Even if you’re not on board with committing to the exclusion of race-and/or-gender default-positioned writers, you can still commit to more diversity in your reading. I have only included books that I’ve read in this listing. Feel free to add your recommendations as well as weigh in on the ones given below. Please keep in mind that some of these authors may be problematic. Also, I might not be classifying some of them correctly because I don’t have all the racial or sexual identity information for all of them.
Non-Male Queer/LGBT Authors of Color
- The Stars Changeby Mary Ann Mohanraj
Delightfully sexy, Desi-centric, multi-layered, and well-written sci-fi novel. Plus, I can vouch for the author being a pretty cool person.
- Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords (The Kylaran Chronicles Book 1)by Cecelia Tan
A fun bit of BDSM erotica.
- I Can’t Think Straightby Shamim Sharif
The book and the movie about an Arab and a Desi girl falling for each other are both enjoyable if obnoxiously wealthy-centric in places.
- Made in India: Decolonizations, Queer Sexualities, Trans/national Projects (Comparative Feminist Studies)by Suparna Bhaskaran
Fascinating historical and contemporary account of queerness and trans issues on the Subcontinent.
- BITCHfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine
Many of Bitch Magazine’s writers are queer and/or people of color.
- The Mothers of Maya Diip by Suniti Namjoshi
This was the first real feminist novel I ever read as well as the first misandrist-dystopian one.
Non-Male Authors of Color
- Bad Feministby Roxane Gay
Excellent and timely work of non-fiction about the complexities of feminist identity, written in Gay’s typical accessible and intelligent style.
- Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normalby Sana Amanat, G. Willow Wilson, and Adrian Alphona
I initially subscribed to Kamala Khan’s story because I was worried it wouldn’t be profitable enough for Marvel to let it continue. My pessimism was misplaced. Everything about this comic is astoundingly well-done and the series has rocketed to incredible popularity on its merit and relatability. The creator, Sana Amanat, just got a promotion at Marvel because this was so successful. The writer, G. Willow Wilson, is a white convert to Islam and the artist, Adrian Alphona, is a man of color.
- Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels& Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Warsby Sikivu Hutchinson
Both of these are must-reads for anyone concerned with the atheist movement and its intersection with racial justice.
- Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love & Fashionby Virgie Tovar
Virgie is a bad-ass. This anthology contains views from many perspectives: queer, self-accepting, struggling, body image issues, etc.
- Sexual Healing: A Novelby Jill Nelson
A very silly romp of a heterosexual-focused novel, but it’s fun.
- Bharati Mukherjee
Almost anything she’s written is interesting and compelling, although some of her novels get repetitive with their plot devices and storylines. I do advise content notices/trigger warnings all over the place because she writes a lot about sexual assault from a very heart-rendingly personal perspective.
- bell hooks
She is a(n unintentional) hoot on Twitter and is learning when it comes to trans issues, but her works are essential for anyone who cares about feminists of color and womanists.
- Fatima Mernissi
Her wit and non-fiction writing ability are both superb, and she has a lot of good things to say and teach about Moroccan women’s experiences.
- The Complete Persepolisby Marjane Satrapi
Autobiographical graphic novels are my weakness thanks to this series, which is about an Iranian woman’s life journey.
- Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga
One of the more memorable books I read in my African lit course. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young African girl.
- So Long a Letter
Another bit of African lit, this one styled as a letter between a woman and her best friend and dealing with issues like polygyny.
- It Does Not Die: A Romanceby Maitreyi Devi
A white man wrote a book exoticizing and fetishizing her teenage self through a disgusting “mysteries of the Orient” angle (even calling it “Bengal Nights), so she wrote the story from her own perspective and got it published. The lady is an inspiration to me.
- Their Eyes Were Watching Godby Zora Neale Hurston
It’s one of the few classic novels that I think is a classic for a reason. It’s concise and poetic with a compelling narrator.
- Soul Kissby Shay Youngblood
This was the first “dark” YA novel I read. It’s by and about a young woman of color. All the content notices/trigger warnings.
- Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Heeby Meera Syal
Funny and touching story of friendship between British-Indian women.
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Roy is a class activist and rabble-rouser. This is the novel that led her to fame and with good reason.
Non-Male Queer/LGBT Authors
- Tales of the Pack Seriesby Allison Moon
Lesbian werewolf erotica. Need I say more?
- The Price of Saltby Patricia Highsmith
This is a lesbian pulp novel that is being made into a movie. It’s far less sordid than the term “pulp” would have you believe. I found it very realistic and touching.
- Rent Girlby Michelle Tea
Graphic novel account of being a lesbian sex worker with male clients.
- Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive& Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
by Julia Serano
If you need trans, feminism, and trans feminism 101, these are your books.
- Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & Moreby Greta Christina
I wrote a bit of smut for this when it came out. I’ve since re-read the book at least 4 times. It’s good, it’s dirty, and it’s sexy.
- Fat: The Owner’s Manualby Ragen Chastain (also available for pay-what-you-can via her personal website)
An awesome introduction to body acceptance, fat acceptance, and Health at Every Size
- Bitches, Bimbos, and Ballbreakers: The Guerrilla Girls’ Illustrated Guide to Female Stereotypesby the Guerrilla Girls
GG’s feminism is very pop-culture riot-grrl style, and this book reflects that.
- Hanne Blank
I have adored every word she’s ever written. She is awesome at every topic she considers.
- Alison Bechdel
The Bechdel Test isn’t the only thing she’s done. Her graphic novel work is excellent.
- Am I Blue?: Coming Out from the Silence
This YA anthology was the first bit of queer reading I ever did. It shows its age but I think it’s still worth a look.
- Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafeby Fannie Flagg
The book is even gayer than the movie. Seriously.
- Indexingby Seanan McGuire
This is a great fantasy novel about a world where fairy tale tropes are real.
- The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammadby Lesley Hazleton
A good and fairly-balanced look at Muhammad’s life
- Howl’s Moving Castleby Diana Wynne Jones
The book is darker and less compassionate to Howl than the movie.
- Coming Clean: A Memoirby Kimberly Rae Miller
Compelling biographical work by the child of hoarders.
- X: The Erotic Treasuryedited by Susie Bright
Most of the stories in this are more disturbing than titillating. Seasoned Internet user that I am, I’m still haunted by one of them.
- The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Childrenby Katherine Stewart
If you want to be enraged about eroding church-state separation, this is for you.
- Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoirby Ellen Forney
Excellent autobiographical graphic novel account of mental illness.
- Room: A Novelby Emma Donoghue
One of the few books I’ve read lately that I honestly couldn’t put down. Trigger warning/content notice.
- Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliensby Susan A. Clancy
Clancy is personally a skeptic about alien abductions but she treats those who believe they do with respect and humanity. The book is a fascinating look at their perspectives.
- The Search for Philip K. Dickby Anne R. Dick
As much as I love his fiction, Dick was…. a dick, and this book is about why.
- An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madnessby Kay Redfield Jamison
Well-written autobiographical work on mental illness.
- The Sex Club (A Detective Jackson Mystery Book 1)by L. J. Sellers
This is a crime novel about an abortion clinic bombing. Much less salacious than the title would have you believe.
- Praise Jerusalem!: A Novelby Augusta Trobaugh
I like Southern novels about female friendships, and this one is funny and well-written.
- Witness for the Defense: The Accused, the Eyewitness and the Expert Who Puts Memory on Trialby Elizabeth Loftus
This book completely changed the way I think about memory and eyewitness testimony using science.
- Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
This novel is about a beyond fucked-up family of literal circus freaks.
- A Brother’s Priceby Wen Spencer
Another misandrist-dystopian sci-fi book. This one is set in a world where men are rare and so fetch a lot of money when sold.
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacksby Rebecca Skloot
If you care at all about science and ethics, read this. Eugenics is not some distant thing that only Nazis did or a long-ago thing in American history.
- Barbara Ehrenreich
She has written on a wide variety of topics and I’ve never read something by her that I didn’t like.
- This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctorby Susan Wicklund & Alex Kesselheim
A personal account that serves as an important part of the contemporary American history of reproductive justice.
- Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women Are Transforming the Middle East by Isobel Coleman
Anyone who thinks that women are uniformly subjugated and aren’t working for their rights in the Middle East is wrong. This proves it.
- Click: When We Knew We Were Feministsedited by J. Courtney Sullivan & Courtney E. Martin
Who doesn’t like a little feminist navel-gazing from time to time?
- Wifework: What Marriage Really Means for Womenby Susan Maushart
To all those MGTOWs who think that marriage is a trap for men that benefits women, here are some statistics proving them wrong.
- Jane Yolen
She has a real gift for retelling old tales in contemporary and fantastical ways.
- Francesca Lia Block
Her writings about LA are magical-realism and fantasy -tinged. I enjoy her depictions of female friendships quite a bit.
- Stephanie Coontz
She’s an accomplished historical myth-buster, especially on the topic of marriage.
- Ritual of Proofby Dara Joy
Yet another misandrist-dystopian sci-fi book, and another where men are rare, but in this one, the twist is that cis men have a “hymen” of sorts.
- Not in Front of the Children: ‘Indecency,’ Censorship, and the Innocence of Youthby Marjorie Heins
An interesting overview of contemporary American censorship. This book inspired me to teach a class on philosophy and censorship when I was an undergraduate student.
- Gathering Blueby Lois Lowry
We all know The Giver, but Lowry’s follow-up centers around a young woman.
- The Thirty-Third Marriage of Donia Nourby H.Z. Ilmi
One of the best things I’ve read in my life, no joke. It’s a snarky and clever and interesting sci-fi novel about aliens, Islamism, atheism, and gender issues.
- The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancerby Siddhartha Mukherjee
Historical and contemporary account of cancer as a disease and phenomenon.
- The City of Devi: A Novelby Manil Suri
Sci-fi/dystopian work set in India.
- Someone Knows My Name: A Novelby Lawrence Hill
This was called “The Book of Negroes” in its native Canada and is about a slave in North America.
- The Reluctant Fundamentalistby Mohsin Hamid
A fascinating novel on Islamism and Muslim experiences in the West.
- The Ground Beneath Her Feet: A Novelby Salman Rushdie
With all due respect, Rushdie is something of a Male Novelist™. This book is the least Male-Novelist-y of his works that I’ve read and is an enjoyable retelling of the Orpheus myth through the lens of Bollywood.
- Twenty Three Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammadby Ali Dashti
An Iranian freethinker’s account of Muhammad’s life.
- A Suitable Boyby Vikram Seth
Sweeping family saga (aka doorstop) of a novel, but full of very vivid characters.
- The Lonely Londoners
Short novel about African immigrant experience in England.
The satire on African politics is wickedly good.
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley
A must-read slice of American history.
- Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
A more skeptical look at Malcolm X’s life from a scholar who devoted decades of his life to compiling evidence.
- Saga, Vol. 1by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
While the writer for this sci-fi comic is a man, the artist is a woman. Plus, it depicts people of color and aliens having awesome and weird sex and living their lives. There’s a lot of humor and raunch and heart to Saga.
- Zeitoun& What is the Whatby Dave Eggars
In the former, Eggars covers the story of an Arab man wrongfully accused of terrorism and imprisoned in the wake of Hurricane Katrina all because he helped save people from the flooding (no exaggeration there). The latter is about the life of a former refugee from Africa who now lives in the US.
- Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, History, and Literatureedited by Will Roscoe & Stephen O. Murray
This book lays waste to the myth that being a queer/LGBT Muslim is or has ever been an oxymoron.
- Muhammad and the Golden Bough: Reconstructing Arabian Mythby Jaroslav Stetkevych
There’s very little we know about pre-Islamic Arabia, but this book has a lot about the topic.
- Sixteen: Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults
Some of the authors in this YA anthology are women. It shows its age but contains one of my favorite speculative fiction stories ever, about a world where sex and opinion-sharing are swapped in terms of taboos.
Clicking the above links might lead to a little Amazon credit for me. Consider that I spent 5 hours compiling this list.
23 thoughts on “Diversifying Your Reading: Non-Male & Non-White Author Recommendations”
I recommend “Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution” by Shiri Eisner. Eisner’s a bi genderqueer Mizrahi. Plus they’re awesome!
Another great one I read recently is “Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink and Blue” by the late great Leslie Feinberg. Ze was white, though, so not sure if that counts.
Thanks for doing all this work, Heina! I’ll try to look at some of these.
I’ve got a good one who isn’t on your list. For sf-lovers, check out Nalo Hopkinson (I went to Clarion with her a long time ago). She’s published quite a few excellent fantasy and sf novels, as well as edited a few anthologies of Caribbean fiction. I know she deals positively with LGBT themes in her work — not sure how she identifies personally these days. Many of her works focus on balancing between two worlds.
Check out Zadie Smith while you’re at it.
Can I rec 3 fantasy novels?
Sing the FourQuarters by Tanya Huff? not only is the author a queer woman, but many of her characters are too. it’s really really really good. Also funny!
Also: The Door Into Fire by Diane Duane. Female author. The majority of the protagonists aren’t straight. Really good.
Also: The Hundeed Thousand Kingdoms by N K Jemison. Female author of color, one of *The Best* things I’ve read in the last few years.
This is hard. Just a few favorites then. None of these books are vetted for utmost political correctness on all fronts…
Alain Mabanckou, esp. Tales of the Porcupine (Congo, male)
Abdourahman Waberi, I liked The United States of Africa, but hear that Passage of Tears may be even better (Djibouti, male)
I read several slave narratives last year, my favorite will always be Olaudah Equiano, but the one by William and Ellen Craft is very interesting. There are others by women. N.B they vary as to how ghost written they are and how obvious this is made to the reader.
Hari Kunzru – Gods Without Men, (British (south) Asian heritage)
Keri Hulme – The Bone People (unmissable classic – Maori, woman)
Doris Pilkington – Rabbit Proof Fence (Aboriginal Australian, woman, also classic)
I’m currently reading Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider. (Maori, male)
PS I liked Mohanraj too, but that one’s already included.
I have to mention British author Jeanette Winterson, even though it’s been years since I read any of her work. (lesbian)
I don’t read as much non-fiction but I like Susan Sontag and Hannah Arendt. Would like to get through Naomi Klein but can’t for some reason. Rachel Carson, obviously. My guilty pleasure is Mary Daly. Oh, and Alexandra David Neel, if you can stand the Great White (female) Explorer thing.
Cool reading list, btw. I’m mentally adding a couple to my to-read list. I’ll try to remember to swing by and click from here.
I would love The Good News Club, if that is okay.
It is yours.
I would definitely recommend The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I also read a couple Octavia Butler books, including Kindred, which is her most popular book, and Fledgling, which is, well, interesting.
My mother has a doctorate in women’s literature, so I should probably be able to recount some more off the top of my head.
For anyone reading manga who is considering this challenge, don’t think most manga is going to work for it. Japanese men are the most privileged group in Japan, so something they produce from that position of comfort (manga and media made in Japan) will reflect the most privilege-blind position they have to offer. Much manga is spectacularly sexist and rape-happy. Even almost universally lauded authors used fairly disgusting rape tropes in their most well-regarded work.
Work by Japanese Americans, on the other hand, fits the bill. Also, there are a lot of Japanese ladies making manga. In their stuff, you’ll still find some exploitative content, body shaming, slut shaming, etc., but no more so than fiction by American women. And it’s a very diverse range of content, so you’d have no trouble reading nothing but lady manga artists for two years.
For those who like Fantasy and SF, I’ll toss in (in no particular order) Lauren Beukes, N.K. Jemisin, Amanda Downum, Liz Williams, Elizabeth Moon, Tanya Huff, and Seanan McGuire.
I’ve definitely read more female authors as an adult. But that’s mainly due to my obsession with trashy lesbian novels. I also try to prioritize those by people of color when I find them (they go toward the top of the list). Excluding that it’s teen and sci-fi and fantasy. In those it’s definitely favoring white authors (by a huge margin), and I think gender is maybe 5050.
Ascension (her only book, but it’s apparently going to be a series) a Sci-fi novel featuring a black lesbian protagonist with poly themes. The main story is kinda standardish, but it’s told really well and the details are unique. Also, the cast suffer from “quirky space crew syndrome,” but it’s not too distracting.
She’s a teen novelist with lots of lesbianbi themes in her books. She wrote the Cinderella re-imagining, Ash and its companion Huntress. She also has a sci fi series.
Tell Me How A Crush Should Feel (Teen novel) Persian-American lesbian coming of age story. It’s really cute and funny.
Heina, I was wondering if you had read that Ms. Marvel book, and what you thought of it. I enjoyed it, too. And thanks for this list.
Also, did you know that your blog-neighbor Aoife is doing something similar with her reading this year? Check out http://freethoughtblogs.com/teacosy/2015/01/03/an-actual-resolution-no-more-white-men/ . There are many recommendations by commenters, too.
That’s awesome on both counts.
Dale over at Mad Art Lab and I had a conversation when the second issue of Ms. Marvel came out: http://madartlab.com/msmarvel2/
Is this another blog where I don’t make my first comment until the author talks about books? If I am a first time commentator, hi!
I was lucky enough to receive a book spa experience as a gift so last month, I spent a couple of hours sat in a lovely independent bookshop talking through books I enjoyed before being presented with a stack of books I’d never previously have found. Several of them would fit your criteria, and may be of interest – I’d possibly pick out the following from my list:
A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki/The Garden of Evening Mists – Tan Twang Eng – NB, not read either of these 2 yet but they come really highly recommended and are as far as I know the 2 non-white authors on the list (a Japanese-American woman who divides her time between Canada and America, and a Malaysian man who divides his time between Malaysia and South Africa). Unfortunately, having looked him up to see if he qualifies, he doesn’t, but I’m really looking forward to reading The City and The City, by China Mieville and I just found this interview with him which I think might contain some relevant comments – https://www.goodreads.com/interviews/show/38.China_Mi_ville – that make me even more keen to read the book.
1222 – Anne Holt. This one is translated from Norwegian and gives you a slightly Agatha Christie-esque mystery story, if Miss Marple were a 50 year old Norwegian paraplegic lesbian with a Muslim wife (of Turkish origin) and a good grasp of domestic and international politics. I really enjoyed it, and am keen to read more by this author.
Butterflies in November – Audur Ava Olafsdottir. Translated from Icelandic and set in the middle of winter. The mental impact of almost permanent darkness is really well described. A translator runs over a goose and gets dumped twice in the same day, which sort of ultimately leads to her taking a road trip around Iceland’s circular ringroad with her best friend’s deaf-mute 4 year old son.
And Deathless, by Catherynne M Valente – I totally and utterly adored this one and the book hangover when I finished it lasted several days – all the way through the next book on my reading pile. Blends Russian history and folklore in a buildup to the Siege of Leningrad. When I finished it, I was stunned and slightly heartbroken that it was over, and I sat there stroking the cover while writing 2 1/2 incoherent pages of a letter telling a friend that they had to read it. It almost felt like the book had a heartbeat. The reviews of this one either seem to love it, or hate the author for daring to write about Russian folklore without herself being Russian (she first heard the stories from her husband and his family) so there are accusations of cultural appropriation – personally I take the view that if an author only ever wrote about exactly their experiences, literature would be quite dull, and I think she did it well enough that I’ll be putting in the effort to learn more about the original material behind the inspiration, so this doesn’t worry me so much in this case, but understand other people feel differently – just thought you’d like the warning.
I’ve also been getting quite interested in Elizabeth Gaskell recently. She was a contemporary of the Brontes and the daughter and wife of Unitarian ministers, but her social commentary is like nothing you’d expect from a middle class Victorian woman. I was surprised by how gritty Mary Barton was – in it, she talked about textile mills, the effects of grinding poverty on the psyche, unions and strike breaking, opium, murder and prostitution. It really wasn’t what I expected from the author of Cranford! I really don’t see the BBC turning this one into a Sunday night costume drama!
Achak Deng (a real person, the protagonist of What is the What by Dave Eggers) was never a child soldier; he was one of the “Lost Boys” of the Sudanese civil war and basically grew up in refugee camps in Ethiopia after traveling hundreds of miles on foot with a band of children. As of the end of the book, he was living in the US, and I presume he still does. I quite enjoyed the book.
Thanks for the list!
Thanks! I guess I misremembered. I’ll correct that.
I’d very much like the copy of Hot & Heavy.
Also, Seanan McGuire also writes interesting horror novels under the name Mira Grant.
It’s yours. I’ll be in touch.
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Recommendation: I just finished the audio book version of Ru Freeman’s “A Disobedient Girl” and love love LOVED every minute of it. Narrator Anne Flosnik is amazingly talented. Freeman is a Sri Lankan woman, and her imagery is astoundingly beautiful, her characters deep and complex, and their observations on life as women are heartbreaking and ring true universally. TW: DV
Already on my list, woot! Great minds.