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:
- 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;
- 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
- I want to challenge and encourage you all to buy, borrow and read them!
If the last year has made anything clear, it’s that there are a lot of things in this world that must change. While I don’t have space to write an essay about them all here, I think it’s fair to say that not one of us has been left untouched by the health, social justice and economic crises of the last year. I find that the right book, at the right time can make a world of difference. Whether it is to distract or amuse, or to teach and inspire, a good book can make all the difference.
Here’s to this year being better than the last; at the very least, may we all find the book(s) that we need. Perhaps yours is included in this month’s list of 43 titles.
If you loved Song of a Captive Bird like I did, you will want to read the latest creative historical biography by Jasmin Darznik. Featuring the photographer Dorothea Lange in 1920s San Francisco, Darznik paints an illuminative portrait of the photographer and the woman.
This is not a drill! The esteemed Morgan Jerkins has written her first novel and it’s a brilliant and inventive magical realist take on motherhood, tradition, family secrets and legacy.
Following up on SLAY, Brittney Morris’s The Cost of Knowing centers two brothers, the older of whom, Alex, can see into the future. When he sees his younger brother’s death forthcoming, Alex is forced to face his deepest fears and the reality of being a young Black man in the U.S. today.
This is a powerfully candid novel about a cult, magic, trauma, healing and self-discovery. Only Szpara can commingle these elements into such a potent, effective mix. (Read it, but be aware it contains explicit depictions of S&M, sex, abuse and rape.)
By Kirstin Valdez Quade. W. W. Norton & Company. 432 pages. Out April 6.
The unexpected birth of a child brings together five generations of a New Mexican family in this generous, relatable, captivating and triumphant tale of healing.
Centering an Indian American family across time and continents, this coming-of-age debut makes reflecting on meritocracy, tradition and identity magical, original and hilarious.
As a single mother of a son myself, this book spoke to me on many levels. Jha has written a beautiful and honest ode to imperfect parents everywhere who are trying to raise kind, compassionate, confident feminist sons.
Now available in English, Iranian journalist Nasim Marashi’s award-winning debut novel explores the friendship of three women in Tehran as they navigate the challenges, triumphs, dreams and complexities of their lives.
Ursula Pike has written this engrossing travel memoir about her time in Bolivia as a member of the Peace Corps. Acutely aware of the legacy of colonialism on her own people, Pike examines her own potential complicity with frankness and wit.
At 18 years old, Nami Miyamoto’s life is tragically cut short. Nami wakes to find herself in Infinity, where consciousness goes after the body dies. There she fights to save humanity as she faces her own.
Feminist playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes has written this potent and poetic memoir of growing up Puerto Rican in North Philadelphia while reflecting on memory, her definition of home and finding her own voice.
This is an indispensable collection of narratives, stories, interviews and lessons from queer and trans people on themes such as activism, sex work, health and resistance, accompanied by mercurial illustrations in a graphic novel format.
By Helen Oyeyemi. Riverhead Books. 272 pages. Out April 6.
From award-winning author Helen Oyeyemi, this magical, mysterious novel centers a couple on a strange train trip. On their journey they experience surprises and connections that will test their relationship.
If you’re interested in fighting against mass incarceration, this is the book for you. Journalist Victoria Law offers this accessible and hard-hitting volume to dispel myths and to guide activists on their journey to end this oppressive practice.
This essential anthology includes contributions from 40 feminist writers responding to the multiple crises of the last frenetic year. Features new contributions from Fatima Bhutto, Juli Delgado Lopera, Layla Saad, Michelle Tea, Sarah Eagle Heart, Virgie Tovar and many more.
This collection includes some of the most important insights from the Under The Blacklight livestream events and the Intersectionality Matters podcast. Featuring contributions from Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Arundhati Roy, Ai-jen Poo, Alicia Garza, Bree Newsome, Mab Segrest, Rinku Sen and more.
From the author of Queen Sugar, comes this fascinating and necessary anthology centering Black farmers and farming. Part history, part cultural critique, this beautiful volume is an ode to POC farmers and their dedication to the land, to perseverance and to cultivation.
Centering queerness, immigration, Islamophobia and Pakistani culture, this YA novel is heartbreaking and honest. It’s also a hopeful and insightful story of identity, faith and family.
So often throughout history when we’ve read about Black lives, we hear only about pain, slavery and trauma. Badia Ahad-Legardy aims to address that with this essential volume exploring Afro-nostalgia and celebrating Black joy, beauty, pleasure and memory.
Illustrating the challenges and exclusion often experienced by Black women in academia, Shanna Greene Benjamin has written this compelling and unexpected biography of Nellie Y. McKay, a formidable scholar of contemporary literature and women’s studies.
In her latest book, Karen L. Cox offers a timely examination of monuments dedicated to the Confederacy and the history, politics and white supremacy that are inevitably tied to the debate over their removal.
For all of you looking for a satisfying romcom with robust representation, this one’s for you. Jalaluddin follows Ayesha at Last with another strong heroine, dealing with real-life challenges with energy and resolve.
Presented for the first time in English, this is volume one of Japanese writer Kaoru Takamura’s extraordinary and suspenseful “magnum opus.” Mysterious and multilayered, it gives readers extortion and kidnapping as it critiques the dark corners of Japanese society and the human experience.
This devastatingly candid and insightful collection of essays, allows the reader into Hough’s world of growing up in a cult, coming out as queer in the military and exploring identity and notions of self at once humbling and emancipating.
Babalola’s debut collection includes decolonized retellings of some of the greatest love stories and myths from throughout history and the world. From West Africa to Greece and the Middle East, these stories are romantic, fresh and vibrant.
By Jenifer L. Barclay. University of Illinois Press. 264 pages. Out April 13.
Addressing an often-overlooked aspect of the experiences of enslaved people, Barclay intricately examines the connection between racism, disabilities and slavery, as well as the legacy it left behind, in this important and well-researched volume.
Charlie Jane Anders has written the super-fun, out-there fantasy sci-fi space opera adventure that we all need to lose ourselves in right now.
This uniquely narrated thriller is focused on a young woman living her dream as a video game coder, until she is fired for complaining about relentless harassment by her male coworkers. She’s got solidarity from the Sixsterhood, a queer underground collective, and she’ll need all the help she can get when things get violent.
The second novel by Karla FC Holloway doesn’t disappoint. Following the Mosby family as they migrate north after WWI, this vibrant story continues as their family grows, changes and is challenged by outside forces seemingly beyond their control.
As visibility of the legacy of settler colonialism has increased across Canada and the U.S., non-Indigenous people must continue to educate themselves and work in solidarity with Indigenous people on decolonization efforts. This book will guide settlers on this journey.
In this powerful and timely collection of twenty essays, Anjali Enjeti candidly explores her move south from Detroit, white feminism, evangelical Christianity, voter suppression, guns, nationalism and more.
By Priya-Alika Elias (@priya_ebooks). Chicago Review Press. 208 pages. Out April 20.
Besharam is an Urdu word that roughly translates to “shameless” in English. And it’s an appropriate word to describe this collection of essays exploring family, feminism, body image, sex, relationships, traditional roles, consent and more.
The sequel to Finna is here! Just a weird, just as queer and just as anti-capitalist, Defekt is a delight.
We’ve all had the pleasure of seeing Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii in action of late and her memoir will bring you even closer to what makes her tick. Candid, courageous and inspirational, this memoir tells a crucial story of the U.S. at its best.
This is the uplifting and inspiring memoir we need right now. Humanitarian and global leader Elizabeth Nyamayaro takes us from experiencing hunger and drought as a child in Zimbabwe to becoming a leader for global improvement and gender equality around the world.
Two standoffs occurred in 2016: the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Bundy family’s armed takeover of Oregon’s Malheur Wildlife Refuge. In this essential volume, Keeler draws attention to the vast differences in the way these were handled by law enforcement, the media, and others despite centering on the same question: Who “owns” the land?
This well-researched and endlessly readable book is centered on the sterilization of Ann Cooper Hewitt, deemed too promiscuous by her mother to receive her father’s inheritance. Part biography and part history of eugenics, this one is intriguing and terrifying.
This is a poignant and evocative book highlighting the time between childhood and young adulthood in which so many are trying to find themselves, their purpose, their place in the world. When you’re queer or trans, this time can be even more challenging, but this novel will remind you that you aren’t alone.
In this most convincing appeal to search out and record one’s family legacy, Cassandra Lane illustrates the necessity of reclaiming your history, telling your own story and reflecting on the past to move forward into the future.
You know when you just want to read a hilarious, murder mystery, romcom? Well, here it is! Sutanto is serving wedding weirdness, ex exigence and Auntie antics for the win.
By Jhumpa Lahiri. Knopf. 176 pages. Out April 27.
This is the first novel from Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri in almost ten years, her first written in Italian and translated into English, and it is a stunner. Centering a woman on the verge of transformation, it explores themes of belonging and isolation, evolution and stagnation.
In this riveting and insightful collection of personal essays, Washuta candidly explores addiction, mental illness, coping (and not), relationships, land, pop culture, colonization, magic and cultural legacy.
What if Tarana Burke, the founder of the ‘me too’ Movement, and Brené Brown, writer and researcher, got together and edited a book about vulnerability and shame resilience? Well, you would get this amazing anthology with contributors including Sonya Renee Taylor, Laverne Cox, Austin Channing Brown, Imani Perry, Luvvie Ajayi Jones and many others.