This Wom­en’s His­to­ry Month, cel­e­brate with a propul­sive read! Ten writ­ers rec­om­mend books to dig into this month. From cap­ti­vat­ing con­tem­po­rary fic­tion, to engross­ing mem­oirs of sur­vival, to thrilling his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, these fif­teen titles are sure to scin­til­late. And be sure to check out the authors’ own fan­tas­tic works!

Sasha Vasi­lyuk, author, forth­com­ing, of Your Pres­ence is Mandatory

Moth­er Doll by Katya Apekina

Moth­er Doll by Katya Apekina is the sto­ry of Iri­na, a young Russ­ian Jew­ish girl in St. Peters­burg who gets swept up by the Russ­ian Rev­o­lu­tion, and her great-grand­daugh­ter Zhe­nia, a preg­nant twen­ty-some­thing in today’s Los Ange­les. Zhe­nia is forced to lis­ten to Iri­na’s ghost as she seeks for­give­ness for her bad deed as a moth­er. Apekina, who is a Russ­ian Jew­ish immi­grant her­self, brings wit and vir­tu­os­i­ty to this twisty tale of inter­gen­er­a­tional trauma.

The Pos­si­bil­i­ties by Yael Goldstein-Love

The Pos­si­bil­i­ties by Yael Gold­stein-Love is a stun­ner of a sto­ry, fol­low­ing Han­nah, a Berke­ley moth­er of an eight-month-old who can’t ful­ly for­get her har­row­ing birth expe­ri­ence. She ends up falling down the rab­bit hole of psy­cho­analy­sis, self-doubt, string the­o­ry and par­al­lel worlds to save her son and her­self. A sus­pense­ful page-turn­er and intri­cate puz­zle box, The Pos­si­bil­i­ties explores moth­er­hood with the rad­i­cal brush­strokes of the 2010 film Incep­tion.

Suite Fran­caise by Irène Némirovsky, trans­lat­ed by San­dra Smith

Irène Nemirovsky’s moth­er and father decid­ed to flee the Russ­ian Rev­o­lu­tion to Paris. Irène lived there for the rest of her short life: two and a half decades filled with writ­ing and lit­er­ary suc­cess, with two daugh­ters and a lov­ing hus­band who typed her man­u­scripts. Her moth­er came to life in her nov­els as a world­ly, cru­el woman.

Irène ignored her father’s attempts to per­suade her to move to the Unit­ed States where anti­semitism had not tak­en root because she had blind faith in the eth­i­cal integri­ty of France. She only regret­ted not lis­ten­ing to her father when it was too late: after the Ger­man occu­pa­tion she and her entire fam­i­ly were per­se­cut­ed. In the sum­mer of 1942 she was arrest­ed and sent to Auschwitz. A month lat­er Irène died, at the age of thir­ty-nine. She is the author of the nov­el Suite Française, among many others.

Lisa Barr, author, most recent­ly, of Woman on Fire

This past year, I took a deep dive into the War­saw Ghet­to Upris­ing for my upcom­ing his­tor­i­cal thriller, The God­dess of War­saw. My focus for Women’s His­to­ry Month is on two pow­er­ful­ly writ­ten books — one by a woman who writes about his­to­ry dur­ing this time, and the oth­er who lived through it.

The Light of Days: The Untold Sto­ry of Women Resis­tance Fight­ers in Hitler’s Ghet­tos by Judy Batalion

Judy Batalion’s award-win­ning The Light of Days: The Untold Sto­ry of Women Resis­tance Fight­ers in Hitler’s Ghet­tos is a must-read to under­stand the role many women played dur­ing the Holo­caust. Batal­ion explores with metic­u­lous detail the lives of these Ghet­to Girls,” ordi­nary young women – many in their teens – who risked their own lives to serve as couri­ers, smug­glers, and bombers, becom­ing lead­ers in the resis­tance. I felt as though I was there along­side many unsung heroes – those who suc­ceed­ed in their endeav­ors and oth­ers who fell dur­ing acts of resis­tance. In every chap­ter, the author reminds us that sur­vival is about ris­ing above the hatred and doing those things that one would nev­er do if life were normal. 

Tran­scend­ing Dark­ness: A Girl’s Jour­ney Out of the Holo­caust by Estelle Glaser Laughlin

I devoured Estelle Glaser Laughlin’s mem­oir, Tran­scend­ing Dark­ness: A Girl’s Jour­ney out of the Holo­caust. Estelle, nine­ty-four years old, is a sur­vivor of the War­saw Ghet­to (at thir­teen years old) and three con­cen­tra­tion camps. Her sto­ry is a har­row­ing tale of love, fear, hope, and resilien­cy. It comes down to this, in her own words: Dream with me of a world where no child goes hun­gry, and hate is unknown.” Born into a well-to-do fam­i­ly, her father insist­ed on her con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion in the War­saw Ghet­to, even giv­ing her French lessons. The deep­er mean­ing is that he want­ed his daugh­ter to envi­sion her own sur­vival – a full, rich life. Her beloved father did not sur­vive the Nazis, but his teach­ings and lessons did, and remained the foun­da­tion to Estelle’s will to survive.

All But My Life: A Mem­oir by Ger­da Weiss­mann Klein

I first read All But My Life when I was in col­lege and have returned to it count­less times since then. I rec­om­mend it when vis­it­ing high schools and assign it in my own cours­es. It sat next to my com­put­er as I began research­ing my recent book, and it remained there while I labored through the writ­ing process. One of the first mem­oirs pub­lished by a Jew­ish female sur­vivor in the US, Weiss­mann Klein’s mem­oir takes read­ers from pre-war life in Biel­sko, Poland, through the Nazi inva­sion, into the ghet­to, to sev­er­al labor camps, on a death march, and then to lib­er­a­tion. With each step, the sur­vivor asks press­ing ques­tions con­cern­ing the mean­ings of occu­pa­tion, bru­tal­i­ty, friend­ship, fam­i­ly, and love.

Car­lie Hoff­man, author, most recent­ly, of When There Was Light

One Strange Coun­try by Stel­la Hayes

In Stel­la Hayes’s haunt­ing debut poet­ry col­lec­tion, One Strange Coun­try, Hayes illu­mi­nates her family’s refugee expe­ri­ence as Jews from Sovi­et Ukraine to the Unit­ed States in 1978 with lyri­cal urgency. Hayes maps a sto­ry of iden­ti­ty, exile, and belong­ing dur­ing the Cold War era. The query about where lit­er­a­ture fits into day-to-day life dur­ing the immi­grant strug­gle to sur­vive man­i­fests in the shared breath” of a moth­er teach­ing her daugh­ter the right way to slay a chicken.”

Rab­bits for Food by Bin­nie Kirshenbaum

Rab­bits for Food by Bin­nie Kir­shen­baum is a heart wrench­ing and dark­ly fun­ny nov­el fol­low­ing a woman suf­fer­ing from clin­i­cal depres­sion and, after reach­ing a break­ing point on New Year’s Eve, her sub­se­quent stay at a pres­ti­gious New York City psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal. Kir­shen­baum’s prose is pierc­ing, hilar­i­ous, and unfor­get­table as she exam­ines with pro­found insight the expe­ri­ence of feel­ing alien­at­ed from friends and fam­i­ly, and the excru­ci­a­tion in not being able to point to where it hurts.” This book ques­tions what art and truth pro­vide for us in this state of being. Rab­bits for Food is exquis­ite, bril­liant, and true to life.

The Book of V. by Anna Solomon 

With Purim at this month’s end, I have been reread­ing this inven­tive book, which reimag­ines the sto­ry of Esther by inter­twin­ing the lives of three women across space and time. As dif­fer­ent as these lives are, they ulti­mate­ly con­verge around uni­ver­sal issues of female pow­er and women’s place in society. 

Ladies’ Lunch and Oth­er Sto­ries by Lore Segal 

In this new col­lec­tion of short sto­ries, old­er women take cen­ter stage. Five friends who have been meet­ing reg­u­lar­ly for decades are some­times for­get­ful now, but still sharp and smart. Segal, her­self nine­ty-five, writes with grace and wry humor as she perus­es the land­scape of aging.

Sarah Seltzer, author, forth­com­ing, of The Singer Sisters

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman

Adelle Wald­man wowed read­ers with her pitch-per­fect exam­i­na­tion of Brook­lyn lit­er­ary life with 2013’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. Her new book, Help Want­ed, takes a sim­i­lar­ly sharp yet humane approach to the schemes and dreams of work­ers at an upstate NY big box store, which takes aim at late-stage cap­i­tal­ism beneath its humor and pathos.

Human Blues by Elisa Albert

No one does voice like Elisa Albert. Avi­va, the nar­ra­tor of her nov­el Human Blues, is a rock­’n’roller with fer­til­i­ty prob­lems. She calls her ther­a­pist the Rab­bi among oth­er Home­r­ic epi­thets, and has been in my head since I met her on the page. Avi­va is often right, quite fre­quent­ly wrong, and a fun­ny, fierce, and unfor­get­table lit­er­ary creation.

Between Two Worlds: Jew­ish War Brides After the Holo­caust by Robin Judd

Robin Judd opens up the post­war dynam­ics of Jew­ish young women who sur­vived the Holo­caust in Europe as they encounter Allied sol­diers and pur­sue mar­riage and immi­gra­tion. Using inter­views and doc­u­men­ta­tion, Judd shows us how both women and men coped with mil­i­tary and nation­al reg­u­la­tions on mar­riage and migra­tion, and the painful com­pro­mis­es of cre­at­ing a new future while liv­ing with unspeak­able losses.

I Belong to The Work­ing Class: The Unfin­ished Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of Rose Pas­tor Stokes edit­ed by Her­bert Stokes and David L. Sterling

When research­ing the his­to­ry of the Yid­dish press, it is often dif­fi­cult to find texts high­light­ing the expe­ri­ences of women who worked for these pub­li­ca­tions. That is why Rose Pas­tor Stokes’s unfin­ished mem­oir, I Belong to The Work­ing Class, is such a valu­able resource. Before becom­ing a rad­i­cal activist, Stokes worked as a writer and sec­re­tary for the Eng­lish page of the Jew­ish Dai­ly News. Her mem­oir not only recounts her expe­ri­ences work­ing for the news­pa­per, but uncov­ers a world of women work­ing behind the scenes to ensure that the news­pa­per would appear each day. 

Lihi Lapid, author, forth­com­ing, of On Her Own

The Red Tent by Ani­ta Diamant

When I was a young woman ask­ing ques­tions about my iden­ti­ty, this book had a big role in the woman I became. It tells the sto­ry of Din­ha, the sis­ter of Joseph. The Bible didn’t give voice to women, as most of the sto­ry­tellers until a few decades ago were all men. The Red Tent was the first time I had a chance to read his­to­ry, and to look at the sto­ries of the Bible from the point of view of a woman. As a female writer, I think it’s impor­tant to give voice to women’s sto­ries in his­to­ry, since they were writ­ten by men for so long.