March is both National Reading Month and Women’s History Month. We asked the Khan Academy team to share their favorite books about women. Discover a new book to read this month.
Memoirs, biographies, and essay collections
Breathe: A Letter to My Sons by Imani Perry
Perry writes to her two young sons about her relationship to them and her role as a Black mother in America. Perry’s relationship with her sons and her hopes, fears, and wishes for them are profound and beautiful. I first heard about this book on the incredible podcast The Stacks, hosted by Traci Thomas. In the episode where they discuss the book, her guest, Kiese Laymon, says that if you’ve read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, you also need to read Breathe.
Disruptive Archives: Feminist Memories of Resistance in Latin America’s Dirty Wars by Viviana Beatriz MacManus
Disruptive Archives surfaces the historically erased narratives of women—the dissident feminism, strength, and survival—during the Dirty Wars in Mexico and Argentina (1960s–1980s). The author, Viviana Beatriz MacManus, offers a Latin American feminist theory of justice that speaks to the power of women’s storytelling, resistance, and community.
Sign My Name to Freedom: A Memoir of a Pioneering Life by Betty Reid-Soskin
During Betty Reid Soskin’s 96 years of living, she has witnessed a grand sweep of American history. She has been an active participant, along with so many other Americans, in shaping the country as we know it now. She is a Bay Area legend and is now the oldest living park ranger in the country, working at the Rosie the Riveter Museum in Richmond, CA.
Stacey, People Operations & Philanthropy
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
This book tells the true story of a Black woman named Henrietta Lacks in Virginia whose cancer cells were studied without her or her family’s knowledge or consent. Henrietta died of cervical cancer, but her cells still live on today, and they have contributed to numerous scientific breakthroughs, such as the polio vaccine and IVF. This book opened my eyes to the role of racism in medical research through the previously untold story of Henrietta and her family.
Young adult nonfiction
Rad American Women A–Z by Kate Schatz and Miriam Stahl
This is a young adult book highlighting 26 women from American history, in fields spanning from sports to civil rights. This is one of my toddler’s favorite books to read during bedtime stories, even though it’s written for older kids. He loves the cool things the women do, and I love learning about the women who are underrepresented in our history books.
Julia, Product team
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Bennett’s gorgeously written second novel, an ambitious meditation on race and identity, considers the divergent fates of twin sisters born in the Jim Crow South, after one decides to pass for white. I learned a great deal about what it was like to live as a Black woman in the U.S. from the 1960s through 1990s and what that experience looked like for a woman passing as white. As a white woman, I haven’t experienced either of these things, but wanted to understand.
Diana, Product team
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
This is a Man Booker winning novel that follows the intertwining lives of Black women in Britain from different cultural backgrounds and generations over the course of several decades. The novel was a tour de force. In an NPR interview, Evaristo said, “there are very few Black British novels getting published” and that she wanted to fit in as many Black British stories as possible. Every character is complex and flawed, but each is dealt with kindly and with a lot of empathy. Personally, I walked away with a better appreciation of the diversity of lived experiences of Black women in Britain and how the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean has passed on through generations.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience—by ideals, passion and circumstance—each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France. Yes, this is a fictional novel and there are some criticisms that it’s a bit cliche and over-exaggerated, but what I loved about this novel was how it showed and celebrated the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. I especially love this quote: “Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.”
Meagan, U.S. District Partnerships
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
A fictional book where five women—including an unhappily married English woman and the feisty daughter of a criminal—become Kentucky horseback librarians and find their lives transformed along the way. If you need to balance your nonfiction reading with some lighter fiction, this might be the ticket. The book was inspired by a real program First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt started in 1934 to aid and educate people in Appalachia during the Depression, called the Pack Horse Library Project. A group of librarians, mostly women, would ride up to 20-mile routes in the Kentucky mountains, delivering books to people and families.
Diana, Product team
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
A fictional story about Janie Crawford, a Black woman who makes her way in 20th century Florida. Following Janie’s life provided me with a blueprint for self-discovery—how self-discovery happens over a lifetime, and how it happens alongside (and at times in spite of) male presence.
Aimee, Khan Kids
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A coming-of-age novel originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. Alcott based Little Women on her own early life with her three sisters. The novel explores timeless themes of love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.
Mysteries with strong female leads.
The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
I recommend any and all of the following strong female leads—Miss Marple (Agatha Christie), Kinsey Milhone (Sue Grafton), Maisie Dobbs (Jacqueline Winspear), and Anna Pigeon (Nevada Barr). There are many more, but this list will get you started. All of these women are often underestimated, but they use their own strengths to find justice in their worlds. Plus they are great stories written by women!
Kristen, Learning Science
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