New Books Network

If we want girls to succeed, we need to teach them the audacity to transgress. Through the lives of students at three very different...

If we want girls to succeed, we need to teach them the audacity to transgress. Through the lives of students at three very different schools, Sally Nuamah, an award-winning scholar-activist, makes the case for “feminist schools” that orient girls toward a lifetime of achievement in How Girls Achieve (Harvard University Press, 2019).

This bold and necessary book points out a simple and overlooked truth: most schools never had girls in mind to begin with. That is why the world needs what Sally Nuamah calls “feminist schools,” deliberately designed to provide girls with achievement-oriented identities. And she shows how these schools would help all students, regardless of their gender.

Educated women raise healthier families, build stronger communities, and generate economic opportunities for themselves and their children. Yet millions of disadvantaged girls never make it to school―and too many others drop out or fail. Upending decades of advice and billions of dollars in aid, Nuamah argues that this happens because so many challenges girls confront―from sexual abuse to unequal access to materials and opportunities―go unaddressed. But it isn’t enough just to go to school. What you learn there has to prepare you for the world where you’ll put that knowledge to work.

A compelling and inspiring scholar who has founded a nonprofit to test her ideas, Nuamah reveals that developing resilience is not a gender-neutral undertaking. Preaching grit doesn’t help girls; it actively harms them. Drawing on her deep immersion in classrooms in the United States, Ghana, and South Africa, Nuamah calls for a new approach: creating feminist schools that will actively teach girls how and when to challenge society’s norms, and allow them to carve out their own paths to success.

Sally A. Nuamah is a scholar, activist, and filmmaker. She has received numerous awards, including the Gates Millennium scholarship and the Black Women Organized for Political Action’s Under 40 Award in Education, and was selected a Change-Maker by the White House. “HerStory,” her award-winning documentary on girls and education in Ghana, has been screened across the world and is accessible through Discovery Education.


Dr. Christina Gessler’s background is in women’s history, literature and anthropology. She studies the diaries and personal writings of 19th-century American women, and works as a historian and photographer. In seeking the extraordinary in the ordinary, Gessler writes the histories of largely unknown women, and takes many, many photos in nature.