In honour of international women’s day, I decided to have a look at some queer women of colour writers and get excited about books I’ve read, and some that are coming up on my to-read list. Here are five women I’m especially eager to (re)read. I’m hoping that you haven’t heard of some of them or maybe just haven’t got around to reading them yet, and you need a reminder. Pick up one of their books at the library or a (virtual or bricks-and-mortar) bookstore near you today!
Ryka Aoki is one of those artists who does so many things you just don’t know how she fits it all in: she’s a writer, performer, and educator (of literature, queer studies, and martial arts!). Her latest book, He Mele A Hilo, came out last year from Topside Press and is set in Aoki’s native Hawaii. Check out this amazing video of her reading from the novel. I love how she reads the Hawaiian vernacular in the dialogue—it’s just something I can’t create while reading by myself, even in my head. You will be scrambling to buy the book after seeing this clip, trust me. Also, if you’re not already convinced, you can read her brand new story “Falafel” for free here. If you’re more into poetry than fiction, Aoki also has a Lambda-nominated collection of poetry, Seasonal Velocities, that you can buy here.
Dane Figueroa Edidi’s work was recommended to me by Tom Leger of Topside Press (thanks Tom!), and I was super excited to find out about her book Yemaya’s Daughters, which sounds like a beautiful, mythological tale of two women both engaged in spiritual revolutions while trying to preserve themselves amidst the chaos. You can hear Edidi reading from the book here, where I’m sure you’ll be convinced to order the book like I was. I’m really interested to see how the book goes further into spirituality, since it’s not something I read about a lot, and almost never in a trans and/or queer context. Edidi also has a new book in the works, Brew, about a teenage trans witch, and it’s the first in an amazingly titled series called Ghetto Goddesses. You can get a deal on the site if you buy Yemaya’s Daughters and pre-order Brew at the same time! What are you waiting for?
Hiromi Goto is a BC writer with talents in many forms: she’s written poetry, children’s and young adult books, adult historical novels, and done collaborative graphic novels with Jillian Tamaki (of Skim fame with her cousin Mariko Tamaki). Goto also dabbles in different genres, including fantasy in her latest young adult duology Half World and Darkest Light which draws on Japanese mythology and features loner teens, accompanied by a cat and helped along by queer elders, on a journey into Half World, a limbo between our world and the afterlife. If science fiction for adults is more your style, try her James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award for Science Fiction winning novel The Kappa Child, a Japanese-Canadian prairie tale that features “the Kappa Child, a mythical creature who blesses those who can imagine its magic.”
Achy Obejas is another multi-talented woman who is a translator, as well as a writer of fiction, poetry, and journalism. She’s Cuban-American and her cultural and linguistic background informs a lot of her work, including journalism like this piece about what the US and Cuba re-establishing diplomatic ties means for Cuban-Americans and in novels like Memory Mambo and Days of Awe, which both feature non-monosexual Cuban-American women (Days of Awe also investigates Jewish identity). I read Memory Mambo years ago and although I don’t remember that much about it, I do know I loved loved loved it. Her writing is really gorgeous, and an interesting mix of fiction, history, and memoir.
Okay, so maybe you’ve heard of Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. But have you read her work, poetry and non-fiction? Did you know she has a new poetry collection, her third, coming out this month, called Bodymap? It’s a look at disability through a queer femme of colour perspective, and Amber Dawn has this to say about it: “Sharp, yet remarkably compassionate, Piepzna-Samarasinha knows that the poem is no place for tidy inquiry and easy answers. She offers her own tenacious guts and veins on each and every page.” I am super excited to read my review copy. You can pre-order Bodymap here. Not only is Piepzna-Samarasinha releasing a book of poetry this year, her first memoir, Dirty River, is being published in the fall by Vancouver’s Arsenal Pulp Press. This is certainly a good year for her.
Readers, what other queer women of colour do you recommend?