April 2021 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! 

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. 

April 2021 Reads for the Rest of Us

The Bohemians: A Novel 

By Jasmin Darznik (@jasmindarznik). Ballantine Books. 352 pages. Out April 6. 

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.

Caul Baby: A Novel

By Morgan Jerkins (@MorganJerkins). Harper. 352 pages. Out April 6. 

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.

The Cost of Knowing

By Brittney Morris (@BrittneyMMorris). Simon & Schuster BYR. 336 pages. Out April 6.

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. 

First, Become Ashes

By K.M. Szpara (@KMSzpara). Tordotcom. 304 pages. Out April 6. 

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.) 

The Five Wounds: Novel

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. 

Gold Diggers: A Novel

By Sanjena Sathian (@sanjenasathian). Penguin Press. 352 pages. Out April 6.

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.

How to Raise a Feminist Son: Motherhood, Masculinity, and the Making of My Family

By Sonora Jha (@profsonorajha). Sasquatch Books. 288 pages. Out April 6.

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.

I’ll Be Strong for You: A Novel

Written by Nasim Marashi and translated by Poupeh Missaghi (@poupehmissaghi). Astra House. 208 pages. Out April 6.

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.

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An Indian Among Los Indígenas: A Native Travel Memoir 

By Ursula Pike (Karuk) (@urs_pike). Heyday. 240 pages. Out April 6.

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.

The Infinity Courts

By Akemi Dawn Bowman (@akemidawnbowman). Simon & Schuster BYR. 480 pages. Out April 6.

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. 

My Broken Language: A Memoir 

By Quiara Alegría Hudes (@quiarahudes). One World. 336 pages. Out April 6. 

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.

Our Work Is Everywhere: An Illustrated Oral History of Queer and Trans Resistance

By Syan Rose (@syanrose). Arsenal Pulp Press. 72 pages. Out April 6.

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.

Peaces: A Novel

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.

“Prisons Make Us Safer”: And 20 Other Myths about Mass Incarceration

By Victoria Law (@LVikkiml). Beacon Press. 240 pages. Out April 6.

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 Is How We Come Back Stronger: Feminist Writers on Turning Crisis into Change 

Edited by The Feminist Book Society (@feministbooksoc). The Feminist Press. 320 pages. Out April 6.

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. 

Under the Blacklight: The Intersectional Vulnerabilities that the Twin Pandemics Lay Bare

Edited by Kimberlé Crenshaw (@sandylocks) and Daniel HoSang. Haymarket Books. 192 pages. Out April 6.

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.

We Are Each Other’s Harvest: Celebrating African American Farmers, Land, and Legacy

By Natalie Baszile (@NatalieBaszile). Amistad. 368 pages. Out April 6.

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.

Zara Hossain Is Here

By Sabina Khan (@sabina_writer). Scholastic Press. 320 pages. Out April 6.

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.  

Afro-Nostalgia: Feeling Good in Contemporary Black Culture

By Badia Ahad-Legardy (@BadiaAhad). University of Illinois Press. 240 pages. Out April 12.

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.

Half in Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Nellie Y. McKay 

By Shanna Greene Benjamin (@phdshammy29). University of North Carolina Press. 272 pages. Out April 12. 

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.

No Common Ground: Confederate Monuments and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice

By Karen L. Cox (@DrKarenLCox). University of North Carolina Press. 224 pages. Out April 12.

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.  

Hana Khan Carries On

By Uzma Jalaluddin (@UzmaWrites). Berkley. 368 pages. Out April 13. 

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.

Lady Joker, Volume 1

Written by Kaoru Takamura, translated by Allison Markin Powell and Marie Iida. Soho Crime. 600 pages. Our April 13. 

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. 

Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing: Essays

By Lauren Hough (@laurenthehough). Vintage. 320 pages. Out April 13. 

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.

Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold

By Bolu Babalola (@BeeBabs). William Morrow. 304 pages. Out April 13. 

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.    

The Mark of Slavery: Disability, Race, and Gender in Antebellum America

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.

Victories Greater Than Death

By Charlie Jane Anders (@charliejane). Tor Teen. 288 pages. Out April 13. 

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. 

We Are Watching Eliza Bright

By A.E. Osworth (@AEOsworth). Grand Central Publishing. 416 pages. Out April 13. 

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.

Gone Missing in Harlem: A Novel

By Karla FC Holloway (@profholloway). Triquarterly. 223 pages. Out April 15. 

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.

Living in Indigenous Sovereignty

By Elizabeth Carlson-Manathara (@lizcarlson77) and Gladys Rowe (@GLR3469). Fernwood Publishing. 264 pages. Out April 15.

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. 

Southbound: Essays on Identity, Inheritance, and Social Change

By Anjali Enjeti (@anjalienjeti). University of Georgia Press. 248 pages. Out April 15. 

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. 

Besharam: On Love and Other Bad Behaviors 

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. 


By Nino Cipri (@ninocipri). Tordotcom. 168 pages. Out April 20.

The sequel to Finna is here! Just a weird, just as queer and just as anti-capitalist, Defekt is a delight.

Heart of Fire: An Immigrant Daughter’s Story

By Mazie K. Hirono (@maziehirono). Viking. 416 pages. Out April 20.

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.

I Am a Girl from Africa 

By Elizabeth Nyamayaro (@e_nyamayaro). Scribner. 272 pages. Out April 20.

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.

Standoff: Standing Rock, the Bundy Movement, and the American Story of Sacred Lands

By Jacqueline Keeler (Dine/Ihanktonwan Dakota) (@jfkeeler). Torrey House Press. 236 pages. Out April 20.

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? 

The Unfit Heiress: The Tragic Life and Scandalous Sterilization of Ann Cooper Hewitt

By Audrey Clare Farley (@audreycfarley). Grand Central Publishing. 304 pages. Out April 20.

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.

Green Glass Ghosts

Written by Rae Spoon (@raespoon) and illustrated by Gem Hall (@gemhallart). Arsenal Pulp Press. 176 pages. Out April 27.

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. 

We Are Bridges: A Memoir

By Cassandra Lane (@casslanewrites). The Feminist Press at CUNY. 232 pages. Out April 20.

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.

Dial A for Aunties

By Jesse Q. Sutanto (@thewritinghippo). Berkley. 320 pages. Out April 27.

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.  

Whereabouts: A Novel 

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.

White Magic 

By Elissa Washuta (Cowlitz) (@elissawashuta). Tin House Books. 432 pages. Out April 27.

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. 

You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience

Edited by Tarana Burke (@TaranaBurke) and Brené Brown (@BreneBrown). Random House. 256 pages. Out April 27.

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. 


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.