The Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association has a Feminist Task Force and for several years now they have been running what they call the Amelia Bloomer Project, which annually produces a list of the best feminist books of the year. They have impressive, especially thoughtful and politically conscious, criteria spelled out in depth. The emphasis is not just on feisty female protagonists (though I would love to see a list just on the best of those for the year separately) but on women and girls who empower others beyond themselves:
With the current trend of using strong female protagonists in fiction, a more specific explanation of feminism may be in order. Feminist books for young readers must move beyond merely “spunky” and “feisty” young women, beyond characters and people who fight to protect themselves without furthering rights for other women. Feminist books show women overcoming the obstacles of intersecting forces of race, gender, and class, actively shaping their destinies. They break bonds forced by society as they defy stereotypical expectations and show resilience in the face of societal strictures.
In addition, feminist books show women solving problems, gaining personal power, and empowering others. They celebrate girls and women as a vibrant, vital force in the world. These books explain that there is a gender issue; they don’t leave the reader to guess. A book with a strong female character that does not demonstrate that an inequality exists may not be a feminist book. Strong female characters may be plucky, perseverant, courageous, feisty, intelligent, spirited, resourceful, capable, and independent–but the book’s presentation may still not be feminist.
Below are their picks for 2013. A few look like kids books but most look highly valuable for adults too. Click on the titles to learn more about each book.
Cummins, Julie. Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America’s Heart. Illus. by Malene R. Laugesen. Roaring Brook Press. K-Gr.2
Gevinson, Tavi (Ed.). Rookie Yearbook Two. Drawn & Quarterly. Gr.7-up.
Global Baby Girls (Global Fund for Children). Charlesbridge Publishing. PreS.
Markel, Michelle. Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909. Illus. by Melissa Sweet. Balzer + Bray. K-Gr.4.Molloy, Aimee. However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph. HarperOne. Gr.10-up.
Mullenbach, Cheryl. Double Victory: How African American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II (Women of Action). Chicago Review Press. Gr.9-up.
Povich, Lynn. The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace. PublicAffairs. Gr.10-up.
Schnall, Marianne. What Will It Take to Make A Woman President?: Conversations About Women, Leadership and Power Seal Press. Gr.10-12.
Wishinsky, Frieda. Profiles #4: Freedom Heroines Scholastic. Gr.4-6.
Yousafzai, Malala with Christina Lamb. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. Little, Brown and Company. Gr.8-12.
H/T: Bitch Magazine
Your Favorite Feminist Books?