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International Women’s Day (IWD) is soon approaching, landing on Friday, March 8 this year. The day marks a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women everywhere. It’s also a day meant to remind us all to keep working toward gender equality.
While there may be no long-held International Women’s Day traditions — at least, not yet— that doesn’t mean you can’t find your own little ways to pay homage to the inspiring women around us. It’s the perfect excuse to treat your self to a new read, particularly one that is written by a strong female author.
One of Tessa Fontaine’s greatest fears was her mother passing, as her mother continually suffered from strokes that fear moved closer to reality. In the face of uncertainty, her mother chose to follow one of her dreams while she still had the chance — travel to Italy and tour the country with her husband. Taking a cue from her mother, Tessa decided to take on a new adventure that had been on her bucket list for a while — she joined the circus.
While in the circus, she transformed herself into an escape artist, a snake charmer, and a fire eater, among other unlikely roles. “The Electric Woman” details Tessa’s unique job, but more importantly it provides a moving message we all can relate to about how we overcome fears and deal with heartache, through the one-of-a-kind lens of circus life.
You may think that growing up with Steve Jobs as your father would make life easy, but it typically wasn’t that way for Lisa Brennan-Jobs. Constantly moving between her mother’s and father’s homes throughout her youth, Brennan-Jobs lived two very different lives. Her relationship with her father was unpredictable — moments of generosity were bookended by tougher times.
With up-and-coming Silicon Valley as the backdrop, “Small Fry” depicts the complex dynamics of one family. Moreover, Brennan-Jobs’ strong literary style and authentic voice (which have received high praise) make for an emotional coming-of-age memoir we can all empathize with, prolific father or not.
Sarah Smarsh was born into a family of wheat farmers in rural Kansas, just 30 miles west of Wichita. Though country childhood was filled with many simple pleasures, it was also wrought with poverty that presented a multitude of challenges — abusive relationships, untreated medical conditions, and unsafe job conditions were just some of the harsh realities.
Through personal narrative and careful analysis, Smarsh shatters the notion of the “American Dream,” a false promise that has attempted to keep people like her and her family down. Ultimately, this book challenges readers to examine the class divide in our country, which for many has become so alienating, and reconsider how we think about social class.
The simple and strange stories of Sloane Crosley’s everyday life — from going to the grocery store, to playing matchmaker for a swinger couple and freezing your eggs — come to life with wit, hilarity, and smarts. Through topics both laugh-worthy and emotionally-draining, Crosley manages to stay light, while still being insightful and relatable. This honest perspective on the trials and tribulations of real life are sure to resonate, and make you laugh too.
The ocean has always been a huge part of Liz Clark’s life — she dreamed of travelling the world by sailboat and getting the chance to surf untouched waters. At 22, her dream became a reality and she became the captain of her own sailboat, Swell. From Santa Barbara, California, she set off sailing miles south looking for surf and adventure.
She’s still out there, having covered over 20,000 miles after over 10 years on the water alone. Clark tells her voyage in great depth, with gripping details about the constant challenges of such an adventure. Moreover, you’ll find a unique take on the power of exploration, from someone who has done a lot of it.
Maggie O’Farrell has had 17 near-death experiences. If that’s not astonishing enough, O’Farrell’s writing will keep you hooked. This memoir is written, in a nonlinear fashion, through these snapshots in time that have so defined her life. Through each prospect of death, the author shows a keen sense of what it means to be alive. The heightened senses and awareness of all that is, rather than what is not. Tragedy and terror reveal the preciousness of life, something many of us could stand to be reminded of.
Tara Westover first stepped into a classroom at 17 years old. Born to survivalist parents living far off in the mountains of Idaho, her family was isolated from mainstream society, so much so that the children never had access to a proper education. Still, she knew nothing other than this world of solitude, and at times danger. When an older brother got himself out and into college, Westover followed suit, trying to make a new life herself.
Her grit and desire to learn took her first to Harvard, and then the University of Cambridge for a PhD. The degrees did not come without sacrifice though — Westover channeled courage, serious determination, and a natural intellect to make it.
Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman was an aspiring violinist, so she jumped at the chance to join a professional ensemble in New York City. In reality, the ensemble is a chaotic scheme, where the manipulative composer uses music from a CD, rather than actually turn on the microphones and let the musicians play. It’s a coming-of-age story that will make you laugh, but also put you face to face with the sometimes-cruel realities young women deal with while navigating the world.
One of the most iconic women of our time, Michelle Obama constantly inspires with her intelligence, compassion, and savvy. Her memoir is a deep reflection into the life she’s led thus far — a childhood on the South Side of Chicago, the struggles of balancing motherhood with a career, and the time spent in a particularly prestigious role, First Lady of the United States of America.
While she may be a public figure already, this memoir speaks to the parts of her life she has not always shared, or at least, so earnestly. The personal narrative of a woman who has overcome, succeeded, and defied many expectations — this book is sure to inspire.
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Originally published on Business Insider.
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