The new year brings three books about women who pushed against society’s old ways of doing things. One was a pioneering politician who fought for policies that are still in the news today, such as minimum-wage laws and environmental protection. Another was a writer of diverse characters and extraordinary stories. The last is a self-described “foot soldier” inspired by the Reverend Martin Luther King Junior.

Speak Up, Speak Out! The Extraordinary Life of “Fighting Shirley Chisholm”

By Tonya Bolden

Ages 10 to 14

When Shirley Chisholm campaigned for a seat in the United States Congress in 1968, she adopted the slogan “Fighting Shirley Chisholm — Unbought and Unbossed!” Born in 1924, she grew up at a time that didn’t encourage Black or female leaders; she had to fight hard for every vote. Throughout her political career, she worked on behalf of people who didn’t have a lot of money or influence.

In this new biography, Tonya Bolden describes how “Shirls” was a protective big sister in Brooklyn, New York, a debate-team star in college and a day-care administrator before she entered politics. Readers learn about the turbulent time when Chisholm became a member of Congress, as well as about the policies she championed. Bolden also gives a sense of her personal life, including her love of dancing and vibrant clothes. In 1972, Chisholm ran for president of the United States. She did not win the nomination to be the Democratic Party’s candidate, but she continued in Congress for a decade after — as she put it, “without selling out to anyone.”

Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler

By Ibi Zoboi

Ages 10 and older

As a child growing up in Southern California, Octavia Butler was a daydreamer who found comfort in the books she read. In “Star Child,” Ibi Zoboi explores the forces that drove Butler to pursue a challenging path as an author of science fiction. One early inspiration was a movie called “Devil Girl From Mars,” which she watched when she was 12 years old. She didn’t see the whole thing, though, because she realized, “Gee, I can write a better story than that,” and turned off the TV to do exactly that. Zoboi’s book includes many quotations from interviews with Butler, who died in 2006, alongside Zoboi’s poetry and prose descriptions of the era Butler grew up in and the worlds she created with her words. Butler was the first Black woman to win the Nebula Award, science fiction’s highest honor, and her stories reach an expanding group of readers every year.

Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ’Round

By Kathlyn Kirkwood; illustrated by Steffi Walthall

Ages 8 to 12

In March 1968, Kathlyn Kirkwood was a high school senior in Memphis, Tennessee, when she joined her first protest march. Along with her father and friends, Kirkwood marched for better working conditions for the city’s Black sanitation workers, a cause that was led by the Reverend Martin Luther King Junior. In this memoir-in-verse, Kirkwood describes how she was affected by King to push for racial justice as a young person and, 20 years later, for King’s birthday to be made a national holiday. Kirkwood doesn’t claim to be a central figure in these efforts or in reducing illiteracy, her current focus, but she writes movingly of being part of positive change.