Beyond Choice: Reading about Reproductive Justice
At a critical time for reproductive rights in the United States, PEN America presents a reading list compiled in collaboration with California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ), a statewide organization advancing reproductive justice through policy advocacy, community-informed research, culture shift, and community organizing.
In a post-Roe country, CLRJ stands for the right to bodily autonomy, the right to decide to start a family, the right to decide not to start a family, and the right to raise a family in dignity and health. As an organization that serves communities historically impacted by systems of oppression, their work recognizes that people with disabilities, people living in poverty, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color face the biggest hurdles to accessing health cares services, including abortion health care.
CLRJ is committed to providing medically accurate information, working locally, statewide, and with national partners to uphold bodily autonomy using an intersectional social justice and human rights framework that centers a person’s whole experience. To learn more about California Latinas for Reproductive Justice’s work, visit their website.
As a human rights organization, PEN America is alarmed by the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. All other rights, including freedom of speech, are imperiled when one well-established right is undermined. Support PEN America’s work by becoming a Member.
Documenting her final year in high school via her diary, 16-year-old Gabi Hernandez juggles her sister’s pregnancy, her best friend’s coming out, her father’s meth habit, and the poetry that helps her through it all. In this book for young adults, Isabel Quintero looks at the world through the eyes of a teenager forced to grow up fast.
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In this debut collection of stories, Carmen Maria Machado blurs the borders between genres, detailing the realities of women’s lives and the violence perpetrated against them. In line with our current discussions of bodily autonomy and state control, Her Body and Other Parties uses short fiction to shock the reader into attention.
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In 1997, Dorothy Roberts’ nonfiction opus Killing the Black Body explored the systems of abuse of Black women’s bodies in America, starting from the economic stake kept in enslaved women’s fertility to the exclusion of Black women’s reproductive needs in the mainstream feminist movement of the 1970s.
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A joyful and candid collection of poetry that celebrates women’s experiences of love, from the erotic to the heartbreaking. In Loose Woman, Sandra Cisneros focuses on the human body and the many emotions embedded within the experience of living within a body.
In this book, Patricia Zavella argues that intersectional collaborations among women of color provide a compelling model for grassroots organizing, culture shift work, and policy advocacy that can offer visions of strength, resiliency, and dignity for all.
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Reproductive Justice: An Introduction argues for a political movement of reproductive rights and social justice while also focusing on the lives of those most impacted: women of color. This comprehensive primer shows how the debates around reproductive justice go beyond pro- and anti-choice stances.
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Set in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lynn Nottage’s play Ruined follows Mama Nadi, a businesswoman trying to support young girls in a country torn apart by civil war. The play explores a world of girls and women whose bodies have become the battleground upon which war is fought.
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First published in 1983, She Had Some Horses speaks of women’s suffering at the hands of patriarchy, as well as their experiences of power and love. Joy Harjo draws from Native American oral traditions to write timeless poetry that still resonates today.
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In this novel, Civil Townsend faces a wake-up call during her first week working at a family planning clinic in Montgomery, Alabama. She learns that her new patients are only 11 and 13 years old and on birth control. One day, she visits their home and learns that these girls will need more care than she could have ever predicted.
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Ada Limón explores a variety of moods in her book of poetry The Carrying, ranging from vulnerable and tender to honest and brave. In one particular poem, a woman struggles with infertility—“What if, instead of carrying / a child, I am supposed to carry grief?”—and her body is seized by pain and vertigo as well as ecstasy. The Carrying is an exploration of womanhood through thoughtful and moving verse.
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At 17, rebellious Nadia Turner takes up with the local pastor’s son, Luke Sheppard, resulting in a pregnancy and subsequent cover-up. Nadia hides the secret from everyone, including her religious best friend, but in adulthood, her decisions catch up to her. Brit Bennett’s debut novel explores the fight for reproductive justice through a personal lens.
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Undivided Rights shows how women of color have fought against control of their reproductive abilities by organizing within their own communities. In this handbook, case studies of reproductive health and rights organizations led by women of color provide hope and insight into the future of fighting for freedom.
Ever since Emoni Santiago got pregnant freshman year, life has been about making tough decisions. She spends her time doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela, channeling her frustration and creativity in the kitchen. Elizabeth Acevedo’s young adult novel explores the serious topic of teenage pregnancy with humor and grace.
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