Teen Literature Day: 6 Empowering Books For The Girls In Your Life

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Apr. 18 2024, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

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Books have the power to change the world, from inspiring the greatest philosophers and leaders to sparking revolutions. For young readers, especially young girls, books are tools for radical self-love and empowerment. 

When I was younger, books were my greatest companions. They understood me like no one in my life could. Incredible women characters from reads I’ve loved, like Hermione Granger, Katniss Everdeen, Annabeth Chase and Maximum Ride, taught me to be witty, confident and strong. I am now in my mid-20s and still look to these characters when I need an extra boost.

This Teen Literature Day, celebrated this year on April 18th, we’re highlighting books with powerful narratives with women as central characters:

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History classes can often include curriculums that are largely patriarchal, heteronormative and eurocentric. Historian and activist Blair Imani is determined to show girls that they, too, can make history.

This book highlights 70 women, girls and gender nonbinary leaders who have changed the world throughout history and modern times. This is a great way for young readers to gain knowledge about important historical figures who aren’t well known and feel empowered by their stories.

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All women have at some point been told that they are too sensitive or too emotional. We’re told that being angry isn’t lady-like and that we should mold ourselves to be more likable. Award-winning author Soraya Chemaly wants you to feel all of your emotions, especially anger. 

In Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger, Chemaly explains how women can use their anger to empower themselves on a personal and political level. She says that anger is not what gets in our way, but what paves our path forward. This is great for young women who feel discouraged by all that is against them, when in fact, they are not yet aware of their own power.

What we have today was made accessible by the women who came before us. Our mothers, grandmother and great-grandmothers fought and sacrificed so much so we can have better lives. That doesn’t mean we don’t face our own unique struggles. 

Poet Sophia Thakur encapsulates this experience beautifully with this poetry collection. She weaves together a story of love and history through the voices of a grandmother, mother and daughter. This is a wonderful read for young women navigating freedom and adulthood and the nuances of everyday life.

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“When A Brown Girl Flees” by Aamna Qureshi follows Zahra, a young girl who runs away from her controlling mother and tries to build a new life for herself in New York. With newfound freedom comes loneliness, fear and guilt. 

Along her journey, Zahra visits the local mosque and starts to integrate with the welcoming Muslim community. But the life she left behind lingers in her head, and she wonders if she can ever fully heal. This one is for the daughters of immigrants who feel trapped between their happiness and their family’s expectations.

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This book tells the story of a young Black girl, Bri, who dreams of being the greatest rapper of all time. She is, after all, the daughter of a late rap legend. But when her mother suddenly loses her job, Bri realizes she needs to fight a different type of battle.

In her seven-starred, award-winning book, “On the Come Up,” Angie Thomas tells the story of passion and resilience. It’s for the young girls who fight stereotypes and break barriers even when the whole world is against them.

This four-part series by best-selling and award-winning author Sabaa Tahir is a story of bravery and love.. In the brutal Martial Empire inspired by ancient Rome, the characters navigate genocide and revolution. When Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, she infiltrates the Empire’s greatest military academy to spy on its most ruthless commander.

This book features a wide range of bold characters, some good, some bad and some morally gray. Some show their strengths through brutality and force, others through kindness and hope. Young readers will fall in love. (This book has mature themes, so please use discretion when gifting to your daughter, family members, or network.)

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By: Bareerah Zafar

Bareerah Zafar is a Seattle-based journalist who turned her high school reputation of "angry brown girl" into a career in writing. Her work focuses on intersectional stories covering lifestyle, travel, identity and social justice. When she's not writing, you can find her in a cozy corner snuggling with her cats and a book.

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