For our look at books coming out in 2021, Team Lily wanted to try something different.
I reached out to Torrey Peters, author of “Detransition Baby,” which came out on Jan. 12, and asked her to share the title of a book she is looking forward to this year. She told me about “Girlhood,” by Melissa Febos. Then, I asked Febos what book she recommends — and so the author book chain was born.
I spoke with 10 female authors by the end of the chain, and together, they brought me down an exciting path of novels — plus a collection of poetry, a book of essays, a memoir and even a journey to the cosmos.
I hope you find something to enjoy in this list — a novel to keep you company during these long stretches of staying at home, a book to read alongside a friend or, maybe, the chance to try something you wouldn’t have otherwise reached for.
Whatever you end up reading this year, please send us your own recommendations. Happy reading.
Torrey Peters recommends: ‘Girlhood’ by Melissa Febos
(Release date: March 30)
“When Melissa Febos published her second book, ‘Abandon Me,’ in 2017, I was going through a breakup. A friend, sick of processing it with me, bought me a copy. In Febos’s essays that chart — with shocking honesty — the arcs of her own breakups and needs, I found words to finally pin in place the emotional chaos I had been feeling and, even more remarkably, the wisdom to examine those feelings and to move through them. In March, Febos will publish her third book, ‘Girlhood,’ and I’m almost nervous to read what stormy experiences her writing will next fix into crystal prose.”
Melissa Febos recommends: ‘White Magic’ by Elissa Washuta
(Release date: April 27)
“I’d like to recommend Elissa Washuta’s book of essays, ‘White Magic.’ Elissa is one of the most exciting essayists we have right now. Her work is always funny, astute, surprising and deep — on subjects ranging from the colonization of spiritual practices to video games to the particular pitfalls of navigating heterosexuality as a native woman. I’ll read anything she writes and I know that this book is going to be brilliant.”
Elissa Washuta recommends: ‘The Disordered Cosmos’ by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
(Release date: March 9)
“The smallness of my everyday world for most of this year, and the strange relationship with time that has developed inside this house I rarely leave, make me all the more excited for a sustained encounter with Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein’s mind at work on fundamental questions about space, time, matter and us. Recently named one of Nature’s 10 people who shaped science in 2020, she is the writer I trust most to meet my curiosity about the universe with tremendous knowledge, humor, and care.”
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein recommends: ‘Libertie’ by Kaitlyn Greenidge
(Release date: March 30)
“‘Libertie’ is one of my most highly anticipated works of fiction in 2021 because it touches on so many important topics: colorism, 19th century Black girlhood and education, the relationship between mothers and daughters, Haitian history, and Black diasporic connections. I’ve learned so much from watching Kaitlyn Greenidge explore some of these ideas on social media and in her nonfiction writing. I’m confident that everyone who picks up this book is going to gain a deeper understanding of why the world of 2021 is the way that it is.”
Kaitlyn Greenidge recommends: ‘Milk Blood Heat’ by Dantiel Moniz
(Release date: Feb. 2)
“Dantiel Moniz’s ‘Milk Blood Heat’ is a short story collection on the lives of women and girls in Florida to sink into.”
Dantiel Moniz recommends: ‘Field Study’ by Chet’la Sebree
(Release date: June 1)
“Chet’la Sebree is a poet, editor and director of the Stadler Center at Bucknell University — and honestly, a master of form. Case in point, her most recent book, ‘Field Study,’ is described as a ‘genre-bending exploration of Black womanhood and desire.’ Part prose, part poem, and interspersed with snippets of pop-culture and relevant quotes from Black thinkers such as Audre Lorde and Tressie McMillan Cottom, the book examines Sebree’s struggle to articulate self and its intersection with Whiteness both the desire for and rejection of it. After almost every page I couldn’t help thinking, ‘I wish I’d read this sooner.’”
Chet’la Sebree recommends: ‘No Ruined Stone’ by Shara McCallum
(Release date: Aug. 10)
“I’ve been eagerly awaiting Shara McCallum’s ‘No Ruined Stone’ since before many of the poems were even penned. Rooted in research, the poetry collection recasts the life and legacy of celebrated Scottish poet Robert Burns — imagining that he moved to Jamaica, where he nearly migrated to work as a bookkeeper on a plantation. In this fictional history, Burns’s granddaughter, Isabella, is one of the main voices. Born an enslaved Black woman, Isabella crosses the same ocean her ancestors crossed in different capacities to pass as a White woman in Scotland. McCallum’s collection, through a strong commitment to craft and narrative, grapples with race, violence, colonialism and inheritance. ‘No Ruined Stone’ is striking and unsettling in all of the ways I love my art.”
Shara McCallum recommends: ‘How to Say Babylon’ by Safiya Sinclair
(Release date: To be announced)
“Safiya Sinclair is a gifted writer whose award-winning first book of poems, ‘Cannibal,’ is a lyrical and fierce collection that gives voice to the subjectivity and lived experiences of Black Caribbean women. Sinclair’s forthcoming memoir delves into her life, raised Rasta in Jamaica, and is one of the books in 2021 I most eagerly await reading.”
Safiya Sinclair recommends: ‘Aftershocks’ by Nadia Owusu
(Release date: Jan. 12)
“I would like to recommend the memoir ‘Aftershocks’ by Nadia Owusu. This book is a structurally and symbolically rich exploration of identity and family. Owusu beautifully examines the fault lines of memory, selfhood and feeling unmoored in the world, while exploring the home we make of the past, and how we ultimately find a future of belonging in the people we love.”
Nadia Owusu recommends: ‘The Final Revival of Opal & Nev’ by Dawnie Walton
“Dawnie Walton’s ‘The Final Revival of Opal & Nev’ has been described as a fresh and entertaining fictional oral history of beloved rock-and-roll duo, exploring Afro-Punk, radical politics, systemic racism and sexism, and finding one’s voice. I am so excited to get my hands on it.”