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Updated by Valley Libraries Radio Reference on Mar 19, 2021
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March 10 - 13; 17 - 20, 2021: Women's History Month

March is Women’s History Month, and we’re here to celebrate the wonderful variety of female voices and experiences being published. We’re highlighting nonfiction titles and some favorite fiction by women writers.

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Jamie's nonfiction selection

Jamie's nonfiction selection

Vashti Harrison's Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World is a fantastic primer on global women's history for little readers. (Or adult readers who like their history adorably illustrated). Harrison introduces trailblazers across the spectrum -- artists, scientists, inventors, writers, activists, names you've heard before and names you haven't. Each of the 35 women profiled here is inspiring in her own right, and you'll want to know more about them when you're finished. And with Harrison's signature charming artwork, this little book is a visual delight, too.

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Jamie's fiction selection

Jamie's fiction selection

Clare Beams' The Illness Lesson is an eerie, almost gothic piece of historical fiction. It's set at Birch Hill, a fledgling girls' school in the late 19th century. Birch Hill's first class of girls moves in under the shadow of a mysterious flock of red birds, and the school year has barely begun before the girls start showing strange medical symptoms -- headaches, rashes, fits -- baffling the school’s founders. As the mysterious illness grows worse, and the founders bring in a doctor whose methods may be worse than the symptoms themselves, Caroline, the lone female teacher, will have to throw off a lifetime of obedience to protect her students.The Illness Lesson is an atmospheric mystery with a strong feminist undercurrent, and it left me seriously unsettled.

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Ali's nonfiction selection

Ali's nonfiction selection

Last year was the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th amendment, in which women were granted the right to vote. It was an imperfect victory, to be sure, but a step in the right direction for women’s rights. Many books were released celebrating that piece of progress, and All Stirred Up: Suffrage Cookbooks, Food, and the Battle for Women’s Rights by Lauren Kumin is a delectable combination of spirited history lesson and forty years of adapted suffrage recipes. Kumin’s book, full of deep and thoughtful research into the suffrage movement, their cookbooks and how women used food and cooking - both a women’s burden in many ways, but also a way to connect - illuminates a side of the struggle for equal rights not often seen. An engaging read for cooks, feminists, and history buffs alike.

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Ginny's fiction selection

Ginny's fiction selection

Women’s history month is the ideal time to tout one of my favorite genres: Historical Fiction featuring strong female characters. The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati is a great example. Graduates of the new Women’s Medical College, cousins Anna and Sophie Savard work in charity hospitals which treat New Yorks’s poorest and most vulnerable. The city they inhabit is one of horse drawn carriages, gaslights, society balls and incredibly difficult conditions for the immigrant poor. As Anna and Sophie pursue a lost orphan and a vicious murderer of pregnant women, Donati presents a vivid picture of both the irrepressible energy of the growing city and the merciless attitudes which restrict women regardless of wealth and social status. Sophie’s racial heritage adds an additional layer of complexity to the social conditions she must navigate. This is realistic social history the way I love it, leavened by engaging characters and a cracking good story.

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Sarah's nonfiction selection

Sarah's nonfiction selection

I think Women’s History month is a great time to not only mark historic firsts and notable women, but to also celebrate voices who haven’t been at the forefront of publishing until more recently. Samantha Irby’s Wow, No Thank You is a collection of essays about being a fat queer Black woman with chronic illness. It doesn’t sound like it would be funny subject matter, but Irby is hilarious. The vignettes reflect on her experiences moving to Michigan from Chicago, selling her book, and navigating life with Crohn’s disease. it’s sometimes chaotic, often fearless, and shocking with her blunt treatment of these subjects, but she totally delivers the laughs. Irby’s essays are brought to life by her own narration of the audiobook, which is available on Libby.

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Sarah's fiction selection

Sarah's fiction selection

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters is a new release that has been hailed as one of the first books by an out trans woman to be released by one of the five major publishing houses. It’s a story about the complicated relationships between three people - cisgender and transgender -- and how they come together to raise a child after an unexpected pregnancy. Peters delivers a novel with big heart that balances a sharp comedic tone all while also exploring gender dynamics in society. It’s ]complex, wholly original, and unputdownable with universal themes that will resonate with readers regardless of their own gender identities. Rights have already been sold to adapt Detransition, Baby for television and Peters just made history as the first trans woman to be longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.