Emma Watson, feminist activist and actress best known for playing Hermione in the Harry Potter films – I write, as if you don’t know who Emma Watson is – announced that she would be running Our Shared Shelf, a new feminist book club.
“As part of my work with UN Women, I have started reading as many books and essays about equality as I can get my hands on,” wrote Watson in the Goodreads group description. “There is so much amazing stuff out there! Funny, inspiring, sad, thought-provoking, empowering! I’ve been discovering so much that, at times, I’ve felt like my head was about to explode… I decided to start a Feminist book club, as I want to share what I’m learning and hear your thoughts too.”
Watson announced that the first book the club will read is Gloria Steinem’s biography My Life on the Road. While the description makes it sound like Watson will be focusing on adult work, like Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist or Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things To Me, I thought I might suggest some feminist YA books to add to her shelves.
Courtney Summers’ All the Rage has been hailed as an emotional, painful and unabashedly feminist look at our society’s rape culture. It follows a girl named Romy Grey, who is branded an outcast after she tries to share the truth about the behavior of Kellan, the town’s golden boy. But when a girl with ties to both Kellan and Romy goes missing after a party, Romy must decide if staying silent about Kellan is a burden too big to bear.
To tie into the release of the book, Summers launched a hashtag campaign that she plans to make an annual occurrence. #ToTheGirls is a hashtag campaign designed to encourage and celebrate girls and was lauded as one of the most feminist Twitter campaigns of 2015.
“I’m really hoping it will empower girls and encourage them to empower each other,” said Summers about the campaign. “I hope it leaves them feeling like their voices and their stories matter – because they do, so much.”
If All the Rage doesn’t suit Watson’s interests, Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens might. In Beauty Queens, a plane crash strands 13 beauty queen contestants on an island, but each one has their own secret – and each one must bond together if they are to survive.
Bray’s book doubles as a both a hilarious satire and an intense feminist critique of our society.
“Why,” writes Bray in Beauty Queens, “do girls always feel like they have to apologize for giving an opinion or taking up space in the world? Have you ever noticed that?”
If Watson wants to look at something with feminist themes but that takes place in a time a little different than our own, Stacey Lee’s Under A Painted Sky would make a fantastic read (and, perhaps, a break from some of the heavier memoirs Watson no doubt plans to read).
Under A Painted Sky begins in Missouri, 1849. Two girls forge a powerful bond as they travel disguised as boys, each searching for a link to their past, and struggling to avoid any unwanted attention law closes in on them.
“I wanted to write a book about what it was like for the first Chinese Americans in the United States. Many of them came during the California Gold Rush, which coincided with the western expansion of the United States via the Oregon Trail,” said Lee in our profile with her in 2015, adding later, “Our population is almost 40% diverse, and of course, 50% female. We need books that reflect those realities.”
And those three, of course, are just the tip of the iceberg for feminist YA reads. I could wax poetic about the work of Nova Ren Suma – a must-read for those who love books about girls, and the problems they face, and their resilience in the face of horrors – and Laurie Halse Anderson – whose books on topics like rape culture and eating disorders have saved lives – but instead, I shall leave it to you: what feminist YA books would you suggest for Our Shared Shelf’s shelf? Sound off in the comments below!