Even as the world tries desperately to cope with pandemic, as we do our best to care for one another and as everyone’s cuticles disappear with all the hand-washing, it is still Women’s (and womxn’s) History Month. Perhaps this moment is a better time than ever to think about the importance of gender equality.
Gender-based discrimination, whether overt or subtle, has wide-ranging consequences, including in moments of crisis like this. If you’re at home and reaching for reading material, or if you want to preorder some books by women and nonbinary authors to support them through the worst possible time to be releasing a book, here’s a list of titles to immerse yourself in while reflecting on how women/nonbinary artists are enriching the literary canon.
“Fiebre Tropical” by Juliana Delgado Lopera (Feminist Press)
Following 15-year-old Francisca as she is forced to move with her mother from her home in Bogotá, Colombia, to a rundown apartment in Miami Beach, Florida, this electric novel will grip you from beginning to end. As Francisca’s mother becomes ever more entrenched in an evangelical church, Francisca finds herself falling in love with the pastor’s daughter, all while missing her home and turning to Jesus herself to cope with her deteriorating mental health. With gorgeous, firecracker-like bilingual prose and a good dose of humor — even as it emotionally shatters — this is definitely a book to pick up.
“Deceit and Other Possibilities” by Vanessa Hua (Counterpoint)
Hua’s novel “A River of Stars” was a bestseller in 2018; “Deceit and Other Possibilities” is her 2016 debut, a short-story collection that has been rereleased this month with new tales. Exploring immigration and the complex relationship between self and society, the characters in this collection reckon with borders — in all their permutations. Hua’s engaging prose makes for a quick but deeply resonant read.
“A Phoenix First Must Burn” edited by Patrice Caldwell (Viking)
This young-adult anthology from People of Color in Publishing founder and president Caldwell features stories from high-profile and emerging writers such as Elizabeth Acevedo and Rebecca Roanhorse. With 16 stories that explore the Black experience through the genres of fantasy, science fiction and magic, this book is billed as “Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ meets Octavia Butler,” which is all you really need to know. The wide-ranging stories here are not just for young adults; this could be a perfect family read if you’ve got slightly older kids at home.
“The Subtweet” by Vivek Shraya (ECW Press, out April 7)
Shraya is one of Canada’s most prolific and exciting multimedia artists, and her latest book envelops both her literary and musical passions. Four women in Toronto’s music scene, two of them at its center, grapple with friendship, fame, social media and the racialization of their bodies and music, with a story that’s a welcome break from many of the romance-centered narratives to which women characters are sometimes unjustly relegated. This is a fast, absorbing read that is very much of this moment and full of both social commentary and fun.
“Heaven” by Emerson Whitney (McSweeney’s, out April 14)
This utterly hypnotic book is both cerebral and corporeal. Whitney dissects gender, body, gendered bodies, childhood and Whitney’s own relationship with their mother and grandmother to create a gorgeous book that feels like a painting. It’s a meditation on selfhood that stands alone in voice and syntax, a book that feels like it changes your mind’s DNA.
“Vanishing Monuments” by John Elizabeth Stintzi (Arsenal Pulp Press, out May 5)
In Stintzi’s debut novel, a nonbinary photographer named Alani returns to their childhood home to face their mother’s worsening dementia — 30 years after running away. Back in the house they shared with their mother, Alani attempts to reckon with memory, fear and grief. An enchanting story with a truly compelling protagonist, Stintzi has marked themself as a writer to watch.