Modern Feminist Fiction Reads

By NYPL Staff
August 11, 2020
Pelham Bay Library

On August 18, 1920, the ratification of the 19th Amendment granted some women the right to vote. While many women were still excluded from participating, this was a monumental moment in history, finally giving women the legal right to have their voices heard in elections. Since 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment and it is also a presidential election year, I was inspired to put together a list of novels with compelling stories that feature strong women. I was also interested in choosing books that were published within the last two years, in an effort to showcase modern works with feminist attributes, in an effort to highlight their stories as modern feminist works. The books range from historical fiction, family dramas, political dramas, to Own Voices and LGBTQ stories, all featuring strong women characters going through difficult times and overcoming their struggles.


Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis

During the volatile Uruguayan dictatorship of the 1970s, five LGBTQ women who all have singing in common, unite together in this story about love, friendship, and solidarity.



The Sweeney Sisters by Lian Dolan

Three sisters, once close, drift apart after their mother’s death. Fifteen years later, when their famous literary father suddenly passes away, the sisters come back to their childhood home, only to find out they have another sister they never knew about. The family drama continues when they all wonder, what will happen of their father’s inheritance?



How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee

A shocking story of a Japanese woman forced into sexual slavery during WWII, suddenly is discovered by her grandson during a mumbled confession. This triggers a desperate search for the truth about what happened in the past, paralleled with the stories of the women who lived it.



Charlotte Walsh Likes To Win by Jo Piazza

A determined woman leaves her Silicon Valley job to run for Senate against a deceitful opponent who forces her to decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to win. This novel contains such themes as political ambition, marriage, class, sexual politics, and infidelity.



We Came Here To Shine by Susie Orman Schnall

A historical fiction novel, set during the iconic 1939 New York World’s Fair, about two ambitious women—one an Aquacade synchronized swimmer and the other, a journalist for the Fair's daily paper—who are both trying to succeed in a world controlled by men. The two women become friends and their personal and professional aspirations are suddenly at risk. They must team up to help each other succeed and to realize their dreams during the most incredible summer of their lives.



The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

A multigenerational, culturally diverse novel, about a mixed race single mother  who moves in with her white grandmother, after losing her job. In a parallel story, almost a hundred years earlier, her grandmothers great grandmother tells her story of being a former slave, turned farmer, with a klan member as her neighbor. This book features strong, yet marginalized women, mothers and daughters, and all they endured to survive. 


Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!

Summaries provided via NYPL’s catalog, which draws from multiple sources. Click through to each book’s title for more.