14 Up-And-Coming Female Authors To Read This Year
In case you haven’t noticed, women are seriously determined to make our voices heard LOUD and CLEAR this year — and while a whole lot of us have already been raising our voices since practically forever, 2017 might just be the year that brings the messages of the women’s movement back to the fever pitch our sisters in solidarity started years ago. It’s definitely time to take action… but equally important to decorating your super sassy picket sign and taking to the streets is taking the time to listen to the other women around you — and one great way to do that is by reading new books by female authors this year.
While we’re totally excited for 2017’s new must-read titles by some of our long-time faves — Roxane Gay, Joan Didion, Joyce Carol Oates, Elizabeth Strout, and more — there are also a ton of up-and-coming women authors that you’re going to want to add to your bookshelves this year. Some you might have even discovered already, through their blogs, essays and short fiction, or debut novels.
Let’s make this year all about spreading the diversity of women’s voices, OK? Start by checking out these 14 up-and-coming female authors, and their amazing fiction, to read in 2017.
1. Gabby Rivera, Author of ‘Juliet Takes a Breath’
As the year’s first pick for Bustle’s American Woman Book Club, Juliet Takes a Breath is definitely a book you’ll want to add to your shelves ASAP. This debut novel by radical, creative writer Gabby Rivera (perhaps you recognize her from Autostraddle?) introduces readers to Juliet Milagros Palante, a young woman who is about to embark upon a summer internship that will change her life — she just has to come out to her family real quick, first. Traveling from her home in the Bronx to Portland, Oregon, Juliet moves in with the author of her favorite book: the feminist, lesbian writer Harlowe Brisbane. Over the course of one beautiful, complicated, heartbreaking, eye-opening summer, Juliet learns more about herself, the world, and “this whole ‘Puerto Rican lesbian thing’” than she ever thought possible — and develops even more questions about herself, her community, and feminism along the way.
2. Han Kang, Author of ‘Human Acts’
Bestselling author of last year’s Man Booker International Prize winner, The Vegetarian, Han Kang is a well-known writer of Korean literature, but the English translations of her work are beginning to make major literary waves here in the West as well. Her second novel to be translated into English, the historical fiction title Human Acts, tells the story of a violent student uprising in South Korea where a young boy — Dong-ho — is tragically killed. The novel follows the far-reaching reverberations of Dong-ho’s death and the uprising itself, featuring the interconnected narratives of those protesting the government, the victims of the violence, and those mourning both lost loved ones and the unsettling fate of their country.
3. Mariana Enríquez, Author of ‘Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories’
Mariana Enríquez is an Argentinian journalist and writer whose debut English-language story collection, Things We Lost in the Fire, will definitely leave you wanting to read more of her work. Featuring 12 stories of life in modern Argentina, Things We Lost in the Fire features complex, dark, illuminating, and often strange tales of women — from a girl who pulls out her own nails at school to women who set themselves on fire in protest of domestic violence, and so much more. These are stories that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.
4. Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Author of ‘Harmless Like You’
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan began her debut novel, Harmless Like You, after her own mother lost her memory and the writer began to think about the myriad ways children may inherit identity, how a child’s identity is profoundly informed by the actions and decisions of their parent(s). Moving fluidly through time and place, this novel introduces readers to Yuki Oyama — a Japanese girl struggling to find her way as an artist, and her present-day adult son, Jay — who was abandoned by Yuki when he was just 2 years old. Equal parts haunting and wise, this novel dives deep into the complexities of art, identity, and family.
5. Shanthi Sekaran, Author of ‘Lucky Boy’
At 18 years old, Solimar Castro Valdez crosses the U.S.-Mexico border, determined to make a home and a future for herself once she reunites with family in Berkeley, California. Unfortunately — and unexpectedly — Soli arrives pregnant. But ever the optimist, she falls in love with both motherhood and her baby boy, and is willing to alter her own American dreams in order to make their small duo into a family. But when Soli is detained for being undocumented, her son is put into the care of Kavya — a woman who has always dreamed of motherhood, but who has never been able to conceive. Both women care deeply for Soli’s son, and both will find their lives irreversibly changed by the baby boy.
6. Ethel Rohan, Author of ‘The Weight of Him’
The list of places Ethel Rohan's work has been published is long, and now comes her debut novel, The Weight of Him, a book I'm completely obsessed with this year. It's a story that takes readers into the deepest depths of a father’s heart (and at times, stomach) exploring compulsive eating, weight loss, suicide and suicide prevention, and ultimately what it takes to survive when taking even one more step seems impossible. The Weight of Him centers around Billy Brennan, a 400-pound man who is drowning in the wake of his son Michael’s suicide, and is determined to do something to help other young people who might be struggling with depression themselves. Billy decides to embark upon a public weight-loss campaign that will raise money for suicide prevention — but walking off the weight, and his own heartbreak, takes more heart and courage than even Billy imagined.
7. Dalia Rosenfeld, Author of ‘The Worlds We Think We Know: Stories’
A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a wholly unique voice, Dalia Rosenfeld's fiction has appeared all over the place. Now, her full-length debut story collection, The World's We Think We Know, will appear this May. The collection of 20 stories is equal parts funny and sorrowful, strange and grounded, human and sometimes magical. At the heart of many of these stories are relationships — the beautiful and terrible things we do to and for one another, the bizarre encounters and transforming moments. And above all these stories demonstrate how, from Tel Aviv to Ohio and everywhere in between, we each love and lose, and fall and rise again, in the same, beautifully human, ways.
8. Yewande Omotoso, Author of ‘The Woman Next Door’
Beginning with the classic tale of enemy neighbors side-eyeing one another from across their shared hedge, Yewande Omotoso’s The Woman Next Door evolves into a story that illuminates the social and racial tensions of post-apartheid South Africa. The novel introduces readers to Hortensia James and Marion Agostino, two recent widows in their 80s, who in all measures are remarkably similar — except one: One woman is black and the other is white, and neither can refrain from racially antagonizing the other. But when circumstances of life and old age put them on the same page once again, these sworn enemies finally begin to see themselves, and each other, for who they really are.
9. Julie Buntin, Author of ‘Marlena’
Urgent and haunting, Julie Buntin’s debut novel, Marlena, begins with 30-year-old Cat, a functioning alcoholic whose life trajectory was altered forever the summer she turned 15. Having just moved to a town in rural Michigan, and desperate for friendship, Cat turns to Marlena — a girl who drinks booze, pops pills, and offers Cat the camaraderie she seeks. But that winter, Marlena is discovered dead in the woods, and Cat’s life will be forever informed by this disturbing, tragic loss — one she’ll have to find a way to forgive herself for.
10. Aura Xilonen, Author of ‘The Gringo Champion’
First published in Mexico under a pseudonym when the author was just 19 years old, The Gringo Champion is novelist and filmmaker Aura Xilonen’s debut work of fiction. The novel tells the story of Liborio, a man with a difficult past who is forced to leave Mexico and seek work as an undocumented immigrant. But then, in a twist of fate that just might change his luck, Liborio gets the opportunity to become a boxer. The Gringo Champion is a compelling and big-hearted story about the struggles of immigrants, undocumented workers, and anyone who has been forced to find home elsewhere.
11. Lesley Nneka Arimah, Author of ‘What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky’
Another writer whose work you’re going to want to keep an eye out for in the future, is Lesley Nneka Arimah. Her story collection What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky features imaginative and mesmerizing stories of daughters, wives, and mothers in uncommon and often magical, supernatural situations — from witnessing the appearance of a ghost to discovering surprising healing powers to forming lifelike figures made of human hair. The women in this collection exist in an unpredictable, often dangerous world, one that is both markedly different from, yet startlingly similar to our own.
12. Gail Honeyman, Author of ‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’
Approaching her 30s, Eleanor Oliphant is a gal who likes routine: uniform clothes, uniform habits, uniform meals, uniform weekend vodka consumption, uniform Sunday phone calls to her mother. She is a bit awkward, a tad antisocial, and convinced that her life is tolerable — even fine. Until she meets her co-worker Raymond, and the two end up coming to the aid of a man, Sammy, who has taken a fall. This simple event sends Eleanor onto a whole new trajectory, transforming her life, her relationships, and her ability to come to terms with a painful past she’s been hiding.
13. Kayla Rae Whitaker, Author of ‘The Animators’
A debut novel about the complexities of art and friendship, Kayla Rae Whitaker’s The Animators introduces readers to Sharon Kisses and Mel Vaught, two unlikely friends who come together over their love of comics and their own desires to create visual art. A decade later they’ve taken their passions and turned them into an award-winning animation film — one that tells the story of Mel’s difficult childhood, and that also begins to illuminate the creative differences between the women. They're differences that may not withstand the ups and downs of the artistic life, and suddenly success has formed a wedge between the women, which their friendship may never recover from.
14. Lisa Ko, Author of ‘The Leavers’
Winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, Lisa Ko’s debut novel, The Leavers, takes readers from New York to China, telling the story of a Chinese family of two — mother, Polly, and son, Deming Guo, whose lives suddenly take off in completely opposite paths. After Polly, an undocumented immigrant, disappears without a trace one afternoon, 11-year-old Deming Guo is placed up for adoption. Renamed Daniel Wilkinson and pressured to transform into the “all-American” son his adoptive parents want, Deming/Daniel learns to navigate cultural boarders and boundaries, as he discovers who he truly wants to be; while his mother, Polly, must learn to make peace with her mistakes.