The March issue of BookPage is a total Women’s History Month party, with oodles of reading recommendations for female-centric historical fiction, biographies of long-forgotten heroes in women’s history and shrewd, of-the-moment social commentary. But it wouldn’t be Women’s History Month at BookPage without our annual list of Women to Watch. Keep these 15 female authors on your radar in 2019—big things are coming.
March 19 • Scout
This debut novelist is no rookie: Starting in publishing at the age of only 23, Carty-Williams created and launched the Guardian and 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize in 2016, which focuses on and celebrates black, Asian and minority writers. Her first novel is a feel-good, smart rom-com starring a 25-year-old Jamaican-British woman who, post-break-up, needs a lot of help from her friends to navigate dating apps and self-doubt.
THE OLD DRIFT
March 26 • Hogarth
When Zambian author Serpell won the Caine Prize in 2015 for her short story “The Sack,” she announced that “fiction is not a competitive sport” and shared the $15,000 prize with the other short-listed writers. Clearly a badass, Serpell teaches English at UC Berkeley and makes her debut with an ambitious, century-sweeping family saga set in Northwestern Rhodesia (now Zambia) that blends elements of post-colonialist literature with magical realism.
April 9 • Riverhead
In the tradition of recent feminist reimaginings (like Madeline Miller’s Circe and Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls), Blake’s first novel transforms an ancient tale by exploring it through the eyes of a woman. Naamah, wife of Noah, is aboard the ark, trapped on unreceding waters—and seeking sanctuary with a seductive underwater angel. Blake has two previously published collections of poetry (Let’s Not Live on Earth and Mr. West), and her debut novel enters into a surreal dreamspace through sensual, lyrical language.
April 16 • Sarah Crichton
South Korea-born Kim was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, then practiced as a trial lawyer, and she’s also won a handful of awards for both nonfiction and fiction writing. She brings her two talents together in her debut, a courtroom drama that centers on the deadly explosion of a device known as the Miracle Submarine: a pressurized oxygen chamber used as therapy for autistic children and people suffering from issues such as infertility. Immigration, autism, mysterious notes, a murder trial—it’s a book club bonanza.
RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE
May 14 • St. Martin’s Griffin
The buzz for McQuiston’s debut romance novel is near-deafening in the hallowed halls of romance Twitter, and for good reason—Red, White & Royal Blue is one of the few print romances from a major publisher to center a gay couple. And as one half of said couple is a fictional prince of England, fans thirsty for more tales of royal love will be very, very satisfied.
May 14 • Knopf
Phillips has loved Russia since she was a teenager, and she used her Fulbright fellowship to live and study there after college. Her impressive debut takes readers to the remote Russian peninsula Kamchatka—a land of extremes, of mountains, tundra and forests—where two young sisters disappear from a beach one August afternoon. Each chapter of the book explores a different character throughout the year after the kidnapping, from witnesses to fellow students to the detective.
May 21 • Little, Brown
A Yale graduate and former senior editor at Random House, Pitoniak initially caught the attention of the literary community with her first novel, The Futures, and its assured, striking blend of insightful character work and well-plotted suspense. Her second novel takes a well-trod premise—a young woman from a poor family becomes the close friend of another girl, who is far more wealthy and charismatic—and gives it an ingenious twist, as aspiring journalist Violet has begun to outgrow her flighty friend Stella and achieve career success, dangerously upsetting the unhealthy equilibrium of their relationship.
Mary Beth Keane
ASK AGAIN, YES
May 28 • Scribner
Celeste Ng fans and readers of smart domestic fiction, keep an eye on this one. In 2011, Keane was named one of the National Book Award Foundation’s “5 Under 35,” and in 2015 she was awarded a John S. Gugenheim fellowship for fiction writing. She has written two previous novels (The Walking People and Fever), and her third novel—about two rookie cops in the NYPD and their wives, who live next door to one another—has the potential to make Keane a household name.
THE TENTH MUSE
June 18 • Ecco
Chung’s list of honors is enviably long: She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Director’s Visitorship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She was a Granta New Voice, and won an Honorable Mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award for her first novel, Forgotten Country, which was also the BookPage Top Pick in Fiction for March 2012 and one of our Best Books of 2012. Her much anticipated sophomore effort centers on a mathematician named Katherine who, in her journey to conquer the Riemann Hypothesis, unearths secrets that date back to World War II.
THE GONE DEAD
June 25 • Ecco
Benz, an assistant professor of English at Rhodes College in Memphis, made her debut in 2017 with her short story collection, a book of literary acrobatics wonderfully titled The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead. Her first novel promises to be an important addition to the Southern literature canon, unfolding a decades-long family legacy when a biracial woman returns home to the Mississippi Delta 30 years after her father’s death.
July 9 • Simon & Schuster / Avid Reader
Pushcart Prize-winning fiction writer and journalist Taddeo has written her first book, and it’s already changing the game of narrative nonfiction. It’s an intimate profile of three ordinary women’s pursuit of sensual passion: an unfaithful housewife, a sexually deviant entrepreneur and a high school student. Taddeo spent nearly a decade with these women, and the result is a stunning, timely examination of female desire.
A PRAYER FOR TRAVELERS
July 9 • Riverhead
For readers who’ve been waiting for a worthy successor to Claire Vaye Watkins’ Gold Fame Citrus, the Nevada-set debut novel from Tomar sounds promising. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, Tomar is currently a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, and her novel stars two girls—quiet Cale and enigmatic Penélope—and the tragic events that lead to Penny’s disappearance and Cale’s desperate search in the desert.
TRICK MIRROR: REFLECTIONS ON SELF-DELUSION
August 6 • Random House
Texas-born Tolentino is a staff writer at The New Yorker whose writing has covered everything from music to vaping to sexual assault. Her debut collection of essays contains nine new essays about the cultural forces that have warped this already twisted decade. You won’t find anyone with a funnier, sharper, bolder take on the world as it unravels.
Sarah M. Broom
THE YELLOW HOUSE
August 13 • Grove
Broom’s debut memoir is a complex portrait of a city, a house, a family and the author’s place within each of them. In 1963, at the age of 19, Broom’s mother bought a yellow shotgun house in East New Orleans for $3,200. Now Broom tells the 100-year story of her family through this house, with equal parts deftness and depth. This book, and its author, demands our attention.
Carmen Maria Machado
IN THE DREAM HOUSE
October 1 • Graywolf
Machado’s debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, was the winner of five literary awards (including the Bard Fiction Prize) and a finalist for six others (including the National Book Award). It blew readers’ expectations of the genre to bits, and her upcoming memoir promises to do the same. In the Dream House explores the reality of domestic abuse in queer relationships by recounting Machado’s entanglement with one magnetic but explosive woman. Bravery, levity, sociology, unorthodoxy—this book has it all.
Carty-Williams photo © Lily Richards / Serpell photo © Peg Korpinski / Kim photo © Tim Coburn / Chung photo © David Noles / Benz photo © Christine Jean Chambers / Taddeo photo © J. Waite / Broom photo © Hal Williamson / Machado photo © Art Streiber / AUGUST