May 2023 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 indie publishers and amazing works by writers who are women, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, APIA/AAPI, international, queer, trans, nonbinary, 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! 

May is always a big month for new releases, which makes my job here (and attempting to stick to 30 books) a real challenge. For every book on any of my lists, there are at least two more that I could’ve included. 

This month brings exciting new voices, trusted companions, powerful knowledge and wondrous escapes. Dive into these 30 new titles to see what moves you!  


Hula: A Novel 

By Jasmin Iolani Hakes (@IolaniDancing). HarperVia. 400 pages. Out May 2.

This is a stunning ode to Hawai’i that follows three generations of women in Hilo and their secrets, bonds and questions. Lovingly written, the story addresses themes of community, tradition, art and destiny. 


Indigenous Justice and Gender 

Edited by Marianne O. Nielsen and Karen Jarratt-Snider (Mississippi Choctaw). University of Arizona Press. 200 pages. Out May 2. 

This anthology contributes to knowledge on issues of how gender, sexuality and justice intersect within and throughout Indigenous lives and experiences. Using a strengths-based lens of rematriation, the book is focused on the power and well-being of Indigenous women and Two Spirit people.   


Joy is My Justice: Reclaim What Is Yours

By Tanmeet Sethi, MD (@TanmeetSethiMD). Hachette Go. 288 pages. Out May 2.

Part memoir, part mindfulness and all joy, this book will help readers face trauma and injustice with science, strength and hope. Written with compassion and understanding, Joy Is My Justice is the right book at the right time.  


La Tercera 

By Gina Apostol. Soho Press. 480 pages. Out May 2. 

Gina Apostol’s latest novel centers on one woman’s search for her family’s truth in the Philippines after the passing of her mother. In so doing, she uncovers the challenging truths of her family and her country. 


Underwater Daughter: A Memoir of Survival and Healing

By Antonia Deignan (@tunietal). She Writes Press. 280 pages. Out May 2. 

Underwater Daughter is a harrowing memoir of abuse, trauma and forgiveness. Deignan lyrically writes about perilous events and the complexities of survival. In so doing, she graciously provides others with a model for loving, healing and hope.  


You Are Here: A Novel

By Karin Lin-Greenberg (@klingreenberg). Counterpoint. 304 pages. Out May 2.

This poignant novel by Karin Lin-Greenberg movingly portrays a community of people whose local mall is shutting down. Rich and nuanced in her descriptions of her characters, Lin-Greenberg illustrates both the humanity of their private lives and the layered entanglements of their relationships.  


Journal of a Black Queer Nurse

By Britney Daniels (@BlackQueerNurse). Common Notions. 192 pages. Out May 9.

I read this debut in one sitting and was moved, enlightened, enraged, and hopeful all at once. As a Black queer nurse, Britney Daniels has experienced Some Things and instead of being jaded (which is my go-to), she turns her stories into valuable lessons from which we all can learn.


The Sorrows of Others

By Ada Zhang (@arugulaada). A Public Space Books. 160 pages. Out May 9.

This debut collection of ten stories shines with wisdom, emotion and the longing for connection within us all. From loneliness and exclusion to humanity and hope, The Sorrows of Others is luminous. 


To Shape a Dragon’s Breath: The First Book of Nampeshiweisit 

by Moniquill Blackgoose (Seaconke Wampanoag). Del Rey. 528 pages. Out May 9.

Check it out: a young Indigenous girl finds a dragon’s egg and starts attending a “colonizer-run dragon academy.” Of course, she deals with colonizer BS, which prompts her to challenge the school traditions—and to change the world. Yes, please! 


Bones of Belonging: Finding Wholeness in a White World

By Annahid Dashtgard (@Annahid). Dundurn Press. 216 pages. Out May 16. 

The personal essays in Annahid Dashtgard’s insightful Bones of Belonging focus on her life as “a Brown woman working for change in a white world.” The stories in this volume speak to interdependence, belonging and empowerment with humor, vulnerability and generosity. 


Deadly and Slick: Sexual Modernity and the Making of Race

By Sita Balani (@SitaInShort). Verso. 224 pages. Out May 16.

Through a lens of sexuality, Dr. Sita Balani explores the complexities of race as a social construction and how its entanglement in everyday life makes it (incorrectly) seem like a physiological reality. 


Doña Cleanwell Leaves Home: Stories 

By Ana Castillo (@the_official_ana_castillo). HarperVia. 256 pages. Out May 16.

Legendary writer Ana Castillo’s latest is a collection centering women and their stories of family life, secrets, disappointment, autonomy, meaning and ultimately, hope and freedom. 


Human Sacrifices

Written by María Fernanda Ampuero (@mariafernandamp). Translated by Frances Riddle (@francesriddle11). Feminist Press. 144 pages. Out May 16. 

I loved Cockfight, Ampuero’s story collection from 2020. When Publishers Weekly described this collection of twelve stories “grotesque, unflinching” and “unrepentant feminist fiction,” they weren’t lying. This is a haunting book. 


Let This Radicalize You: Organizing and the Revolution of Reciprocal Care 

By Kelly Hayes (Menominee) (@MsKellyMHayes) and Mariame Kaba (@prisonculture). Haymarket Books. 220 pages. Out May 16. 

If you are tired and overwhelmed with the daily work of resistance, fighting for justice and well, life, this volume will provide support and guidance from its wildly wise authors, who also include pearls from Barbara Ransby, Ejeris Dixon, Ruth Wilson Gilmore and others. 


Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City 

By Jane Wong (@paradeofcats). Tin House Books. 304 pages. Out May 16.

As a fan of Jane Wong’s poetry, I am looking forward to her debut memoir. More than a story of immigration or of one US city, it explores the complexities of life and the dichotomies of emotion and experience that can occur within a single person. 


What You Don’t Know Will Make a Whole New World: A Memoir

By Dorothy Lazard. Heyday. 224 pages. Out May 16. 

What kind of librarian would I be if I failed to include this absorbing memoir by longtime librarian Dorothy Lazard? Fresh and insightful, Lazard tells her story of growing up in Bay Area neighborhoods through the ‘60s and ‘70s to her work as a librarian and public historian. All the while, her curiosity, reflection and pride shine bright.   


Yellowface: A Novel 

By R. F Kuang (@kuangrf). William Morrow. 336 pages. Out May 16.

R.F. Kuang wrote one of my favorite books of 2022, Babel, so I was excited to get into her latest novel. This one is about plagiarism and appropriation in publishing and hits it out of the park. I loved this book.


My Port of Beirut

Written by Lamia Ziadé (@lamia.ziade). Translated by Emma Ramadan. Pluto Press. 240 pages. Out May 20.

On August 4, 2020, a hangar in the Port of Beirut exploded. Twice. Already in the midst of the global pandemic and an economic crisis, the Lebanese people experienced shockwaves that killed and injured thousands. If you’re like me, you probably didn’t even hear about this happening. This extraordinary book is the culmination of six months of Ziadé’s writings and illustrations of the event, the fallout and the circumstances that led to its occurrence. 


I Am Ayah: The Way Home

By Donna Hill (@DonnaHill). Sideways Books. 368 pages. Out May 23. 

Donna Hill’s work is widely-known and well-loved, and for good reason! Her characters are real, their worlds are relatable and we can see ourselves in their stories. I Am Ayah is a rich and tender story of family, home and love. 


The Lost Journals of Sacajewea: A Novel 

By Debra Magpie Earling (Bitterroot Salish). Milkweed Editions. 264 pages. Out May 23. 

From the author of the amazing Perma Red comes a story that reimagines the life, gifts and legacy of Sacajewea (Lemhi Shoshone) from her own perspective. It is intimate, original and powerful.


The Mother: A Novel 

By B.L. Blanchard (Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa) (@blblanchard). 47North. Out May 23.

If you loved Blanchard’s debut, The Peacekeeper, as I did, you’ll want to pick up The Mother, which similarly imagines a Britain without European colonization and how its women find freedom and meaning in an uncertain world.


Notes on Her Color: A Novel 

By Jennifer Neal (@ladygodiva83). Catapult. 336 pages. Out May 23. 

This debut centers on a young Black and Indigenous woman who, like her mother, can change the color of her skin. At its core, this is a story of expectations, relationships and love. 


Surviving the Future: Abolitionist Queer Strategies

Edited by Scott Branson (@sjbranson1), Raven Hudson, and Bry Reed (@TheBryReed). PM Press. 328 pages. Out May 23. 

This is a radical, abolitionist anthology of essays centering queer and trans writers and futures. Focused on anti-colonialism, anti-racism, anti-ableism, the effects of COVID, pinkwashing, and liberation for all, it includes pieces by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Kitty Stryker, and more. 


dapperQ Style: Ungendering Fashion

By Anita Dolce Vita (@DolceFemmeAnita). Harper Design. 176 pages. Out May 30. 

As I find my own sense of style – jeans, statement t-shirt, cardigan, Adidas, repeat – lacking, this beautiful book had me inspired. From the runway to the secondhand store, dapperQ’s editor-in-chief Anita Dolce Vita and friends have you covered with style, comfort and confidence. 


Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea

By Rita Chang-Eppig (@rche_types). Bloomsbury Publishing. 304 pages. Out May 30.

A pirate queen whose husband is murdered? An entire empire at stake? This is the ambitious, suspenseful and kaleidoscopic adventure we all need this summer! In Chanag-Eppig’s capable hands, this is epic storytelling. 


Everybody Come Alive: A Memoir in Essays

By Marcie Alvis Walker (@BlackCoffeeWithWhiteFriends). Convergent Books. 288 pages. Out May 30. 

Candid and compassionate, Marcie Alvis Walker’s captivating memoir is reminiscent of her Instagram and blog, Black Coffee With White Friends. Not shying away from issues of race, gender, mental illness, abandonment and more, Walker’s strength in vulnerability is nourishing and comforting.    


Floppy: Tales of a Genetic Freak of Nature at the End of the World 

By Alyssa Graybeal (@alyssajgraybeal). Red Hen Press. 280 pages. Out May 30.

Alyssa Graybeal has written this frank memoir about her life with the rare genetic connective tissue disorder Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and its effects on her body, her queerness, her aging, her work, her emotions, and her humanity. 


Horse Barbie: A Memoir

By Geena Rocero (@GeenaRocero). The Dial Press. 320 pages. Out May 30.

In her debut memoir, powerhouse producer, director, model and advocate Geena Rocero describes growing up in the Philippines as a trans femme woman. After moving to NYC and living stealth for years, Rocero testifies to the power of authenticity and truth in finding true power, agency and joy.


By Priya Hein (@priyahein). The Indigo Press. 160 pages. Out May 30. 

Hailing from Mauritius herself, Priya Hein is perfectly situated to write this novel about its herstory, including the ethnic and class divides, the poverty and the patriarchy. It is a testament to the women there who work, resist and remain in service to justice. 


Unbroken: My Story of Survival and My Fight for Justice and Hope for Indigenous Women and Girls 

By Angela Sterritt (Gitanmaax band of the Gitxsan nation) (@AngelaSterritt). Greystone Books. 312 pages. Out May 30.  

This debut is part memoir and part investigation of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Award-winning journalist Sterritt is an expert who experienced life on the streets and survived.

Up next:

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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.