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8 Amazing Reads Celebrating Powerful, Courageous Women

by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)

Graphic with text "8 Amazing Reads Celebrating Powerful, Courageous Women" and the silhouette of a woman with one arm raised in the air

I wanted to share some of my favorite reads featuring strong women (and young women!). All of these works show complex, nuanced women who are courageous and who face obstacles with determination and strength. The women in these books are not always easy to love (which calls into question what it is that makes a female character lovable... a question that I think is an important one to consider!), but they are fierce and they know what they want and will do what it takes to reach their goals.

Lisa See's The Island of Sea Women - This one is a favorite of mine and explores the amazing Haenyeo (the female divers) from Jeju island in Korea. This historical fiction novel spans centuries and explores the complicated relationship between two women who grow up together as best friends but who have a falling out that profoundly impacts both of their lives. This covers the Korean War and Japanese occupation as well as many other historical events in Korea. I learned so much and was so fascinated by the Haenyeo culture and traditions that are woven throughout the book. (I loved this article talking about the book!)

Taylor Jenkins Reid's The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo - This book will definitely be one of my favorites of the year. I fell in love with Evelyn Hugo and her relentless quest to do whatever it took to find success. I admired her determination and appreciated her fearless self-examination as she looked back over her life and the choices that she made. I also loved the subtler subplot of Monique, Evelyn's biographer, as she learns to advocate for herself. Be on the lookout for my review of this one on Friday!

Anna Solomon's The Book of V. - This was one of my favorite reads last year, and it explores three strong women living in three very different eras. There is Esther and Vashi's story from ancient times, and then there's Lily, a wife and mother in modern times, and Vee, a young senator's wife during the Watergate era. The three storylines are woven together in a fascinating way that highlights the ways that women's struggles endure throughout history despite the many changes and advancements and the way that women can rise up against those obstacles.

Abi Daré's The Girl with the Louding Voice - Adunni, the protagonist in this debut novel, is one of my favorite characters from the last few years. Her determination and perseverance to overcome any obstacle toward reaching her goals is amazing, and I absolutely loved her resolve to get an education at any cost and her remarkable positivity in the face of daunting and harsh circumstances.

Madeline Miller's Circe - This beautiful exploration of Circe is such a powerful recasting of her as a complex, fully realized character who is powerful, lonely, and misunderstood. I loved so many aspects of this novel, but one of the things that has stayed with me from this is the portrayal of Circe as a mother to Telegonus; her fierceness and courage as she sought to protect her son knew no bounds, and I loved that.

YA Lit Picks

Brandy Colbert's The Voting Booth - Marva from this story is such a responsible, determined young woman who is so involved in the voting process and in helping to get out the vote. Marva is very aware of the setbacks that many people face in America when it comes to elections, and she is determined to bring about change in that space. When she and Duke come together to take action toward getting more people to the polls, they show how young people can be such a vital part of that process.

Brittany Morris's SLAY - This is another favorite for me, and Kiera in this book is confident, creative, and so brilliant! I love seeing her as a teen programmer and video game designer, and I appreciate the way that she faces the real life problems that come her way, even when those problems become overwhelming. She's such a great character, and the book is fantastic!

Angie Thomas's On the Come Up - Bri in this one (which, it's important to note for fans of The Hate U Give and Concrete Rose, is also set in Garden Heights!) is an aspiring rapper, and she will do what it takes to get others to take her and her ability seriously even when many people around her doubt her and try to sway her in other directions. I love Bri's determination and the hard work she's willing to do to pursue her passion.

What's a favorite read of yours with a powerful, courageous woman at its center? Let us know in the comments or on social media @unabridgedpod! (Scroll all the way down to leave a comment!)

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Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.

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