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Women's History Month Book Recommendations

In celebration of Women's History Month, we reached out to several women faculty members and leaders at Pepperdine and invited them to submit their recommendations of books by female authors. We didn't request that contributors limit their selections to titles specifically on women's history. Instead, all genres would be welcome. We also asked the recommenders to articulate how their chosen books inspire them. We're delighted to share their picks below.

Homegoing book cover

Sara Barton

University Chaplain

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
"Yaa Gyasi was only 26 years old when her novel was published, and I like how Gyasi explores historical events in youthful and fresh ways. With ingenuity in form, she explores the injustices of the Atlantic slave trade, not as something in the past, but as something with ongoing and present trauma. This is art -- to bring humans and their stories to life through new forms and character development. This book is exciting to me because of its meaningful content and artistry."


Book cover for So You Want to Talk About Race. Image courtesy of The United Methodist Women of North Texas.

Ebony Cain

Associate Professor of Education and Program Chair for Educational Leadership Administration and Policy
Graduate School of Education and Psychology

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
"Oluo's text can address a complex and powerful topic through an accessible, honest, and engaging dialogue that highlights key questions and considerations related to the construction of race. This book creates a useful bridge for participants across the spectrum of racial awareness. This timely book is a must-read!"


book cover for daring greatly

Sheryl Covey

Assistant Dean for Administration
School of Public Policy

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
"Brené Brown's Daring Greatly teaches us that vulnerability is courageous. Especially during this pandemic and a time of loss and loneliness, Brené's works have shown that worthiness and resilience does not require perfection and when we expose our vulnerable selves we open doors to engagement and 'wholehearted living.'"


Book cover of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Stella Erbes

Divisional Dean (Humanities and Teacher Education Division) and Associate Professor of Teacher Education
Seaver College

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
This book illuminated my understanding of how introverts process and refuel their energy. As a teacher educator, this text also inspired me to carefully consider how I can develop an inclusive learning environment that allows all types of personalities to thrive.


This Bridge Called My Back book cover

Reyna G. García Ramos

Professor of Education and Director, Teacher Preparation Program
Graduate School of Education and Psychology

This Bridge Called My Back by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa
"Although I did not read this book until late in my undergraduate career at UCLA, once I read it, my eyes were opened to a world of expression and thought that had not been part of my experience growing up. It was for me an empowering collection of essays and stories by Chicanas and other Women of Color told in a vernacular that was familiar to me. I was able to lift the words out from the pages because they explained the kind of alienation and struggles I experienced as a low-socioeconomic, first-generation student trying to make sense of my role in society at the time. The book has been reprinted three more times and has impacted work a variety of fields, including anthropology, education, and sociology among others. Most importantly, it continues to inspire a new generation of Latinx and others to accept who they are and to continue to raise their voices against injustice and oppression."


Book cover for Farewell to Manzanar

Jennifer Miyake-Trapp

Assistant Professor of Education and Program Chair, MA TESOL and MS Leadership Suite
Graduate School of Education and Psychology

Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II by Internment Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston
"This book is a prescient reminder of injustice and racism, and a call to vigilance."


Teaching to Transgress book cover

Roslyn M. Satchel

Berkman-Klein Center Fellow, Harvard Law School
The Blanche E. Seaver Professor of Communication
Seaver College

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks
"This book changed my life when I was in college at Howard University. I revisited it while I was doing human rights education in numerous marginalized domestic and global communities where folks struggled to ascertain basic necessities. I found that bell hooks builds on Paulo Friere's concept of "concientización" in a way that could help empower folx whose backs are against figurative walls of systemic injustice, abuse, poverty, and exploitation. As a practice of freedom, education enables one to understand current events in relation to historical contexts by examining numerous intersecting systems. For example, one can learn about a school's ethics and values by interrogating its media, religious, economic, political, employment, and accessibility practices because each is a cultural artifact that is rich in meaning. As a teacher, this helps us think creatively and self-reflexively about our traditions and norms, and then make explicit pedagogical choices about how, why, and what we teach and research. Personally, I feel empowered when I read this book about the potential benefits to educators and students if we prioritized education's capacity to liberate, empower, and transform individuals and societies."


Book covers for Eleanor of Aquitaine and Cleopatra

Jennifer Smith

Associate Professor of English and Coordinator of Digital Humanities
Seaver College

Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir
"Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the most influential women in medieval Europe. In addition to being the Duchess of Aquitaine, one of the largest and wealthiest duchies of the Kingdom of France, she became first Queen of France and then, upon the dissolution of her marriage, Queen of England. She was a crusader, as well as a patron of arts, and, for several years, a prisoner to her second husband. I love her story because knowing it well means that one cannot accept an easy or simplified narrative about the Middle Ages."

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
"Cleopatra VII was the last pharaoh of Egypt. She was known then as now for her talent, charm, political acumen, and tragic death. She made alliances with and bore children to two of the most powerful generals in the Roman world, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. I love her story because she is a real-life tragic hero -- someone whose failures and achievements sharpen our understanding of the nature of human struggle."


Book cover

Nicolle Taylor

Vice President and Chief Business Officer

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
"Handwritten letters stitched together in a novel depict the bittersweet realities of World War II and the unshakeable resilience of life, and love, and character even in the darkest of times. One may or may not like the storyline, but a reader would be hard pressed to dismiss the authors' ability to get you to imagine the story in your mind. So beautifully written in an unconventional format, this book's worth is in the quality of its writing.

The very best writers have the ability to create such a vivid image in your head; you forget you are reading and instead find yourself "watching" the events, or the transaction, or the problem unfold in your mind. That's the power of good writing -- and its importance is not limited to novelists or fiction. Good writing is an essential life skill -- it differentiates candidates in job searches, and it demonstrates competence in the workplace, giving others confidence in your work. To be sure, the ability to communicate complex subjects in clear, easily understood terms is an art. Good writing can immerse you in life from a new perspective, and inspire investigation into what could become your passion. Good writing also allows you to, in the most meaningful and personal way, celebrate achievements of others; express your appreciation; ask for forgiveness; compliment your spouse; or remind a friend of the most hilarious moment, causing uncontrolled laughter over a shared event!"


Book cover for Caste

Helen Easterling Williams

Graduate School of Education and Psychology

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
"This Pulitzer Prize winner puts pen to paper, and captivates our minds. Her uncanny ability to identify occurrences and authentically place them in their social, economic, and political context, gives a new and deep understanding of America's history. She doesn't stop there. Her prolific pen seamlessly connects these occurrences to present day realities shedding revelatory light on the insidious nature of systemic racism in our everyday experiences. Needless to say, Isabel Wilkerson's work is captivating yet liberating; a great read for everyone. What a beautiful mind!"


*Stay tuned, there are more recommendations to come!