Janet Mock is having a moment. The writer, director and producer of the much-acclaimed NY ballroom drama Pose recently signed a landmark deal with Netflix, making her the first transgender woman empowered to greenlight projects for a major production company. Mock, whose 2014 memoir Redefining Realness became a New York Times bestseller, has built her career on bringing inclusive, intersectional storytelling to a broader stage.
I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act.
In a list of her 10 favorite books provided to NY bookstore One Grand, Mock’s picks largely deal with issues of race, identity, tradition, family, and womanhood from the unique perspectives of trailblazing female writers. From Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker to Edith Wharton and Maya Angelou, find a list of Janet Mock’s recommended reads below. Complement with the bookshelves of Alice Walker, Laverne Cox, Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.
“I first read this novel at 16 and felt centered in ways I’d never felt before as a reader. I’ve since returned to it whenever I feel lost and am given affirmation to journey for answers, like Hurston’s protagonist Janie in the muck.” -JM
“Celie’s audacity to give her journey words through prayer instilled in me an audacity to say that yes, I am deserving of testimony and deserve to be heard.” -JM
“Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel fulfilled me deeply as a lover of period piece romances. Her characters showed me early on that love is as much a choice as it is a feeling, and the pull of family, society and tradition can be overbearing.” -JM
George by Alex Gino
“This small novel may have been written for young readers but we can all learn and feel as we read about a trans girl yearning to take center stage as Charlotte in her class’ production of ‘Charlotte’s Web.'” -JM
Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan
“This was the first book to give me a thrill, the first to make me feel as if I was doing more than merely eavesdropping on grown folks’ business — I was one of the girls. At 12, I loved this novel so much that I never returned it to the library.” -JM
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women Of Color edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa
“When I first read this book, it was out of print. I felt I’d found a treasure when I uncovered a tattered copy online. It’s unapologetically feminist, queer, third-world, woke and woman. I am so glad it’s back in print for a new generation craving this kind of centering and elevated consciousness.” -JM
Sula by Toni Morrison
“The character Sula was the first protagonist who made me feel okay with my own non-conformity, with the gray areas, with coloring outside the lines as a multiracial trans kid. Plus, Morrison’s writing about womanhood, convention and the fierce attachment of female friendship is astounding.” -JM
Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment And The Prison Industrial Complex edited by Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith
“This book helped me give words, voice and deeper analysis to my activism, reminding me that we must be intersectional in our movement work. We will be judged not by those who attain the seemingly unattainable, but by how we care for the poor, the incarcerated, the targeted and the often forgotten. That lesson has never left me.” -JM
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
“I read and write to find answers and Lorde never fails to give me the wisdom I need. I am not a religious person, but reading this collection always leaves me stronger, nurtured and praising the Lorde.” -JM
“This was the first autobiography that meant everything to me as a young survivor struggling to find voice and meaning through the overbearing darkness. Angelou did what great writers of memoir do; she let me know that I was not alone because someone else had been there and made it out to tell the truth.” -JM
(via One Grand Books)