10 Books By Women That Empower You To Boss Up All 2021

Check out these hot reads by Black authors on leadership, resilience, and more.

Good Reads

Women's History Month continues, and we're getting all the feels for empowerment, sister tribes, and career wins. And within all of that, many of us are seeking a much-needed escape from what's happening the world. (Politics and pandemic, anyone?) Maybe you're trying to get some knowledge to pour into your spiritual and intellectual self. Well, a dive into a great read always does the trick. Here are 10 great books for Black women—written for us, by us—that will definitely spark bigger and better boss moves this year.


'In Search of The Color Purple' by Salamishah Tillet

Alice Walker's 1983 book The Color Purple is clearly a classic that will remain on top book lists until the end of time. (And the book indeed is better than the film—word to Celie.) Books about the process or journey of things always inspire me when I feel like I've hit a roadblock in completing a project, so this one intrigues. It includes details on Walker's research and interviews with women who were part of the journey in expanding the story's reach including queen boss Oprah herself.



'This Is Only a Test: What Breast Cancer Taught Me' by Chris-Tia Donaldson

Harvard-trained and Detroit-bred, Chris-Tia Donaldson is a survivor in more ways than one. As CEO and founder of haircare line TGIN (Thank God It's Natural), she not only empowers women to take charge of every aspect of their lives including their own version of beauty, she continues to thrive in her lane. This book focuses in on her path in overcoming breast cancer and what the whole ride taught her about faith, love and business.



'The Other Black Girl: A Novel' by Zakiya Dalila Harris

This fiction work has awesome themes about finding community when you're the "only one" in a predominately white work environment. It centers on two women who work in New York's publishing world and is written by an editor who's worked in the industry. Micro-aggressions, upward mobility, office politics, and betrayal—it's all there and then some.



'Carefree Black Girls: A Celebration of Black Women in Pop Culture' by Zeba Blay

Blay is a film and culture writer born in Ghana and based in New York, and she brings the soul and savvy of both to this book. It includes a collection of essays that explore the lives and achievements of our favorite Black women. (Think Janet "Aunt Viv" Hubert, Cardi B, and Josephine Baker). She made the hashtag "carefreeblackgirls" popular on Twitter, and hits on points about misogyny, bigotry and gender stereotypes in this book in a way only Blay can.



'Just as I Am: A Memoir' by Cicely Tyson

A Hollywood legend and icon who lived more than nine decades and actively worked as an actress for six of them, Cicely Tyson definitely has some major jewels to drop about life, confidence, career, and motivation. She talks about how she chooses to say yes to roles, the resilience of Black women, and thriving through major historical moments, from Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination to former President Barack Obama's inauguration.



'Expect F*cking More: The 5 Keys to Business Success for African American Women' By Dr. Bee Thomas

What's great about this book is that it offers historical context and background before getting into the business tips. It's good to have research to provide a platform for a plan of action in reaching your business goals. Thomas, an entrepreneur and consultant who has etched a lane in the CBD industry, gives us all the things and more with this one.



'Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid' by Mikaila Ulmer

She's a teen entrepreneur whose been named among Time magazine's top 30 young business leaders, and her story of turning fear into advocacy and profit can inspire adults and kids alike. Her flaxseed-infused lemonade business started as a way to support bee conservation and has expanded into a multi-million-dollar brand sold in stores nationwide. She even got a deal on Shark Tank as a pre-teen. Whether you're a parent or simply want a story of ingenuity to light a fire in your tail, get into this.



'First & Only: A Guide to Thriving at Work and In Life' by Jennifer R. Farmer 

A veteran PR professional and strategist, Farmer gives the goods on monetizing what you're good at and owning your talents. She emphasizes that the book is "not about how to get or keep a job," but how to "heal yourself so you can sustain yourself." She takes a holistic approach to coaching one through the journey of overcoming traumas, maintaining hope and finding the courage to sometimes stand alone in embracing one's power.



'Get Over 'I Got It': How to Stop Playing Superwoman, Get Support, and Remember That Having It All Doesn’t Mean Doing It All Alone' by Elayne Fluker

Elayne Fluker has been riding for women's empowerment since her days as an editor at some of our favorite publications, from Martha Stewart Living and Conde Nast Digital to Essence and Vibe Vixen. Now as founder and CEO of Chic Rebellion Media, where she hosts the Support is Sexy podcast, highlighting the stories of women entrepreneurs, she continues building her own legacy. Her latest book gets into the nitty-gritty of the isolating superwoman complex many of us struggle with and digs into how to build strong networks of support for long-term success.



'Beyond Engagement: The Value of Love-Based Leadership in Organisations' by Yetunde Hofmann

Hofmann, a UK-based executive leadership coach, shifts the narrative of business from strictly transactional (aka "What can you do for me, sis?") to heart-based ("What's the intention? What can I do for you?"), a way of connection that many highly successful business women have found to be the key to success. She's all about "living more enjoyably" in all aspects of life, a refreshing retreat from the dog-eat-dog mantras of workplace politics.


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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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