Local Author Susan Rukeyser's Feminist Favorites

By Space Cowboy Books

By Space Cowboy Books

Feminist Books of Poetry, Fiction, and Essays - recommended by Susan Rukeyser, author of Not On Fire, Only Dying and editor of Feckless Cunt: A Feminist Anthology

Statement from our curator:

From the moment I realized, as a little girl, that my gender was considered inferior, I’ve sought an explanation. I was heavily influenced by 2nd wave feminists, and I find myself equally drawn to, and educated by, the younger, 3rd wave feminists, who insist the conversation be intersectional. On this list, you’ll find essay collections, books of poetry, novels, even a craft book. It is not intended to be definitive. These are personal recommendations, representing ideas and solutions from a diverse group of writers and thinkers from the late 19th century to present day. I hope that this list, along with the book I edited, Feckless Cunt: A Feminist Anthology, offer inspiration and fuel for the continued fight.

-Susan Rukeyser, www.susanrukeyser.com

Feckless Cunt: A Feminist Anthology

Susan Rukeyser (Editor)


Anthology edited and published by this section's curator Susan Rukeyser

Dare Me

Megan Abbott

$16.98 $15.62

Recently adapted as a TV series, this beautifully written book draws us into the world of darkly competitive teenage girls.

We Should All Be Feminists

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

$8.94 $8.22

Adapted from her viral TEDx talk, this long essay suggests a more diverse, inclusive definition of feminism for the 21st century.

The Complete Poetry

Maya Angelou

$30.00 $27.00

Best known for her autobiographies, Angelou wrote acclaimed and groundbreaking poetry, including the famous, “Phenomenal Woman” and “Still I Rise.”

Bastard Out of Carolina (Anniversary)

Dorothy Allison

$17.00 $15.64

This semi-autobiographical novel tells a heartbreaking story of “illegitimacy” and abuse in the rural South.

The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood

$15.95 $14.67

This dystopian classic, which spawned the popular TV series, is required reading. Eerily prescient, it imagines a near future in which women lose their bodily autonomy. Also, her novel Oryx & Crake, an astonishing work of science fiction that blurs current genetic experimentation and corporate control with a wholly altered future world.

Nine Months

Paula Bomer


Bomer’s debut challenges the way we talk about “sacred” motherhood with this story of a wife and mother, unexpectedly pregnant for the 3rd time, who abandons her family for a reckless road trip.

The Destruction of Hillary Clinton: Untangling the Political Forces, Media Culture, and Assault on Fact That Decided the 2016 Election

Susan Bordo

$16.98 $16.99

Cultural historian Bordo gives a detailed account of how patriarchal politics and systemic misogyny contributed to Clinton’s defeat in 2016.

Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write

Gayle Brandeis


Another contributor to the Feckless Cunt Anthololgy, Brandeis explores craft with ideas and exercises to liberate the sensual writer within.

The Awakening

Kate Chopin and Carmen Maria Machado

$8.00 $7.36

First published in 1899, this important work of early feminism is a tragic tale of domestic oppression and passionate regret.

Burn It Down: Women Writing about Anger

Lilly Dancyger

$27.00 $24.30

A modern, cathartic anthology of essays by women exploring their relationships with rage.

Sharp Objects

Gillian Flynn

$16.00 $14.72

The outstanding debut novel by the author of Gone Girl, this is a psychological thriller with a compellingly dark female protagonist.

Bad Feminist

Roxane Gay

$15.99 $14.71

A smart, funny collection of personal essays and criticism about being feminist and imperfect. Also, Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, which Gay edited, a powerful, even uncomfortable, anthology of personal yet universal experiences.

Lord of the Butterflies

Andrea Gibson

$16.00 $14.72

One of the most popular spoken-word performers, Gibson writes with tenderness and generosity about nonbinary gender, love, and more.

The Yellow Wallpaper: Original and Unabridged

Charlotte Perkins Gillman


. Published in 1892, it remains a feminist classic, as relevant today as ever, in its protest of a patriarchal medical profession that disbelieves and mistreats women.

When She Woke

Hillary Jordan

$15.95 $14.67

A beautifully written, provocative book about a stigmatized woman in a near-future dystopia, this book is a reimagining of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays

June Jordan


Collected prose on race, human rights, politics, American culture, and more from this great poet and activist.

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

Cheryl Clarke and Audre Lorde

$16.98 $15.62

Lorde, a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” offers her bold, intersectional, feminist perspective in endlessly quotable prose.

Cunt: A Declaration of Independence (Anniversary)

Inga Muscio

$18.98 $17.46

In this classic book, newly revised, Muscio celebrates the “c” word and encourages other women to claim its power while discussing a host of feminist issues.

Satan Says

Sharon Olds

$17.00 $15.64

The first collection by this award-winning poet, Olds writes scorching, intensely personal poems with domestic themes.

The Moon Is Always Female: Poems

Marge Piercy


Piercy’s passionate and plain-spoken poetry addresses social and environmental issues. This volume includes her iconic, “For Strong Women.”

The Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath

$15.99 $14.71

The classic story of a smart young woman’s dissatisfaction and descent.

The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977

Adrienne Rich

$15.95 $14.67

. Rich, one of the most important writers of feminism’s 2nd wave, explores the political and personal in woman-to-woman relationships, in all their forms.

Muriel Rukeyser: Selected Poems: (american Poets Project #9)

Muriel Rukeyser


Rukeyser’s timeless, timely poetry explores equality and social justice. Highlights include “Poem (I lived in the first century of world wars…)” and “Käthe Kollwitz.” Also, Breaking Open, which includes the notable, “Despisals” and “The Ballad of Orange and Grape.”

Scum Manifesto (Revised)

Avital Ronell and Valerie Solanas

$12.95 $11.91

A wild ride of madness or canny provocation? Solanas delivers a furious, rebellious manifesto of female empowerment and male subjugation.

Men Explain Things to Me

Rebecca Solnit

$12.95 $11.91

Historian and activist Solnit writes about the modern, female experience, inspiring the now-ubiquitous term, “mansplaining.”

Everything is Personal: Notes on Now

Laurie Stone

$18.00 $16.56

A longtime writer for The Village Voice, Stone is an irreverent, independent thinker, unafraid to challenge popular trends in social justice.

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger

Rebecca Traister

$17.00 $15.64

An empowering, journalistic survey of feminist anger over the last 100 years and its historically proven power to effect change.

In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose

Alice Walker

$16.98 $15.62

Walker’s essays outline a new, intersectional way to talk about feminism, identifying and acknowledging the differences between white and black women’s experiences.

Nothing Is Okay

Rachel Wiley

$16.00 $14.72

Slam poet and body positive activist Wiley uses humor and plain-spoken candor to discuss gender, sexuality, problematic female “intensity,” and fatphobia.

The Chronology of Water: A Memoir

Lidia Yuknavitch and Chelsea Cain

$17.95 $16.51

With brutal honesty and fierce love, Yuknavitch lays herself bare, offering other broken, misfit women permission to do the same.