This year, I’ve rounded up 7 amazing beach reads from women of color that I think make the perfect escape. Because as parents, we know that our lying-by-the-pool time is sorely limited, and it’s important to choose something we’ll love.
We also think it’s important to specifically seek out and support the work of women authors and authors of color overall, so that more of their excellent work can be published, more of their voices heard.
While this is a decidedly abbreviated list of all the incredible books out in 2018 from diverse women authors, I think al 7 of these books are worth your time if you want to stay woke, indulge in some me-time, laugh, cry, or get inspired. Sometimes all at once.
Here’s to making the most of our (unfortunately not) endless summer.
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An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
You may have heard some buzz about Tayari Jones recently, thanks to the podcast Atlanta Monster, which was inspired by her chilling true-crime 2002 novel, Leaving Atlanta. If you’ve already read that, you probably won’t need my urging to get your hands on Jones’s new novel, An American Marriage. It relates similar themes around race, justice, and marriage, and it couldn’t have come at a more important time. The reviews are spectacular, it’s been lauded by authors as diverse as Jacqueline Woodson, Michael Chabon, and Tom Perotta –and hey, it’s an Oprah book club selection. I bet you won’t be able to put it down, even as the sun sets on the beach. Pack extra snacks.
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
If there’s a big literary hole in your browser history, get excited, because former The Toast contributor Jasmine Guillory has penned an instant best-selling novel earlier this year, and it is fluffy, must-read, rom-com perfection. The plot revolves around a chance meeting between two strangers in an elevator who decide to attend a wedding together. What could happen next? A great escape from the children, is what I’m thinking.
Erotic stories for Punjabi widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
To me, this story is what modern beach reads should be: Funny, fun, a little fluffy, a little dark, and a lot enlightening. it’s a cross-cultural novel about a twenty-something Sikh immigrant bartending in London who winds up inadvertently teaching older Sikh women creative writing. It turns out that even the most conservative among them hide an erotic side, and have just been waiting for a way to find an outlet for it.
Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over by Nell Painter
Nell Painter was teaching as a professor emeritus at Princeton when she reached retirement age, but instead of calling it a day and moving to Florida, she decided to pursue art, as she describes in this memoir. After completing a Bachelor’s Degree and then an MFA while in her 60s, she’s now a successful visual artist making provocative Trump-era pieces you’ll want to check out, especially after reading Old in Art School. If you’re one of the many women considering a career change post-baby (or just because), Painter’s story could provide the encouragement you need.
The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
Whether you’re stretched out on your folding chair in a teeny bikini or a full cover-up, I can’t think of a better beach companion than this motivational book about radical self-love from poet, performer, activist and exquisite author Sonya Renee Taylor. And not just because of its gorgeous and eye-catching cover, which is sure to spark some interesting conversations. Sonya’s license to be exactly how you are is such a crucial message for all women to hear, and she really helps readers understand how self worth is impacted by so many external factors, from capitalism to a body-shaming culture. The comments on Amazon from readers who claim it entirely changed the way they look at and care for themselves are just remarkable. I can’t wait to add this one to my summer book list — and my self-care routine.
Okay, so a book about pregnancy and childbirth in all their gritty detail may not sound like your idea of a beach read, but hear me out. Food writer Angela Garbes wrote a viral article about why breastmilk is so amazing, which spurred her to take an investigative look at the biology of motherhood. Her goal? Putting the (totally fascinating) science in the hands of moms so we can make their own decisions, rather than admonishing us to follow culturally-prescribed, and often conflicting guidelines. I love that NPR’s Fresh Air described, “You don’t have to be a mother or even a woman to be fascinated by the science and physiology that Garbes writes about.” Add this one to the nonfiction pile, stat.
Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee
If you’ve ever struggled with boundaries — when to help and how much — Everything Here is Beautiful is the novel you’ll want to start reading today. Mira T. Lee poses this very question in her much-lauded first novel, as she portrays a relationship between a younger, headstrong woman and her older sister who cleans up her messes. This story about love, family, and complex relationships is for anyone who loves discovering fresh voices in literary fiction.
This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins
I’m a big fan of the writing of Roxane Gay, especially Bad Feminist, so I was stoked to learn about Morgan Jerkins, a fast-rising 20-something literary star who has penned a collection of new essays about black womanhood, feminism, pop culture, and black history. This Will Be My Undoing: Living At the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America, as you might guess from the subtitle, is a series of insightful, honest, deeply revealing personal essays about intersectionality and identity as a Black woman in America in 2018. Whatever your race, gender or background, I can’t imagine you won’t come away from this book more enilghtened, inspired — and even hopeful. Above all, I imagine you’ll be eagerly awaiting whatever Jerkins comes out with next.