April 2023 Reads for the Rest of Us – 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 indie publishers and amazing works by writers who are women, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, APIA/AAPI, international, queer, trans, nonbinary, 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! 

If you’re reading this column, you have an interest in books and reading and so, by default, new ideas and expanding your knowledge base.

Fiction or nonfiction, comics or academic theory, 20 pages or 200 pages, romance or Afrofuturism, in whatever language … when you read, you expand your mind.

No matter one’s age, reading provides essential information to those who need it and whole new worlds to those who desire them. Reading offers solace, peace, joy, safety, friendship and understanding to anyone who opens the cover of just the right book at just the right time.

Of course, you know there are whole factions of people in this country who want to take this joy, this information, this wellspring of ideas and knowledge away from kids in schools and public libraries. Book banning and censorship have become real threats to the freedoms, education and spirits of our kids. To be sure, this is only the beginning; they won’t stop until they have rid the country of ideas they deem inappropriate or dangerous.

My hope is that each of you reading this column will do some research in your own communities to find out where the threats to the freedom to read lie. Talk to your local school and public librarians. Call your legislators, sign the petitions, run for your local school board, raise hell.

And also, keep reading. Read the 34 books on this list or whatever else you can get your hands on. Then pass those books on to your friends, your kids, your friends’ kids, or donate them to your libraries and schools.

The Half-White Album 

By Cynthia J. Sylvester (Diné). University of New Mexico Press. 184 pages. Out Apr. 1.

This compelling debut collection explores liminal spaces, love, trauma and healing through poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Sylvester’s writing is radiant, the musicality is visceral and the voices are captivating and prismatic. 


The Summers 

By Ronya Othmann (@OthmannRonya). University of Wisconsin Press. Out Apr. 1.

In Ronya Othmann’s thoughtful debut novel, a Yazidi–Kurdish–German girl spends summers with her father’s family along the Syrian borderlands. With themes of tradition, sexuality, family, and identity, this is a touching, evocative and engaging story.


Blue Hour: A Novel 

By Tiffany Clarke Harrison (@tiffanyclarkeharrison). Soft Skull. 160 pages. Out Apr. 4.

This is a singular debut about biracial motherhood in all its modern complexities, especially in the face of police brutality, racism, ambivalence, fear and grief. With raw compassion and vulnerability, Tiffany Clarke Harrison explores infertility, miscarriage and self in unsparing and intimate prose.


Butter: Novellas, Stories and Fragments 

By Gayl Jones. Beacon Press. 200 pages. Out Apr. 4.

At this point, I will read anything Gayl Jones has written, and you should too. This is a collection of novellas and stories, some never-before-published and others substantially revised. 


The Demands of Justice: Enslaved Women, Capital Crime, and Clemency in Early Virginia

By Tamika Y. Nunley (@TamikaYNunley). University of North Carolina Press. 258 pages. Out Apr. 4. 

In what must’ve been a feat of research, Tamika Y. Nunley has found and examined cases of enslaved women accused of capital crimes in Virginia and why they were often afforded “clemency” by owners. Through their heartbreaking stories, Nunley significantly illustrates how these women challenged the laws and structures of slavery and injustice.


Everything That Rises: A Climate Change Memoir 

By Brianna Craft (@brianna.m.craft). Lawrence Hill Books. 288 pages. Out Apr. 4.

We need all the books about climate change right now, written by all the people with the knowledge and expertise to show and tell us how to save the planet. Brianna Craft is one of those people, and this is one of those books. 


Go Back and Get It: A Memoir of Race, Inheritance and Intergenerational Healing 

By Dionne Ford (@dionneford). Bold Type Books. 256 pages. Out Apr. 4.

In her powerful memoir, Dionne Ford tells the story of finding a photograph that leads her to unexpected discoveries in her family’s past and the healing of the intergenerational trauma it unleashes. 


The Kneeling Man: My Father’s Life as a Black Spy Who Witnessed the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. 

By Leta McCollough Seletzky (@LaSeletzky). Counterpoint. 304 pages. Out Apr. 4. 

I can’t wait to read this memoir written by the daughter of the man who kneeled next to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. outside the Lorraine Motel on the fateful day he was assassinated. We’ve all seen the photograph, and now we can more fully understand the story.

Read the complete column at Ms. Magazine