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Medical residents with a clinician at UC Davis Medical Center, 2022. (UC Davis Library/Kimmy Hescock)

Book Recs for Women’s History Month

Health Science picks by Blaisdell Medical Library

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re sharing book recommendations from our Blaisdell Medical Library team at UC Davis Health in Sacramento. They selected books written by women that can inform today’s health science clinical practice and research. This compelling mix of nonfiction, memoir and graphic novel storytelling is also accessible for general audiences interested in women’s health.

Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight — and What We Can Do about It by Harriet Brown

In Body of Truth, Harriet Brown systematically unpacks what’s been offered as “truth” about weight and health. Brown breaks down and explains scientific research in an easy-to-understand way. She also uses personal stories from herself and others to highlight the societal harm caused by weight bias.

Blood: The Science, Medicine, and Mythology of Menstruation by Jen Gunter

Myths, taboos, and misinformation have swirled around menstruation for millennia, and even now little information not linked to pregnancy is readily available. This lack of honest and plain-speaking information has directly affected girls’ and women’s self-esteem, health, and reproductive rights. Dr. Gunter shines the light on periods and the eternal fascination — and misunderstanding — of women’s blood with this book.

First Year Out: A Transition Story by Sabrina Symington

This intimate and striking graphic novel by Sabrina Symington follows Lily, as she transitions from male to female. Depicting her experiences from coming out right through to gender reassignment surgery, Lily’s story provides vital advice on the social, emotional and medical aspects of transitioning.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Since 1953, HeLa, the world’s first known immortalized cell line, has been at the forefront of medical science pivotal in the fight against Polio, cancer, and AIDS. Thanks were given to Helen Lane, HeLa’s human donor, but there was a problem with that praise: Helen Lane didn’t exist. Instead, the cells came from Henrietta Lacks, a young, African American mother who died from cervical cancer and had not given consent for her cells to be used in any way. This book by Rebecca Skloot documents the lives of Henrietta Lacks and HeLa, as well as the generational trauma her children and their families struggled with as they fought for their mother to be acknowledged as the source of HeLa cells, and for a piece of profits generated from them.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

Invisible Women shows us how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population. Author Caroline Criado Perez exposes the gender data gap — a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women, and that has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women’s lives.

Josie’s Story: A Mother’s Inspiring Crusade to Make Medical Care Safe by Sorrel King

In this memoir by Sorrel King that will likely stick with you, a mother tells you about her toddler daughter’s tragic death caused by a medical error. But Josie’s story doesn’t end there with her mother and family advocating for policy changes and the creation of the Josie King Foundation. This book makes the case that an apology accompanied by documentation of change to reduce the likelihood of similar medical errors can improve a hospital’s patient outcomes and reduce malpractice lawsuits. 

Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts

Under a black feminist lens this book explores the history of policy and medical treatment of black women in the United States. Selected cases by Dorothy Roberts include coercive use of birth control, criminalization of parenting by those with a history of drug use, stigmatization of mothers in the welfare system, and racial disparities in access to reproductive technologies. While published in 1997, this title continues to be relevant to national policy and daily clinical practice.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman

Explores the clash between a small county hospital in California and a refugee family from Laos over the care of Lia Lee, a Hmong child diagnosed with severe epilepsy. Anne Fadiman’s compassionate account of this cultural impasse is a perfect introduction to medical anthropology and relevant to the implementation of cultural humility in clinical practice today.

Related library resources

  • Health Sciences Resources (includes links to key library databases, health sciences research guides, library health and medicine news and more)


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