Celebrate Women’s History Month with terrific nonfiction titles spotlighting female pioneers and groundbreakers.
Adam Hochschild’s spirited biography Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical, the Epic Journey of Rose Pastor Stokes chronicles the life of Rose Pastor Stokes (1879–1933), a Russian refugee of Jewish descent who married millionaire James Graham Phelps Stokes. The two became members of the Socialist Party and mixed with figures such as W.E.B. Du Bois and anarchist Emma Goldman. Hochschild’s enthralling narrative shines a light on Pastor Stokes’ work as a champion of the working class and of the feminist cause. Pick this one if your group is ready for a dynamic discussion of social justice, women’s rights and the often overlooked history of American activism during the early 20th century.
In Horror Stories, musician Liz Phair—perhaps best known for her 1993 release Exile in Guyville—looks back at some painfully formative moments in her life. She writes with vibrancy and honesty about being unfaithful to her first husband, getting into a street brawl in Shanghai and giving birth to her son after 32 hours of labor. She's refreshingly upfront about her own personal shortcomings, but she's also compassionate about them, allowing her to connect with readers who've experienced their own missteps. Book groups will appreciate Phair’s skills as a memoirist and find rich topics for conversation, including the female experience in the music industry and riot grrrl-era feminism.
Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century by John Loughery and Blythe Randolph provides an in-depth look at a legendary lady. Dorothy Day (1897–1980) was a noted journalist, pacifist and advocate for labor and women’s rights. A Brooklyn native, she was also part of the Greenwich Village scene that included poet Hart Crane and playwright Eugene O’Neill. This lively biography documents her personal and political evolution in wonderful detail. Brimming with history and discussion topics related to religion and progressivism, it’s an inspired choice for Women’s History Month.
In her brave, probing memoir Recollections of My Nonexistence, essayist and activist Rebecca Solnit recounts her coming-of-age as a writer. Solnit settled in San Francisco as a teenager during the 1980s. While in grad school, she entered the writing world—an arena dominated by men—and worked to overcome gender barriers and find her place as an artist. Solnit’s astute observations of the literary life and the San Francisco art scene make for fascinating reading, and her evolving sense of her own identity and empowerment will prompt lively conversation among readers.