10 books from TEDWomen for your summer reading list — and beyond

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There’s no doubt that the speakers we invite to TEDWomen each year have amazing stories to tell. And many of them are published authors (or about to be!) whose work is worth exploring beyond their brief moments in the TED spotlight. So, if you’re looking for some inspiring, instructive and provocative books to add to your summer reading list, these recent books from 2016 TEDWomen speakers are worthy additions.

1. Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women by Brittney Cooper

Brittney Cooper wowed us at TEDWomen with her presentation on the racial politics of time. And in her new book, Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women, released in May, she doesn’t disappoint. Brittney says she got started studying black women intellectuals in graduate school. Although she learned a lot about the histories of black male intellectuals as an undergrad at Howard University, she “somehow managed not to learn anything about” the storied history of black women intellectuals in her four years there.

In her book, Brittney looks at the far-reaching intellectual achievements of female thinkers and activists like Ida B. Wells, Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terrell, Fannie Barrier Williams, Pauli Murray and Toni Cade Bambara. NPR’s Genevieve Valentine writes that Brittney’s book is “a work of crucial cultural study … [that] lays out the complicated history of black woman as intellectual force, making clear how much work she has done simply to bring that category into existence.”

2. South of Forgiveness by Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger

One of the most intensely personal talks in San Francisco came from Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger. In 1996, 16-year-old Thordis shared a teenage romance with Tom, an exchange student from Australia. After a school dance, Tom raped Thordis. They didn’t speak for many years. Then, in her twenties, Thordis wrote to Tom, wanting to talk about what he did to her, and remarkably, he responded. For the first time, in front of the TEDWomen audience, Thordis and Tom talked openly about what happened and why she wanted to talk to him, and he to her.

South of Forgiveness: A True Story of Rape and Responsibility is a profoundly moving, open-chested and critical book. It is an exploration into sexual violence and self-knowledge that shines a healing light into the shrouded corners of our universal humanity. There is a disarming power in these pages that has the potential to change our language, shift our divisions, and invite us to be brave in discussing this pressing, global issue.

3. Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein

In a TED Talk that has already been viewed over 1.5 million times, author and journalist Peggy Orenstein, shared some of the things she learned about young girls and how they think about sex while researching her 2016 book, Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape. In it, she explores the changing landscape of modern sexual expectations and its troubling impact on adolescents and especially young women. If you’re the parent of a young girl (or boy), it’s a must-read for understanding the “hidden truths, hard lessons, and important possibilities of girls’ sex lives in the modern world.”

4. Born Bright by C. Nicole Mason

At TEDWomen, C. Nicole Mason talked about what happens when we disrupt the path that society has paved for us based on where we were born, stereotypes and stigma. In her memoir, Born Bright: A Young Girl’s Journey from Nothing to Something in America, Nicole talks about how she did it in her own life, chronicling her own path out of poverty. In a beautifully written book, she examines “the conditions that make it nearly impossible to escape” and her own struggles with feeling like an outsider in academia and professional settings because of the way she talked, dressed and wore her hair.

5. The Gutsy Girl by Caroline Paul

Caroline Paul has a pretty amazing backstory. Once a young self-described “scaredy-cat,” Caroline grew up to fly planes, raft rivers, climb mountains, and fight fires. That’s right, she was one of the first women to work for the San Francisco Fire Department — a job that inspired her first work of nonfiction, Fighting Fire. In her most recent book, The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure, she expands on some of the stories she shared in her TED Talk, writing about “her greatest escapades — as well as those of other girls and women from throughout history.”

6. Marrow: A Love Story by Elizabeth Lesser

In a beautiful and surprisingly funny talk about strained family relationships and the death of a loved one, Elizabeth Lesser described the healing process of putting aside pride and defensiveness to make way for honest communication. “You don’t have to wait for a life-or-death situation to clean up the relationships that matter to you,” she says. “Be like a new kind of first responder … the one to take the first courageous step toward the other.”

In her courageous memoir, Marrow: A Love Story, the bestselling author of Broken Open shares the full story of her sister Maggie’s cancer and the difficult conversations they had during her illness as they healed their imperfect relationship and learned to love each other’s true selves.

7. I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam

The theme of last year’s TEDWomen, as many of you will recall, was Time — all of us wrestle with how to be more productive, more engaged, more informed, to use our time wisely and well, to be more fully present in our lives. Writer and author Laura Vanderkam tackled the practical aspects of time management in her TED Talk. There are 168 hours in each week. How do we find time for what matters most?

In her book I Know How She Does It, Laura explains how successful women make the most of their time. With research, hard data and a lot of analysis, Laura “offers a framework for anyone who wants to thrive at work and life.”

8. Always Another Country by Sisonke Msimang

In her work, South African writer and activist Sisonke Msimang untangles the threads of race, class and gender that run through the fabric of African and global culture. In her popular TED Talk, she addressed the power of stories to promote change in our world and their “limitations, particularly for those of us who are interested in social justice.”

I am so pleased to report that after a very competitive bidding war, Sisonke will be publishing her first book, to be titled Always Another Country, in October.  The book, a memoir, will cover “her childhood in exile in Zambia and Kenya, her young adulthood and student years in North America and her return to South Africa during the euphoria of the 1990s.” I am so looking forward to reading her book and so should you.

9. When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Cullors

Patrisse Cullors, one of the three co-founders of Black Lives Matter, is also working on a memoir due out in January 2018 titled When They Call You a Terrorist. Activist Eve Ensler writes that Patrisse “is a leading visionary and activist, feminist, civil rights leader who has literally changed the trajectory of politics and resistance in America.” Co-written with asha bandele, the memoir will recount the founding of the movement and serve as a reminder “that protest in the interest of the most vulnerable comes from love.”

10. On Intersectionality: Essential Writings by Kimberlé Crenshaw

Civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw had the TEDWomen audience on their feet during her passionate talk dissecting intersectionality, a term she coined 20 years ago that describes the double bind faced by victims of simultaneous racial and gender prejudice. “What do you call being impacted by multiple forces and then abandoned to fend for yourself?” she asked the audience. “Intersectionality seemed to do it for me.”

In a new collection of her writing, titled On Intersectionality: Essential Writings, due to be released next year, “readers will find the key essays and articles that have defined the concept of intersectionality and made Crenshaw a legal superstar.” Don’t miss it.

TEDWomen 2017

I also want to mention that registration for TEDWomen 2017 is open, so if you haven’t registered yet, please click this link and apply today — space is limited. This year, TEDWomen will be held November 1–3 in New Orleans. The theme is Bridges: We build them, we cross them, and sometimes we even burn them. We’ll explore the many aspects of this year’s theme through curated TED Talks, community dinners and activities.

Join us!
– Pat

Featured image: Reading a book at the beach (Simon Cocks, Flickr CC 2.0)