It’s now Women’s History Month, the time of year where most people try to get into at least one woman’s biography. But in the spirit of not only celebrating Black culture and people during Black History Month, here’s a short list of Must-Read Books by BIPOC Women to keep the party going.
You’ve likely heard of Malala, but have you read her memoir? This autobiography follows fifteen-year-old Malala as she spoke out against the Taliban’s restrictions for women’s education. When riding the bus home from school in Swat Valley, shortly after the Taliban takeover in Pakistan, Malala was shot in the head at point-blank range. Not only did she live, but she’s the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the daughter of a father who championed her education, and she continues in her activism for Pakistani female education. This book is a great place to start when you want to read about women’s history and empowerment.
Speaking of advocating for rights, let’s talk about this autobiography, Haben. Haben Girma was the first deafblind woman to graduate from Harvard Law, and this book tells her story from coming of age to her current career as a lawyer advocating for disability rights. The book illustrates not only that the limitations society assumes on disabled people are inaccurate, but it shows just how ableist our world is in the process. The audio book is also read by Girma herself!
This memoir’s author is the first African-American Muslim woman on the USA’s Olympic fencing squad. It’s a coming of age story, a sports autobiography, and a story about truly making history in America.
This self-help book guides Black women through their workplace experience from the perspective of a mental health expert. It provides valuable tools to unlearn the concept that women are supposed to put everyone else’s needs before their own, instead instructing how to advance professionally while protecting their own wellness.
Dorothy Butler Gilliam, whose 50-year-career as a journalist put her in the forefront of the fight for social justice, offers a comprehensive view of racial relations and the media in the U.S. This book covers a wide swath of media history — from the era of game-changing Negro newspapers like the Chicago Defender to the civil rights movement, feminism, and our current imperfect diversity. This timely memoir, which reflects the tradition of boot-strapping African American storytelling from the South, is a smart, contemporary consideration of the media.
Mary Kay McBrayer is the author of America’s First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster. You can find her short works at Oxford American, Narratively, Mental Floss, and FANGORIA, among other publications. She co-hosts Everything Trying to Kill You, the comedy podcast that analyzes your favorite horror movies from the perspectives of women of color. Follow Mary Kay McBrayer on Instagram and Twitter, or check out her author site here.