Updated: Feb 28, 2019
By: Amanda Ekery
This Women’s History Month is a great time to read some wonderful books about music, adventure, civil rights, and more! Below are 10 of my favorite books written by women/non-binary people. Each one opened my mind to different perspectives, influenced my music, and taught me something new.
So visit your library, download them on your phone, get em’ how you can, and enjoy reading!
1. “Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda is a powerhouse. Everything she writes has depth, meaning, questions different aspects of feminism, and is just all around good advice. This particular book is a short one. It’s written as a letter to her friend who had a baby girl and was asking for advice on how to raise her to be a feminist. Each of the 15 suggestions is simple, beautiful, and can take root in all aspects of your music, aspirations, and life.
2. “Stormy Weather” by Linda Dahl
Have you ever wanted an encyclopedia of women in jazz? Tired of googling jazz musicians and seeing nothing but men? Then look no further that Linda Dahl’s “Stormy Weather.” This is the OG compilation of females in jazz – their stories, triumphs, hardships, and more.
3. “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler
Amy Poehler is amazing. Not only is she a talented actress/comedian/writer/director, but she cares deeply about supporting women and girls – talking the talk and walking the walk. Her book is packed with kind lessons, stories that have shaped her, and yes it’s funny and reads like butter. After the book if you want more greatness, visit Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls – an organization sharing all kinds of gems for girls online and around the country to “cultivate their authentic selves.”
4. “Hazel Wood” by Melissa Albert
I could not put this book down! Seriously, I read it in 2 days in-between working, having to eat, and sleep. It’s the first novel by Melissa Albert and is filled with adventure, fantasy, rewriting norms, and female characters that know what’s up. I recommend reading this if you are in need of some energy! Perhaps an end of the semester boost?
5. “Carla Bley” by Amy C. Beal
This biography is how I learned what a badass Carla Bley is. Carla is a legendary composer/arranger/pianist who is the ultimate DIY musician. She taught herself how to play piano and write music, started her own publishing company, and built a house with a recording studio from a paycheck she earned for writing an arrangement - all the things! For recommended listening, check out her albums “Escalator Over the Hill” and “Dinner Music.”
6. “Upstream” by Mary Oliver
This book is a collection of essays by poet Mary Oliver. These short reads are full of treasures that relate to music including building a practice habit, developing listening skills on multiple levels, and trying new things. Great for when you need inspiration quick.
7. “How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective” edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
The Combahee River Collective was the first black feminist lesbian organization founded in the 1970’s. This whole book is a collection of interviews with the founding members and they talk about so much good stuff! If you have an idea and want to know how to organize, push through red-tape, and break down barriers, these interviews are a must read.
8. “(Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love: Gender, Social Media, and Aspirational Work” by Brooke Erin Duffy
Today, everyone and their grandma is on social media. It’s so easy to get caught up in how you present yourself, worry about what to post, and compare your real life to others’ online life. This research book focuses on these struggles, talks about how not everyone is posting all the time, and how women aspiring to work in the arts use social media platforms.
9. “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” by Mindy Kaling
The title of this book says it all. Mindy Kaling is hilarious and reveals so many thoughts we all have. It’s a memoir that shares the formation of her artistic career including the rejections, mistakes, the less than ideal – stuff we all experience in the arts and beyond.
10.”If You Can’t Be Free, be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday” by Farah Jasmine Griffin
This biography about Billie Holiday highlights Billie's life like no other, and also showcases Dr. Griffin's superb academic knowledge, love of jazz as an art form, and Billie as a person. Dr. Griffin is a Professor of English, African-American Studies, AND Comparative Literature at Columbia University. You can find her other informative writings online as well.
Interested in reading more? Subscribe to Input/Output’s newsletter and be on the lookout for their first issue May, 2019! Input/Output is a digital magazine dedicated to females in improvised music and is founded by an amazing guitarist/teaching artist/composer/person Magdalena Abrego. You can follow Input/Output on Facebook, Twiiter, and Instagram for more.
Have a book recommendation? Let me know! Send an email and also share your recommendation in person with El Paso Jazz Girls participants this summer! Sign up now, it’s free, you’ll have fun I promise!