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The BIM Bulletin

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The Student News Site of BASIS Independent McLean

The BIM Bulletin

The Student News Site of BASIS Independent McLean

The BIM Bulletin

Women’s History Month Book List


Editorial Note: The works selected for this piece represent the columnist’s choices based upon her reading experiences. 


Happy Women’s History Month! Today marks the final day of March, the month in which people around the world participate in festivities and activities honoring women’s history. First celebrated in 1978 by the Education Task Force of Sonoma County Commission, Women’s History Month has long since given us the opportunity to look back on the contributions of generations of women whose struggles and triumphs went unnoticed by history for too long. To help you celebrate, here is a list of books filled with female protagonists–both fictional and real–that embody the strength, brilliance, creativity, and resilience that Women’s History Month honors. From mythical aunts growing scales and fangs in the 1950’s to Supreme Court justices shaping history, these books are filled with beautiful and tragic heroines of diverse origins and cultures. 

Please note that not all of the books on this list may be appropriate for every age group. Books that contain mature themes that may be best suited for high school readers will be denoted with an asterisk (*) next to the title.

When Women Were Dragons (2022)

In her 2022 speculative fiction novel, Kelly Barnhill tells the story of  Alex Green, a young girl growing up in 1950’s America in the aftermath of a supernatural event that rocked the world. During the Mass Dragoning of 1955, women around the world spontaneously transformed into mythical winged beasts and disappeared into the sky. Throughout the novel, Alex grapples with the taboo and lies surrounding the dragoning, the growing pains of coming of age during the height of housewife culture, and the fear of the forbidden ingrained in her family. The story also gives us a glimpse into the parallel lives of Alex’s cousin, Bea, and mother, Bertha. Through these characters, we learn about all the fears and complexities of a world where gender roles are turned on their head on one monumental day.  In this book packed with imagination and colorful characters, Kelly Barnhill takes the reader on a whirlwind journey through a version of the 1950’s tinted by a lens of magic and darkness.

The Power (2016)*

In this 2016 speculative fiction novel dedicated to Margaret Atwood, Naomi Alderman transports us into a dark, twisted story in which teenage girls around the world suddenly gain the startling power to shock and kill others at will. Instantly, this phenomenon shatters the balance of power, dismantling the dynamics and relationships that have shaped our culture. In this uncomfortable, exposing novel, Alderman explores the nature of corruption, power, spite, and brutality through characters both horrifying and painfully accurate.

All My Rage ( 2022)*

All My Rage is a coming-of-age story told through two parallel lives: that of Salahudin, a teenager struggling with his mother’s declining health and his father’s alcoholism, and that of Misbah, Sal’s idealistic mother growing up in Pakistan decades prior. The story follows a heartbreaking cycle of destruction, grief, and trauma as the weight of loss and mistakes are passed along through generations, across countries and cultures. All the while, this deeply emotional novel tackles heavy topics such as xenophobia, Islamophobia, domestic violence, and alcoholism.

The Invention of Wings (2014)

In this fictionalized account of the real lives of the Grimké sisters, Sue Monk Kidd provides alternating narratives that tell the story of Sarah Grimké and her sister, Angelina, who both fought for the abolitionist movement for much of their lives. The book recounts Grimké’s powerful life as a fierce abolitionist and the mother of the women’s suffrage movement with unflinching honesty, avoiding the reverential tropes of many such biographies. Kidd’s captivating interweaving narratives and fleshed-out characters give us a glimpse into the horrors and triumphs of one of the most horrific eras in American history.

The Violence (2022)*

In her debut novel, Delilah S. Dawson tells the haunting, twisted story of a different kind of pandemic playing out in an alternate version of 2020. In this pandemic, those infected suffer uncontrollable bouts of mindless violence, accompanied by terrifying bursts of inhuman strength. Set against the backdrop of this pandemic, protagonist Chelsea Martin uses the chaos and turmoil of the spreading disease to escape the domestic violence of her home life with her two adolescent daughters. Throughout the book, the chapters alternate between perspectives, interweaving Chelsea’s story with that of her teenage daughter coming of age in a world just as twisted as the one her mother fought to escape. 




The Queens of Animation (2019)

In her 2019 biography, The Queens of Animation, Nathalia Holt tells the unsung story of the women who helped to shape millions of childhoods through their contributions to the Walt Disney Animation Studios. Though for years it was believed that women were only involved in the largely female ink-and-paint department of Walt Disney Animation Studios, this book tells the story of the female animators that were hidden from the limelight, silently providing the imagination for towering films from Fantasia to Bambi. From Mary Blaire’s unique cartoon style to Bianca Majolie’s seminal fairy scene in Fantasia, The Queens of Animation unpacks the remarkable work and complex lives of these women who helped to inspire generations through their magical storytelling and captivating images.

Square Haunting: Five Writers in London Between the Wars

In her joint biography, Square Haunting: The Five Writers in London Between The Wars, Francesca Wade tells the story of five women who wrote in the pivotal era between global wars: Virginia Woolf, Dorothy L. Sayers, Eileen Power, and Jane Harrison. The five women are bound together by their residence in Mecklenburgh Square, which housed a host of artists, radicals, and pioneers. Throughout the book, Wade employs a captivating narrative style that sheds light on the unraveling lives of these five women whose work, conducted during a monumental time with a crumbling world order, paved the way for many women to come. This joint biography interweaves their separate lives, drawing parallels and shedding light on the nature of art and industry during their time.

Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World (2015)

In this narrative biography about the first two women to sit in the highest court in the land, Linda Hirshman details the remarkable lives and friendship of Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, whose powerful careers have inspired and guided generations of women following in their footsteps. Hirshman recounts their lives in vivid detail, from O’Connor’s childhood growing up on a ranch to RBG’s fight to gain respect in a patriarchal Harvard Law School. Simultaneously, Hirshman paints a picture of the state of the justice department at the time, with all its contradictions and hypocrisies.

The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom, and the Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear (2021)

Kate Moore’s 2021 biography tells the horrifying untold story of Elizabeth Packard. In 1860, threatened by her vocal independence and intellect, Elizabeth’s husband, Theophilus, had his wife committed to an insane asylum under the protection of laws that made it appallingly easy for husbands to institutionalize their wives with little to no evidence of mental instability. Once institutionalized, Elizabeth soon realizes that she is far from the only one in her situation; the asylum is packed with entirely sane women relegated to these abusive institutions by their powerful husbands and fathers. Moore’s biography tells the story of Elizabeth’s passionate fight, both for her own freedom and for that of others. Her legal battles and activism are detailed with fast-paced, novel-like prose that sheds light on the repulsive, infuriating history of corruption and lies that left thousands of women confined to horrific asylums they did not need.

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women (2016)

Kate Moore’s 2016 account of the worker’s rights scandal that shook the nation in the 20th century transports the reader back to the 1910’s, when the newly discovered element radium was all the rage. Incorporated into hundreds of products, radium was abundant in factories where thousands of young girls worked, covered head-to-toe in the shimmering substance. However, as Moore recounts, once the girls began to fall ill one by one from the mysterious substance, their plight was met with coldness and lies. As women around the world began to protest the use of the deadly substance and fight for workers’ rights and compensation, they were met with apathy fueled by corporate greed. Despite the resistance, many of the girls fought back, blowing open one of the greatest industrial tragedies in recent memory. Moore’s biography meticulously recounts this tragedy, highlighting the lives of those whose deaths were covered up and ignored by those in power.


My Beloved World (2013)

In her 2013 autobiography, Sonia Sotomayor, who has served as the third woman and first Latina ever to have a seat on the highest court in the land, recounts her journey from a childhood growing up in the Bronx to her monumental career as a lawyer and justice. With the honesty, grace, and tact that has defined her powerful career, Sotomayor paints a portrait of her culture, family, and education with a captivating narrative style that builds towards her history-making nomination by President Obama. Sotomayor’s autobiography is characterized by an intimacy and vivid emotional investment that all the biographies and articles about her seminal career lack, giving us a glimpse into the genuine humanity behind the power and poise that has inspired generations of girls.

The Education of an Idealist (2019)

Samatha Power’s narrative autobiography The Education of An Idealist tells the story of her journey towards becoming the powerful, successful journalist and UN ambassador she is today. Her story, which epitomizes the allure of the American dream, is told in novel-like prose that transports the reader across the world with her from her tumultuous early childhood in Ireland, to her time in a Bosnia ravaged by war, and finally to her days sitting at the seat of power in the Oval Office next to Barack Obama. This biography is both deeply personal and fiercely political, painting a portrait of Power’s life while also giving us an expansive view of the trials and triumphs of navigating the halls of power.

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About the Contributor
Alina A.
Alina, who is currently a sophomore, has attended BASIS since its founding year. Her interests include reading, including genres from fantasy and short fiction to nonfiction books covering history, economics, psychology, and social sciences. Politics fascinates her, and she is passionate about getting involved in current issues through her participation in organizations such as Impact Ink. In her free time, she enjoys oil painting, rock climbing, and piano. She plans to incorporate her extracurricular interests and personal passions into her writing for the BIM Bulletin.