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4 Books We Couldn't Put Down Last Month

Some of our recent favorites, as reviewed in the BuzzFeed Books newsletter.

Posted on June 10, 2019, at 1:07 p.m. ET

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1. A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

HarperCollins Publishers, Via etafrum.com

Three generations of women from a conservative Arab family living in America are at the core of Etaf Rum's riveting debut novel. From the very first line, Rum brings you into the hearts and minds of these characters, and you'll stay connected to them well beyond finishing the last page. Most compelling to me was the character of Isra, who moved to Brooklyn from Palestine as a teenager as part of an arranged marriage. She thinks she'll be freer and happier in America, and that she might even grow to love her new husband. She soon learns that even in America, her powerlessness is reinforced and that her destiny might never be in her own hands, just because she is a woman. But when the novel is told through Isra's daughter Deya's point of view, you'll see that finding your voice in a controlling, limiting culture takes an immense amount of bravery.

The novel deals with intense subjects like domestic abuse and mental illness, and it's important to remember while reading the book that this is just one family's consequences of silencing women, not a symptom of an entire culture. A Woman Is No Man captivated me so much that I canceled plans so I could keep reading and even missed my subway stop while buried in the book, which I haven't done in years. It's shocking to remember that this is Rum's first novel, and I can't wait to see what she delivers next. –Ciera Velarde

Get it from Amazon for $16.19, Barnes & Noble for $21.59, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here.

2. Women Talking by Miriam Toews

Bloomsbury Publishing, Carol Loewen

I was drawn to Women Talking β€” a novel imagining the aftermath of the real assault of women in a small Mennonite community in Bolivia from 2005 to 2009 β€” having taken a class in college about women in the Andean region. We discussed the intersectionality between assault and religion in the indigenous communities there, but the vast majority of the literature (both fiction and non-fiction) that I read in this course was in Spanish β€” so I'm glad this novel is opening up the conversation to English-speakers as well.

What will stick with me most is how Toews crafted the women of the Mennonite community, showing their unimaginable strength and grace in such a time of conflict. It's a brilliant novel that discusses the anxiety, fear, and utter bravery that arises when dealing with sexual assault and trauma β€” a powerful and relevant read for women and survivors everywhere. –Olivia Taylor

Get it from Amazon for $15.91, Barnes & Noble for $24, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here.

3. Soft Science by Franny Choi

Alice James Books, Qurissy Lopez

Franny Choi's second poetry collection Soft Science asks us to imagine a world outside of any binary. Largely through a series of poems based on Turing tests β€” a test designed to see if artificial intelligence can pass for that of a human β€” Choi interrogates identity, treating humanity as both an applied science and a feral thing. With language that wades between saucy, dripping, curt, and sterile, the poems stare at the intersections of personhood β€” gender, race, sex β€” and laugh menacingly, pulling it all to strands. Combining the deeply carnal with the technological, Choi explores the mechanics of what it is to be alive in every sense. By invoking the bodily ("sometimes / when the sidewalk / opens my knee / i think please / please let me / remember this") and the mechanical ("A cyborg woman touches herself for three reasons: / 1. to inspect the machinery for errors; / 2. to convince herself she is a mammal; / 3. to pull herself apart.") the work asks the reader to reconsider their own rottenness and what methods of survival brought them there. I recommend this collection to anyone who wants poetry to reflect not the world they want to see, but the world they do see β€” pornographic, bright, wild, and changing. –Rachel Dunkel

Get it from Amazon for $15.91, Barnes & Noble for $24, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here.

4. How to Be A Patient by Sana Goldberg

Gabriel Zinn

I am one of those people #blessed with a body that requires many visits to many different doctors (mental illness, bad stomach, ovarian cysts β€” it's a party) and so navigating the US healthcare system has been something of a necessity. The system does not make this easy! What a godsend, then, to find Sana Goldberg's How to Be a Patient β€” an accessible, enlightening guide to making your providers work for you. (You are, after all, paying them.) Goldberg is a registered nurse and health equity advocate, and her comprehensive book explains the importance of being a knowledgeable, empowered, and involved patient β€” of playing a role in your own care β€” whether that's in finding a primary care provider, keeping your insurance company in check, parsing various tests and codes, or understanding your rights. It's a must-read. Check out an excerpt here. –Arianna Rebolini

Get it from Amazon for $11.32, Barnes & Noble for $17.99, or a local bookseller through IndieBound here.

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