When I think of “strong women” I think of every female I know. Sometimes in society or the media, there are issues with labels like “strong woman.” Questions rise: What defines a strong woman? How do we make sure we don’t marginalize other women? Well, I think the phrase “strong woman” or “strong girls” applies to ALL women of all ages, backgrounds, races, etc. It takes strength to be a woman, period. Throughout the many challenges we face and the accomplishments we work hard for, strength is always a necessity. I find that women are able to dig strength out of themselves as though it’s a never ending coal mine.

With great empowerment comes great sharing of that power. Books are not only a place of escape if that is what’s needed, but are different worlds we get to explore and make our own rules for as well. Books are where you can find yourself, discover an interest, find an idea, develop relationships with the characters, and more. Literature has always been one of my strongest passions. I believe it is an important part of continuing our lifelong learning outside of the classroom.

As someone who is passionate about literature and strong women, I’ve compiled a list of five authors and writers. To me, these writers exude strength, reflect on the many layers there are to being a woman, and share wisdom and strength with their readers via their stories, whether fiction or non fiction. These are writers whom I believe all “strong women,” should be reading, meaning all women!

Toni Morrison

 Toni Morrison, who is known for many novels including Beloved, Sula, and The Bluest Eye. She has won many awards including the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Beautiful and sometimes tragic stories are told through Morrison’s lyrical writing and complex characters and story lines. Her novels show great examples of real, powerful women who go through much trial and heartache and who are also full of wisdom and soul.

Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen, author of The Truth About Forever, That Summer, Just Like You, and many more. Dessen’s audience and characters are mostly teenage girls, but cover themes that all may experience in different aspects or ways based on the reader’s experience. Her stories are heartfelt, sincere, and each of her character’s journeys are worth reading. She writes about real girls and the power and complexities of human relationships. Dessen is great because of her honesty and the way she incorporates what she knows into her writing.

Alex Elle

Alex Elle, author of Words From a Wanderer, along with much more unpublished poetry. Elle inspires many with her poems, snippets of writing, and wisdom that she shares via her blog and Instagram. She explores the many themes of life and love, and has even started a writing movement via Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr called “#Lovein2Lines” where other writers can contribute to the hashtag with their own writing. She is a daily inspiration for thousands.

Sandra Cisneros

Sandra Cisneros, most famous for The House on Mango Street, is unapologetic for her fierce strength. I also recommend Vintage Cisneros, which compiles many of her poems and short stories. Her poems explore the complexities of womanhood, tumultuous relationships, among many other life themes. Cisneros is a great example of the many strengths it takes to be a Latina woman in America. Her voice is unique, powerful, and inspirational. One of my favorite poems by her is “Loose Woman.”

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston, most known for her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. I recommend Hurston because she was far ahead of her time, a true champion of strong women and feminist values even before it was a widespread term. She was also an anthropologist. Studying culture and the way people interact with each other and in their environments gives her characters even more depth. Her portrayal of love in Their Eyes Were Watching God is heart-wrenchingly beautiful, but her representation of powerful women is irresistible.

Samantha  is SWSG’s Communications and Social Media intern for Summer 2013. She is originally from the Bay Area and is a University of California, Riverside graduate who recently completed a year of service with City Year Boston. She is an avid reader and writer who is passionate about literature and powerful women all over the world and throughout history.