Reads for the Rest of Us – 2021 Best of the Rest – Ms. Magazine

Each month, I provide Ms. readers with a list of new books being published by writers from historically excluded groups.

The aims of these lists are threefold:

  1. I want to do my part in the disruption of what has been the acceptable “norm” in the book world for far too long—white, cis, heterosexual, male;
  2. I want to amplify amazing works by writers who are women, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, APIA/AAPI, international, LGBIA+, TGNC, queer, disabled, fat, immigrant, Muslim, neurodivergent, sex-positive or of other historically marginalized identities—you know, the rest of us; and 
  3. I want to challenge and encourage you all to buy, borrow and read them!

You’ve read the other “Best of” lists—now read the other one. You know, for the rest of us.

Each year, I review my monthly Reads for the Rest of Us lists and choose my favorite books of the year. It was such a wonderful challenge to review all the lists and choose my top 50, but here they are. 

I hope you had a vibrant, positive, restful, loving and joyful year—and I wish you all the best in 2022.

Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption

By Rafia Zakaria (@rafiazakaria). W. W. Norton & Company. 256 pages.

American Muslim woman, attorney and political philosopher, Rafia Zakaria has written this unflinching and necessary indictment of white feminism and demand for a more radical, inclusive, transnational Black and Brown feminism.

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake

By Tiya Miles (@TiyaMilesTAM). Random House. 416 pages.

This is the extraordinary story of three generations of Black women and the cotton sack that held the evidence of their lives as it was passed down among them. With the bag, its contents and meager archival records, historian Tiya Miles intricately weaves together the stories of these women, from 1850s enslavement in South Carolina to freedom decades later. Unique and unforgettable, this volume is also a critique of the importance of archives and those who are routinely left out, to the detriment of us all.

America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s

By Elizabeth Hinton (@elizabhinton). Liveright. 408 pages.

This expansive and meticulously researched volume provides the context and history we need to not only understand the current moment of rebellion against police brutality and systemic racism, but to maintain the momentum on the way to necessary and lasting change. 

Beasts of a Little Land: A Novel 

By Juhea Kim (@juhea_writes). Ecco. 416 pages.

Set during the Korean fight for independence from Japan in the early 1900s, this kaleidoscopic debut is powerful, romantic and wholly unforgettable. 

Black Girl, Call Home 

By Jasmine Mans (@poetjasminemans). Berkley. 256 pages.

For this year’s Poetry for the Rest of Us column in April, I tried something a bit different: Instead of the usual blurb, I focused my thoughts about each collection into three words (okay, or phrases—it was hard!). For this collection I chose, “Pathways, coming of age, queer tenderness.”

Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism

By Harsha Walia (@HarshaWalia). Haymarket Books. 320 pages. 

In her latest illuminating call-to-action, award-winning writer and activist Harsha Walia examines how migration is part and parcel of colonization, capitalism and climate change. 

The Colored Conventions Movement: Black Organizing in the Nineteenth Century

Edited by P. Gabrielle Foreman (@profgabrielle), Jim Casey (@jimccasey1) and Sarah Lynn Patterson (@Sarah_Patterson). University of North Carolina Press. 400 pages.

This essential history highlights the thousands of conventions organized by Black activists and held across the country to fight for civil rights and social justice throughout the 19th century. Contributors include P. Gabrielle Foreman, Daina Ramey Berry, Erica L. Ball and more.

Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir

By Akwaeke Emezi (@azemezi). Riverhead Books. 240 pages. 

In their intimate memoir in letters, the brilliant Akwaeke Emezi candidly shares their reflections on gender, embodiment, queerness, creativity and relationships with the same fierce dedication and candor that defines their bestselling novels.  

Detransition, Baby: A Novel

By Torrey Peters (@torreypeters). One World. 352 pages.

Welcome to a new kind of novel, one that doesn’t shy away from the complex realities of genders, parenthood, love and relationships. This is a refreshing debut. 

Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy

By Rachel Ricketts (@iamrachelricketts). Atria Books. 384 pages. Out now.

With Do Better, racial justice educator and spiritual activist Rachel Ricketts has provided a guidebook for self-care and healing while doing the exhaustive labor that comes with fighting white supremacy. 

The Echoing Ida Collection

Edited by Cynthia R. Greenlee (@CynthiaGreenlee), Kemi Alabi (@kemiaalabi) and Janna A. Zinzi (@JannaZinzi). The Feminist Press at CUNY. 328 pages.

This is the first collection of writings from Echoing Ida, a collective of Black women and nonbinary writers who report on reproductive justice, health, motherhood, justice and more.  

Feminist AF: A Guide to Crushing Girlhood

By Brittney Cooper (@ProfessorCrunk), Chanel Craft Tanner and Susana Morris (@iamcrunkadelic). Norton Young Readers. 240 pages. 

What better introduction to feminism than one written by the founding members of the Crunk Feminist Collective? Get one for your little cousin and then borrow it to read for yourself.  

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev 

By Dawnie Walton (@dawniewalton). 37 Ink. 368 pages.

Dawnie Walton’s immersive debut centers a dynamic star of the 1970s Afro-punk scene as she gives her oral history to a journalist decades later and uncovers universal themes of sexism, racism, creativity and truth.

See the entire list at Ms. Magazine…