Books for young feminists. Image: Penguin

Books to spark a lightbulb moment. Image: Penguin

While there is plenty of evidence to suggest that we are far from achieving gender equality, that doesn't mean there aren't millions of young people who want to make that happen. They'll need handbooks along the way: words to inspire, guide and educate them. Thankfully, there are plenty that will do just that, with wit and vigour. Here are some of the best: 

Taking Up Space: The Black Girl’s Manifesto for Change by Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi (2019)

In 2017, Chelsea Kwakye wrote an article for her student paper: "A letter to my fresher self: surviving Cambridge as a black girl”. The piece became the foundations of a book that Bernardine Evaristo has since called "essential" and the TLS described as "reading the diary of a well-informed friend". Rooted in exploring and exposing those institutions – such as universities – where to be Black is to be in the minority. The book intends to be a guide for Black readers, and an important read for those wishing to be allies.

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf (1990)

To be a feminist today is far less eyebrow-raising than it was 30 years ago, but in the era of TikTok, Instagram and glow-ups, interrogating the role the beauty industry plays in the world of women, femininity and gender constructs has never been more vital. This was the book that made Naomi Wolf famous, and this abridged version, with a contemporary introduction from the author, is a perfect addition to a growing feminist's library. 

Feminists Don't Wear Pink (and other lies) by Scarlett Curtis (2018)

Scarlett Curtis took home a National Book Award for this debut and ratcheted up the Sunday Times Bestseller list. The premise is simple: the millennial writer asked 52 women what feminism meant to them. From Zoe Sugg to Liv Little, via a few A-List actresses, the political premise is interrogated with humour and insight. The result was called "a triumphant rallying call to young women" by The Observer.

Youth by Tove Ditlevsen (1967)

Vital lessons can come from memoir, too. This Danish modern classic is relatively little-known in the UK, but has rapidly been gathering momentum since being published by Penguin Modern Classics in 2019. Against a backdrop of 1920s Europe, this portrait of Ditlevsen's remarkable adolescence is honest, intimate and inspiring. The New Statesman called it "One of the best books I have read this year". 

Women, Race & Class by Angela Y. Davis (1981)

If feminism isn't intersectional, then it's not truly feminism. Angela Y Davis's third book offers, across 13 essays, a re-telling of US history from the slave trade to the Women's Lib movement of the 1960s, addressing the systemic racism in the Suffrage and Second Wave Feminist movements in the process. In short: it's a vital text for those looking to learn more about feminism.

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran (2014)

When Caitlin Moran was a teenager, she abandoned being home-schooled in Wolverhampton and moved to London to write for a music magazine. As How to Built a Girl, her semi-autobiographical novel will attest, it wasn't as cool as it sounds. Moran has made a career of imparting feminist advice to the masses, but this novel - adapted into a film in 2020 - wraps that up in plenty of growing pains and life lessons. No wonder it topped the Sunday Times Bestseller list. 

What Would the Spice Girls Do? by Lauren Bravo (2019)

To today's young feminists, Baby, Scary, Sporty, Posh and Ginger are now so retro that they've come back around again. The original creators of Girl Power ruffled feathers among academic feminists in the 1990s, but nevertheless inspired a generation of millennials to bring feminism back to the mainstream. Here, Lauren Bravo - whom Dolly Alderton dubs "one of my very favourite writers" - charts how with sparkle and delight.

 

Modestly by Dina Torkia (2018)

Torkia first caught attention as a Muslim style blogger and vlogger, but in Modestly she tells her own story: that of being a young woman caught between two identities. Named as one of Vogue's New Suffragettes in 2018, there is plenty here for the young feminist to chew on and be comforted by. 

Don't Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri (2019)

Feminist histories lie in nearly everything, if you're willing to look for them. Author, broadcaster and academic Emma Dabiri proved as much with Don't Touch My Hair, a revelatory history of Black hairstyling culture that can be read as an allegory for Black oppression. This is a book that will arm young feminists with such terms as "texturism", and has been deemed "unmissable" by Stylist

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