Cel­e­brate Wom­en’s His­to­ry Month with a pow­er­ful read. Nine writ­ers share their rec­om­men­da­tions of sto­ries to dive into this month, from redis­cov­ered female authors, to immer­sive his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, to stun­ning mem­oirs, to new­ly trans­lat­ed poems on exile, and more. 

Sarah Blake, author, most recent­ly, of Clean Air

The Nao­mi Let­ters by Rachel Mennies

The Nao­mi Let­ters is a col­lec­tion of love let­ters writ­ten to the speaker’s beloved, Nao­mi. They are so full of long­ing. They are the type of love let­ters I wish I had writ­ten to some­one, so that they could know how much I love them, how they con­sume me, how they influ­ence all my thoughts and days. If you’re look­ing for some­thing sexy, queer, and Jew­ish, this is the book for you.

Diane Mehta, author, most recent­ly, of For­est with Castanets

Bright Unbear­able Real­i­ty: Essays by Anna Badkhen

Sovi­et-born exile Badkhen’s sym­phon­ic essays are seamed by the con­nec­tions that make us human despite the suf­fer­ing caused by dis­place­ment from war zones, cli­mate-stressed land­scapes, and his­toric era­sures. Even as an embed­ded reporter, Bad­khen inter­rupts each nar­ra­tive to ask why such a sce­nario even hap­pened. She shows us how drone tech­nol­o­gy, aer­i­al footage, and lan­guage dehu­man­ize peo­ple by dis­tanc­ing their sto­ries. Her style puls­es with dense, pre­ci­sion phras­ing. She is as relent­less about telling a good tale as she is with reveal­ing the scale of tragedy unfolding.

Emi Watan­abe Cohen, author, most recent­ly, of The Lost Ryū

The Red Tent by Ani­ta Diamant

Read­ing this book for the first time felt like being woven into a warm tapes­try. It begins with a direct address to mod­ern women, remind­ing us that we’ve for­got­ten some­thing cru­cial about our­selves but that it is not our fault. From there, we’re wel­comed into a fic­tion­al­ized, yet vivid­ly real­ized, account of ancient civ­i­liza­tions. The Red Tent is by turns wise, com­fort­ing, and har­row­ing, told to us by the grand­moth­er we all for­got we had.

The Dig by Anne Burt

I recent­ly fin­ished Anne Burt’s com­pul­sive­ly read­able debut nov­el, The Dig, in which we meet Anto­nia King, a young lawyer who as a child was res­cued from the bombed-out rub­ble of an apart­ment in Sara­je­vo. While the sto­ry unfolds in a sin­gle day, the skill­ful use of flash­backs give it the heft and res­o­nance of an epic. The sto­ry of Antonia’s fero­cious dri­ve to out run her past is whol­ly and com­plete­ly believ­able; read it and weep. 

Bronx Prim­i­tive: Por­traits in a Child­hood by Kate Simon

Writ­ing the his­to­ry America’s Jew­ish Women, I kept reach­ing for Kate Simon’s evoca­tive immi­grant mem­oir Bronx Prim­i­tive. Simon, a famed trav­el writer and Hunter Col­lege pro­fes­sor, trans­plants us, in this first of her three mem­oirs, to a world where movies taught chil­dren about Love, a very for­eign coun­try like maybe Chi­na or Con­necti­cut.” Moth­ers, like hers who had thir­teen abor­tions, told their daugh­ters: Study. Learn. Go to col­lege. Be a school­teacher.” Mean­while, vis­it­ing rel­a­tives, male and female, sex­u­al­ly molest­ed chil­dren with impunity.

The oth­er vol­umes in her series are A Wider World: Por­traits in an Ado­les­cence and Etch­ings in an Hour­glass.

Julie Ensz­er, author, most recent­ly, of Avowed

Riverfin­ger Women by Elana Dykewomon

I am reread­ing Elana Dykewomon’s mar­velous debut nov­el Riverfin­ger Women, spend­ing time with Inez, Abby, Peg­gy, as they come out as les­bians and nav­i­gate the tumul­tuous world of the 1960s, and wav­ing to Rain­bo Woman and Lucy Bear. Dyke­wom­on died in August 2022, and I fall in love with this book every time I read it. Her poet­ry col­lec­tion, What Can I Ask, is swell, too. (I also can­not wait to read Sab­ri­na Orah Mark’s new book Hap­pi­ly on March 14.)

The Objects That Remain by Lau­ra Levitt

Vio­lence swirls around us con­stant­ly in the Unit­ed States, yet we rarely pause to ask what remains in its after­math. In this coura­geous book, Lau­ra Levitt, a pro­fes­sor of reli­gious stud­ies at Tem­ple Uni­ver­si­ty, patient­ly probes the sig­nif­i­cance of the objects that remain after vio­lence, start­ing with her own rape as a grad­u­ate stu­dent. It’s a bril­liant and brac­ing account that weaves attacks on women with mur­ders of Euro­pean Jews.

The Wan­der­ing Radi­ance: Select­ed Poems of Hilde Domin by Hilde Domin, trans­lat­ed by Mark S. Burrows

Green Lin­den Press recent­ly pub­lished The Wan­der­ing Radi­ance: Select­ed Poems of Hilde Domin. Art­ful­ly trans­lat­ed by Mark S. Bur­rows, Domin explores a life of post­war-Ger­man exile (“All my ships/​have for­got­ten about harbors/​and my feet the way”) and how poet­ry car­ried her through it in the not-word// stretched out/​between /​/​word and word.” Domin reminds us to nev­er give up, that a way for­ward is wor­thy of lyri­cism, recog­ni­tion and dig­ni­ty, though it might not be lin­ear nor easy.

Zel­da Pop­kin: The Life and Times of an Amer­i­can Jew­ish Woman Writer by Jere­my D. Popkin

The first illus­tra­tion in this appeal­ing new book is a 1949 pho­to of a mid­dle-aged woman in a lawn chair cud­dling a stur­dy infant, cap­tioned Zel­da Pop­kin with her future biog­ra­ph­er.” It adds a play­ful tone to an oth­er­wise seri­ous biog­ra­phy of Pop­kin, an inde­pen­dent-mind­ed writer and pub­li­cist who wrote best­selling nov­els in the 1940s, rang­ing from mys­ter­ies and war sto­ries to an ear­ly account of the birth of the State of Israel. Wid­owed young, she strug­gled to main­tain a career, and her many books are most­ly for­got­ten. Rather than vin­di­cat­ing [her] asser­tions about the pos­si­bil­i­ties of women’s inde­pen­dence,” her grand­son writes, her own life in the 1950s and 1960s showed how even a pros­per­ous soci­ety could leave sin­gle women in a pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion.” The author, a his­to­ri­an who teach­es at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ken­tucky, turns his pro­fes­sion­al skills to unearthing his grandmother’s life with heart­en­ing results. 

Being Heumann: An Unre­pen­tant Mem­oir of a Dis­abil­i­ty Rights Activist by Judith Heumann

The pre­em­i­nent dis­abil­i­ty rights activist Judith Heumann died on March 4th at age 75, and the out­pour­ing of trib­utes from those who’d looked to her as a men­tor and hero­ine were reminders of how far that cause has come in a sin­gle life­time. Heumann, who became para­plegic as a child as a result of polio, nev­er accept­ed the lim­it­ed role then assumed for dis­abled chil­dren; her par­ents, both Holo­caust sur­vivors, refused the then-stan­dard advice of doc­tors to have her insti­tu­tion­al­ized. She fought for an edu­ca­tion and won, sued the school sys­tem for block­ing her employ­ment and won, orga­nized sit-ins in gov­ern­ment build­ings to com­pel enforce­ment of laws about equal access, and served as an advi­sor on dis­abil­i­ty issues to the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion and the World Bank, among oth­ers. Her 2020 auto­bi­og­ra­phy traces this extra­or­di­nary life with warmth and wit.