BitchReads15 Books You Must Read in September

As much as it pains me to say it, fall is coming. Labor Day is almost here, which means the sun will start setting sooner, jackets will replace the sleeveless t-shirts on store shelves, and pumpkin spice will make its triumphant return. The one good thing about fall, outside of cute boots, is the influx of books that are being released. This list is full of fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and graphic novels that will make the transition from summer to autumn much easier to swallow.

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1. Pious Fashion: How Muslim Women Dress by Elizabeth Bucar

Pious Fashion book cover

{ Harvard University Press }
Release Date: September 4, 2017
Price: $29.95

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Pious Fashion removes the stigma around Islamic veils, including hijabs and burkas, by offering first-person accounts from Muslim women about why they wear them. Elizabeth Bucar, a religious studies professor at Northeastern University, cuts through the Western perception of these religious garbs to explore their significance in Muslim-majority countries, and how many of these women have turned their devotion into a fashion trend. As Tehran, Yogyakarta, and Istanbul emerge as fashion capitals, Pious Fashion pushes us to see Muslim women outside of our biases about religious doctrine.


2. Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate by Zoë Quinn

Crash Override book cover

{ PublicAffairs }
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Price: $27.00

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Seemingly overnight, independent game developer Zoë Quinn’s life changed forever. Her abusive ex-boyfriend published a manifesto about her in an attempt to maintain control over her life. Internet subcultures, including 4Chan, quickly allied with him, and began abusing her, her new boyfriend, and anybody associated with her. The mob released her address and phone number, hacked all of her accounts, and stalked her at any event she attended. She was in the eye of the Gamergate storm, where it seemed that her life would never return to a semblance of normal. Crash Override is her account of that torturous ordeal, which went all the way to the United Nations and the White House. Quinn’s book is devastating because it shows how easily this could happen to anyone, how unhelpful law enforcement is in curbing the abuse, and how unwilling social media platforms are to halt abuse. Crash Override is a necessary, but sobering, reminder that no person is safe on the internet.


3. Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly

Poppies of Iraq cover

{ Drawn and Quarterly }
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Price: $21.95

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What is it like to grow up in Iraq? That’s the question at the heart of Poppies of Iraq, a graphic novel written by Brigitte Findakly and illustrated by her husband, Lewis Trondheim. Like many coming-of-age novels, Poppies of Iraq is really about how Findankly came to understand herself in relationship to her homeland. She explores a pre-invasion Iraq when Saddam Hussein ruled with an iron fist of oppression. Although her childhood seems normal, it’s peppered by the remnants of a dictatorship: Her family can’t wear red because the color’s banned after General Karim Kassem is executed and executed bodies are purposefully displayed to school children to show them the cost of rebellion. After her family moves to Paris, Findankly finds that exile is as devastating as state-sanctioned violence. Poppies of Iraq is a beautifully drawn graphic novel that shows how growing up in Iraq is more complicated than it seems.


4. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Sing, Unburied, Sing book cover

{ Scribner }
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Price: $26.00

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Jesmyn Ward is one of our generation’s greatest writers, and Sing, Unburied, Sing captures her at her best. Sing, Unburied, Sing is the first novel she’s released since Salvage the Bones won the National Book Award in 2011, and it’s well worth the wait. Like its predecessor, Sing, Unburied, Sing, is a tale about the ghosts of Mississippi. Leonie, a mother fighting drug addiction, is trucking to Mississippi State Penitentiary to pick up the white father of her two children, Jojo and Kayla. Jojo, in particular, is a 13-year-old treasure trove of wisdom. His voice carries the novel, though Leonie’s brother, who was killed by white a man, is also present. How does a family find its footing through hardship, grief, and continuous loss? Sing, Unburied, Sing answers that question with enviably lush prose that will leave you longing for more.


5. Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure by Lynn Comella

Vibrator Nation book cover

{ Duke University Press Books }
Release Date: September 8, 2017
Price: $25.95

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On their face alone, sex toys aren’t progressive or feminist. However, in Vibrator Nation, gender and sexuality studies professor Lynn Comella positions the rise of sex stores in the women’s movement of the 1970s. Through this historical lens, Comella explores how women entrepreneurs opened sex-toy stores, including Babeland and Eve’s Garden, and gave women agency over their pleasure in the process. Although the title is fun, Vibrator Nation is, in every way, an academic text. It’s dense, and not designed to be a fun Labor Day beach read, but it’s a worthy exploration into how women have orgasmed their way into sexual liberation.


6. Last Girl Standing by Trina Robbins

Last Girl Standing book cover

{ Fantagraphics }
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Price: $19.99

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Women often have to write themselves into history. Radical, feminist cartoonist Trina Robbins is one of those women. She produced the first all-women comic, and in her illustrated memoir, Robbins chronicles the journey toward that goal. Last Girl Standing is full of hilarious stories, including her childhood aspiration of being a bohemian; dating legendary writer Harlan Ellison; living in San Francisco in the ’70s; and going on the Rolling Stones’s first U.S. tour. It follows similar autobiographical feminist stories, including My Soul Looks Back, that capture what it’s like to navigate a cisgender male-dominated world.


7. Letters to Memory by Karen Tei Yamashita

Letters to Memory book cover

{ Coffee House Press }
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Price: $19.95

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It isn’t coincidental that Letters to Memory is entering the world as Donald Trump’s administration continues pushing rhetoric that targets Muslims. It’s an intentional choice that hearkens back to one of America’s greatest sins: Japanese internment. In her hybrid novel, which includes photos, artwork, letters, and traditional narrative, Yamashita constructs her family’s history in the context of Japanese internment. She explores the impact of the cruel World War II strategy through the lenses of her grandmother Tomi, her mother Asako, and her father John. Although Japanese-American descendants have received monetary reparations, Yamashita makes the compelling argument that there isn’t enough money in the world to ease or erase the trauma of being targeted. It’s a worthy reminder as conservative investment in “national security” descends into Islamophobia.


8. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere book cover

{ Penguin Press }
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Price: $27.00

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Celeste Ng writes about families in the Midwest in a way that can only be bred through familiarity. In her follow-up to Everything I Never Told You, Ng returns to Ohio to offer another tale about another family ensnared in a peculiar town with too many secrets. When artist Mia Warren and her 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, relocate to Shaker Heights, Ohio, the town immediately begins orbiting around them. Lexie, Moody, Trip, and Isabelle Richardson, the children of their landlords, are drawn to the mother-daughter duo, and aim to capture their attention at all costs. From there, Ng weaves a suspenseful tale about secrets families keep close to the chest and the unconventional ways of mothering that many women with too few options employ. Little Fires Everywhere is a book that will keep you up at night.


9. The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson

The Twelve-Mile Straight book cover

{ Ecco }
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Price: $27.99

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The Twelve-Mile Straight is heavy. It’s not a comfortable book or an easy one, which seems to be author Eleanor Henderson’s intention. In 1930, at the beginning of the depression, Elma Jesup, daughter of a white sharecropper, gives birth to twins—a white baby and a Black baby. Her father and fiancé immediately suspect that she’s been raped, common, of course, in the deep South in the 1900s, and commit a devastating act of violence against field hand Genus Jackson. The Twelve-Mile Straight reckons with how white women’s virtue has been weaponized to harm people of color while also delving into our cultural obsession with categorizing people, even babies, based on race. It’s a difficult read that’s worth the pain.


10. A Burst of Light and Other Essays by Audre Lorde

A Burst of Light book cover

{ Dover }
Release Date: September 13, 2017
Price: $22.95

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When Black feminist poet, author, and beacon Audre Lorde learned that her breast cancer had spread to her liver, she did what she always did in times of uncertainty—wrote essays that looked inward to light a pathway forward. A Burst of Light is the collection of essays borne from that devastating diagnosis, and in true form, Lorde’s focus on her illness, her struggle to find her faith, being a lesbian in the ’80s, and apartheid is as clear as ever. Now, in one of the most tumultuous political moments, Lorde’s voice is as resonant as ever. A Burst of Light has renewed significance as Black feminism gains national prominence, and as always, Lorde’s voice and vision reigns supreme.


11. Encyclopedia of Black Comics by Sheena C. Howard

Encyclopedia of Black Comics book cover

{ Fulcrum Publishing }
Release Date: September 15, 2017
Price: $23.95

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With Luke Cage and Black Lightning coming to the small screen, there’s no better time than now for an Encyclopedia of Black Comics. Sheena C. Howard, a communication studies professor at Rider University, offers 100 entries about comics and characters created and published by Black people—something she could’ve used while writing her dissertation and her book, Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation. The encyclopedia is also a reminder of how many Black superheroes and villains we still haven’t seen on the small and big screen. Marvel and DC, we hope you’re listening.


12. Keep Her Safe by Sophie Hannah

Keep Her Safe book cover

{ William Morrow }
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Price: $26.99

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Keep Her Safe is in the tradition of women-centered thrillers that are seemingly released every year. In the vein of Gone Girl, All the Missing Girls, and Final Girls, Sophie Hannah’s latest novel follows Cara Burrows, an Englishwoman who flees from the United Kingdom to Swallowtail Resort, an exclusive spa in the foothills of Arizona’s Camelback Mountain, when she discovers that she’s pregnant with her third child. Her trip is supposed to be a relaxing reprieve from the stress wrought by her husband and her two children, but she’s soon wrapped up in a murder mystery that overtakes the book. When she’s assigned the wrong room, Burrows sees someone who’s supposed to be dead: Melody Chapa, a Jon Benet Ramsey-esque murder victim, who was supposedly murdered by her parents. Her body was never found, but she’s dead, right? Keep Her Safe is a page turner that will keep you engrossed as you try to figure out what happened to Melody.


13. True Sex: The Lives of Trans Men at the Turn of the 20th Century by Emily Skidmore

True Sex book cover

{ NYU Press }
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Price: $30.95

Buy It Now

Trans people have existed for centuries. Though an influx of bathroom bills would have us believe that disrupting the gender binary is a new phenomenon, trans people have been here—living, assimilating, and creating families that protected them. In True Sex, historian Emily Skidmore chronicles the lives of 18 trans men who lived between 1876 and 1936. Their stories are incredible: For instance, Frank Dubois lived in Wapun, Wisconsin with his wife Gertrude Fuller. His community had no idea he was trans until his ex-husband and children came to Wapun searching for him. Stories like this reveal how cautious trans people have always been forced to be, and how trans men, in particular, shielded their “true sex” by hiding in plain sight. You’ll be engrossed by their lives, and how Skidmore interweaves American history with their decisions.


14. Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Change by Ellen K. Pao

Reset book cover

{ Spiegel & Grau }
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Price: $28.00

Buy It Now

Ellen K. Pao’s story is infamous: In 2015, she sued her employer for discrimination and cracked open Silicon Valley’s thinly veiled sexist, racist, transphobic, and retaliatory culture. Although she lost the lawsuit, Pao’s courage forced a national conversation about how bias pigeonholes women, people of color, and queer people in tech. Reset, her debut memoir, details how she singlehandedly shook the white, male-dominated tech world, and then challenged reddit to upend its harmful, disgusting facilitation of online abuse. Reset outlines practical advice for those in positions to hire, making it a must-read for those invested in inclusion in the workplace.


15. Rebellious Mourning: The Collective Work of Grief by Cindy Milstein

Rebellious Mourning book cover

{ AK Press }
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Price: $19.95

Buy It Now

Grief is the one emotion we’ll all feel at some point in our lives. Whether it’s mourning the end of a life or the end of a relationship, grief is often isolating, worked through without witnesses. Rebellious Mourning challenges that cultural belief through a series of beautiful, heartrending essays about tragedies, both big and small. From losing multiple people to AIDS to leaving behind loved ones when crossing borders, the book’s contributors push for a public reclamation of grief. They argue that grief as a shared experience increases our ability to connect with each other and will, inevitably, improve our empathetic understanding of suffering.

by Evette Dionne
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Evette Dionne is Bitch Media’s editor-in-chief. She’s all about Beyoncé, Black women, and dope TV shows and books. You can follow her on Twitter.

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