Kate Orenstein - Echoing Green fellows participate in a Why Do You Do What You Do presentation at Duke University on July 24, 2008 (Source)
Part of my ever expanding list of content to consume is a "To Read" list that grows at a frightening rate despite my best efforts to either (a.) read or (b.) delete books that I have determined I probably will never read anyway. This year, tangentially prompted by Stephen Colbert's interview with Toni Morrison (AKA the most charming/brilliant Woman on the planet), I have a particular desire to focus on surrounding my squishy, grey brain bits in other women's voices.
It has long been recognized that women, particularly women of color, have a ridiculously hard time getting their voices heard in the publishing industry. As my politics/life/artistic position keep shifting and growing, I want to absorb more from the people that I can most relate to, that have the most to teach me, and I want to actively seek out expansion of my mind beyond my own experience. And, after all, I have wanted to be a writer since I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was 6 years old (thanks mom!), so these people are my role models in every possible respect.
I have chosen to focus on only books that are going to be coming out in 2016, not only because it is timely, but also in hopes that I, and anyone who decides to join me in this endeavor, can play an active part in vocally supporting these authors and their brain children as they are being brought into the world. There are 37 of them because I have a thing for prime numbers (and also because I had to stop somewhere).
What books are you most looking forward to this year?
2. The Past by Tessa Hadley
"Three adult sisters and their brother meet up at their grandparents' country home for their annual family holiday--three long, hot summer weeks. The beloved but crumbling house is full of memories of their childhood--of when their mother took them to stay with her parents when she left their father--but this could be their last summer in the house, now they may have to sell it. And under the idyllic pastoral surface, there are tensions."
1. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
"From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself"
3. Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine by Diane Williams
"The very short stories of Diane Williams have been aptly called “folk tales that hammer like a nail gun,” and these 40 new ones are sharper than ever. They are unsettling, yes, frequently revelatory, and more often than not downright funny."
4. At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails by Sarah Bakewell
"From the best-selling author of How to Live, a spirited account of one of the twentieth century’s major intellectual movements and the revolutionary thinkers who came to shape it."
5. All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister
"In 2009, the award-winning journalist Rebecca Traister started All the Single Ladies—a book she thought would be a work of contemporary journalism—about the twenty-first century phenomenon of the American single woman...But over the course of her vast research and more than a hundred interviews with academics and social scientists and prominent single women, Traister discovered a startling truth: the phenomenon of the single woman in America is not a new one."
6. What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
"Playful, ambitious, and exquisitely imagined, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is cleverly built around the idea of keys, literal and metaphorical. The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret—Oyeyemi’s keys not only unlock elements of her characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side."
7. Ladivine by Marie NDiaye
"On the first Tuesday of every month, Clarisse Rivière leaves her husband and young daughter and secretly takes the train to Bordeaux to visit her mother, Ladivine. Just as Clarisse’s husband and daughter know nothing of Ladivine, Clarisse herself has hidden nearly every aspect of her adult life from this woman, whom she dreads and despises but also pities."
8. The Fox was Ever the Hunter by Herta Müller
"Romania-the last months of the Ceausescu regime. Adina is a young schoolteacher. Paul is a musician. Clara works in a wire factory. Pavel is Clara's lover. But one of them works for the secret police and is reporting on all of the group.
One day Adina returns home to discover that her fox fur rug has had its tail cut off. On another occasion it's the hindleg. Then a foreleg. The mutilated fur is a sign that she is being tracked by the secret police-the fox was ever the hunter."
9. Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter ed. by Christina Heatherton and Jordan T. Camp
"This book, combining first-hand accounts from organizers with the interventions of scholars and contributions by leading artists, traces the global rise of the “broken-windows” strategy of policing, a doctrine that has vastly broadened police power and contributed to the contemporary crisis that has been sparked by notorious incidents of police brutality and killings. With contributions from #BlackLivesMatter cofounder Patrisse Cullors, Ferguson activist and St. Louis University law professor Justin Hansford, poet Martín Espada, scholars Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Robin D.G. Kelley, Naomi Murakawa, Vijay Prashad, and many more."
10. Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
"Girls on Fire tells the story of Hannah and Lacey and their obsessive teenage female friendship so passionately violent it bloodies the very sunset its protagonists insist on riding into, together, at any cost."
11. So Much for That Winter by Dorthe Nors
"Dorthe Nors follows up her acclaimed story collection Karate Chop with a pair of novellas that playfully chart the aftermath of two very twenty-first-century romances."
12. The Best Place on Earth: Stories by Ayelet Tsabari
"Confident, original and humane, the stories in The Best Place on Earth are peopled with characters at the crossroads of nationalities, religions and communities: expatriates, travellers, immigrants and locals."
13. Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt by Yasmine El Rashidi
"At once a mapping of a city in transformation and a story about the shifting realities and fates of a single Egyptian family, Yasmine El Rashidi’s Chronicle of a Last Summer traces the fine line between survival and complicity, exploring the conscience of a generation raised in silence."
14. In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
"Presented in a dual-language format, this is a wholly original book about exile, linguistic and otherwise, written with an intensity and clarity not seen since Vladimir Nabokov: a startling act of self-reflection and a provocative exploration of belonging and reinvention."
15. Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore
"Decisively aimless, self-destructive, and impulsively in and out of love, Elsie is a young woman who feels stuck. She has a tumultuous relationship with an abusive boyfriend, a dead-end job at a newspaper, and a sharp intelligence that’s constantly at odds with her many bad decisions. When her initial attempts to improve her life go awry, Elsie decides that a dramatic change is the only solution."
16. The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah
"Memory, the narrator of Petina Gappah’s The Book of Memory, is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, after being sentenced for murder. As part of her appeal, her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for murder, and Memory is, both literally and metaphorically, writing for her life."
17. Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha J. Hunt
"A contemporary gothic from an author in the company of Kelly Link and Aimee Bender, Mr. Splitfoot tracks two women in two times as they march toward a mysterious reckoning."
"In an ingeniously structured dual narrative, two separate timelines move toward the same point of crisis. Their merging will upend and reinvent the whole. A subversive ghost story that is carefully plotted and elegantly constructed, Mr. Splitfoot will set your heart racing and your brain churning."
18. The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo
"From the author of the Finlandia Award-winning novel Troll: A Love Story, The Core of the Sun further cements Johanna Sinisalo’s reputation as a master of literary speculative fiction and of her country’s unique take on it, dubbed “Finnish weird.” Set in an alternative historical present, in a “eusistocracy”—an extreme welfare state—that holds public health and social stability above all else, it follows a young woman whose growing addiction to illegal chili peppers leads her on an adventure into a world where love, sex, and free will are all controlled by the state."
19. The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela
"It’s 2010 and Natasha, a half Russian, half Sudanese professor of history, is researching the life of Imam Shamil, the 19th century Muslim leader who led the anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian War. When shy, single Natasha discovers that her star student, Oz, is not only descended from the warrior but also possesses Shamil’s priceless sword, the Imam’s story comes vividly to life. As Natasha’s relationship with Oz and his alluring actress mother intensifies, Natasha is forced to confront issues she had long tried to avoid—that of her Muslim heritage. When Oz is suddenly arrested at his home one morning, Natasha realizes that everything she values stands in jeopardy."
20. Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto
"Meticulously researched and beautifully written, the true story of a Japanese American Family that found itself on opposite sides during World War II—an epic tale of family, separation, divided loyalties, love, reconciliation, loss, and redemption—this is a riveting chronicle of U.S.–Japan relations and the Japanese experience in America."
21. The Blue Line by Ingrid Betancourt
"Set against the backdrop of Argentina’s Dirty War and infused with magical realism, The Blue Line is a breathtaking story of love and betrayal by one of the world’s most renowned writers and activists. Ingrid Betancourt, author ofthe New York Times bestselling memoir Even Silence Has an End, draws on history and personal experience in this deeply felt portrait of a woman coming of age as her country falls deeper and deeper into chaos."
22. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
"STEP INTO A UNIVERSE OF DARING ADVENTURE, THRILLING POWER, AND MULTIPLE LONDONS."
"Kell is one of the last Travelers-magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes, connected by one magical city." A Gathering of Shadows is Book Two in the "A Darker Shade of Magic" series.
23. Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
"In this radiant, highly anticipated debut, a cast of unforgettable women battle for independence while a maelstrom of change threatens their Jamaican village."
"Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis- Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas."
24. We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge
"The power of this novel resides in Kaitlyn Greenidge’s undeniable storytelling talents. What appears to be a story of mothers and daughters, of sisterhood put to the test, of adolescent love and grown-up misconduct, and of history’s long reach, becomes a provocative and compelling exploration of America’s failure to find a language to talk about race."
25. The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation by Natalie Y. Moore
“Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel have touted and promoted Chicago as a ‘world class city.’ The skyscrapers kissing the clouds, the billion-dollar Millennium Park, Michelin-rated restaurants, pristine lake views, fabulous shopping, vibrant theater scene, downtown flower beds and stellar architecture tell one story. Yet, swept under the rug is the stench of segregation that compromises Chicago. The Manhattan Institute dubs Chicago as one of the most segregated big cities in the country. Though other cities - including Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Baltimore - can fight over that mantle, it's clear that segregation defines Chicago. And unlike many other major U.S. cities, no one race dominates. Chicago is divided equally into black, white, and Latino, each group clustered in their various turfs.”
26. The Explainers and the Explorers by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah
I heard about this book on PBS Newshour (here is a link to the interview with RKG) but I was unable to find a book cover or any information regarding its release! Please send me any info that you have!
27. Innocents and Others by Dana Spiotta
“Dana Spiotta’s new novel is about two women, best friends, who grow up in LA in the 80s and become filmmakers. Meadow and Carrie have everything in common—except their views on sex, power, movie-making, and morality. Their lives collide with Jelly, a loner whose most intimate experience is on the phone. Jelly is older, erotic, and mysterious. She cold calls powerful men and seduces them not through sex but through listening. She invites them to reveal themselves, and they do.”
28. An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao
“1947: the Indian subcontinent is partitioned into two separate countries, India and Pakistan. And with one decree, countless lives are changed forever.
An Unrestored Woman explores the fault lines in this mass displacement of humanity: a new mother is trapped on the wrong side of the border; a soldier finds the love of his life but is powerless to act on it; an ambitious servant seduces both master and mistress; a young prostitute quietly, inexorably plots revenge on the madam who holds her hostage. Caught in a world of shifting borders, Rao’s characters have reached their tipping points."
29. Hold Still by Lynn Steger Strong
“Evoking finely wrought characters reminiscent of those by Claire Messud or Elizabeth Strout, debut author Lynn Steger Strong traces the anatomy of a mistake and the weight of culpability. When Maya Taylor, an English professor with a tendency to hide in her books, sends her daughter to Florida to look after a friend’s child, she does so with the best of intentions; it’s a chance for Ellie, twenty and spiraling, to rebuild her life. But Ellie fears she’ll only disappoint again, and in the sprawling hours of one humid afternoon, she makes a mistake that she can’t take back. In two separate timelines—before and after the catastrophe—Maya and Ellie must try to repair their fractured relationship and find a way to transcend not only their differences but also their more troubling similarities.”
30. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
“A reimagining of Jane Eyre as a gutsy, heroic serial killer, from the author whose work The New York Times described as ‘riveting’ and The Wall Street Journal called thrilling’.”
31. The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New by Annie Dillard
“In recognition of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s long and lauded career as a master essayist, a landmark collection, including her most beloved pieces and some rarely seen work, rigorously curated by the author herself.”
32. The Broken Hours by Jaqueline Baker
“In the spring of 1936, horror writer H.P. Lovecraft is broke, living alone in a creaky old house and deathly ill. At the edge of a nervous breakdown, he hires a personal assistant, Arthor Crandle. As the novel opens, Crandle arrives at Lovecraft’s home with no knowledge of the writer or his work but is soon drawn into his distinctly unnerving world: the malevolent presence that hovers on the landing; the ever-shining light from Lovecraft’s study, invisible from the street; and visions in the night of a white-clad girl in the walled garden. Add to this the arrival of a beautiful woman who may not be exactly what she seems, and Crandle is pulled deeper into the strange world of the horror writer (a man known to Crandle only through letters, signed “Ech-Pi”), until Crandle begins to unravel the dark secret at its heart.”
33. The Chimes by Anna Smaill
"The Chimes is set in a reimagined London, in a world where people cannot form new memories, and the written word has been forbidden and destroyed. In the absence of both memory and writing is music."
"In a world where the past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is blasphony, all appears lost. But Simon Wythern, a young man who arrives in London seeking the truth about what really happened to his parents, discovers he has a gift that could change all of this forever."
"A stunning literary debut by poet and violinist Anna Smaill, The Chimes is a startlingly original work that combines beautiful, inventive prose with incredible imagination."
34. Same but Different by Holly Robinson Peete
“Being a teen is hard enough. But when you have autism--or when your sibling is struggling with the condition--life can be a topsy-turvy ride. What happens when you come face-to-face with dating, parties, sports, body changes, school, and kids who just don’t get you? Where do you turn when your sibling with autism is the butt of jokes, the victim of misunderstood social cues, and the one everyone thinks is weird?"
"Through alternating narratives based on their own lives, Ryan Elizabeth Peete and her twin brother, RJ, who has autism, bravely and honestly reveal what it means to be a teen living with the disorder.”
35. A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry
“In this stunning debut, legends collide with reality when a boy is swept into the magical, dangerous world of a girl filled with poison.”
“Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl--Isabel, the one the senoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill.”
36. Akata Warrior (Akata Witch #2) by Nnedi Okorafor
“Nnedi Okorafor is a novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Born in the United States to Nigerian immigrant parents, Nnedi is known for weaving African culture into creative evocative settings and memorable characters.”
This is slated to come out in 2016, though no cover or information could be found. Let me know if you have any info!
37. Hard Red Spring by Kelly Kerney
“Kelly Kerney’s novel tells a powerful story that draws on the history of Guatemala and the legacy of American intervention to vividly evoke The Land of Eternal Spring in all its promise and all its devastating failures. This is a place where a volcano erupts and the government sends a band to drown out the sound of destruction; where a government decree reverses the direction of one-way streets; a president decides that Pat Robertson and Jesus will save the country; and where a UN commission is needed to determine the truth. A heartrending and masterfully written look at a country in perpetual turmoil, Hard Red Spring brilliantly reveals how the brutal realities of history play out in the lives of individuals and reveals Guatemala in a manner reminiscent of the groundbreaking memoir I, Rigoberta Menchu.”
***EDIT (04/04/16): I feel compelled to add one more bonus book to this list because the last installment of the fairyland series came out on March 1st, and I am now apparently BEHIND THE TIMES. I have been reading this series since it was in its first iteration as a project released chapter by chapter for donations on a website, long before the days of Patreon. ***
Bonus: The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home by Catherynne M. Valente
"This final book in the New York Times-bestselling Fairyland series finds September accidentally crowned the Queen of Fairyland. But there are others who believe they have a fair and good claim on the throne, so there is a Royal Race―whoever wins will seize the crown."
"Along the way, beloved characters including the Wyverary, A-Through-L, the boy Saturday, the changelings Hawthorn and Tamburlaine, the wombat Blunderbuss, and the gramophone Scratch are caught up in the madness. And September's parents have crossed the universe to find their daughter."
"Who will win? What will become of September, Saturday, and A-Through-L? The answers will surprise you, and are as bewitching and bedazzling as fans of this series by Catherynne M. Valente have come to expect."
***Edit x2 (06/03/16): Today on Twitter I came across an interview with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and I felt that, despite the fact that I can not continue to edit this post forever, I needed to add her latest book to this list.***
Bonus: From #Blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
“The eruption of mass protests in the wake of the police murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City have challenged the impunity with which officers of the law carry out violence against Black people and punctured the illusion of a postracial America. The Black Lives Matter movement has awakened a new generation of activists.
In this stirring and insightful analysis, activist and scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor surveys the historical and contemporary ravages of racism and persistence of structural inequality such as mass incarceration and Black unemployment. In this context, she argues that this new struggle against police violence holds the potential to reignite a broader push for Black liberation.”