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12 books and reports for Women’s History Month » Yale Climate Connections

As with Black History Month, the notion that women’s history can be treated as a one-month supplement to history per se has long been challenged. Women make up slightly more than 50% of the U.S. population, and research has found that they make up much larger shares of the people participating in climate marches and protests. 

As the list below makes clear, on climate change women are making the history they’re writing.

The list starts with a report just released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on how climate change unjustly increases the stresses on rural women of the Global South. Complementing that report are books on women and climate change in the Global North, on feminist movements in the Americas, and on political action by Black women in the U.S. 

On the list of political/climate actions women consider is whether to take on motherhood. Jade Sasser’s book addresses that question directly; Emily Raboteau’s book provides an indirect answer by describing the hard but rewarding challenges of “mothering against the apocalypse.” And for those who choose that challenge, a children’s book celebrates the much broader vistas young girls can now explore. 

The last five books explore through history, memoir, and fiction how their experiences in and with nature, including natural disasters, can shape women’s lives and, thereby, re-envision humanity’s place on a climate-changed planet. Wildfire, two of these books make vividly clear, now plays a much bigger role in those visions. 

As always, the descriptions of the titles are adapted from copy provided by the organizations or publishers that released them. 

Editor’s note: Later this month, Yale Climate Connections will publish reviews of two books by prominent women researchers — Not the End of the World: How We Can Be the First Generation to Build a Sustainable Planet by Hannah Ritchie (Little Brown Spark 2024, 340 pages, $30.00) and Saving Ourselves: From Climate Shocks to Climate Action by Dana R. Fisher (Columbia University Press 2024, 210 pages, $19.95). 

Report cover with a woman standing. in front of a gloomy riverReport cover with a woman standing. in front of a gloomy river

The Unjust Climate: Measuring the Impacts of Climate Change on Rural Poor, Women, and Youth by Research Staff (U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization 2024, 120 pages, free download

Developing policies to foster inclusive rural transformation processes requires better evidence on how climate change is affecting the livelihoods and economic behaviors of vulnerable rural people, including women, youths and people living in poverty. This report analyses socioeconomic data collected from 109 341 rural households (representing over 950 million rural people) in 24 countries. These data are combined in both space and time with 70 years of georeferenced data on daily precipitation and temperatures. The data enable us to disentangle how different types of climate stressors affect people’s on-farm, off-farm, and total incomes, as well as labor allocations and adaptive actions, depending on their wealth, gender, and age characteristics.

Dark blue and green book coverDark blue and green book cover

Women and Climate Change: Examining Discourses from the Global North by Nicole Detraz (MIT Press 2023, 268 pages, $40.00 paperback)

When you think “climate change,” who comes to mind? Who’s doing the science, the reporting, the protesting, the suffering? In Women and Climate Change, Nicole Detraz asks where women in the global North figure in the picture, what that means, and why it matters. Interviewing women living in the global North who work in the climate change sphere, Detraz examines the crucial links between notions of climate change and gender. Their responses provide a nuanced account of the characteristics, conditions, and positions associated with women’s activities in and experiences of climate change — a multifaceted portrayal of women that also demonstrates the essentializing that can hinder goals of sustainability and gender justice.

Yellow book cover "Feminisms in Movement"Yellow book cover "Feminisms in Movement"

Feminisms in Movement: Theories and Practices from the Americas edited by Lívia De Souza Lima, Edith Otero Quezada, and Julia Roth (Transcript Publishing 2024, 332 pages, $40.00 paperback)

Feminist movements from the Americas provide some of the most innovative, visible, and all-encompassing forms of organizing and resistance. With their diverse backgrounds, these movements address sexism, sexualized violence, misogyny, racism, homophobia, and transphobia, coloniality, extractivism, climate crisis, and neoliberal capitalist exploitation as well as the interrelations of these systems. Fighting interlocking axes of oppression, feminists from the Americas represent, practice, and theorize truly intersectional politics. Feminisms in Movement: Theories and Practices from the Americas brings together a wide variety of perspectives and formats to inspire future feminist practices and inform social and cohabitation projects.

Beige book cover Beige book cover

Wake Up: Black Women on the Future of Democracy edited by Keisha N. Bain (W.W. Norton 2024, 256 pages, $28.99) 

In 1968, civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer called for Americans to “wake up” if they wanted to “make democracy a reality.” Today, as Black communities continue to face challenges built on centuries of discrimination, her plea is increasingly urgent. In this anthology of original essays, Keisha N. Blain brings together the voices of progressive Black women politicians, grassroots activists, and intellectuals to offer critical insights on how we can create a more equitable political future. These women draw on their diverse experiences and expertise to speak to three core themes: claiming civil and human rights, building political and economic power, and combating all forms of hate. Wake Up America offers a blueprint for action.

Red book coverRed book cover

Climate Anxiety and the Kid Question: Deciding Whether to Have Children in an Uncertain Future by Jade Sasser (Princeton University Press 2024, 192 pages, $19.95 paperback)

Eco-anxiety. Climate guilt. Pre-traumatic stress disorder. Solastalgia. The study of environmental emotions and related mental health impacts is a rapidly growing field, but most researchers overlook a closely related concern: reproductive anxiety. Climate Anxiety and the Kid Question is the first comprehensive study of how environmental emotions influence whether, when, and why people today decide to become parents — or not. Sasser concludes that climate emotions and climate justice are inseparable and that culturally appropriate mental and emotional health services are a necessary component to ensure climate justice for vulnerable communities.

Black book cover with a colorful birdBlack book cover with a colorful bird

Lessons for Survival: Mothering Against “The Apocalypse” by Emily Raboteau (Henry Holt 2024, 304 pages, $29.99) 

Lessons for Survival is a probing series of pilgrimages from the perspective of a mother struggling to raise her children to thrive without coming undone in an era of turbulent intersecting crises. With camera in hand, Raboteau goes in search of birds, fluttering in the air or painted on buildings, and city parks where her children may safely play while avoiding pollution, pandemics, and the police. Raboteau bears witness to the inner life of Black womanhood, motherhood, the brutalities and possibilities of cities while celebrating the beauty and fragility of nature. This innovative work of reportage and autobiography stitches together stories of protection, offering a profound sense of hope.

Book cover with illustrated children holding handsBook cover with illustrated children holding hands

Girls of the World: Doing More Than Ever Before by Linsey Davis and Michael Tyler with illustrations by Lucy Fleming (Zonderkidz 2024, 32 pages, $19.99)

Encourage children to use their voices, talents, and intelligence to help the world and raise awareness of girls and all the amazing things they do! An inspiration for readers of all ages, Girls of the World: Doing More Than Ever Before calls attention to the truth that it’s never too soon to become aware of and speak up about things that are important to you. Now is the perfect time for girls to show the world just who they are and what they’re capable of! Written by ABC News anchor and New York Times bestselling author Linsey Davis, together with co-author Michael Tyler, Girls of the World invites us to celebrate the equality and fairness we should all experience. It encourages girls to be strong, brave, and curious about the world and their place in it.

Book cover with a collage of mountains, grass, women and fireBook cover with a collage of mountains, grass, women and fire

Wild Girls: How the Outdoors Shaped the Women Who Challenged a Nation by Tyra Miles (W.W. Norton 2023/2024, 192 pages, $22.00) 

Harriet Tubman, forced to labor outdoors on a Maryland plantation, learned from the land a terrain for escape. Louisa May Alcott ran wild, eluding gendered expectations in New England. The Indigenous women’s basketball team from Fort Shaw, Montana, recaptured a sense of pride in physical prowess as they trounced the white teams of the 1904 World’s Fair. Celebrating women like these who acted on their confidence outdoors, this beautiful, meditative work of history puts girls of all races — and the landscapes they loved — at center stage and reveals the impact of the outdoors on women’s independence, resourcefulness, and vision. Full of archival discoveries, Wild Girls evokes landscapes as richly as the girls who roamed in them. 

Book cover with birds along the edgesBook cover with birds along the edges

Birding to Change the World: A Memoir by Trish O’Kane (Ecco Press 2024, 368 pages, $29.99) 

In her nearly two decades of writing about justice as an investigative journalist, Trish O’Kane never paid attention to nature. Then Hurricane Katrina destroyed her New Orleans home, sending her into an emotional tailspin. Enter a scrappy cast of feathered characters that cheered her up and showed her a new path. Inspired, O’Kane moved to Madison, Wisconsin, to pursue an environmental studies PhD. There she became a full-on bird obsessive — logging hours in a biodiverse urban park. When her bird-watching haven was threatened with development, O’Kane and her neighbors mustered to save the birds’ homes. In Birding to Change the World, O’Kane details the astonishing science of bird life and offers a blueprint for muscular citizenship — powered by joy.

See also The Backyard Bird Chronicles by Amy Tan (Knopf 2024, 320 pages, $35.00)

The Last Fire Season by Manjula Martin black book cover with a red poppy flower.The Last Fire Season by Manjula Martin black book cover with a red poppy flower.

The Last Fire Season: A Personal and Pyronatural History by Manjula Martin (Pantheon 2024, 352 pages, $29.00)

When Manjula Martin moved from the city to the woods of Northern California, she wanted to be closer to the wilderness that she had loved as a child. She was also seeking refuge from a health crisis that left her with chronic pain and found a sense of healing through tending her garden beneath the redwoods of Sonoma County. But the landscape that Martin treasured was an ecosystem already in crisis. In 2020, when a dry lightning storm kicked off the worst fire season on record, Martin evacuated her home in the midst of a pandemic. As Martin navigates the daily experience of living in a damaged body on a damaged planet, she comes to question her own assumptions about nature and the complicated connections between people and the land on which we live. 

Book cover illustrated with pink and red flames and houses.Book cover illustrated with pink and red flames and houses.

A Fire So Wild: A Novel by Sarah Ruiz-Grossman (Harper Collins 2024, 208 pages, $25.99)

As a wildfire threatens Berkeley, its inhabitants must reckon with the cracks in the lives they’ve built. Abigail, a wealthy homeowner, decides to throw a lavish birthday in a hillside mansion to raise money for the city’s newest affordable housing project. Sunny, a construction worker who sleeps in a van along the bay’s shore, is in the running for an apartment — but only if enough funds are raised at the party. As the heat and smoke from the approaching blaze descend upon the town, tensions rise and residents confront inequities laid bare and the fragility of building a life in a world on fire. Timely, and taut, A Fire So Wild questions why, when everything burns, not everyone is left with scars.

See also The Book of Fire: A Novel by Christy Lefteri (Ballantine 2024, 336 pages, $29.99).

Book cover with water and treesBook cover with water and trees

We Loved It All: A Memory of Life by Lydia Millet (W.W. Norton 2024, 272 pages, $27.99) 

Across her acclaimed works of fiction, including A Children’s Bible, readers have become intimate with Lydia Millet’s distinctive voice and sly wit. Her first nonfiction book, We Loved It All emerges from Millet’s quarter century of wildlife and climate advocacy, marrying scenes from her life with moments of nearness to plants and animals. Seeking to understand why we immerse ourselves in the domestic and turn away from more sweeping views, she examines how grand cultural myths can deny our longing for the company of nature and deprive us of its inspiration Shimmering with curiosity and laconic humor, We Loved It all asks that we extend to other living beings the regard and protection they deserve.

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