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Women's History Month

Book recommendations from UMSL Reference Librarians to celebrate and reflect on Women's History Month, March 2023

Women's History Month Recommended Reading. Text on red background with gold decoration. Illustration of four women on the left.

2023's Women's History Month theme is Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories. 

TJ Library invites you to explore our Women's History Month virtual exhibit. The titles presented below were selected to celebrate women telling our own stories in a variety of formats, including cinema, literature, journalism, television, comedy, social media, and more.

Clicking a title will open that book's online record, where you will find the call number (for print books) or an access link (for e-books).


Book title (From the Beast to the Blonde) on beige above images showing fairy tale scenes on black background. Central image shows a woman embracing a man with a donkey's head.

From the Beast to the Blonde

Marina Warner looks at storytelling, at its practitioners and images in art, legend, and history - from the prophesying enchantresses who lure men to a false paradise to jolly Mother Goose, with her masqueraders in the real world, from sibyls and the Queen of Sheba to Angela Carter. The storytellers are frequently women (or were until men like Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen started writing down the women's stories), and Marina Warner asks how changing prejudices about women affect the status of fairy tales: are they sources of wisdom and moral guidance, or temptations encouraging indulgence in romantic and vengeful fantasies? From the Beast to the Blonde considers old wives' tales in all their luxuriant detail and with a strong sense of the historical contexts in which they developed.

Book title (Real Sister) in all caps above two rows of silhouettes of Black women in front of television screens.

Real Sister

From The Real Housewives of Atlanta to Flavor of Love, reality shows with predominantly black casts have often been criticized for their negative representation of African American women as loud, angry, and violent. Yet even as these programs appear to be rehashing old stereotypes of black women, the critiques of them are arguably problematic in their own way, as the notion of "respectability" has historically been used to police black women's behaviors.   The first book of scholarship devoted to the issue of how black women are depicted on reality television, Real Sister offers an even-handed consideration of the genre. The book's ten contributors -- black female scholars from a variety of disciplines -- provide a wide range of perspectives, while considering everything from Basketball Wives to Say Yes to the Dress.

Photograph of a woman photojournalist (Helen Johns Kirtland) looking at an exploded mine on the coast of Belgium

An Unladylike Profession

When World War I began, war reporting was a thoroughly masculine bastion of journalism. But that did not stop dozens of women reporters from stepping into the breach, defying gender norms and official restrictions to establish roles for themselves -- and to write new kinds of narratives about women and war. Chris Dubbs tells the fascinating stories of Edith Wharton, Nellie Bly, and more than thirty other American women who worked as war reporters. As Dubbs shows, stories by these journalists brought in women from the periphery of war and made them active participants -- fully engaged and equally heroic, if bearing different burdens and making different sacrifices.

Book title (Making Feminist Media) in black, all caps, on bright yellow background

Making Feminist Media

Making Feminist Media brings together interviews with magazine editors, research from zine archives, and analysis of the advertising, articles, editorials, and letters to the editor found in third-wave feminist magazines. It situates these publications within the long history of feminist publishing in the United States and Canada and argues that third-wave feminist magazines share important continuities and breaks with their historical forerunners. These publishing lineages challenge the still-dominant -- and hotly contested -- wave metaphor categorization of feminist culture. The stories, struggles, and strategies of these magazines not only represent contemporary feminism, they create and shape feminist cultures.

Book Title (Graphic women) above an illustration of a woman wearing a device over her eyes that is shooting flames

Graphic Women

Some of the most acclaimed books of the twenty-first century are autobiographical comics by women. Aline Kominsky-Crumb is a pioneer of the autobiographical form, showing women's everyday lives, especially through the lens of the body. Phoebe Gloeckner places teenage sexuality at the center of her work, while Lynda Barry uses collage and the empty spaces between frames to capture the process of memory. Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis experiments with visual witness to frame her personal and historical narrative, and Alison Bechdel's Fun Home meticulously incorporates family documents by hand to re-present the author's past. Hillary L. Chute explores their verbal and visual techniques, which have transformed autobiographical narrative and contemporary comics.

Book title (Is That a Gun In Your Pocket?) in yellow, all caps, on a black background

Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?

In these pages, some of the most famous, most powerful, and most outrageous members of the film industry go on record with their war stories. From superstar actors to independent directors, women in all arenas of the moviemaking business opened up to Abramowitz. Their firsthand tales of jealousy, struggle, sexism, and success make for a fascinating behind-the-cameras look at what it is really like to be a woman in Hollywood. Here, in their own candid and pro-vocative words, are Jodie Foster, Penny Marshall, Dawn Steel, Sue Mengers, Sherry Lansing, Polly Platt, Barbra Streisand, Paula Weinstein, Nora Ephron, Carrie Fisher, Meryl Streep, Jane Campion, Amy Heckerling, Callie Khouri, Joan Tewkesbury, and many others.

Book title(Women Singers in Global Contexts) in the middle of 10 images of women's faces, arranged in an oval, over a pink background

Women Singers in Global Contexts

Exploring and celebrating individual lives in diverse situations, Women Singers in Global Contexts is a new departure in the study of women's worldwide music-making. Ten unique women constitute the heart of this volume: each one has engaged her singing voice as a central element in her life, experiencing various opportunities, tensions, and choices through her vocality. These biographical and poetic narratives demonstrate how the act of vocalizing embodies dynamics of representation, power, agency, activism, and risk-taking. Contributors trace themes and threads that include childhood, families, motherhood, migration, fame, training, transmission, technology, and the interface of private lives and public identities.

Book title (At Home in the World) in white on light purple background; in the center, circle showing art of women in various public spaces, including walking in a crowd and reading a newspaper

At Home in the World

In this new literary history, Maria DiBattista and Deborah Epstein Nord contend that even the most seemingly traditional works by British, American, and other English-language women writers redefine the domestic sphere in ways that incorporate the concerns of public life, allowing characters and authors alike to forge new, emancipatory narratives. The book explores works by a wide range of writers, including canonical figures such as Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Harriet Jacobs, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, Gertrude Stein, and Toni Morrison; neglected or marginalized writers like Mary Antin, Tess Slesinger, and Martha Gellhorn; and recent and contemporary figures, including Nadine Gordimer, Anita Desai, Edwidge Danticat, and Jhumpa Lahiri.

Book title (Women and Video Game Modding) above image of a woman smiling and holding a video game controller

Women and Video Game Modding

The world of video games has long revolved around a subset of its player base: straight, white males aged 18-25. Highly gendered marketing in the late 1990s and early 2000s widened the gap between this perceived base and the actual diverse group who buy video games. Many female gamers are in turn modifying the games. "Modders" alter the appearance of characters, rewrite scenes and epilogues, enhance or add love scenes and create fairy tale happy endings. This is a collection of new essays on the phenomenon of women and modding, focusing on such titles as Skyrim, Dragon Age, Mass Effect and The Sims. Topics include the relationship between modders and developers, the history of modding, and the relationship between modding and disability, race, sexuality and gender identity.

Watercolor of a woman's face and a black bird. The book title is in the middle (The Shapes of Silence)

The Shapes of Silence

Drawing from the insights of subaltern studies and postcolonial feminisms, Proma Tagore brings together the work of a diverse group of writers - Toni Morrison, Shani Mootoo, Louise Erdrich, M.K. Indira, Rashsundari Debi, and Mahasweta Devi. She focuses on the visceral, affective nature of their narratives and explores the way that personal and historical trauma, initially silenced, may be recorded across generations, as well as across complex national, racial, gender, and sexual lines.

Book title (Hysterical!) in red, all caps, coming out of a drawing of a woman's mouth. Orange background with a few stars.


This anthology of original essays includes contributions by the field's leading authorities, introducing a new framework for women's comedy that analyzes the implications of hysterical laughter and hysterically funny performances. Expanding on previous studies of comedians such as Mae West, Moms Mabley, and Margaret Cho, and offering the first scholarly work on comedy pioneers Mabel Normand, Fay Tincher, and Carol Burnett, the contributors explore such topics as racial/ethnic/sexual identity, celebrity, stardom, censorship, auteurism, cuteness, and postfeminism across multiple media. Situated within the main currents of gender and queer studies, as well as American studies and feminist media scholarship, Hysterical! masterfully demonstrates that hysteria -- women acting out and acting up -- is a provocative, empowering model for women's comedy.

Book title (Reshaping Women's History) in red, green, and black over an image of a red flower growing out of a sidewalk.

Reshaping Women's History

Award-winning women scholars from nontraditional backgrounds have often negotiated an academic track that leads through figurative -- and sometimes literal -- minefields. Reshaping Women's History presents autobiographical essays by eighteen accomplished scholar-activists who persevered through poverty or abuse, medical malpractice or family disownment, civil war or genocide. As they illuminate their own unique circumstances, the authors also address issues all-too-familiar to women in the academy: financial instability, the need for mentors, explaining gaps in resumes caused by outside events, and coping with gendered family demands, biases, and expectations.

Photograph of a woman holding a red starfish. Below, the book title (New Blood in Contemporary Cinema) in white on a black background.

New Blood in Contemporary Cinema Women Directors and the Poetics of Horror

Since the turn of the millennium, a growing number of female filmmakers have appropriated the aesthetics of horror for their films. In this book, Patricia Pisters investigates contemporary women directors such as Ngozi Onwurah, Claire Denis, Lucile Hadžihalilović and Ana Lily Amirpour, who put ‘a poetics of horror’ to new use in their work, expanding the range of gendered and racialized perspectives in the horror genre. Exploring themes such as rage, trauma, sexuality, family ties and politics, New Blood in Contemporary Cinema takes on avenging women, bloody vampires, lustful witches, scary mothers, terrifying offspring and female Frankensteins.

Book title (Drawing Power) in black above an outline of a woman sitting and holding her arms. The image is split across multiple speech bubbles. Red background

Drawing Power

More than 60 female comics creators share their personal experiences with sexual violence and harassment through new and original comics. Inspired by the global #MeToo Movement, Drawing Power: Women's Stories of Sexual Violence, Harassment, and Survival is a collection of original, nonfiction comics drawn by more than 60 female cartoonists from around the world. Featuring such noted creators as Emil Ferris, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, MariNaomi, Liana Finck, and Ebony Flowers, the anthology's contributors comprise a diverse group of many ages, sexual orientations, and races - and their personal stories convey the wide spectrum of sexual harassment and abuse that is still all too commonplace.

Book title (Dear White Women) in white on black background

Dear White Women

If you've ever asked or been asked "What can I do to help combat racism?" then Dear White Women: Let's Get (Un)comfortable Talking About Racism is the answer you're looking for. From the creators of the award-winning podcast Dear White Women, this book breaks down the psychology and barriers to meaningful race discussions for White people, contextualizing racism throughout American history in short, targeted chapters.

Book title (Our Women On the Ground) in pink on plain green background

Our Women on the Ground

A growing number of intrepid Arab and Middle Eastern sahafiyat -- female journalists -- are working tirelessly to shape nuanced narratives about their changing homelands, often risking their lives on the front lines of war. From sexual harassment on the streets of Cairo to the difficulty of traveling without a male relative in Yemen, their challenges are unique--as are their advantages, such as being able to speak candidly with other women at a Syrian medical clinic or with men on Whatsapp who will go on to become ISIS fighters, rebels, or pro-regime soldiers.  In Our Women on the Ground, nineteen of these women tell us, in their own words, about what it's like to report on conflicts that (quite literally) hit close to home.

Upper half: photograph of a woman leaning out of an open window. Lower half: Book title (Indie Reframed) on black stripe above olive green background

Indie Reframed

This ground-breaking collection, the first sustained examination of the work of female practitioners within American independent cinema, reclaims the 'difference' of female indie filmmaking. Through a variety of case studies of directors, writers and producers such as Ava DuVernay, Lena Dunham and Christine Vachon, contributors explore the innovation of a range of female practitioners by attending to the sensibilities, ideologies and industrial practices that distinguish their work -- while embracing the 'in-between' space in which the narratives they represent and embody can be revealed.

Book title (Persuasive Acts) in white above silhouettes of women in various poses (either speaking or gesturing) over a lime green background

Persuasive Acts

In June 2015, Bree Newsome scaled the flagpole in front of South Carolina's state capitol and removed the Confederate flag. The following month, the Confederate flag was permanently removed from the state capitol. Newsome is a compelling example of a twenty-first-century woman rhetor, along with bloggers, writers, politicians, activists, artists, and everyday social media users, who give new meaning to Aristotle's ubiquitous definition of rhetoric as the discovery of the "available means of persuasion." Women's persuasive acts from the first two decades of the twenty-first century include new technologies and repurposed old ones, engaged not only to persuade, but also to tell their stories, to sponsor change, and to challenge cultural forces that repress and oppress.