This year’s National Women’s History Month theme was “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.”
So to close the month–reminded that even amongst the most celebrated voices, there are so many Black, Indigenous, POC, queer and trans folks whose voices are actively being silenced–Borealis is honoring women of the past and present who have devoted their lives to the pursuit of informing and entertaining through storytelling.
We know that the U.S. has a long-standing tradition of censorship, erasure and book banning. Today, this is demonstrated through targeted campaigns to sanitize school curriculums, and ban LGBTQ and gender theory books and content highlighting racial injustice in American society.
Because we believe the work of BIPOC, queer, and trans writers is instrumental to the broader cultural lexicon, we’ve created a Borealis Philanthropy Book Club for this Women’s History Month – a club celebrating the stories that have helped shape movements and varying aspects of our communities.
Women’s History Month-Inspired Reads
by Mia McKenzie
Mia McKenzie displays her tough love activism in this provocative and insightful anthology. Inspired by her featured writings on her blog, Black Girl Dangerous, McKenzie delivers a nuanced analysis of the intersecting systems of oppression surrounding race, queerness, class, and gender. She dives deep to uncover powerful truths of the multi-marginalized experience and leads these poignant examinations with vulnerability—laying bare her humor, grief, rage, and joy.
by Toni Morrison
Many of Toni Morrison’s books have been banned for their racial themes and graphic content, including her first novel, The Bluest Eye. Set in Morrison’s hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of a young Black girl named Pecola Breedlove. Pecola’s young life unfolds in the most painful, devastating ways, and she prays for blue eyes in the hopes that she’ll be beautiful, beloved, and protected. Toni Morrison’s richness of language and boldness of vision paints a vivid portrait of the fear and loneliness at the heart of a child’s yearning. It remains one of Morrison’s most powerful and unforgettable novels.
by Cara Page & Erica Woodland
Black Queer Feminist editors Cara Page and Erica Woodland created this anthology of essays examining healing justice’s history, legacies, and liberatory practices—a political strategy of collective care and safety that intervenes on generational trauma from systemic violence and oppression. This profound book serves as a roadmap for those looking to embrace community and survivor-led care strategies that center on disability, reproductive, environmental, transformative justice, and harm reduction—focusing on elevating and archiving the traditions of liberation and survival that have been largely left out of our history books, calling forth the ancestral medicines and healing practices that have sustained marginalized communities, and radically imagining what comes next.
by Naomi Ortiz
Writer, visual artist, and activist Naomi Ortiz explores the concept of cultivating care and connection for folks experiencing the stress of participating in social justice movement work. Using a mix of personal anecdotes that center around class, race, and disability advocacy, Ortiz offers thoughtful insights for community organizers, activists, and students in need of radical self-care and informative strategies on dealing with burnout.
by Mikki Kendall
Mainstream feminism has some serious blind spots and consistently dismisses or erases the needs of the most marginalized. Mikki Kendall tackles the issues typically overlooked by feminist movements, such as food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, medical care, and economic equality. Kendall’s modern critique of the movement also poses a very important question—how can women stand in solidarity when many are oppressed by their fellow, more privileged feminist counterparts?
by Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross, and Elena Gutiérrez
Centering Black, Latina, Indigenous, and Asian communities, Undivided Rights presents nuanced perspectives of the reproductive rights movement and how BIPOC women have been leading the charge to take control of their own bodies and reproductive decisions. The authors use historical research, case studies, personal interviews, and innovative strategies to push beyond the goals of the mainstream pro-choice movement in favor of inclusive strategies that seek to address the needs of all marginalized folks. This book raises critical questions about intersectionality and identity politics as it examines the possibility of cultivating a holistic vision for our collective reproductive futures.
by Audre Lorde
A collection of fifteen essays written by the revolutionary Black feminist explore and illuminate the roots of Lorde’s intellectual development and her long-standing pursuits of discovering ways to increase empowerment among marginalized women. Her lyrical and unflinching prose reflect on the ongoing struggles of sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and classism while offering a message of hope and a call to action for transformational change.
What Our Fund Directors Are Reading
by Raquel Willis
Recommended by Dominique Morgan, Director of the Fund for Trans Generations–FTG invests in trans-led movements working to holistically address the individual and collective needs of trans people, from survival to thriving to building power–The Risk it Takes to bloom is a memoir by trailblazing Black trans activist Raquel Willis. Tracing her life’s work toward transformation and collective liberation, Willis dives deep into her religious upbringing in Augusta, Georgia, and the isolation that comes from a lack of access to community and what it means to be queer and trans. She also recounts her journey of gender exploration, self-discovery, navigating grief, and building her career, and gets candid about what has inspired her to be a voice for the voiceless and the complex yet necessary risks she’s taken to uplift trans folks and fight for collective liberation.
Dominique considers this book a must-read.
“The stories of Black Trans women are rarely told by ourselves, and they are rarely wrapped in our entire experience—especially our triumphs. Raquel is a history maker and powerful thought leader who’s figured out a way to be a voice for us today while keeping the voices of Black TGNC folks of the past alive. Her book represents her journey to liberation and an offering of how we erect a solution to joint liberation for all. We need her story. We need these questions addressed. And we need Raquel Willis.”
by Derecka Purnell
Recommended by Jeree Thomas, Director of the Communities Transforming Policing Fund–CTPF supports communities and grassroots organizations working to increase police accountability and transparency, end criminalization, and shift power and resources away from punitive, carceral systems–Derecka Purnell’s Becoming Abolitionists draws from her experiences as a lawyer, writer, and organizer, and her initial skepticism about police abolition. Purnell argues that police can not be reformed and invites the reader to envision new systems that work to address the root causes of violence. Purnell also explores how multi-racial social movements rooted in rebellion, risk-taking, and revolutionary love pushed her and a generation of activists toward abolition—spanning time and the globe to share the lessons activists have learned from Ferguson to South Africa and during the Reconstruction to contemporary protests against police shootings. This book demonstrates that abolition is not solely about getting rid of the police but a commitment to creating opportunities to reduce and eliminate harm in our society.
Jeree recommends this book as an entry point for understanding abolition.
“Derecka does a masterful job of weaving her personal journey and experiences into a rigorous analysis and history of different forms of abolitionism. Her book provides many concrete examples of how state violence shows up in many different ways and the need to unlearn how we’ve been socialized to accept it in order to envision something better. Her framing shaped how I talk about prison industrial complex abolition with other people who are not abolitionists.”
A Call to Action
Education, research, and sharing resources are integral to social justice movements. Without the insights and stories from marginalized voices, we’d not only lose out on the opportunity to dream of a more equitable future for all but to develop the strategies and frameworks to make it possible.
At Borealis Philanthropy, we constantly seek ways to connect with funders and inspire philanthropy to take action. That’s why we work hard to share resources through webinars, toolkits, resource lists, and blog posts to support our donor partners’ continued education toward cultivating empathy and understanding for the communities and organizations that they serve.
While the texts shared in this post, only represent a fraction of the voices building and leading movements in our country, we are committed to continuously centering the voices that have and continue to direct us towards the future we believe in.
If you would like to recommend other texts for us to share and read, please contact our Communications department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to broaden your reach as an organization by partnering with our funds and grantees, and would like to join one of our donor learning tables, contact Maya Berkowitz at email@example.com for more information on how you can collaborate with Borealis Philanthropy and support our funds’ work.