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Recommended reading, podcast and watch list for Women’s History Month

General Foundation News

In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, Kresge’s Amy Robinson, vice president, CFO and chief administrative officer, has curated a reading, podcast and watch list that highlights women authors, activists and leaders. Amy encourages readers to advocate for gender equity as she commemorates and encourages the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. Here are her recommendations:

Let’s start with the lighter stuff first:

A podcast that I have been devouring lately. About a Girl, currently hosted by Nikki Lynette, is a scripted narrative anthology series about women whose stories have long been eclipsed by the legends of their famous partners. Bowie, Elvis, 2Pac, Prince, Miles, Biggie. Each of these icons created some of the most celebrated and enduring music of the modern age. But there’s more to their stories than you know. About A Girl brings focus to the many women without whom the landscape of popular music might be very different. The narration and stories are melodic, but a couple caveats – there is some profanity so watch it if the kids are in the car and you won’t hear the music you’re craving as you listen to the show, you’ll have to hit your favorite streaming service for that.

Some of my favorite episodes so far: Queen Latifah (80’s girl favorite song, feat. Monie Love – Ladies First), who ascended to royal status in rap at a time when the genre revolved around putting women down – and keeping them down. Thanks to her reign, a generation of hip-hop heads learned that women could rule just as well as any man. Even if you’re not a country music fan, the Tammy Wynette/George Jones story is heartwarming and heartbreaking, think D-I-V-O-R-C-E, and I didn’t know anything about Victoria Mary Clark but there is some real drama with the Cobain’s prior to the tragedy of Kurt losing his life to suicide in 1994.

For my fellow Peloton crew, there are some great rides and classes on the roster to celebrate women’s history month including Gloria Estefan yoga flow, Carrie Underwood ride and Beyonce bodyweight class to name a few. Don’t miss out on the celebration!

Two highly recommend movies, celebrating suffrage and the civil rights movement:

Iron Jawed Angels. I. LOVED. THIS. MOVIE. (thank you to my colleague Gemma Brundage for the suggestion). Based on historical figures and events, the movie tells the story of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns (Frances O’Connor), two defiant young activist leaders in the American women’s suffrage movement. The two women break with the traditional suffragist movement and form a more radical faction which uses marches, civil disobedience, and eventually a hunger strike to pursue the ultimate goal of getting Congress to pass a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote. Spoiler alert – they win!

The only downside is how briefly Ida B. Wells, and other women of color who supported the movement were featured in the film. Ida was a pioneering Black journalist and activist for women’s rights, the suffrage movement and a founder of the NAACP. She refused to walk in the back for the suffrage parade and walked with the Illinois delegation she travelled with, wrote openly about lynchings (in the 1890’s) and pushed for urban reform in the early 30’s. You can hear more about her story here.

I love when I get book recommendations from colleagues, family, friends and conferences. Here are some favorites from over the years and recently:

Black Women Writers at Work. This book was originally released in 1985, and knowing that I’m dating myself I will share this was the year I graduated from high school, and I am grateful that it was reprinted in 2023 by Haymarket since it was incredibly hard to find copies. The book is a collection of interviews with some of the greatest contemporary writers of the 1950s-80s including Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Nikki Giovanni, Audre Lorde, Sonia Sanchez, Toni Cade Bambara and more. As author Claudia Tate shares, “Black women writers and critics are acting on the old adage that one must speak for oneself if one wishes to be heard.”  I’m not an aspiring writer, but the urgent messages in this work that are still so relevant today, and just the sheer raw honesty and wisdom shared, make it a great read. A bonus is all of the nibbles of books and poems shared throughout prompts you to want to read more and more by this talented group of women.

Let’s Talk About Hard Things. Ok, I’ll just admit it, I am an Anna Sale’s fangirl, well, as much as a nerdy accountant can fit that bill. If you like her podcast, you’ll love the book. In the book, Anna dives into five of the most fraught conversation topics – death, sex, money, family and identity – using snapshots of a variety of people opening up about their lives and exert opinions on why having tough conversations is important.  One of my favorite quotes from the book, “There is a lot in life that is difficult, and there is no getting around that.  Good conversation will not take away the shock of death or heal the sting of heartbreak. But isolation and stigma will inevitably make that pain so much worse. The willingness to talk is a salve that any of us can offer.”

The Lightmaker’s Manifesto, How to work for change without losing your joy. I had the pleasure of hearing author Karen Walrond speak last year and was encouraged by the stories and practical ways to find joy in advocacy. The actual Manifesto – full of beautiful wisdom and love for self and others – sits just before the thought-provoking Lightmaker’s Manual at the end of the book, which includes journal prompts, templates, and exercise for your light-filled practice. Brene’ Brown shared: “Karen Walrond shines her light so we can find our own” and interviewed Karen in her podcast (Part 1 and Part 2).

Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. I read this at the recommendation a few years back of my colleague, Ed Smith, I couldn’t put it down. Sorrow and strength are the words that I feel best describe the story of two half-sisters, born in different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. The story follows them and their descendants, right up through present day. “Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be in inscribed in the soul of a nation.” Goodreads

In the kids’ corner, since I’m building a library for my new granddaughter, I’ll include:

I Am Ruby Bridges, How one six-year-old girl’s march to school change the world, by acclaimed civil rights icon Ruby Bridges. Released in 2022, Ruby shares a personal look through a child’s eyes at a momentous day in civil rights history and young Ruby’s her experience integrating an elementary school in 1960, in her own words. Included are wonderful illustrations by Nikkolas Smith, an ARTivist, and a glossary to help our next generation understand a more truthful history.

Sharice’s Big Voice, A Native Kid becomes a Congresswomen. Wonderfully illustrated by Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley, an Ojibwe Woodland artist, this autobiography tells the triumphant story of Sharice Davids, one of the first Native American women elected to Congress, and the first LGBTQ congressperson to represent Kansas. Young and old, and everyone in between will enjoy this cultural deep dive into an amazing women’s life.

Two other honorable mentions:

Wanderers, A History of Women Walking by Kerrie Andrews, a book about ten women over the past three hundred years who have found walking essential to their sense of themselves, as people and as writers. Maybe because of its recency, I found the Cheryl Strayed story (Wild), a true story of a woman hiking alone 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) while trying to get her life back on track, inspiring.

Deep in Our Hearts, Nine White Women in the Freedom Movement, takes us into the lives of nine young women who came of age in the 1960s while committing themselves actively and passionately to the struggle for racial equality and justice. It is about love and politics and the transcendence of racial barriers. If I’m honest, I think I was driven to pick this book up in the first place because I’m heartbroken to think so many of us were (are) so complacent in working to dismantle structural racism and I wanted to see – and believe – there was action beyond the freedom riders by white women.

The women’s stories helped me think more deeply about the historical and cultural meaning of whiteness and the supportive role of a small group of young white activist played in a black-led movement. They admit it was uncomfortable for them to write a book about all-white and all-female activists, but in the end felt it was an important chronicle of a social movement.