Lives of Girls and Women

The lives of girls and women are multifold, which is why this list is loooong, exploring many different experiences of women in Canada and around the world.

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Power Shift:  The Longest Revolution, by Sally Armstrong

About the book: The facts are indisputable. When women get even a bit of education, the whole of society improves. When they get a bit of healthcare, everyone lives longer. In many ways, it has never been a better time to be a woman: a fundamental shift has been occurring. Yet from Toronto to Timbuktu the promise of equality still eludes half the world’s population.

In her 2019 CBC Massey Lectures, award-winning author, journalist, and human rights activist Sally Armstrong illustrates how the status of the female half of humanity is crucial to our collective surviving and thriving. Drawing on anthropology, social science, literature, politics, and economics, she examines the many beginnings of the role of women in society, and the evolutionary revisions over millennia in the realms of sex, religion, custom, culture, politics, and economics. What ultimately comes to light is that gender inequality comes at too high a cost to us all.

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To Be Equals in Our Own Country: Women and the Vote in Quebec, by Denyse Baillargeon, translated by Käthe Roth

About the book: “When the history of suffrage is written, the role played by our politicians will cut a sad figure beside that of the women they insulted.” Speaking in 1935, feminist Idola Saint-Jean captured the bitter nature of Quebec women’s prolonged fight for the right to vote. To Be Equals in Our Own Country is a passionate yet even-handed account of the road to suffrage in Quebec, examining women’s political participation since winning the vote in 1940 and comparing their struggle to movements in other countries. This astute exploration of enfranchisement rightly recognizes suffrage as a fundamental question of human rights.

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What the Oceans Remember: Searching for Belonging and Home, by Sonja Boon

About the book: Author Sonja Boon’s heritage is complicated.

Although she has lived in Canada for more than thirty years, she was born in the UK to a Surinamese mother and a Dutch father. Boon’s family history spans five continents: Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, South America, and North America. Despite her complex and multi-layered background, she has often omitted her full heritage, replying “I’m Dutch-Canadian” to anyone who asks about her identity. An invitation to join a family tree project inspired a journey to the heart of the histories that have shaped her identity. It was an opportunity to answer the two questions that have dogged her over the years: Where does she belong? And who does she belong to?

Boon’s archival research—in Suriname, the Netherlands, the UK, and Canada—brings her opportunities to reflect on the possibilities and limitations of the archives themselves, the tangliness of oceanic migration, histories, the meaning of legacy, music, love, freedom, memory, ruin, and imagination. Ultimately, she reflected on the relevance of our past to understanding our present.

Deeply informed by archival research and current scholarship, but written as a reflective and intimate memoir, What the Oceans Remember addresses current issues in migration, identity, belonging, and history through an interrogation of race, ethnicity, gender, archives and memory. More importantly, it addresses the relevance of our past to understanding our present. It shows the multiplicity of identities and origins that can shape the way we understand our histories and our own selves.

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Amplify: Graphic Narratives of Feminist Resistance, by Norah Bowman & Meg Braem, by (artist) Dominique Hui

About the book: In this highly original text—a collaboration between a college professor, a playwright, and an artist—graphic storytelling offers an emotionally resonant way for readers to understand and engage with feminism and resistance.

Issues of gender roles, intersectionality, and privilege are explored in seven beautifully illustrated graphic vignettes. Each vignette highlights unique moments and challenges in the struggle for feminist social justice. Brief background information provides context for the uninitiated, and further readings are suggested for those who would like to learn more. Finally, carefully crafted discussion questions help readers probe the key points in each narrative while connecting specific stories to more general concepts in gender studies and feminist theory.

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Hiding in Plain Sight: Immigrant Women and Domestic Violence, by Wendy Chan

About the book: Immigrant women are not only at greater risk of experiencing domestic violence but they also under-utilize mainstream services because their needs are not adequately met there. Understanding their situation involves recognizing that their views and experiences of domestic violence are influenced by the intersections of gender, race, class and immigration. Immigrant women may not access these services because they are unavailable in their community or the women are not aware of the services, or because the services and intervention strategies are not linguistically and culturally appropriate, portable, or coordinated with other services. As a result, the outcomes and solutions provided are often compromised and unsatisfactory. Many immigrant women stay in the abusive relationship, essentially hiding in plain sight, due to the inadequate support available and despite the extraordinary efforts of many service providers.

Based on interviews with service providers from the immigration, criminal justice and family justice systems in four different communities in BC, Hiding in Plain Sight examines the barriers encountered by abused immigrant women across Canada as they seek services and support, and identifies the key challenges for abused immigrant women accessing services as well as the struggles service organizations experience in meeting their needs.

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The Feminine Gaze:  A Canadian Compendium of Non-Fiction Women Authors and Their Books, 1836-1945, by Anne Innis Dagg

About the book: Many Canadian women fiction writers have become justifiably famous. But what about women who have written nonfiction?

When Anne Innis Dagg set out on a personal quest to make such nonfiction authors better known, she expected to find just a few dozen. To her delight, she unearthed 473 writers who have produced over 674 books.

These women describe not only their country and its inhabitants, but a remarkable variety of other subjects: from the story of transportation to the legacy of Canadian missionary activity around the world. While most of the writers lived in what is now Canada, other authors were British or American travellers who visited Canada throughout the years and reported on what they found here.

This compendium has brief biographies of all these women, short descriptions of their books, and a comprehensive index of their books’ subject matters.

The Feminine Gaze: A Canadian Compendium of Non-Fiction Women Authors and Their Books, 1836-1945 will be an invaluable research tool for women’s studies and for all who wish to supplement the male gaze on Canada’s past.

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A Woman of Her Time: Memories of My Mother,  by Louise Dupré, translated by Liedewy Hawke

About the book: In this memoir, beloved Montreal author Louise Dupré conjures up the tragedies and joys of her mother's life against the backdrop of Quebec before, during and after the Quiet Revolution. A compelling read that will expand your understanding of this complex society over the past century.

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Feminist City: A Field Guide, by Leslie Kern

About the book: Leslie Kern wants your city to be feminist. An intrepid feminist geographer, Kern combines memoir, theory, pop culture, and geography in this collection of essays that invites the reader to think differently about city spaces and city life.

From the geography of rape culture to the politics of snow removal, the city is an ongoing site of gendered struggle. Yet the city is perhaps also our best hope for shaping new social relations based around care and justice.

Taking on fear, motherhood, friendship, activism, and the joys and perils of being alone, Kern maps the city from new vantage points, laying out a feminist intersectional approach to urban histories and pathways towards different urban futures.

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In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience, by Helen Knott

About the books: Helen Knott, a highly accomplished Indigenous woman, seems to have it all. But in her memoir, she offers a different perspective. In My Own Moccasins is an unflinching account of addiction, intergenerational trauma, and the wounds brought on by sexual violence. It is also the story of sisterhood, the power of ceremony, the love of family, and the possibility of redemption.

With gripping moments of withdrawal, times of spiritual awareness, and historical insights going back to the signing of Treaty 8 by her great-great grandfather, Chief Bigfoot, her journey exposes the legacy of colonialism, while reclaiming her spirit.

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Resilience Is Futile: The Life and Death and Life of Julie Lalonde, by Julie S. Lalonde

About the book: For over a decade, Julie Lalonde, an award-winning advocate for women’s rights, kept a secret. She crisscrossed the country, denouncing violence against women and giving hundreds of media interviews along the way. Her work made national headlines for challenging universities and taking on Canada’s top military brass. Appearing fearless on the surface, Julie met every interview and event with the same fear in her gut: was he there?

Fleeing intimate partner violence at age 20, Julie was stalked by her ex-partner for over ten years, rarely mentioning it to friends, let alone addressing it publicly. The contrast between her public career as a brave champion for women with her own private life of violence and fear meant a shaky and exhausting balancing act.

Resilience sounds like a positive thing, so why do we often use it against women? Tenacity and bravery might help us survive unimaginable horrors, but where are the spaces for anger and vulnerability?

Resilience is Futile is a story of survival, courage and ultimately, hope. But it’s also a challenge to the ways we understand trauma and resilience. It’s the story of one survivor who won’t give up and refuses to shut up

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Sex Work Activism In Canada: Speaking Out, Standing Up, by Amy Lebovitch & Shawna Ferris

About the book: Serving as a history as well as a rare and valuable reference, Sex Work Activism in Canada brings together the narratives, histories, expertise, and teachings of sex work activists across the country. Through texts and testimonials from the grass-roots level it explores the past and present work of sex work activists and advocates in our own words.

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Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space, by Amanda Leduc

About the book: Fairy tales shape how we see the world, so what happens when you identify more with the Beast than Beauty? If every disabled character is mocked and mistreated, how does the Beast ever imagine a happily-ever-after? Amanda Leduc looks at fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm to Disney, showing us how they influence our expectations and behaviour and linking the quest for disability rights to new kinds of stories that celebrate difference.

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Limelight: Canadian Women and the Rise of Celebrity Autobiography, by Katja Lee

About the book: At the heart of fame is the tricky business of image management. Over the last 115 years, the celebrity autobiography has emerged as a popular and useful tool for that project. InLimelight, Katja Lee examines the memoirs of famous Canadian women like L. M. Montgomery, Nellie McClung, the Dionne Quintuplets, Margaret Trudeau, and Shania Twain to trace the rise of celebrity autobiography in Canada and the role gender has played in the rise to fame and in writing about that experience.

Arguing that the celebrity autobiography is always negotiating historically specific conditions, Lee charts a history of celebrity in English Canada and the conditions that shape the way women access and experience fame. These contexts shed light on the stories women tell about their lives and the public images they cultivate in their autobiographies. As strategies of self-representation change and the pressure to represent the private life escalates, the celebrity autobiography undergoes distinct shifts—in form, function, and content—during the period examined in this study.

Limelight: Canadian Women and the Rise of Celebrity Autobiography is the first book to explore the history and development of the celebrity autobiography and offers compelling evidence of the critical role of gender and nation in the way fame is experienced and represented.

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They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life, and Growing Up, by Eternity Martis

About the book: A powerful, moving memoir about what it's like to be a student of colour on a predominantly white campus.

A booksmart kid from Toronto, Eternity Martis was excited to move away to Western University for her undergraduate degree. But as one of the few Black students there, she soon discovered that the campus experiences she'd seen in movies were far more complex in reality. Over the next four years, Eternity learned more about what someone like her brought out in other people than she did about herself. She was confronted by white students in blackface at parties, dealt with being the only person of colour in class and was tokenized by her romantic partners. She heard racial slurs in bars, on the street, and during lectures. And she gathered labels she never asked for: Abuse survivor. Token. Bad feminist. But, by graduation, she found an unshakeable sense of self—and a support network of other women of colour.

Using her award-winning reporting skills, Eternity connects her own experience to the systemic issues plaguing students today. It's a memoir of pain, but also resilience.

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Inside Broadside: A Decade of Feminist Journalism, edited by Philinda Masters, with the Broadside Collective

About the book: Includes Susan G. Cole interviewing Gloria Steinem and writing by Margaret Atwood, Susan Crean, June Callwood, and Marian Engel. Broadside: A Feminist Review was a groundbreaking Canadian feminist newspaper published between 1979 and 1989. While Broadside paid attention to everything from feminists making art to street activism, it also covered the mainstream, from pop culture to peacemaking. The Broadside team uncovered the work of female artists and developed challenging and risky new ideas, all while participating in the day-to-day organizing of a grassroots movement. Broadside helped reinvent journalism to make room for a feminist voice. This collection looks at the impact of the newspaper on the lives of women. Through a selection of key articles, the book explores the issues and events, the conflicts and controversies, and the debates and discoveries of feminist theory and activism that formed the context and content of a decade of change.

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Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, by Jessica McDiarmid

About the book: For decades, Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been found murdered along an isolated stretch of highway in northwestern British Columbia. The highway is known as the Highway of Tears, and it has come to symbolize a national crisis.
  
 Journalist Jessica McDiarmid investigates the devastating effect these tragedies have had on the families of the victims and their communities, and how systemic racism and indifference have created a climate where Indigenous women and girls are over-policed, yet under-protected. Through interviews with those closest to the victims—mothers and fathers, siblings and friends—McDiarmid offers an intimate, first-hand account of their loss and relentless fight for justice. Examining the historically fraught social and cultural tensions between settlers and Indigenous peoples in the region, McDiarmid links these cases to others across Canada—now estimated to number up to 4,000—contextualizing them within a broader examination of the undervaluing of Indigenous lives in this country.
  
 Highway of Tears is a powerful story about our ongoing failure to provide justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and a testament to their families and communities' unwavering determination to find it.

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Fearless: Girls with Dreams, Women with Vision, by Janice McDonald

About the book: In this collection of inspiring true stories, Janice McDonald—entrepreneur, speaker, and host of theFearless Womenpodcast—brings together more than 100 extraordinary, unafraid women and asks them to look back at the moments in their youth that set them on the path to leadership. From high-profile entrepreneurs to philanthropists, athletes, artists, and statespeople, the lives featured in this book represent the many journeys women can take to find their passion, create change, and make a monumental impact on the world around them. Some were born to leap into the spotlight, others discovered a quiet strength along the way; women who dared, who challenged convention, who found connection, or who braved it alone - each has a powerful lesson to tell about a girl who once dreamed of what she might accomplish.

Featuring touching personal photographs and deep insight into the diverse lives of fascinating, notable women from around the world, Fearless: Girls with Dreams, Women with Vision is a powerful and necessary celebration of heart and guts. Honest, relatable, enlightening, and uplifting, the images and stories inFearlessare proof of our innate ability as women to take risks, face down our fears, and blaze our own trail.

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No More Nice Girls: Gender, Power, and Why It’s Time to Stop Playing by the Rules, by Lauren McKeon

About the book: A ground-breaking, insightful book about women and power from award-winning journalist Lauren McKeon, which shows how women are disrupting the standard (very male) vision of power, ditching convention, and building a more equitable world for everyone.

In the age of girl bosses, Beyoncé, and Black Widow, we like to tell our little girls they can be anything they want when they grow up, except they’ll have to work twice as hard, be told to “play nice,” and face countless double standards that curb their personal, political, and economic power. Women today remain a surprisingly, depressingly long way from gender and racial equality. It’s worth asking: Why do we keep playing a game we were never meant to win?

Award-winning journalist and author of F-Bomb: Dispatches from the War on Feminism, Lauren McKeon examines the many ways in which our institutions are designed to keep women and other marginalized genders at a disadvantage. In doing so, she reveals why we need more than parity, visible diversity, and lone female CEOs to change this power game. She talks to people doing power differently in a variety of sectors and uncovers new models of power. And as the toxic, divisive, and hyper-masculine style of leadership gains ground, she underscores why it’s time to stop playing by the rules of a rigged game.

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Voice of Rebellion: How Mozhdah Jamalzadah Brought Hope to Afghanistan, by Roberta Staley

About the book: Many have tried to silence her, but Mozhdah Jamalzadah remains the most powerful female voice of her generation in Afghanistan, boldly speaking out about women’s rights. Voice of Rebellion charts her incredible journey, including arriving in Canada as a child refugee, setting her father’s protest poem to music (and making it a #1 hit), performing that song for Michelle and Barack Obama, and, finally, being invited to host her own show in Afghanistan.The Mozhdah Showearned her the nickname “The Oprah of Afghanistan” and tackled taboo subjects like divorce and domestic violence for the first time in the country’s history. But even as her words resonated with women and families, Mozhdah received angry death threats—some of them serious—and was eventually advised to return to Canada.

Traversing Central Asia and North America, Voice of Rebellion profiles a devoted singer and activist who continues to fight for change, even from afar.

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I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl's Notes from the End of the World, by Kai Cheng Thom

About the book: What can we hope for at the end of the world? What can we trust in when community has broken our hearts? What would it mean to pursue justice without violence? How can we love in the absence of faith?

In a heartbreaking yet hopeful collection of personal essays and prose poems, blending the confessional, political, and literary, acclaimed poet and essayist Kai Cheng Thom dives deep into the questions that haunt social movements today. With the author's characteristic eloquence and honesty, I Hope We Choose Love proposes heartfelt solutions on the topics of violence, complicity, family, vengeance, and forgiveness. Taking its cues from contemporary thought leaders in the transformative justice movement such as adrienne maree brown and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, this provocative book is a call for nuance in a time of political polarization, for healing in a time of justice, and for love in an apocalypse.

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Beauty in a Box:  Detangling the Roots of Canada's Black Beauty Culture, by Cheryl Thompson

About the book: One of the first transnational, feminist studies of Canada’s black beauty culture and the role that media, retail, and consumers have played in its development, Beauty in a Box widens our understanding of the politics of black hair.

The book analyzes advertisements and articles from media—newspapers, advertisements, television, and other sources—that focus on black communities in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, and Calgary. The author explains the role local black community media has played in the promotion of African American–owned beauty products; how the segmentation of beauty culture (i.e., the sale of black beauty products on store shelves labelled “ethnic hair care”) occurred in Canada; and how black beauty culture, which was generally seen as a small niche market before the 1970s, entered Canada’s mainstream by way of department stores, drugstores, and big-box retailers.

Beauty in a Box uses an interdisciplinary framework, engaging with African American history, critical race and cultural theory, consumer culture theory, media studies, diasporic art history, black feminism, visual culture, film studies, and political economy to explore the history of black beauty culture in both Canada and the United States.

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Dear Scarlet: The Story of My Postpartum Depression, by Teresa Wong

About the book: In this intimate and moving graphic memoir, Teresa Wong writes and illustrates the story of her struggle with postpartum depression in the form of a letter to her daughter Scarlet. Equal parts heartbreaking and funny, Dear Scarlet perfectly captures the quiet desperation of those suffering from PPD and the profound feelings of inadequacy and loss. As Teresa grapples with her fears and anxieties and grasps at potential remedies, coping mechanisms, and her mother's Chinese elixirs, we come to understand one woman's battle against the cruel dynamics of postpartum depression.

Dear Scarlet is a poignant and deeply personal journey through the complexities of new motherhood, offering hope to those affected by PPD, as well as reassurance that they are not alone.

March 5, 2020
Books mentioned in this post
Power Shift

Power Shift

The Longest Revolution
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info
To Be Equals in Our Own Country

To Be Equals in Our Own Country

Women and the Vote in Quebec
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover eBook
More Info
What the Oceans Remember

What the Oceans Remember

Searching for Belonging and Home
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook
More Info
Amplify

Amplify

Graphic Narratives of Feminist Resistance
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover eBook
More Info
Hiding in Plain Sight

Hiding in Plain Sight

Immigrant Women and Domestic Violence
edition:Paperback
More Info
The Feminine Gaze

The Feminine Gaze

A Canadian Compendium of Non-Fiction Women Authors and Their Books, 1836-1945
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Hardcover
More Info
A Woman of Her Time

A Woman of Her Time

Memories of My Mother
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info

Resilience Is Futile

The Life and Death and Life of Julie Lalonde
edition:Paperback
More Info
Disfigured

Disfigured

On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space
edition:Paperback
also available: Audiobook
More Info
Limelight

Limelight

Canadian Women and the Rise of Celebrity Autobiography
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook
More Info
Inside Broadside

Inside Broadside

A Decade of Feminist Journalism
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
Highway of Tears

Highway of Tears

A True Story of Racism, Indifference and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
edition:Hardcover
More Info
Fearless

Fearless

Girls with Dreams, Women with Vision
edition:Hardcover
More Info
No More Nice Girls

No More Nice Girls

Gender, Power, and Why It’s Time to Stop Playing by the Rules
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info
I Hope We Choose Love

I Hope We Choose Love

A Trans Girl's Notes from the End of the World
edition:Paperback
More Info
Beauty in a Box

Beauty in a Box

Detangling the Roots of Canada's Black Beauty Culture
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info
Dear Scarlet

Dear Scarlet

The Story of My Postpartum Depression
edition:Paperback
More Info
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