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10 Rad Female Authors to Read

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Rachel Manwill

Staff Writer

Rachel Manwill is an editor, writer, and professional nomad. Twice a year, she runs the #24in48 readathon, during which she does almost no reading. She's always looking for an excuse to recommend a book, whether you ask her for one or not. When she's not ranting about comma usage for her day job as a corporate editor, she's usually got an audiobook in her ears and a puppy in her lap. Blog: A Home Between Pages Twitter: @rachelmanwill

In response to Donna Tartt’s well-deserved Pulitzer win for The Goldfinch, Time magazine posted an article listing 21 female authors you should be reading. While there are some amazing authors on that list, if you’re a book lover like me, many of them are probably already on your radar.

If you’re looking for a few more solid women to add to your reading repertoire, here are 10 more that you might not have heard of yet:

1. Cara Hoffman – In her second novel, Be Safe I Love You, being published this month, Hoffman’s considerable narrative talent is on display, as is her feminist bent through the voice of her protagonist. Though there have been many novels about the impact of the Iraq war, few if any focus on the female soldiers and their struggles when returning home. Hoffman is a strong addition to the literary world.

2. A.S. King – King’s novels have won just about every award that young adult fiction can win, including a few that aren’t so usual. Her novel Ask the Passengers was a finalist for the 2012 Lambda Literary award, and just about every one of her books has been listed for ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults. She is constantly pushing the boundaries and worthwhile for all readers – adult and teen – to explore.

3. Sara Farizan – Farizan’s 2013 book If You Could Be Mine introduced the author as a much-needed voice in YA fiction. The novel tackles the weighty topics of homosexuality and transgender issues in Iran, arranged marriages, and the very real possibility of imprisonment and execution. Shining a light on rarely explored subject matter, Farizan’s work has become a voice for teens who haven’t seen themselves in novels before. Her forthcoming novel, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel (due in Oct. 2014), promises to deliver the same groundbreaking storytelling. 

4. Megan Abbott – Writing noir crime fiction with a feminine twist, Abbott’s Edgar award-winning novels explore things like the gritty underworld of…cheerleading? Yep, her 2012 novel Dare Me explores the viciousness of teenage girldom without resorting to stereotype. Its also been optioned for a movie, and Natalie Portman has been connected to the film. Abbott also puts some academic muscle into her work; she’s published a non-fiction title called The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir.

5. Leslie Jamison – Essay collections are typically small releases, with little fanfare, but Jamison’s collection, The Empathy Examshas gotten the kind of press few writers published by small presses see. Her essays examine the pain of others and how it impacts the self; a memorable essay examines the difficulty of writing about female suffering and why we must do it anyway. Noteworthy and impactful.

6. Sarah MacLean – Shucking all of the damsel-in-distress tropes of historical romances, MacLean gives readers heroines that are feisty, rebellious, smart and as sexual as their heroes, particularly in her The Rules of Scoundrels series. And she doesn’t resort to bizarre cliches when writing the naughty bits. Now that’s a breath of fresh air for every romance lover. 

7. Roxanne Gay – Its hard to believe that Gay’s novel, An Untamed State (out May 6th), is her debut, because her writing seems to be everywhere. She’s been published in Virginia Quarterly Review,  The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, The Rumpus, Salon, and so many more. But An Untamed State – a story about a woman who is kidnapped in Haiti and held for ransom – showcases her startling narrative talent and marks her as one to watch. 

8. Catherynne Valente – Best known for her YA Fairyland fantasy series, beginning with the novel The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own MakingValente has also won Hugo, Lamda Literary and World Fantasy awards for her work.  She is also active and vocal in the male-centric Sci-Fi and Fantasy communities, and a huge proponant of the crowdfunding movement. In fact The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland was the first crowdfunded novel to win a major literary award before traditional publication.

9. Helen Oyeyemi – Helen Oyeyemi is having a serious moment. Her novel Boy, Snow, Bird is on the surface a retelling of the Snow White fairytale, and it is garnering rave reviews across and beyond the literary world. But Oyeyemi’s inventive and dazzling storytelling talent is not just evident here. Having published her first novel, The Icarus Girl, before she was 19, she’s continued to prove she’s a voice to be reckoned with, most recent with her inclusion as one of Granta’s Best of Young  British Novelist in 2013.

10. Jennifer McMahon – McMahon’s supernatural thrillers are a genre unto themselves, with equal parts suspense and creepiness. Her latest, The Winter Peoplewas published this February, to great acclaim. She also published a lesbian teen novel called My Tiki Girl in 2008 that was included in the ALA’s Rainbow Reading list.

What other great woman writers would you add to this list?