200 WOMEN | Alicia Garza

9781452166582_3D (1)Interviews with 200 women from a variety of backgrounds provide a snapshot of female life around the globe. Interviewees include: • Jane Goodall, conservation and animal welfare activist • Margaret Atwood, author and winner of The Booker Prize • Roxane Gay, author and feminist • Renée Montagne, former host of NPR’s Morning Edition • Alicia Garza, activist and co-founder of Black Lives Matter • Alfre Woodard, award-winning actor and activist • Marian Wright Edelman, head of the Children’s Defense Fund • Lydia Ko, professional golfer and Olympian • Dolores Huerta, labor activist, community organizer, and co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association • Alice Waters, chef, author, and food rights advocate • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author and Macarthur Foundation fellow.

Each woman shares her unique reply to the same five questions: What really matters to you?, What brings you happiness?, What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?, What would you change if you could?, and Which single word do you most identify with?

With responses ranging from uplifting to heartbreaking, these women offer gifts of empowerment and strength – inviting us to bring positive change at a time when so many are fighting for basic freedom and equality. Each interview is accompanied by a photographic portrait, resulting in a volume that is compelling in word and image—and global in its scope and resonance. This landmark book is published to coincide with an interactive website, building on this remarkable, ever-evolving project. A percentage of the originating publisher’s revenue from book sales will be distributed to organisations nominated by the women featured in the book.

The following is an extract from 200 Women Who Will Change the Way You See the World, edited by Ruth Hobday, Geoff Blackwell, Sharon Gelman and Marianne Lassandro, photographs by Kieran Scott.


© 2017 Kieran E. Scott kieranscottphotography.com
© 2017 Kieran E. Scott kieranscottphotography.com
Alicia Garza

Alicia Garza was born in Carmel in California, USA. She is an activist and organiser based in Oakland, California. In 2013, Garza co-founded Black Lives Matter (BLM), an ideological and political organising network campaigning against anti-black racism and violence. In 2016, she and her two BLM co-founders were recognised in Fortune’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. Garza is the director of special projects for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She is also an editorial writer, whose work has been featured in publications including The Guardian, The Nation, The Feminist Wire, Rolling Stone and Huffington Post.

Q. What really matters to you?

I want to be able to tell my kids that I fought for them and that I fought for us. In a time when it’s easy to be tuned out, it feels really important to me to be somebody who stands up for the ability of my kids – of all kids – to have a future.

The other thing that really motivates me is wanting to make sure we achieve our goals. As I was coming up as an organiser, we were told we were fighting for something we might never see in our lifetime. I’m just not satisfied with that; I think change can happen much faster, but it requires organisation, and an understanding of power and how we can shift it from its current incarnation. We need to transform power, so that we’re not fighting the same battles over and over again. This is what I wake up thinking about every single day. And every night when I go to sleep, I’m thinking about how we can get closer to it tomorrow.

Women inspire me to keep going. My foremost in influence was my mother; she initially raised me on her own, having never expected to be a parent at twenty-six. She taught me everything I know about what it means to be a strong woman who is in her power. I’m also very much in influenced by black women throughout history. I’m inspired by Harriet Tubman, not only for all the work she did to free individual slaves – which, of course, was amazing – but for everything she did to eradicate the institution of slavery, the alliances she built to do so and the heartbreaks she endured in pursuit of her vision. And it’s not only women in the United States who inspire me. In Honduras in 2016, Berta Cáceres was murdered while pursuing her vision of ecological justice and a better life for the people in Honduras being preyed upon by corporations and the United States government.

Black Lives Matter has been a big part of my activism. When it came onto the scene, there was a lot of pushback; people responded by saying, ‘All lives matter.’ I think the intensity of these reactions against Black Lives Matter is a testament to how effective our systems are in isolating these kinds of issues – they make them seem as though they impact individuals, as opposed to entire communities. The all-lives-matter thing is simultaneously fascinating and infuriating to me, because it’s so obvious. Obviously all lives matter; it’s like saying the sky is blue or that water is wet. But, when people say, ‘Actually, all lives matter,’ it feels like a passive-aggressive way of saying, ‘White lives matter.’

People seemed shocked that police brutality was an issue, but I thought, ‘Um, where have you been?’ The police are supposed to serve all communities, but instead, they aren’t accountable to black communities in the same way they are to white communities. The United States is rooted in profound segregation, disenfranchisement and oppression in pursuit of profits. And it feels like the country is being powered by amnesia.

Q. What brings you happiness?

My community – absolutely. This includes both of my families, blood and chosen – because my family is also my friends, the people I’ve been through things with. These are the people who stand with me, support me and love me. They are the people who feed me, and we just let each other be, because we understand each other.

Q. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

I’d call it capitalism. There is nothing on earth that makes people as miserable, that kills people as avidly and that robs people of their dignity so completely as an economic system that prioritises profits over human needs. Capitalism prioritises profits over people and over the planet we depend on. There are millions and millions of people living on the streets without homes because of capitalism. And there are millions and millions of people suffering from depression and other emotional and mental afflictions because of it – because the things we are taught should drive us and make us happy are unattainable for the majority of people on this planet. Capitalism shapes every understanding you have of who you are and of what your value is. If you have no monetary value – if you can’t sell something that you produce in this economy – then you are deemed unusable, unworthy and extraneous. There is no other force in the world that is so powerful and that causes so much misery for so many people.

Q. What would you change if you could?

I would start with all of the people who are suffering right now. I would give whatever is needed to every mama who is living in a car with her kids and is trying to figure out how she’s going to make it another day – if not for herself then for the people who depend on her. I would give to all the people who are dying in the deserts right now, trying to cross artificial borders pursuing what they think will be a better life here in the United States – if I had a wand I’d make it so that that journey was easier and that there wasn’t punishment on both sides. In fact, I would ensure that no one ever had to leave their homes in pursuit of survival – they would have everything that they needed right there at home.

The other area I would work on is within our own movements. I spend a lot of time thinking about how we could be clear about what we’re up against and how we each fight it differently; I think about how we can advance our goals without tearing each other up along the way. So, if I could wave a wand, I would also change some of the suffering of organisers and activists in our movements who are tired and burned out, who feel disposable and don’t feel seen.

Q. Which single word do you most identify with?

Courage. It takes real tenacity to be courageous.


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200 Women is out from 31 October, find out more here. You can view the official project website here, which includes the trailer and additional extra media content. Follow 200 Women on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

A GLORIOUS FREEDOM | INTERVIEW WITH CHERYL STRAYED

9781452156200_3D

The glory of growing older is the freedom to be more truly ourselves—with age we gain the liberty to pursue bold new endeavors and worry less about what other people think. In this richly illustrated volume, bestselling author and artist Lisa Congdon explores the power of women over the age of forty who are thriving and living life on their own terms. Profiles, interviews, and essays from women—including Vera Wang, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Julia Child, Cheryl Strayed, and many more—who’ve found creative fulfillment and accomplished great things in the second half of their lives are lavishly illustrated and hand-lettered in Congdon’s signature style. The perfect gift for women of all ages, A Glorious Freedom celebrates extraordinary lives and redefines what it means to gain wisdom and maturity.

The following is an extract from A Glorious Freedom by Lisa Congdon.


Cheryl’s famous memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail was published when she was 43 years old. It took her two and a half years to trace the steps, challenges, and revelations she faced during her three-month, 1,100-mile hike from the Mojave Desert to the Pacific Northwest onto paper—and about two minutes for the finished book to land on the New York Times bestseller list. In the months following, Cheryl experienced instant fame—from Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 to the film adaptation championed by Reese Witherspoon and Nick Hornby, Wild went, well, wild. It is an international bestseller and a recipient of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the Oregon Book Award. Cheryl is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Tiny Beautiful Things and Brave Enough. Her first novel, Torch, was published in 2007. Her essays have been published in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, Vogue, and Tin House, among others, and her work has been selected three times for inclusion in the The Best American Essays. She anonymously authored The Rumpus’s popular Dear Sugar advice column from 2010 to 2012, for which she now cohosts a podcast. She currently lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.

AGF_interview_cherylstrayed2


Lisa: You worked for many years at writing, and it wasn’t until just a few short years ago, in your early 40s, you published the book that made you a household name. I encounter a lot of young artists who imagine that if they just concoct some magical formula they can have “instant success.” How would you describe the role of purpose, work, and patience in your own journey?

Cheryl: I was a successful writer long before Wild was published. What happened with Wild wasn’t “success.” It was crazy lightning striking. I’m always taken aback when people imply that I achieved success in my 40s. In fact, I had a pretty steady upward career trajectory as a writer, and all of that came about because, as you say, I showed up each day to do the work. I began publishing in my 20s. By the time I was in my early 30s I had won many awards and grants, and was publishing in respected magazines, and I’d earned my MFA in creative writing. In my mid-30s I sold my first novel to a major publisher and it was broadly reviewed and sold well. Meanwhile, I was continuing to publish essays in prominent places and I was also teaching writing.

I was known in the literary community. Then Wild happened and with that came fame and a much broader international audience. It was astounding and glorious, but it didn’t, for me, mark the beginning of the sense that I’d arrived as a writer. I was already there and I’m still here—working my tail off. That’s the magic formula: work.

Lisa: One of the most life-changing lessons I’ve learned over the past ten years is the power of embracing all of my life experience, and this is something you write about as well. Why is this idea of owning and learning to love all of your experience (even the stuff that makes us cringe or that would normally make us feel shame), why is it so important?

Cheryl: I’ve long believed our mistakes and failures teach us as much as our victories and successes. When you acknowledge the full spectrum of your possibility—as both someone who can be great and as someone who is sometimes not so great—you can bring the full force of your humanity to everything you do.

Lisa: What for you is the best part of getting older?

Cheryl: Feeling more secure about who I am. Feeling stronger about being okay with disappointing people. Putting up less of a facade. Being gentler with myself and others, too.

Lisa: What do you think is the relationship between forgiveness and the ability to age joyfully?

Cheryl: I’ve written about forgiveness a lot and it all pretty much boils down to the fact that when you can’t forgive people who have harmed you (or forgive yourself for the harm you’ve done to others) you stay locked in that struggle. Forgiveness is, to me, really acceptance. Accepting that what’s true is true. It’s saying, this is the way it was and onward we go.

Lisa: What are the three greatest lessons you’ve learned in the last ten years?

Cheryl: 1. Saying no is one form of saying yes. 2. Our ideas about famous people are projections of who we are, not a reflection of who they are. 3. Everyone struggles. Everyone hurts. Everyone wants to be told it’s all going to be okay.

Lisa: What advice do you have for women who fear getting older?

Cheryl: The fear of getting older is about the false notion that one’s power was rooted in the things that youth offers us—namely, beauty. My advice would be to see that for the lie that it always was. Our power is never about how pretty we are. Our power is about how we live our lives. Start living it.


A Glorious Freedom by Lisa Congdon publishes on 03 October 2017. Find out more here. 

See the stunning book trailer here

Celebrate International Women’s Day with Well Read Women

Today is International Women’s Day.

We are celebrating Womankind with these beautiful watercolour literary heroines, all of them written by our literary heroines, from Samantha Hahn’s Well-Read Women.

Catherine Earnshaw - Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Catherine Earnshaw
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights is Emily Brontë’s only novel it was published in 1847 under the pseudonym Ellis Bell; Brontë died the following year, aged 30.

Although Wuthering Heights is now widely regarded as a classic of English literature, contemporary reviews for the novel were deeply polarised; it was considered controversial because its depiction of mental and physical cruelty and it challenged strict Victorian ideals, including religious hypocrisy, morality, social classes and gender inequality.

Esther Greenwood - The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Esther Greenwood
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

“Sometimes just being a woman is an act of courage.”

The Bell Jar is the only novel written by the American writer and poet Sylvia Plath. Originally published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas in 1963, the novel is semi-autobiographical, the protagonist’s descent into mental illness parallels Plath’s own experiences with what may have been clinical depression. Plath committed suicide a month after its first UK publication. The novel was published under Plath’s name for the first time in 1967 and was not published in the United States until 1971, pursuant to the wishes of Plath’s mother and her husband Ted Hughes.

Joe Marsh - Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Jo March
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869.  The novel follows the lives of four sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March—detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood, and is loosely based on the Alcott and her three sisters.

In the pages of Little Women, you read the normalisation of ambitious women. This provided an alternative to perceived gender roles. Little Women repeatedly reinforces the importance of individuality and female independence. 

Edna Pontellier - The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Edna Pontellier
The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening, originally titled A Solitary Soul, was first published in 1899.

Set in New Orleans and the Southern Louisiana coast at the end of the nineteenth century, the plot centers on Edna Pontellier and her struggle to reconcile her increasingly unorthodox views on femininity and motherhood with the prevailing social attitudes of the turn-of-the-century American South. It is one of the earliest American novels that focuses on women’s issues without condescension. It is also widely seen as a landmark work of early feminism, generating mixed reaction from contemporary readers and criticism.

Lorelei Lee - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

Lorelei Lee
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes began as a series of short sketches published in Harper’s Bazaar, Known as the “Lorelei” stories, they were satires on the state of sexual relations; quadrupling the magazine’s circulation overnight.The heroine, Lorelei Lee, was a bold, ambitious flapper, who was much more concerned with collecting expensive baubles from her conquests than any marriage licenses, in addition to being a shrewd woman of loose morals and high self-esteem. She was a practical young woman who had internalised the materialism of the United States in the 1920s and therefore equated culture with cold cash and tangible assets.
A bold story with a bold heroine.
Share you literary heroines – fictional characters and authors – with us on twitter using the #WellReadWomen