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!
You’ve read the other “Best of” lists—now read the other one. You know, for the rest of us.
Each year, I review my monthly Reads for the Rest of Us lists and choose my favorite books of the year.
It is such a wonderful challenge to narrow them down, and I did leave some off that are all over other major lists—and as well they should be! These include All This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews, Manifesto by Bernardine Evaristo, When We Were Sisters by Fatimah Asghar, Constructing a Nervous System by Margo Jefferson, and more. They are amazing as well, but I wanted to focus more on those from independent publishers or that may have flown a bit under the mainstream radar.
So here they are, my top 40+, in alphabetical order.
I hope you had a vibrant, positive, restful, loving and joyful year—and I wish you all the best in 2023.
Abolition Feminisms Vol. 1: Organizing, Survival, and Transformative Practice and Vol. 2: Feminist Ruptures against the Carceral State
These groundbreaking volumes examine abolition based in Black and women of color feminisms, anti-violence organizing, survivor knowledge production, radical strategizing and more. Another must-read from Haymarket this year is Abolition. Feminism. Now. by Angela Y. Davis, Gina Dent, Erica R. Meiners and Beth E. Richie.
This is an essential collection of writings from one of the most important thinkers on abolition, geography and racism of our time.
A singularly unique novel, Zi Shu Li’s debut is now available for the first time in English. Following three storylines of trauma, upheaval and history, this Southeast Asian epic is rife with detail, tradition and heart.
Written by Mieko Kawakami and translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd. Europa Editions. 224 pages.
As one of the most insightful and important writers of our time, Mieko Kawakami delivers another extraordinary exploration of relationships, work and the intimate connections that (may) make it all worthwhile.
The title says it all: It’s urgent we reckon with violence against Black women and girls, past and present, and fight for a liberated future.
Written by J.D. Kurtness (Innu) and translated by Pablo Strauss. Rare Machines. 176 pages.
This slim but evocative volume centers a marine biologist (and her ancestors) in her fight to preserve the ocean and, perhaps, save the world.
This is another essential and exemplary volume in the ReVisioning History series from Beacon Press, which also includes A Black Women’s History, A Disability History, A Queer History, An Indigenous Peoples’ History, and more.
Murch gives us an exceptional reexamination of the Black Panther Party and the Movement for Black Lives more generally through a redistributive, queer and feminist framework.
From the writer of the Poppy War trilogy comes a wholly unique new fantasy that explores language and translation in imperialism. It’s big and worth every page.
Camila Villada has managed to write a story about a chosen family of trans sex workers that is gritty, sweet, devastating and hopeful all at once.
In this remarkable volume, Patty Krawec (Lac Seul First Nation) examines the damage and division of settler colonialism and offers ideas for revisiting the past in order to reshape our collective futures.
By Marquis Bey. Duke University Press. 304 pages.
In 2019, Bey’s debut collection Them Goon Rules changed me as a scholar, a feminist, an accomplice and a person; Black Trans Feminism is just as imperative. I forced myself to decide between this one and Bey’s Cistem Failure, which was also released this year. Well, hell, just read ‘em both.
This fantasy debut combines motherhood and monsterhood, queerness and cautionary tales. Sign me up!
In their essential debut collection of essays, Gutiérrez examines class, queerness, aesthetics, citizenship and borders.
Doing speculative and science fiction through a Métis framework, Chelsea Vowel challenges, entertains and becomes the voice of Indigenous futurism.
Oscar Hokeah’s debut novel centers young Ever as he explores his identity, family, community and place in the world. Told from a variety of voices, this story is one of love, loss, growth, tradition and evolution. Not to be missed.
This stunning volume is an ode to the imperative, yet often unappreciated, roles of women of the Black Panther Party. Complementing Ericka Huggins’ superlative text are candid photos by Stephen Shames, many of which have never been published before.
By Abbigail Nguyen Rosewood. Texas Tech University Press. 216 pages.
Rosewood’s latest novel is a nuanced and penetrating look at creation, love and obsession that changes over time and varies by individual.
Kate Beaton worked in Canada’s oil sands for two years and has written this candid and unflinching graphic memoir about the effects of capitalism, extraction and exploitation on the land, the environment and the people.
In her debut collection of 70 (!) poems and stories, brown continues to demonstrate her interrelationship with Mother Earth, her adoration of the ancestral heavens and her uncanny ability to connect it all in a witchy wonderland of liberation. But I also need to point out AK Press’s amazing Emergent Strategy Series of which this book is a part; the series also includes Liberated to the Bone by Susan Raffo and Begin the World Over by Kung Li Sun, both also published this year. Just read them all!
I love books like this. Books that come from out of the blue and surprise, tenderize and mesmerize me. This contemplative and compelling debut memoir recounts the author’s experience of loss, guilt, origins, faith and healing.
When faced with tragic grief, Cassandra Williams’ family and life is falling apart. This extraordinary new novel explores love, loss and longing in new and unexpected ways.
By NoViolet Bulawayo. Viking. 416 pages.
Glory is a singular, surreal and satirical modern parable aimed at global social and political upheaval.
The last part of this complex and wholly original three-part novel brings it to a whole other level. I loved it.
In her English-translation debut, Ojeda tells a creepy story of six girls in an Ecuadorian Catholic high school who explore the occult, sexuality, friendship, fear and vengeance.
By Kim Fu. Tin House Books. 220 pages.
This collection of kaleidoscopic speculative short stories will have you questioning reality and loving every minute of it.
I will read anything that comes from JES’s twisted imagination and love it. This ingenious, insightful, unconventional and expansive eco-horror is no exception.
This engrossing and robust novel in three parts features three women in mid-century rural Kansas who fight for safety, agency and independence against formidable odds.
This is a remarkable debut collection of stories exploring Penobscot identity and community, hardship and survivance, roots and legacies.
Written by a survivor, this is a sorely needed memoir/investigation about the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Brandi Morin’s on a mission and I will follow her anywhere!
Bear witness to the dialogue between two of our most brilliant contemporary writers and activists as they grapple with creating a new way forward.
By Michelle De Kretser. Catapult. 288 pages.
This singular novel in two parts (read one and then flip it over and read the other) centers on misogyny, ageism and racism in the near-past and near-future. It’s witty, enticing and thought-provoking.
By 2006, Osa Atoe was sick of being the only Black kid at punk shows and she created Shotgun Seamstress fanzine as a remedy and tribute to the Black punk experience. This collection includes all eight issues of reviews, essays, biographical sketches, interviews and more.
Part memoir, part history, part travelogue, this lush volume pays homage to the South, with its unique stories, multiple identities and imperfect evolutions.
Inspired by the author’s Filipino heritage and its folklore, this unflinching debut explores two outcasts whose lives overlap in death.
Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families–and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World
Award-winning scholar Roberts provides an overdue and urgent examination of this country’s racist child welfare system, which has its roots in colonialism, slavery and carcerality.
This is an essential read for our times by the only person who could’ve written it so exquisitely.
Finally, we have the definitive and long-overdue volume detailing the real cost of racism on the health and well-being of Black people in the U.S.
If you know the literary me, you know my mad love for Mary Shelley and Frankenstein. And after my own heart, Addie Tsai has gifted us this breathtaking retelling full of queer, biracial, gender-swapping goodness.
What you’ve heard about Alora Young and her debut is all true. She’s extraordinary, the book is phenomenal and you just need to get a copy in your hands ASAP.
This is the essential memoir from the founder of the Disability Visibility Project. After you order it, be sure to read this candid article by Alice and consider supporting the ongoing costs of her care if you can.
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