HerStory July 2022: Sonali Dev

We are honoring our second (but not last) romance author of the year for our July HerStory recipient: Sonali Dev. First things first, if you have a spare 30 minutes, listen to her keynote address at the 2018 Romance Writers of America Librarian’s Day to see exactly why we chose her (https://soundcloud.com/user-620052388/rwa-2018-librarians-day-keynote-from-sonali-dev?utm_source=sonalidev.com&utm_campaign=wtshare&utm_medium=widget&utm_content=https%253A%252F%252Fsoundcloud.com%252Fuser-620052388%252Frwa-2018-librarians-day-keynote-from-sonali-dev). It’s a beautiful speech, inspiring and kind of devastating; we were destroyed by it in the best possible way. She spoke eloquently about the importance of reading and telling stories about folks that are not cis white men, and how important representation is for all groups of people. How important not only telling diverse stories is, but how important READING and OFFERING diverse stories is. That’s the underlying theme here at Knitted Wit HerStory Central: making sure our monthly HerStory recipients are representative of those who historically have not garnered the same praise, attention, and space that their white counterparts have enjoyed as a matter of course.

Not only is Sonali Dev a staunch advocate for diversifying our libraries and bookshelves, but her books are compelling and beautiful and sweet and emotional. The family dramas at the heart of them are complicated and messy and wonderful. The love stories are, well, complicated and messy and wonderful. Growing up in Mumbai, she loved Bollywood from a young age, and even tried her hand at writing Bollywood screenplays. She began her foray into writing romance when she realized that good romance was like good Bollywood: the idea that love can inspire the deepest and best kind of joy and inspire people to, as Dev said, “throw out their arms and sing.”

Dev has two book series currently, both centered around Indian families and both dealing with heavy themes and issues of place and personhood and identity and the intertwining of cultures and how that affects a person’s life trajectory. Her Jane Austin-inspired series follows an Indian-American family that is as rich and complex as any family in literature. The politics of family (and, coincidentally, politics) plague, inspire, and challenge the protagonists, and through the series, the reader gets to know and love each one. Our July colorway is inspired by the title of the 3rd book in the series, Incense and Sensibility. We hope you spend part of your summer getting to know Sonali Dev and her remarkable books.

Books by Sonali Dev:

  • Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors
  • Recipe for Persuasion
  • Incense and Sensibility
  • A Bollywood Affair (and the other 3 Bollywood series books) 

Want more like this? Here are some other authors we suggest you read/listen to:

  • Farah Heron
  • Sajni Patel
  • Farrah Rochon
  • Sandhya Menon
  • Alisha Rai

HerStory June 2022: Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is a self-proclaimed Bad Feminist. She’s a writer, a teacher, a publisher, a mentor, and a podcaster (among other things), focusing on women and women’s experiences in the world. Her works often delve into trauma and its effects on those women. She’s written non-fiction essays, memoirs, short fiction, novels, and graphic novels, as well as opinion pieces and articles for many publications. She is, in a word, busy.

One of the unifying themes in Gay’s work is the understanding and acceptance that we as humans are flawed; in fact, it’s the thesis of her most well-known work, Bad Feminist. She jokes that she’s a Bad Feminist, because her approach to and experience of feminism is human, and therefore, imperfect. She enjoys songs that contain misogynistic lyrics, she loves the color pink, she wants someone else to handle the yard work. The essays in the book range from musings on friendship, to in-depth book critiques, to reflecting on her long-standing love of the Sweet Valley High books, to hard-hitting essays on rape culture and the harm perpetrated by the patriarchy. 

Gay writes a great deal about trauma; her memoir Hunger speaks to her complicated relationship to her body and to the way her response to trauma resulted in the body she inhabits today. She speaks to collective trauma (and now much of her short-form writing has to do with collective trauma of living through this pandemic, and responses to attacks on our civil rights and right to choice). 

Mentoring is a big part of Gay’s life-philosophy. Her Emerging Writers program has morphed into a new writing fellowship, named after her late brother, focusing on writers who have not had luck in traditional publishing, with special consideration given to writers from underrepresented backgrounds. She lives the adage, “a rising tide will lift all boats”.

Our Bad Feminist colorway incorporates all of the seeming disparate parts of what makes Roxane Gay whole: a hearty dollup of her actual favorite color, pink, mixed with the color she often told folks was her favorite, the more serious black. The result is as complicated and lovely as our June author.

Books by Roxane Gay:

  • Hunger
  • Bad Feminist
  • Ayiti
  • Black Panther: World of Wakanda
  • An Untamed State
  • Difficult Women

Want more like this? Here are some other authors we suggest you read/listen to:

  • Rebecca Solnit
  • Mikki Kendall
  • Ashley Ford
  • Cheryl Strayed
  • Tressie McMillan Cottom
  • Jesmyn Ward

HerStory May 2022: Helen Hoang

There’s a lot of derision in some circles for romance, and much of that is based on misogyny and the patriarchy, because most writers and readers of romance are women. But here’s the thing: romance, and particularly modern romance, is all about building the world the writer wants to inhabit. A world that is welcoming and accepting. A world in which consent rules and equity is the standard. A world in which differences in race, culture, neurodivergence, socio-economic background, and a host of other things are not insurmountable obstacles, but rather merely parts that make a person whole.

Helen Hoang‘s Kiss Quotient book trilogy exemplifies this world-building. She herself is a neurodivergent romance book lover, and when it came time to write her own books, she wrote what she knows in the most beautiful way possible. Instead of being a barrier to finding love, her main characters’ neurodivergence is simply a part of who they are, and each finds his or her perfect match through delightful writing and entertaining romps through romance tropes. Representation matters, and there are so few books in which autistic people are represented as main characters. That is one of the things that make Hoang’s books so compelling. Another thing? They are just plain sweet. And cute. And readable. The first two, especially, are a bit on the steamy side, but who doesn’t want a bit of steam with their love story?

We are not-so-patiently waiting for Helen Hoang to release more books; she’s only published this series so far. Her characters and writing are so fabulous, and the love stories make us smile.

One of our favorite past-times (other than reading or listening to romance, of course) is scrolling through different editions of the books we love, and as we were scrolling the book covers in this series, we stumbled upon the German editions. They are so dreamy and vintage’y , and we knew we needed to make our HerStory colorway inspired by them. That is how this month’s colorway, Kiss Quotient, was born. We hope you spend a bit of time reading or listening to this wonderful trilogy, making something beautiful, and thinking about how important representation is, and how very wonderful romance books can be. 

Books by Helen Hoang:

  • The Kiss Quotient
  • The Bride Test
  • The Heart Principle

Want more like this? Here are some other authors we suggest you read/listen to (and we have more romance authors coming up, so we haven’t included those authors in this list, even though they are some of our very faves):

  • Jasmine Guillory
  • Alyssa Cole
  • Talia Hibbert
  • Sara Desai
  • Alison Cochrun

We hope you enjoy this HerStory Book Club as much as we have enjoyed putting it together. We envision an open-ended Book Club, with folks reading or listening to whichever book they’d like from each author’s If you’d like a spoiler of all of the authors we’ll be showcasing this year, check out our website: http://knittedwit.com/herstory-2022-authors/

HerStory April 2022: NK Jemisin

For our April HerStory, we are heading out of the non-fiction we’ve been immersed in, and heading to some other-worldly reading with NK Jemisin, who is widely considered to be the best of the best in science fiction. She’s a best-seller, an award-winner (she won 3 Hugo awards in a row, for all three books from her Broken Earth Trilogy), and is a MacArthur Genius. She’s also an all-around badass who centers Black voices in her stories and stands up to racists in the sci-fi community. 

Jemisin became enamored with all things science fiction as a child, and consumed everything she could in the genre. As she visited her local library and read sci-fi book after sci-fi book, she realized that many had one thing in common: a decidedly white-centering slant. Even those writers of color who were enjoying success in the 1980s were encouraged to hide their race, so as to appear non-threatening (read: white) to the (white) reading public. Even the truly inimitable Octavia Butler was not immune to this pressure; as she began to read Butler, Jemisin had no clue she was a Black woman, as her book covers often featured images of white protagonists, even if those protagonists were people of color. All of this informed Jemisin’s writing, where Black voices are centered, most especially the Black woman. 

As her love of reading sci-fi grew, so did her belief that publishing it just wasn’t in the cards for a Black woman. She began publishing fan fiction (and still does, to this day, anonymously) while working as a career counselor in various colleges throughout the East and Midwest. She could not shake the need to write, and took a workshop in which she was encouraged to delve into short-story writing, and boy, are we glad she did!

Jemisin’s writing is considered both sci-fi and speculative fiction. Her world-building is full, brutal, and beautiful; it often comes to her in dreams. In talking about the protagonist of the Broken Earth Trilogy, you can imagine that she pulls her story from Jemisin. It’s a beautiful thought and has such powerful imagery. We decided to channel the gorgeous covers of her Hugo-winning trilogy, Broken Earth, for our Broken Earth colorway. The vibrant blues and greens, paired with the earthy browns and greys are so evocative of the world-building Jemisin is so good at; we hope you visit those worlds with us this month.

Books by NK Jemisin:

  • The Broken Earth Trilogy
  • How Long Until Black Future Month?
  • The City We Became
  • The Inheritance Trilogy
  • The Killing Moon

Want more like this? Here are some other authors we suggest you read/listen to:

  • Octavia Butler
  • Nnedi Okorafor
  • Tomi Adeyemi
  • Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Nalo Hopkinson
  • Kameron Hurley

HerStory March 2022: bell hooks

For our March HerStory, we are showcasing the truly incomparable bell hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins). She adopted her maternal great-grandmother’s name as her pen name because her great-grandmother “was known for her snappy and bold tongue, which I greatly admired.” She wanted the focus of her work to be on the “substance of books, not who I am,” so chose not to capitalize her pen name.

bell hooks’ influence reaches into many different arenas, and she shared herself in many different ways: hooks was a professor, a featured speaker, a cultural critic, a filmmaker. The thread that weaves her works together is her intersectionality, and the central theme of all of her work is love:

“I believe wholeheartedly that the only way out of domination is love,” she told the philosopher George Yancy in an interview for The New York Times in 2015, “and the only way into really being able to connect with others, and to know how to be, is to be participating in every aspect of your life as a sacrament of love.”

No matter what part of her works you find yourself experiencing, you’ll see that love and intersectionality in practice: she wove themes of love, race, class, gender, art, history, sexuality, mass media, and feminism together into a truly inspiring whole. Whether reflecting on the influence geography has on self; exploring feelings on the American education system and its reliance on white supremacy and capitalism; and/or taking a deep-dive into what love truly means, hooks’ work frequently addressed these deep intersections that form the fabric of society.

The breadth of her teaching, the range of her interests, and the approachability of her work make us fall more in love with her with every experience. Whatever your interest, from children’s books to poetry to tracts on love, feminism, education, and pretty much everything in between, you’re sure to fall in love with bell hooks, too.

Our L-O-V-E colorway is an homage to bell hooks’ beloved Appalachia. We hope this earthy skein accompanies you as you explore hook’s work.

Books by bell hooks:

  • The Love Trilogy: All About Love, Communion, & Salvation
  • Ain’t I A Woman?
  • Feminism is for Everybody
  • Teaching to Transgress
  • The Will to Change 
  • Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place

Want more like this? Here are some other authors we suggest you read/listen to:

  • Audre Lorde
  • Angela Y. Davis
  • Alice Walker
  • Toni Morrison
  • Roxane Gay

We hope you enjoy this HerStory Book Club as much as we have enjoyed putting it together. We envision an open-ended Book Club, with folks reading or listening to whichever book they’d like from each author’s If you’d like a spoiler of all of the authors we’ll be showcasing this year, check out our website: http://knittedwit.com/herstory-2022-authors/

HerStory February 2022: Ijeoma Oluo

It’s a new month, and that means a new HerStory recipient! This month, we are celebrating all things Ijeoma Oluo, writer, speaker, and self-professed internet yeller. 

Ijeoma Oluo is the author of two books that deep-dive into topics that are so important for us all to understand and confront. In her first book, So You Want to Talk About Race, she provides useful information for folks wanting to have constructive conversations about race in America. Her second book, Mediocre, focuses on the ways in which America has centered white men, and allowed them to flourish at the expense and on the backs of women and Black people, resulting in the America we currently live in.

She began to focus on writing in 2012, after the death of Trayvon Martin, who was the same age as Oluo’s oldest son when he was murdered. She pivoted her blog from food writing to musings on racism and living while Black in America, and that grew into more activism and advocacy, as well as writing for publications, from local to national to international. Her first published work was a now-out-of-print coloring book called The Badass Feminist Coloring Book (you know we tracked down a few copies on Ebay, and are looking forward to coloring as well as reading this month!) She is now a writer and speaker in high demand.

Oluo was named to the 2021 TIME 100 Next list and has twice been named to the Root 100. She received the 2018 Feminist Humanist Award and the 2020 Harvard Humanist of the Year Award from the American Humanist Association. She lives in Seattle with her partner and her youngest kiddo.

Ijeoma has devoted her life to the discussion of race and privilege in our society, and writes/internet yells for a lot of publications. She’s a mother, a partner, and gorgeously talented at make-up to boot (she recently created an Instagram account solely to share her looks, and we are in love with what she shares!).

Our Truth Teller colorway is inspired by one of these looks, and pays homage to all of the parts of Ijeoma that she shares with us. Because Black joy is something to celebrate just as much as success that comes with being a Truth Teller in America. 

Books by Ijeoma Oluo:

  • So You Want To Talk About Race
  • Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America 

Want more like this? Here are some other authors we suggest you read/listen to:

  • Layla F. Saad
  • Austin Channing Brown
  • Michelle Alexander
  • Mikki Kendall
  • Liz Plank
  • Patrisse Khan-Cullors
  • Cathy Park Hong

We hope you enjoy this HerStory Book Club as much as we have enjoyed putting it together. We envision an open-ended Book Club, with folks reading or listening to whichever book they’d like from each author’s If you’d like a spoiler of all of the authors we’ll be showcasing this year, check out our website: http://knittedwit.com/herstory-2022-authors/

Ijeoma’s website: https://www.ijeomaoluo.com/

HerStory January 2022: Phoebe Robinson

We could not be more excited about this year’s foray into books and authors for our 2022 HerStory! In the spirit of “treating ourselves” for January, we chose Phoebe Robinson, because everything about her is a real treat. Reading or (our preferred method) listening to her books, you feel like you’ve made a new best friend. Plus, she doesn’t shy away from important topics that affect her as a Black woman in America. 

Phoebe has written 3 books. She has done stand-up comedy (as half of Two Dope Queens); she has acted in films and TV shows; she has hosted numerous podcasts. She even did a high-in-the-trees ropes course with, of all people, Kevin Bacon, as a part of her Comedy Central Show, Doing the Most with Phoebe Robinson

In 2020, Phoebe launched Tiny Reparations, which began as a publishing imprint with the goal of highlighting and amplifying unique and diverse voices that not only reflect the current conversation but also push it forward. This inspired a production company as well. In Robinson’s own words, in creating the production company: “We’re focused on telling funny AF, complex AF, and honest AF stories that will make you cry laughing while also shining a light on things that make you go hmmm. #RememberThatSong #ShoutoutTo C+CMusicFactory.”

When reading Phoebe’s words on the page or on Instagram, when listening to one of her podcasts or the audio versions of her books, when spending time with this amazing woman, you are sure to be struck by how much joy she gets out of life, with how very tickled she is with whatever story she’s sharing with you. Listening to her is almost intimate: you truly feel as though you are sitting on your couch, glass of wine or mug of tea in hand, chatting and laughing and crying with a trusted friend, both of you snuggled under blankets with plenty of snacks at hand. 

As we were developing our colorway, which we’re calling Thirsty Thursdays, we wanted to honor the light Phoebe Robinson is in the world, and create something bright and fun. The name is an homage to the hilarious odes to hotties that she posts on Thursdays on Instagram; just try to read through one of them without guffawing out loud. 

Books by Phoebe Robinson:

  • You Can’t Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain
  • Everything is Trash, But It’s Okay
  • Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes

Want more like this? Here are some other authors we suggest you read/listen to:

  • Amber Ruffian
  • Tina Fey
  • Amy Poehler
  • Samantha Irby
  • Mindy Kaling

We hope you enjoy this HerStory Book Club as much as we have enjoyed putting it together. We envision an open-ended Book Club, with folks reading or listening to whichever book they’d like from each author’s If you’d like a spoiler of all of the authors we’ll be showcasing this year, check out our website: http://knittedwit.com/herstory-2022-authors/

Thanks so much! Let’s all fill our 2022 with reading and fabulous yarn inspired by fabulous women writers!