Summer Beach Reads – Year of the Trump Edition

By Landuo Yuan

Whether you’re in Miami, Cancun, or Coney Island, these new and classic works by women of color writers will remind you that in times like these, us girls gotta stick together.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy

The latest work of fiction by Indian writer and political activist Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things), The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a dark story of modern Indian history beginning with the gender-non-conforming protagonist Anjum unrolling a Persian carpet in her graveyard home. Roy approaches fiction writing with rich, dark descriptions of scenes and characters serving twisting plots and highly thoughtful themes reflecting none other than the barest truth of modern society.

Life on Mars – Tracy K. Smith

Her poems have won her a Pulitzer Prize, two Ivy League degrees, and the honorable title of U.S. Poet Laureate. They have also won her the hearts of millions of MTA commuters, lost in the mundane goodness of their hustling lives after reading The Good Life on the walls of a Q train. Life on Mars is a collection of cosmic poetry which spans every twitching thought in the universe from the immortality of Bowie to America’s infamous assailants. Smith’s soft-spoken lines will discreetly hammer through your mind and stay with you beyond the MTA, beyond roast chicken and red wine on payday, beyond stargazing and starman-gazing till the day man decides there shall be life on mars.

The Star Side of Bird Hill: A Novel – Naomi Jackson

Jackson’s debut hit novel follows two exiled sisters from their nurse mother’s small apartment in Brooklyn, New York to their Obeah-practicing grandmother’s home in St. Johns, Barbados. In a matriarchal family, one must learn the ways of being a woman through witnessing heartaches of one’s mother, her mother, and generations of mothers before her. The coming-of-age story set in the summer of 1989 smells of salty Caribbean ocean breeze filled with adrenaline, desire, love, loss, pain, and belonging.

Chemistry – Weike Wang

They say the best stories are the ones dear and close to your heart. In her debut novel, Wang dives into the dilemma-filled life of a Chinese-American Ph.D student who, much like herself, had dedicated most of her life’s work to scientific research under high pressure to succeed from her immigrant parents and the looming destiny of fulfilling a woman’s role – marriage. With a humorous, refreshing voice, Wang’s deeply flawed yet hopeful protagonist undergoes incredible self-growth through exploring her relationship with her boyfriend, her career, and what she truly desires in life.

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf – Ntozake Shange’s

A revolutionary work of feminist theatre consisting of poetic monologues choreographed to music, For Colored Girls… is inspired by events and people in Shange’s life as a black feminist in 1960s and 70s America. The rainbow-colored ladies in her stories represent 7 African American women each suffering from individual trauma. A survivor of several suicide attempts herself, Shange has dedicated her life’s work to empowering women of color, telling genuine stories through a combination of words, movement, rhythm, and intense emotion.

The House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros

The American Book Award winner is a classic coming-of-age tale of leaving where you’re from in search of a better life, only to go back for “the ones you left behind”. In this case, Cisneros’ protagonist is determined to escape from her impoverished, suffocating Latinx neighborhood in the slums of Chicago. Told through a firm yet gentle narrative inspired by Cisneros’ own life, the story explores identity and feminism in the rich context of Latinx Culture and community in urban America.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

Tracing your footsteps through memoir-writing is not always a pleasurable task, especially if you grew up in the segregated South as a little black girl. With incredible imagery and truthful language, Maya Angelou recounts the story of her tumultuous life, how she focused on love and strength she gives and receives as a method to overcome racism and other forms of bigotry to become one of the most-read poets in American history.

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts – Maxine Hong Kingston

Caught between fiction and prose, Maxine Hong Kingston’s captivating memoir loosely based on her mother’s “talk-story” depicts two strong, spiritual female protagonists – the well-known heroine Fa Mulan on a quest to avenge her village, and Kingston’s own mother, a medical school graduate who could fight ghosts. Discussing family, identity, and feminism , The Woman Warrior has been influential to generations of Asian Americans since its publication 40 years ago. One goes back to Kingston’s words again and again to seek strength in familiar maternal characters and their imagined histories.

This Bridge Called My Back – Norma Alarcon, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Toni Cade Bambara. Ana Castillo, Chrystos, Combahee River Collective, Aurora Levins Morales, Audre Lorde, Cherríe Moraga, Rosario Morales, Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, Max Wolf Valerio, Merle Woo, Nellie Wong, Mitsuye Yamada

This epic collection of poems and essays essentially laid the foundation for the third-wave feminism movement, or as we know through social media today, intersectional feminism. Writings still relevant to the fight for women’s rights share experiences of African-American, Latina-American, and Asian-American women as a rallying call for women of color to stand in solidarity with their sisters. As Editor Gloria E. Anzaldúa puts it in her foreword: “Haven’t we always borne jugs of water, children, poverty? Why not learn to bear baskets of hope, love, self-nourishment and to step lightly?”

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