Like many women of my generation who read this novel growing up, I really felt like I lived in Jo's family. This book was one of the first literary explorations of how women balance the demands of their daily lives, from raising families to pursuing outside goals. The book was written more than a century ago, but its message resonates today.
The Poisonwood Bible By Barbara Kingsolver
This is the story of an American missionary who moves his family to the Congo at the end of Belgian rule. It's one of the most powerful books I've read about the evil consequences of patriarchal oppression, be it personal, cultural or political. The story is movingly told through the voices of four sisters and their mother. It reminded me that every woman faces unique challenges and choices, and that all too often women find themselves trapped by their circumstances.
The Color Purple By Alice Walker
Alice Walker tackles some of American society's most vexing issues—race, gender and violence—through a memorable protagonist named Celie. The story of her growing up as a victim of abuse and her ongoing journey of self-discovery is a brutally honest assessment of human nature at its best and worst.
The Clan of the Cave Bear By Jean M. Auel
I've been interested for a long time in archeology and anthropology, and this novel about life in prehistoric times is a rich blend of imagination and information about everything from plants that were used for medicine to the rituals and taboos of Neanderthal man. It is also about Ayla, a little girl who is orphaned when her parents are killed in an earthquake. Maybe because I'm a mother, I was very moved by the story of her survival and growing up.
Wild Swans By Jung Chang
Chang traces the lives of three generations of women born in China during the 20th century. Set against the historical backdrop of imperialist China, the rise of Communism and, finally, Mao's cultural revolution, Wild Swans is an inspiring tale of women who survived every kind of hardship, deprivation and political upheaval with their humanity intact.
West with the Night By Beryl Markham
Talk about inspiring! I can't get over the amount of daring, courage, determination and self-confidence it took to accomplish what Beryl Markham did in 1936 when she became the first person to fly solo east to west across the Atlantic Ocean. This is a beautifully written life story of one of the greatest woman adventurers of all time, from her growing up in sub-Saharan Africa to her exploits as a pilot.
The Joy Luck Club By Amy Tan
This novel opened my eyes, not only to the distinct and special traditions of the Chinese-American culture but also to the ways in which immigrant women of different generations adapted and adjusted to life in this country.