This year I set out to read only books by womxn and focused on #OwnVoices books by BIPOC, TGNC, LGBTQ, and international writers.
I’m on track to read 50 titles and have really enjoyed most of them. I even read a few by men (still #OwnVoices) that I would recommend (you can read those reviews here, here, and here).
In this post, I want to share with you my favorites, by womxn, 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.
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.
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.
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 womxn’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.
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.
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.
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-comformity 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.
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?
This post contains affiliate links; I write what I like.
Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September of 2017.
And despite Puerto Rico’s status as a territory of the United States, the US government has done embarrassingly little to assist the American citizens of this beautiful island.
Taken on my 2014 trip to Puerto Rico (photo credit: Karla J. Strand).
While the absence of US assistance has been bad enough, there is a more malicious contingent at work. Naomi Klein takes aim at them – disaster capitalists – in her new book, The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists. In it, Klein makes a strong argument for fighting against selfish outside influences trying to make a buck on the backs of traumatized local Puerto Rican communities.
Does this situation sound familiar? It should because it is essentially another colonization of Puerto Rico by the US.
The author, Naomi Klein (Photo credit: Kourosh Keshiri).
In this 96-page book, Naomi Klein gives her reader a short history lesson as well as reasons why Puerto Ricans would (and should!) be skeptical of outside actors (pp. 25-32). While lifelong Puerto Rican residents dig out from under the wreck of Maria, the governor and other self-interested players court the rich from the mainland US by offering major tax breaks to move there – tax breaks that residents do not get to take advantage of (pp. 18-19).
Often referred to as “Puertopians,” these wealthy libertarians seek to live tax- (and care-) free in Puerto Rico, all the while seeing themselves as saviors of the embattled island and its residents (pp. 15-25). As Klein explains, “In February 2018, [the governor of Puerto Rico] told a business audience in New York that Maria had created a ‘blank canvas’ on which investors could paint their very own dream world” (p. 25); never mind the over three million people who already call it home.
Klein explains how Puerto Rico was in such a vulnerable position, even before Hurricane Maria hit, with importing a staggering amount of fossil fuels (pp. 5-7) and food (pp. 32-37) while also incurring an enormous debt after the global economic downturn of 2008 (47-51). These deficiencies are in large part due to the legacy of colonialism and the plantation economy.
In addition, situations and events in Puerto Rico over the last twelve years have made it particularly vulnerable to “shock doctrine” tactics. According to Klein, the phenomenon of the shock doctrine is the “deliberate exploitation of states of emergency to push through a radical pro-corporate agenda” (p. 45). Klein lays out how Puerto Rico is the most distinct example of this since Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 (pp. 43-53).
But Klein is also intentional in giving inspirational examples of how some local residents are harnessing collaborative partnerships, renewable energies (pp. 8-11), and innovative agricultural practices (pp. 37-43) to challenge existing inequities, untenable structures, and malignant outside influences.
It is this entrepreneurial spirit that Klein encourages in Puerto Rico as this is an opportunity for them to transform their home into the sustainable paradise that they themselves envision (p. 12). Through organization and strength, they will be able to overcome the “Puertopians” who seek to resettle the island (pp. 30-32).
While 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.
This is a quick and worthwhile read for anyone interested in Puerto Rico, the effects of colonialism and/or natural disasters, or the empowerment of local Puerto Ricans to lead the efforts of rebuilding how they see fit. It’s accessible information to most anyone, even those with no knowledge on any of these topics or the history of Puerto Rico.
For more information on Hurricane Maria, its effects on womxn, and the role womxn are playing in rebuilding Puerto Rico, please see this Women in Puerto Rico Resource Guidethat I’ve created.
An aside: as a librarian, I advocate for borrowing books as much as possible. But this time, I am making an exception and asking you to purchase this book from the publisher, Haymarket Books, as all the proceeds go to JunteGente, a group of Puerto Rican organizations “resisting disaster capitalism and advancing a fair and healthy recovery for their island” (p. vi). Also, it is an accessible analysis of this timely and invaluable topic, so you should probably just buy a copy if possible. [Links to purchase are below.]
Have you been following the situation in Puerto Rico? Have you been to the island? Have you read this book or plan to? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Taken on my 2014 trip to Puerto Rico (photo credit: Karla J. Strand).
I received this book as part of my subscription to the Haymarket Book Club. This post does NOT contain affiliate links because I want you to purchase it from Haymarket for the benefit of JunteGente! Thank you!
Like many of you, I have been following the stories of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico with despair. Don't people realize that these are American citizens? Why isn't our government doing more than tossing paper towels at people? What can be done? Klein's book and the work of Jessica Pabón-Colón both inspired me to reflect on what I could to do help.
Well one thing that we can all do is keep up with the situation in Puerto Rico and continuing to pressure our representatives to do something. Beyond that, I believe each of us has something, some special knowledge or talent, that we can offer people in need.
For what it's worth, I can locate and curate (what I hope will be) valuable information for people who are concerned about particular topics. So I create resource guides and bibliographies at work and here, on my own website.
This guide is focused on the tragedy that has befallen Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria, with a focus on women and girls.
There isn't a lot that has been written on the effects of the hurricane on women in particular but I will continue to collect what resources I find and to add to these pages. Click the links below for access to lists of books, articles, and organizations focused on this topic.
If you have suggestions of resources to include, please contact me.
On a side note, please consider purchasing and reading The Battle for Paradise; it is so important to the understanding of the unjust and lasting legacy of colonialism in Puerto Rico. Catastrophes like Maria bring out disaster capitalists whose profit-seeking ultimately destroy the positive recovery efforts of the Puerto Rican people. All royalties from the sale of the book in English and Spanish go directly to JunteGente, a gathering of Puerto Rican organizations resisting disaster capitalism and advancing a fair and healthy recovery for their island.
Please note: Not each of these titles is specifically focused on Hurricane Maria and its effect on women in Puerto Rico. Some are fiction, others nonfiction. The books included here are in English but many are published in Spanish as well. I hope to add more Spanish-language titles soon. As more monographs are published on women and Maria, I will continue to add to the list.
I re-read Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde – It had been years and years since I read this book and it is more amazing now than before. It is a classic in Black, lesbian, feminist writing.
I was unable to travel anywhere in June but did have a blast at LGBT Night with the Milwaukee Brewers!
IN OTHER NEWS: I have published my first academic journal article! It’s based on my doctoral research and is entitled “The Evolving Role of Public Libraries in South Africa in Addressing Information Poverty: A Historical Context.” It’s published in the journal Library Management (volume 39, numbers 6/7); if you’d like a copy, please let me know!
For the last two weeks, I have been really sick with whatever flu or cold is going around and it knocked me on my ass! I am finally getting back on my feet and so hope to be adding new content to the site more regularly now.
The Sound and The Fury (audiobook) by William Faulkner – Re-visiting this one after many years after discussing it briefly with Shruti from This is Lit. Love this book but listening to it as an audiobook is just not the same as reading it! If you’ve read it, you will understand this…
Here’s a roundup of the new books by women being released in June that I am most excited about, with a focus on womxn and gender non-conforming people from historically underrepresented and underserved communities.
If you are curious about which books I focus on, see my Review Policy. These are just guidelines and I reserve the right to include (or not!) any books I see fit.
I’ll probably add to this list as I learn of others; if you have a suggestion, please place it in the comments below!
“Both candid and compelling, Rickardsson’s story is not only about a woman seeking to heal the fractures inherent in a transnational identity; it is also a moving meditation on poverty, injustice, and the meaning of family. A thought-provoking and humane memoir of survival and self-discovery.”–Kirkus Reviews
“A haunting story of balancing identities, Rickardsson’s debut is an unforgettable meditation on the weight of early childhood trauma and recovery.”–Booklist
“We are in a fight for our lives. Hurricanes Irma and María unmasked the colonialism we face in Puerto Rico, and the inequality it fosters, creating a fierce humanitarian crisis. Now we must find a path forward to equality and sustainability, a path driven by communities, not investors. And this book explains, with careful and unbiased reporting, only the efforts of our community activists can answer the paramount question: What type of society do we want to become and who is Puerto Rico for?”–Carmen Yulín Cruz, Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico
“Naomi Klein concisely reveals to us what Puerto Rico has faced, shock after shock, before Hurricane Maria and after it and also the voices of people who believe and build a future for Puerto Rico from the strength of their communities.”–Ana Irma Rivera Lassén, feminist, human rights activist, former president of the Puerto Rico Bar Association
“An exciting read with a wonderful Latinx feel woven throughout.”–Kirkus
“The book is at its best examining the relationship between Lula and her sisters as brujas, but also as teens, who have the same yearnings and petty arguments as any girls. For readers coming for the ghouls, there are plenty of those, too.”–Booklist
“Feminist Freedom Warriors is a provocation and an inspiration. The political and intellectual life stories of an amazing cohort of radical feminist takes us through five decades of dynamic history and spans the globe.Their stories, ideas, fortitude and courage provide a powerful guide to the freedom-making work of the mid 20th through the early 21st centuries. The book is yet another gift of insight and critical feminist praxis from Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Linda Carty, sister-scholars and collaborators whose own collective passion and commitments are also in every page of this collection.”–Barbara Ransby, author, historian, activist
“[A] moving page-turner. Suspense, emotions, and magic course throughout this beautifully narrated book. Highly recommended for fans of Latin American literature and general literary mysteries.”–Library Journal (starred review)
“The subject of this profound and intricate novel is the irreducible mystery at the core of every person, the buried lines of history and desire that render us inscrutable even to ourselves. Carla Guelfenbein is an important and powerful writer, and this translation is a gift to English-language readers.”–Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You
“Hoang knocks it out of the park with this stellar debut about an autistic woman who takes a methodical approach to learning about sex and accidentally gets a lesson in love…Hoang gives [Stella] tremendous depth as a character, never reducing her to a walking diagnosis. The diverse cast and exceptional writing take this romance to the next level, and readers who see themselves in Stella will be ecstatic.”–Publisher’s Weekly (starred)
“An unexpectedly sweet romance that left me with a huge smile on my face. I dare you not to fall in love with these two characters and their story. Helen Hoang’s debut is quite simply delightful!”–Nalini Singh, New York Times bestselling author
“Donna Hylton’s painful yet liberating memoir will certainly be transformative for many who read her words. As a survivor of sexual abuse and violence–inside and outside prison–she tells the whole truth of her experience, including her deep regret for the moments that she’s harmed others and her passionate commitment to co-creating a justice system that acknowledges the little piece of light that shines within us no matter who we are, what we’ve done, or what has been done to us.”–Michelle Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of The New Jim Crow
“Intimate and disturbing, the book reveals the ways women are silenced and victimized in society, and it also tells the inspiring story of how one woman survived a prison nightmare to go on to help other incarcerated women ‘speak out about the violence in their lives.’ A wrenching memoir of overcoming seemingly insurmountable abuse and finding fulfillment.”–Kirkus Reviews
“Reading Hodson’s work feels risky; it’s breathtaking, both in its inherent exhilaration and also, often, because it’s funny. . .But it also makes you feel connected to things, as if you are forging new relationships to the things and people in the world around you, uncovering new understandings about permanence, about intuition, about love and sex and lies and secrets and truth, about life.”–Kristin Iversen, NYLON
“Her essays are a specialized artform where poetry meets philosophy. They reflect on the gruesome side of being a woman in the excellent tradition of Joan Didion and Sylvia Plath. I highly recommend Chelsea Hodson’s book to all readers.”–Atticus Lish, author of Preparation for the Next Life
“The sequel to the viral sensation My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness!
Struggling with the idea of living alone and adjusting to the effects of her previous book’s success, this follow-up to the award-winning autobiographical comic continues the author’s quest for self-acceptance and love.”–Amazon
“A powerful, unconventionally structured memoir recounting harrowing coming-of-age ordeals . . . Daley-Ward resists classification in this profound mix of poetry and prose. . . . [She] has quite a ferociously moving story to tell.”–Kirkus (starred)
“Yrsa Daley-Ward is laying her pain bare and turning it into uplifting, unconventional poetry. . . . If readers thought she bared her soul through bone, her memoir The Terrible will be another lesson in how to fearlessly turn the pain of her past into uplifting prose.” —PopSugar
“If you’ve been trying to make sense of how gender today seems to have slipped the chains that bind it to our bodies in familiar ways, Unbound is a book for you. It’s a sympathetic account by non-transgender sociologist Arlene Stein, aimed at a primarily non-transgender audience, of four people assigned female at birth who surgically masculinize their chests. Stein helps her readers understand that they, too, no longer need be bound by conventional expectations of the meaning of our flesh.” –Susan Stryker, founding co-editor, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly
“Stein tracks the rapid evolution of gender identity in this provocative group portrait of trans men . . . Her book succeeds in documenting what it means to be trans today.”–Publisher’s Weekly
“In Fugitive Life, fugitive women of color emerge as feminist thinkers who expose the inherent carcerality of neoliberalism. This groundbreaking intervention in carceral studies, gender studies, American studies, and literary studies offers deep interrogations of queerness and temporality and an extraordinary model for analyzing the dialectics of freedom and repression. Stephen Dillon provides a dramatic contribution that will reshape urgent debates regarding carceral crisis, influencing future scholarship and activism.”–Sarah Haley, author of No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity
An Indie Next Pick
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Elle
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Electric Literature
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by April Magazine
“Murata’s strange and quirky novel was a runaway hit in Japan, and Ginny Tapley Takemori’s English translation introduces it to a new group of readers―a slim, entrancing read that can be consumed in one sitting.”–Passport
“Extraordinary in its depth and diligence… Mirza adeptly revisits painful dilemmas from each narrator’s perspective, revealing jolting secrets. Each complex, surprising character struggles with faith, responsibility, racism, fear, longing, and jealousy, while Mirza conveys with graceful specificity the rhythms of Muslim life, from prayer to wearing hijab, gender etiquette, food, holidays, and values, all of which illuminate universal quandaries about family, self, culture, beliefs, and generational change.”–Booklist
“A California-based Indian Muslim family celebrates the wedding of daughter Hadia, marrying for love. Present is her estranged brother Amar, who hasn’t easily mnaged the rough road between youth and adulthood, Old World tradition and America, and the novel effectively unfolds family tensions and Amar’s swirling personal anguish.”–Library Journal
“A buzzing, smoky, gin-soaked charmer.”–Library Journal, ALA Hot Picks
“When we first meet Vera Kelly, she’s a troubled 1950s teenager who’s overdosed on Equanil. Next she’s in explosive 1960s Buenos Aires after being recruited by the CIA (“I could be charming if I wanted to. There were basic tricks”). Her past and present are told in alternating chapters, with all the edgy fun of classic noir but in an original voice that’s fresh, brisk, and snappy. Hugely buzzing.”–Library Journal, Most Anticipated Books of Spring/Summer
“A leading writer of Zimbabwe’s ‘born-free’ generation reflects on the November 2017 ousting of Robert Mugabe, radically reframing the history of Zimbabwe to include the perspectives of workers, women and urban movements.”–Description
“Chigumadzi successfully nests the intimate charge of her poignant personal story in the sweeping historical account and mythology of Zimbabwe.”–Brian Chikwava, author of Harare North
“Chigumadzi’s exploration of personal, family and national history reincarnates in stark, vivid images, many of those interred in the shadows of her country’s ‘Big Men’.”–Tsitsi Dangarembga, author of Nervous Conditions
“With the familiar strangeness of a fairy tale, Ohara’s novel traverses the mysterious distance between body and mind, between the mechanics of life and the ghost in the machine, between the infinitesimal and infinity. The child as mother, the mother as monster, the monster as hero: this shape-shifting story of nourishment, nurture, and parturition is a rare feminist work of speculative fiction and received the prestigious Seiun (Nebula) Award in 1991. Hybrid Childis the first English translation of a major work of science fiction by a female Japanese author.”–publisher description
I just finished this book and wow. My review will be coming soon!
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by The Millions and Cosmopolitan
“[Number One Chinese Restaurant] is a lot of things . . . a multigenerational immigration story, an insider look at the often grueling life of the career server or line cook, a romance, a coming-of-age (at any age). Most significantly, it is a joy to read―I couldn’t get enough.”–Buzzfeed, “30 Summer Books to Get Excited About”
“Li vividly depicts the lives of her characters and gives the narrative a few satisfying turns, resulting in a memorable debut.” —Publishers Weekly
A Library Journal Editors’ Spring Pick: 1 of 34 Titles to Wave a Flag About
“Old in Art School is a glorious achievement―bighearted and critical, insightful and entertaining. This book is a cup of courage for everyone who wants to change their lives. This is not a story about starting over; it’s about continuing on the journey. Nell Painter has taken the coming of age story to a new level―this is what you get when a wise person gets even wiser, when a true artist spreads her wings.”–Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage
“This is a courageous, intellectually stimulating, and wholly entertaining story of one woman reconciling two worlds and being open to the possibilities and changes life offers.”–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[A] winning collection of essays…offers perspective and clarity on issues that, time and again, are stumbling blocks to trans acceptance and celebration of human gender diversity.”–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The book to give your cis friends.”–Stephanie Burt
“The Iraqi American pediatrician who helped expose the Flint water crisis lays bare the bureaucratic bunk and flat-out injustice at the heart of the environmental disgrace—revealing, with the gripping intrigue of a Grisham thriller, ‘the story of a government poisoning its own citizens, and then lying about it.’”–O: The Oprah Magazine
“Flint is a public health disaster. But it was Dr. Mona, this caring, tough pediatrician turned detective, who cracked the case.”–Rachel Maddow
“Katie and Cassidy are a joy to behold: two whip-smart women grappling with desire and questioning their deeply held notions of love and intimacy. Perri’s book is a real gift—tender, sexy as hell and laugh out loud funny.”–Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, New York Times bestselling author of The Nest
“Fun and fulfilling…[with] honest conversations about female identity and sexuality included throughout. A romance with a big heart and refreshing perspective.”–Kirkus Reviews
“The graffiti grrlz featured here know how to throw up fresh ways of re-imagining feminism, urban belonging, and world-making practices. Through bright ethnographic accounts of graffiti’s gendered politics and global reach, Pabón-Colón takes down assumed notions of hip-hop culture by passing the mic to a new generation of feminist graffiti artists engaged in writing and speaking on their own terms.”–Juana María Rodríguez, Author of Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings
“Vibrant, complex, and totally engaging, Graffiti Grrlz recovers women’s presence in graffiti subcultures around the globe. In this ambitious and passionate book, Jessica Pabón-Colón amplifies the resistant and creative practices of women graffiti artists and masterfully highlights their important contributions to contemporary feminism. In doing so, she transforms and expands our ideas about the meaning of graffiti and of feminist political action.”–Jessica Taft, Author of Rebel Girls: Youth Activism and Social Change Across the Americas
“Everything I want in an essay collection: provocative lines of inquiry, macabre humor, blistering intelligence. I love this book. I want to take it into the middle of a crowded room and hold it up and scream until someone tackles me the ground; even then, I’d probably keep screaming.”–Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties
“Bracing and blazingly smart, Alice Bolin’s Dead Girls could hardly be more needed or more timely. A critical contribution to the cultural discussion of gender and genre, Los Angeles and noir, the unbearable persistence of the male gaze and the furtive potency of female rage.”–Megan Abbott, Edgar Award-winning author of You Will Know Me
“Vital to understanding American life today.”–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Profound, a sweeping, blistering portrait of hard-working people from all walks of life. It’s a rousing wakeup call that also points the way forward to a more equitable, expansive future.”–Astra Taylor, author of The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age
“A collection of Asian myths and legends in which beloved stories of spirits, magic, family, love, and heartbreak are combined with elements from modern teens’ lives….With such a variety of emotion and experiences to explore, nearly any teen can find something to relate to…An incredible anthology that will keep readers on the edges of their seats, wanting more.”–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“All of these stories achieve emotional depth and connection while showcasing each storyteller’s unique literary voice.”–The Horn Book
“As a woman of color, I find hope in this book because of its potential to disrupt the patterns and relationships that have emerged out of long-standing colonial principles and beliefs. White Fragility is an essential tool toward authentic dialogue and action. May it be so!”–Shakti Butler, president of World Trust and director of Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible
“A rare and incisive examination of the system of white body supremacy that binds us all as Americans. . . . With authenticity and clarity, she provides the antidote to white fragility and a road map for developing white racial stamina and humility. White Fragility loosens the bonds of white supremacy and binds us back together as human beings.”–Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother’s Hands
This post contains affiliate links. Please support your local independent bookstore!
Here’s a roundup of the new books by women being released in March that I am most excited about, with a focus on womxn and gender non-conforming people from historically underrepresented and underserved communities.
If you are curious about which books I focus on, see my Review Policy. These are just guidelines and I reserve the right to include (or not!) any books I see fit.
I’ll probably add to this list as I learn of others; if you have a suggestion, please place it in the comments below!
“Corazón is a love story. It is about the constant hunger for love. It is about feeding that hunger with another person and finding that sometimes it isn’t enough. Salgado creates a world in which the heart can live anywhere; her fat brown body, her parents home country, a lover, a toothbrush, a mango, or a song. It is a celebration of heartache, of how it can ruin us, but most importantly how we always survive it and return to ourselves whole.”–Amazon
“The Brooklyn Museum published two volumes related to its groundbreaking exhibition, We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85, which focused on radical approaches to feminist thinking developed by women artists and activists of color. The first volume, a Sourcebook, was published in 2017 and focused on re-presenting key voices of the period by gathering a remarkable array of historical documents. Available in 2018, the second volume, New Perspectives, includes original essays and perspectives by Aruna D’Souza, Uri McMillan, Kellie Jones, and Lisa Jones that place the exhibition’s works in both historical and contemporary contexts. New Perspectives also includes two new poems by Alice Walker.”–Amazon
“A fresh, honest, and startling look at what it means to exist in a woman’s body, in all of its beauty and pain. Abby’s voice is inviting, unifying, and remarkably brave.”–Gillian Anderson, Actress, activist and co-author of We: A Manifesto For Women Everywhere
“Required reading for anyone who is a woman, or has ever met a woman. This means you.”–Jenny Lawson, author of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy
“This is an encouraging, uplifting book to highlight in any library’s women’s history collection. It will be an inspiration to many young adult readers and browsers.”–VOYA, starred review
“Bagieu delivers a pièce de résistance that succinctly summarizes the obstacles and victories of these daring women. Insightful and clever, at times infuriating and disheartening, this serves as a reminder that the hardships women face today have been shared―and overcome―by many others.”–Kirkus, starred review
“The next big thing in literature and film.”—Ebony
“One of the biggest young adult fiction debut book deals of the year. Aside from a compelling plot and a strong-willed heroine as the protagonist, the book deals with larger themes, like race and power, that are being discussed in real time.”—Teen Vogue
“A remarkable achievement.”—Campus Lately
“Tomi Adeyemi is about to take both the literature and film world by storm.”—Jet
“Ever since the centuries of burning women healers as witches, because they taught women how to govern our own bodies, thus to control reproduction—the medical world hasn’t included all of humanity. Doing Harm shows what is left to be done, and directs both women and men toward healing.”–Gloria Steinem
“Dusenbery’s excellent book makes the sexism plaguing women’s health care hard to ignore…skillfully interweaving history, medical studies, current literature, and hard data to produce damning evidence that women wait longer for diagnoses, receive inadequate pain management, and are often told they are imagining symptoms that are taken seriously in men.”–Publishers Weekly, starred review
The Feminist Revolution offers an overview of women’s struggle for equal rights in the late twentieth century…It demonstrates as well that the feminist revolution was enacted by women from all backgrounds, of every color, and of all ages and that it took place in the home, in workplaces, and on the streets of every major town and city. This sweeping overview of the key decades in the feminist revolution also brings together for the first time many of these women’s own unpublished stories, which together offer tribute to the daring, humor, and creative spirit of its participants.–IndieBound
“Piercingly empathetic, Forna’s latest explores instinct, resilience, and the complexity of human coexistence, reaffirming her reputation for exceptional ability and perspective.”–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The overarching message tucked into Scottish and Sierra Leonian writer Forna’s quietly resonant novel is this: Every living thing is the net sum of its history, and we carry the weight of our past on our shoulders.…Intricately woven…Forna’s novel is ultimately a mesmerizing tale studded with exquisite writing”–Booklist (starred review)
“Themes as diverse as growing up first-generation American, Latinx culture, sizeism, music, burgeoning sexuality, and the power of the written and spoken word are all explored with nuance. Poignant and real, beautiful and intense.”–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Debut novelist Acevedo’s free verse gives Xiomara’s coming-of-age story an undeniable pull, its emotionally charged bluntness reflecting her determination and strength. At its heart, this is a complex and sometimes painful exploration of love in its many forms, with Xiomara’s growing love for herself reigning supreme.”–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
How am I just hearing about this book now?? #ownvoices
From 3rd-century Syrian queen Zenobia to 20th-century Nigerian women’s rights activist Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, these are women who gave absolutely zero f**ks, and will inspire a courageous new movement of women to do the same.–IndieBound
“A brave transgender woman experiences both triumph and tragedy in this memoir of transitioning and so much more… Throughout, the author ably balances great accomplishments and strong emotions. Reading McBride’s inspiring story will make it harder to ostracize or demonize others with similar stories to share.”–Kirkus Reviews(starred)
“Sarah McBride’s powerful memoir, Tomorrow Will Be Different, is a brave and moving story that will inspire and galvanize readers to join the urgent fight for LGBTQ rights. The energy and vigor Sarah has brought to the fight for equality is ever present in this book and she starkly defines what is at stake, and how we can do better to advocate on behalf of all people.”–Senator Kamala Harris
“Anyone interested in the history of our country’s ongoing fight to put its founding values into practice—as well as those seeking the roots of current political fault lines—would be well-served by picking up Elaine Weiss’s The Woman’s Hour. By focusing in on the final battle in the war to win women the right to vote, told from the point of view of its foot soldiers, Weiss humanizes both the women working in favor of the amendment and those working against it, exposing all their convictions, tactics, and flaws. She never shies away from the complicating issue of race; the frequent conflict and occasional sabotage that occurred between women’s suffrage activists and the leaders of the nascent civil rights movement make for some of the most fascinating material in the book.”–Margot Lee Shetterly, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Hidden Figures
“Would You Rather? is an extraordinarily generous and affecting book. Katie Heaney has written something with a remarkable amount of room in it–enough for anyone to spread out and connect with. It’s deeply felt, clear-eyed, joyful, and illuminating.”–Mallory Ortberg, author of Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters
“What does it mean to find yourself, to know who you are and walk boldly in that truth? Would You Rather? takes readers on that journey along with Katie, reveling in the relief and glee of finding your tribe and frolicking in the exquisite joy of being a woman who loves women.”–Jenna Wortham, staff writer at TheNew York Times Magazine and co-host of the podcast Still Processing
“This book came straight out of a long thread on Deborah Alma’s Facebook page in October 2017. Something was released and given a space within social media. Many women felt emboldened by this to share more difficult stories, more details. As a poet, and an editor, it felt natural to Deborah to collect these stories somehow and it was obvious to collect them as poems.
This collection contains mainly previously unpublished work from 80 of our finest poets…”–Amazon
“Following the innovative collection Spill, Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s M Archive—the second book in a planned experimental triptych—is a series of poetic artifacts that speculatively documents the persistence of Black life following a worldwide cataclysm. Engaging with the work of the foundational Black feminist theorist M. Jacqui Alexander, and following the trajectory of Gumbs’s acclaimed visionary fiction short story “Evidence,” M Archive is told from the perspective of a future researcher who uncovers evidence of the conditions of late capitalism, antiblackness, and environmental crisis while examining possibilities of being that exceed the human. By exploring how Black feminist theory is already after the end of the world, Gumbs reinscribes the possibilities and potentials of scholarship while demonstrating the impossibility of demarcating the lines between art, science, spirit, scholarship, and politics.”–Duke University Press
“The notion of home has always been elusive. But as evidenced in these stories, poems, and testaments, perhaps home is not so much a place, but a feeling one embodies. I read this book and see my people—see us—and feel, in our collective outsiderhood, at home.”–Ocean Vuong, author of Night Sky with Exit Wounds
“Go Home! is a bold, eclectic chorus that provides an invigorating antidote to the xenophobia of our times.”–Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being
“With callouts to a mind-revving roster of photographers, writers, filmmakers, intellectuals, and media magnets, erudite, discerning, and everdaring Tillman has forged a mischievous conflation of criticism and fiction. Incantatory, maddening, brilliant, zestful, compassionate, and timely, Tillman’s portrait of a floundering academic trying to make sense of a digitized world of churning, contradictory messages reveals the perpetual interplay between past and present, the personal and the cultural, image and life.”–Booklist (starred review)
Selected as “1 of 60 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2018” by Huffington Post Selected as “1 of 101 Books to get excited about in 2018” by BookRiot
“A wholly satisfying blend of silliness, feminist critique, and deft prose makes this a collection of bedtime stories that will keep you up at night for all the right reasons.”–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Ortberg’s uniquely hilarious voice lends itself well to the dark and twisted milieu of fairy and folk tales and her reimagining of classics is predictably perverse, but also offers wonderful insight into the reasons why humans are so drawn to these stories of horror and loss.”–NYLON
“As one of America’s top Cuba hands, Huddleston has been a privileged eyewitness to key moments of history as well as backroom policy debates. Huddleston’s anecdotes of her life in Havana―everything from spy stories to an argument with Fidel she had at a cocktail party―are sometimes poignant, at other times hilarious, and always delightfully candid.”–Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life
“Set in the 1990s, The Red Word interrogates the prevailing political preoccupations of that time: gender politics, third-wave feminism, and consent . . . A timely and nuanced dissection of rape culture.”–Booklist
“An aesthetically arresting interrogation of rape culture…timely and brilliant.”—Kirkus Reviews
Cited by Autostraddle as one of the “Queer and Feminist Books to Read in 2018”
“Here we have 49 women and men and queers and inter-sexuals throwing their everything at this moment in time when the patriarch is really shaking, and it looks like he’s about to tumble down. We’ve got this shiny new book. People are scared that nothing will be left after he falls except a bunch of poems. Pick up this glowing book as you’re crawling through the rubble, and poem by poem and page by page you’ll begin to know that you’ll be okay. You’re in there, and so are your friends. You won’t starve, you’re safe and strong thanks to all these proud, funny, violent, trembling words. Start memorizing. Cause the future is here and this stuff is true.” ― Eileen Myles
This is the first book to provide an in-depth sociological examination of the contemporary social and material conditions of health for transgender people. It draws upon the findings of a six-year ethnographic project in the United Kingdom that looked at the challenges faced by trans patients and the practitioners who work with them. Ruth Pearce shows that patients and practitioners are frequently divided by their different understandings of what it means for someone to be trans, a situation that is complicated by the operation of professional power within medical settings and that has profound consequences for both healthcare provision and for trans communities more widely. – IndieBound
“In this smart and necessary book, Sami Schalk persuasively argues that black women’s speculative fiction offers a rich archive of alternate framings of (dis)ability, race, sexuality, and gender that move us closer toward justice. Bodyminds Reimagined reveals how nonrealist representations can defamiliarize categories assumed to be self-evident, opening up new ways of thinking about methodology, trauma, metaphor, and politics. Schalk’s work pushes all of us in feminist studies, black studies, and disability studies to reimagine how we understand minds and bodies moving though the world.”–Alison Kafer, author of Feminist, Queer, Crip
“From experimental shorts and web series to Hollywood blockbusters and feminist porn, the work of African American lesbian filmmakers has made a powerful contribution to film history. But despite its importance, this work has gone largely unacknowledged by cinema historians and cultural critics. Assembling a range of interviews, essays, and conversations, Sisters in the Lifetells a full story of African American lesbian media-making spanning three decades.”–Duke University Press
“Emily X.R. Pan’s brilliantly crafted, harrowing first novel portrays the vast spectrum of love and grief with heart-wrenching beauty and candor. This is a very special book.”–John Green, bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars and Turtles All the Way Down
“In this dazzling debut, author Emily X.R. Pan has created a spellbinding narrative about love, family, and what it means to grieve.”–Bustle
Blood Letters tells the astonishing tale of Lin Zhao, a poet and journalist arrested by the authorities in 1960 and executed eight years later, at the height of the Cultural Revolution. The only Chinese citizen known to have openly and steadfastly opposed communism under Mao, she rooted her dissent in her Christian faith–and expressed it in long, prophetic writings done in her own blood, and at times on her clothes and on cloth torn from her bedsheets.
Miraculously, Lin Zhao’s prison writings survived, though they have only recently come to light. Drawing on these works and others from the years before her arrest, as well as interviews with her friends, her classmates, and other former political prisoners, Lian Xi paints an indelible portrait of courage and faith in the face of unrelenting evil.–IndieBound
“This beautifully crafted work in slow and critical phenomenology allows us to understand the fatal consequences of skewed gender perception. Salamon takes us through the trial of Latisha King, murdered by a classmate who understood transgendered expression as an aggressive assault. Paying close attention to how the participants in the murder trial discuss and enact their normative passions about how the body should appear, Salamon shows us how phenomenological description that open up for strong criticism modes of perception and action that bear lethal consequences for those who contest hegemonic gender norms. This book is a model of careful and thoughtful philosophy and cultural criticism, bringing to life the resources of a phenomenological tradition that can name, describe, and oppose the obliteration of queer and trans lives. This work is as electric as its slow, making us think, and teaching us to see.”–Judith Butler, author of Gender Trouble
“Nothing is Okay is the second full-length poetry collection by Rachel Wiley, whose work simultaneously deconstructs the lies that we were taught about our bodies and our beings, and builds new ways of viewing ourselves. As she delves into queerness, feminism, fatness, dating, and race, Wiley molds these topics into a punching critique of culture and a celebration of self. A fat positive activist, Wiley’s work soars and challenges the bounds of bodies and hearts, and the ways we carry them.”–Amazon
“A must-read for anyone looking to critically explore how innumerable oppressions and indignities take root within our very bodies, and transform the ways in which we move through the world.”–Shanna K. Kattari, power/privilege/oppression scholar, University of Michigan School of Social Work
“With a finely tuned lens on the systems of oppression that traumatize bodies, and validation of worth beyond narrow standards of acceptability, Oppression and the Body is a groundbreaking voice in an intersectional somatic justice movement.”–Willy Wilkinson, MPH, author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning Born on the Edge of Race and Gender: A Voice for Cultural Competency
“This novel has everything: the circa-’99 lesbian indie-rock scene! Zines! Answering machines! . . . Our 90s nostalgia is hella high these days, and this tender, funny story made our aging hipster hearts sing.”–Marie Claire
“Insightful and brilliant, Stray City explores the stickiness of doing what’s expected and the strange freedom born of contradiction. I tore through this novel like an orphaned reader seeking a home in its ragtag yet shimmering world.”–Carrie Brownstein, New York Times bestselling author of Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl
“Krystal A. Smith writes of shape shifters, magical herbalists, and women ripe for love. Her collection of stories marries African American mysticism to speculative fiction announcing Smith’s solid place in the next generation of Afro Futurists. With its sensuous language, deftly drawn characters, and engaging narrative style, Two Moons shines bright.”–Jewelle Gomez, The Gilda Stories
“Two Moons takes readers on a whimsical journey to where ordinary women become goddesses and where Black Girl Magic is never denied. You’ll want to dive into these stories and never leave.”–Susana Morris, co-editor of Sycorax’s Daughters and the Crunk Feminist Collection
“A rich portrait of her grandmother’s full life…through lyrical prose interspersed with poetry, prayers, and legends…Readers will appreciate Edemariam’s work—part memoir, part history—for its personal look at an eventful century in Ethiopia.”–Booklist
“An ambitious, elegantly descriptive… profoundly lyrical narrative…Edemariam’s book offers a glimpse into a singularly fascinating culture and history as it celebrates the courage, resilience, and grace of an extraordinary woman. A richly evocative tale of family and international history.”–Kirkus Reviews
As trans and non-binary folks, we are often discouraged from advocating for our own bodies, as if we do not know what is best for ourselves. This anthology is filled with such tenderness, resilience and vulnerability; a beautiful love letter to queerness, to otherness, to the power of reclaiming our bodies as our own.–Emmett J. Lundberg, Writer & Filmmaker, Creator of Brothers the series
It’s rare that something can both break your heart and renew your spirit. My heart empathetically broke from the rawness and intimacy these pages hold. As I finished I was left feeling inspired and awestruck at the power of queer people – not just to endure but to use our experiences as a tool to empower others, like these words certainly will.–Karmilla Pillay-Siokos, Director of Slutwalk Johannesburg
“These gems of short fiction by women writers from Taiwan are a wonderful treat. Beautifully translated into English, they unfold and flicker with wistful, comic, and enigmatic lights and shadows. The vignettes and snapshots imbue existential anxiety and street life with grim and exquisite lyricism, mixed with unstoppable yearnings for sunlight and romance.” —Ban Wang, William Haas Professor in Chinese Studies and Professor of Comparative Literature, Stanford University
“Iraqi journalist and poet Mikhail lays bare the agonizing experiences of the Yazidi people at the hands of ISIS in this visceral account of the outskirts of modern day Iraq. In 2014, ISIS began invading villages of northern Iraq, killing most of the men and enslaving the women and children. Much of Mikhail’s account is made up of first-person testimonies of several survivors who speak of being repeatedly raped, sold to the highest bidder, and tortured. They recall losing their families and witnessing their children, raised by ISIS supporters, becoming “a distorted version” of who they once were. Mikhail also homes in on the rescue efforts of a man named Abdullah, a local beekeeper who used his knowledge of the region and the money he made selling honey in Iraq and Syria to cultivate a “hive of transporters and smugglers” to save women; he subsequently connected Mikhail to several survivors. Powerful and heartbreaking, this work lets the survivors tell their stories and highlights the courage of those risking their lives to rescue others.”–Publishers Weekly
“Writing in Caroline’s present-tense voice, Callender draws readers in and makes them identify with Caroline’s angst and sorrow and joy and pain. Embedding her appealing protagonist in a fully realized Caribbean setting, Callender has readers rooting for Caroline the whole way.”–Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Lush descriptions bring the Caribbean environment to vivid life…. An excellent and nuanced coming-of-age tale.”–School Library Journal, starred review
“Set against the richly evoked backdrop of the Caribbean, Callender’s novel captures the exquisite agony and pain that accompanies rejection and abandonment. Caroline’s search for answers provides a steady through line for the story, but it’s the deeper questioning and reflection that set this book apart….Visceral, pensive, and memorable.”–Booklist, starred review
“Moonstruck makes me happy just thinking about it. I love everything about it. The first issue is a dreamy delight, a slice of life comic infused with queer romance and intersectional diversity.” –Tor.com
“In a year that often felt dark and dystopian, this delightful series from writer Grace Ellis (Lumberjanes), newcomer artist Shae Beagle, and editor Laurenn McCubbin was a wonderful escape. This world is populated by fantasy creatures who are also comfortable in their diverse identities, from lovestruck werewolves Julie and Selena to the upbeat non-binary centaur Chet.”–EW.com
“Puerto Rico Strong is a comics anthology that explores what it means to be Puerto Rican and the diversity that exists within that concept, from today’s most exciting Puerto Rican comics creators. All proceeds go to UNIDOS Disaster Relief & Recovery Program to Support Puerto Rico…
These stories follow individuals from diverse walks of life but are all part of the culture that is Puerto Rico.Puerto Rico Strong features art and writing by Rosa Colon, Vita Ayala, Naomi Franquiz, Javier Cruz Winnick, Sabrina Cintron, Ronnie Garcia, Fabian Nicieza, Joamette Gil, and many more!”–Amazon
“A Genealogy of Islamic Feminism offers a new insight on the changing relationship between Islam and feminism from the colonial era in the 1900s to the early 1990s in Indonesia.
Islamic feminism contributes to the rediscovery of Islam as the source of progress, the centering of women’s agency through spiritual equality, and the reworking of the private and public spheres. This book will appeal to anyone with interest in international women’s movements, interdisciplinary studies, cultural studies, women’s studies, post-colonial studies, Islamic studies, and Asian studies.”–Amazon
This post contains affiliate links. Please support your local independent bookstore!