Books

When I was in high school, I read Prozac Nation. At the time, I didn’t understand depression —  in fact, I didn’t even know the meaning of the word. And I definitely didn’t know the term “mental illness.” All I knew was that I wasn’t feeling quite right and I found comfort in books like Veronika Decides to Die by Pahlo Coehlo and Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. Stories that centered a female lead character who, for one reason or another, was battling depression and...
Caroline Zancan’s We Wish You Luck is not the first novel set at a writing program, but she tells a fresh story nonetheless. For one, the book takes place at a low-residency writing program, where students only stay on campus for a week or two each semester, and do the rest of their work remotely with a faculty advisor. Zancan is a graduate of such a program, and it shows: she expertly captures the participants, their experiences, and the various attitudes stereotypically (and often accurately) found in...
  Three years ago, I went to a conference in downtown L.A. There were 10,000 people at the conference, and I sat through dozens of panels over the course of three days—a dizzying number of speakers and topics. But there was only panel that stuck with me, or one person, really: Jaquira Díaz.  She stepped up to the podium and quickly set it ablaze, speaking about girlhood and memory, erasure, and voice. The fierceness of her heart and mind left an indelible print on me, and when...
Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice For Living Your Best LifeBy Ali Wong(Penguin Random House) If you’re an Ali Wong fan, Dear Girls is the perfect addition to your bookshelf. The comedian, actress and writer is every bit as hilarious and raunchy in her new memoir as she is on stage. Yet the jokes and OMG moments don’t translate as smoothly to a book and seem better suited for the stage. Wong spends the preface emphasizing that she’s an “idiot” who shouldn’t be writing...
  I’ve only been sailing a handful of times in my life, and only once have I taken the helm. It was a long time ago when I was deliriously in love with the man I had just married and, on a whim, we signed ourselves up for a learn-to-sail adventure on the edge of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. With six of us aboard a 25-foot ship, we learned our way around knots and winches; we learned how to make tea on the tippy little stove,...
  GOD SAVE THE QUEENS: The Essential History of Women in Hip-HopBy Kathy Iandoli(Dey Street Books) When Rapsody’s video for “Ibtihaj” dropped last summer, she rapped, “Women been leading the way, since Roxanne Shante.” As journalist Kathy Iandoli demonstrates in her excellent history of these very women “leading the way” in hip-hop, sisterly shout-outs are too rare in this genre, where women are often forced into battle rather than (as Queen Latifah spelled it) “U.N.I.T.Y.” God Save the Queens tracks the contributions of women in the rap game...
GRAND UNION: StoriesBy Zadie Smith(Penguin Press) Beloved, iconic novelist and essayist Zadie Smith presents her first collection of short stories with Grand Union, many of which are published here for the first time. The format allows for a set of mostly (but not entirely) disparate narrative nuggets, and Smith’s voice is always on the page, even as those pages wander to many different places. With stories that include Elizabeth Taylor, old friends, marital splits, Brexit, gender nonconformity, an old-fashioned corset shop, this collection contains both...
DEAD BLONDES AND BAD MOTHERS: MONSTROSITY, PATRIARCHY, AND THE FEAR OF FEMALE POWERBy Sady Doyle(Melville House) With Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers, Sady Doyle harnesses the anger of women who’ve been unfairly reduced to just daughters, wives, and mothers, to create a new feminist manifesto for a new wave of feminists. “Women have always been seen as monsters,” she writes, before diving into the history of female monstrosity and its ties to male paranoia. Men’s fear, she contends, is an acknowledgment of women’s power, so why...
American Indian StoriesBy Zitkála-Šá (Modern Library) This collection of autobiographical writings, short stories, and poetry only scratches the surface of what Zitkála-Šá accomplished over the course of her life. Born in 1876 on South Dakota’s Yankton Sioux reservation, she went east for an education and became a leading advocate for Native American rights. She co-founded the National Council of American Indians, wrote for publications like Harper’s Monthly, composed an opera, and became one of the first Native writers to reach an English-speaking audience before her death in...
Three Women Lisa Taddeo (Avid Reader Press)  In her fascinating new book, Lisa Taddeo tells the stories of three women and their experiences of desire. Maggie was in high school when a well-liked teacher started a relationship with her. Lina is a housewife who wants physical intimacy, but her husband refuses. Sloane owns a restaurant with her husband, who watches her sleep with other people. Through these three stories, Taddeo examines the complexities of female desire, the differences between fantasy and reality, and how we understand our own...