July 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! 

How quickly July is upon us! 

As some parts of our worlds begin to re-open, I can understand that some may be tentative. I find myself dipping a (masked) toe into the pool when feeling adventurous and then running back into the safety of my fully vaccinated nest. 

As a librarian, I notice that our libraries—the ones that closed, because some never did and I see you, hardworking, underappreciated, underpaid library workers!—are re-opening as well. I hope you’ll take a moment to check out your local library’s hours, visit if you feel so inclined and be super-nice to your library staff! 

Of course, be amazing to all of the people around you that had to report while others of us didn’t have to, but I just wanted to give a special summer shout-out to library workers across the country: those who work in public, school, tribal, legal, government and academic settings; those who are Black, Latinx, queer, APIDA, trans, nonbinary, disabled, neurodivergent, fat, immigrant, undocumented; those who don’t make a living wage; those teaching critical race theory and correcting the boatloads of misinformation we fight every day; those dealing with cut budgets and challenged books; those doing the work and those on the precipice… I SEE YOU. 


This month’s list of 26 new books has a little something for everyone. From memoirs to histories to romances and short stories, July is nothing short of remarkable for the variety of unmissable books coming out. 

So take this or another month’s Reads for the Rest of Us to your fave independently- or BIPOC-owned bookstore or to your local library and see what wonders await you. And be sure to give big thanks to your library staffers for me!


Funeral for Flaca

By Emilly Prado (@emillygprado). Future Tense Books. 200 pages. Out July 1.

This compelling memoir-in-essays is a brilliant look into one Chicana woman’s coming-of-age in ‘90s and ‘00s San Francisco. Prado examines sexual assault, addiction, identity, mental illness and more in this utterly vulnerable, bold and unique collection.    

I Have Always Been Me: A Memoir

By Precious Brady-Davis (@mspreciousdavis). Topple Books & Little a. 266 pages. Out July 1.

Precious Brady-Davis has written a sparkling debut memoir about her challenging childhood, reckoning with her gender and sexuality, meeting the love of her life, becoming a mother, and more. Refreshingly candid, this one is bound to delight readers this summer. 

The Indigenous Paleolithic of the Western Hemisphere

By Paulette F. C. Steeves (@PauletteSteeves) (Cree-Métis). University of Nebraska Press. 326 pages. Out July 1.

Written from an essential Indigenous perspective, this insightful book examines the existence of First Peoples in the Western Hemisphere for at least 50,000+ years longer than previously accepted and uncovers the reasons this theory has been dismissed for decades. 

Running from Bondage: Enslaved Women and Their Remarkable Fight for Freedom in Revolutionary America

By Karen Cook Bell (@kbphd08). Cambridge University Press. 254 pages. Out July 1. 

This well-researched volume presents a new understanding of the lives of Black women during the Revolutionary War, one of resistance, fugitivity and impact. (Read an excerpt here.)

Build Your House Around My Body: A Novel

By Violet Kupersmith (@vmkupersmith). Random House. 400 pages. Out July 6.

Set in Vietnam where two women go missing fifty years apart, this ghostly debut examines family, war, revenge and the legacies of colonialism that continue to haunt Vietnamese women to this day.

Dear Miss Metropolitan: A Novel

By Carolyn Ferrell (@carolynf21). Henry Holt & Co. 432 pages. Out July 6.

Three girls are abducted and held hostage. How did no one in the neighborhood know they were there? And how will the women deal with the trauma when only two are rescued? Utterly unique, this debut will astonish, engage and may just change you. 

Island Queen: A Novel

By Vanessa Riley (@VanessaRiley). William Morrow. 592 pages. Out July 6. 

Vanessa Riley has written this rich and remarkable historical novel based on the life of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a formerly enslaved woman who became one of the wealthiest landowners of the West Indies. 

Saved by a Song: The Art and Healing Power of Songwriting

By Mary Gauthier (@marygauthier). St. Martin’s Essentials. 256 pages. Out July 6.

In this heartfelt and instructive book, Grammy-nominated folk singer Mary Gauthier reflects on her life, her addiction and the healing power of music.

Six Crimson Cranes

By Elizabeth Lim (@LizLim). Knopf Books for Young Readers. 464 pages. Out July 6.

Fairy tales and folklore, princesses and dragons, and six magical cranes, of course! These are the beginnings of an enchanted, enthralling fantasy duology by bestselling author Elizabeth Lim. 

Summer in the City of Roses

By Michelle Ruiz Keil (@michellerkeil). Soho Teen. 336 pages. Out July 6. 

Following the success of her debut, All of Us with Wings, Michelle Ruiz Keil’s second novel centers siblings in Portland, Oregon, forced to spend their first summer apart. Part myth, part magic, this is an imaginative tale that speaks to the challenges and joys of growing up.

The Tiger Mom’s Tale 

By Lyn Liao Butler (@lynliaobutler). Berkley. 352 pages. Out July 6.

This captivating debut is about an American woman who inherits the wealth (and fate) of her estranged Taiwanese family. Caught between two countries, two sisters and two worlds, Lexa Thomas must confront family, tradition and forgiveness to find her way home.

Variations on the Body

Written by María Ospina and translated by Heather Cleary (@_heathercleary). Coffee House Press. 136 pages. Out July 6.

This bold and penetrating collection of six short stories highlights the lives of six women and girls in Bogotá, Colombia. 

We Have Always Been Here

By Lena Nguyen (@reallenanguyen). DAW. 368 pages. Out July 6. 

In this thrilling sci-fi debut, Lena Nguyen creates an engrossing tension-filled world in which Dr. Grace Park is sent into space to an unexplored world, only to find herself, the crew and the androids aboard trapped in a strange and unexpected nightmare. 

Black Box: The Memoir That Sparked Japan’s #MeToo Movement

Written by Shiori Ito (@shioristreet) and translated by Allison Markin Powell. The Feminist Press at CUNY. 288 pages. Out July 13. 

In her powerful memoir, journalist Shiori Ito details her 2015 rape by a senior reporter, subsequent attempts to silence her and the fight she undertook to achieve justice and stand in solidarity with other survivors.  

Controlling Women: What We Must Do Now to Save Reproductive Freedom

By Kathryn Kolbert and Julie F. Kay. Hachette Books. 304 pages. Out July 13.

This urgent volume provides a look into the very real possibility of losing legal reproductive freedom in the US and an essential roadmap to fight it. 

Ghost Forest: A Novel

By Pik-Shuen Fung (@pikshuen). One World. 272 pages. Out July 13. 

Pik-Shuen Fung’s debut is a meditation on what is left unsaid, to others, to ourselves and to the world. Focused on family, loss and memory, this is one that will stay with you. 

Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night

By Morgan Parker (@morganapple). Tin House Books. 120 pages. Out July 13. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t alert you to the fact that this phenomenal collection of poems is back in print. AND with a new introduction by the unparalleled Danez Smith. 

The Startup Wife: A Novel

By Tahmima Anam (@tahmima). Scribner. 304 pages. Out July 13. 

When a couple builds an app that could change the world as we know it, will they make it out alive? Tahmima Anam finds out in this charged and cheeky examination of startup culture, human connection and modern relationships. 

Surviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner’s Community

By Vanessa M. Holden (@drvholden). University of Illinois Press. 184 pages. Out July 13. 

With intricate research and deft analysis, Vanessa M. Holden presents a bold new exploration into Nat Turner’s Southampton Rebellion of 1831 and the imperative roles women and children played in the ongoing fight for Black survival.

Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices

Edited by Swapna Krishna (@skrishna) and Jenn Northington (@jennirl). Vintage. 480 pages. Out July 13.

This singular anthology will enchant with its bright, shiny new takes on medieval classics including more genders, more races, more eras, and more fabulousness than ever before.

Colorful: A Novel

Written by Eto Mori. Translated by Jocelyne Allen (@brainvsbook). Counterpoint. 224 pages. Out July 20. 

First released over twenty years ago, this ghostly novel is part of Japan’s literary canon and is now available in English. It’s an intimate coming-of-age story that will undoubtedly resonate with readers in the US as it has with millions of others around the world.

everyman: A Novel

By M Shelly Conner (@mshellyconner). Blackstone Publishing. 250 pages. Out July 20. 

Eve Mann has only ever wanted to know the truth about her mother, her father, her people. This desire takes her to Georgia in 1972 where she explores family, friendship, secrets and truth in a journey to find herself.  

Intimacies: A Novel

By Katie Kitamura (@katiekitamura). Riverhead Books. 240 pages. Out July 20.

Quiet strength and subtle tension make this psychological drama unique and altogether engrossing. Kitamura quietly explores the layers and complexities of intimacies in our hearts, in our languages and politics and throughout our world. 

No Study Without Struggle: Confronting Settler Colonialism in Higher Education

By Leigh Patel (@lipatel). Beacon Press. 208 pages. Out July 20.

In her essential new book, Dr. Leigh Patel examines how to disrupt systemic inequality on our campuses. Hint: it isn’t checkbox “diversity” programs and empty land acknowledgments but a real reckoning with the settler colonialism on which our universities were built and continue to capitalize. 

She Who Became the Sun 

By Shelley Parker-Chan (@shelleypchan). Tor Books. 416 pages. Out July 20.

This phenomenal debut centers a young girl in Mongul-ruled China who dares to challenge tradition, gender, heroism, power and destiny; it’s fresh, nuanced, lyrical and irresistible.

Summer Fun 

By Jeanne Thornton (@manwhohatesfun). Soho Press. 432 pages. Out July 27. 

Captivating and magical, Jeanne Thornton’s latest is an original yet nostalgic tale of music, identity and creation that is not to be missed.


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.