Since her breakout movie Little Woods, Nia DaCosta has emerged as a trailblazer of contemporary filmmaking, championing women-driven stories and working to diversify the industry. As she told Dazed in 2019, she’s drawn to narratives “about the in-between spaces of society… about women who are unconventional to the point of being dangerous.”

Born in Brooklyn in 1989, DaCosta attended Tisch and worked as a production assistant before her Little Woods script was selected for the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Labs. A crime thriller centered around the struggles of two sisters in a North Dakota oil town, its poignant exploration of the intersection between poverty and gender garnered widespread acclaim, winning the Nora Ephron Award for “spirited and bold” storytelling.

In 2021, DaCosta teamed up with Jordan Peele to co-write and direct Candyman, a spiritual sequel to the cult slasher flick Peele called “a landmark film for Black representation in the horror genre.” Tapped by Disney to helm the 2023 superhero movie The Marvels, she became the first Black woman director – and youngest person ever – to tackle the Marvel Universe.

Appearing on the Women’s Prize for Fiction Podcast, DaCosta reflected on the women-penned reads that informed her feminist approach to storytelling. From finding escape in Tamora Pierce’s tales of girls and magic, to realizing her love of rom-coms via Jane Austen, explore her five favorite books by women below, and check out the reading recommendations of other famous filmmakers here.

Nia DaCosta’s Reading List

Circle of Magic by Tamora Pierce

“When I was 11 or 12 I loved the idea of girls and magic in stories. The idea of a community was very appealing, I wanted to be a part of the circle of magic. I loved having that place to escape to in the book.” -ND

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (also rec’d by Gabriel García Márquez, Jennifer Connelly & Jon Fosse)

“I was really struck by the craft of the prose and watching the characters to find their purpose and happiness, and I found that so tragic, fascinating and heartbreaking. What is so interesting about this book is that it cracks open the quotidian of happiness.” -ND

Persuasion by Jane Austen (also rec’d by Brandon Taylor & Nigella Lawson)

“I love a rom-com! I came to romantic comedy through Jane Austen. All of Austen’s books have a romantic, ‘will they, wont they?’ This one in particular, we just want Anne to be happy. I love that she sees him write the letter, it is so great.” -ND

Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska

“I was immediately drawn in to this story and to Sara. The tyranny of patriarchy she faces in her father is so suffocating… Yezierska’s portrayal of 20th century New York is really beautiful.” -ND

White Teeth by Zadie Smith (also rec’d by Elena Ferrante & Mike Leigh)

“I am obsessed with Zadie Smith, I think she is an absolute genius. I just loved this book so much, the scope is so huge but it is also so intimate. It’s always striking to read something like this that expresses humanity.” -ND

(via Women’s Prize for Fiction)

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Categories: Directors