Books: Inspiring women for challenging times

March belonged to the coronavirus, and that meant Women’s History Month was understandably overlooked.

But now that we’re all sheltering in place and new daily routines established, a curated package of literary items related to women’s history from Chronicle Books could be a fine April gift. Order any of these five items highlighted below direct from the publisher or through an East Bay independently-owned bookstore to boost the local economy.

Icons: 50 heroines who shaped contemporary culture is illustrated by Monica Ahanonu with short biographies by Michelle Heekin. Fifty women in film, music, politics, and civil and human rights activism command attention. The diverse collection includes well-known Americans such as Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Aretha Franklin, Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Joan Didion, and New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and international stars such as Nigeria-born writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and others.

And as we search for ways to stay connected, old-fashioned letter-writing is having a moment. Ahanonu’s bold, intensely chromatic artwork also adorns Icons Notecards: 20 notecards of inspiring women. Slide open the drawer-like keepsake box, select a portrait of a powerful female role model and send a hand-written note. In troubled times, the resilience each woman represents is sure to be uplifting.

San Francisco-based author Marilyn Chase’s Everything She Touched: The Life of Ruth Asawa features the story of this renowned Bay Area artist. The volume includes more than 60 images: reproductions of Asawa’s dramatic installations and hanging-wire sculptures and archival photos from a life in which she overcame extreme challenges. Born in California in 1926, Asawa as an adolescent was sent with her family to a World War II Japanese-American internment camp. An unconventional path led to Asawa becoming a celebrated artist, mother of six children, and founder of a public high school for the arts in San Francisco that in 2010 was renamed in her honor as the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts.

The Incredible Women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is an animated collection of illustrated stories aimed at the younger reader but appealing to baseball lovers of any age, gender or nationality. Writer/Illustrator Anika Orrock packs the edition with stats, pivotal historical events, lively art and quotes; paying tribute to women athletes who kept professional baseball alive during and after World War II.

Cap off the richness of these books with the simple eloquence of Libba: The magnificent musical life of Elizabeth Cotten. Singer/songwriter Laura Veirs’ lyrical storytelling and artist Tatyna Fazlalizadeh’s gently colored graphite artwork combine in a deeply moving tale of the self-taught folk musician and songs she wrote, including “Freight Train,” that have become and will forever be a vital part of American history.

Buy any of these books at the following local booksellers:

Chronicle Books

Great Good Place for Books

Mrs. Dalloway’s

Orinda Books

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