May 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! 

Fellow feminist readers, 

It’s been a rough few months—years?—for many of us. We are overworked, underappreciated and anxious about the precarious state of the world. How does one think about anything other than one’s role in saving the world and rescuing humanity from our own destruction? How do we maintain hope and strength in the face of such violence and fear?

There’s truth in the adage that we must each find our own way through the darkness to the light. That said, there is also strength in numbers and resilience in collective care. There are times to spend in solitude, in meditation or reading a good book. There are also times for collective resistance—and we’ve experienced many of those times since 2020, friends. 

Recently, to fight off my own hopelessness, I’ve been heeding the call to action and helping organize support for amazing young people in my area doing courageous work in the world. I’ve had to reallocate time and energy for this work, I’ve lost some sleep, and I’ve been late for some deadlines. (Sorry!) 

But I am a better person for it. For the little I’ve given, I have received a burst of inspiration, a boost in creativity, a surge of meaning and renewed hope for a world guided by the next generation.

I hope you, too, will find the joy and camaraderie of collective action, be that through a march, mutual aid or a book club. We all have roles to play and strengths to offer. We work hard, and when we tire, our peers will be there to take over, as you will do for them when they need it. That’s the power of community. 

So answer the call, get in there, do your best. Then rest, read and revitalize before relieving someone else. The 24 books on my list this month are certain to help you to strategize, reenergize and mobilize. 

Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a book that I was going to include in this month’s list before I realized it actually came out last month… ope! (That’s Midwestern for “oops.”) So I’m including Crip Spacetime by Margaret Price (Duke University Press) here because it is a wonderfully accessible and necessary book, especially for those of us who’ve spent any time in academia. You’ll find its entry below. 

Black Meme: A History of The Images That Make Us

By Legacy Russell (@ellerustle). Verso. 192 pages. Out now.

Writer and curator Legacy Russell’s latest thought-provoking book forges a strong connection between Black imagery from 1900 on to the development of contemporary digital culture, as well as to our understanding of culture, race, gender, violence and more. 


Breathe: Journeys to Healthy Binding

By Maia Kobabe (@redgoldsparks) and Sarah Peitzmeier (@SarahPeitzmeier). Dutton Books for Young Readers. 64 pages. Out now.

This is the informative graphic guide to chest binding that we’ve been waiting for. Maia Kobabe, the author of Gender Queer, and University of Michigan professor Sarah Peitzmeier talked with 25 people about binding and created this colorful volume for people of any age. 


The Brides of High Hill

By Nghi Vo (@NghiVoWriting). Tordotcom. 128 pages. Out now.

Nghi Vo’s latest entry in The Singing Hills Cycle is number five and is just as intriguing and special as the previous four. Imaginative, kaleidoscopic and captivating, this is one of my favorite series. Read them in order or not, but read them. 


Captive: New Short Fiction from Africa

Edited by Helen Moffett (@heckitty) and Rachel Zadok. Catalyst Press. 458 pages. Out now.

This dynamic anthology from Short Story Day Africa features some of the brightest new writers across Africa and the diaspora. Creative and candid, sharp and speculative, the stories in this collection represent Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Lesotho, Nigeria, Zambia and more.  


Crip Spacetime: Access, Failure, and Accountability in Academic Life

By Margaret Price (@PriceMargaret). Duke University Press. 240 pages. Out now.  

In this necessary volume, Margaret Price details the results of a study she conducted on the daily experiences of academics with disabilities. After collecting over 300 interviews and surveys, Price calls for universities to learn from disabled academics and adopt their models of collective accountability and care.  


Feminism Against Cisness

Edited by Emma Heaney (@riislover667). Duke University Press Books. 280 pages. Out now.

In this slim but significant volume, contributors disrupt normative narratives of assigned sex as determinative of sexed experience, with specific attention paid to intersections of racism, sexism and classism. It features outstanding essays by Marquis Bey, Grace Lavery, Jules Gill-Peterson and others.  


How It Works Out: A Novel

By Myriam Lacroix (@myriamontheoutside). The Overlook Press. 240 pages. Out now.

Tegan and Sara Quin called this one “a delightfully bizarre and unabashedly queer revelation.” Indeed, Myriam Lacroix’s sad and hilarious debut is about love, possibilities, and queerness, with a pinch of body horror. 


Not a River: A Novel

By Selva Almada (@selva.almada). Graywolf Press. 104 pages. Out now. 

Mystery surrounds an unnamed South American river in this dreamlike novella. It’s where a man drowned and where his friends struggle to reel in a stingray before just shooting it. Dark and atmospheric, Almada’s latest grapples with violence, masculinity and memory.


One Second at a Time: My Story of Pain and Reclamation

By Diane Morrisseau with Elisabeth Brannigan. Purich Publishing. 180 pages. Out now.

Diane Morrisseau has overcome a lifetime of abuse, from her time in a residential school to a violent husband of 18 years. The cause of the most trauma remains the colonial systems that maintain oppression and refuse to protect her. In spite of it all, she’s been able to use her experiences to help other women heal.


Troubled Waters

By Mary Annaïse Heglar (@mary.heglar). Harper Muse. 336 pages. Out now.

With themes of climate change, loss, secrets and struggle, Troubled Waters is a powerful statement about the strength of family in overcoming demons, past and present. Based on her own family’s history, Heglar offers an emotional narrative that encourages reflection and demands resistance.


Unbuild Walls: Why Immigrant Justice Needs Abolition 

By Silky Shah (@silkys13). Haymarket Books. 256 pages. Out now. 

In Unbuild Walls, organizer Silky Shah provides an exceptional explanation of how systems of immigration and incarceration are intimately connected and ultimately feed one another’s oppressive aims. Shah argues that we can achieve true liberation by embracing an abolitionist framework, and she provides the tools to do so.


Rebel Girl: My Life as a Feminist Punk 

By Kathleen Hanna (@mskathleenhanna). Ecco. 336 pages. Out May 14.

If you are a third-wave feminist like me, you probably wanted to be Kathleen Hanna at some point in your life. In her candid memoir, the unapologetic singer of Bikini Kill shares her journey from a challenging childhood through her first shows to love, Lyme disease and Le Tigre. I double dare ya to miss this one. 



Written by Layla Martinez (@lay_martinezvicente). Translated by Sophie Hughes and Annie McDermott (@annielmcd). Two Lines Press. 144 pages. Out May 14.

This debut horror is based on the author’s grandmother’s stories of Franco and the Spanish Civil War. Eerie and original, Woodworm is a haunted house ghost story exploring themes of misogyny, classism and intergenerational trauma. 


American Diva: Extraordinary, Unruly, Fabulous 

By Deborah Paredez (@debparedez). W. W. Norton & Company. 256 pages. Out May 21.

Part memoir and part diva cultural history, Deborah Paredez’s latest book blew me away. When I finished reading it, I wiped my tears and immediately watched Nadine Sierra’s 2022 Met performance of the “Mad Scene” in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor—and you should, too.  


Cactus Country: A Boyhood Memoir 

By Zoë Bossiere (@zoebossiere). Abrams Press. 272 pages. Out May 21.

As Zoë Bossiere found out, coming of age in a Tucson trailer park is not easy, especially when examining one’s gender, sexuality and identity. In the desert, Bossiere grappled with gender roles, embodiment, violence, racism and more, learning that even in the harshest of conditions, there is beauty and bounty to be found.


Exhibit: A Novel 

By R. O. Kwon (@ro.kwon). Riverhead Books. 224 pages. Out May 21.

From the bestselling author of The Incendiaries comes this remarkable story that grapples with Korean womanhood, expectations, art, ambition, desire and the familial curse Jin tempts through it all. In her version of a ghost story, Kwon is masterful in writing the art of temptation, the electricity of desire and the intimacy of obsession.   


Fang Si-Chi’s First Love Paradise: A Novel 

Written by Yi-Han Lin. Translated by Jenna Tang. HarperVia.

Referred to as “the most influential book of Taiwan’s #MeToo movement,” this heartbreaking yet powerful story of a girl sexually abused by her teacher is based on the author’s own tragic experiences. For Yi-Han Lin, society at large is the real perpetrator of violence in this, her only published work. Readers should be aware of explicit content including minors.    


The Resilience Myth: New Thinking on Grit, Strength, and Growth After Trauma

By Soraya Chemaly (@ragebecomesher). Atria/One Signal Publishers. 304 pages. Out May 21.

The indomitable Soraya Chemaly deconstructs the myth of individual resilience in her robust follow-up to Rage Becomes Her. While we are fed narratives of bootstraps and rugged individualism, Chemaly reminds us through research and real life that true resilience is actually based on collective care, interdependence, shared vulnerability, dynamic flexibility and love. 


The Story Game 

By Shze-Hui Tjoa (@shzehui). Tin House Books. 272 pages. Out May 21. 

Shze-Hui Tjoa has written a remarkable memoir that is as tender and heartfelt as it is candid and raw. Written as conversations and stories between sisters, the inventive form is poignant and captivating in its depth and patiently unravels the complexities of childhood trauma and harm.


Undue Burden: Life and Death Decisions in Post-Roe America

By Shefali Luthra (@shefali.luthra). Doubleday. 368 pages. Out May 21.

National health policy expert Shefali Luthra is clear: Abortion is a basic human right, and with the Dobbs decision in 2022, the U.S. was launched into a national healthcare crisis. In Undue Burden, Luthra examines the history of abortion in the U.S., how we got here and, most importantly, what it looks like to seek and receive an abortion post-Roe.  


I’m a Fool to Want You: Stories

Written by Camila Sosa Villada (@camilaomara). Translated by Kit Maude. Other Press. 256 pages. Out May 28.

From the author of Bad Girls, one of my favorite books of 2022, comes this collection of short stories that are just as imaginative, captivating and titillating as the debut. Centering on themes of gender, sex work, love and justice, Villada continues to shine a light on lives so often hidden in the dark.


Medicine Wheel for the Planet: A Journey Toward Personal and Ecological Healing

By Jennifer Grenz (Nlaka’pamux mixed ancestry) (@jennifer_grenz). University of Minnesota Press. 280 pages. Out May 28.

In her compelling new book, ecologist and scholar Jennifer Grenz bridges the gap between Western and Indigenous knowledges and epistemologies to provide a new perspective on how we can collectively and meaningfully heal and protect the Earth.


Poverty for Profit: How Corporations Get Rich off America’s Poor 

By Anne Kim (@Anne_S_Kim). The New Press. 352 pages. Out May 28.

Anne S. Kim’s latest expose expertly disrupts the “corporate poverty complex” that continues to profit from poor families across the nation. Kim examines how industries exploit weak government social policies and systemic oppression to make millions—while leaving the most vulnerable behind. 


A Witch’s Guide to Burning 

By Aminder Dhaliwal (@aminder_d). Drawn and Quarterly. 400 pages. Out May 28.

Singe was a witch dedicated to keeping her community safe—until she was burned at the stake. But with a rain and a little help from some friends, Singe may just save her magic after all. This delightful graphic novel puts burnout and self-care in a whole new light that you won’t want to miss.


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.