Books

TEN YEARS AGO, activist, leader, and visionary Sonya Renee Taylor found herself comforting a struggling friend and saying, “Natasha, your body is not an apology.” This statement inadvertently and profoundly resonated with Taylor herself. Following that revelation, “the body is not an apology” rooted itself as a personal ethos inside Taylor. She crafted the sentiment into a spoken-word performance, expanded the idea into a popular Facebook page and then further into an extensive multimedia platform, and then in 2018, into the New York Times best seller The Body Is...
The novel Of Women and Salt starts with Carmen’s plea to her daughter Jeanette to live—to choose life over suffering and addiction. From there, readers explore generations of Cuban and Cuban-American women as they come to terms with themselves, their family, and their countries. Within 12 short chapters, author Gabriela Garcia explores 9 points of view, offering an unflinching look into the ways her characters hurt and help each other over several lifetimes. From pre-revolution Cuba’s cigar factories and guerrillos (rebel fighters) to the salty-sweet Miami heat on pre-teen flesh, Garcia...
In 2018, Michelle Zauner wrote about how, after her mother’s death, she would break down crying in H Mart, the Korean American supermarket where the two often shopped. The viral New Yorker essay that shares a title with her new memoir pinpoints the ways our favorite foods become visceral reminders of those we loved and lost. For Zauner, who is half-Korean and half-white, losing her mom sent her searching for “evidence that the Korean half of my identity didn’t die when [she] did.” A musician...
When Lauren Hough announced on Twitter that her new book of essays, Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing, contained 312 “F” words, I knew I wanted to read it. Hough had to build herself from scratch after leaving a cult that, by design, rendered its members incapable of living meaningful lives with normal relationships. Her experiences take readers across the globe, and include a near-slide into homelessness, clashes with the criminal justice system, and a stint as the most amazing bouncer in gay history. You’ll laugh, cry, recoil in...
Morgan Jerkins’ Caul Baby is an expansive, folklorish tale of two families—both headed by Black matriarchs—that intertwine for over 20 years. The Melancons are born with a “caul”—a special extra layer of skin that is said to portend healing powers for both the wearer and anyone who buys a piece. This family exists as pariahs in their home community of Harlem, selling pieces of their cauls to wealthy white folks while turning away Black women. One such woman, Laila, is turned away after requesting the...
Representation and its significance take center stage in Dawnie Walton’s debut. Inspired by the author’s own deep desire for an Afro-punk role model during her teenage years, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is a fictionalized account of Opal Jewel, a Black singer ahead of her time navigating the world of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1970s. Decades later, journalist Sunny Curtis sets out to create an oral history of her idol—and is confronted with an allegation about the controversial event that catapulted Opal to stardom. The...
Vibrant, haunting, and absolutely unforgettable, Girlhood by Melissa Febos is a modern masterpiece full of brutally honest self-reflection. “I’ve not found the research on how often we are touched by men without our consent, from childhood: belly and cheek pinches, shoulder squeezes, hands on thighs, unwelcome hugs,” Febos writes. “It is one thing to yell at a man whispering obscenities outside your window at midnight and another to reject a form of touch you’ve tolerated since infancy.” These essays will prompt readers to look critically at their own...
For fifty years, Beverly Cleary captured kids’ experiences with a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed spirit that was as rare in literature as it was real in childhood. The beloved children’s author died on March 25 in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, less than three weeks shy of her 105th birthday. Cleary was born on April 12, 1916, and grew up on a farm in Yamhill, Oregon. The town was so small that it didn’t have a library until Cleary’s mother—a schoolteacher named Mable—started one. Her mother also gave her advice...
With the release of When Women Invented Television, author Jennifer Keishin Armstrong adds another important book to her growing library of pop cultural criticism. Here, she shares the compelling stories of four trendsetters from the earliest days of the small screen, using each woman’s career to explore the ways she affected the television we watch today. Armstrong centers her diligent research on Gertrude Berg, one of the first sitcom stars and writers whose hit comedy about a Jewish matriarch was a blueprint for Roseanne; Irna...
To say JEB is a trailblazer is accurate but inadequate. As she puts it, “We were outlaws, literally, because of the laws against us.” Today, it's difficult to imagine the chutzpah it took for JEB to self-publish Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians,  the U.S.'s first published photography anthology focused on out lesbians, in 1979. JEB sat down with BUST to discuss her work, share the progress and pitfalls of lesbian representation, and remind us that imagining a better future is easier when you can actually...
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