YW Boston’s Summer 2018 Reading Recommendations


YW Boston’s Second Annual Summer Reading List

After our successful 2017 Summer Reading List, we have all new picks to enjoy this summer. During the busy summer months, we hope that you have an opportunity to relax, reflect, and pause. Based on recommendations from our staff, Academy of Women Achievers Awardees, and friends of the organization, we have curated a list of books that tie into our mission and work. We hope that you enjoy this list as much as we enjoyed putting it together. Wherever your summer takes you, we hope one (or more!) of these books goes along with you.


Dreaming in Cuban cover - image of womanDreaming in Cuban by Cristina GarcĂ­a
Recommended by Ilyan Lin, InIt AWA Co-emcee

Here is the dreamy and bittersweet story of a family divided by politics and geography by the Cuban revolution. It is the family story of Celia del Pino, and her husband, daughter and grandchildren, from the mid-1930s to 1980. Celia’s story mirrors the magical realism of Cuba itself, a country of beauty and poverty, idealism and corruption. Dreaming in Cuban presents a unique vision and a haunting lamentation for a past that might have been.

The Leavers cover - outline of boyThe Leavers by Lisa Ko
Recommended by Leigh Chandler, Senior Engagement Associate

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother Polly goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. Left with no one to care for him, eleven-year-old Deming is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind. A vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging, The Leavers is the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away—and how one woman learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

Her Body and Other Storiesby Carmen Maria Machado
Recommended by Lin Pang, Senior Coordinator, Youth Leadership Partnerships

In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.

The Devil in the Blue Dress - image of a woman in a blue dress in a jazz clubThe Devil in the Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
Recommended by Beth Chandler, Interim President and CEO

In Los Angeles of the late 1940s, Easy Rawlins, a black war veteran, has just been fired from his job at a
defense plant. Easy is drinking in a friend’s bar, wondering how he’ll meet his mortgage, when a white
man in a linen suit walks in, offering good money if Easy will simply locate Miss Daphne Monet, a blonde beauty known to frequent black jazz clubs.

More Happy Than Not cover - paint splatters
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
Recommended by Lin Pang, Senior Coordinator, Youth Leadership Partnerships

Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He’s slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend Genevieve, but it’s his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future. As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threaten to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?

Black Boy White School cover - image of high school boyBlack 
Boy White School by Brian F. Walker
Recommended by Ava Archibald, Racial Justice Programs Manager

Anthony has never been outside his rough neighborhood when he receives a scholarship to Belton Academy, an elite prep school in Maine. But at Belton things are far from perfect. Everyone calls him “Tony,” assumes he’s from Brooklyn, expects him to play basketball, and yet acts shocked when he fights back. As Anthony tries to adapt to a world that will never fully accept him, he’s in for a rude awakening: Home is becoming a place where he no longer belongs.

The Underground Railroad cover - simple map of railroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Recommended by Beth Chandler, Interim President and CEO

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

Brown Girl Dreaming cover - outline of young girl in fieldBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Recommended by Wanda McClain, Academy of Women Achievers Awardee

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Nonfiction and Memoirs

A Girl Stands at the Door cover - three young girls going into a school

A Girl Stands at the Door by Rachel Devlin
Recommended by Anita Hill, Speaker at AWA and Announcer of the first Sylvia Ferrell-Jones Award

The struggle to desegregate America’s schools was a grassroots movement, and young women were its vanguard. In the late 1940s, parents began to file desegregation lawsuits with their daughters, forcing Thurgood Marshall and other civil rights lawyers to take up the issue and bring it to the Supreme Court. After the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, girls far outnumbered boys in volunteering to desegregate formerly all-white schools. In A Girl Stands at the Door, historian Rachel Devlin tells the remarkable stories of these desegregation pioneers. Highlighting the extraordinary bravery of young black women, this bold revisionist account illuminates today’s ongoing struggles for equality

Reimagining Equality cover - red with a picture of a houseReimagining Equality by Anita Hill

As our country reels from the subprime mortgage meltdown and the resulting devastation of so many families and communities, Hill takes us inside this “crisis of home” and exposes its deep roots in race and gender inequities, which continue to imperil every American’s ability to achieve the American Dream.The achievement of that ideal, Hill argues, depends on each American’s ability to secure a place that provides access to every opportunity our country offers.Building on the great strides of the women’s and civil rights movements, Hill presents concrete proposals that encourage us to broaden our thinking about home and to reimagine equality for America’s future.

This Is the Place cover - abstract drawing of a houseThis Is the Place edited by Margot Kahn and Kelly McMasters 
Recommended by Leigh Chandler, Senior Engagement Associate

Home is a loaded word, a complex idea: it’s a place that can be comforting, difficult, nourishing, war-torn, or political. In this breathtaking, thought-provoking collection, 30 women writers explore the theme in personal essays about neighbors, marriage, kids, sentimental objects, homelessness, domestic violence, solitude, immigration, gentrification, geography, and more. Contributors lend a diverse range of voices to this subject that remains at the core of our national conversations. What makes a home? What do equality, safety, and politics have to do with it? Engaging, insightful, and full of hope, This is the Place will make you laugh, cry, and think hard about home, wherever you may find it.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me - photo of Mindy KalingIs Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling
Recommended by Nai Collymore-Henry, Sylvia Ferrell-Jones Awardee

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck impersonator, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?” Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir cover - patches of orange and red colorsWhen They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele 
Recommended by Morgan Cowie-Haskell, Program and Policy Associate

Raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood in Los Angeles, Patrisse Khan-Cullors experienced firsthand the prejudice and persecution Black Americans endure at the hands of law enforcement. For Patrisse, the most vulnerable people in the country are Black people. In 2013, when Trayvon Martin’s killer went free, Patrisse’s outrage led her to co-found Black Lives Matter with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. Condemned as terrorists and as a threat to America, these loving women founded a hashtag that birthed the movement to demand accountability from the authorities who continually turn a blind eye to the injustices inflicted upon people of Black and Brown skin. 

We Should All Be Feminists cover - blue text on yellow backgroundWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Recommended by Pascale Desir, InIt AWA Co-Emcee

With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

Lift Up Thy Voice cover - blue with image of enslaved people with overseerLift Up Thy Voice by Mark Perry
Recommended by Sylvia Ferrell-Jones, Former President and CEO, in October 2017

In the late 1820s Sarah and Angelina Grimké traded their elite position as daughters of a prominent white slaveholding family in Charleston, South Carolina, for a life dedicated to abolitionism and advocacy of women’s rights. After the Civil War, discovering that their late brother had had children with one of his slaves, the Grimké sisters helped to educate their nephews and gave them the means to start a new life in postbellum America. The nephews, Archibald and Francis, went on to become well-known African American activists in the burgeoning civil rights movement and the founding of the NAACP. Spanning 150 eventful years, this is an inspiring tale of a remarkable family that transformed itself and America.

It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadershi cover - photo of Colin PowellIt Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership by Colin Powell
Recommended by Meredith Lynch, Annual Fund and Special Events Manager

It Worked for Me is filled with vivid experiences and lessons learned that have shaped the legendary public service career of the four-star general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. At its heart are Powell’s “Thirteen Rules”—notes he gathered over the years and that now form the basis of his leadership presentations given throughout the world. Powell’s short but sweet rules—among them, “Get mad, then get over it” and “Share credit”—are illustrated by revealing personal stories that introduce and expand upon his principles for effective leadership: conviction, hard work, and, above all, respect for others. Thoughtful and revealing, it is a brilliant and original blueprint for leadership.

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl cover - picture of Issa RaeThe Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
Recommended by Beth Chandler, Interim President and CEO

My name is “J” and I’m awkward—and black. Someone once told me those were the two worst things anyone could be. That someone was right. Where do I start? Being an introvert in a world that glorifies cool isn’t easy. But when Issa Rae is that introvert—whether she’s navigating love, work, friendships, or “rapping”—it sure is entertaining. Now, in this debut collection of essays written in her witty and self-deprecating voice, Rae covers everything from cybersexing in the early days of the Internet to deflecting unsolicited comments on weight gain, from navigating the perils of eating out alone and public displays of affection to learning to accept yourself—natural hair and all.

Year of Yes cover - Yes is emphasized with picture of person jumpingYear of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Recommended by Beth Chandler, Interim President and CEO

Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say no when invitations arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No. And to an introvert like Shonda, who describes herself as ‘hugging the walls’ at social events and experiencing panic attacks before press interviews, there was a particular benefit to saying no: nothing new to fear. Then came Thanksgiving 2013, when Shonda’s sister Delorse muttered six little words at her: You never say yes to anything. Profound, impassioned and laugh-out-loud funny, in Year of Yes Shonda Rhimes reveals how saying YES changed – and saved – her life.

The Untethered Soul cover - horse running on a beachThe Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
Recommended by Kip Hollister and Jeannette Mills, both Academy of Women Achievers Awardees

Spiritual teacher Michael A. Singer shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization. Copublished with the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) The Untethered Soul begins by walking you through your relationship with your thoughts and emotions, helping you uncover the source and fluctuations of your inner energy. It then delves into what you can do to free yourself from the habitual thoughts, emotions, and energy patterns that limit your consciousness. Finally, with perfect clarity, this book opens the door to a life lived in the freedom of your innermost being.

My Beloved World cover - photo of Justice Sonia SotomayorMy Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
Recommended by Vanessa CalderĂłn-Rosado, Academy of Women Achievers Awardee

The first Latinx and third woman appointed to the US Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor has become an instant American icon. Now, with a candor and intimacy never undertaken by a sitting Justice, she recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a journey that offers an inspiring testament to her own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself. She speaks with warmth and candor about her invaluable mentors, a failed marriage, and the modern version of extended family she has created from cherished friends and their children. Through her still-astonished eyes, America’s infinite possibilities are envisioned anew in this warm and honest book, destined to become a classic of self-invention and self-discovery.

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria cover - orange text on white coverWhy Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum
Recommended by Sheera Bornstein, Senior Partnerships Manager

Walk into any racially mixed school and you will see Black, White, and Latino youth clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy? Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication across racial and ethnic divides. These topics have only become more urgent as the national conversation about race is increasingly acrimonious. 


If you read one of these books and enjoy it, let us know!
Share on social media with the #SummerwithYWBoston
and one person will receive a copy of Anita Hill’s
Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home.
Don’t forget to visit your local library or an independent Boston-area bookstore when looking for these books.