Books We Like (listed alphabetically by author)
No More Secrets: Protecting Your Child from Sexual Assault. (by Caren Adams & Jennifer Fay). A handbook on how to talk to children about the risk of sexual assault and how they can help keep themselves safe.
Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women. (by Maya Angelou) These poems will make you happy whenever you read them.
Making Face, Making Soul: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color. (by Gloria Anzaldua) Another classic in women of color feminist theory. A collection of essays and poetry looking at social change from both a personal and a global perspective.
Stopping Rape: Successful Survival Strategies. (by Pauline B. Bart & Patricia H. O’Brien). This study provides data showing that self-defense works, and why. The authors compared women who were attacked and avoided being raped to women who were raped; the study involved interviews with 94 women who were either raped, or managed to avoid a rape in the prior two years and examines what strategies were most likely to be successful.
The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. (by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis).
Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Was Sexually Abused as a Child. (by Laura Davis). Two classic books addressing how to help adults heal the impact of childhood sexual assault.
Her Wits About Her: Self-Defense Success Stories by Women. (edited by Denise Caignon & Gail Groves). Out of print, but well worth finding a used copy. An amazing collection of stories told by women who used their wits, bodies, voices and spirits to survive physical, verbal and emotional assaults. Edited by founding members of the Santa Cruz Women’s Self-Defense Teaching Cooperative.
Daughters of Copper Woman. (by Anne Cameron). A retelling of northwest coast Native myths about the social and spiritual power of woman. Inspiring.
The Children’s Safety Series: Four books (published by Chas. Franklin Press, Edmonds, WA) that are useful tools for talking to children about personal safety. Written for children to read themselves.
- Help Yourself to Safety: A Guide to Avoiding Dangerous Situations with Strangers and Friends
- It’s Not Your Fault; Private Zone: A Book Teaching Children Sexual Assault Prevention Tools
- Safety Zone; A Book Teaching Child Abduction Prevention Tools
- Strangers Don’t Look Like the Big Bad Wolf.
The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence. (by Gavin de Becker). Mr. de Becker validates the existence of intuition and its importance in self-defense. He calls fear “a gift” because it is the signal our intuition uses to warn us of danger, and makes the case that intuition is simply the brain’s capacity to observe, analyze and reason in a flash. The book distinguishes between “real fear” and worry/anxiety/social training, and offers tips on how to recognize and respond to danger signals.
Kill the Body and the Head Will Fall: A Closer Look at Women, Violence, and Aggression. (by Rene Denfield). Using the microcosm of her experiences as an amateur boxer as a jumping-off point, Denfield explores female violence in the context of the social myth that “women aren’t aggressive.”
The Frailty Myth: Redefining the Physical Potential of Women and Girls. (by Colette Dowling). A challenge, complete with well-researched statistics and facts, to the traditionally-held view that women are naturally weaker than men, this book looks at how women and girls are socialized away from developing their physical strength and also offers suggestions on how to break out of this belief system.
The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense; More on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense; Success with the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense: Communication Strategies Across the Power Gap; The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense; Staying Well with the Gentle Art of Self-Defense; The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense at Work; How to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable: Getting Your Point Across with the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense. (Seven books by Suzette Haden Elgin). Dr. Elgin is a retired professor of linguistics who applies her deep understanding of language and communication arts to the thorny task of confronting verbal abuse skillfully and creatively. These are skill manuals that provide a program for the application of the Gentle Art system in a variety of settings.
Justifiable Homicide: Battered Women, Self-Defense, and the Law. (by Cynthia K. Gillespie). An easy-to-read overview of the legal problems facing battered women who fight back, how the law of self-defense often fails to protect women in abusive relationships, and a call to action for legal change.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. (by Malcolm Gladwell). A fascinating read about intuition and “snap judgment” thinking skills. Discusses how “instinctive reactions” are in fact thinking that harnesses the full analytical power of our brains.
The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things. (by Barry Glassner). This well-researched book discusses the gap between what we fear and what our actual risks are. He argues that media attention on less likely risks creates unnecessary, often crippling, fear and also directs our attention away from actual dangers towards perceived dangers.
The Female Fear. (by Margaret Gordon & Stephanie Riger). An examination of how the pervasive fear of rape in our culture continues to limit, restrict, and restrain women, despite social changes that have allowed women to successfully surmount many obstacles to equality. The authors argue that the most important way to alleviate fear is to change the culture of rape via legal reform and public education.
Rape: The Power of Consciousness. (by Susan Griffin). One of the pioneering texts in rape awareness, this book, published in 1979, is a series of three essays looking at the underlying causes of and attitudes towards rape. “A powerful indictment of the rape mentality woven into the entire fabric of our male-dominated society.”
Just Like a Woman: How Gender Science is Redefining What Makes Us Female. (by Dianne Hales). A personal, readable, and well-researched discussion of gender differences and how scientific research has failed to take them into account when making claims about “humans.”
Tongue Fu! How to Deflect, Disarm, and Defuse any Verbal Conflict. (by Sam Horn). A practical book full of excellent easy-to-learn strategies for managing verbal conflicts. Teaches you both how to protect yourself from other people’s conflictual communication styles, and how to avoid creating communication conflict yourself.
Powers of the Weak. (by Elizabeth Janeway). An examination of power as it is, and can be, wielded by those traditionally viewed as “weak.” Janeway identifies key powers that are always available to the “powerless” – disbelief (rejection of the greater power’s definition of oneself) and coming together (readiness to join with others in opposition). She demonstrates how women can and must reshape the entire pattern of power by valuing and expressing their natural talents.
The Secret Life of Bees. (by Sue Monk Kidd). A novel about the search for a mother, and the need to mother oneself, in a coming-of-age story set in the early 1960s against a background of racial violence and unrest.
The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. (by Maxine Hong Kingston). A memoir of growing up female and Chinese-American, listening to her mother’s “talk story” tales of women in China, and confronting life in an immigrant family in California’s central valley.
Back Off! How to Confront and STOP Sexual Harassment and Harassers. (by Martha J. Langelan). Real-life success stories from women who have stopped harassers cold. What they did, how they did it, and how you can do it, too.
Self-Defense: The Womanly Art of Self-care, Intuition, and Choice. (by Debbie Leung). A classic how-to book in feminist self-defense by one of the founding members of “Feminists in Self-Defense Training.”
Dating Violence: Young Women in Danger. (by Barrie Levy). Using first-person accounts, perspectives on the societal context of dating violence, and a look at a number of successful programs that assist teenagers, this book is both a call to action and a tool for change for anybody concerned about the safety of young people.
Real Knockouts: The Physical Feminism of Women’s Self-Defense. (by Martha McCaughey An academic investigation into what self-defense is, what it does for women who take it up, and why people (including feminists) are so ambivalent about it. This book looks at the history and philosophy of self-defense training of many kinds.
The Reasonable Woman: A Guide to Intellectual Survival. (by Wendy McElroy). A good guide for creating a logical verbal argument when confronted – intellectual verbal self-defense tips. This book is interesting and accessible.
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. (edited by Cherrie Moraga & Gloria Anzaldua). One of the most influential and ground-breaking books to come out of the “second wave” of feminism, this book is a collection of essays, fiction, and poetry by Asian, Latina, African American, and Native American women on the politics of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation.
Straight Talk About Date Rape. (by Susan Mufson & Rachel Kranz). A book written for teens about acquaintance rape.
When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence. (by Patricia Pearson). An analysis of female aggression and violence challenging the widely held view that “women are not capable of violence,” this book makes the argument that not only is this attitude false, it is demeaning to both sexes. Pearson uses copious research and excellent logic to make her argument in this highly readable book.
Sexual Harassment on the Job: What It Is and How to Stop It. (by William Petrocelli & Barbara Kate Repa). A how-to on preventing and responding to sexual harassment in the workplace.
A Woman Scorned: Acquaintance Rape on Trial. (by Peggy Reeves Sanday). Written by an anthropologist who examines the history of rape and rape laws and demonstrates how the legal system has been stacked against women. She also wrote Fraternity Gang Rape, a study of sexual practices on university campuses and the regularity of gang rape in fraternities and other male enclaves.
Lucky. (by Alice Sebold). A memoir by the author of the novel The Lovely Bones, relating the story of how her life was transformed when she was raped and beaten during her freshman year in college and the trajectory of her recovery from that experience.
That Takes Ovaries! Bold Females and Their Brazen Acts. (edited by Rivka Solomon). An entertaining and inspiring collection of real-life stories by women telling how they stood up for themselves in search of freedom and empowerment.
Sexual Harassment: Women Speak Out. (edited by Amber Coverdale Sumrall & Dena Taylor). A collection of first-person stories of women’s experiences with sexual harassment and verbal threats.
The Mismeasure of Woman: Why Women are not the Better sex, the Inferior Sex, or the Opposite Sex. (by Carol Tavris) Exposes the practice of using men as the “normal standard” and makes the argument that this practice leads women to “measuring themselves with a ‘rigged’ yardstick designed to measure (and exaggerate) the stature of men.”
Sex Crimes: Ten Years on the Front Lines Prosecuting Rapists and Confronting Their Collaborators. (by Alice Vachss). A bird’s-eye view of how the criminal justice system handles sex offenders, written by a former New York City Assistant District Attorney.
You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down. (by Alice Walker). Short stories from the author of The Color Purple. Contains the story Advancing Luna and Ida B. Wells, which examines the intersection of rape and racism, specifically the myth of the black rapist.
I Never Called It Rape: The Ms. Report on Recognizing, Fighting and Surviving Date and Acquaintance Rape. (by Robin Warshaw). Based on a nationwide survey conducted by Ms. Magazine, this book combines an analysis of the survey data with vivid first person accounts, exploring the magnitude of the problem, and examining programs for change.
It’s the Little Things: The Everyday Interactions that Get Under the Skin of Blacks and Whites. (by Lena Williams). Using input from focus groups of black and white Americans, Williams uses the “little things” to open a window on how the legacy of slavery and racism leads to continuing misunderstandings and suspicion between races.
Defending Ourselves: A Guide to Prevention, Self Defense and Recovery from Rape. (by Rosalind Wiseman). A how-to guide by an assault survivor and self defense teacher. Also the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence.
The Action Heroine’s Handbook. (by Jennifer Worick & Joe Borgenicht). Learn how to kill a man with your bare thighs, fight with your hands cuffed, and dance backwards wearing stiletto heels.
Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women. (by Elizabeth Wurtzel). This is a provocative book. A series of five thematically linked essays looking at women in popular culture who might be considered “bad and beautiful” and the social reaction to them.