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.
I enjoy classic books. There’s something about books that have stood the test of time that intrigues me.
But let’s face it, historically books by white men are the ones most often considered as “classics.” Some books by white women have been included and the canon is expanding to include writers of color and writers outside of Europe and the US but often, one has to do some research to uncover these titles even though there are a wealth of them.
And if you’ve visited my website before, you know that my focus is on reading “for the rest of us,” or books by womxn and others of historically marginalized populations.
So when I recently decided to join The Classics Club, I knew I wanted to focus on classics by womxn, including Black women, women of color, queer women, and women outside of the US and Europe.
The Classics Club was created in 2012 to inspire people to read and write about classic books. The idea is to pick a list of 50 or more classic books that you commit to reading and sharing on your site over the next five years. After reading the guidelines and how to join, I decided it would be something I would like to take on but with my own twist (of course).
One thing I appreciate about The Classics Club is that you can define “classic” how you like. I gave my list a lot (like, A LOT) of thought and narrowed down the most important factors in its creation:
I focused on classics in feminism, gender, women’s, and queer studies (and not just White Feminism™ although there are some of these titles included).
I wanted the majority of writers to be BIWOC or/or international.
I was open to fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, histories, and more. I excluded poetry for the most part as I am just not a big fan.
I was open regarding publication date and wanted to include titles from throughout history until 2010, which I just chose because I wanted a Nnedi Okorafor book.
I focused on books that I have never read but there are some on the list that I haven’t read in many years and I wanted to re-read them.
You’ll note the exclusion of some books that you might think would be obvious choices given the criteria above (Zami, Jane Eyre, The Color Purple, Bluest Eye, etc.). Sometimes this is because I have read them before and am not looking to re-read them; other times, this is because I just don’t want to read them or just didn’t want to include them on this list. Bottom line: I included what I wanted!
My list is below. I’ve included the original publication/writing dates and plan to read them in chronological order. It’s possible the list may change or grow over time. I will be adding Amazon links and more tags, and I will regularly update the list as I make my way through and will link titles to the posts I write about them.
UPDATE: I’ve removed Vindication of the Rights of Woman and replaced it with Still Brave (#99).
So, here are the 100 titles I’ve chosen to read by August 23, 2023:
Ingrid Rojas Contreras was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, and this is where her remarkable debut novel, Fruit of the Drunken Tree, takes place.
In a time when Pablo Escobar, infamous drug lord and head of one of the most dangerous criminal families in the world, was at the height of his power, seven year old Chula and her family enjoy relatively safe lives. That is until Chula’s curiosities about their new maid, Petrona, get the better of her. Petrona and Chula develop an unlikely and heartfelt friendship despite their differences.
The author, Ingrid Rojas Contreras.
Chula lives with her sister and parents who enjoy carefree lives, aside from Chula’s father often traveling for work. But Petrona goes home to a very different world when she leaves the safety of working for Chula’s family. Petrona and her family live in a poor, guerrilla-held area of the city which is unprotected from the car bombs and kidnappings which occur more frequently as the story progresses.
“I knew that there was no gate surrounding the invasiones where Petrona lived, no iron locks on the doors, no iron bars on the windows. When I asked Petrona how she and her family stayed safe, she laughed. Then because I was embarrassed she shrugged her shoulders. She thought for a moment then said, ‘There’s nothing to lose.’ Five syllables.”
The differences between the lives of Petrona and Chula are stark; Petrona’s life is a mystery that Chula feels driven to uncover, despite the dangers. Their relationship is illustrative of the real challenges that inequalities in class and socioeconomic status can often pose.
When I began reading this book, it was these differences in the main characters and their situations that most interested me. I knew there was more lurking just underneath the surface. I appreciated that Fruit of the Drunken Tree had me questioning: What makes a family? What can friendships overcome? What would I sacrifice for others? For safety? For love?
As I read further, the layers of the book had me reflecting on the toll violence plays in societies in general, but especially on women and girls. Women are often forced to make impossible choices in times of war and violence; girls, in turn, carry incredible burdens of fear and responsibility much bigger than themselves.
“Cassandra was biting her nails. She said she could outsmart the guerrillas if they ever tried to kidnap her. She was, after all, first in her class… ‘My history teacher says most guerrilleros haven’t gone past the fourth grade, and I’m in fifth.’
My eyes widened as I turned to look out the window. I was in third.”
I didn’t know much about Colombia or Pablo Escobar before reading the book. It is not necessary for the reader to have this background but the book did pique my interest in learning more about Colombia’s history, language, and culture. [Of course I did some research and have included some links below.]
Essentially, during the time the story takes place, violent conflict in Colombia had already been raging for decades. Right-wing paramilitaries began fighting against the existing left-wing revolutionary rebels; the drug trade and cartels, like the one led by Pablo Escobar, added another layer to an already deadly situation. Despite the seemingly safe existence that many middle- and upper-class Colombians lived at the time, the fighting was never far from the minds or realities of many.
“My Barbie, Lola, had been the boss of guerrillas in Putumayo, but her men revolted against her and chopped her up and left her for dead in a jungle. She had a red bandana around her forehead and penciled-in bags under her eyes.”
It is so compelling to me that Escobar, like many other larger-than-life men throughout history, was hated by some but still loved by others, even considered a Robin Hood-style savior. He was a magnetic yet terrifying figure who evaded capture for many years.
Around this time, I also came across a new television show, Dark Tourist, in which the host traveled to Colombia to explore Escobar tourist attractions there, of which there are many. In one segment, with one of Escobar’s closest henchmen, the host goes on a tour of La Catedral, the prison at which Escobar was held for a year – that Escobar himself built (!).
Photo of La Catedral by Tom Griggs
It may be shocking for some to think that anyone would want to tour this site but it illustrates people’s fascination with charismatic, narcissistic, and often, evil figures. Rojas Contreras is especially skilled in portraying this dynamic and other seemingly incongruous facets of life and relationships.
This becomes more impressive when you learn that this book is based on experiences of Rojas Contreras’ life and people she knew. How she is able to take her own experiences of being a girl growing up in Colombia and construct a powerful story with such universal meaning is a true testament to her skill as a writer.
So what is a Drunken Tree and how does it tie in to this story? Well the Drunken Tree, called Borrachero in Colombia, is a tree with beautiful flowers and fruit that hang down from its branches. It has a sweet smell but is deadly poisonous. For years, the fruit has been ground into a drug that causes extreme confusion, a dangerous lack of judgement, and according to Rojas Contreras, “…it takes your free will away.”
A Borrachero tree in Colombia (Shutterstock).
In the book, one of these trees stands in the backyard of Chula’s home and her mother warns her about spending too much time too close to it. The tree is a symbol of how sometimes the most beautiful things can be the most haunting and dangerous; it encourages the reader to reflect upon friendships, intentions, and trust.
Bottom line: Ingrid Rojas Contreras is just a fantastic storyteller. Her characters and the plot are fully and meticulously developed while the perspectives of the story switch seamlessly between Chula and Petrona. I felt invested in the characters, their lives, and their survival. This is one of Rojas Contreras’ true strengths.
The result is a full, rich tapestry of authentic interactions and emotions both among the characters and with their reader. Fruit of the Drunken Tree is an outstanding debut; if you appreciate raw yet flavorful storytelling, robust storylines, or Latinx literature, I highly recommend it.
This post contains affiliate links; quotes are based on the advanced reader’s copy (ARC) and may or may not be reflected in the final copy of the book. Thanks to NetGalley, Doubleday, and Ingrid Rojas Contreras for the complimentary ARC! My reviews contain my own honest feedback.
Welcome to New Reads for the Rest of Us for August 2018!
With these monthly lists, I aim to amplify the books written by those who are historically underrepresented including, but not limited to: women of color, women from the Global South, women who are black, indigenous, disabled, queer, fat, immigrants, Muslim, sex-positive, and more. My lists are intersectional, feminist, and trans-inclusive. I also want to highlight books by gender non-conforming people (who may or may not be described by the term “womxn”).
If you’d like to learn more 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 usually add to this list as I learn of others; if you have a suggestion, please share it in the comments below!
So here are the New Reads for the Rest of Us for August 2018! There are so many great titles here, which will you read??
“Born to Kwaito revisits history as told through the vibrant lens of Kwaito, which is more than just music. Kwaito presented a new unbridled expression of Black South African youths. It carried the political significance of Black South Africans deciding to take a moment to enjoy themselves and the promise of their freedom.”–Description
Tags: Lesbian, women writers, #OwnVoices, series, romance, adventure
Affinity Rainbow, 155 pages (ebook)
“Cam’s story continues as the Gator Girlz business continues to thrive under her leadership, but will self-doubt jeopardize her relationship when Bugsy reveals the family moonshine business to an unsuspecting Luce?
Will a devastating injury to Sandy end her career as a gator hunter or will it open a door to love?
Join the St. Angelo family for a third adventure to find out more about life, loving and family in Bayou Country.”–Description
Tags: YA, family, coming of age, #OwnVoices, women writers
North Dakota State University Press, 264 pages
“I absolutely love how Quigley captures the distinct Turtle Mountain accent and, more importantly, the gentle lessons on tribal traditions the grandparents give, along with some truly humorous moments!”–Denise K. Lajimodiere, enrolled citizen, Turtle Mountain Ojibwe, author of Stringing Rosaries: Stories from Northern Plains American Indian Boarding School Survivors
“A remarkable whodunit that’s as sharp as it is concise. Brar enhances her taut murder mystery with an engaging setting that effectively incorporates the local culture. The smart, believable denouement will have readers looking forward to Brar’s next endeavor.”–Kirkus Reviews
“A literary mystery saga that includes far more depth and psychologicaland cultural insights than your typical murder mystery’s scenario.”–D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review
“A good introduction to feminist research methodology that grounds the reader in history and theory and then moves to actual research practice, thoroughly covering the types of research that feminists are doing today. I appreciate the inclusion of contemporary digital practices, which are very important currently.”–Stacie Craft DeFreitas, PhD, Department of Social Sciences, University of Houston–Downtown
Tags: Poetry, Pakistan, Muslim, #OwnVoices, debut, women writers
One World, 128 pages
“Fatimah Asghar’s work isn’t simply some of the most innovative poetry I’ve read; page after page, the book weaves productive ambiguity, textured explorations of the body, and lyrical precision into a work that is somehow just as much a mammoth book of short stories, an experimental novel, and a soulful memoir. I’m not sure this nation is deserving of such a marvelous, sensual, and sensory book, but I know we needed this. We so needed this.”–Kiese Laymon, author of How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America and Long Division
Tags: Korea, family, literary, women writers, war, debut
William Morrow, 432 pages
“An unforgettable story of family, love, and war set against the violent emergence of modern Korea.”–Gary Shteyngart
“A gripping, heartrending tale of the birth of modern Korea filtered through the prism of an intimate love story. In fresh, often astonishing prose, Kim brings her characters to life: complicated, flawed, and hard not to fall in love with. A strikingly original work.”–Jessica Shattuck
Tags: Zimbabwe, women writers, literary, #OwnVoices, historical fiction
Graywolf Press, 304 pages
“A searing novel about the obstacles facing women in Zimbabwe, by one of the country’s most notable authors.
In This Mournable Body, Tsitsi Dangarembga returns to the protagonist of her acclaimed first novel, Nervous Conditions, to examine how the hope and potential of a young girl and a fledgling nation can sour over time and become a bitter and floundering struggle for survival.”–Amazon
“A brilliant dive into the seething psyche of India’s small-town youth: a mayhem of sexuality, sentimentality, and insatiable hunger for success―at whatever price.”–Sunil Khilnani, author of The Idea of India
“Diligently reported and crisply written, Dreamers is an eye-opening guide to India’s troubling present―and future. No recent book has so astutely charted the treacherous Indian gap between extravagant illusion and grim reality.”–Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger
Tags: Lesbian, women writers, romance, paranormal, #OwnVoices
SW Anderson Books, 232 pages
“Some people believe love transcends time and space…
Neuropsychologist Dr. Contessa “Tess” Kenner isn’t one of them…
Free spirited artist Elena Jake, on the other hand, wants to fall in love with the woman of her dreams—quite literally… Will these two souls rediscover an epic love? Or are they destined to forever be star-crossed lovers? This paranormal romance is a must read for every true romantic who believes true love knows no bounds.”–Description
Tags: Black Lives Matter, Black women, women writers, feminism, politics, race, incarceration
Haymarket Books, 200 pages
“Black Panther and Cuban exile, Assata Shakur, has inspired multiple generations of radical protest, including our contemporary Black Lives Matter movement. Drawing its title from one of America’s foremost revolutionaries this collection of thought-provoking essays by award-winning Panther scholar Donna Murch explores how social protest is challenging our current system of state violence and mass incarceration.
Assata Taught Me offers a fresh and much-needed historical perspective on the fifty years since the founding of the Black Panther Party, in which the world’s largest police state has emerged.”–Description
Flights by Olga Tokarczuk with Jennifer Croft (Translator)
Tags: Translation, women writers, Poland, short stories, literary, magical realism
Riverhead, 416 pages
Winner of the Man Booker International Prize
“An indisputable masterpiece…Punctuated by maps and figures, the discursive novel is reminiscent of the work of Sebald. The threads ultimately converge in a remarkable way, making this an extraordinary accomplishment.”–Publisher’s Weekly (starred)
“A magnificent writer.”–Svetlana Alexievich, Nobel Prize-winning author of Secondhand Time
Pretty Things by Virginie Despentes and Emma Ramadan (Translator)
Tags: Sisters, contemporary women, women writers, gender, feminism
The Feminist Press at CUNY, 245 pages
“An intoxicating pop-trash plot of stolen identity that reveals the brutal and hilarious rules of gender—the high-octane philosophy beach read of the summer.”–Joanna Walsh, author of Worlds from the Word’s End
“Virginie Despentes had me in a headlock the whole time I was reading: she’s a feminist Zola for the twenty-first century.”–Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse: Women Walk the City
“Splits ‘the Chinese immigrant story’ into a kaleidoscopic spectrum, putting faces to the many groups who come to America. Vanessa Hua’s debut is an utterly absorbing novel about the ruthless love of parenthood and the universal truth that sometimes family runs deeper than blood alone.”–Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You
“Illuminates the lives of her characters with energy, verve, and heart. Hua tracks the minutest emotional terrain of these characters while simultaneously interrogating the cultural and economic forces that shape their worlds.”–Emma Cline, New York Times bestselling author of The Girls
“A biting indictment of late-stage capitalism and a chilling vision of what comes after . . . [Ma] knows her craft, and it shows. [Her protagonist] is a wonderful mix of vulnerability, wry humor, and steely strength…. Ma also offers lovely meditations on memory and the immigrant experience. Smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written.”–Kirkus, starred review
“Embracing the genre but somehow transcending it, Ma creates a truly engrossing and believable anti-utopian world. Ma’s extraordinary debut marks a notable creative jump by playing on the apocalyptic fears many people share today.”–Booklist, starred review
Tags: Literary, thrillers, historical fiction, women writers, debut
Ecco, 304 pages
“Marina Perezagua is an exciting new voice, one of the best of the new generation of Spanish writers.”–Salman Rushdie
“Rich with symbolism and recurring motifs, the story folds in on itself like origami. . . This thought-provoking novel charting the aching distance between the heart and tongue gives voice to the mutability and resilience of the human spirit.”–Booklist
Tags: Race, women writers, women of color, Black women
University of Washington Press, 288 pages
“The authors in this wonderful volume make an utterly compelling case for why ecological discussions can no longer be taken seriously if they do not center race, indigeneity, and coloniality. This is a powerful and important book that should be read by everyone concerned with how to understand and address the ecological crisis that is upon us.”–Claire Jean Kim, professor of political science and Asian American studies, University of California, Irvine
Tags: Mexico, women writers, art, dance, history, nonfiction
Palgrave Macmillan, 210 pages
“This is a solid contribution to the academic field of postrevolutionary culture and art in Mexico. […] This well-researched book rethinks the postrevolutionary canon by using new theoretical tools and incorporating little-known cultural processes.”–Jorge Quintana-Navarrete, Assistant Professor of Latin American Studies, Dartmouth College
Tags: Women writers, nonfiction, Black women, Black Lives Matter, #OwnVoices
University of California Press, 240 pages
“I can imagine no more perfect example of the dedicated scholar/activist than Barbara Ransby. She now offers us an analysis of the Movement for Black Lives, and its historical continuities and ruptures, that reflects both her considerable skills as a historian and her rich experience as an activist. This book passionately urges us to adapt the radical and feminist versions of democracy that will move us forward.”–Angela Y. Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz
Tags: Brazil, women writers, #OwnVoices, friendship, historical, literary, coming of age
Riverhead, 464 pages
“Although this novel is set during the 1930s in Brazil, the tale between two friends remains timeless…Each page is as intoxicating as the characters themselves; the perfect read for a long weekend or day off.”–Fashion Week Online
“Samba music and its allure beats beneath this winding and sinuous tale of ambition, memory, and identity…Peebles’ detailed and atmospheric story is cinematic in scope, panoramic in view, and lyrical in tone.”–Kirkus, STARRED review
Tags: Brazil, women writers, nonfiction, #OwnVoices, history
Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 800 pages
“A thoughtful and profound journey into the soul of Brazil . . . The Brazil that emerges from this book is, indeed, a fascinating, complex, multicolored, contradictory and challenging organism, more like a living being than a political, cultural and geographical entity.”–Laurentino Gomes, Folha de São Paulo
Poso Wells by Gabriela Alemán with Dick Cluster (Translator)
“Poso Wells explores the dichotomy between the new and old worlds of Ecuador through an exciting noir about missing women, corrupt politicians, and a journalist’s attempt to unravel the secrets of the infinitely labyrinthine cityscape of Poso Wells. This is an exciting debut translation of a celebrated Ecuadorian author, and one that should lead to more translations of her work.”–Ely Watson, A Room of One’s Own Bookstore (Madison, WI)
“Barb Cook and 14 other autistic women describe life from a female autistic perspective, and present empowering, helpful and supportive insights from their personal experience for fellow autistic women.”–Description
“For a long time, Captain Brenda Borelli has had it all―a devoted girlfriend, a dedicated partner, loyal friends and a fulfilling career. Her world seemed perfect. But somehow it all fell apart. While she was busy investigating crimes, the things she valued most just slipped away. […] As if solving the murder isn’t enough, trying to figure out whether she wants to start over with her old lover―or explore the possibilities with a potential new one―might prove to be the most difficult task of all.”–Description
Tags: Virginia Woolf, biography, women writers, United Kingdom, European history
University Press of Florida, 408 pages
“In her third and final volume on Virginia Woolf’s diaries, Barbara Lounsberry reveals new insights about the courageous last years of the modernist writer’s life, from 1929 until Woolf’s suicide in 1941.”–Description
“Lounsberry establishes how central to Woolf’s personal and creative being was diary-writing.”–Panthea Reid, author of Art and Affection: A Life of Virginia Woolf
Tags: Gender, queer, memoir, women writers, trans, #OwnVoices
Penguin Canada, 96 pages
“In I’m Afraid of Men, Vivek Shraya owns and exposes her own history with masculinity and offers a way out of this harmful and old-fashioned binary we call gender. My head nodded along quietly in agreement any time I wasn’t wiping away rising tides of tears. Vivek Shraya is a superior voice, and this book is essential reading for everyone.”–Tegan Quin of Tegan and Sara
Tags: Morocco, race, women writers, #OwnVoices, YA, fantasy
Flatiron Books, 320 pages
“With its breathtaking worldbuilding and characters who grabbed me from the first page, Mirage is by turns thrilling and ruminative, sexy and heartbreaking. Somaiya Daud has written a moving and unforgettable debut.”–Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes
“Readers will appreciate the rich world and prose built by a much-needed diverse voice.”–Kirkus Reviews
Tags: Race, women writers, immigration, India, memoir
Penguin, 224 pages
“In this intimate, passionate look at race in America, Sen considers the price paid by nonwhite immigrants who try to become white, while always wearing a smiling face. Her provocative solution is for people like us to defiantly embrace not being white. That feels just right to me.”–Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sympathizer and The Refugees
Tags: West Africa, religion, girlhood, women writers
Akashic Books, 224 pages
“A tale set in [West Africa], where a girl is given up by her family, endures a very hard life, and, once set free, must find a way to heal and live forward.”–Philadelphia Inquirer, included in Must-Read Books for Summer 2018
“An engrossing novel that truly is a praise song for survivors everywhere.”–Kirkus Reviews
Tags: Queer, Black women, women writers, politics, race
Beacon Press, 184 pages
“Charlene Carruthers is a powerful organizer, radical thinker, paradigm-shifter, and one of the most influential political voices of her generation. Anyone seriously interested in the struggle for Black liberation in this country needs to listen carefully to what she has to say.”–Barbara Ransby, author of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement and Making All Black Lives Matter
“Leadership is the ability to not only make your own way but to return to give others a roadmap that they, too, can follow. This is what Charlene Carruthers does with Unapologetic. She offers us a guide to getting free with incisive prose, years of grassroots organizing experience, and a deeply intersectional lens. She doesn’t forget any of us, and reminds us that bringing all of ourselves and our people with us is the only way any of us will get free.”–Janet Mock, author of Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty
“From Adam and Eve to pussy hats, people have punished, praised, pathologized, and politicized vulvas, vaginas, clitorises, and menstruation. In this feminist graphic novel, Swedish cartoonist Liv Strömquist calls out how genitalia-obsessed men have stigmatized women’s bodies, denied their sexuality, created a dubious gender binary, and much more.”–Publisher
“In Kicking Center, Rachel Allison investigates a women’s soccer league seeking to break into the male-dominated center of U.S. professional sport. Through an examination of the challenges and opportunities identified by those working for and with this league, she demonstrates how gender inequality is both constructed and contested in professional sport.”–Description
So there you have it! The New Reads for the Rest of Us for August 2018 list! What titles are you excited about?
In her debut novel Suicide Club, Rachel Heng reaffirms the notion of “be careful what you wish for” and challenges her readers to reflect upon the price they would pay for immortality.
The author, Rachel Heng.
We live in a world where the quest for long life is a multimillion dollar industry. In Heng’s near future setting, people live for hundreds of years. But at what cost?
In this engaging story, Lea Kirino is a successful woman with the potential to live forever. By all accounts, she has a profitable career, a loving relationship, a comfortable apartment.
They burst out laughing. Todd laughed too, right on cue. Their laughter was rich and cascading, a golden ribbon unfurling through the party, making people turn to look, people who were until then perfectly secure of their position in life but at that moment felt something was missing. (page 7)
Lea follows all of the suggested guidelines for nutrition (juicing), exercise (low impact, including no running), and avoiding stress (even too much smiling causes unwanted wrinkles).
It wasn’t often, these days, that things broke anymore. Everything was toughened, reinforced, enhanced. You really had to try to break something. (page 132)
Then one day, she sees her estranged father on the street and it changes everything. Lea begins to question being a “lifer” as she is confronted by the divergent and illegal ideas of her father and the mysterious Suicide Club.
The Suicide Club is made up of people who challenge the status quo that immortality – and the price one pays for it – is a worthwhile goal. The members are committed to exercising autonomy and control over the course of their lives: to eat what they want, live how they please, and die how (and when) they choose.
“Something has to change. In being robbed of our deaths, we are robbed of our lives.” (page 2)
Lea begins to question everything; everything she thought was true and right. Heng challenges her readers to consider issues of longevity but also family relationships, wealth and consumption, and what truly makes life worth living – and dying. For me, it brought up contemplation about the right to die with dignity and autonomy, though not specifically taken on in the book.
One of the strengths of Heng’s writing – and there are many – is her commitment to detail. Her ability to describe this 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. She takes her time and brings the reader into Lea’s world day by day. The result is a dynamic, multidimensional setting and intriguing characters that set the stage for the readers’ reflections.
Lea felt a heaviness in her lower back, as if the weight of all their problems, all their pain, had crept into her body, wrapped itself around the base of her spine, settled there. Calcified, anchored, immovable. (page 274)
Suicide Club is a thought-provoking novel perfect for readers who like dystopian or speculative fiction that makes you think. I was both entertained and intrigued by the book; it held my interest throughout. With characters you will relate to and a story that will draw you in, Suicide Club is one of the strongest debuts of the year.
Content information (potential spoilers):
Animal cruelty pages 100-103; several descriptions and discussions of suicide; bullying and violence pages 177-181; self-harm page 98; descriptions of sickness, hospitalization, dying, and death; family estrangement and death; sex pages 278-280; murder.
I received an advance reader’s edition of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Henry Holt, Declan Taintor, and Rachel Heng. This review contains affiliate links. Please support independent booksellers!
I’ve always enjoyed dystopian and post-apocalyptic books and films but admittedly, I am no expert in these genres. I appreciate the creativity and uniqueness of these types of stories. I think it takes courage to write a book of speculative fiction; there’s a risk in letting your imagination run free and create a world for the reader that is idiosyncratic while still allowing them to see the familiar in this fictional setting.
The author, Peng Shepherd.
Peng Shepherd is one of these risk-takers.
Her debut novel, The Book of M, is set in the near-future where people’s shadows begin randomly disappearing. The phenomenon starts with one man in India but soon spreads inexplicably across the world and is soon dubbed The Forgetting.
Why The Forgetting? Because while people afflicted with it gain a new power, they pay the price by losing their memories along with their shadows. The book turns eerie quickly when we learn that as the stages of the Forgetting continue, the person who loses their shadow soon forgets who people are, how to drive, where to find food, how to speak, that fire is hot. The thought of dying by forgetting is terrifying and all too real.
The book is focused on two main characters, a couple named Max and Ory. Each chapter is centered on one of them or on one of the other characters we meet throughout the story. Shepherd is adept at these changes of voice and this method lends to the feeling of instability and fear in the world during this terrifying catastrophe. The Forgetting hits home when Max loses her shadow and, instead of waiting until the day when she loses her memory completely, she runs away. Ory sets out after her in a desperate attempt to find her and salvage any time that they may have left together.
Ory held his breath and ran east, straight into the low-hanging morning light, as if he could outrun his terror. If he could just make it far enough, the rising sun would turn into a bridge, and then he’d be in D.C. And Max would have to be there. She’d have to be (page 75).
While she travels, Max reluctantly beings to record herself on a small tape recorder Ory had given her. This is a genius tool that Shepherd employs on various levels. While it allows us to hear Max’s narration, thoughts, and feelings, it also gives us clues into her evolution during The Forgetting. As the bits and pieces come together throughout the book, they are like pieces of a puzzle fitting together just so.
There are so many things to tell you, Ory! I’m desperate to record them all before I start to forget. I want to tell you all about the others I’m with now, who they are, what they do, where we’re going. I don’t say this to hurt you, I hope you wouldn’t take it that way– but until I met them… I didn’t realize how lonely I’d been (page 188).
The Book of M is spooky and mysterious; I was never quite sure what to expect next. Shepherd is able to make her characters come distinctly alive, so that you can see yourself in them and wonder how you would feel or react in the midst of The Forgetting. As we would, some of the characters take risks and some play it safe.
On a deeper level, this is a story of humanity and what makes one “human.” It challenges us to examine embodiment and self, as well as science and medicine. Through The Book of M, we can explore our deepest memories and the shadows we leave behind, willingly or not.
Title: The Book of M: A Novel
Author: Peng Shepherd
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: June 5, 2018 My Rating: Highly Recommended
This post was originally published in June 2018.
I received an advanced reader’s edition of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, William Morrow! This review contains affiliate links. Please support independent booksellers!
My new book release lists are undergoing a name change!
Welcome to New Reads for the Rest of Us for July 2018.
I updated the title to better represent my purpose for these lists. You’ll be able to read more about this soon in a new post and an updated values statement but for now, just know that I will continue to offer you all the latest titles by womxn writers. (You might also notice that I added additional info about each title including tags and page counts.)
Essentially, I aim to amplify the books written by those who are historically underrepresented including, but not limited to: women of color, women from the Global South, women who are black, indigenous, disabled, queer, fat, immigrants, Muslim, sex-positive, and more. My lists are intersectional, feminist, and trans-inclusive. I also want to highlight books by gender non-conforming people (who may or may not be described by the term “womxn”).
So here’s July’s list! There are so many great titles here, which will you read??
Tags: South Africa, women writers, biography, #OwnVoices, Black women, Mandela
Jacana Media, 224 pages
“The idea to gather the memories of those who served Madiba into a book came from an understanding that most people in South Africa, and those around the world, knew him as an icon; as a public figure. It was important to me that the stories of those close to him be published so that fifty years from now, even a hundred years from now, when future generations want to know who Nelson Mandela was, they would not only be told the story of the head of state, but they would be able to read the story of a human being with a caring heart and generous soul.“–Mrs. Graça Machel
Tags: Historical fiction, World War II, Turkey, Jewish women, women writers
Amazon Crossing, 316 pages
“World War II scattered families across the globe, with only the luckiest remaining together in their new homes. In this poignant, timely novel, we meet the Jewish scientists who move from Germany to Istanbul to develop their vision of the world’s best universities. Based on the true story of neuropathologist professor Philipp Schwartz, Without a Country tells the story of one family’s migration, with all the challenges and triumphs of laying down roots in a new land.”–Gabriella Page-Fort (editor)
“Using an intersectional approach, Marriage, Divorce, and Distress in Northeast Brazil explores rural, working-class, black Brazilian women’s perceptions and experiences of courtship, marriage and divorce. In this book, women’s narratives of marriage dissolution demonstrate the ways in which changing gender roles and marriage expectations associated with modernization and globalization influence the intimate lives and the health and well being of women in Northeast Brazil. Melanie A. Medeiros explores the women’s rich stories of desire, love, respect, suffering, strength, and transformation.”–Description
Tags: Child marriage, Yemen, #OwnVoices, debut, women writers
Hawaa Ayoub, 402 pages
Hawaa Ayoub, author of When a Bulbul Sings, has experienced the traumas of forced child-marriage first hand. She hopes to raise awareness through writing about child-marriage.
This is a story about the inequality, injustice and violations of human rights millions of girls around the world face due to their gender when forced or entered into underage marriage as child brides.”–Description
Tags: Plays, Michigan, black women, #ownvoices, women writers
Theatre Communications Group, 240 pages
“Detroit ’67 is Morisseau’s aching paean to her natal city. . . . A deft playwright, Morisseau plays expertly with social mores and expectations. She also reframes commonplace things so that we see them in new light.”–StarTribune on Detroit ’67
“A deeply moral and deeply American play, with a loving compassion for those trapped in a system that makes sins, spiritual or societal, and self-betrayal almost inevitable.”–The New York Times on Skeleton Crew
“In Don’t Let Them See Me Like This, Jasmine Gibson explores myriad intersectional identities in relation to The State, disease, love, sex, failure, and triumph. Speaking to those who feel disillusioned by both radical and banal spaces and inspired/informed by moments of political crisis: Hurricane Katrina, The Jena Six, the extrajudicial executions of Black people, and the periods of insurgency that erupted in response, this book acts as a synthesis of political life and poetic form.”–Publisher description
“An enchanting evocation of the brilliant Mughal Empire and a tender tribute to India’s first female leader. Lush and sensuous, a jewel box of a book.”–Rosalind Miles, author of Who Cooked the Last Supper? The Women’s History of the World
“This is an outstanding book, not only incredibly important but also a fabulous piece of writing. Here, India’s greatest empress is reborn in all her fascinating glory in a luminescent account of her life and times. Ruby Lal has written a classic―one of the best biographies to come out this year and certainly the best ever of Nur Jahan.”–Amanda Foreman, author of The World Made by Women
“What a book! Gologorsky is at her best, weaving a tapestry of the lives of very real people, people whose lives deserve her care, her unsparing eye, and her compassion. Here is a story that cuts to the core of the way things are, and the way they can — all of a sudden — become. You heart might be ripped out by this book, but it will get placed back inside with a larger capacity to love and beat on — what a book, indeed.”–Elizabeth Strout, author of My Name is Lucy Barton and Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge
Tags: China, women writers, memoir, Taiwan, history
Columbia University Press, 480 pages
“The Great Flowing River is one of the great memoirs of modern China. Telling the story of one woman’s odyssey through the twentieth century, this is not just a deeply moving account of Chi Pang-yuan and her family, but a window into how the Chinese people came through the trauma of war and turmoil, and created a new set of civilized values in their aftermath.”–Rana Mitter, author of Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945
“This is a memoir of epic proportions. Chi’s work is a testimony of this tremendous historical period that is the long twentieth century for the Chinese and the Taiwanese peoples. The English translation of this epochal memoir is most certainly significant.”–Letty Chen, author of Writing Chinese: Reshaping Chinese Cultural Identity
Tags: Feminism, memoir, essays, art, women writers
Coffee House Press, 132 pages
“This small and beautiful book about feminism and motherhood and art is perfect for those of us who like thinking outside of the box when we’re looking for something lovely to read.”–Vulture
“. . . Fusselman bounds with great dexterity from theme to theme—covering topics including addiction, motherhood, gender, and art—until she has transformed the traditional essay into something far wilder and more alive.”–Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Last year author Sheena Kamal introduced readers to Nora Watts in what Kirkus called ‘a searing debut’ in their starred review for The Lost Ones. […] Now Kamal returns with her highly-anticipated follow-up, It All Falls Down and the brilliant, fearless, deeply flawed Nora Watts is back and in deadly trouble…”–Publisher’s description
“Kamal laces her narrative with a palpable melancholy, effectively capturing the urban decay of Detroit while emphasizing the vibrancy and hope of the people who inhabit it. An explosive finale…sets the stage for more to come from this complicated, flawed, and utterly enthralling heroine. A stunning, emotionally resonant thriller.”–Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Tags: Queer, pansexual, bisexual, genderqueer, urban fantasy
Less Than Three Press, ebook (30k words)
“In Temperance City, the streets are ruled by spelled-up gangsters, whose magic turf wars serve as a constant backdrop to civilian life. With magic strictly regulated, Eli Coello—whip-smart jewelry salesman by day, sultry torch singer by night—has always found it advantageous to hide his magical affinity for ink.
All that goes up in smoke the day Eli is forced to use his magic to foil a jewelry heist, and in doing so unwittingly catches the eye of Duke Haven, leader of the fire-flinging Pyre gang. Seeing a useful asset, Duke promptly blackmails Eli into providing unregistered spellwork.
Duke needs Eli’s ink-magic to help him pull a dangerous con against a rival gang. As the heist comes together, Eli finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into the Temperance underworld—and, perhaps most dangerously, to Duke himself.”–Description
Tags: Puerto Rico, Latinx women, debut, #ownvoices, short stories, women writers
Feminist Press, 200 pages
“Wise, ferocious, and beautifully executed, these tales trace the tangled roots of trauma and desire.”–Patricia Engel, author of The Veins of the Ocean
“An insightful look into girlhood, race, and the wounds of growing up, Love War Stories is a searing collection. Rodriguez has a rare gift for describing the minutiae of contemporary life, the heartaches as well as the dangers, without flinching.”–Mark Haber, Brazos Bookstore
Tags: Politics, social justice, non-fiction, women writers
Melville House, 224 pages
“For too long, a privileged, pale, male minority have long claimed to speak for America. But as Onnesha Roychoudhuri shows, they are in fact profoundly out of touch with a society that’s increasingly progressive and diverse. This book is a clear-eyed pep talk for those who stand on the brink of despair and a welcome reminder that a new, true majority has the potential to rise up and change the world.”–Astra Taylor, author of The People’s Platform
“We have the numbers, strength, and vision to beat back the resurgent right and set a new people’s agenda. But it won’t happen until we start telling new stories about change, shedding the tired ones that have silenced and demoralized us. This book is a daring intervention to get us back in the game—and a witty, delightfully personal meditation on collective power.”–Naomi Klein, author of No Is Not Enough and This Changes Everything
“Moshfegh has a keen sense of everyday absurdities, a deadpan delivery, and such a well-honed sense of irony that the narrator’s predicament never feels tragic; this may be the finest existential novel not written by a French author. . . . A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.”–Kirkus, starred review
Tags: Arab women, women writers, humor, friendship, #ownvoices
Pantheon, 240 pages
“Novelist and memoirist al-Shaykh delivers an elegant story of a friendship that is anything but easy. . . . [The] novel is full of quiet regrets as it speaks gracefully to the challenges of friendship, challenges that threaten to drive the two women apart but that, in the end, instead strengthen their bond. Another winning book by one of the most distinguished Arabic-language writers at work today.”–Kirkus Reviews
“Lebanese-born, Cairo-educated, and London-based, al-Shaykh writes piercingly about Middle East upheaval and especially women in the Arab-Muslim world. Somewhere along the French Riviera, two young women from Beirut—Muslim-raised Huda and Christian-raised Yvonne—reflect on their tumultuous lives and struggles with work and love.”–Library Journal
Tags: Debut, dystopian, immigration, women writers
Touchstone, 320 pages
[T]he novel oscillates between the present and future—a jarring juxtaposition that’s equally touching and heartbreaking… Lim’s writing shines brightest when she’s ruminating on time, memory, and love… A beautiful debut exploring how time, love, and sacrifice are never what they seem to be.–Kirkus
Lim’s enthralling novel succeeds on every level: as a love story, an imaginative thriller, and a dystopian narrative.–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Tags: Michigan, non-fiction, politics, environment, women writers
Metropolitan Books, 320 pages
“The story of the Flint crisis is disturbing enough even if one knows only a few details. But the entire case, as laid out by Anna Clark, is enraging. Clark has sifted the layers of politics, history, and myopic policy to chronicle the human costs of this tragedy. Flint is not an outlier, it’s a parable – one whose implications matter not just to a single municipality but to every city in the country and all who live in them.”–Jelani Cobb, Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism, Columbia University
“Anna Clark’s book on the Flint water crisis rises to a great challenge: it sacrifices neither complexity nor moral clarity. And by etching this story’s outlines in decades of racist neglect, it is not just a splendid work of journalism. It is a genuine contribution to history.”–Rick Perlstein, author of The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan
Tags: Speculative fiction, debut, dystopian, women writers
Henry Holt and Co., 352 pages
“Fans of modern speculative fiction and readers who love stories that warn us to be careful what we wish for will be enthralled by Heng’s highly imaginative debut, which deftly asks, “What does it really mean to be alive?”–Library Journal, starred review
“In exquisitely crafted prose, Rachel Heng gives us a startling look at a version of the world that seems simultaneously wild and plausible. Heng is a bold new talent and a writer to watch.”–Liz Moore, author of Heft and The Unseen World
“What We Were Promised is a big beautiful novel. Lucy Tan’s dazzling debut grapples with the persistence of the past, the inevitability of the present, and the difficulty of balancing individuality with community.”–Hannah Pittard, author of Visible Empire and Listen to Me
“Tan’s talent as a storyteller clearly shines through her strong plot lines and characterization; readers will want to know more about each well-crafted player in the story . . . . A novel of class, culture, and expectations; readers who enjoyed works like Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians will likely find Tan’s surprising and down-to-earth tale an entertaining read.”–Library Journal
Relating Worlds of Racism: Dehumanisation, Belonging, and the Normativity of European Whiteness by Philomena Essed, Karen Farquharson, et al.
Tags: Europe, whiteness, race, women writers
Palgrave Macmillan, 436 pages
This international edited collection examines how racism trajectories and manifestations in different locations relate and influence each other. The book unmasks and foregrounds the ways in which notions of European Whiteness have found form in a variety of global contexts that continue to sustain racism as an operational norm resulting in exclusion, violence, human rights violations, isolation and limited full citizenship for individuals who are not racialised as White.–Description
“Tightly plotted, expertly choreographed…. Stage palpably conveys Suzette’s fear, anger, frustration, and desperation while exploring the deleterious effects that motherhood can have on one’s marriage and self-worth. …Stage fuses horror with domestic suspense to paint an unflinching portrait of childhood psychopathy and maternal regret.”–Kirkus (starred)
“Stage’s deviously fun debut takes child-rearing anxiety to demented new heights. Stage expertly crafts this creepy, can’t-put-it-down thriller into a fearless exploration of parenting and marriage that finds the cracks in unconditional love.”–Publishers Weekly (starred)
I included this one just because… I can’t wait to get my hands on it!
“[A] fierce thriller….de Campi delivers a script packed with righteous femme fatales full of wit and moxie…[and her] masterful writing is punctuated by the coolness of Santos’s block shading artwork and moody coloring; simplistic and reminiscent of the pop art style of the 1950s. Readers will revel in this fast-paced noir, embracing both its elegant period detail and pulpy genre roots.”–Publishers Weekly
“Cuba before the fall has long been a subject of interest in [the crime] genre….[and] Alex de Campi and Victor Santos…both partake of this long tradition and turn it on its head….The gorgeous colors and clean lines of this graphic novel complement the stylish storytelling, for a noir comic not to be missed.”–CrimeReads
Tags: Immigration, Mexico, family, women writers, memoir, debut, #ownvoices
One World, 352 pages
“Crux is everything I want in a memoir: prose that dazzles and cuts, insights hard-won and achingly named, and a plot that kept me up at night, breathlessly turning pages. Jean Guerrero has a poet’s lyrical sense, a journalist’s dogged devotion to truth, and a fast and far-reaching mind. This is a book preoccupied with chasing—that is one of its harrowing pleasures—but, like all great memoirs, it is ultimately a story about the great trouble and relief of being found.”–Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me
“Jean Guerrero has done excellent reporting from the U.S.–Mexico borderlands. Now she examines the more mysterious borders of family history and that unknown region of the heart. You will be moved by Crux—this book is powerful and true.”–Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway
“This is the book I would have written—but only if I had had a brilliant grasp of literature, politics, and history, and the ability to weave them together in a uniquely original way. The Death of Truth goes indelibly to the dark, dark heart of what is ailing our democracy as no recent book has done.”–Graydon Carter
“Kakutani’s The Death of Truth is politically urgent and intellectually dazzling. She deftly goes behind the daily headlines to reveal the larger forces threatening democracy at home in America, and elsewhere around the globe. The result is a brilliant and fascinating call-to-arms that anyone who cares about democracy ought to read immediately.”–Jane Mayer
“An increase in the number of transgender children…means that all primary schools need to ensure they are safe environments respectful of all genders. This book draws on the ‘Gender Respect Project’, which identified the need to address gender stereotyping and gender-based violence with children and young people.
The book is full of lesson plans, case studies, clear guidance and recommended actions as well as further reading and resources. Extending beyond awareness of other genders, this book provides a framework for a gender equality approach in the classroom, and empowers children to think critically about gender and to respect themselves and others.”–Description
“When their daughter Rosie was born, Eric and Stephani Lohman found themselves thrust into a situation they were not prepared for. Born intersex – a term that describes people who are born with a variety of physical characteristics that do not fit neatly into traditional conceptions about male and female bodies – Rosie’s parents were pressured to consent to normalizing surgery on Rosie, without being offered any alternatives despite their concerns.
Part memoir, part guidebook, this powerful book tells the authors’ experience of refusing to have Rosie operated on and how they raised a child who is intersex. […] This uplifting and empowering story is a must read for all parents of intersex children.”–Description
Tags: Jamaica, Caribbean, black women, #ownvoices, coming of age, short stories, women writers
Ballantine Books, 256 pages
“I am utterly taken with these gorgeous, tender, heartbreaking stories. Arthurs is a witty, perceptive, and generous writer, and this is a book that will last.”–Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties
“Stylistically reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s Paradise, this successful debut will appeal to readers of literary and Caribbean fiction.”–Library Journal
Tags: Family, suicide, business, feminism, memoir, women authors, #ownvoices
Little, Brown and Co., 288 pages
“This is more than a book: it’s a phenomenon. It kept me up nights with its urgency and insistence, following Rowbottom, in her masterfully clear-eyed grief, on the hunt for understanding and explanation. JELL-O GIRLS is a heart-wrenching confession, an exacting cultural history and an important and honest feminist story for right now.”–Aja Gabel, author of The Ensemble
“Allie Rowbotton is a talent not to be overlooked! I love this book with all my heart. I couldn’t put down this strangely sparkling cultural and family history.”–Porochista Khakpour, author of Sick
“Motherhood across Borders is a vivid and engaging ethnography about how mothers, grandmothers, caregivers, and children fare when they are divided by, but also connected despite, the U.S.-Mexico border. Focusing on the voices of those directly impacted—people of all ages, across generations, and in both Mexico and the United States—Oliveira provides an intimate portrayal of the ways that motherhood, and caregiving more generally, is shifting in transnational context.”-Deborah A. Boehm,author of Returned: Going and Coming in an Age of Deportation
“Name Me a Word is an indispensable guide for readers of Indian writing, animating the powerful impulses of the country’s famous writers and introducing the multiple voices that have gone into the making of the most important literature of our time.”–Simon Gikandi, Princeton University
“This ambitious collection conveys the astonishing and reflective literary vitality in modern India. Alexander guides the reader through this vast area with her well-written and illuminating headnotes for each writer in turn.”–Margery Sabin, Wellesley College
“In Pretend We Live Here, characters bleed and breathe with a caustic energy that dares the reader to keep pace as they are taken from the Deep South to Western Europe and back again. Genevieve Hudson is a new, coming-of-age voice that spotlights rural America, injecting it with a queer freshness that makes her writing impossible to forget.”–Jing-Jing Lee, author of How We Disappeared
Tags: Sports, Muslim women, memoir, #ownvoices, coming of age, women writers
Hachette Books, 288 pages
Named one of TIME‘s 100 Most Influential People
The first female Muslim American to medal at the Olympic Games
The first woman in hijab to compete for the United States in the Olympics
“Proud is the inspiring story of how Ibtihaj rose above it all with grace and compassion. She provides an unflinching and honest portrayal of how she managed to stay true to herself and still play by the rules. A coming-of-age story, a hero’s journey, and a moving memoir from one of the nation’s most influential athletes.”–Description
Tags: Memoirs, women writers, queer, trans, family, #ownvoices
Bedazzled Ink Publishing, 260 pages
“It is increasingly evident that Eliot is not only autistic, but is also an uncommon girl. Eliot’s mother, Carla, recounts their journey down an unfamiliar path riddled with dismissive medical consultations and mental health referrals to clinics with epic waiting lists. Eliot transitions to Ella, with ambitions of being a trophy wife. Her parents attempt to set limits but Ella, in a typically teenage way, resists anything she deems as trying to squelch her true feminine self. Ella is ‘outed’ repeatedly by teachers she trusted and stops attending school. Carla’s rage morphs into a motivating sense of injustice and she engages in a successful campaign for her child’s civil rights. Carla and Ella are not superheroes, they are just a couple of uncommon girls determined to leave a bumpy road a little smoother for the next travelers.”–Description
“Other, Please Specify illustrates and celebrates the intellectual courage and honesty that are indispensable to truly advance sociology as a discipline and a profession. These deeply engaging and insightful voices will inspire the reader to embrace sociological research without fear and to nurture an academic life with genuine freedom and authenticity.”–Gloria González-López, Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin
“A testament to the power of collaboration, this bracing and timely collection brings together rigorously self-reflexive, politically committed work by a rising generation of queer, trans, feminist, and anti-racist scholars.”— Heather Love, University of Pennsylvania
“The volume describes city spaces as sites where bodies are exhaustively documented while others barely register as subjects. The editors and contributors interrogate the forces that have allowed QTBIPOC to be imagined as absent from the very spaces they have long invested in.”–Description
Tags: Debut, #ownvoices, Colombia, mystery, coming of age, Latinx, women of color, women writers
Doubleday, 320 pages
“A coming of age story, an immigrant story, a thrilling mystery novel, thoroughly lived and felt—this is an exciting debut novel that showcases a writer already in full command of her powers. Make room on your shelves for a writer whose impressive debut promises many more.”–Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of the Butterflies and How the García Girls Lost Their Accents “When women tell stories, they are finally at the center of the page. When women of color write history, we see the world as we have never seen it before. In Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Ingrid Rojas Contreras honors the lives of girls who witness war. Brava! I was swept up by this story.”–Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street
Tags: Korea, extremism, #ownvoices, debut, women writers
Riverhead Books, 224 pages
“The Incendiaries probes the seductive and dangerous places to which we drift when loss unmoors us. In dazzlingly acrobatic prose, R. O. Kwon explores the lines between faith and fanaticism, passion and violence, the rational and the unknowable.”–Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You
“One of those slim novels that contains multitudes, R.O. Kwon’s debut novel shows how unreliable we are as narrators when we’re trying to invent — and reinvent — ourselves.”–Vulture
Tags: Black women, queer, mystery, feminism, women writers, series
Harper Voyager, 304 pages
A selection in Parade’sroundup of “25 Hottest Books of Summer 2018”
A Paste Magazine’s Most Anticipated 25 books of 2018 pick
A Medium’s Books pick for We Can’t Wait to Read in 2018 list
“A Study in Honor is a fast-moving, diverse science-fictional Holmes and Watson reinterpretation set in near future Washington DC. As a deliciously intersectional makeover of a famous literary duo it’s enormously satisfying. Clean, clear, and vastly enjoyable.”–Nicola Griffith, Lambda Literary award-winning author of So Lucky
Now, I want to point out that Claire O’Dell is a pseudonym for Beth Bernobich, a middle-aged white woman from Connecticut. Despite the accolades I’ve read about Bernobich’s previous works, I honestly am not sure how I feel about a (straight?) white woman writing black queer women (don’t @ me!). That being said, she is writing queer black women sleuths, a feminist take on Sherlock Holmes they say, so I am not mad about it (yet?). I am very interested in learning more about the author and the inspiration behind this series. I am cautiously optimistic… how do you all feel about this?
What books are you most excited for in July?? Let me know in the comments below!
This post contains affiliate links. Please support your local independent bookstore!
I had never heard of the Synanon cult before the book Synanon Kid came to my attention; but c’mon, we are all intrigued by such stories, right?
Well, this memoir of CA Wittman’s time in Synanon doesn’t disappoint.
The author, CA Wittman.
Kidnapped in the night by two women, one of whom was her own mother, Celena spent five formative childhood years in the Synanon cult in California. While this is a story of Synanon, it is also a personal one, of isolation, relationships, and love.
I appreciated Wittman’s creative narratives of her memories including her complicated relationship with her mother and times of deep fear and loneliness within the cult. Growing up in Synanon imparted on Wittman unrealistic, unstable, and untrusting views of the world, and understandably so.
I could relate to Celena’s creation of a robust fantasy life to cope with a confusing, and often violent, reality as a young girl. As she grew older, she learned to talk fast and loud in order to avoid being taken advantage of by others. But she also turned to books, which gave her solace in the knowledge that others dealt with similar oppression and longing in their own lives.
Wittman is a talented writer of memoir; you get about as close to Synanon as you can without being there (and we really wouldn’t want to be there, right?). The reader can almost feel her hunger, fear, confusion, anger, and disappointment.
At only 274 pages, this is a quick and engaging read. If you are interested in memoirs, creative nonfiction, stories about cults, or books by women of color, you will probably enjoy Synanon Kid.
Title: Synanon Kid: A Memoir of Growing Up in the Synanon Cult
Author: C.A. Wittman
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date: July 20, 2017 My Rating: Recommended
I won this ebook on GoodReads and decided to review it. Thanks, GoodReads! This post contains affiliate links; support independent booksellers!
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
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