Florence Given's Favourite Reads of 2020
The author of the bestselling Women Don't Owe You Pretty, Florence Given shares her favourite reads of the eventful year. Chiming with her own empowering manifesto, hers is an electrifying selection of books that probe topics from our cultural subconscious beliefs and stereotypes to body image and being single.
Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
I was first introduced to Layla’s work in 2018 when she launched the Instagram challenge ‘Me and White Supremacy’, and at 19 years old, taking part in it changed my life. It unearthed a lot of deep-rooted subconscious beliefs I was holding about people of colour that I wasn’t even aware of. It was very uncomfortable, and that is exactly why we (white people) should all read this book. Read this book and allow Layla to shake your core. Allow her to shift your entire perspective and unravel the lies you’ve been told to believe about buying into your own superiority. This book connected me back to my humanity, taught me when to speak up, and when to shut up. It enabled me to confidently have discussions about race with my white peers, and I will never not be recommending this to everyone I meet. Your life won’t be the same after reading this – and that’s a good thing.
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
I quote this book like it’s my bible. Naomi Wolf is a f*cking genius. I read it during the London lockdown this year and it has changed the relationship I have with my body forever. It’s going to both anger and empower you at the same time. Buy it for a friend. Buy it for your mum. Just buy it.
Revolution from Within by Gloria Steinem
“Self esteem isn’t everything, it’s just that there’s nothing without it”. Gloria Steinem highlights how important it is to provide alternative narratives for us to be able to thrive outside of our stereotypes, and the limiting narratives that systemic oppression imposes on us. I was thinking about this book for weeks after reading it, her analogies for relationship abuse and how women have learned to accept harmful treatment blew my mind and highlighted the complexities of the effects abuse can have on survivors. As always, Gloria’s work is very intersectional, and she considers all perspectives in her writing. Another eye-opening, core-shaking read that will leave you enraged and inspired.
The Unexpected Joy of Being Single by Catherine Gray
This book seduces your mind to take a walk outside of the cult that is heteronormativity. Not in terms of questioning your sexual orientation, but in questioning the way heteronormativity has placed a surmountable pressure on people (women in particular) to find worth and value in a partner, whether that partner is good for them or not. It’s a good read for anyone who’s been made to feel sh*t about being single and had their relationship choices judged. Catherine goes into her own experiences of playing out the narratives we were all schooled in through movies - obsessing, settling and clinging to the mediocre crumbs offered from men; making this book painfully relatable. She encourages you to de-centre romance, offering her experiences and the lessons she learned to show you how to do exactly that. This book led me to understand on a cellular level, that being single is a choice.
All About Love by Bell Hooks
This was my first bell hooks read, and I literally clutched it tight in my chest and gave it a hug after I finished. I bought it during lockdown, and it left me feeling incredibly hopeful for the future. She talks a lot about how the best way to embrace love and welcome healthy relationships is to learn how to embrace solitude, which is right up my street and a philosophy I live by! She goes into the psychology of why women (and in particular from her experience, Black women) settle for less. She talks of love being a healing experience where each person is committed to self-growth, as opposed to the hyper-capitalist romanticised image we’re sold of it in the media. Another eye-opening read with lots of uncomfortable truths, but I personally felt warm and hopeful after reading it.
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