Beach Reading to Defeat the Patriarchy
July 1, 2024 6:25 AM   Subscribe

“In publishing, the term used to refer to the blockbuster books published in summer... Over time, the term ‘beach read’ began to describe a certain type of book... Many times these books can be classified as ‘women’s fiction’: romance, domestic psychological thrillers, or contemporary novels featuring female characters. The term is dripping with sexist assumptions about what women read and the books women authors write. It’s a logical leap in a patriarchal society: books by women, about women, are more likely to be considered ‘light reading.’” – from Book Riot’s What Makes a Book a Beach Read? Accordingly, here are some small press books by women, about women, including Become Ungovernable, Feminism against Cisness, On Strike Against God, and 25 more.

All Our Trials: Prisons, Policing, and the Feminist Fight to End Violence by Emily L. Thuma (Haymarket Books, Revised Edition 12 Nov 2024): A vital history of organizing within and beyond the walls of women’s prisons in the 1970s, illuminating a crucial chapter in today’s abolition feminist struggles. (Amazon; Bookshop; order directly from the publisher for 40% off this summer.)

An Astonishment of Stars: Stories by Kirti Bhadresa (ECW Press, 1 Oct 2024): A beautifully written short story collection that charts the lives of racialized women as they navigate their relationships, aspirations, and the burdens of memory and expectations. (Amazon; Bookshop)

Become Ungovernable: An Abolition Feminist Ethic for Democratic Living by H.L.T. Quan (Pluto Press, 20 Feb 2024): A sweeping, magisterial work of abolitionist feminist political theory. (Amazon; Bookshop)

Clever Girl: Jurassic Park by Hannah McGregor (ECW Press, 1 Oct 2024): A smart and incisive exploration of everyone’s favorite dinosaur movie and the female dinosaurs who embody what it means to be angry, monstrous, and free. (Amazon; Bookshop)

Cloud Missives by Kenzie Allen (Tin House, 20 Aug 2024): Each poem examines a mystery. Each poem has its own Indigeneity. Each poem is its own cloud missive. (Amazon; Bookshop)

Feminism against Cisness edited by Emma Heaney (Duke UP, May 2024): The future of feminist historical, theoretical, and political thought freed from the fallacy that assigned sex determines sexed experience. (Amazon; Bookshop)

Fighting Mad: Resisting the End of Roe v. Wade ed. by Krystale E. Littlejohn and Rickie Solinger (University of California Press, 19 Mar 2024): A fierce and galvanizing reminder that resistance is everywhere in the fight for abortion and reproductive justice in the United States. (Amazon; Bookshop)

From Savagery by Alejandra Banca, trans. Katie Brown (Restless Books, 27 Aug 2024): Electric, defiant, and singing with melancholia, Alejandra Banca’s devastating debut throws its arms around a displaced generation of young Venezuelan migrants, reveling in the clamor and beauty of their day-by-day survival. In this English PEN Award-winning translation by Katie Brown, From Savagery announces Alejandra Banca as a resplendent and masterful new voice in Latin American literature. (Amazon; Bookshop)

Girlfriends: Stories by Emily Zhou (Littlepuss Press, 17 Oct 2023): A finalist for the 2024 Lambda Literary Awards’s Transgender Fiction Prize, featuring “realist short stories mostly about trans women in their early to mid twenties.” (Amazon; Bookshop)

Grace and Marigold by Mira Robertson (Spinifex Press, 6 Aug 2024): It’s 1974 when 20-year-old Grace arrives in London determined to shrug off her Australian past and reinvent herself. While embracing her new life in the Free Republic of Beltonia, a street of communal squats, she’s haunted by the unbearable thought that she might be a lesbian – a fate she considers almost worse than death. Before long, she falls (secretly) in love with Marigold, upper class, enigmatic and avowedly straight. When Marigold mysteriously disappears without a trace, the search for her leads Grace to a life-changing epiphany. (Amazon)

Greasepaint by Hannah Levene (Nightboat Books, 13 Feb 2024): Set against a backdrop of 1950s New York, this experimental novel follows an ensemble cast of all singing, all dancing butch dykes and Yiddish anarchists through eternal Friday nights, around the table and at the bar. (Amazon)

I’ll Give You a Reason by Annell López (Feminist Press, 9 Apr 2024): A shimmering debut story collection intimately exploring race, identity, and the pursuit of the American Dream. (Amazon; Bookshop)

Jellyfish Have No Ears by Adèle Rosenfeld, trans. Jeffrey Zuckerman (Graywolf, 6 Aug 2024): Since she was little, Louise has been not quite hearing and not quite deaf—her life with this invisible disability has been one of in-betweenness. After an audiology test shows that almost all her hearing is gone, her doctor suggests getting a cochlear implant. The operation will be irreversible, making the decision all the more fraught. The technology would give Louise a new sense of hearing—but it would be at the expense of her natural hearing, which, for all its weakness, has shaped her unique relationship with the world, full of whispers and shadows. (Amazon; Bookshop)

Let This Radicalize You: Organizing and the Revolution of Reciprocal Care by Kelly Hayes and Mariame Kaba (Haymarket Books, May 2023): What fuels and sustains activism and organizing when it feels like our worlds are collapsing? A practical and imaginative resource for activists and organizers building power in an era of destabilization and catastrophe. (Amazon; Bookshop; order directly from the publisher for 40% off this summer.)

Loving Corrections by adrienne maree brown (AK Press, 20 Aug 2024): New York Times-bestselling author adrienne maree brown knows we need each other more than ever, and offers "loving corrections": a roadmap towards collective power, righting wrongs, and true belonging. (Amazon; Bookshop)

Monster by Jowita Bydlowska (Anvil Press, 1 Sept 2024): From the bestselling author of Drunk Mom and Possessed comes a mesmerizing, brave new work of autofiction. Monster is a shattering, feminist manifesto exploring sexual awakening, motherhood, immigrant trauma, and the power of female rage.

On Strike Against God by Joanna Russ (Feminist Press, 23 July 2024): A lost feminist masterwork by a speculative fiction icon about a lesbian’s coming-to-consciousness during the social upheaval of the 1970s. (Amazon; Bookshop)

Planked by the Abyss by Meg Tuite (Whiskey Tit, 22 July 2024): A compelling short story collection "not only like reading something completely different, but like reading for the first time. " (Amazon)

The Rage Letters by Valérie Bah, trans. Kama La Mackerel (Metonymy Press, 21 Nov 2023): Short stories which playfully trace the portrait of the intertwined lives of a group of Black queer and trans friends as they navigate the social violence, traumas, and contradictions of their circumstances. A finalist for the 2024 Lambda Literary Awards’s Transgender Fiction Prize. (Amazon; Bookshop)

The Theme Park of Women’s Bodies by Maggie Cooper (Bull City Press, 17 Sept 2024): Fierce, fabulist stories provide a tour of worlds built by, for, or around women. By turns darkly satirical to almost utopian. (Amazon)

Tongueless by Lau Yee-Wa, trans. Jennifer Feeley (Feminist Press, 11 Jun 2024): Sharp, darkly humorous, and politically pointed, Tongueless presciently engages with current political tensions in Hong Kong. Winner of the 2024 PEN Translates Award. (Amazon; Bookshop)

Trash by Sylvia Aguilar Zéleny, trans. JD Pluecker (Deep Vellum, 21 Mar 2023): A finalist for the 2024 Lambda Literary Awards’s Transgender Fiction Prize which “interweaves the experiences and voices of three very different women whose life or work moves around the municipal dumpsite of Ciudad Juárez, México.” (Amazon; Bookshop)

Vladivostock Circus by Elisa Shua Dusapin (Open Letter Books, 14 May 2024): Nathalie arrives at the circus in Vladivostok, Russia, fresh out of fashion school in Geneva. She is there to design the costumes for a trio of artists who are due to perform one of the most dangerous acts of all: the Russian Bar. From the winner of the 2021 National Book Award for Translated Literature. (Amazon; Bookshop)

Wild Geese by Soula Emmanuel (Feminist Press, 12 Sept 2023): Phoebe, who has moved from Dublin to Copenhagen, is visited by Grace, her ex from before her transition, who shows up unexpectedly at her door. A finalist for the 2024 Lambda Literary Awards’s Transgender Fiction Prize. (Amazon; Bookshop)

A Witch’s Guide to Burning by Aminder Dhaliwal (Drawn and Quarterly, 28 May 2024): A blend of prose and comics, this is an adventure story and a whimsical and humorous allegory for burnout in a society in desperate need of self-care. (Amazon; Bookshop)

Woman, Life, Freedom by Marjane Satrapi, trans. Una Dimitrijevic (Seven Stories Press, 19 Mar 2024): An urgent, groundbreaking and visually stunning new collection of graphic story-telling about the present Iranian revolution from Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis. (Amazon; Bookshop)

A Woman’s Life Is a Human Life: My Mother, Our Neighbor, and the Journey from Reproductive Rights to Reproductive Justice by Felicia Kornbluh (Grove Press, 16 Jan 2024): Hailed as “the first real chronicle of the reproductive rights movement of the past sixty years” (Linda Gordon, University Professor of History, NYU), A Woman’s Life Is a Human Life delivers the untold story of everyday activists who won resounding victories in demanding bodily and reproductive autonomy—a history that resonates all the more powerfully today. (Amazon; Bookshop)

Wrong is Not My Name: Notes on (Black) Art by Erica N. Cardwell (Feminist Press, 12 Mar 2024): A dazzling hybrid of personal memoir and criticism, considering the work of Black visual artists as a means to explore loss, legacy, and the reclamation of life through art. (Amazon; Bookshop)

Previous roundups: 1 (Juneteenth), 2 (Pride), 3 (no theme), 4 (challenging work), and 5 (no theme).
posted by joannemerriam (8 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Yesss thank you! The rest of my summer is going to be spent not at the beach, but at Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, and I have been meaning to stock up on books with ideas as big as the landscape and maybe a bit of a middle finger to Utah's prevailing culture.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:00 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]

On Strike Against God is just amazing, and was unfortunately very very relatable to me as a woman who took a long time to figure out my sexuality. I love Joanna Russ so much.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:28 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]

What a great post. I've read one book in the last two years (Harlem Shuffle), but I'll pick (at least) one from this list and start it soon.
posted by Gorgik at 9:05 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]

Great post, thanks for letting me know about all these interesting books.
posted by rpfields at 9:22 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]

I see some things that definitely belong on my to-read list. Thanks for a great post!
posted by gentlyepigrams at 12:01 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]

This sequence of small-press posts is such a generous gift, joannemerriam. Thank you.
posted by away for regrooving at 2:55 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]

Mod note: [Thanks, joannemerriam! This post has been added to the sidebar and Best Of blog.]
posted by taz (staff) at 1:52 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]

This is a great post!! Thank you for collecting all these to share.
posted by hepta at 1:09 PM on July 11

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