December 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! 

This will be another short introduction this month, friends, because we are all so busy right now, amirite?

And I swore I wouldn’t engage in the “How is it already December?!?” tropes, but come on: How is it already December?!? 

I hope this month treats you well, with patience and compassion, allowing you to take a breath and a rest here and there … and that we all treat one another (and ourselves!) with the same kindness. 

Take a break with one of these 15 new titles; each one is truly a gift. 

Airplane Mode: An Irreverent History of Travel

By Shahnaz Habib (@midnight_umbrella_ltd). Catapult. 288 pages. Out Dec. 5. 

Shahnaz Habib’s debut explores travel from the perspective of a woman of color from the Global South, one that has been sorely lacking in the genre. Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medals of Excellence, it is an insightful and illuminating reflection incorporating themes of immigration, colonialism, climate change, power and privilege.


All the Little Bird-Hearts: A Novel 

By Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow. Algonquin Books. 304 pages. Out Dec. 5.

Written from the perspective of an autistic woman by an autistic woman, this debut centers on themes of family and love, trauma and prejudice. This witty, captivating and superbly written story is longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize. 


Black Feminist Constellations: Dialogue and Translation across the Americas

Edited by Christen A. Smith (@christenasmithphd) and Lorraine Leu. University of Texas Press. 336 pages. Out Dec. 5.

Dr. Christen A. Smith has been busy! I included another work she co-edited last month, and this anthology is just as intriguing. Focused on liberation reimagined by radical South American and Caribbean Black women, the innovative collection includes poems, essays and conversations.


The Children of This Madness 

By Gemini Wahhaj. 7.13 Books. 288 pages. Out Dec. 5. 

In her compelling debut, Gemini Wahhaj clarifies and humanizes complex situations such as the US invasion of Iraq, the Bengali immigrant experience in the US and the layered relationship dynamics that result from such situations. 



By Chịkọdịlị Emelụmadụ (@chikodiliemelumadu). The Overlook Press. 352 pages. Out Dec. 5. 

Kaleidoscopic and ambitious, this stunning debut mixes magical realism, Igbo spirituality, and traditional storytelling in a contemporary Nigerian setting. Focused on two girls and their fathers, this tale is rich and remarkable.


Flores and Miss Paula: A Novel 

By Melissa Rivero (@melissarivero_author). Ecco. 272 pages. Out Dec. 5. 

Award-winning writer Melissa Rivero’s latest is a fresh, heartfelt exploration of the complicated relationship between a Peruvian immigrant mother and her modern daughter. With themes of loss, love, secrets and aspirations, this is a graceful and touching story.


The Simple Art of Killing a Woman

Written by Patrícia Melo. Translated by Sophie Lewis. Restless Books. 272 pages. Out Dec. 5.  

Heavy, bold but beautifully powerful, Patrícia Melo’s latest is an enraging and necessary indictment of femicide in Brazil. Based on actual events, the novel is part thriller, part social commentary and it situates this violence among the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the healing potential of feminist collaborations.


Single at Heart: The Power, Freedom, and Heart-Filling Joy of Single Life

By Bella DePaulo (@belladepaulo). Apollo Publishers. 320 pages. Out Dec. 5.

Social scientist and single-life expert Dr. Bella DePaulo has written what will be a blessing to all the single people in your life – I know it was for me! Taking on the myths and misconceptions, the stereotypes and the stigmas, Dr. DePaulo provides a research-based and endlessly readable examination of being Single at Heart and happy about it. 


Songs on Endless Repeat: Essays and Outtakes 

By Anthony Veasna So. Ecco. 240 pages. Out Dec. 5.

Cementing the legacy of a talented writer, this volume includes the essays and unfinished, previously unpublished fiction of Anthony Veasna So (1992-2020), whose debut short story collection was widely acclaimed.  


Your Journey to Financial Freedom: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Wealth and Happiness

By Jamila Souffrant (@journeytolaunch). Hanover Square Press. 368 pages. Out Dec. 5.

I am a sucker for financial wellness guides (I need the help!) and this one is a breath of fresh air. Jamila Souffrant provides readers with practical and manageable steps to walk the journey to financial freedom, including how to pay off debt, start to save, and retire early. Sign me up!


Yours for the Taking: A Novel

By Gabrielle Korn (@gabriellekorn). St. Martin’s Press. 336 pages. Out Dec. 5. 

It’s the year 2050 and to have a shot at surviving the climate-ravaged places across the planet, you have to be accepted into the Inside Project. Tackling themes of feminism, capitalism, queerness, race and gender, this is a remarkably frightening, enlightening and unflinching take on dystopian literature. 


When Language Broke Open: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Black Writers of Latin American Descent

Edited by Alan Pelaez Lopez (Zapotec) (@migrantscribble). University of Arizona Press. 320 pages. Out Dec. 12.

This groundbreaking collection includes contributions from over forty Black queer and trans creators of Latin American descent. Divided into three sections—Memory, Care and Futures—this volume highlights ancestry, geopolitics, gender, race and more in magnificent works of poetry, translations, memoirs, stories and visual art. 


There She Goes Again: Gender, Power, and Knowledge in Contemporary Film and Television Franchises

By Aviva Dove-Viebahn (@fourthwaveprof). Rutgers University Press. 212 pages. Out Dec. 15.

In this engaging and compelling volume, film and media studies expert Aviva Dove-Viebahn examines the feminism and femininity of women protagonists in film and television. This is a well-researched yet accessible reflection on power, knowledge and culture.


The Black Joy Project 

By Kleaver Cruz (@KleavCruz). Mariner Books. 224 pages. Out Dec. 19.

Filled with essays and full-color photographs focused on the joy of Black life, this stunning volume will make the perfect gift for anyone on your holiday list. Luckily for us, Kleaver Cruz has put The Black Joy Project in print, and it is a celebration.

Just Transformations: Grassroots Struggles for Alternative Futures

Edited by Iokiñe Rodríguez (@iokirod), Mariana Walter (@maru_walter) and Leah Temper. Pluto Press. 368 pages. Out Dec. 20. 

This is an immensely useful collection of ideas, case studies and lessons for anyone interested in sustainable and actionable transformations for social and ecological justice. International in scope, this essential volume includes work being done in Bolivia, Canada, India, Turkey and more.


Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


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.