This year I set out to read only books by women and focused on #OwnVoices books by BIPOC, TGNC, LGBTQ, and international writers.
In this post, I want to share with you my favorites, by women, just in time for gift-giving season! All of these would be great ideas to give to your friend or family member who enjoys reading #OwnVoices.
First, my favorite book of the year:
One of the first books I read this year, Freshwater blew my expectations away and set a high bar for my reading during the rest of 2018. Complex and unique, this coming of age story is set against a backdrop of Nigerian spirituality and tradition. With strong themes of gender, sex, relationships, identity, health, violence, and more, Akwaeke Emezi shares their journey and I am here for it.
Gift to: Friends who enjoy literary fiction, creative memoirs, or symbolic and layered stories; queer or TGNC friends; those who like reading African writers and just magnificent writing.
And to round out the Top 5:
I adore this little book! I’ve read it three times already; it is my book girlfriend. It just really resonated with my own experiences in many ways and I dig Genevieve Hudson’s writing style. The book is genre-defying in that it is part history lesson, part memoir, part biography, part book review, part manifesta, and all homage to Alison Bechdel.
Gift to: Writers, readers who enjoy memoir, creative friends, lesbian friends, fans of Alison Bechdel’s work.
I didn’t write reviews of these books (yet?) but LOVED them. I am skeptical that I could write reviews that could do them justice. I was so ready for the (often very different) tones of these books. Juxtaposing them makes sense to me; I feel both – sometimes in the same day.
Gift Black Queer Hoe to readers who like poetry, readers who don’t like poetry, fans of spoken word, queer friends, your best girl friend from waaay back who is apologetically strong and takes no shit. Also consider pairing this with José Olivàrez’s Citizen Illegal, which is equally amazing.
Gift Heart Berries to friends who enjoy creative memoir, poetic writing, and deep or emotional books; those looking to hear Indigenous womxn’s voices; those who don’t mind books that make them cry.
This is a beautifully written book; Ingrid Rojas Contreras is just a fantastic storyteller. Her characters are fully and meticulously developed and I felt invested in them, their lives, and their survival. It inspired me to learn more about Colombia, its past and present, especially regarding women’s roles and rights. An amazing debut based on the life the author.
Gift to: Friends who enjoy historical fiction, creative memoirs, rich character and plot development, coming of age stories. Those looking for Latina/x voices and great writing will not be disappointed.
And the remainder of the Top 10:
I read this book very early in the year and was excited by its brave girl lead characters. This alone is reason enough to read the book but I knew it was important to push myself past the initial awe at this story of strength and resiliency. When I did, I experienced an even deeper story of multidimensional characters navigating their lives and attempting to balance tradition with self-realization.
Gift to: Those who like international stories, stories of resilience and friendship; friends with girl children; those who appreciate rich characters and holistic plots.
Despite the premise of the book, I found this one fun! One of the strengths of Heng’s writing – and there are many – is her commitment to detail. Her ability to describe this near-future world is rivaled only by her presentation of it; while she is descriptive in her storytelling, Heng also trusts her reader to put the various pieces together.
Gift to: Those who enjoy dystopian and speculative fiction and books that make you wonder what you would do in that situation; those who like family dramas, strong character development, and unique plots.
I haven’t reviewed this one (yet?) but it is an amazing resource. Accessible and pragmatic, the book explains the Black Queer Feminist (BQF) framework and provides examples of it at work.
Gift to: Your activist friends and your academic friends; your friend who runs a local non-profit org doing imperative, yet largely invisible, work for amazing, yet largely invisible, people in the community; you funder friends (with a card stuck inside the cover of your friend who runs the non-profit).
This is another one that I loved and didn’t review. Another one that I honestly got stuck trying to figure out how to do it justice. This book was not written for me and I am sure some of the nuances were lost. But it was one of the most important reads of the year for me. It deserves a second and third reading.
Gift to: Busy readers who dig powerful, witty short stories with meaning; those who enjoy really good writing; readers who like literary fiction with sharp corners.
While Naomi Klein’s book explores only one facet of the effects of Maria on Puerto Rico – disaster capitalists setting their sights on Puerto Rico in its vulnerable post-Maria state – it is an imperative issue to address. Only a brief (although necessary) introduction, the book offers a firm foundation to understanding disaster capitalism, the shock doctrine phenomenon, and how Puerto Rico was susceptible to more than just hurricane damage when Maria struck.
Gift to: Anyone interested in Puerto Rico, the effects of colonialism, capitalism, and/or natural disasters, or the empowerment of local people to lead the efforts of rebuilding how they see fit.
I hadn’t planned to read this one but when I received a copy from the publisher at a conference, I couldn’t help but race through this short but powerful work that feels like having a meaningful and candid conversation with a girlfriend.
Gift to: Queer or TGNC friends, accomplices who appreciate reading #OwnVoices books, friends who like reading memoirs, friends who want to understand more of the nuances of gender identity and non-conformity to established binary norms.
This was the biggest surprise of the year for me. I knew it was going to be good but as one who doesn’t read reviews before I pick up a book, I was pleasantly surprised by the unexpected turns, the complex lead characters, and the surprising plot twists.
Gift to: Those who enjoy historical fiction, engaging or epic plots, full character development, and underdog stories; science-y, adventurous, or fantastical friends.
And last, but certainly not least:
I wouldn’t have known about this book if it wasn’t for the author herself reaching out to me and I am so glad she did! This is a case of self-publishing that succeeds. Based on Hawaa Ayoub’s own life experiences, this book is a brave retelling of a girl’s coming of age against a backdrop of forced child marriage in Yemen.
Gift to: Friends who like creative memoirs, stories from international authors, tales of resilience and family drama; those who are passionate about gender equality and interested in understanding (or resisting) traditional gender roles; those who appreciate detailed character and setting development.
Have you read any of these? What are your thoughts?
What were your favorite reads of 2018?
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