Rebel Girls: A Reading List for the Revolution

Header by Rory Midhani

Header by Rory Midhani

One of the first things I did in Donald Trump’s America was go home for a funeral. I knew when I went back I would grab my copy of Living History, if only to weep openly while I read it on the flight home. (I did.) But while I was digging around, I stumbled onto a book I bought during the Bush years, an era I’ve been thinking back on a lot in the wake of the election: Stop the Next War Now. I packed it in my bag without thinking and warned my mother not to accept any of what was about to happen as normal. “Get ready to fight,” I kept telling her. “This is it.”

I’ve been having a lot of those moments, activist flashbacks, sort of re-experiencing a lot of the things I felt when I first dove into the feminist movement head-first. I remembered seeing Cleve Jones, founder of the AIDS Quilt, speak at my school, and how his story taught me not only that activism could come from the pain of loss and be a foundation for healing but also that it was possible to continue letting yourself envision a better world while drowning in the depths of a dangerous and unwelcoming one. I remembered Angela Davis looking me in the eye when she spoke years later and telling me the work I was doing was part of her revolution. I remembered talking to Eileen Myles in the cafe after her book signing about how blind everyone was to sexism and how unfair it was trying to shout that it exists. I remembered crying at Hillary Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, how afterward what I wanted suddenly more than I had ever wanted it before was to watch a world unfurl that felt like we were one step closer to the promised land.

I remembered buying that book, how I didn’t know anything about it before I did, how I just saw it on display and grabbed it and thought yes if I have the power to do this I fucking will. I remembered reading Yes Means Yes! years later and becoming an anti-violence activist, immersing myself in work that felt like it had a tangible impact — work that was helping to build a world where rape and sexual assault weren’t seen as normal or weren’t so common or didn’t have to destroy us.

This election shook me to my core. That’s undeniable. I am still grieving and I don’t know that I ever won’t be. I am so fucking angry and I don’t know that I ever won’t be. But I refuse to be scared, or cowed, or defeated. I refuse to forget that Hillary Clinton won, that love should have trumped hate, that millions of Americans didn’t ask for this. I refuse to forget that none of the white nationalists “taking back” this country are what America should look like. I refuse to forget that Donald Trump lacks a public mandate, and thusly so does his entire dirtbag agenda and every single person on his Transition Team from Hell.

I refuse to stop fighting. Not now. The only answer moving forward is to lace up our boots and keep marching. The only way out is through, and the only way through is fighting like hell. The revolution is upon us. It needs you now more than ever.

There is darkness ahead. (Steve Bannon said so himself, after all.) Let these books light your path.

This Is the Story of a Bad Bitch

Some inspiration for you to use to light your torch. When you doubt you have it within yourself to make an impact, know that people throughout time have chosen not to listen to the voice of impossibility.

Recommended Supplemental Reading List: Memoirs by women who led the world.


Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer’s Activism

Autobiography of Mother Jones

Assata: An Autobiography

Irena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto

A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot

Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War

Looking Back to Find a Path Forward

Reading about the successful and revolutionary work of other activists does more than give us hope: It gives us a blueprint. Activism, at its core, is about effecting change — and the spirit of any fight for progress is malleable and can be reshaped to help us fight our own. Learn from the people who did it first. Learn from the people who beat the odds. Learn from the people who chose courage, chose defiance, chose devotion to the greater good even in the darkest and most trying of circumstances.

Recommended Supplemental Reading List: Activism workbooks to help you build the next book-worthy movement.


Pink Sari Revolution: A Tale of Women and Power in India

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler

The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland

Common Women, Uncommon Practices: The Queer Feminism of Greenham

Radicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism during the Vietnam Era

Sing a Battle Song: The Revolutionary Poetry, Statements, and Communiques of the Weather Underground 1970-1974

Radical Thoughts for Radical People

In case you wanna get deep but also think about like, the most strategically sound ways to disrupt society. The usual.


Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland

Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism

Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times

What Every Radical Should Know About State Repression: A Guide for Activists

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement

The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century

The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals

And Just Because: Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities


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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


  1. <3 I don't bookmark anything but I bookmarked this (I had to even look up the browser command for adding a bookmark). Thank you Carmen.

  2. Drumpf’s win definitely gave me the kick in the ass that I needed to start reading more shit. I’m trying to focus on queer+WOC narratives. Just picked up “This Bridge Called my back” from the library last night after dropping off “The Other Side of Paradise” (which I think was recommended by Autostraddle? idk but it was good!!!).
    I had no idea there was a new Angela Davis book! I finished her book about prisons a week or so ago. She’s one of my all time favs. I would really recommend her autobiography.

    • ~ I say female symbolically as in = the future of America is beautiful, divine, wild, succulent, and fabulous

      Radical times call for radical change & thank spirit for Autostraddle and brave writers like you Carmen.

      I am thankful for Autostraddle. I’ve been reading this website since I came out as a junior in high school about 6 years ago.

      Autostraddle and the brave individuals who write here, thank you. This Thanksgiving I am especially thankful for you ~

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