Almost one year ago, the United States came closer than ever before to electing its first female president. When that didn’t happen, groups that had been fighting for women’s rights became even more vocal, regardless of their original candidate preferences.
The year 2017 has seen a surge in community organizing, the Women’s March, and the recent publication of Hillary Clinton’s What Happened (Simon & Schuster, Sept.), which has already sold 341,000 print copies.
A few weeks later, Atria imprint Enliven Books published The Awakened Woman, by Oprah Winfrey favorite Tererai Trent, who made her way from a rural village in Zimbabwe—where by age 18 she had three children and no high school education—to a PhD from Western Michigan University. Trent’s book, with a foreword by Winfrey, discusses what the author calls the Sacred Sisters, a movement to tap into the underused potential of women to change the world. The coming year brings many more books that aim to inspire women and help them empower themselves.
Krista Suh, creator of the Pussyhat Project, a lasting visual symbol of the 2017 Women’s March, has written DIY Rules for a WTF World (Grand Central, Jan. 2018), pubbing just in time for the anniversary of that march. Gretchen Young, v-p and executive editor at Grand Central, who acquired the book, says she was interested in Suh “right off the bat, because in two months’ time she created this worldwide project.”
DIY Rules, illustrated by Aurora Lady, the artist who contributes to the Pussyhat Project website, comprises 46 chapters, a key number representing the next president. The book includes the author’s personal introspection along with numerous self-help exercises (e.g., “Practice saying no to three people without apologies or justification”) and two knitting patterns: one for the emblematic hat, and, Young says, “one that has to do with Krista’s next big project.”
When Sara Carder, editorial director at TarcherPerigee, met with Tyra Banks and her mother, Carolyn London, about their coauthored treatise on overcoming obstacles and achieving success, Perfect is Boring (TarcherPerigee, Apr. 2018), all three were excited to be living in an “amazing moment when feminism is no longer a bad word,” Carder says. In chapters including “Take Responsibility for Yourself,” “Lipgloss + Pizza Sauce = Boss,” and “Embrace Your Booty,” Banks and London reflect on Banks’s experience in the modeling industry and as a businesswoman. The book also emphasizes the importance of female relationships. “They want to talk about how behind every great woman is often a very strong mother,” Carder says of the authors. “Carolyn has guided Tyra through her whole career.”
Nina Collins, daughter of pioneering African-American filmmaker Kathleen Collins, will publish What Would Virginia Woolf Do? with Grand Central Life & Style in April 2018, named after the private Facebook group she created. Drawing on opinions crowdsourced, with permission, from that discussion group, as well as on stories from her own life, What Would Virginia Woolf Do? encourages women in their 40s and 50s to examine how their experiences can empower them. “A lot of books about midlife are serious, another to-do on women’s to-do lists,” says Karen Murgolo, v-p and editorial director at Grand Central Life & Style. In contrast, she says, Collins’s book romps through a diverse array of subjects—empty nesting, fasting, sex—and even describes an orgy she went to with her second husband.
Grand Central Life & Style will also publish The Gutsy Girl Handbook by Kate White (Apr. 2018), who was the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan for 14 years. (She’s also written several thrillers and four business advice books for women.) In her latest, White takes the nine core principles from her 1995 book Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead... But Gutsy Girls Do (Grand Central) and updates them for the current generation of women in their 20s to mid-30s, with chapters including “A Gutsy Girl Knows How to Hustle” and “A Gutsy Girl Doesn’t Worry Her Butt Off (and Faces Trouble Head-On).”
Our Bodies, Our Self-Help
A number of forthcoming titles embrace positive body image as a tool for women’s empowerment, including Brittany Gibbons’s The Clothes Make the Girl (Look Fat?) (Dey Street, Jan. 2018), Gibbons’s follow-up to her memoir Fat Girl Walking (Dey Street, 2015), which has sold more than 7,500 print copies.
“Plus-size fashion is booming,” Gibbons says, but so many people are still wearing ill-fitting clothes. She encourages women to ignore the number on the tag and offers measuring and proportion tips for finding the right fit. “It’s easy to write fashion off as being a superficial thing,” Gibbons says. “But it’s the first narrative we give people, and body image is very tied to confidence.”
Jes Baker’s Landwhale (Seal, May 2018) offers inspiration in memoir form with stories of her “journey as a body activist and body positive writer, as she has grown into the person she is today,” says Stephanie Knapp, senior editor at Seal Press. Baker, who has 127,000 Facebook followers, blogs at The Militant Baker and is the author of 2015’s Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls, which has sold almost 8,000 print copies.
Another forthcoming Seal title, Physical Disobedience by Sarah Hays Coomer (Aug. 2018), shows that a woman’s relationship to her body is a political act. “For too long women have been told that our bodies are something to be contained and mastered in some way,” Knapp says.
Coomer encourages women to practice self-care as a way to reclaim their bodies and minds from the constructs that contain them. Her book, and others like it, suggest that in reclaiming their space (and perhaps, a la politician Maxine Waters, reclaiming their time), women can discover powerful ways to resist oppression and further the cause of equal rights.