliban regime has had on this region. It has a lot of useful information that guides the reader through the story. This was the first feminist book I ever read. I remember first discovering the story of this determined girl who refused to be silenced in the face of injustice and being very inspired by it. I hope it inspires you too.
Favorite quote: “Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern or Western, it is human.”
Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
Extremely well researched, this book explores and presents how the world has always been shaped by men’s perspectives. The result is the formulation of systems designed by men, which are mostly beneficial for men. This is does not suggest that men are evil, but that men and women have an ingrained unconscious bias which constricts them to imagining systems that only empower men. I was really impressed by how the author managed to incorporate so much information and data while making it widely accessible to readers of different backgrounds. Even if you consider yourself educated on this topic, you will still learn a lot from this book as it touches a variety of subjects — from politics and other social sciences to everyday practical scenarios. It clearly illustrates how promoting gender equality requires us to acknowledge the oppressive systems that are in place and to find viable solutions for each gender, such as the creation of safe spaces to discuss these issues. We all have to work together in this journey. This book was so informative, eye opening and overall a great read!
Favorite quote: “The result of this deeply male-dominated culture is that the male experience, the male perspective, has come to be seen as universal, while the female experience — that of half the global population, after all — is seen as, well, niche.”
Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue by Kathryn J. Atwood
This book is a compilation of six page-long brief stories of heroines of the Second World War. It is about the experiences of women from different walks of life involved in rescue, resistance, sabotage and espionage movements during the Second World War. These 26 women — all from different backgrounds — showed bravery, courage and conviction in one of humanities’ darkest times. They fought in their own way against the atrocities and destructions of this time periods — especially those exercised by the Nazi Party. What I liked most about this book is that it told the stories of very different women. Some were more directly involved in combat as soldiers or in espionage, while others were homemakers and students who also managed to have a huge impact on the resistance against a regime that was spreading hatred. They were the light in a very dark period of history. Most narratives of the Second World War tend to focus on the acts of courage or violence of the men involved. Women are often portrayed as victims, the collateral damage of war. Women heroes of World War II has a totally different perspective. It honors the dedication and conviction of the women whose actions show pure selflessness and resilience. This book was a kind gift I received from a teacher when I entered a literature competition at school when I was about fifteen years old — thank you Rumi. She knew of my interest in this time period and in feminism. I consider a book like this to be a very empowering gift anyone can give to a young girl.
Favorite quote: “But most of these women, […] have one thing in common: they don’t know themselves as heroines. They followed their conscience; they saw that something had to be done and they did it. And all of them helped to win a war, even if many had to pay the highest price for their contribution. However, their sacrifice was not in vain, especially when their courage continues to inspire us to fight the injustice of evil, wherever it is.”
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
While I didn’t share all of the same viewpoints or beliefs as the author and can understand how some people might be put off by some of the ideas shared — and find them problematic — I still want to recommend You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. I personally believe that the author does share valuable information that can encourage anyone looking to improve their life. Her writing was very forward and sincere — which is funny with her last name being “Sincero,” which means honest in Spanish — and I resonated with a lot of what she said. I can sum up most of her book in three lessons:
- have confidence in yourself
- don’t let other people’s opinions affect you
- Your life reflects who you are and the energy you put into the world
I think these are three things we often hear about but rarely exercise in our lives. Being clear about your values and having confidence in who you are is fundamental to feeling empowered as a person — especially as a woman. Who in your life wouldn’t benefit from you believing that you are a valuable person with a lot to offer? In 2021, we should try our best to feel more secure in our abilities and find ways to overcome the different struggles in our lives. Overall, this book gives practical tips to help improve your quality of life and is a good reminder of the power we possess.
Favorite quote: “Because if you base your self-worth on what everyone else thinks of you, you hand all your power over to other people and become dependent on a source outside of yourself for validation. Then you wind up chasing after something you have no control over, and should that something suddenly place its focus somewhere else, or change its mind and decide you’re no longer very interesting, you end up with a full- blown identity crisis.”