International Women’s Day: 5 Women Transcending Barriers

International Women's Day is a moment to reflect on women who have stood out from the crowd in exceptional ways. With their intelligence, candor and authenticity, these five women from around the world deserve the spotlight this year as they continue to transcend barriers.

Misty Copeland is the principal dancer of American Ballet Theater. She is the first African American woman to be honored with the title. Copeland has gone light years beyond what was expected of her, especially coming from a background of small means. Consider the vast majority of ballerinas you've encountered in your life. After a few moments, it may become clear why Copeland is so extraordinary. Get some advice and tips from the goddess of grace and strength from her latest book, Ballerina Body.

The God of Small Things author Arundhati Roy is an outspoken political activist as well as a popular Indian author. Although her childhood was somewhat shaky after her parents' divorce, she wrote the award-winning semi-autobiographical novel that we know today, shedding much-needed light on Eastern narratives. As an environmentalist and opponent of war in all its manifestations, Roy brings a perspective committed to social justice and freedom to contemporary fiction. 

In H Is for Hawk, British author Helen MacDonald finds herself completely lost—psychologically, spiritually and emotionally—after the sudden death of her father. Needing isolation, she retreats from the hustle and bustle of everyday life with one thing on her mind: training a goshawk. As she trains her hawk, Mabel, in seclusion, she learns what wilderness, the wild, and subsequently, land, death and life mean for her. She emerges from this journey triumphant, and we all should be grateful that she's shared her story with us. If you end up liking the book, take note of her next one, Vesper Flights, to be released in June. 

Never Broken, singer-songwriter Jewel's latest book, digs into her past with the same revealing intimacy you can hear in her gorgeous voice. A small-town girl from Alaska, Jewel has a biography that traverses complications such as serious family troubles and poverty. She once said in an interview that she never wanted to become just another statistic. And so she didn't. She's recorded award-winning albums that have consistently reached the top of the charts. Moreover, she's stabilized her life by sheer perseverance and by staying true to herself and her roots. Keep an eye out for a film she co-produced, Lost in America, which focuses on homeless youth in California. 

The Universe of Us is just one of Lang Leav's numerous and beloved books of poetry. Leav's family fled the Khmer Rouge and found themselves in Thailand, where Leav was born. As a refugee who's been to various parts of the world, Leav offers an intricate re-evaluation of how we come to understand a concept such as home. Her poetry is inspirational, playful and full of wondrous sentimentality, all centered by a gravity coming from her unusual experiences, past and present.