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For the second time, we’re bringing you a list of books out this season, as well as some older ones you may want to dip into as the seasons change.
We compiled 10 impressive and relevant books that have just come out or that are coming very soon, all written by women. At the bottom are five additional recommendations that aren’t new releases, but are relevant to our time.
Make a list, and check out your favorite indie bookstore, online retailer or local library to make sure you’re never flummoxed by what to read next.
Michelle Dean is a longtime and well-known literary critic, and in her first book she turns her sharply critical eye to 10 women from the 20th century. These women — Dorothy Parker, Rebecca West, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Pauline Kael, Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, Renata Adler, and Janet Malcolm — aren’t a monolith, and each had her own opinions, her own sphere of influence, and her own set of difficult circumstances. Dean looks at where their lives intersected — such as in the pages of Conde Nast publications — and unites them under a compliment they each received early in their careers: They were all considered to be “sharp.”
(April 10, Grove Press)
Rebekah Frumkin’s densely beautiful debut is about a lot of things: It’s about Leland Bloom-Mittwoch, a drug addict, and his dealer, Reggie Marshall. It’s about the time that Leland witnesses Reggie getting shot. And it’s about Leland’s family, whom he abandons, and Reggie’s family, who lost him through no fault of their own. Frumkin’s ambitious novel roves back and forth across the United States, following these families’ trajectories as they watch the world and its circumstances trap them over and over again. It’s a book about people, full of empathy, intelligence and intersections of identity.
(April 17, Henry Holt)
Lilith isn’t her first name. It’s the one she adopts over a heady and hectic time with the couple she becomes entangled with. Her own name is lost, swallowed, willfully forgotten as she tries to fill a “daddy shaped hole” somewhere inside her, a term that packs quite a punch. Her father died, her mother’s depression isn’t getting any better, and Lilith just wants to feel something. Rock and roll, drugs, tattoos, sex — of course, these are the things she turns to in the early 2000s, growing up in a trailer park and feeling forgotten and invisible. As she whirlwinds through both the people she cares about and those she doesn’t, Lilith needs to figure out whether she’s intent on destroying everyone else or only herself.
(April 3, Dzanc Books)
Meet Leda, the titular girl who never seems to get around to reading Noam Chomsky, though she swears she wants to. Jana Casale’s debut follows Leda from her undergraduate days as a writing student to her attempts and failures at making a career out of it. We watch her fall in and out of love, watch her become a mother, and watch her grow up as her ideas about life and the world mature. A typical millennial, she’s faced with technology, elections, bad romance, judgmental friends and a sometimes more judgmental self.
(April 17, Knopf)
Austin Channing Brown is not a man. Nor is she a white man. But her parents named her Austin so that later in life she’d have an easier time getting a job. Brown’s parents knew that white supremacy and racism are not going away; and Brown knows it too. Despite the claims of inclusivity in organizations far and wide and the yearning for diversity shown in advertisements and college prospectuses, Brown doesn’t let white folks off the hook, recognizing that such actions are largely a self-serving attempt to absolve white guilt. But Brown learned to love her blackness, and has become an activist and speaker about issues of genuine inclusivity, attempting to bridge the gaps in our society. Brown doesn’t offer an easy read with a fluffy happy ending — her book is challenging, but increasingly important in our current political climate of increased division.
(May 15, Convergent Books)
In the essays collected and edited here by powerhouse author Roxane Gay, a broad group of authors examine their experiences with rape culture. The essays here include those by professional and well-known writers, but also by writers who have day jobs and have never been published before. These are survivors of something that no one should have to endure, and in the age of continued #MeToo outings and allegations, this book is full of vital examples of the harm that comes from a culture of silence.
(May 1, Harper Perennial)
Blanche McCrary Boyd’s favorite protagonist, Ellen Burns, starred in two of her former novels — “The Revolution of Little Girls” and “Terminal Velocity” — and is back now for a third, 20 years later. It’s 1999, and Ellen is her mother’s caretaker, until she sees her niece on TV one night. Her niece, now all grown up and a mother of two, is missing. So is Ellen’s brother, Royce. The FBI say that he’s dead, though Ellen isn’t sure she believes them. Royce was once a great novelist, but he became a terrible and violent white supremacist. Ellen wants to try to find her niece, if nothing else, though she hasn’t yet been able to shut her brother out of her heart. Along the way, as she gets involved with a police chief and tries to rediscover the past, she also begins to face her own responsibility as a white woman in the American landscape.
(May 8, Counterpoint Press)
Katie — newly dumped by her fiancé, an art curator — meets Cassidy Price, a woman in a sharply tailored suit, moving in the same male-dominated space of boardrooms and law offices. Katie and Cassidy surprise each other, for different reasons. Cassidy’s type isn’t Katie, and Katie didn’t even really know she was into women. So begins an intensely fun, sexy, and nuanced rom-com, the kind we already know Camille Perri can write extremely well. As the two characters each get their own point-of-view chapters and try to grapple with their feelings, you’ll likely fall further and further in love with both of them, or at least with their togetherness.
(June 19, G. P. Putnam’s Sons)
Keiko Furukura was just 18 when she started working at the Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart, a convenience store where she watches businesspeople, menial employees, parents, children, students and everyone in between come through at some point. She’s 36 now, having worked at the mart for half her life. She understands the rules in this space, whereas the outside world tends to puzzle her. When her sister has a baby, the family starts — or rather restarts — asking questions of why Keiko has made the choices she has, why she hasn’t married, had children, or at least pursued some kind of “serious” career. When a new employee, Shiraha, a man in his mid-30s like Keiko, begins working at the store, she begins to further question the rules that have bound her life up so far.
(June 12, Grove)
Inspired by the Brazilian novelist Clarice Lispector, author Vera Sigall has remained an enigmatic mystery even to those closest to her. Now that she’s 80 and living in Chile, those figures on whom she’s had a profound effect are coming out of the woodwork and telling their stories — and hers. Daniel, an unhappy architect, is Vera’s neighbor and longtime friend; Emilia is a student who’s come to Santiago, Chile’s capital, to write about Vera and her elusive past; and Horacio, a renowned poet with whom Vera shared her bed and her love once. These folks tell the stories of their own lives beside Vera’s, unraveling mystery after mystery as they attempt to understand the grand figure.
(June 5, Other Press)
First published in 2011, this is the wonderful Roxane Gay’s first collection, which includes short stories as well as what could be considered prose poetry or micro-fiction. The language is strong and beautiful, often whip-smart in addition to being emotionally taut, and the subject matter is Haiti and the Haitian American and immigrant community. Of course, this being Roxane Gay, there are plenty of woman-centric observations, with stories like “What You Need to Know About a Haitian Woman.” With the still-recent and cringe-worthy dismissal of Haiti as a “shithole country” by President Trump, it’s especially important to read and support this collection, which puts a range of human faces to a country and community many may still be unfamiliar with.
Originally published in 1993, this collection of stories by Eve Babitz still feels incredibly relevant. Here is another view of Hollywood, through the eyes of a narrator who’s almost 50 and whose life has included plenty of wild times. The stories look back at Hollywood as the drug-addicted, AIDS-stricken, panicking, yet still self-obsessed place it was in the 1980s. With a sharp narrator who now has her wits about her and is able to look back at the tempestuous time with clear eyes and a biting tongue, the stories will both delight and horrify, and maybe show us that Hollywood has always had a seedy side — as we now know all too clearly.
Kitti Jones is one of R. Kelly’s most public accusers, but as the title of her memoir suggests, she was somebody long before she had anything to do with her abusive, toxic ex. She narrates the life she lived before getting involved with the star, a life in which she was a radio personality with her own brand and career. During her time with R. Kelly, she was repeatedly bullied into having sex, starved when she seemed to be slipping out of her abuser’s control, and became suicidal. Jones’s narrative is stirring, and she goes through all the questions so many abuse victims are forced to face: Why didn’t she leave him? Why didn’t she report him sooner? Jones is a powerful force, and she is candid and moving in her depiction of how she managed to get her life back.
National Poetry Month was in April, technically, but is it ever a bad time to get into some stirring poetry? In this gorgeous and deceptively simple collection, Giovanni — lauded poet, healer to many, a national treasure — looks at the things that make life into what it is. With poems about food, the people making it, the way it tastes, and the gathering of love and affection that comes around it, this collection will leave you both teary-eyed and smiling as you recognize the moments in your own life where the simplest and smallest flavor or taste brought back a range of memories and emotions. A gorgeous collection, and one of her more recent publications, it’s a great gateway to get into Giovanni’s whole oeuvre.
It’s almost June, which means that it’s almost Pride Month. And what better way to celebrate than with a delicious book whose title hints heavily at cunnilingus? Waters’s debut isn’t only a gay romance, it’s also a historical gay romance, and richly explores Victorian England’s lesbian scene through the protagonist, Nan, who falls in love with a “male impersonator” — i.e. a drag king. Things don’t go as smoothly as a happily-ever-after. With themes of class and gender as well as sexuality, this is a fantastically lush and emotionally resonant book to choose for a queer summer read.
Looking for more? Check out our list from February.