The best stories to fuel your feminist fire

Who am I?

As an author and activist, I use fiction as a way of exploring social issues which mean a lot to me. As a woman of color, that means writing protagonists who encounter sexism, racism, class, and geographic inequality—but who combat those injustices in inventive and heroic ways. For me, the story is always about being human: trying to understand why a character acts a certain way in a certain situation. After all, aren’t we all trying to pursue our own desires against a backdrop of societal expectations? A good storywhether fiction or non-fictionbrings these conflicts to emotional, vivid life, and roots them in a reality we can all relate to. 


I wrote...

Complicit

By Winnie M. Li,

Book cover of Complicit

What is my book about?

After a long-buried incident, a woman whose promising film career was derailed has an opportunity for revenge in this visceral and timely thriller about power, privilege, and justice.

A mystery set in the world of filmmaking, Complicit owes much to the stories that emerged in the #MeToo movement. But I also wanted to channel my own experiences working in the film industry as a young woman—and as a sexual violence survivor, who has done a lot of thinking and consulting on how we tell these kinds of stories in the media. Complicit captures the magic of moviemaking, the supposed fun and glamour of Hollywood, while questioning how our moral compass becomes warped by ambition, when our workplaces are already such an unequal playing field.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Manningtree Witches

Winnie M. Li Why did I love this book?

Based on the Essex witch hunts during the English Civil War in 1644, this is so much more than a historical novel. The writing is poetic and fierce, the emotions riveting and unexpectedly moving. And our heroine, clever Rebecca West faces the danger of simply being a low-born, impoverished woman when ‘The Witchfinder General’ (a real historical figure) launches a patriarchal inquisition to ‘clean up’ society. How will Rebecca learn to protect both herself and her cantankerous mother in a cruel world hungry to claim marginalized women as scapegoats? Betrayal and heartbreak, solidarity, and mercy are all brought to vivid, unforgettable life in this literary gem.  

By A. K. Blakemore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Manningtree Witches as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Wolf Hall meets The Favourite in this beguiling debut novel that brilliantly brings to life the residents of a small English town in the grip of the seventeenth-century witch trials and the young woman tasked with saving them all from themselves.
 
"This is an intimate portrait of a clever if unworldly heroine who slides from amused observation of the 'moribund carnival atmosphere' in the household of a 'possessed' child to nervous uncertainty about the part in the proceedings played by her adored tutor to utter despair as a wagon carts her off to prison." —Alida Becker, The New York Times…


Book cover of She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement

Winnie M. Li Why did I love this book?

Speaking of witch hunts… oh wait, #MeToo was most definitely not a witch hunt when it came to exposing the predatory behavior of one Harvey Weinstein. This non-fiction book probably needs no introduction: it’s written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalists who finally broke the story of the century. It is a must-read in terms of understanding how one man’s power enabled him to get away with assaulting and terrorizing women for so long. Megan and Jodi’s final confrontation with Weinstein himself is chilling. And if you think the story ends there, a powerful coda centers on Christine Blasey Ford and her decision to speak up against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. This book’s humane, empathetic account offers a small modicum of justice in the wake of all the pain, destruction, and trauma caused by a perpetrator like Weinstein. 

By Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked She Said as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING CAREY MULLIGAN AND ZOE KAZAN* 'Explosive' Margaret Atwood 'Seismic' Observer 'Brilliant' Nigella Lawson 'Gripping' Jon Ronson A FINANCIAL TIMES, NEW STATESMAN, DAILY TELEGRAPH, METRO AND ELLE BOOK OF THE YEAR On 5 October 2017, the New York Times published an article by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey that helped change the world. Hollywood was talking as never before. Kantor and Twohey outmanoeuvred Harvey Weinstein, his team of defenders and private investigators, convincing some of the most famous women in the world - and some unknown ones - to go on the record.…


Book cover of The Wife

Winnie M. Li Why did I love this book?

This novel is razor-sharp, as infuriating as it is funny. Adapted into an award-winning 2017 film with Glenn Close, the original source material is actually much more satirical, suspenseful, and insightful. Joan Castleman is the long-suffering wife of a revered novelist, who is soon to be honored with a lifetime achievement award (think: the Nobel Prize). They journey to Helsinki for the ceremony, but Joan has more than a few resentments building inside her. And how much exactly does Joe Castleman owe his successful career to his wife? Was she more than just supportive spouse and homemaker to him? An entertaining diatribe showing how women’s talent and labor often go unrecognized—and even co-optedby the men in our lives. 

By Meg Wolitzer,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE WIFE is the story of the long and stormy marriage between a world-famous novelist, Joe Castleman, and his wife Joan and the secret they've kept for decades. The novel opens just as Joe is about to receive a prestigious international award, The Helsinki Prize, to honour his career as one of America's preeminent novelists of the Mailer-Bellow-Updike school. But this isn't a book for writers; it's a book for readers, for people who are interested in questions such as: Is there a 'male' voice and a 'female' voice? Do men and women see the world differently, and how? THE…


Book cover of The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home

Winnie M. Li Why did I love this book?

Unrecognised female labor is also the subject of this captivating non-fiction book by Hochschild, a sociologist drawing upon decades of research with fifty heterosexual couples in the Bay area. Hochschild is well-known for identifying ‘the second shift’ of childcare and domestic chores that working women often perform at home, on top of their professional commitment. This results in a rampant inequality of leisure time, and compounded with unequal pay in the workplace, exacerbates gender injustice in contemporary American society. But Hochschild also provides powerful examples of couples who counter-act this norm, while showing how individual attitudes towards gender and domestic responsibilities are influenced by class, ethnicity, and upbringing. Fascinating and illuminating. 

By Arlie Russell Hochschild, Anne Machung,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Second Shift as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An updated edition of a standard in its field that remains relevant more than thirty years after its original publication.

Over thirty years ago, sociologist and University of California, Berkeley professor Arlie Hochschild set off a tidal wave of conversation and controversy with her bestselling book, The Second Shift. Hochschild's examination of life in dual-career housholds finds that, factoring in paid work, child care, and housework, working mothers put in one month of labor more than their spouses do every year. Updated for a workforce that is now half female, this edition cites a range of updated studies and statistics,…


Book cover of The Shore

Winnie M. Li Why did I love this book?

I loved this atmospheric debut, often described as a collection of interlinked short stories. Set on an isolated group of islands off the coast of Virginia, the stories span more than two centuries of the same family’s history: from the 19th century and far ahead into a post-apocalyptic, post-pandemic future. There are intimations that a supernatural ‘second sight’ runs in the family and the book’s Southern Gothic vibe is nothing short of intriguing. But for all the hints of magic realism, the focus on female characters contending with obstacles of class and gender at different points in history is rooted in an understandable reality. Beautifully written descriptions of the natural environment, poignant characters, and local color all demonstrate Taylor’s imagination to be visionary and impressive. 

By Sara Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Shore as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An ambitious, Baileys prize-nominated debut set in an unforgettable place, introducing a powerful new voice in fiction

The Shore: a group of small islands in the Chesapeake Bay, just off the coast of Virginia. The Shore is clumps of evergreens, wild ponies, oyster-shell roads, tumble-down houses, unwanted pregnancies, murder, and dark magic in the marshes. Sanctuary to some but nightmare to others, it's a place that generations of families both wealthy and destitute have inhabited, fled, and returned to for hundreds of years. From a half-Shawnee Indian's bold choice to escape an abusive home only to find herself with a…


You might also like...

Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

By Christina Ward,

Book cover of Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

Christina Ward Author Of Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

New book alert!

Who am I?

For me, history is always about individuals; what they think and believe and how those ideas motivate their actions. By relegating our past to official histories or staid academic tellings we deprive ourselves of the humanity of our shared experiences. As a “popular historian” I use food to tell all the many ways we attempt to “be” American. History is for everyone, and my self-appointed mission is to bring more stories to readers! These recommendations are a few stand-out titles from the hundreds of books that inform my current work on how food and religion converge in America. You’ll have to wait for Holy Food to find out what I’ve discovered.

Christina's book list on the hidden history of America

What is my book about?

Does God have a recipe? Independent food historian Christina Ward’s highly anticipated Holy Food explores the influence of mainstream to fringe religious beliefs on modern American food culture.

Author Christina Ward unravels how religious beliefs intersect with politics, economics, and, of course, food to tell a different story of America. It's the story of true believers and charlatans, of idealists and visionaries, and of the everyday people who followed them—often at their peril.

Holy Food explains how faith pioneers used societal woes and cultural trends to create new pathways of belief and reveals the interconnectivity between sects and their leaders.

Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

By Christina Ward,

What is this book about?

Does God have a recipe?

"Holy Food is a titanic feat of research and a fascinating exploration of American faith and culinary rites. Christina Ward is the perfect guide – generous, wise, and ecumenical." — Adam Chandler, author of Drive-Thru Dreams

"Holy Food doesn't just trace the influence that preachers, gurus, and cult leaders have had on American cuisine. It offers a unique look at the ways spirituality—whether in the form of fringe cults or major religions—has shaped our culture. Christina Ward has gone spelunking into some very odd corners of American history to unearth this fascinating collection of stories…


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5 book lists we think you will like!

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