Remember a couple of years back when the call for a
Year of Reading Women made the rounds to push back against the extremely male stock on the bookstore shelves? Well, it’s time to push back more and continue to make room on the shelves for a more inclusive literary tradition. In all the dark and dreary of the past year and a half, women of color have been the source of many of the bright spots of our lives (and long before that too!).
Thanks to the Knowles family, we had both Solange’s and Beyonce’s musical brilliance to get us through the 2016 election and carry us through 2017. Ava DuVernay revealed a dope diverse cast for the upcoming
adaptation of Andrea Jenkins became the first openly trans woman of color to be elected to city council. Actually, A Wrinkle in Time. women of color dominated pretty hard in the 2017 elections. And most recently, Black women won a victory for human decency in Alabama. Women of color have long been a remarkable source of comfort, resistance, and genius in dark times, despite belonging to one of the almost universally most marginalized demographics.
So it’s well time to let women of color reclaim our time like
Auntie Maxine and give them some of ours too. Making 2018 a Year of Reading Women of Color is one easy and rewarding way to do just that. But if you still need more reasons, here are 11 brilliant books by women of color, all coming out in 2018: 'Halsey Street' by Naima Coster (Jan. 1; Little A)
Halsey Street tackles big issues like race, gentrification, and immigration but what’s most beautiful about Coster’s novel is that it is primarily about two women coming home and navigating the bewildering territory of their adult relationships with each other, with their pasts, and with their homes. Coster gives her characters of color permission to just be people— messy, hurt, sometimes hurtful, generally-mystified-by-life human people — liberating them (and thereby all her grateful women of color readers) from having to always be all of the demographic identities that precede them in a world that considers them first an aberration and a problem.
Click here to buy. 'Binti: The Night Masquerade' by Nnedi Okorafor (Jan. 16; Tor.com)
This enthralling sci-fi series began as a short novella back in 2015. But then it nabbed a Nebula and a Hugo, and fans, captivated by the courageous and obstinate Binti, nagged Okorafor for more. And voila! Now the new year brings the third installment of one of the most unique sci-fi/fantasy worlds you’ll ever read.
The books are short, but the universe is massive and the story is epic. Aside from its general brilliance,
Binti, following in the legacy of the great Octavia Butler, does what so few great sci-fi epics do: it places a woman of color at the heroic center of its world. Click here to buy. ‘When They Call You a Terrorist’ by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele (Jan. 16; St. Martin's Press)
The first memoir to come from one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movements,
When They Call You A Terrorist is not only an inside look at the development of BLM but also a look at the more personal side of its foundations. Offering up a look at how her own upbringing as a Black woman, the memoir promises a more nuanced and personal take on the many issues that drive the movement. Click here to buy. ‘This Will Be My Undoing’ by Morgan Jerkins (Jan. 30; Harper Perennial)
Morgan Jerkins is bad. She’s "dive right into the messiest debates of the day" bad. She’s "I’m gonna get real with you" bad. She’s "check your privilege at the door" bad. And it’s so good.
This Will Be My Undoing is her first collection of essays, but her resume includes stories for The Atlantic, Splinter, and others on everything from the Nate Parker sexual assault controversy to her experience with labiaplasty.
You can be sure that
This Will Be My Undoing will give you some of this same truthing in a world that’s forgotten what facts are, as well as her touchingly genuine vulnerability at a time when fear and hate might tempt one to close up. Click here to buy. 'Call Me Zebra' by Azareen Van Vliet Oloomi (Feb. 6; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Her name is long and beautiful and you're gonna want to learn it. Van der Vliet Oloomi's debut psychological thriller
Fra Keeler managed to somehow be both a bewildering trip into a man's obsessive madness as well as a quiet look at the more mundane madnesses of every day life.
Though her next novel looks to take a very different direction, the similarities it strikes to her own story promise an upgrade to the trippy, unique style she established with her first book. Following the journey, love, and literary inclinations of a young Iranian girl named Zebra, who takes counsel and refuge in books while wrestling with the realities of exile,
Call Me Zebra is likely to be every book nerd’s bizarre dream. Click here to buy. ‘The Parking Lot Attendant’ by Nafkote Tamirat (March 13; Henry, Holt & Co.)
The Parking Lot Attendant might seem like a fairly mundane title, but this debut novel holds multitudes. The story of a young girl navigating a new life with her immigrant father in a utopian island commune, the book is simultaneously a thriller, a coming-of-age story, a look at the culture of the Ethiopian immigrant community, and a sort-of darkly humorous allegory.
Tamirat’s novel promises to have all types of readers talking across the aisle.
Click here to buy. ‘Children of Blood & Bone’ by Tomi Adeyemi (March 6; Henry, Holt & Co.)
Tomi Adeyemi managed to swing a movie deal for this series before the first book was even published, so it’s hard not to get excited for it just knowing that this West African fantasy will (hopefully) be on the big screen very soon. But besides the promised movie adaptation, the series’ premise is pretty wonderful, too. With promises of magic, monarchies, a West African-inspired backdrop, and allusions to Black Lives Matter, this is one book to keep on your radar.
Click here to buy. 'Perilous Path: Talking Race, Inequality, and the Law' by Sherrilyn Ifill, Loretta Lynch, Bryan Stevenson, and Anthony C. Thompson (March 6; The New Press)
What happens when you put the President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a former U.S. Attorney General, a famous social justice activist, and the founder of the NYU Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law in a room together?
Well, besides a mouthful of dope titles and a bunch of super excited social justice nerds, you get exactly the book we all need right now. A Perilous Path is a roundtable of four of the best civil rights minds in the country discussing their work, their lives, and the fight for justice that we need at this harrowing hour in U.S. history.
Click here to buy. ‘Wade in the Water’ by Tracy K. Smith (April 3; Graywolf Press)
Named as the U.S. Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress,
Tracy K. Smith decided to use her new position to bring poetry to parts of the country that don’t usually see a lot of poetry events. On top of this dedication to making poetry more accessible, her own work makes a perfect gateway to poetry, even for those less inclined to open a book of verse. Her sci-fi-laced collection Life on Mars is one of my personal favorite poetry collections of all time, and apparently I’m not the only one considering it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. If you already know Tracy K. Smith’s work, you love it. If you don’t know it yet, April 2018 is as good a time as any to join the fandom. Click here to buy. ‘Not That Bad’ edited by Roxane Gay (May 1; Harper Perennial)
Edited by Roxane Gay who related her own experience with sexual violence in
Hunger, Not That Bad promises to treat the topic with a sharp eye to the many different forms and consequences of sexual violence perpetrated in our society. A book like this is exactly the book we need right now. Here’s a sneak peek at the already compiled table of contents. Click here to buy. ‘Barracoon: The Story of The Last Slave’ by Zora Neale Hurston (May 8; Amistad) ‘If They Come For Us: Poems’ by Fatimah Asghar (June 26; One World)
web series 'Brown Girls' (if you haven't checked it out yet...do!) was a revelation of tenderness between brown girls of different hues and backgrounds, and we’re sure to enjoy a similar scope of inclusion and gentle yet honest handling of her own experiences and observations as a Pakistani woman in her debut poetry collection.
If you can't wait until June, peep her poem of a similar title "If They Should Come for Us," and get yourself the poetry equivalent of a deep knowing hug that'll convince you that this poetry collection will be exactly what this age calls for.
Click here to buy.