March is Women’s History Month, and while we celebrate women year-round at The Rumpus, we wanted to share a list of books written exclusively by women and genderqueer authors this month. We asked our editors to select titles that shine a light on women’s lived experiences and that have changed how we think about women’s rights and gender equality.
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Without further ado, here are our editors’ picks for writing that speaks to women’s history past, present, and future—this year, we’re especially excited to focus on new and forthcoming work from women and non-binary writers we love and admire.
Letters to a Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes
The Brown Girl of these poems is fed up with being shushed, with being constantly told how foreign and unattractive and unwanted she is. She’s flipping tables and throwing chairs. She’s raising her voice. She’s keeping a sharp focus on the violences committed against her every day, and she’s writing through the depths of her “otherness” to find beauty and even grace amidst her rage. Simultaneously looking into the mirror and out into the world, Reyes exposes the sensitive nerve-endings of life under patriarchy as a visible immigrant woman of color as she reaches towards her unflinching center.
A Fish Growing Lungs: Essays by Alysia Sawchyn
At age eighteen Alysia Sawchyn was diagnosed with bipolar I. Seven years later she learned she had been misdiagnosed. A Fish Growing Lungs takes the form of linked essays that reflect on Sawchyn’s diagnosis and its unraveling, the process of withdrawal and recovery, and the search for identity as she emerges from a difficult past into a cautiously hopeful present. Sawchyn captures the precariousness of life under the watchful eye of doctors, friends, and family, in which saying or doing the wrong thing could lead to involuntary confinement. This scrutiny is compounded by the stigmas of mental illness and the societal expectations placed on the bodies of women and women of color. And yet, amid juggling medications, doubting her diagnosis, and struggling with addiction and cutting, there is also joy, friendship, love, and Slayer concerts. Drawing from life experience, literature, music, medical journals, films, and recovery communities, each essay illuminates the richness of self-knowledge that comes from the act of writing itself. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today by Rachel Vorona Cote
Written in the tradition of Shrill, Dead Girls, Sex Object and other frank books about the female gaze, Too Much encourages women to reconsider the beauty of their excesses-emotional, physical, and spiritual. Rachel Vorona Cote braids cultural criticism, theory, and storytelling together in her exploration of how culture grinds away our bodies, souls, and sexualities, forcing us into smaller lives than we desire. An erstwhile Victorian scholar, she sees many parallels between that era’s fixation on women’s “hysterical” behavior and our modern policing of the same; in the space of her writing, you’re as likely to encounter Jane Eyre and Lizzie Bennet as you are Britney Spears and Lana Del Rey. This book will tell the story of how women, from then and now, have learned to draw power from their reservoirs of feeling, all that makes us “too much.”
Unearth [The Flowers] by Thea Matthews
In the wake of the Me Too movement, Thea Matthews’s debut collection provides a path to healing. Her empowering poems illustrate how survivors can find a safe place within themselves to reclaim their own identity and sexuality. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu
Nadia Owusu grew up all over the world—from Rome and London to Dar-es-Salaam and Kampala. When her mother abandoned her when she was two years old, the rejection caused Nadia to be confused about her identity. Even after her father died when she was thirteen and she was raised by her stepmother, she was unable to come to terms with who she was since she still felt motherless and alone. When Nadia went to university in America when she was eighteen she still felt as if she had so many competing personas that she couldn’t keep track of them all without cracking under the pressure of trying to hold herself together. A powerful coming-of-age story that explores timely and universal themes of identity, Aftershocks follows Nadia’s life as she hauls herself out of the wreckage and begins to understand that the only ground firm enough to count on is the one she writes into existence.
White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia by Kiki Petrosino
In her fourth full-length book, Kiki Petrosino turns her gaze to Virginia, where she digs into her genealogical and intellectual roots, while contemplating the knotty legacies of slavery and discrimination in the Upper South. From a stunning double crown sonnet, to erasure poetry contained within DNA testing results, the poems in this collection are as wide-ranging in form as they are bountiful in wordplay and truth. Speaking to history, loss, and injustice with wisdom, innovation, and a scientific determination to find the poetic truth, White Blood plants Petrosino’s name ever more firmly in the contemporary canon.
Fairest: A Memoir by Meredith Talusan
Fairest is a memoir about a precocious boy with albinism, a “sun child” from a rural Philippine village, who would grow up to become a woman in America. Coping with the strain of parental neglect and the elusive promise of US citizenship, Talusan found childhood comfort from her devoted grandmother, a grounding force as she was treated by others with special preference or public curiosity. As an immigrant to the United States, Talusan came to be perceived as white. An academic scholarship to Harvard provided access to elite circles of privilege but required Talusan to navigate through the complex spheres of race, class, sexuality, and her place within the gay community. She emerged as an artist and an activist questioning the boundaries of gender. Talusan realized she did not want to be confined to a prescribed role as a man, and transitioned to become a woman, despite the risk of losing a man she deeply loved. Throughout her journey, Talusan shares poignant and powerful episodes of desirability and love. Her evocative reflections shift our own perceptions of love, identity, gender, and the fairness of life.
Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance by Zora Neale Hurston
Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick is an outstanding collection of stories about love and migration, gender and class, racism and sexism that proudly reflect African American folk culture. Brought together for the first time in one volume, they include eight of Hurston’s “lost” Harlem stories, which were found in forgotten periodicals and archives. These stories challenge conceptions of Hurston as an author of rural fiction and include gems that flash with her biting, satiric humor, as well as more serious tales reflective of the cultural currents of Hurston’s world. All are timeless classics that enrich our understanding and appreciation of this exceptional writer’s voice and her contributions to America’s literary traditions.
Godshot by Chelsea Bieker
Drought has settled on the town of Peaches, California. The area of the Central Valley where fourteen-year-old Lacey May and her alcoholic mother live was once an agricultural paradise. Now it’s an environmental disaster, a place of cracked earth and barren raisin farms. In their desperation, residents have turned to a cult leader named Pastor Vern for guidance. He promises, through secret “assignments,” to bring the rain everybody is praying for. Lacey has no reason to doubt the pastor. But then her life explodes in a single unimaginable act of abandonment: her mother, exiled from the community for her sins, leaves Lacey and runs off with a man she barely knows. As Lacey May begins to uncover the full extent of Pastor Vern’s shocking plan to bring fertility back to the land, she decides she must go on a quest to find her mother, no matter what it takes. Godshot is a book of grit and humor and heart, a debut novel about female friendship and resilience, mother-loss and motherhood, and seeking salvation in unexpected places. A recent Rumpus Book Club selection!
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
Antonia Vega, the immigrant writer at the center of Afterlife, has had the rug pulled out from under her. She has just retired from the college where she taught English when her beloved husband, Sam, suddenly dies. And then more jolts: her bighearted but unstable sister disappears, and Antonia returns home one evening to find a pregnant, undocumented teenager on her doorstep. Antonia has always sought direction in the literature she loves—lines from her favorite authors play in her head like a soundtrack—but now she finds that the world demands more of her than words.
Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women by Lyz Lenz
In Belabored, journalist Lyz Lenz lays bare the misogynistic logic of US cultural narratives about pregnancy, tracing them back to our murky, potent cultural soup of myths, from the religious to the historical. In the present, she details how sexist assumptions inform our expectations for pregnant people, whether we’re policing them, asking them to make sacrifices with dubious or disproven benefits, or putting them up on a pedestal in an “Earth mother” role. Throughout, she reflects on her own experiences of being seen as alternately a vessel or a goddess—but hardly ever as herself—while carrying each of her two children.
Arrow by Sumita Chakraborty
“This powerful and endlessly mysterious collection of poems is a book of fables, of spells, of revised narratives, and of realigned songs, brightly lifted above our bodies by music that is as unpredictable as it is marvelous. The lyricism is everywhere apparent as Sumita Chakraborty addresses us, our bodies and their stories, our planet, and our sense of time itself. How does she do it? Mad Ireland hurt him into poetry, W. H. Auden wrote about Yeats, and as the hurt enters Chakraborty’s language, we see that in speech violated, sounds and meanings—and even the oldest of human mysteries, like ‘the etymology of love’—are redefined. All one can do is repeat: this is an endlessly compelling book. Bravo.” – Ilya Kaminsky (author of Deaf Republic) A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
Bestiary by K-Ming Chang
One evening, Mother tells Daughter a story about a tiger spirit who lived in a woman’s body. She was called Hu Gu Po, and she hungered to eat children, especially their toes. Soon afterwards, Daughter awakes with a tiger tail. And more mysterious events follow: Holes in the backyard spit up letters penned by her grandmother; a visiting aunt arrives with snakes in her belly; a brother tests the possibility of flight. All the while, Daughter is falling for Ben, a neighborhood girl with mysterious powers of her own. As the two young lovers translate the grandmother’s letters, Daughter begins to understand that each woman in her family embodies a myth—and that she will have to bring her family’s secrets to light in order to change their destiny.
Self Care by Leigh Stein
Maren Gelb is on a company-imposed digital detox. She tweeted something terrible about the President’s daughter, and as the COO of Richual, “the most inclusive online community platform for women to cultivate the practice of self-care and change the world by changing ourselves,” it’s a PR nightmare. Not only is CEO Devin Avery counting on Maren to be fully present for their next round of funding, but indispensable employee Khadijah Walker has been keeping a secret that will reveal just how feminist Richual’s values actually are, and former Bachelorette contestant and Richual board member Evan Wiley is about to be embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal that could destroy the company forever.
Obit by Victoria Chang
After her mother died, poet Victoria Chang refused to write elegies. Rather, she distilled her grief during a feverish two weeks by writing scores of poetic obituaries for all she lost in the world. In Obit, Chang writes of “the way memory gets up after someone has died and starts walking.” These poems reinvent the form of newspaper obituary to both name what has died (“civility,” “language,” “the future,” “Mother’s blue dress”) and the cultural impact of death on the living. Whereas elegy attempts to immortalize the dead, an obituary expresses loss, and the love for the dead becomes a conduit for self-expression. In this unflinching and lyrical book, Chang meets her grief and creates a powerful testament for the living.
My Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland
While working as an intern in the archives at the Harry Ransom Center, Jenn Shapland encounters the love letters of Carson McCullers and a woman named Annemarie—letters that are tender, intimate, and unabashed in their feelings. Shapland recognizes herself in the letters’ language—but does not see McCullers as history has portrayed her. Shapland is compelled to undertake a recovery of the full narrative and language of McCullers’s life: she wades through the therapy transcripts; she stays at McCullers’s childhood home, where she lounges in her bathtub and eats delivery pizza; she relives McCullers’s days at her beloved Yaddo. As Shapland reckons with the expanding and collapsing distance between her and McCullers, she sees how McCullers’s story has become a way to articulate something about herself. The results reveal something entirely new not only about this one remarkable, walleyed life, but about the way we tell queer love stories. A recent Rumpus Book Club selection!
Deceit and Other Possibilities by Vanessa Hua
In her powerful collection, first published in 2016 and now featuring three new stories, Vanessa Hua gives voice to immigrant families navigating a shifting America. Tied to their ancestral and adopted homelands in ways unimaginable in generations past, these memorable characters span both worlds but belong to none, illustrating the conflict between self and society, tradition and change.
Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad
A few weeks shy of her twenty-third birthday, Suleika Jaouad received a diagnosis: leukemia, with a 35% chance of survival. Just like that, the life she had imagined for herself went up in flames. She would spend much of the next four years in a hospital bed, fighting for her life and chronicling the saga in a column for The New York Times. When Jaouad finally walked out of the cancer ward—after three and a half years of chemo, a clinical trial, and a bone marrow transplant—she was, according to the doctors, cured. But as she would soon learn, a cure is not where the work of healing ends; it’s where it begins. How would she reenter the world and live again? How could she reclaim what had been lost? Jaouad embarked on a 100-day, 15,000-mile road trip across the country. What she learned on this trip is that the divide between sick and well is porous, that the vast majority of us will travel back and forth between these realms throughout our lives.
Hinge by Molly Spencer
“Through legend and landscape, in her lush and razor sharp lines, Molly Spencer’s newest collection, Hinge, navigates mothering and the passage of time in the throes of chronic illness. Her poems illuminate what it means to inhabit a body turning on itself, to come to knowledge by loss and by absence. These are poems that exquisitely tend to the work of living.” – Lena Khalaf Tuffaha (author of Water & Salt)
Tomboyland by Melissa Faliveno
In this debut collection of essays, Melissa Faliveno traverses the liminal spaces of her childhood in working-class Wisconsin and the paths she’s traveled since, compelled by questions of girlhood and womanhood, queerness and class, and how the lands of our upbringing both define and complicate us even long after we’ve left. Part personal narrative, part cultural reportage, Tomboyland navigates midwestern traditions, mythologies, landscapes, and lives to explore the intersections of identity and place. From F5 tornadoes and fast-pitch softball to gun culture, strange glacial terrains, kink party potlucks, and the question of motherhood, Faliveno asks curious, honest, and often darkly funny questions about belonging and the body, isolation and community, and what we mean when we use words like woman, family, and home.
Inconvenient Daughter by Lauren J. Sharkey
Rowan Kelly knows she’s lucky. After all, if she hadn’t been adopted by Marie and Joseph, she could have spent her days in a rice paddy, or a windowless warehouse assembling iPhones—they make iPhones in Korea, right? Either way, slowly dying of boredom on Long Island is surely better than the alternative. According to Marie and Joseph, being adopted means Rowan is “special,” but when she’s sent to kindergarten at an all-white Catholic girls’ school, she realizes that “special” means “different,” and not in a good way. It occurs to her that she’ll never know if she has her mother’s eyes, or if she’d be in America at all, had her adoptive parents been able to conceive. She sets out to prove that she can be someone’s first choice—that she isn’t just a consolation prize. After running away from home—and her parents’ rules—and ending up beaten, barefoot, and topless on a Pennsylvania street courtesy of Bad Boy Number One, Rowan attaches herself to Never-Going-to-Commit. When that doesn’t work out, she fully abandons self-respect and begins browsing the Craigslist personals. But as Rowan dives deeper and deeper into the world of casual encounters with strangers, she discovers what she’s really looking for. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Un-American by Hafizah Geter
Dancing between lyric and narrative, Hafizah Geter’s debut collection moves readers through the fraught internal and external landscapes―linguistic, cultural, racial, familial―of those whose lives are shaped and transformed by immigration. The daughter of a Nigerian Muslim woman and a former Southern Baptist black man, Geter charts the history of a black family of mixed citizenships through poems imbued by migration, racism, queerness, loss, and the heartbreak of trying to feel at home in a country that does not recognize you. Through her mother’s death and her father’s illnesses, Geter weaves the natural world into the discourse of grief, human interactions, and sociopolitical discord.
Quotients by Tracy O’Neill
Jeremy Jordan and Alexandra Chen hope to make a quiet home together but struggle to find a space safe from their personal secrets. For Jeremy, this means leaving behind his former life as an intelligence operative during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. For Alexandra, a high-powered job in image management for whole countries cannot prepare her for her missing brother’s sudden reappearance. In a culture of limitless surveillance, Jeremy and Alexandra will go to great lengths to protect what is closest to them and answer the question of whether their love will be returned. Spanning decades and continents, their saga brings them into contact with a down-and-out online journalist, shadowy security professionals, and jockeying technology experts, each of whom has a different understanding of whether information really protects us, and how we might build a world worth trusting in our paranoid age. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
This Is One Way to Dance by Sejal Shah
In the linked essays that make up her debut collection, Sejal Shah explores culture, language, family, and place. Throughout, Shah reflects on what it means to make oneself visible and legible through writing in a country that struggles with race and maps her identity as an American, South Asian American, writer of color, and feminist. Shah invites us to consider writing as a somatic practice, a composition of digressions, repetitions―movement as transformation, incantation. Her essays―some narrative, others lyrical and poetic―explore how we are all marked by culture, gender, and race; by the limits of our bodies, by our losses and regrets, by who and what we love, by our ambivalences, and by trauma and silence. Language fractures in its attempt to be spoken. Shah asks and attempts to answer the question: How do you move in such a way that loss does not limit you?
Hysteria by Jessica Gross
In Hysteria, we meet a young woman an hour into yet another alcohol-fueled, masochistic, sexual bender at her local bar. There is a new bartender working this time, one she hasn’t seen before, but who can properly make a drink. He looks familiar, and as she is consumed by shame from her behavior the previous week―hooking up with her parents’ colleague and her roommate’s brother―she also becomes convinced that her Brooklyn bartender is actually Sigmund Freud. They embark on a relationship, and she is forced to confront her past through the prism of their complex, revealing, and sometimes shocking meetings. With the help of Freud―or whoever he is―she begins to untangle her Oedipal leanings, her upbringing, and her desires.
All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad
Intimacy has always eluded twenty-seven-year-old Maggie Krause—despite being brought up by married parents, models of domestic bliss—until, that is, Lucia came into her life. But when Maggie’s mom, Iris, dies in a car crash, Maggie returns home only to discover a withdrawn dad, an angry brother, and, along with Iris’s will, five sealed envelopes, each addressed to a mysterious man she’s never heard of. In an effort to run from her own grief and discover the truth about Iris—who made no secret of her discomfort with her daughter’s sexuality—Maggie embarks on a road trip, determined to hand-deliver the letters and find out what these men meant to her mother. Maggie quickly discovers Iris’s second, hidden life, which shatters everything Maggie thought she knew about her parents’ perfect relationship. What is she supposed to tell her father and brother? And how can she deal with her own relationship when her whole world is in freefall?
The Fish & The Dove by Mary-Kim Arnold
“The Fish & The Dove considers the history of occupation, the legacy of the Korean War, and the ways in which official and institutional language of war obfuscates lived experience. In it, I bear witness to what girlhood, womanhood, and motherhood might mean in the context of family, nation, and history. The legendary Assyrian warrior goddess Semiramis haunts this book, and by giving her voice, I attempt to foreground women’s experience in narratives that so often tokenize, dehumanize, and exclude them. The text is informed by and appropriates institutional language, including reports of the South Korean Truth and Reconciliation Commission on governmental atrocities committed during the Korean War.” – Mary-Kim Arnold A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch
An eight-year-old trauma victim is enlisted as an underground courier, rushing frozen organs through the alleys of Eastern Europe. A young janitor transforms discarded objects into a fantastical, sprawling miniature city until a shocking discovery forces him to rethink his creation. A brazen child tells off a pack of schoolyard tormentors with the spirited invention of an eleventh commandment. A wounded man drives eastward, through tears and grief, toward an unexpected transcendence. In Verge, Yuknavitch’s first collection of short fiction, she turns her eye to life on the margins, in all its beauty and brutality.
Guidebooks for the Dead by Cynthia Cruz
In Guidebooks for the Dead, Cynthia Cruz returns to a familiar literary landscape in which a cast of extraordinary women struggle to create amidst violence, addiction, and poverty. For Marguerite Duras, evoked here in a collage of poems, the process of renaming herself is a “Quiet death,” a renewal she envisions as vital to her evolution. In “Duras (The Flock),” she is “high priestess” to an imagined assemblage of women writers for whom the word is sustenance and weapon, “tiny pills or bullets, each one packed with memory, packed with a multitude of meaning.” Joining them is the book’s speaker, an “I” who steps forward to declare her rightful place among “these ladies with smeared lipstick and torn hosiery… this parade of wrong voices.” Guidebooks for the Dead is both homage to these women and a manifesto for how to survive in a world that seeks to silence those who resist.
Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey
At age nineteen, Natasha Trethewey had her world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma and now explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became. With penetrating insight and a searing voice that moves from the wrenching to the elegiac, Trethewey explores this profound experience of pain, loss, and grief as an entry point into understanding the tragic course of her mother’s life and the way her own life has been shaped by a legacy of fierce love and resilience. Moving through her mother’s history in the deeply segregated South and through her own girlhood as a “child of miscegenation” in Mississippi, Trethewey plumbs her sense of dislocation and displacement in the lead-up to the harrowing crime that took place on Memorial Drive in Atlanta in 1985.
The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons by Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers
The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons imagines a human mission to Mars, a consequence of Earth’s devastation from climate change and natural disaster. As humans begin to colonize the planet, history inevitably repeats itself. Dystopian and ecopoetic, this collection examines the impulse and danger of the colonial mindset, and the ways that gendered violence and ecological destruction, body and land, are linked. Featuring a multiplicity of narratives and voices, readers are presented with sonnet crowns, application forms, and large-scale landscape poems that seem to float across the field of the page. With these unusual forms, Rogers also reminds us of previous exploitations on our own planet. Striking, thought-provoking, and necessary, The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons offers a new parable for our modern times. A recent Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection!
Parakeet by Marie-Helene Bertino
The week of her wedding, The Bride is visited by a bird she recognizes as her dead grandmother because of the cornflower blue line beneath her eyes, her dubious expression, and the way she asks: What is the Internet? Her grandmother is a parakeet. She says not to get married. She says: Go and find your brother. In the days that follow, The Bride’s march to the altar becomes a wild and increasingly fragmented, unstable journey that bends toward the surreal and forces her to confront matters long buried. A novel that does justice to the hectic confusion of becoming a woman today, Parakeet asks and begins to answer the essential questions: How do our memories make, cage, and free us? How do we honor our experiences and still become our strongest, truest selves? Who are we responsible for, what do we owe them, and how do we allow them to change?
So We Can Glow by Leesa Cross-Smith
From Kentucky to the California desert, these forty-two short stories expose the glossy and matte hearts of girls and women in moments of obsessive desire and fantasy, wildness and bad behavior, brokenness and fearlessness, and more.Teenage girls sneak out on a summer night to meet their boyfriends by the train tracks. A woman escapes suffocating grief through a vivid fantasy life. Members of a cult form an unsettling chorus as they extol their passion for the same man. A love story begins over cabbages in a grocery store. A laundress’ life is consumed by obsession for a famous baseball player. Two high school friends kiss all night and binge-watch Winona Ryder movies after the death of a sister. The stories in So We Can Glow—some long, some gone in a flash, some told over text and email—take the wild hearts of girls and women and hold them up so they can catch the light.
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz
Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz’s brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages―bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers―be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness. In this new lyrical landscape, the bodies of indigenous, Latinx, black, and brown women are simultaneously the body politic and the body ecstatic. In claiming this autonomy of desire, language is pushed to its dark edges, the astonishing dunefields and forests where pleasure and love are both grief and joy, violence and sensuality. Postcolonial Love Poem unravels notions of American goodness and creates something more powerful than hope―in it, a future is built, future being a matrix of the choices we make now, and in these poems, Diaz chooses love.
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong
Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative—and its relentless and riveting pursuit of vital questions around family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality, will change the way you think about our world. Binding these essays together is Hong’s theory of “minor feelings.” As the daughter of Korean immigrants, Cathy Park Hong grew up steeped in shame, suspicion, and melancholy. She would later understand that these “minor feelings” occur when American optimism contradicts your own reality—when you believe the lies you’re told about your own racial identity. Minor feelings are not small, they’re dissonant—and in their tension Hong finds the key to the questions that haunt her.
Lakewood by Megan Giddings
When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies, and the full extent of the family debt is revealed, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan. On paper, her new job is too good to be true. High paying. No out of pocket medical expenses. A free place to live. All Lena has to do is participate in a secret program—and lie to her friends and family about the research being done in Lakewood. An eye drop that makes brown eyes blue, a medication that could be a cure for dementia, golden pills promised to make all bad thoughts go away. The discoveries made in Lakewood, Lena is told, will change the world—but the consequences for the subjects involved could be devastating. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.
Girls Against God by Jenny Hval
Welcome to 1990s Norway. White picket fences run in neat rows and Christian conservatism runs deep. But as the Artist considers her work, things start stirring themselves up. In a corner of Oslo a coven of witches begin cooking up some curses. A time-traveling Edvard Munch arrives in town to join a death metal band, closely pursued by the teenaged subject of his painting Puberty, who has murder on her mind. Meanwhile, out deep in the forest, a group of school girls get very lost and things get very strange. And awful things happen in aspic. Jenny Hval’s latest novel is a radical fusion of queer feminist theory and experimental horror, and a unique treatise on magic, writing and art. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
Keep Moving by Maggie Smith
When Maggie Smith, the award-winning author of the viral poem “Good Bones,” started writing daily Twitter posts in the wake of her divorce, they unexpectedly caught fire. In this deeply moving book of quotes and essays, Maggie writes about new beginnings as opportunities for transformation. Like kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics with gold, Keep Moving celebrates the beauty and strength on the other side of loss. This is a book for anyone who has gone through a difficult time and is wondering: What comes next?
Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
Irby is forty, and increasingly uncomfortable in her own skin despite what Inspirational Instagram Infographics have promised her. She has left her job as a receptionist at a veterinary clinic, has published successful books and has been friendzoned by Hollywood, left Chicago, and moved into a house with a garden that requires repairs and know-how with her wife in a blue town in the middle of a red state where she now hosts book clubs and makes mason jar salads. This is the bourgeois life of a Hallmark Channel dream. She goes on bad dates with new friends, spends weeks in Los Angeles taking meetings with “TV executives slash amateur astrologers” while being a “cheese fry-eating slightly damp Midwest person,” “with neck pain and no cartilage in [her] knees,” who still hides past-due bills under her pillow.
Muddy Matterhorn by Heather McHugh
Heather McHugh’s first book in a decade, Muddy Matterhorn, reclaims the mix of high and low that is her sensibility’s signature, in matters practical and philosophical, semantic and stylistic, mortal and transitory, amorous and political, hilarious and heartbreaking. With fierce attacks on technology and social structures, McHugh finds a way to enjoy and empathize with humanity on her own terms. Ever the outsider, McHugh combines a strong sense of self with a determination to love people and the worlds they build without losing her biting criticism or witty rejection of societal norms and expectations. She is both pragmatic and theorizing, esoteric and identifiable. The joy and anger in these poems join to form an empowered and impassioned declaration of self in a chaotic time. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
The Unreality of Memory: And Other Essays by Elisa Gabbert
The Unreality of Memory collects provocative, searching essays on disaster culture, climate anxiety, and our mounting collective sense of doom. In this new collection, acclaimed poet and essayist Elisa Gabbert explores our obsessions with disasters past and future, from the sinking of the Titanic to Chernobyl, from witch hunts to the plague. These deeply researched, prophetic meditations question how the world will end—if indeed it will—and why we can’t stop fantasizing about it.
Wandering in Strange Lands by Morgan Jerkins
Between 1916 and 1970, six million black Americans left their rural homes in the South for jobs in cities in the North, West, and Midwest in a movement known as The Great Migration. But while this event transformed the complexion of America and provided black people with new economic opportunities, it also disconnected them from their roots, their land, and their sense of identity, argues Morgan Jerkins. In this fascinating and deeply personal exploration, she recreates her ancestors’ journeys across America, following the migratory routes they took from Georgia and South Carolina to Louisiana, Oklahoma, and California. Following in their footsteps, Jerkins seeks to understand not only her own past, but the lineage of an entire group of people who have been displaced, disenfranchised, and disrespected throughout our history. Through interviews, photos, and hundreds of pages of transcription, Jerkins braids the loose threads of her family’s oral histories, which she was able to trace back 300 years, with the insights and recollections of black people she met along the way–the tissue of black myths, customs, and blood that connect the bones of American history.
A Nail the Evening Hangs On by Monica Sok
In her debut collection, Monica Sok uses poetry to reshape a family’s memory about the Khmer Rouge regime―memory that is both real and imagined―according to a child of refugees. Driven by myth-making and fables, the poems examine the inheritance of the genocide and the profound struggles of searing grief and PTSD. Though the landscape of Cambodia is always present, it is the liminal space, the in-betweenness of diaspora, in which younger generations must reconcile their history and create new rituals. A Nail the Evening Hangs On seeks to reclaim the Cambodian narrative with tenderness and an imagination that moves towards wholeness and possibility.
Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine
Wylodine comes from a world of paranoia and poverty—her family grows marijuana illegally, and life has always been a battle. Now she’s been left behind to tend the crop alone. Then spring doesn’t return for the second year in a row, bringing unprecedented, extreme winter. With grow lights stashed in her truck and a pouch of precious seeds, she begins a journey, determined to start over away from Appalachian Ohio. But the icy roads and strangers hidden in the hills are treacherous. After a harrowing encounter with a violent cult, Wil and her small group of exiles become a target for the cult’s volatile leader. Because she has the most valuable skill in the climate chaos: she can make things grow. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!