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Girl Power! Books to Inspire Girls and Young Women

International Women’s Day is March 8- celebrate the occasion by sharing a book or two about inspiring women and girls with your favorite young woman.

We’ve come a long way since International Women’s Day was first observed. Back in 1911, women were fighting for the right to vote, work, and hold public office. The United Nations’ first official observation of the day was in 1975, and it is now an official holiday in nearly 30 countries.

There is no better occasion to share stories of female resilience, courage and creativity, and to reflect on where we should go from here. Here are a few suggested reads; please add your own recommendations in the comments.

I Am Malala

Malala Yousafzai grew up in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, where she was targeted by the Taliban for advocating for girls’ education. She was 10 years old when the Taliban took over her region. Among other restrictions imposed, the Taliban banned girls’ education from time to time. Yousafzai continued with school and spoke out against the restrictions. At the age of 15 she was traveling home from school when a Taliban gunman shot her in the head. After a miraculous recovery, Yousafzai has remained undeterred, speaking out around the world in support of girls’ education. In 2014, at the age of 17, Yousafzai became the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Who Was: Harriet Tubman?

The “Who Was…?” series is aimed at readers aged 8 to 12, telling the tales of noteworthy figures from history, with anecdotes that bring the characters to life and sidebars that describe the context of the country and the times where the historical figure lived. The books are deceptively straightforward—they look like little kids’ books, but are packed with enough information that even adults will learn a thing or two. Harriet Tubman was an American slavery abolitionist who was a famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad (and will eventually replace Andrew Jackson on the US$20 bill). She is a great starting point for an education about inspirational women.

I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

At the tender age of 10, Ali’s parents arranged for her to be married to a man three times her age. Subject to abuse and marital rape, Ali defied Yemeni culture and ran away from her husband and remarkably, managed to obtain a divorce. Ali’s recounting of the abuse she suffered is both courageous and harrowing, and tween or early teen readers may benefit from parental guidance on these difficult issues.

The Diary of a Young Girl

First published in 1947, without a doubt, the most famous account of life under the Nazi regime of World War II, Anne Frank should be required reading for all boys and girls alike. At the age of 13, Frank and her family fled Nazi persecution and were hidden in the attic of an office building, kept alive by the kindness of a handful of determined Dutch friends. The book is a classic not for its literary style (it is the diary of a young teenager after all), but for its raw and powerful representation of what it means to fight for survival and keep your humanity.

Girls Who Rocked the World 2

While many of us know Mother Teresa as an elderly nun, she and the forty-five other women represented in this book were already changing history before the age of 20. From well-known women like the Egyptian pharaoh Hatshepsut, to lesser known trailblazers like The Night Witches, an all-female squadron of Russian aviation bombers in World War II, the stories traverse the globe and span millennia.

Rad American Women A-Z

Another collection of short stories about trailblazers and heroines, but this one focuses on American women, and includes women who made their significant contributions as adults. From political activist Angela Davis to novelist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, the accomplishments of twenty-six radical American women are summarized and beautifully illustrated. (For a global look at rad women, see the 2016 edition, Rad Women Worldwide.)

Wonder Women

This contribution to the growing canon of feminist books for girls (and boys!) shares 25 stories of remarkable women in the fields of science, medicine, espionage, innovation and adventure. Familiar names such as Amelia Earhart and Marie Curie appear, but the majority are lesser-celebrated but equally impressive individuals, such as Muslim woman and Allied spy Noor Inayat Khan, or the medieval Italian female physician Jacqueline Felice da Almania. Maggs’ breezy writing style brings the stories to life.

Here We are

Jensen puts together advice for teens from 44 writers, dancers, actors, and artists, such as actress Mindy Kaling and feminist writer Roxane Gay. Covering “everything from body positivity to romance to gender identity to intersectionality to the greatest girl friendships in fiction,” the collection is thought-provoking, inclusive and simply fantastic.

We Should All Be Feminists

This 65-page pocket book is an adaptation of Nigerian author Adichie’s 2013 TED talk of the same name. Adichie is from Nigeria, but her experiences of the shrinking and silencing of women are universal. As the title indicates, this is not a girl’s book nor a woman’s book, but food for thought for all human beings.


Reader, writer, globetrotter. Seattle native who has lived in six countries (current home: New York). Food obsessed. Bylines in NPR, Wall Street Journal, Vice MUNCHIES, Budget Travel and more.


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