July 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! 

Greetings from the sunny Midwest! 

Oh, hell, I can’t keep this up. The world is on fire, and any introduction I start to write sounds trite, obtuse or just ridiculous. 

I know we all feel it; it’s hard to keep your spirits up and your voices heard among the cacophony of violent rhetoric and willful ignorance we’re surrounded by on the daily.

If you feel overwhelmed, terrified, enraged, confused, hopeless or otherwise obliterated, please know you are not alone. I’m here. We’re here. I know it doesn’t always feel that way, but we’re in this together.

The 18 books below may just give you some respite, order, distraction or—dare I say—hope. So, let’s do this. 

Brittle Joints 

By Maria Sweeney (@moldovamaria). Street Noise Books. 160 pages. Out now.

In this bewitchingly drawn and told debut graphic novel, queer artist Maria Sweeney tells her story of progressive disability and the ongoing frustrations in seeking care and compassion. This earnest and poignant volume will leave readers changed.    


An Endangered Species: A Novel

By Frances Washburn (Lakota). Bison Books. 304 pages. Out now.

This is an exquisitely written story of two families struggling to survive in the Great Plains of the 1960s. Swans and circumstances bring these families—one Native and one white—together in Washburn’s graceful and insightful prose.


Age 16

By Rosena Fung (@rosenafung). Annick Press. 312 pages. Out Jul. 2.

Spanning generations, this poignant graphic memoir takes on thinness, fatphobia, sexism, racism and more. Rosena Fung explores the coming of age, unrealistic beauty standards and complex intergenerational relationships in beautiful narrative and illustration.


Black Cake, Turtle Soup, and Other Dilemmas: Essays

By Gloria Blizzard (@gloriawrites). Dundurn Press. 208 pages. Out Jul. 2.

Gloria Blizzard’s collection of essays is as captivating and lovingly written as any of her songs or poems. From identity and belonging to feminism and food, these personal essays present complexities, challenges and reflections that will appeal to a wide range of readers.  


The Lion Women of Tehran

By Marjan Kamali (@marjankamali7). Gallery Books. 336 pages. Out Jul. 2. 

Marjan Kamali’s latest novel is as fierce and epic as its name suggests. Set in Tehran in the 1950s, it is focused on two young girls who become friends but who grow apart as their circumstances change. As political strife boils over in Iran, the women find themselves together again in a beautifully written story of friendship, feminism and forgiveness. 



By O.O. Sangoyomi (@oosangoyomi). Forge Books. 352 pages. Out Jul. 2.

This epic reimagined 15th-century West African debut is focused on one woman’s fight for agency, autonomy and freedom for herself and her people. Atmospheric and evocative, Masquerade is for lovers of historical fiction, romantasy, myth and folktales.


The Night of Baba Yaga

Written by Akira Otani. Translated by Sam Bett (@sambett). Soho Crime. 216 pages. Out Jul. 2.

Here’s the queer yakuza thriller we’ve been waiting for! It’s 1979 Tokyo, and outcast Yoriko Shindo is forced to protect spoiled 18-year-old Shoko from constant danger. From the ferocious fights to the secret tenderness, this one will keep you on the edge of your seat.  


The Body Alone: A Lyrical Articulation of Chronic Pain

By Nina Lohman (@nina_lohman). University Of Iowa Press. 328 pages. Out Jul. 3.

In this captivating memoir, Nina Lohman writes candidly and thoughtfully about her experiences with chronic pain. Weaving theology, philosophy and her medical records into the narrative, she brilliantly explores the liminal, paradoxical and nonlinear nature of chronic illness. It’s one of two books that are #RequiredReading this month.  


All This and More: A Novel

By Peng Shepherd (@pengshepherd). William Morrow. 512 pages. Out Jul. 9.   

Peng Shepherd is back with her third inventive and compelling novel, which focuses on a woman who wins a chance to re-do all of her past mistakes and reinvent her life. But is it too good to be true? Shepherd’s imagination is on full display in this cracking Choose Your Own Adventure tale. 


The Coin: A Novel

By Yasmin Zaher. Catapult. 240 pages. Out Jul. 9.

This is the sometimes uncomfortable but always provocative story of a Palestinian woman in New York City who begins to question all that she thought she knew. With themes of embodiment, class, gender, loneliness and more, this is a striking debut. Read it, and then go back to read it again.


Dateable: Swiping Right, Hooking Up, and Settling Down While Chronically Ill and Disabled

By Jessica Slice (@jessicaslice) and Caroline Cupp (@carolinecupp82). Hachette Go. 288 pages. Out July 9.

Filling a sizeable gap in the literature, Jessica Slice and Caroline Cupp have written the definitive guide on dating, sex and relationships for people with chronic illnesses or disabilities. This accessible and relatable volume includes information on dating apps, hooking up, breaking up, ethical nonmonogamy, and much more.


Dismantling Mass Incarceration: A Handbook for Change

By Premal Dharia (@premaldharia), James Forman Jr. and Maria Hawilo. FSG Originals. 496 pages. Out Jul. 9.

This is an immersive and insightful collection of writings focused on confronting the violent harms of the carceral state and investigating the complexities of intervention, reform or abolition. With contributions from Angela Y. Davis, Clint Smith, activists, legal scholars and formerly incarcerated people, it is one of this month’s #RequiredReads.  


Grown Women: A Novel

By Sarai Johnson (@sarai_writes). Harper. 400 pages. Out July 9. 

This debut novel by Sarai Johnson centers on four generations of Black Southern women. Masterfully descriptive and absorbing, the book plays with perspective while illustrating each woman’s hardships and resentments, as well as their dreams and joys.

A Thousand Times Before: A Novel

By Asha Thanki (@ashathanki). Viking. 368 pages. Out July 9.

Focused on three generations of women from Partition-era India to modern-day New York City, Asha Thanki’s compelling debut speaks to themes of loss, connection, inheritance and agency. Centering on a beautiful tapestry and a generations-old secret, the story showcases the legacies of these enduring mothers and daughters. 


The Lucky Ones: A Memoir

By Zara Chowdhary (@zarachowdhary). Crown. 288 pages. Out Jul. 16.

Zara Chowdhary is a survivor. In 2002, when she was 16 years old, Chowdhary and her family were thrown into a three-month bloodbath of anti-Muslim violence by Hindu nationalists. This phenomenal debut memoir is both a powerful testimony and an urgent warning.


I Talk About It All the Time

Written by Camara Lundestad Joof (@camarajoof). Translated by Noble Olivia Gunn. University of Wisconsin Press. 120 pages. Out July 23.

In her sharp, one-of-a-kind memoir, Camara Lundestad Joof shares her experiences as a queer Norwegian-Gambian woman in Scandinavia. Her reflections on colorblind racism, the systemic unbelonging of people of color and the labor they must perform to dismantle it are keen, caustic and right on time.


A Passionate Mind in Relentless Pursuit: The Vision of Mary McLeod Bethune

By Noliwe Rooks (@noliwerooks). Penguin Press. 208 pages. Out Jul. 23. 

Many of us know of Mary McLeod Bethune as an educator, but until this outstanding exploration by Noliwe Rooks, we haven’t truly understood Bethune’s noble vision and unwavering dedication to the liberation of Black people. Rooks’ fresh perspective and interwoven narratives make for an endlessly readable volume.


When Monsters Speak: A Susan Stryker Reader

Written by Susan Stryker (@susanstryker). Edited by McKenzie Wark. Duke University Press. 208 pages. Out July 30. 

In this slim volume, McKenzie Wark has collected some of Susan Stryker’s most prominent pieces, both fiction and nonfiction. Wark provides a robust introduction, setting the stage for this and subsequent generations to fully grasp the importance and context of her work.


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.