Age-appropriate feminist books for 8th grader?
June 14, 2021 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Seeking feminist book recommendations for my niece! She is 13 and a good reader. I would like to introduce her, in an age-appropriate way, to feminist ideas, but also to race, gender/sexuality and social justice issues.

Fiction is probably the best option, but open to non-fiction as well. She seems ready to learn about this: she is thinking about gender as a teenager watching her peers go through puberty, and noticing misogyny. I would love to give her some books that help her contextualize and interrogate her experiences, and give her the language to talk about these issues.

I am not sure if that's a very helpful prompt! I do not have children and its been a while since I was her age... plus I read a lot of age-inappropriate genre fiction as a teenager, and a lot of those themes were, in retrospect, pretty messed up.
posted by dazedandconfused to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
When You Reach Me is a recent (lol 2009, recent to me) Newbery winner. I read it as an adult and was so impressed by it. As a strong reading 13 year old it's going to be just a little young for her, but it'll be a nice cozy read for a weekend or something.

The book is about a girl in 1970s NYC. Her favorite book is A Wrinkle in Time, she's got a single mom who works in a law office doing social justice work, and the book gives very thoughtful and age appropriate window into different socioeconomic experiences, racism, and friendship struggles of a middle school girl. And it's a sad and hopeful sci fi story to boot. I just think it's really nice.

No gender/sexuality and no capital F feminism (just soft F, in that the women and girls in the book go ahead and do whatever they want), but it's got the other stuff you're looking for.
posted by phunniemee at 11:38 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]

The good news is that a random pick of young adult fiction is more likely to address these issues in some way than not.

For example, I most recently read Neal Shusterman's Gamechanger. Here's a review:

(The book is not perfect. It is hard to address these issues. Some take issue that a white male author with a white male protagonist are addressing issues of race, gender/sexuality, social justice. would take larger issue if he did not try.)
posted by RoadScholar at 11:48 AM on June 14

The Hate U Give and On The Come Up by Angie Thomas. Most of Tamora Pierce’s books—the Alanna series is dated in some not-great ways now, but the Protector of the Small quartet and the Emelan (aka Circle of Magic/Circle Opens) books are strong. Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger is fantastic.
posted by epj at 12:12 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]

I was fourteen when I found Joanna Russ. Full disclosure: I'm a guy. Russ was a very radical feminist, but for reasons not clear to me I really liked her stuff. Her heroine, Alyx, was self-assured and cool, and used her brain to get out of impossible situation.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 1:35 PM on June 14

First thing that comes to mind is the recently released Victories Greater Than Death. This book features a diverse cast (including space aliens but also humans from many parts of the globe) of teens of several genders with a strong girl lead character. The feminism is effortlessly incorporated and the plot is fun. My teen and I both zipped through it. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comics are also effortlessly feminist. Both of these feature a badass hero who also relies on a diverse team of pals to kick ass together - often the ass they are kicking is a representation of misogynist, fascist ideology.
posted by latkes at 8:42 AM on June 15

I gifted my similarly aged niece We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It's non-fiction, but short and very readable.
posted by toby_ann at 12:32 PM on June 15

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