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10 Fanstastic New Books by Women to Make Catching Up on that New Year’s Resolution to “Read More” a Breeze!

by Zoë Lourey-Christianson


By Elissa R. Sloan

(William Morrow Paperbacks)

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It’s hard not to think of Britney Spears while reading Elissa R. Sloan’s sophomore novel, Hayley Aldridge Is Still Here, or Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, and all of the other early ’00s child stars turned Hollywood “it” girls, whose already difficult transition to adulthood was turned into an even bigger nightmare thanks to ruthless paparazzi and the consumers who ate it all up.

Hayley Aldridge did not have a regular childhood. Normality was thrown out the window after she moved from Texas to Hollywood and secured a role on a family sitcom, pushing her into a spotlight that the Internet and gossip magazines of that time were about to make unmanageably bright. Now, 20 years later, she’s living under a conservatorship that’s stripped her of even the smallest of freedoms. And while no one questioned it then, her fans are questioning it now, using the hashtag #helphayley to do so. What unfolds is Hayley’s attempt to regain her independence. Sloan’s novel is a page-turner that speaks to our current reflections on, and past treatments of, celebrities. –Samantha Ladwig


By Osa Atoe

(Soft Skull Press)


An old graffiti tag that once appeared on the streets of Washington, D.C., opined, “Punk means fight bullshit.” But if that’s the case, why are so many punk shows so claustrophobically, overwhelmingly white? Artist, musician, activist, ceramicist, and writer Osa Atoe set out to upend the punk paradigm when she launched the Shotgun Seamstress ’zine in Portland, OR, in 2006, celebrating everything Black and punk. On the bullshit-fighting front, it was also loudly feminist and radiantly queer. Like a prism, a great ’zine filters the world through a sensibility, resulting in an entire spectrum of rays. Shotgun Seamstress took on scene racism; highlighted Black visionaries including ESG, Sun-Ra, and Brontez Purnell; interviewed musicians like Mick Collins and Poly Styrene; explored the cultures of Nigeria and Brazil; and wholeheartedly celebrated the DIY spirit and artistic life. Gathered together here are all the pages from its eight-issue, nine-year run, and it reads like a party full of people who could change your life. You’ll find yourself reading with many tabs open to keep up with all the new knowledge. As Atoe writes, it’s about “Black people expressing, representing, and documenting the fullest range of our beings col- lectively and individually.” There’s no better way to fight bullshit than that. –Rufus Hickok

MAAME: A Novel

By Jessica George

(St. Martin’s Publishing Group)

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The title of Jessica George’s debut novel is a term of endearment that has multiple meanings in Twi, a dialect of the Akan language spoken in southern and central Ghana. “In my case, it means ‘woman,’’’ Maddie, the book’s 20-something British-born Ghanian protagonist, says of the nickname her mom bestowed upon her when she was just a little girl. The personal assistant who longs to be a novelist once “loved being viewed as a grown-up before I’d even gotten my period.” After tragedy befalls her family, she begins to unpack the baggage that comes with such a precocious moniker. George, who was born and raised in London to Ghanian parents, brings an authenticity to this coming-of-age story fo- cused on workplace microaggressions, dating outside one’s race, the unique challenges that come with being first generation, and the overwhelming loneliness that comes with growing up too fast. (The achingly naïve Maddie often turns to Google for advice, only to discover it’s a real mixed bag.) It’s hard not to root for Maddie as she tries to recapture her lost youth while also navigating the chaos of her 20s, knowing all the while that growing up is a lifelong project. –Shannon Carlin


By Monica Heisey

(William Morrow)


Monica Heisey’s debut novel was born out of a need. Not just to write, but to write a book that mirrored her own experience, one that she couldn’t find in any of the literature she encountered. Enter Maggie, a 29-year-old divorcée with a near-empty bank account, a directionless job, and a group of friends reminiscent of Bridget Jones who are mostly willing to join her on her bumpy journey of self-discovery. On the surface, Really Good, Actually, is a novel about heartbreak. At its core, though, it’s a book about modern life, friendship, and the struggle to bridge reality and expectation, and the Schitt’s Creek writer makes hilariously astute observations about it all. At times cringey in its grief-induced self- centeredness and painful in its truth, Heisey perfectly captures the realities of a big, bad breakup, and it couldn’t be more refreshing. Add that to the downright loveable cast and you’ve got the perfect anti-rom com. –Samantha Ladwig

SCREAMING ON THE INSIDE: The Unsustainability of American Motherhood

By Jessica Grose

(Mariner Books)

It’s no secret that American mothers have it rough, but in New York Times journalist Jessica Grose’s new book, she reveals that the struggle is likely even worse than many of us would imagine. Grose compellingly blends memoir with historical, scientific, and sociological research to provide an in-depth look at the current state of motherhood and the factors that brought us to its present, unmanageable state. Unlike other wealthy countries, the U.S. does not have paid maternity and parental leave policies, nor does it offer universal childcare, creating yet another hurdle for mothers in the workforce. Beyond just governmental policy inadequacies, Grose also points out that for centuries now, American women have had to shoulder most of the weight of parental and domestic duties, which can be near impossible when combined with the demands of a career. Through both impressive research and her own endearingly personal and candid narrative, Grose successfully contends that significant social and political changes are necessary to make the responsibilities demanded of a mother (or a parent in general) far more manageable. –Adrienne Urbanski

SUPERFAN: How Pop Culture Broke My Heart

By Jen Sookfong Lee

(McClelland & Stewart)

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Jen Sookfong Lee has admittedly always had a parasocial relationship with her pop culture faves. Whether it was NKOTB or Ethan Hawke in Dead Poet’s Society, she used her love of entertainment as a way to connect with the world around her. With Superfan, a mixtape-like memoir structured as a series of short essays, the acclaimed Chinese-Canadian novelist unpacks how her celebrity obsessions saved her in the years after she lost her dad to cancer and her mom slid into a deep depression. It was Bob Ross and his happy trees that helped her grieve (“The Artist”), while Anne of Green Gables offered her a “substitute mom” when hers was too far gone to care (“The Orphan”). But those same cultural obsessions from her youth—Princess Diana, The Joy Luck Club—continue to break Lee’s heart today. And it’s in that bittersweet spot between delight and disgust where the best essays in the book lie, the standout being “The Boys on Film,” in which she writes achingly of Asian fetishization and how it’s forced her to reexamine her crush on Say Anything’s Lloyd Dobler. Lee could not be made whole by her pop culture loves, but Superfan proves that she is greater than the sum of her parts. –Shannon Carlin


By Kashana Cauley

(Soft Skull Press)


We might all be survivors, but we’re not all survivalists. That’s the lesson learned the hard way by Aretha, the main character in Kashana Cauley’s debut novel. A high-striving lawyer whose dating life has been a bit underachieving, Aretha thinks everything has changed when she meets Aaron: the chill, dark, and handsome proprietor of the Tactical Coffee roasting company, who also owns his own Brooklyn brownstone, where she might live rent-free—a higher-order survival skill in New York City. The catch: after almost drowning in Hurricane Sandy, Aaron is a bit more serious than she’d like about surviving any potential catastrophe, and his roommates, Brittany and Jordan, are in the full-on bunker-building and gun-stockpiling stage of survivalism. Yet, as a Black millennial woman at a firm that doesn’t want anyone to make partner, Aretha starts thinking her own footing might not be so secure and maybe it could be empowering to break a few laws.

Cauley, a former antitrust lawyer who has written for The Daily Show, knows how to craft a story that is tense, funny as hell, and wise. After all, there’s a difference between living with your fears and living within them. –Rufus Hickok


Stories by Asja Bakić, Translated by Jennifer Zoble

(Feminist Press)


This collection of short stories by Bosnian author Asja Bakić, translated by Jennifer Zoble, is delightfully weird. Blending erotica, science fiction, and horror, Sweetlust asks: how does pleasure, both the pursuit of it and the prevalence of it, devastate us? It must be no accident that this book hits shelves on Valentine’s Day. A series of deviant, mostly female protagonists interrogate the disorienting worlds that revolve around them, and as quickly as you can fall into one of these worlds, Bakić pulls you to the next. In the titular essay, “Sweetlust,” a world without men has led to the construction of an erotic amusement park conglomerate, and some are fighting for its deconstruction. In “1740,” time travel may or may not be a solution to climate change, but it is a great way to escape the consequences—“the future I’m about to irreversibly abandon.” Bakić’s interpretation of abduction is also a standout, both in her Persephone-esque “Fellow’s Gully” and the alien-friendly “The Abduction.” The book closes with a wonderful upending of The Sorrows of Young Werther, waxing on the difference between tenderness and violence. Occasionally disturbing and always intoxicating, Sweetlust is well worth the read, and difficult to put down. –Robyn Smith

Weightless: Making Space for My Resilient Body and Soul

By Evette Dionne



In her triumphant sophomore effort, Evette Dionne, the National Book Award- nominated author of Lifting as We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box, paints a precise, clear picture of what it’s like these days (and in prior days) for Black women of size, and how we all got here. The intro is a good primer of Dionne’s history with her resilient body and what’s to come, which is not a story about eating habits. Instead, “Weightless is an excavation of a culture that hates fat people and uses institutions, including media, medicine, and marriage, to reinforce that repulsion,” she writes. In the following 13-essay collection, Dionne lays out a compelling chronicle of fat shaming. She covers the moment weight became a public issue in her essay “No Country for Fat Kids,” doubles back to getting it on in the steamy “Turn Off the Lights,” then drops us into plane-ride hell in “Back to the Fat Future.” She explains that society is already against people of size before birth and cites everything from First Lady Michelle Obama’s well-intended health initiative Let’s Move, to those crazy first days of AIM, to women of size on TV shows being relegated to mere comic relief with zero interest in sex. The book is as complete a review as has ever been seen on the topic of weight. Eye-opening is one adjective that could be used to describe it—body-affirming is another. –Whitney Dwire

Whorephobia: Strippers on Art, Work and Life

Edited by Lizzie Borden

(Seven Stories)


Filmmaker and writer Lizzie Borden spent decades obtaining essays from both cur- rent and former strippers for this anthology. While their accounts vary significantly, each provides fascinating insight into both the motivations for engaging in this line of work, as well as the positive and negative aspects of their experience. Borden opens the anthology by reflecting upon her own time working in a brothel, the earnings from which she used to fund her feature film, Working Girls, which drew upon her experiences. In an essay by Cookie Mueller, known for acting in John Waters’ movies, the writer says she found the owners of the club where she worked to be exploitative of the dancers and finally hung up her sequined G-string for good when she encountered a possible serial killer as a client. Reese Piper laments that her autism is easier to handle when working as a dancer than it is in her regular life. Each essay is followed by an interview with the author, which provides further insight into their lives. While the experiences of the writers differ, common themes are the importance of worker’s rights, being fairly compensated, and being protected by management. Overall, Whorephobia is an immensely compelling anthology that gives an honest and authentic look at stripping, and challenges many commonly held beliefs about the women employed in these professions. –Adrienne Urbanski

This article originally appeared in BUST’s Winter 2022-2023 print edition. Subscribe today!

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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