by Brittney Reed-Saltz
Each March we celebrate Women’s History Month, looking back on the achievements of the women who have come before us, lifting up the work being done by women today, and looking forward to the brighter future that we will build together.
Women’s History Month is definitely one of my favorite observances, so in honor of it, I’m pairing it up with one of my favorite literary forms: memoirs and biographies. Here are five titles by or about women who have inspired me with their lives and their words.
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More by Janet Mock
Mock traces her life, from her childhood in Hawaii, to her transition, to finding a successful journalistic career and love in New York City. It is truly inspiring to witness her owning her story and to see the obstacles that she overcame to define herself and take on the world. Everyone should read this book.
Frida by Hayden Herrera
Frida Kahlo has long been one of my heroes. She was so much more than just a trendy face on a handbag or a coffee mug, and I can’t recommend this detailed biography–and the film it inspired–enough. Both examine Kahlo’s early years, the bus accident that profoundly impacted her health and her work throughout her life, the symbolism and significance of her paintings, her relationships with family and friends and lovers, and her politics. By the end, you have a much deeper understanding of Kahlo’s vibrant and uncompromising talent.
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
Amy Poehler has done much to use the platform of her fame to uplift other women, from portraying a positive role model as Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation, to co-founding Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls organization, which is “dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves.” Her memoir brims with her trademark humor and passion, and is a great read.
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
Kaysen chronicles of her struggles with mental illness and her stay in a psychiatric hospital during the 1960s. Her descriptions of her own experiences and those of her fellow patients are inseparable from their time, so reading it also provokes thought about how society shaped women and notions of mental illness, and about how the same happens today.
This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe
Sidibe’s memoir is what I want all celebrity memoirs to be: It feels like having a long visit with a really funny and honest friend. She juggles harsh realities with hilarious anecdotes, sometimes on the very same page, and by the end, I started to wish that she had her own reality TV show. And I never wish that anyone had their own reality TV show.
Do you love memoirs and biographies, too? Share your favorites by and about amazing women in the comments!