November 2019 Reads for the Rest of Us

The Feminist Know-It-All: You know her. You can’t stand her. Good thing she’s not here! Instead, this column by gender and women’s studies librarian Karla Strand will amplify stories of the creation, access, use and preservation of knowledge by women and girls around the world; share innovative projects and initiatives that focus on information, literacies, libraries and more; and, of course, talk about all of the books.

Each month, I provide Ms. readers with a list of new books being published by writers from historically underrepresented groups. The aims of these lists are threefold: I want to do my part in the disruption of what has been the acceptable “norm” in the book world for far too long—white, cis, hetersexual, male; I want to amplify amazing works by writers who are women, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, APIA, international, LGBIA+, TGNC, queer, disabled, fat, immigrant, Muslim, neurodivergent, sex-positive or of other historically marginalized identities—you know, the rest of us; and I want to challenge and encourage you all to buy, borrow and read them! 

I’ve included 18 books on this month’s list. They are surprising, uncompromising, candid, groundbreaking and, in some cases, infuriating. I hope they inspire your resistance, activity, zeal and bravery—because there is a lot of work to do.

The Daughter Who Walked Away

By Kimia Eslah. Roseway Publishing. 310 pages. Out Nov. 1. 

This powerful debut by queer feminist writer Kimia Eslah follows three generations of Iranian women. Each woman has her own struggles, mainly due to mental illness, abuse and poverty. The third generation daughter, Taraneh Pourani, is determined to break these cycles of trauma and live a healthy and loving life.  

Amazons, Abolitionists and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for Their Rights

By Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) and A. D’Amico (@adamicoarts). Ten Speed Press. 208 pages. Out Nov. 5.

Kids and adults alike will learn a lot from this graphic history of women’s rights. Featuring stories and women who are often invisible in history textbooks, this volume is essential to re-learn our lessons. The illustrations are vibrant and dynamic. Representation matters, y’all, and this book has got it. Buy one for yourself and then gift copies to your local classrooms and libraries, too!

The Deep 

By Rivers Solomon (@cyborgyndroid) with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes. Gallery/Saga Press. 176 pages. Out Nov. 5.

Rivers Solomon is back, and if you enjoyed An Unkindness of Ghosts, you’ll love The Deep. Inspired by the 2018 Hugo Award-nominated song of the same name by the experimental hip hop group, clipping., this novella is post-apocalyptic sci fi at its best. Centered on the water-breathing children born of enslaved Africans thrown overboard during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, The Deep reminds readers of the importance of memory, history and identity, as well as the responsibility to uphold them. Solomon —with the assistance of clipping. members Daveed Diggs, William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes—has built an extraordinary world and penned a book unlike (m)any others.    

The Desirable Sister

By Taslim Burkowicz (@TaslimBurkowicz). Roseway Publishing. 310 pages. Out Nov. 2.  

Colorism is a central topic in this second novel by Indo-Canadian writer Taslim Burkowicz. Gia and Serena Pirji are first generation Canadian sisters born to immigrant parents; they struggle with the differences in their skin tones and how they are treated because of them. This is a rich treatment of an underrepresented topic.

Divided Peoples: Policy, Activism and Indigenous Identities on the U.S.-Mexico Border

By Christina Leza. University of Arizona Press. 240 pages. Out Nov. 5. 

Colorado College anthropology professor Christina Leza present this deep dive into the effects the historic and current border crisis on Indigenous populations at the U.S. / Mexico border. Voices of Indigenous activists are centered in this accessible ethnography, which offers an imperative exploration into the ways Indigenous peoples, cultures, families, work and land are negatively impacted by US border policies. 

In the Dream House: A Memoir 

By Carmen Maria Machado (@carmenmmachado). Graywolf. 272 pages. Out Nov. 5. 

Following the accolades of 2017’s Her Body and Other Parties would be a challenge for anyone, but Carmen Maria Machado was up to the challenge. In a Dream House is a deeply personal, chilling memoir of abuse and a testament to the healing strength of vulnerability. Machado expertly centers each chapter around a different narrative device and in so doing provides a new reading experience altogether. 

Mighty Justice: My Life in Civil Rights 

By Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe. Algonquin Books. 304 pages. Out Nov. 5.

Dovey Johnson Roundtree demolished color lines and shattered glass ceilings throughout her life. As a groundbreaking African American Civil Rights attorney, she won a landmark case against bus segregation in 1955 that would eventually set the stage for defeating Jim Crow laws. She was also among the first women to be an ordained minister in the AME Church and was one of the first women to be commissioned an Army officer in the U.S. military. Part moving memoir, part inspiration to resist, Mighty Justice is a must-read.  

Palimpsest: Documents From a Korean Adoption 

By Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom. Drawn & Quarterly. 156 pages. Out Nov. 5.

This powerful graphic novel explores the boom of adoptions of children of South Korean children during the 1970s and 1980s. Based on the author’s own story of being adopted from South Korea at two years old by Swedish parents, this beautifully illustrated debut is bound to push emotional buttons. It challenges existing notions of adoption and identity while stressing the importance of owning your own narrative.   

The Revisioners: A Novel

By Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (@mwilkers13). Counterpoint. 288 pages. Out Nov. 5.

Did you read National Book Award finalist A Kind of Freedom? If you did, then you know what a powerhouse writer Margaret Wilkerson Sexton is (and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?). The Revisioners is historical fiction set in the US South in 1924. Centering Black mothers and sons, Sexton exquisitely weaves themes of motherhood, survival and freedom throughout a touching and dynamic narrative.   

Shine of the Ever 

By Claire Rudy Foster (@foster_rudy_). Interlude Press. 194 pages. Out Nov. 5. 

Sometimes the right collection of short stories is all I need to enjoy a crisp autumn day and this season, Claire Rudy Foster has written that collection. A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee,  Foster’s second collection is for all of us queer and trans folx who lived and learned amidst the mix tapes, mistakes, break-ups and make-ups of the 90s.

Silence of the Chagos: A Novel 

By Shenaz Patel (Author), Jeffrey Zuckerman (Translator). Restless Books. 178 pages. Out Nov. 5.

This is a beautifully written and translated story of the people of the islands of Chagos and their continuing fight to return to their homeland. Between 1960 and 1973, thousands of Chagos archipelago inhabitants were forced from their home to the island of Mauritius, in order to make room for a military base. Mauritian author Shenaz Patel relates this traumatic story with gentle yet unflinching clarity of the effects of forced displacement on body, memory, relationships and identity.   

Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman

By Abby Stein (@abbychavastein). Seal Press. 272 pages. Out Nov. 12.

Before Abby Stein was a trans activist and member of the Washington, D.C. Women’s March steering committee, she was born the eldest son of a dynastic rabbinical Hasidic Jewish family. This is the harrowing and inspiring story of the exploration, discovery and acceptance of her truth, both body and soul.

Color Outside the Lines: Stories about Love 

Edited by Sangu Mandanna (@SanguMandanna). Soho Teen. 312 pages. Out Nov. 12. 

The editor of this groundbreaking YA anthology says it best when she describes Color Outside the Lines as simply “a collection of stories about young, fierce, brilliantly hopeful people in love.” Centering LGBTQ+ and interracial relationships, the book is a missing piece in the puzzle of YA lit. It includes contributions from Samira Ahmed, Michelle Ruiz Keil, LL McKinney, Karuna Riazi, Elsie Chapman and more.

Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

By Jessica McDiarmid (@jessicamcdiarmid). Atria Books. 352 pages. Out Nov. 12.

Thousands of Indigenous girls and women have gone missing or been found murdered across the US and Canada over the last few decades. Canadian journalist Jessica McDiarmid’s debut book is an in-depth investigation into the lives and stories of some of the victims lost along Canada’s Highway 16, dubbed the “Highway of Tears” due to its violent reputation. Meticulously researched and heartbreakingly readable, the book calls out the tragedy and travesty behind the crisis along the Highway of Tears. 

Queen of the Conquered 

By Kacen Callender (@kacencallender). Orbit. 400 pages. Out Nov. 12.

Fantasy fans, brace yourselves for this one, because the first adult novel penned by Kacen Callender is a stunner. Set against a lush Carribbean-inspired backdrop, this critical and multilayered story features Sigourney Rose, whose devastating losses compel her to risk her life fighting slavery and injustice and kick some colonizer ass in the process. This is resistance reading at its most entertaining.

White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue … and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation

By Lauren Michele Jackson. Beacon Press. 184 pages. Out Nov. 12.

Unapologetic and unflinching, this is the book on appropriation that we need right now. Critical, pioneering and insightful, this debut is also witty and engaging. Jackson explores appropriation, its (over)use in popular culture, and the ways in which we can all (I’m looking at you, white people) be mindful cultural consumers.   

Polyamory, Monogamy and American Dreams: The Stories We Tell about Poly Lives and the Cultural Production of Inequality

By Mimi Schippers. Routledge. 160 pages. Out Nov. 13. 

Don’t be afraid of the long title, Mimi Schippers’ latest book is accessible, educational and confirming of lives that haven’t received as much study and attention as they should. Her development of the “poly gaze” will interest many and is demonstrated throughout. There should be more books written on polyamory, and they should all be as compassionate, critical and transformative as this one.

America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States 

By Erika Lee (@prof_erikalee). Basic Books. 432 pages. Out Nov. 26.

In unflinching and readable prose, immigration historian Dr. Erika Lee provides readers with a timely exploration into the roots of xenophobia in the US and its impact on exclusionary immigration policies today. Hard-hitting and authoritative, America for Americans is just the book we need—right now—to fight for a more just society. It’s this month’s #RequiredReading.  


Karla J. Strand is the gender and women’s studies librarian for the University of Wisconsin. She completed her doctorate in information science via University of Pretoria in South Africa with a background in history and library science, and her research centers on the role of libraries and knowledge in empowering women and girls worldwide. Tweet her @karlajstrand.