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Take the 20/20 Reading Challenge

Take advantage of National Reading Month in March by joining the 20/20 Reading Challenge, brought to you by Abby Palko, Director of the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center at the University of Virginia, and her staff and students. Check out their recommended titles below, and browse the full 20/20 Reading Challenge list on GoodReads. Happy reading!

When Toni Morrison passed away in August of 2019, volumes of social media posts painted a vivid picture of her far-ranging influence and the many people she impacted through her writing. Some of Morrison’s readers, as inhabitants of the worlds she depicts, appreciate her full and authentic portrayals of lives like theirs. Other readers relish how her writing brings them inside the lives of women of color, revealing experiences different from their own.

Morrison and what her writing means to so many came to mind recently as 2020 began and social media brimmed again, this time with variations on the theme of doing 20 “somethings” in 2020. Here at the Women’s Center, we’ve been inspired to read more works this year by women of color from a wide variety of backgrounds–and to invite you to join us through our 20/20 Reading Challenge. Let’s follow R. O. Kwon’s urging and “try inhabiting one another’s wildly varied, entirely human points of view.” We’re sure you’ll be glad you did.

Step 1: Carve out time to read.

This may seem to be the most challenging part, we know. But it’s one that will reward your spirit richly!

Step 2: Choose a book.

Bookstores and libraries (both brick & mortar and virtual) are delightful places in which to get lost. But the abundance of choices can make it harder to decide where to start. To help us all, we’ve assembled a selection of recommended works by women of color. You’ll find recent works as well as a few classics by an array of authors, and lots of novels along with memoirs, essay collections, poetry, nonfiction, graphic novels, and even children’s books.

We’re recommending two fascinating genre-bending works set in the 1920s. The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey brings together mystery and historical fiction while Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia blends historical fiction with fantasy and magical realism. The novels rounding out the fiction segment of our top picks are Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, Re Jane by Patricia Park, and Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse.

For the younger people in your life, we have two picks that offer an updated, inclusive telling of Little Women:  Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo, and More to the Story by Hena Khan. For the youngest readers, we love My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith and Eid Breakfast at Abuela’s by Mariam Saad.



Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison deserves special mention both because she’s a UVA alumna (Wahoowa!) and because the spirit of inviting young readers into others’ lives is so strong in her work. In discussing her new book, Little Legends, Exceptional Men in Black History, on NPR recently, Harrison expressed beautifully how distinctive elements of her illustrations are specifically designed to have readers “imagining themselves in the worlds of these wonderful people.”

We’ve had the great pleasure of welcoming to Grounds the authors of both of our top picks for nonfiction: Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women by Brittney C. Cooper and I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown.


If you are on Grounds, stop by the Women’s Center to borrow books for this challenge. You’ll find our 20/20 Reading Challenge selections on the bookshelf in our front office. If you are not in Charlottesville, find our selections using the GoodReads list we’ve posted for this challenge and navigate to your favorite bookseller or library from there.

Step 3: Dive in!

Start with a title that intrigues you and keep coming back throughout the year for more books that bring you inside the wide variety of worlds near and far inhabited by women of color and the characters they create. Embark on this journey with us today and let us know how it goes!