Hi book lovers! As Bitch’s new Senior Editor, I’m taking over Evette Dionne’s fantastic BitchReads column. Though summer is coming to an end, the publishing world is greeting the fall with some must-read titles, and our September list has great reads of all kinds, including Gabrielle Union’s essay collection, two compelling analyses of how the law fails survivors of sexual violence, and a family saga steeped in magical realism. Happy reading!
Every book recommendation in this list comes from a Bitch Media editor with complete editorial independence. However, Bitch Media is an affiliate of Bookshop.org, and we want to make sure you know that a small percentage of any books you click through and purchase will come back to Bitch as a commission. Bookshop.org does not ship internationally.
Running a Bachelor-like reality show, Dev Deshpande thinks he knows how a love story goes—until he meets the show’s new star, Charlie Winshaw. Though Dev is tasked with scripting the perfect swoon for TV, he soon realizes that Charlie isn’t interested in courting Megan the spray-tan technician or Whitney the pediatric nurse. Behind the camera, we follow Charlie and Dev as they go off-script. On the surface, it’s a delightful queer rom-com complete with a meet-cute, will-they-won’t-they tension, and a happy ending. Beneath the sweetness, Alison Cochrun layers in the complicated realities of falling in love amid workplace drama, mental-health struggles, and the pressure to follow through with a heteronormative storyline.
Zoraida Córdova is familiar with magical women. Brooklyn Brujas, her hit trilogy about three witch sisters, captivated YA readers; her new title, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina, is her debut novel aimed at adult readers. The story offers a blend of fantasy and mystery: Before the Montoya family’s enigmatic matriarch, Orquídea Divina, dies, she invites her descendants to claim what is theirs by blood. It’s not until seven years later, when someone begins killing relatives one by one, that the protagonists travel to Guayaquil, Ecuador to learn the powerful secrets Orquídea never told.
Colson Whitehead, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction—an achievement only three other authors can claim—is back with another period piece, this time set in 1960s Harlem. The crime thriller centers on Ray Carney, a husband, father, and furniture salesman trying, and failing, to keep out of trouble. After Ray and his cousin Freddie get involved in an elaborate heist that inevitably goes awry, it’s unclear how—or even if—he can stay on the straight and narrow. Filled with sidewalk observations and unforgettable characters, Harlem Shuffle offers a sprawling, vivid look at New York in the Civil Rights era.
Daphné B. can’t stop watching makeup tutorials on YouTube, but there’s something about them that deeply unsettles her. The Montreal author’s 2020 book, newly translated by writer/poet Alex Manley from its original French, puts an intersectional, feminist lens on the author’s personal fascination with the makeup industry; it also reckons with the cultural dominance of this fascination as she aims to square anti-capitalist principles with beauty-product obsession.
The incomparable Gabrielle Union’s second essay collection is a follow-up to her bestselling 2017 memoir, the NAACP Image Award–nominated We’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True. In the intervening years, Union was hired and then fired from America’s Got Talent, called out racial discrimination at NBC in the aftermath, and welcomed her first child through a surrogate. In these new essays, she opens up about her own path to motherhood, her two daughters (baby Kaavia James Union Wade and Zaya Wade, who came out as transgender last year), and her perspective on Hollywood’s still-nascent racial reckoning. And Bring It On fans will be happy to know that her iconic character Isis makes a cameo.
Tackling a topic that’s long been a pop-culture punchline, psychologist and memoirist Kerry Cohen takes a deep look at an addiction that mainstream psychology has largely dismissed. A practicing therapist, Cohen asserts that sex and love addiction fall on a spectrum, not a binary; in Crazy for You, she dispels previous research that focused on extreme cases and explains her theory to shed light on the struggle and shame that Cohen has seen in patients—and experienced herself—while offering tools for those who feel similarly and want to make a change.
For anyone considering parenthood at a later age, scholars Vicki Breitbart and Nan Bauer-Maglin have put together an expansive collection of stories from 30 writers on the beauty and difficulty of being a 40-plus parent. (The editors were older moms, too.) Read essays from Elizabeth Acevedo, who won the National Book Award for The Poet X, Salma Abdelnour Gilman, a former travel editor at Food & Wine, Jim Shultz, who founded the Democracy Center, and more. Each contributor reflects on their experiences, whether that’s deciding to become a single parent or pursuing adoption.
In 2016, Sara Ahmed quit her job teaching race and cultural studies at Goldsmiths, University of London in protest against the institution’s failures to address sexual harassment. Inspired by the students she worked with, Ahmed’s new book examines the act—indeed, the feminist pedagogy—of complaining within an organization. With the help of testimonials from individuals who filed complaints of harassment, bullying, and abuse at Goldsmiths and other universities, Ahmed explores the cracks within these formal systems and illustrates the painful processes that survivors experience too often.
Three decades after delivering her historic testimony in front of Congress, Anita Hill speaks now to a world where “sexual harassment” is no longer a new concept, yet remains rampant, systemic, unresolved, and brushed off as no big deal. The professor and legal scholar mixes memoir and social commentary as she writes about both the progress and the setbacks she’s observed in her fight for survivors—including the frustration she felt seeing the cycle of scorn and disbelief repeated with Christine Blasey Ford during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearings. Hill offers her insight on what we as a society must do next to make sure this harmful legacy does not continue into future generations.
Tabitha Walker is a career woman who’s got everything planned out. The TV news reporter is eyeing a promotion, putting a down payment on her dream home, and dating someone seriously—until she receives a startling diagnosis. She has an infertility condition that stems from stress, which leaves her with the dire fact that she may need to sacrifice everything she worked so hard to achieve in order to have the family she’s always wanted. Author Jayne Allen is an attorney, engineer, and entrepreneur who describes her debut novel as “Chocolate Chick Lit with a conscience.”
How do we choose to believe someone? In Credible, former New York prosecutor Deborah Tuerkheimer uses firsthand observations to detail the legal frameworks and precedents that lead the criminal-justice system to fail survivors of sexual violence time and time again. As the title promises, Tuerkheimer zeroes in on the subjective concept of “credibility” and the role of bias in cases of sexual abuse and violence, illustrating the complex ways that accusers—particularly women and people of color—are disbelieved and ignored when they seek help from the legal system. Whether it’s in the courtroom or the public eye, everyone has their own biases informing whom they deem credible—and that is precisely the problem.