45 Queer and Feminist Books You Need To Read in Early 2017

What queer feminist books should you read this winter and spring? What books should you read right now? Early 2017 is, as long as you look only at this list and at literally nothing else going on anywhere in the world, off to a great start with new and forthcoming work from Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Joan Didion, Jenny Zhang and so many more.

45 Queer Feminist Books To Read in Early 2017

January

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay: Is it cheating to have a book on your best books of 2016 list and your 2017 preview list? Quite possibly. Nevertheless, Gay’s Difficult Women is a stunning short-story collection of women living under patriarchy. (3 January)

Always Happy Hour: Stories by Mary Miller: This funny, poignant short story collection from a “transcendent contemporary talent” focuses on women who drink, who fuck, who make bad decisions, who have bad habits, who are real people. Roxane Gay highly recommends it and tweets: “Excellent stories… dark, sexy, uncomfortable.” (10 January)

The Crunk Feminist Collection edited by Brittney C. Cooper, Susana M. Morris, and Robin M. Boylorn: This guidebook for revolutionaries centres a black feminist lens on movement building, culture and questions of difference. In her review at Autostraddle, Carmen Rios notes that it “provides readers with a more nuanced perspective on everything from gender to race to sexuality to class to movement-building, packaged neatly in easy-to-read pieces that take on weighty and thorny ideas willingly and enthusiastically in pursuit of a more just world. (10 January)

The Right Way to be Crippled and Naked: The Fiction of Disability, edited by Sheila Black, Michael Northen and Annabelle Hayse: This fiction anthology, featuring Dagoberto Gilb, Anne Finger, Thom Jones, Lisa Gill and other authors, pivots around disabled people and their stories. In a blurb, Rachel Simon notes that the stories “are united in additional ways: attention to literary craft, loyalty to emotional authenticity, and the outright rejection of every disability cliché there is.” (10 January)

American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus by Lisa Wade: What does sexual culture on American college campuses look like? And what does it reveal about race, gender and class inequality? In her Autostraddle review, Carrie Wade (no relation) calls American Hookup “a well thought-out exploration of the stories we tell ourselves about sex and sexuality, and how those stories play out in the highly stylized environment of college campuses.” (10 January)

How to Murder Your Life: A Memoir by Cat Marnell: Whether you remember gleefully reading Marnell’s writing about drug addiction, bulimia and other self-destructions in Nylon, Teen Vogue, xoJane and Vice or whether you’re encountering her for the first time, this anticipated not-a-recovery memoir is sure to be a gutting read. (17 January)

Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives by Leigh Gilmore: How do gender, race and doubt turn women into unreliable witnesses in their own testimonies? Using Anita Hill’s 1991 testimony and the conservative reactions to it as a launching point, Gilmore discusses sexism, colonialism, power and institutional control through a feminist, legal and literary lens to examine truth, fiction and justice. (17 January)

February

Living a Feminist Life by Sarah Ahmed: In this volume, noted writer, scholar and activist Ahmed builds on feminist of color scholarship to argue that everyday feminist action and experience are what generate feminist theory and thought. She also comments on the figure of the feminist killjoy and discusses survival tactics for racism and sexism. (3 February)

All the Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen to Be Famous Strangers by Alana Massey: Critical memoir and celebrity gossip collide in this debut essay collection from a keen cultural critic. Covering mental illness, bodies, bad romance, the sex industry and more through the lenses of Amber Rose, Courtney Love, Sylvia Plath, Lil’ Kim and other famous women, Massey explores legacy, creativity and the self. (7 February)

The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley: This epic space opera from Hugo Award-winner Hurley takes place on the Legion, a series of decaying world-ships under civil war in a universe of only women. Zan awakens with no memory to find herself a prisoner of people who say they are her family — and tell her that she’s their only hope for gaining control of a ship with the ability to leave the Legion. But they aren’t the only ones who want it. In an interview with Gizmodo, Hurley says: “I want to know how people organize themselves in the future, and how their morals change […] science fiction can force us to re-examine what really makes us human.” (7 February)

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker: In this beautiful, and impeccably titled, poetry collection rife with cultural references, Parker explores black womanhood, alongside vulnerability, history, pleasure, pain, politics and consumption. In a review at Bustle, E. C.E. Miller notes: “Parker’s writing is soulful and in-your-face, and is exactly the best of what modern poets have to offer their readers.” (14 February)

In Full Velvet by Jenny Johnson: In this debut collection of poetry, 2015 Whiting Writers’ Award-winner Johnson investigates desire, gender, queerness and love, as well as the limits of the body and the possibilities of the imagination. At the Rumpus, Oliva Kate Cerrone notes: “Her work probes the complexities of queer identity and the body, weaving in the unexpected reaches of intimacy and communion found in nature, dreams and lost family histories.” (14 February)

Oh Joy Sex Toy: The Coloring Book by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan: The coloring book of the beloved sex- and sex-toy-related Oh Joy Sex Toy comic features smut, information and humans with all sorts of bodies and sexualities and in all levels of undress. If you love Oh Joy Sex Toy, sex positivity, smut or adult coloring, you’ll love this. (21 February)

Running: A Novel by Cara Hoffman: Addiction, homelessness, and under-the-table jobs fall in step with survival, chosen family and love in this novel about a group of outsiders in 1980s Athens who come together and, in the face of death and terrorism, fall apart. In advance praise, Alexander Chee notes: “Every sentence lit up with silver rain and smoke and the beauty of arriving in a foreign city and the defiance of needing almost nothing—and how strangely impossible it is when you lose that.” (21 February)

Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enríquez: This unsettling collection of gothic short stories traces the horrors of everyday life. In a blurb, Helen Oyeyemi notes: “These spookily clear-eyed, elementally intense stories are the business. I find myself no more able to defend myself from their advances than Enriquez’s funny, brutal, bruised characters are able to defend themselves from life as it’s lived.” (27 February)

March

 Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “What is your premise? Your feminist premise should be: I matter. I matter equally. Not ‘if only.’ Not ‘as long as.’ I matter equally. Full stop.” In this series of suggestions to a friend from the author of We Should All Be Feminists, Adichie explores open communication with young women about sexuality and selfhood, living life not shaped by gender inequality, and the heart of sexual politics today. (7 March)

South and West by Joan Didion: New. Joan. Didion. South and West collects two never-before-seen excerpts from Didon’s early notebooks. One, from a 1970 trip through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, explores the landscape, heat, and race and class. The second, “California Notes,” begins as reporting notes on the 1976 Patty Hearst trial and spins out into thinking in which Didion’s relationship to place becomes visible. (7 March)

Whereas: Poems by Layli Long Soldier: “I am a citizen of the United States and an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, meaning I am a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation — and in this dual citizenship I must work, I must eat, I must art, I must mother, I must friend, I must listen, I must observe, constantly I must live,” writes Long Soldier. In this poetry collection, she examines histories, landscapes, nationalities and being by confronting and subverting the coercive language of the US government in its dealings with Native American peoples. (7 March)

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg: With none of the traditional (barf) markers of adulthood to look to, how do you know when you’re an adult? Andrea Bern is a designer, friend, daughter, sister – and also a drinker, former artist, loud in bed and alone. In this comic, wrenching novel The Middlesteins author Attenberg deftly explores family, friendship, and making your own dreams on your own terms. (7 March)

Frontier by Can Xue: Magical realism and the avant-garde collide in this novel by one of China’s foremost experimental writers, newly translated by Karen Gernant. Liujin heads out to build a life in Pebble Town, a surreal frontier town at the foot of Snow Mountain. Through a series of different viewpoints, the life of the town is revealed — along with tensions between civilization and not, the sublime and the not, beauty and not. (14 March)

The Mother of All Questions: Further Reports from the Feminist Revolutions by Rebecca Solnit: These eleven essays from the author of Men Explain Things To Me investigate violence, misogyny, why the Western cannon is nichéy, fragile masculinity, rape jokes and more. (14 March)

An Arrangement of Skin: Essays by Anna Journey: This lyrical debut essay collection is a revelry in the form, with suicide hotline calls, pirate-themed rum, taxidermy and campfire ghost stories running into and over each other. In advance praise, Maggie Nelson says: “I kept feeling as though I was riding on a boat, being toured through some beautiful places and some dark places, the person at the oars capably pushing ahead all the while with grace, curiosity, and persistence.” (14 March)

Sonora by Hannah Lillith Assadi: Growing up just outside Phoenix, Ahlam is wracked with chronic fever dreams until she meets Laura, her “tempestuous” (I hope this means gay) counterpart. They experiment with drugs and sex as their high school classmates die mysteriously, and run away together to New York, only to learn they can’t escape themselves. (28 March)

April

Marlena: A Novel by Julie Buntin: In rural Michigan, Cat and Marlena fall into an obsessive friendship that will shape both their futures — especially as Marlena will be dead within the year. Thirty-five years later, Cat must learn to forgive herself even when faced with tangled ghosts of the past. Exploring addiction, loss and love, this debut novel is sure to captivate. (4 April)

No One Is Coming to Save Us: A Novel by Stephanie Powell Watts: This retelling of The Great Gatsby set in the contemporary South is a powerful debut. In a blurb, Sigrid Nunez writes, “Stephanie Powell Watts’s inspired reimagining of the novel long regarded as the American masterwork of the twentieth century gives soul, body, and voice to those left out of Scott Fitzgerald’s vision of the American dream … bold, brilliant, and timely.” (4 April)

Sympathy: A Novel by Olivia Sudjic: How do you get to know someone when it feels like you already do? Alice Hare becomes obsessed with Mizuko Himura, a Japanese writer, and arranges a chance encounter that isn’t. Their subsequent relationship explodes in sex and lies. In a blurb, Emily Gould says: “At once a riveting mystery and a literary tour de force, Sympathy had me spellbound from the first page to the last.” (4 April)

Somebody with a Little Hammer: Essays by Mary Gaitskill: This chronological collection of essays spans decades of poet and essayist Gaitskill’s work, including sharp, incisive writing on date rape, adultery, Celine Dion, power and race, Linda Lovelace and more. An early review in Publisher’s Weekly notes: “The pages burst with insight and a candid, unflinching self-assessment sure to thrill Gaitskill’s existing fans and win her new ones.” (4 April)

Futures of Black Radicalism edited by Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin: This collection — featuring contributors including Angela Davis, Elizabeth Robinson, Nikhil Pal Singh, Christina Heatherton, Thulani Davis, Shana L. Redmond and more — examines the past, present and futures of Black radicalism through a scholarly lens. Linking activist connections across Ferguson, Palestine, Baltimore, and Hong Kong, as well as Black resistance and anti-capitalism, Futures of Black Radicalism is necessary reading for forward motion. (4 April)

Too Much and Not in the Mood: Essays by Durga Chew-Bose: An allusion to Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary, this narrative and poetic essay collection explores identity, culture, literature, art, restlessness and creativity. It was “inspired by Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, Lydia Davis’s short prose, and Vivian Gornick’s exploration of interior life,” and critics are already drawing comparisons to Nelson, so you know it’s going to be good. (11 April)

Double Bind: Women on Ambition edited by Robin Romm: It can still be hard for women to admit ambition — to want, to take, to be aggressive, to always strive for more. This essay collection — with contributors including Roxane Gay, Molly Ringwald, Nadia Manzoor, Allison Barrett Carter, Theresa Rebeck and more — addresses aspirations, identity, achievement and success. (11 April)

Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes by Anne Elizabeth Moore: Sometimes simply to exist as a woman with a body is to exist alongside horror. This investigation explores the impact of global capitalism on women’s bodies, along with disease, healthcare and contemporary American culture. (11 April)

May

Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin, translated by Bonnie Huie: Written as a postmodern series of journal entries, notes and vignettes by one of the first openly queer writers in post-martial-law Taiwan, Notes of a Crocodile tells the story of a group of disaffected queers at a prestigious Taipei university. With notes of optimism, idealism, corrosion and experience, this newly translated cult classic functions as a survival guide for queers everywhere. And AAWA has an excerpt. (2 May)

One Day We’ll Be Dead and None of This Will Matter: Essays by Scaachi Koul: In her debut essay collection, Canadian journalist Koul covers growing up in the West with Indian immigrant parents, including dealing with their anxiety and disappointment as well as internet trolls, waxing, fear of flying, and gender and race intersections as a woman of color. (2 May)

The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic: Seeking happiness is a feminist pursuit. In this investigation of what women want and the systems that suppress them, journalist and attorney Filipovic illustrates how policy, laws and people come together to work against women’s happiness, and how allowing that pursuit could address issues that include health, equal pay, expectations of family and career life and more. (2 May)

Small Favors: The Definitive Collection by Colleen Coover: This collection of Coover’s beloved and nearly impossible to find cult classic of lesbian comics erotica will include the first and second volumes of Small Favors, a color special, behind-the-scenes content and more. In her review at Autostraddle, Mey Rude writes: “Everyone who’s a fan of erotic comics or cute comics or comics for women should check this out.” (9 May)

Large Animals: Stories by Jess Arndt: What does it mean to have a body? In this debut short story collection, Arndt investigates the boundaries of bodies: of genders, of the knowable, of the possible. Queer, nonconforming and undefined bodies take the lead, and constantly negotiate a search for understanding, self-destruction and love. In a blurb, Maggie Nelson calls it “wildly original, even as it joins in with the classics of loaded, outlaw literature.” (9 May)

Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong — and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story by Angela Saini: Across biology, psychology and anthropology, women are often sidelined and seen as less than just for being women. In this argument against biological determinism, science writer Saini examines why science often seems to conclude women are inferior (spoiler alert: it’s sexism) and conveys an alternative history of science through personal stories, controversial research and more. (23 May)

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life: Essays by Samantha Irby: The second essay collection from Meaty author and Bitches Gotta Eat blogger Samantha Irby looks at budgeting, when your drinking buddies start getting into Costco, why she should be the Bachelorette and more. Plus it has an angry kitten on the cover, what’s not to like? (30 May)

“You’re in the Wrong Bathroom!”: And 20 Other Myths and Misconceptions About Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People by Laura Erickson-Schroth and Laura A. Jacobs: Tried of answering questions from people who just don’t get it? This book might help. (30 May)

June

My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Kabi Nagata: The US release of this autobiographical one-volume manga, released in Japan last year, explores Nagata’s mental health, queerness and sexuality. In an interview with Go Manga, the publisher says the book “is an autobiographical comic, written by a queer author who is brave and talented enough to share her story in a both moving and highly entertaining way, depicting not only her explorations of sexuality, but many other personal aspects of her life.” (6 June)

Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive by Kristen J. Sollee: Women’s sexuality and power have long been demonized. A combination of history and pop culture analyses and interviews, Witches, Sluts, Feminists is a look at the fact of this demonization, and how women fight against it and misogyny to reclaim themselves, along with pleasure, queerness, porn, sex work, reproductive rights and more. (13 June)

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay: “Most of us have these versions of ourselves that terrify us. We have these imperfect bodies we don’t quite know how to cope with. We have these shames we keep to ourselves because to show ourselves as we are, no more and no less, would be too much,” writes Gay in an essay on her morning routine. Her much-anticipated memoir of food, self-image and (her) body is an intimate, revealing look at desire, denial and learning to take care of yourself. (13 June)

And Beyond

What We Lose: A Novel by Zinzi Clemmons: How do you move forward when moving forward also means facing loss? In this beautiful debut, Thandi, “an outsider wherever she goes, caught between being black and white, American and not,” must face her mother’s death and learn to live without her while navigating her own unexpected motherhood, as well as sex, gender, race and place. (11 July)

Sour Heart: Stories by Jenny Zhang: National Magazine Award nominee, Rookie writer and poet Zhang’s debut short-story collection centres around several Chinese American girls growing up in New York City. On returning to fiction, Zhang says: “Distance made my heart grow fonder for fiction. I went back to these stories I was writing when I was in my early twenties, and it was a sweet little reunion.” (1 August)

Spinning by Tillie Walden: Skating, sexuality and coming of age meet in this autobiographical comic by artist and writer Walden. It’s garnered early praise from Malinda Lo, as well as Lucy Kinsey, who writes: “This is a beautifully told story that will resonate with anyone who played an instrument, or did gymnastics, or got signed up for skating: these things weren’t always what we wanted to do or cared about, but they gave us some focus when everything else was mystery and chaos.” (12 September)


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Carolyn Yates is the NSFW Editor and Literary Editor for Autostraddle.com. She is also a freelance editor and writer, and her work has appeared in Bitch, Nylon, The Toast, Xtra!, Jezebel, and elsewhere. She recently moved to Los Angeles from Montreal. Find her on twitter.

Carolyn has written 687 articles for us.

9 Comments

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    This list is literal heaven. My new year’s resolution to read as much as I possibly can is going great so far – this list will help me keep it up for life! (I already read lots, trying to replace procrastinating with more reading) THANK YOU CAROLYN AND QUEER/FEMINIST AUTHORS!

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    Awesome list Carolyn! I’m really looking forward to several of these!

    I’ll recommend a book for you all to check out as well by one of my very favorite writers who is criminally underappreciated, Cassandra Duffy. She’s absolutely amazing! Just read the description and tell me this doesn’t sound fun. 😀

    https://www.amazon.com/Ravens-Ashes-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00R0PCGYQ/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1484599238&sr=1-6&keywords=cassandra+duffy

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    I love this list! One possible addition/FYI, I’m also pretty sure Eileen Myles is releasing a memoir about her dog this year, which should clearly be excellent (very gay) reading.

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