Source: Sam Mallon/Education Week

The National Women’s History Month’s theme for 2024 celebrates “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.” 

It’s a fitting theme for a year in which we’ve witnessed escalating attacks on the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Already, 30 state legislatures have introduced or passed more than 100 bills to ban or restrict DEI in higher education and public offices. In Alabama, Florida, Texas, and Utah, these bills have been signed into law, forcing the shuttering of university DEI offices and firing of associated staff members. It is no surprise that the lawmakers limiting the practice of liberatory learning are also dismantling access to reproductive healthcare and targeting trans communities

Many of these assaults come on the heels of last year’s Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action in college admission, which conservatives have weaponized to further build the case against DEI in the public sector as well as philanthropy. As reported by Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity, grantee partner of our Racial Equity in Philanthropy (REP) Fund, “grantmakers… are tying grantees’ hands and fueling myths that [racial justice] work is divisive, discriminatory, or illegal.” 

It is not. “Addressing racial discrimination remains legal. Collecting racial data remains legal. Funding nonprofits that work with people of color remains legal. And building power for communities of color through protest and civic action remains legal and is more important than ever.”

Words, too, are tools of protest and civic action. 

Through narrative, we build knowledge and power. 

The narratives accompanying BIPOC communities, folks with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, migrants, poor people, and women and femmes need shifting. This shift happens when we are able to freely share our stories and when we can freely engage with the stories of others. 

So, in celebration of this Women’s History Month theme—and in direct protest to the censorship movement that last year targeted more than 4,000 book titles for removal (and challenged nearly 2,000) more—we are uplifting the stories that belong at the center of our bookshelves and curriculums. 

10 Women’s History Month-Inspired Reads Recommended by Borealis Staff

all about love: New Visions by bell hooks
In the first of her acclaimed “Love Song to the Nation” trilogy, hooks challenges the narrow cultural depictions that reduce love to only romance and desire. She reframes love as a verb—a powerful action of care, compassion, and human interconnection that can heal personal and societal divisions. She notes the societal shortcomings that have created a “loveless landscape”, and provides a helpful vision for how cultivating love can transform our homes, workplaces, communities, and the nation.

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper
“So what if it’s true that Black women are mad as hell? They have the right to be.” Black Feminist Scholar Brittney Cooper shares the journey of her upbringing, identity battles, and how embracing her anger—rather than suppressing it—allowed her to access her full strength and authenticity. Cooper illustrates how channeling our “eloquent rage” can spark movements and help us remain resilient in the face of oppression.

Practicing New Worlds: Abolition and Emergent Strategies by Andrea Ritchie Andrea Ritchie draws on her extensive experience in abolitionist organizing and advocacy to encourage readers to transcend conventional approaches to navigating crises and foster transformative change—a world free from surveillance, policing, and incarceration. Grounded in the analysis of current abolitionist practices and interviews with grassroots organizers, the book serves as a guide for imagining and building alternative systems rooted in survival, resistance, and collective well-being.

#SayHerName: Black Women’s Stories of Police Violence and Public Silence by Kimberlé Crenshaw & African American Policy Forum 

Kimberlé Crenshaw and the African American Policy Forum amplify the voices of Black women and girls impacted by gender violence, police violence, and state-sanctioned violence. Through compelling Black feminist storytelling and analysis, the book sheds light on the often-overlooked experiences of Black women at the intersection of demands for race and gender equity. As an exploration of systemic injustice and the urgent need for change, #SayHerName demands attention and action to address the pervasive silence surrounding the lives and deaths of Black women and girls.

Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me by Janet Mock
In her candid memoir, Mock recounts the precarious journey of navigating her 20s as a young, trans woman of color and the adversities she encountered–and overcame— while forging her pathway to radical self-acceptance and success. All of which eventually led her to become one of the most respected media figures and LGBTQ+ advocates. Through her vulnerability and wisdom, Mock illustrates how unapologetic and radical self-love is a powerful tool to lead you to greater and more opportune paths. 

Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

In this insightful and unexpected meditation, Alexis Pauline Gumbs draws striking parallels between the experiences of whales, dolphins, and other sea mammals with the resilience and joys of Black life. Gumbs has found them to be queer, fierce, protective of each other, complex, shaped by conflict, and struggling to survive the extractive and militarized conditions humans have imposed on the ocean. Drawing from her observations and rooted in a Black feminist framework, the book calls on readers to be inquisitive and wonder about the wisdom that these aquatic creatures could teach us.

Wake Up America: Black Women on the Future of Democracy by Dr. Keisha N. Blain

Dr. Keisha N. Blain presents a powerful collection of essays by Black women activists, politicians, and scholars. Delving into urgent issues of civil and human rights, political and economic power-building, and discrimination, their voices offer essential perspectives on how we can shape an equitable future in America. Through insightful analysis and impassioned calls to action, this book illuminates the vital role Black women play in advancing democracy and inspires readers to engage in transformative change.

Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life by Alice Wong
Embodying the confidence, passion, and ferocity of the tiger, Alice Wong chronicles her journey to finding and cultivating community and the continued fight for Disability Justice. Through personal essays, Wong traces her story as an Asian American disabled activist, sharing her thoughts on power, care, the pandemic, and the future—creating space for disabled folks to have conversations with one another and the world.

Women Translated by Women by Red Emma’s

Celebrating 20 years since its opening, Red Emma’s is a worker-owned, cooperatively-managed bookstore, community events space, and restaurant in Baltimore committed to solidarity and sustainability. They maintain several book lists focused on DEIJ values and intersectional communities on their website, including ‘Women Translated by Women,’ which features the works of nearly 40 forward-thinking women writers.

Borealis Philanthropy’s Women’s History Month Book Club 2023 

We kicked off our book club tradition with Women’s History Month last year, recommending 9 books that included a mix of enduring classics from Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison, as well as newer releases like Mikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism and Raquel Willis’ The Risk It Takes To Bloom: On Life and Liberation. We encourage you to check out that list, as the books remain just as relevant and timely now.

Call to Action

We hope that the reads in our 2024 Women’s History Month Book Club—just a small selection of all the narrative-shifting storytelling published by our change-making and power-building women—move our fellow funders to firmly situate themselves in DEIJ values, seek out more insight from leaders at the frontlines of organizing work, and entrust movements with the resources and support needed to bring to life the dreams held within these readings. 

If you would like to broaden your reach as an organization by partnering with our funds and grantee partners and would like to join one of our donor learning tables, contact Maya Berkowitz at for more information on how you can collaborate with Borealis Philanthropy and support our funds’ work.