As the world settles firmly into a dystopian hellscape, I find myself thinking more and more of how I might escape our new Orwellian/Atwoodian/literary-adjective-of-your-choice-here reality. Since no legitimate alternative to Earth has yet presented itself (though, fingers crossed, it may soon), I’ve had to settle for more attainable means of escape: solo trips exploring unfamiliar cities, film and television, and of course, books. It’s a personal mission of mine to read more women, and that in mind, here are ten forthcoming titles by women of color to keep you going before the robots destroy us all.
- Lullaby by Leïla Slimani (11 January)
It’s a bit of a rough way to start the year, but the eerie Lullaby (the English translation of Moroccan-born Slimani’s Chanson douce) is a must-read. Released in French in 2016, Lullaby is a psychological thriller exploring the toxically interdependent relationship between a young French couple and their nanny – before they arrive home one day and find she has murdered their children.
Dubbed the “French Gone Girl,” Lullaby borrows from the 2012 Krim murders, where two children were stabbed to death by their nanny in their Upper West Side home. Not an easy read, but the winner of The Goncourt Prize, France’s highest literary honor, is set to be a bestseller once it’s released in English-speaking territories.
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo (16 January)
Editor at Large of The Establishment, Ijeoma Oluo’s first book is an incisive, sometimes humorous take on race in America today. Drawing on her experience as a biracial woman raised by a white single mother, Oluo tackles police brutality, modern black activism, and intersectionality. Beyond just explaining concepts and defining terms, Oluo does the important work of highlighting the necessity of action, of going out and actively pursuing change.
- Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed (16 January)
I’m theoretically an adult, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Young Adult novels, mostly because I wouldn’t be writing this list right now without them. Samira Ahmed disrupts the blindingly beige landscape of YA fiction with Love, Hate, and Other Filters, which follows 17-year-old Maya Aziz, an Indian-American Muslim teen dealing with Islamophobia, while also being the average teen, dreaming of leaving her sleepy suburb behind for New York City. Maya’s story is interwoven with tension-building prose describing an imminent act of terror, and the intermingling of the two create a poignant and “eminently readable” debut.
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (6 February)
I had the tremendous pleasure of seeing Tayari Jones in conversation with Rebecca Carroll at the Well-Read Black Girl Writers’ Conference and Festival in September, and I’ve had 6 February marked in my calendar ever since. When she wasn’t dropping knowledge about motivation as a writer, she was talking about An American Marriage, a novel that follows Roy and Celestial, a newlywed couple torn apart by Roy’s wrongful imprisonment for a crime he didn’t commit. Jones spoke candidly about people’s reactions when their expectations are subverted – this is not a novel about a woman idly “waiting for her man”. When Roy returns home after his conviction is overturned, he finds himself trying to slide back into a life that no longer exists in quite the same way, and that’s where the real drama begins.
Check out an excerpt of the novel here, and before long you’ll see why its topping so many people’s TBR lists.
- Feel Free by Zadie Smith (6 February)
Smith follows up her fifth novel with her second collection of essays, featuring some previously released works (like the classic, “Find Your Beach”) to new, never before published pieces. The book is divided into five sections – In the World, In the Audience, In the Gallery, On the Bookshelf, and Feel Free. It poses and answers questions about being alive in this distinctly mismatched, definitively weird time of social media, a dying planet, and “cultural vandalism.” Smith has shown herself to be a force in literary journalism – even when making somewhat divisive arguments – and Feel Free is likely to be no exception.
- Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (13 February)
Emezi’s much-anticipated debut comes on the heels of her Commonwealth Short Story win with the haunting “Who is Like God,” and the hype is much deserved. Freshwater follows Ada, a young woman with two selves, born with “one foot on the other side.” When a harrowing experience solidifies the two halves, Ada’s life slides into a strange tale that marries Igbo mythology with contemporary America. In her short fiction, Emezi’s prose is sumptuously rendered and richly unique, and it appears the same is true in Freshwater, which has garnered glowing reviews from Booklist and Library Journal. That in mind, it’s no wonder that Daniel José Older hails the book as “a fucking masterpiece” and that it’s made pretty much every single “must-reads in 2018” list to date.
- Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (6 March)
Adeyemi made headlines this March when it was announced that, in a near-seven figure deal, Fox 2000 had acquired the rights for her debut (and the first novel in a trilogy), Children of Blood and Bone. In it, years after a ruthless king ordered the murder of all members of a magical race–among them the mother of Zélie, the teenage protagonist. Zelie now has the opportunity to return magic to Orïsha.
In this West African-inspired fantasy, Zelie and her friend, the defiant Princess Amari, fight against the crown prince to restore the order of things. After reading the first six chapters, it’s clear why Children of Blood and Bone is the most anxiously awaited YA book of 2018.
- Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen (10 April)
After years of working in tech, Anna Yen decided to hit us with the switch up and write her first novel, Sophia of Silicon Valley, drawing heavily from her own experience. Hailed as The Devil Wears Prada of tech industry, the novel follows Sophia, a fresh college graduate sucked into the strange playground-meets-boardroom culture of the male-dominated tech scene. A timely exploration of what it’s like to be the only woman in the room and a woman of colour at that – Sophia of Silicon Valley is a no-brainer for this list.
- Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston (8 May)
This book is the result of extensive interviews with Cudjo Lewis, the last living American slave. Also, it’s by Zora Neale Hurston – enough said.
- A Thousand Beginnings and Endings (26 June)
Compiled by the Ellen Oh and Elise Chapman of We Need Diverse Books, this anthology features retellings of Asian folktales for a YA audience. The authors aren’t all women, but the works of women like Melissa de la Cruz, Alyssa Wong, and Renee Ahdieh make an appearance. Ranging from romantic fantasy to family-driven contemporary dramas, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is shaping up to be a perfect beach read for the new year.