December 2020 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 excluded groups.

The aims of these lists are threefold:

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

We’re almost there. We almost made it through 2020! If you’re in need of gift ideas or perhaps some diversions for yourself, these 20 titles will give you a place to start. Fiction and nonfiction, history and futurism, tears of joy or empathy—there’s something here for everyone.

Thanks for your readership and support this year; I’ve got a few more lists for you in 2020, including my new “Best of the Rest,” so stay tuned!

December 2020 Reads for the Rest of Us

Black Futures

By Kimberly Drew (@museummammy) and Jenna Wortham (@jennydeluxe). One World. 544 pages. Out December 1. 

This is an original, fresh and radiant volume centering the variety and depth of the Black experience as seen through the collected works of artists, writers, academics, public figures and more. Over 500 pages more! This is an essential volume.  

Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Mother’s Letter to Her Son

By Homeira Qaderi (@homeiraqaderi). Harper. 224 pages. Out December 1. 

This memoir tells of the love and heartbreak of being a mother, especially a mother in the Taliban’s Afghanistan. When faced with wrenching fear and determination, Qaderi tells of the risks she takes and the decisions she makes for the love of her son, her country and the girls who only want to be free. 

Heiress Apparently

By Diana Ma (@dianajunyima). Amulet Books. 304 pages. Out December 1. 

With her romantic YA debut, Diana Ma wrote the story she wished she had lived: a story of a Chinese American girl visiting China for the first time and experiencing the spotlight, love and legacy she had always dreamed of. This is the feel-good break from reality we all need right now!

How to Fail at Flirting

By Denise Williams (@nicwillwrites).

Berkley. 352 pages. Out December 1. 

Romance, risk, a life-changing choice to make? Williams’ debut has all the makings of an epic romance but adds a level of insight that takes it to the next level. You’ll fall in love with the relatable heroine and find yourself rooting for her happily ever after.

King of the Rising (Islands of Blood and Storm 2)

By Kacen Callender (@kacencallender). Orbit. 480 pages. Out December 1.

If you enjoyed Queen of the Conquered, the first book of Callender’s duology, you will love King of the Rising. This potent and disarming conclusion continues the action of the first and skewers colonialism as well as the racism and oppression of the people in its wake. 

Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America

By Ijeoma Oluo (@ijeomaoluo). Seal Press. 336 pages. Out December 1. 

If you’ve made your way through So You Want to Talk About Race, I’m Still Here and White Tears/Brown Scars, this is the next book for you to pick up. The brilliant Ileoma Oluo examines the mediocre white male and imagines what he may look like in the future. 

Read This for Inspiration: Simple Sparks to Ignite Your Life

By Ashly Perez (@itsashlyperez). Clarkson Potter. 256 pages. Our December 1. 

This is the perfect holiday gift for yourself and your best pals! It’s literally the easiest book to read because you just open it up to any page, at any time, even if you only have a few minutes, and you get a rejuvenating spark of inspiration to enlighten your day! And who couldn’t use that??

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Revolutionary Women of Texas and Mexico: Portraits of Soldaderas, Saints, and Subversives

Edited by Kathy Sosa, Ellen Riojas Clark and Jennifer Speed. Maverick Books. 352 pages. Out December 1.

History buffs, look no further! This beautiful volume begins to fill in gaps in collective Texas and Mexico history with eighteen portraits of revolutionary women. Some were soldiers, others were artists, all were badass. 

True Names: Four Generations of My Afro Appalachian Family

By Malaika Adero (@malaikaadero). Center Street. 272 pages. Out December 1. 

Despite the recent increase in examinations of life and people in Appalachia, the stories of Black Appalachians have remained largely unheard. Adero begins to fill this gap with this well-researched history of four generations of her Tennessee family and how they fared the Civil War, the Great Migration, the Civil Rights Movement and more.

Summer with the Enemy

By Shahla Ujayli (@shahlaujayli). Interlink Publishing Group. 256 pages. Out December 5. 

Shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Ujayli’s latest novel shines a light on the diversity and complexities of Syria and its people through the eyes of three generations of women in Raqqa.  

Cheeky: A Head-to-Toe Memoir 

By Ariella Elovic (@ariellaelovic). Bloomsbury Publishing. 256 pages. Out December 8.

Wow, how I wish I had this book when I was growing up. Or in my 20s or 30s… Candid and hilarious, this full-color graphic memoir tackles hair, boobs, feet and everywhere in-between – all of the “imperfections” that make our bodies unique. It is DELIGHTFUL and beautiful enough to leave out on your coffee table for your guests to peruse during their holiday visits. 

Crosshairs: A Novel

By Catherine Hernandez (@theloudlady). Atria. 272 pages. Out December 8. 

Has anyone else been terrified about the future lately? Well, this dystopian cautionary tale features the drag queen and trans masculine heroes who I want to save the world if it comes to that. Compelling and unnerving, Crosshairs is a phenomenal literary achievement. 

Girl Gurl Grrrl: On Womanhood and Belonging in the Age of Black Girl Magic

By Kenya Hunt (@KenyaNHunt). Amistad. 256 pages. Out December 8.

This is an outstanding collection of Black womanhood, motherhood, mourning and magic. Endlessly readable, Hunt’s writing will stick with you, as will the messages of the stories she shares.

Survival of the Thickest: Essays

By Michelle Buteau (@MichelleButeau). Gallery Books. 304 pages. Out December 8.

The hilarious comedian and actor Michelle Buteau will have you rolling and reflecting with her candid and empowering lessons on work, marriage, motherhood, body image, and Blackness. Truthful, willful and hopeful, this is a heartwarming debut collection. 

Trans-Galactic Bike Ride: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories of Transgender and Nonbinary Adventurers

By Lydia Rogue (@LydiaRogue). Elly Blue Publishing. 159 pages. Out December 8. 

And now for something completely different! This luminous collection centers trans and nonbinary characters, feminism, sci fi and bikes! It features brand-new stories from Charlie Jane Anders, Ava Kelly, Juliet Kemp, M. Darusha Wehm, and more.

A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology

By Dhonielle Clayton (@brownbookworm). Crown Books for Young Readers. 416 pages. Out December 8. 

Just in time for gift-giving, the next We Need Diverse Books anthology is here! This is a collection of YA fantasy short stories by some of the best in the biz, including V. E. Schwab, Tochi Onyebuchi, Rebecca Roanhorse and more. 

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (The Singing Hills Cycle 2)

By Nghi Vo (@NghiVoWriting). 128 pages. Out December 8.

You don’t have to read Nghi Vo’s debut in order to follow this second short novel, but you’ll want to! Feminist, layered and queer AF, Nghi Vo’s storytelling will mesmerize you. You should probably just read them both. 

Mobilizing Black Germany: Afro-German Women and the Making of a Transnational Movement

By Tiffany N. Florvil (@tnflorvil). University of Illinois Press. 296 pages. Out December 28. 

You don’t think about Afro-German women in all your free time? Well, you don’t have to because Tiffany Florvil has literally written the book on them, their grassroots movement against oppression and their radical influence on Black German activism.

Black Canary: Breaking Silence

By Alexandra Monir (@TimelessAlex). Random House Books for Young Readers. 352 pages. Out December 29.

Using her voice as a weapon, Dinah Lance fights to overcome evil and empower girls and women the world over. It’s not a comic or a graphic novel but this prose origin story of superhero Black Canary will thrill you all the way through! 

A Spy in the Struggle 

By Aya de Leon (@AyadeLeon). Dafina. 336 pages. Out December 29.

Yolanda Vance enjoyed her successful law career until her corrupt firm was raided and she went to work for the FBI. When confronted by a decision between a movement and her comfort, what she chooses will affect the rest of her life.  

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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.