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Girls & Women

20 Powerful Books Global Citizens Should Read This Fall

The National Book Foundation this week announced its shortlisted nominations for the prestigious National Book Award. This year's nominations, perhaps more so than ever before highlighted a diverse selection of voices — including, notably, 15 of 20 books by women, nearly half written by people of color, and diverse themes addressing everything from the legacy of slavery to modern day immigration and displacement. 

Lifting up the voices of women, minorities, LGBTQ folks, undocumented immigrants, and other marginalized populations has everything to do with ensuring Global Citizen’s vision: a world free from extreme poverty by 2030.

Take Action: Help The Global Partnership For Education Send Girls To School

Enshrining these voices as equal to those of individuals in the traditional nexus of power — white, heterosexual, male voices — in everything from literature to sports empowers future generations of individuals to get an education, strive for equality, and in turn institute policies that benefit all people equally regardless of gender, race, or class. 

Read More: Malala Is Writing a Children’s Book About a Magic Pencil & Fixing the World

"I think it is so important not to look at [the National Book Award's diversity] as a taking over, but instead a widening of the table,” Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation, told Elle magazine. “The table has room for us, too, now. And I hope that we see a shared table for all voices in this country and this world for the foreseeable future." 

Global Citizen is bringing you 20 powerful, global books by 15 women and five men. Some of them were nominated for the National Book Award and others were not, but they all address issues near and dear to Global Citizen — from women’s empowerment, to climate action, to refugee resettlement. 

Happy reading! 

1/ “The Leavers,” Lisa Ko

Set between New York and China, “The Leavers” tells the troubling story of the disappearance of an undocumented Chinese immigrant mom and the son that’s left to grapple with her absence. 

2/ “Her Body and Other Parties: Stories,” Carmen Maria Machado

A collection of short stories, “Her Body and Other Parties” considers the violence — both physical and psychological — all-too-often afflicted on women around the world. 

Take Action: Tell World Leaders to Redouble Their Efforts By Amending Laws to Prevent Sexual Violence

3/ “Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World,” Suzy Hansen

An American woman moves to Istanbul, Turkey — a city precariously situated between East and West — in an attempt to better understand the role of the United States in the world after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the resultant “War on Terror.” 

4/ “Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change,” Ashley Dawson 

Ashley Dawson makes the argument that cities, and not necessarily countries, will be (and in fact already are) at the forefront of the climate change debate in the years to come. 

5/ “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” Erika L. Sánchez

A young Mexican-American woman must confront stereotypes held within her own community and American culture more broadly as she deals with the tragic death of her sister. 

6/ “American Street,” Ibi Zoboi

Written by a Haitian immigrant, “American Street” follows a young Haitian girl in Detroit whose mother is detained by US immigration agents. 

7/ “What Girls Are Made Of,” Elana K. Arnold

A teenage girl living in the United States confronts deeply held gender stereotypes at a young age. 

8/ “Mean,” Myriam Gurba

A queer, mixed-race Chicana comes of age amidst a backdrop of sexual assault, racism, and homophobia. 

Read More: This Puerto Rican Superhero Is More Interested in Fighting Climate Change Than Made-Up Villains

9/ “The Living Infinite,” Chantel Acevedo

Set in the late 19th century, a Spanish woman moves to the new world in an attempt to publish her revolutionary autobiography. 

10/ “A Moonless, Starless Sky,” Alexis Okeowo

Alexis Okeowo brings readers four tales of modern day Africans and their quest to combat extremism, modern slavery, and poverty. 

11/ “City of Spies,” Sorayya Khan

Set in the late 1970s, a young girl in Islamabad, Pakistan, takes in her country’s political upheaval with a fresh set of eyes and is confronted with her own ethnically complicated history. 

12/ “Go, Went, Gone,” Jenny Erpenbeck

German writer Jenny Erpenbeck profiles Richard, a retired classics professor in Berlin who becomes involved with a group of African refugees living in the Alexanderplatz refugee camp, who are staging a hunger strike. 

Read More: Meet the German Brass Band Showing That Refugees Are Welcome

13/ "Lighter Than My Shadow," Katie Green

An autobiography about eating disorders, “Lighter Than My Shadow” is written for teens who may struggle with body image and societal gender expectations. 

14/ “In the Midst of Winter,” Isabel Allende

A car crash between a 60-year-old human rights scholar and a young, undocumented girl from Guatemala leads to unexpected discoveries — linking countries from the United States, to Chile, to Brazil. 

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15/ “Malala's Magic Pencil,” Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai, who has inspired millions of women and girls around the world through her education activism, brings her personal story of trauma and hope to a younger audience through a picturebook about a magic pencil. 

16/ “Dark at the Crossing,” Elliot Ackerman

Set on the Turkish-Syrian border, “Dark at the Crossing” weaves together several distinct narratives — an Arab American seeking adventure; a Syrian refugee; and his tormented wife — that shed light onto what’s become one of the world’s gravest and most intractable conflicts. 

17/ “The World Goes On,” László Krasznahorkai

Translated into English from its original Hungarian, “The World Goes On” weaves together 11 stories that take readers from the streets of Shanghai to a Portuguese marble quarry. 

18/ “Beyond the Rice Fields,” Naivo

This novel, translated from French, confronts the island of Madagascar’s colonial history by telling the story of a slave and his daughter.

19/ “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy,” Ta-Nehisi Coates 

A writer for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates always has his finger on the pulse of discussions of race in America, and in this book he looks critically at the Obama years through that lens. 

20/ “Hit Refresh,” Satya Nadella

A young immigrant from India goes on to become the CEO of one of the world’s largest multinational corporations: Microsoft.