A Reading List for International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! Here on UN Dispatch we are celebrating by asking our friends and readers to compile a list of their favorite books, articles, and blogs that touch on the themes of women’s rights and human rights.  What do you think should be required reading for International Women’s Day? 

Linda Hirshman: (author Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World”) “Michelle Goldberg’s The Means of Reproduction: Sex Power and the Future of the World” is an amazingly thorough, historical survey and contemporary analysis of the way in which the global movement to control reproduction, and its crucial element, women, explains the past and predicts the future. Goldberg’s stories of the lengths women will go to to control their own reproductive fate would move a heart of stone.”

Alanna Shaikh: “The Wisdom of Whores, by Elizabeth Pisani is a  truly exceptional book. To investigate the spread of HIV in the developing world, she talked to the people who know most about it – sex workers and drug users. Her street level view of HIV transmission will give you new respect for the women at ground zero for HIV infection.

Vanessa Valenti: Feminisms Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity,  by Chandra Talpade Mohanty. “This book is an exceptional analysis of critical issues that exist within contemporary feminism, particularly concerning women’s global issues. Mohanty raises questions around the conflict of globalization, the practice of reclaiming language, the crossing of boundaries between “third-world” and “first-world” women, and international feminist mobilizing by using key concepts that helps the reader better understand the complexity of these issues. By the end of the book, Mohanty forms a very comprehensive and very possible solution to these obstacles, which is rare in books tackling problems of such depth.”

Michael Kazin: “Christine Stansell has a great new history of feminism — The Feminist Promise, 1792 to the Present — coming out next month. And Ruth Rosen’s The World Split Open is the best history of the “second wave.””

Carolyne Petri: “Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector. She’s the most famous Brazilian novelist (they sell her books in vending machines) unknown nearly everywhere else until this book, which I’m fanatical about. Clarice was also was the wife of a diplomat, traveled the world. Born to a syphilitic mother out of the pogroms of Ukraine, she emigrated to Brazil at 6 months and led an incredibly mysterious, feminist, and thoughtful life. The book’s up for the National Book Critics Circle award in biography. Author Ben Moser is Harper’s New Books columnist.”

“Also, this one’s rather wonky, but…The Mathematics of Sex: How Biology and Society Conspire to Limit Talented Women and Girls.”

Steven Teles:  “Where political science is concerned, two books worth reading are Anna Harvey’s Votes Without Leverage, and Suzanne Mettler’s Dividing Citizens: Gender And Federalism In New Deal Public Policy.”

Heather Hurlburt: “Lili Mansour’s essay: Iranian Women Poised to Benefit from Crisis, An an iranian journalist on women and the green movement.”

Kathleen Greier: “Marilyn Waring’s Counting for Nothing (also known as If Women Counted) is an oldy but goodie. First published in 1988 and republished in a new edition 11 years later, this book by a New Zealand economist is a groundbreaking work that looks at how national accounting schemes systematically exclude the unpaid labor of women, and the devastating impact fo women that these exclusions can have on public policy and the distribution of economic benefits. It got rave reviews from John Kenneth Galbraith (among others), and is very readable and completely accessible even to non-specialists. It’s a great illustration of the powerful ways that economic theories can have concrete, real-life impact.”

“I would also like to strongly recommend The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World. First published in 1989, its most recent edition, the 4th, came out last year. Written by geographer Joni Seager, it’s a feminist nerd’s delight — chockfull of fascinating maps, charts, and statistics about women around the world, Topics covered range from the average number of hours per week women around the world spend fetching water, to what countries are the world’s biggest markets for cosmetics, to male literacy rates in various countries, to the status of lesbian rights across the globe.

I was particularly struck by the stats on violence against women. Some


— In Russia, 70% of adult women say they have experienced physical abuse by a male partner or intimate.

— In Bangladesh in 2002, 68% of women who were physically abused say they never told family or officials about their abuse.

— In the U.S., between 22% and 35% of women who visit the emergency room do so because of domestic violence.

— In Japan, out of 104 gang rapes that were reported in 2005, there were only 5 convictions.– In the U.K., the rate of criminal convictions on rape charges is 7%.”

And some picks from our friends at the United Nations Foundation:

Kathy Calvin: Tatterhood and Other Tales, Ethel Johnston Phelps; The Fun Of It: Random Records Of My Own Flying And Of Women In Aviation, Amelia Earhart;

The Blue Sweater, Jacqueline Novogratz

Gillian Sorenson: The Little House on the Prairie series, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Jenna Sauber: Stones into Schools, Greg Mortenson;  The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World, Michelle Goldberg; From Outrage to Courage: Women Taking Action for Health and Justice, Anne Firth Murray; Women Who Light the Dark, Paola Gianturco

Tamara Kreinin: Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn; Girls’ Night Out, Tamara Kreinin and Barbara Camens

Tieneke Van Lonkhuyzen Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson; I Am An Emotional Creature, Eve Ensler; Population, Nature, and What Women Want, Robert Engelman

Kathy Hall: Women Lead The Way: Your Guide to Stepping Up to Leadership and Changing the World, Linda Tarr-Whelan

Phoebe Lee: A Pivotal Moment: Population, Justice, and Environmental Challenge, Laurie Mazur

Julia Rocchi: Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi;  Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi; A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf; The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros

Yolanda Johnny Taylor: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston; In My Place, Charlayne Hunter-Gault; Baby in the Family, Tina McElroy Ansa


Via Twitter (Follow @unfoundation and @undispatch) 

Unbowed, Wangaari Mathaai (@epi_tales)

The Same Sweet Girls, Cassandra King (@kickyfeet)

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini (@epi_tales)

Because I Am a Girl: State of the World’s Girls 2009, Plan USA report (@planusa)

The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank (@tiaratuik 

The Lonely Soldier by Helen Benedict: amazing book and A World Made New- Eleanor Roosevelt and The UDHR (@GSPGH)

This recent story from Burkina Faso and this from Iraq (@NDI)

And some friends via Facebook

The Red Tent, Anite Diamante (Tammy Michniuk)

Pure Lust or Gyn/Ecology, Mary Daly (Maja Rejonovich)

Move into Life, Anat Baniel (Maja Rejonovich)

 Maternal Thinking, Sara Ruddick (Maja Rejonovic)

Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart, Carol Leonard (Maja Rejonovich)

Notes from the Cracked Ceiling, Anne Kornblut (Maja Rejonovich)

Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf (Maja Rejonovich)

Manhattan, Helene Cixous (Maja Rejonovich)

When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron (Maja Rejonovich)

Silent Spring, Rachael Carson (Maja Rejonovich)

Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (Shivani Naido)

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (Donna Bennett)

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (Ekaterina Ilieva)

Les Liaisons dangereuses, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (Ekaterina Ilieva)

First Love, Ivan Turgenev (Ekaterina Ilieva)

Asya, Ivan Turgenev (Ekaterina Ilieva)

The Song of Triumphant Love, Ivan Turgenev (Ekaterina Ilieva)

Shibil, Jordan Jovkov (Bulgarian writer) (Ekaterina Ilieva)

Let Go, Sheila Walsh (Jeanine Manzano)

O Pioneers, Willa Cather (Frank Flores)

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery (Carla Davis)

Fifth Chinese Daughter, Jade Snow Wong (Carla Davis)

In My Mother’s House, Kim Chernin (Carla Davis)

The Kitchen God’s Wife, Amy Tan (Carla Davis)

Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston (Carla Davis)

Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad, Ann Petry (Carla Davis)

Delusions of Grandma, Carrie Fisher (Carla Davis)

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (Carla Davis)

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kid (Megan Penn)

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (Megan Penn)

Girl, Interrupted, Susanna Kaysen (Megan Penn)

The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (Pat Biswanger)

Fried Green Tomatoes, Fannie Flagg (Pat Biswanger)

Lucky, Alice Sebold ((Maura Donlan)

Infidel, A.H. Ali (Maura Donlan )

A Map of Hope, Majorie Agonsin,  “77 stories about how women writers have spoken out about human rights.”  (Victoria Baxter)

Brida, Paulo Coehlo (Mariella N G)

What else do you think we should include?  Add your suggestions in the comments. 

(Photo: flickr)