The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer
I discovered Wolitzer years ago when The Position first came out and I thought of it as “light reading” at the time, but it stuck with me, and when an author sticks with me, I usually then read everything else they’ve ever written and everything they later write. I haven’t been disappointed. All of Wolitzer’s work is political in some way, but The Female Persuasion is perhaps the most overtly political of all her novels. In the #metoo era, I found it topical, nuanced, and nourishing. This is her best book yet.
Florida, Lauren Groff
As with Wolitzer, I’m a loyal Goff reader. I usually devour her work in one or two bites but this one had me going slowly, I think, in large part because these stories so clearly capture the subjectivities of children in a precarious and ominous environment, and as the mother of two daughters in these dark times, that freaks me out! But at the same time, this book is mythic, haunting, and captivating in a postmodern fairytale kind of way that keeps me thinking about it and keeps me going back for more.
Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata
I’ve been trying to read more international writing by women and in looking for new books, I came across Sayaka Murata’s first translated novel. Convenience Store Woman is an extraordinarily fresh and subversive examination of gender, class, conformity, and social performance that forces us to question our own social norms and conventions, and their capitalist patriarchal underpinnings. Murata’s voice is so strong and idiosyncratic that it transcends translation and makes me want to learn Japanese so that I can read all her work in their original texts.
The Astaires, Kathleen Riley
When I started doing research for a novel that I’m writing with Adele Astaire, the sister of Fred Astaire, as a central character, I quickly discovered that there’s a whole lot of information about Fred and very very little about Adele. This book written by Oxford academic Kathleen Riley, however, is a thorough and full-scale study of the Astaires’ life and partnership that actually does justice to Adele. As Riley was given access to audio recordings of Adele Astaire herself, she was able to allow Adele to tell her own story in a way that makes this a corrective feminist text.
Milk Dress, Nicole Cooley
Both of my poetry collections grapple with the experience of motherhood as both socio-cultural and embodied phenomena to push back explicitly against the mainstream discourse that motherhood is not a subject for serious literary inquiry, so I like to read other sister-poet-warriors who are engaged in the same project. Nicole Cooley is one of those sister-poet-warriors. Although Milk Dress is set in the historical moment following 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, its central preoccupation — motherhood in a time of disaster — is highly relevant today, and her restrained style, which explores identity, subjectivity, ambiguity, and ambivalence feels highly resonant and necessary.