TALK’n TROUBLE: Healthy Diversion


What a summer. No end to the bad news. Polarizing politics, civil rights eroding, tragic gun violence, persistent Covid, spreading monkeypox, record temperatures, widespread drought, global wildfires, rising prices…and sharks! What in hell?!  Some days it’s overwhelming. If you can, it might help a bit to step back from it all. Try a non-denial escape; without a flight cancelation or lost luggage. Just find a cozy well-lit spot; cool and quiet. Hydrate. Give yourself the gift of distraction for a few minutes or hours; whatever you can afford. Take a dose of much-needed and well-deserved encouragement in the form of a good read.

Here is a sampling – in no particular order – from a long list of books authored by TroubleMakers we’ve had the pleasure to honor and highlight on this site. Let yourself be inspired by their wisdom, wit, and candor. They each remind us of the strength and resilience of all the women who have and continue to make Trouble for Good. You’re one, too!

TROUBLE's Summer Reading

Especially timely is The War on Choice, The Right-Wing Attack on Women’s Rights, and How to Fight Back, by  Gloria Feldt. “This book will be a wake-up call, describing in jaw-dropping detail the story of what the anti-choice movement is doing to the rights to birth control, abortion, and privacy…there is no one better equipped to write about the insidious, step-by-step chipping away of rights, or about what we can do to fight back, than Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Her thirty years of work with the organization combined with her personal experience—as a woman who came out of the same West Texas political landscape as George W. Bush but faced a very different economic and social reality as the mother of three children by the age of twenty—make her the ideal spokeswoman for those who are alarmed by the current political climate.” Random House

Also related to current events and rights at risk is Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality by Katherine Franke. She turns to history to compare today’s same-sex marriage movement to the experiences of newly emancipated black people in the mid-nineteenth century when they were able to legally marry for the first time. Franke cleverly points out the complexities of legal sanctioning in a racist, sexist society. One reviewer writes, “Anyone interested in gay marriage should read this book – but so should anyone concerned about the stubborn perseverance of racism in America. For those who appreciate irony, compare this fascinating book with Justice Thomas’s skeptical dissent in the recent marriage equality cases.” —William N. Eskridge Jr.

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Regain a bit of optimism by reading Our Common Ground: Insights from Four Years of Listening to American Voters, by Diane Hessan. Her website declares the book “will surprise you, enlighten you, give you hope, and change the way you think about your fellow Americans.” A bold claim, despite the backdrop we know too well. “Our inability to hear each other, our suspicion, and our impatience are stressing us out and tearing us apart. It’s a sickness that permeates the American culture, erodes our collective mental health, and makes us hate each other.” Hessan assures us, that there is a way forward. Thank you very much, Diane.

Next up: Strong Female Lead: Lessons from Women in Power by Arwa Mahdawi. The author is a marketer, columnist, and sometimes satirist (See In this serious book she “investigates the qualities demonstrated by female leaders who show us how it’s done, including original research and interviews with Madeleine Albright, Mary Robinson, Alicia Garza, and many others. Above all, she asks the question: What can women in power teach all of us about leadership? Arwa asserts that there’s a new generation of leaders showing the world how to be better. They’re building trust, investing wisely and acting decisively.” And, they’re all women. Hope lives.

TroubleMaker Hilary Levey Friedman, Ph.D., shares her fascinatingly unique perspective in Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America. The author is a “NOW state president, daughter of Miss America 1970, sometimes pageant judge, and scholar.” While we may cringe at the notion of the old-fashioned, exploitative bathing beauty contest, Friedman says the competitions played a positive role in the feminist movement and that they are here to stay. Her publisher, Beacon Press calls the book, a “fresh exploration of American feminist history told through the lens of the beauty pageant world.” Provocative, for sure.

Also on our list:

State: A Team, a Triumph, a Transformation, by Melissa Isaacson. In this first-person account, we learn what it was like to be a girl athlete in the world before and after Title IX.

Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Terms by Shellye Archambeau. Pointed and practical advice from one of high tech’s first African American female CEOs.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystems, by Banu Ozkazanc Pan, provides research-driven insights into what can (and maybe cannot) be done to level the playing field for female entrepreneurs

 Not just one, but three by TroubleMaker Emily Oster; professor of economics at Brown University. Expecting Better, Cribsheet, and Family Firm. Together they provide data-driven guidance for the parental journey from pregnancy through early childhood.

Check out Glass Half-Broken: Shattering the Barriers That Still Hold Women Back at Work written by  Colleen Ammerman, director of the Harvard Business School Gender Initiative. It’s a hopeful road map to counter the “systemic inequalities and a status quo that (still) keeps women from rising into leadership roles.”

Join their mailing list and Simon and Schuster offers a free e-book of Chessy Prout’s, courageous book, I Have A Right To. A High School Survivor’s Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope.

If you haven’t read this one yet, do it! Vital Voices: The Power of Women Leading Change Around the World  by Alyse Nelson is a gem. Be uplifted by stories of remarkable, world-changing women, and learn how Vital Voices – the organization, was founded by Hillary Clinton in 1997.

TroubleMaker, prolific writer and cartoonist best known for her work in The New Yorker and CBS News, Liza Donnelly has written and illustrated seventeen books over the years. Among the most popular are Funny Ladies, a history of the women cartoonists at The New Yorker from 1925 to 2005; and its sequel, Very Funny Ladies, which details that history right up to the present day. Her work “beautifully portrays the art and contributions of the brilliant female cartoonists in America’s greatest magazine.” –

There you have some varied and interesting works from a baker’s dozen of  TroubleMakers. We hope they provide you with a bit of refuge and some diversion from all the HEAT this summer. Stay cool. Renew your strength. Then let’s all get back to the crucial work of making Trouble for Good!

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood

Stay tuned for more insights and inspiration.

Share what you learn here with the TroubleMakers you know and love.


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