February 2024 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 column is exceptionally late because I have been monumentally busy—and this is coming from someone who likes to keep themselves busy, juggle all the things and have lots of irons in the fire. 

There’s a very delicate balance one must strike when living this sort of life, and it turns out that this balance can be wildly disrupted by any number of events. The big ones, such as family health issues, can really turn your life upside down. I know so many of you have gone through this and can relate. 

So here we are in mid-February, and my column is late, but it’s here! I wouldn’t let you down. 

And what a fantastic time for new books. With each new month, I am increasingly challenged by the sheer number of worthy choices of new releases within my scope. So you know I’ll miss some, won’t include others and do the best I can.

That’s all we can hope for from one another, right? To trust that we’ll consistently show up and do the best we can. So while I may show up a day late and a dollar short, I do show up. 

Thanks for your patience, understanding, compassion and support of this column. It means more to me than you could ever know.

Now, stop crying—oh, that’s just me…? – and peruse this list of 31 and let me know what you’re reading!  

Acts of Forgiveness: A Novel

By Maura Cheeks (@mauracheeks). Ballantine Books. 320 pages. Out now. 

Writer Maura Cheeks’ evocative debut novel takes on the important topic of reparations and how one family reckons with the past in order to make a better future. This powerful first book explores themes of family, legacy, obligation and redemption.


Bless the Blood: A Cancer Memoir

By Walela Nehanda (@itswalela). Kokila. 400 pages. Out now.

Filled with poetry, notes, journal entries and essays, this devastatingly brilliant debut showcases Walela Nehanda’s determination when faced with a leukemia diagnosis as a young adult and the lyricism they use to share their experiences. It’s heartrending and heartwarming at once. 


The Blueprint: A Novel

By Rae Giana Rashad (@raegianarashad). Harper. 304 pages. Out now.

The Blueprint builds on histories of enslaved Black women to explore what an alternate contemporary U.S. may look like under similar circumstances. Taking on themes of Black girlhood, misogyny and intergenerational trauma, Rashad has written a poignant and powerful debut.


Dinner on Monster Island: Essays

By Tania De Rozario (@_tania.de.rozario_). Harper Perennial. 192 pages, Out now.

Unique in its melding of personal narrative, film criticism and social commentary, this collection of essays is as heartfelt and lyrical as it is sharp and searing. Tania De Rozario candidly shares her experiences growing up queer in Singapore among monsters both seen and unexpected.  


The Eternal Ones

By Namina Forna (@namina.forna). Delacorte Press. 480 pages. Out now. 

It’s here! It’s the final installment of the New York Times bestselling series, The Gilded Ones, by the endlessly talented Namina Forna. If you’re not on this epic fantasy train yet, what are you waiting for? 



By Hannah Levene. Nightboat Books. 172 pages. Out now. 

Hannah Levene’s debut is fresh, experimental, unique and exhilarating. Come for the anarchist butch lesbians, stay for the 1950s swag, the smoky bar conversation and the jukebox when the band’s not playing. I didn’t read this book, it read me.


Greta & Valdin: A Novel

By Rebecca K Reilly (Ngaati Hine, Ngaati Rehua Ngaatiwai ki Aotea) (@rebeccakreilly). Avid Reader Press. 352 pages. Out now. 

It’s not easy to make the story of millennial Maaori-Russian-Catalonian siblings, full of queerness, family secrets and endless drama, relatable. Or is it? Rebecca K Reilly makes it look easy—and hilarious—in this fresh debut. 


How to Live Free in a Dangerous World: A Decolonial Memoir

By Shayla Lawson (@shaylalawson). Tiny Reparations Books. 320 pages. Out now. 

Spectacularly talented writer and journalist Shayla Lawson is back with this collection of essays examining race, travel, disability, emotion, gender and more. This is a book that will enrage and engulf you, soothe and seduce you; it will have you looking at the world (and yourself) in liberatory new ways.


I Love You So Much It’s Killing Us Both: A Novel

By Mariah Stovall (@stove.stove.stove). Soft Skull. 336 pages. Out now.

If Mariah Stovall’s debut doesn’t have you pining for the past and reliving your own coming-of-age era, you may just be the Tin Man looking for a heart. Centering on a tender and tumultuous friendship and its killer soundtrack, this story is dynamic, agile and auspicious.  


Imagination: A Manifesto

By Ruha Benjamin (@ruha9). W.W. Norton & Co. 192 pages. Out now.

Ruha Benjamin’s latest work is an exciting manifesto on the liberatory possibilities of imagination. As practical as it is inspirational, this slim volume makes a bold and reasoned case for the necessity of imagination, creativity and audacity to achieve true collective liberation. 


Medgar and Myrlie: Medgar Evers and the Love Story That Awakened America

By Joy-Ann Reid (@joyannreid). Mariner Books. 352 pages. Out now.

Writer and MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid has written the book we didn’t even know we needed. In her latest, Reid tells the story of Medgar and Myrlie Evers: their love and leadership, their resistance and resonance. Their remarkable story is finally told in this captivating and inspirational volume.  


Plantation Pedagogy: The Violence of Schooling Across Black and Indigenous Space

By Bayley J. Marquez (Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians). University of California Press. 320 pages. Out now. 

American studies scholar Bayley J. Marquez has produced this captivating and significant examination of the role industrial education—what she terms “plantation pedagogy”—played in the colonization, oppression and forced assimilation of enslaved and dispossessed Black and Indigenous peoples throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.  



By Alexis Wright (Waanyi). New Directions. 672 pages. Out now. 

Hailing from the Gulf of Carpentaria region of Australia, Waanyi writer Alexis Wright stuns with this electrifying allegory of oppression, assimilation and sovereignty amid ecological disaster. Also be sure to check out New Directions’ edition of Carpentaria, Wright’s award-winning classic, out now. 


Queer Childhoods: Institutional Futures of Indigeneity, Race, and Disability

By Mary Zaborskis. NYU Press. 320 pages. Out now.

By focusing on Native American boarding schools, African American industrial education, schools for the blind, and more, gender studies scholar Mary Zaborskis sheds light on how queer childhoods were influenced by educational institutions during the late 19th and 20th centuries. Original and well-researched, this volume makes for compelling reading.  


The Things We Didn’t Know

By Elba Iris Pérez (@elbairisp). Gallery Books. 320 pages. Out now. 

Winner of Simon & Schuster’s inaugural Books Like Us First Novel Contest, this evocative debut is set in the 1950s and weaves a young girl’s experiences of her home in a small factory town in Massachusetts with the unknown world of her family in the mountains of Puerto Rico.


Towers of Ivory and Steel: How Israeli Universities Deny Palestinian Freedom

By Maya Wind. Verso. 288 pages. Out now. 

It’s far past time we hold institutions accountable for the harm they inflict on oppressed peoples from across the spectrum of identity and experience. This goes double for institutions of higher education, as Maya Wind and I agree. Uncomfortable yet necessary, this is a brave reckoning. 


Wake Up America: Black Women on the Future of Democracy

By Keisha N. Blain (@keishanblain). W. W. Norton & Company. 256 pages. Out now. 

Urgent and empowering, this remarkable collection of essays edited by the indomitable Keisha Blain showcases some of the most significant Black women fighting for justice and liberation today. Heavy hitters such as Mariame Kaba, Alicia Garza, Andraéa LaVant, Rhea Butler and Raquel Willis take on themes of reproductive justice, healthcare, reparations, abolition, disability justice, queer rights, and so much more. 


The Weird Sister Collection: Writing at the Intersections of Feminism, Literature, and Pop Culture

Edited by Marisa Crawford (@marisa_crawford). The Feminist Press at CUNY. 264 pages. Out now. 

This is a sparkling and significant collection of writings from Weird Sister, a feminist blog founded in 2014. Instigating at the intersection of literature and popular culture, Weird Sister poked the tiger of the existing white male writing establishment. Contributors to this fabulous volume include Virgie Tovar, Morgan Parker, Julián Delgado Lopera, Megan Milks and Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, among others.  


Against Erasure: A Photographic Memory of Palestine Before the Nakba

By Teresa Aranguren (@terearanguren) and Sandra Barrilaro. Haymarket Books. 240 pages. Out Feb. 20.

From a Spanish journalist and photographer team comes this timely and necessary collection of photos of Palestinian life, love and land before Israel’s creation (known as the Nakba by Palestinians) in 1948. Presented in English and Arabic, this volume will both educate and inspire.


Become Ungovernable: An Abolition Feminist Ethic for Democratic Living

By H.L.T. Quan. Pluto Press. 336 pages. Out Feb. 20. 

Rooted in abolition feminism, queer Black radicalism and an ethic of care, this groundbreaking book by political theorist and filmmaker H.L.T. Quan is a powerhouse. Both creative and practical, it illustrates the importance and possibility of collective action, refusal and reimagination for liberation.


Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit: Essays

By Aisha Sabatini Sloan (@aishasabslo). Graywolf. 160 pages. Out Feb. 20. 

This collection of essays weaves explorations of art with violence, identity with expansiveness, separation with belonging, Los Angeles with Detroit with the world. Sloan’s reflections are robust and poetic, her writing like lucid dreaming. I was rapt with this book.  


Island Witch

By Amanda Jayatissa (@amandajayatissa). Berkley. 384 pages. Out Feb. 20.

Let’s face it, there are few things more horrific than colonization. In her latest thriller, Amanda Jayatissa explores this evil against the backdrop of 19th-century Sri Lanka, where a father and daughter must fight to save the island and themselves from a dangerous new religion and the violence it inflicts. 


Last to Eat, Last to Learn: My Life in Afghanistan Fighting to Educate Women

By Pashtana Durrani (@Afghania_Barakzai) with Tamara Bralo. Citadel. 224 pages. Out Feb. 20. 

Pashtana Durrani is an Afghani activist, Amnesty International global youth ambassador and founder of LEARN, a nonprofit dedicated to providing quality healthcare and education in conflict zones. The book shares her inspirational story and a portion of its sales will benefit LEARN.   


LatinoLand: A Portrait of America’s Largest and Least Understood Minority

By Marie Arana. Simon & Schuster. 576 pages. Out Feb. 20. 

With her latest volume, acclaimed writer Marie Arana provides a comprehensive history of Latino communities in the U.S. that was long overdue. Through extensive research and interviews, she achieves a feat of exploration, explanation, storytelling and preservation that is thorough, accessible and necessary. 



By Keezy Young (@keezyyoung). Silver Sprocket. 24 pages. Out Feb. 21.

I am very excited to include this autobiographical comic from a new-to-me publisher, Silver Sprocket. Queer cartoonist Keezy Young lets us peek behind the curtain of bipolar I disorder into a world of (hypo)manic confidence and risk-taking to oversharing to the depths of darkness. This is a phenomenal creative work and an informative resource. 


Being Black in the Ivory: Truth-Telling about Racism in Higher Education

By Shardé M. Davis (@DrShardeDavis). University of North Carolina Press. 312 pages. Out Feb. 27.

In the summer of 2020, communications scholar Shardé M. Davis created #BlackInTheIvory to share her challenges as a Black woman in academia. It quickly went viral, and now she’s edited this candid and validating volume that includes contributions from students, faculty, staff and scholars from across the disciplines. 


Black Girl Autopoetics: Agency in Everyday Digital Practice

By Ashleigh Greene Wade (@scholarLEIGH1). Duke University Press. 176 pages. Out Feb. 27.

In this rich and compelling new volume, Ashleigh Greene Wade presents the findings of her deep exploration into the digital presence of Black girls. Wade finds invaluable lessons to be learned from their online experiences, practices and self-making.   


Outspoken: My Fight for Freedom and Human Rights in Afghanistan

By Sima Samar with Sally Armstrong. Random House Canada. 344 pages. Out Feb. 27.

From a patriarchal upbringing in a polygamous family to an arranged marriage and disappeared husband, Sima Samar overcame tremendous odds to complete her medical degree, set up schools and serve as Afghanistan’s vice president. As she details in this urgent memoir, through it all, Samar continues fighting for justice and equality for women and girls across the globe.


Vagabond Princess: The Great Adventures of Gulbadan

By Ruby Lal. Yale University Press. 280 pages. Out Feb. 27. 

If you haven’t heard of Princess Gulbadan Begum (1523-1603), you are not alone. In this enthralling first-ever biography of this trailblazing adventurer, Ruby Lal builds on Gulbadan’s own memoir, which—despite its missing pages—is the only surviving work of prose by a woman of that time. In it, she details her adventures, limitations and defiance of Islamic gender conventions.


Whiskey Tender: A Memoir

By Deborah Taffa (Quechan (Yuma) Nation and Laguna Pueblo) (@deborahtaffa). Harper. 304 pages. Out Feb. 27.

Captivating and utterly original, this memoir is one examining tradition, assimilation and refusal. Taffa’s intimate candor and thoughtful reflections are tender yet challenging and add to the growing number of Native stories that transcend trauma and highlight the autonomy, sovereignty and survival of Indigenous peoples. 


A Woman of Pleasure: A Novel

Written by Kiyoko Murata. Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter. Counterpoint. 320 pages. Out Feb. 27.

This is the first novel translated into English by the award-winning Japanese writer Kiyoko Murata. Based on true events, it enticingly details the experiences of Ichi, a young woman sold to an exclusive brothel in early 20th-century Japan. Educated and mentored by the head courtesan, Ichi and her peers organize a strike in an effort to break away from oppressive traditions and determine their own futures. 


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.