Women’s History Month is a valuable reminder that sex, gender and sexuality are complex facets of identity; they are factors that have shaped history and continue to shape our experiences in the world, influencing everything from who we are and who we love to how we are treated at work, at home and in society.
At a time when the World Economic Forum reports that the COVID-19 pandemic has widened global gender gaps in economic participation, and an analysis by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation finds that LGBTQ workers in the United States earn 90% of every dollar a typical worker earns, it is crucial that we learn more about women’s diverse experiences and sharpen our awareness of gender and cultural dynamics.
In the spirit of equity, inclusion, and intersectionality, we collected book recommendations for Women’s History Month from several faculty members at Millersville University. These recommendations examine the intersections between gender and multiple categories of identity, such as disability, sexuality, race and ethnicity. As such, these book recommendations argue that to assert that “people of color” and “women” are somehow separate categories misses the point, and that transgender women are women whose experiences are key to understanding Women’s History Month.
— “Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist,” by Judith Heumann with Kristen Joiner (2020); recommended by Emily Baldys, Assistant Professor of English and World Languages and Acting Coordinator of the Women’s and General Studies Minor at Millersville University.
A former adviser to the World Bank, the Ford Foundation and the US State Department, activist Judy Heumann is a giant in the disability civil rights movement. These powerful memoirs chronicle many of his personal and political triumphs in the pursuit of equality, from fighting an elementary school that labeled his wheelchair a “fire hazard,” to winning a lawsuit that left him enabled her to become the first wheelchair user to teach in New York City. York, for leading the longest sit-in at a federal building in U.S. history during San Francisco’s 504 sit-in, which sought to enforce federal law barring federally funded programs from discriminate against people with disabilities.
Judy’s efforts, many of which were featured in the recent Netflix documentary “Crip Camp,” fueled a national disability rights movement that led to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In her memoir, she recounts these and other historic moments with wit and passion, offering insight into her intelligent and tenacious fight for a more inclusive world.
— “Last night at the Telegraph Club”, by Malinda Lo (2021); recommended by Lesley Colabucci, Associate Professor of Early, Middle, and Exceptional Education.
Women’s History Month is a great time to focus on untold or lesser-known women’s stories. How about a lesbian romance set in 1950s San Francisco’s Chinatown?
This heartbreaking yet positive queer story focuses on intersectionality as the main characters navigate coming out, homophobia, racism, sexism and family dynamics. The beauty of this book is that it takes power from historical forces such as the “Lavender Scare” (in which gay federal employees were ousted from their jobs) and McCarthyism while recounting an authentic coming of age and a “first love”. story. Readers will support Lily and Kath and learn about a time and place they may know little about. A note from the author ensures the story’s accuracy and further extends the book’s value as a Women’s History Month read.
— “Detransition, Baby” a novel by Torrey Peters (2021); recommended by Michele Santamaria, Assistant Professor and Learning Design Librarian at Millersville University’s McNairy Library.
In this novel, Amy’s detransition, or Amy to Ames gender reversal/cessation, breaks up the transgender female couple of Amy and Reese. This leaves both partners adrift, with Reese still wanting a baby and Ames, formerly Amy, searching for a way back to Reese. When Ames gets his boss Katrina pregnant, the novel begins to explore whether the three characters can find their way to a sense of family. In its unabashed exploration of its characters’ flaws, Peters’ novel is not intended to present “homework” for those wishing to learn more about “ideal trans female characters.” Instead, what readers will find is Peters’ attempt to make real people visible in all their messy complexity and humanity as they seek to navigate their way through life.
— “Crying in H Mart,” a memoir by Michelle Zauner (2021); recommended by Michele Santamaria.
A book not to be read on an empty stomach, musician Zauner’s memoir is both a meditation on her relationship to her Koreanness through food and a chronicle of her evolving relationship with her Korean mother. As a biracial American, Zauner struggled to find a place to belong and would find solace in summers spent in South Korea with her mother. While Zauner’s relationship with his mother grew stronger through their shared love of food, Zauner’s passion for music put a strain on their relationship. They were brought together again by her mother’s devastating cancer diagnosis. To read Zauner’s memoir is to join her in navigating culturally complex pathways of loss and joy.