HerStory December 2022: Emily and Amelia Nagoski

One of the things we’ve been making sure to do the last several years is to try to end the year with intention and as much calm energy as is possible during this often-stressful time. As we created our HerStory list, we knew we wanted to showcase a book that we’ve read and found helpful, and we hope you do, too.

Burnout, by twin sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski, is the how-to-move- forward-in-a-difficult-world-with-all-of-the-expectations-of-being-a- person-in-that-world manual we all need. The book’s goal is not only to explain the primary cause of emotional exhaustion, but to provide useful and accessible tools to actually process and deal with it. Stressors are an inescapable part of life, and we think it’s safe to say that we all know that existing within a state of stress for long periods will lead to over- exhaustion and a laundry list of problems. Knowing how to break through those cycles is a coping mechanism most of us could use. The sisters provide accessible information and many different paths toward what is the ultimate goal: completing the stress cycle.

We experience emotions in our brains, yes, but we also experience emotions in our body. Even if we feel that we’ve “dealt” with our stress, if we haven’t found a way to exorcise it physically, it’s still there. And it can express itself through all manner of symptoms, both emotional and physical. This book explains how that stress manifests itself, using real-life examples from mostly women in the author’s lives (including themselves), and then provides different ways to, as they say time and time again, complete those cycles. Y’all really should read or listen to the book, because there are so many light bulb moments, but we’ll share a few of our favorite things that these sisters recommend to complete stress cycles: a good cry; a bit of exercise; a 20-second (or longer) hug with a loved one.

As we brainstormed our colorway for Burnout, of course we considered the inspiration of the book cover. It’s vibrant and fun and bright. But then we thought about the goal of all of us reading this book, and it’s to achieve the opposite of burnout. It’s to achieve something cool and comfortable and soothing. So, we decided to dive into the opposite of what the book cover tells us. We used our giggling technique to softly blend blues and teals and greens and whites into a cool and soothing colorway, perfect for the crafting projects you’ll tackle after you’ve completed a stress cycle.

Books by the Nagoski sisters:

Come as You Are (Emily Nagoski) 

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

• Glennon Doyle

• Tarana Burke

• Brene Brown

We hope you have enjoyed this year of the HerStory Book Club as much as we have enjoyed putting it together. We are busy working on our 2023 author list (because we can’t just do a Book Club for one year!), so keep your eyes peeled and make some space on your TBR (to be read) list! 

HerStory November 2022: Robin Wall Kimmerer

b. 1953

This month’s HerStory recipient was the first one we chose as we compiled our list. It’s also maybe the most difficult of them all to write, because we could literally write an entire book on how much we love Robin Wall Kimmerer’s writings and theories and entire person. It feels like a big responsibility to talk about her and the effect her writing has had on our hearts and souls, and if this is your first introduction to her, we find ourselves jealous that you get to experience her for the first time.

Lorajean likes to say that Braiding Sweetgrass feels like sacred text. It is a foray into the most beautiful relationship with nature and the natural world you’ve maybe ever read. Kimmerer is a botanist and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and her writings effortlessly fuse these two perspectives into a new/old way of communing with, learning from, and being in nature. Each story in Braiding Sweetgrass and her earlier book, Gathering Moss takes you into a different part of Kimmerer’s life and work, both of which are beautifully intertwined. Reciprocity is the belief that underlies all of her work; not only feeling connected to the natural world in a way that sometimes seems almost out of reach in our modern society, but communing with, sharing with, and giving back to nature in a way that it feels like our current society, based in white supremacy and deeply steeped in capitalism, actively revolts against. 

We recommend listening to Kimmerer’s books, as her voice has a soothing cadence, and you can feel the connection to nature in her voice and stories. You might find yourself tearing up, or texting your bestie as you hear her stories. You may find yourself regaling your family with summaries at dinner, hugging your loved ones a bit tighter, planning more outdoor time and trips to clean up the natural world around you. You might start plotting your vegetable garden for next Spring, you might squat down to gaze at the mosses surrounding you a bit more. And, as we face a future in which our climate is in peril, you may find yourself caring a bit more about the natural world and working to incorporate that care more and more into your daily life. 

Our Braiding Sweetgrass colorway was created to echo the aesthetics, not only of the book cover, but of the sweetgrass itself the book centers its story around. Our hope for you is that you enjoy this colorway, and the project you make from it, as you listen to the soothing sounds and beautiful stories that make up Robin Wall Kimmmerer’s writing and speaking. Search out some of her online lectures, too, if you can. You won’t be sorry, that we can guarantee.

Books by Robin Wall Kimmerer:

  • Braiding Sweetgrass
  • Gathering Moss

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

  • Joy Harjo
  • Beth Piatote
  • Shonda Buchanan
  • Dina Gilio-Whitaker
  • Suzanne Simard
  • Susan Hand Shetterly

HerStory October 2022: Roxanne Dubar-Ortiz

We are taking a journey through history with our October author, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, but not the white-washed, settler-focused history most of us were taught in school. October’s author is an Indigenous activist and writer whose goal is to share history from the perspective of Indigenous peoples.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz began her foray into activism in 1968 as the founder of a second-wave feminist organization called Cell 16, which was a women’s liberation movement that advocated its members “separate from men who are not consciously working for female liberation”. She began her work in the American Indian Movement (AIM) shortly after, and it has been her devotion to Indigenous people’s rights that has guided her activism in the decades since.  

Her works mostly center on Indigenous rights in the United States, but in the 1980s, she traveled to Nicaragua frequently to assist the Miskito Indians in a land dispute with the government. This indigenous group ended up being collateral damage in the Contra  war that the US had become involved in with the Sandinistas. She wrote two books about her experiences there, and the damage inflicted on the Miskitos that she witnessed. As a disturbing aside, the land rights of the Miskito Indians are still, to this day, being trampled on by settlers, mostly in the service to capitalism (a trend we see in the entire history of the United States as well).

She’s written some of the most respected texts on the United States and its treatment of Indigenous people, including An Indigenous People’s History of the United States and Not a Nation of Immigrants. She advocates for self-determination for Indigenous peoples, and for a more honest approach to this nation’s origin story. Her work shines a light on the fact that Indigenous history has been all but written out of our history books, and what is taught is often sanitized to within an inch of its life.

We used the cover of her book, Roots of Resistance, as our colorway inspiration (and its name). The book discusses the history of Indigenous land tenure in New Mexico, which has a convoluted settler history and many indigenous peoples who are still trying to retain autonomy and cultural connection to their native lands.

Books by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz:

  • An Indigenous People’s History of the United States
  • Not a Nation of Immigrants
  • All the Real Indians Died Off and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans
  • Roots of Resistance
  • Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment

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

  • Malala Yousafzai
  • Angela Y. Davis
  • Gloria Steinem
  • Rigoberta Menchú Tum
  • Winona LaDuke

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 September 2022: Sandra Cisneros

Sandra Cisneros is the perfect author to feature as kids head back to school, because her House on Mango Street is a staple in many school districts in America. This coming-of-age story is Cisneros’ best-known work, and it has garnered piles of awards (as well as been the victim of censorship and challenges due to the fact that it centers a Mexican-American family that lives in poverty and deals with racism and sexual assault). 

In all of her work, Cisneros writes about her character’s search for a sense of belonging. She herself straddles two worlds and two cultures; her entire life, she has moved back and forth between Mexico and the USA, both geographically and culturally. Many of her works are written in both English and Spanish; she noted that she is grateful to have “twice as many words to pick from … two ways of looking at the world.” She often blends the two languages, using one over the other where she feels either language better conveys the meaning or improves the rhythm of the passage, regardless of the main language the piece is in. 

Cisnerors was the first female Mexican-American writer to have her work published by a mainstream publisher, and has worked since then to uplift other Chicana/o writers and help them get published by major publishing houses. Community is central to her work; she truly believes that a rising tide lifts all boats, and works to both support other writers and readers in their journeys. Both the work she does outside of writing and her writings themselves explore issues of identity and belonging. Her goal is to honor and uplift her ancestors; her novel Caramelo is a love letter to her father, and to the unconditional love and support he offered her. Of particular interest to our crafty community, the book is named for an unfinished rebozo (shawl) that the narrator’s great-grandmother was working on before she died: 

“Even with half its fringes hanging unbraided like mermaid’s hair, it was an exquisite rebozo of five tiaras, the cloth a beautiful blend of toffee, licorice, and vanilla stripes flecked with black and white, which is why they called this design a caramelo.”  – Caramelo, 2002

Our Mango Street colorway is bright and powerful, much like the culture Cisneros reflects in her writing. The inspiration is the gorgeous first edition cover of The House on Mango Street.

Books by Sandra Cisneros:

  • The House on Mango Street
  • Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories
  • Martita, I Remember You/Martita, te recuerdo 
  • Caramelo

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

  • Isabel Allende
  • Julia Alvarez
  • Erika Sanchez
  • Esmeralda Santiago
  • Laura Esquivel

HerStory August 2022: Alisha Rai

We are so happy to be sharing this month’s HerStory recipient with y’all. Folks who haven’t yet encountered her, meet Alisha Rai, our internet bestie (in our own minds, heehee).

Rai is a fabulous writer: her Modern Romance trilogy is in almost-constant rotation in our earbuds and kindles. Her earlier books are very spicy, but in everything she writes, there is an inherent sweetness and kindness.

Her Instagram is a true joy to follow, and, if the videos she shares from there are anything to go by, her TikTok must be as well (we have resisted the siren song of that app so far!) She produced a cooking show throughout the pandemic on YouTube (link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyOL0ZfUCiN3BO4ffTwwyXg), and does regular reviews of new Trader Joe’s items on her Instagram. She makes the best crafts and tells the best stories. She really is someone who you follow for a while and think: she could be my bestie. She is also the co-host of one of the sweetest podcasts ever, Lovestruck Daily. It’s a daily dose of love stories, and the perfect thing to binge while crafting.

When she was getting started writing romance (while enjoying a successful career as an attorney), she was told by publishing house after publishing house that because her books centered non-white protagonists, they wouldn’t sell (doesn’t this sound familiar for so many of our HerStory authors this year? It seems like, instead of denying non-white authors places in the publishing schedule, the publishing industry needs to start promoting more non-white folks into executive positions, eh?). So, Rai explored the world of self-publishing, and her book Serving Pleasure was the first self-published book to appear on The Washington Post’s annual list of best books of the year, in 2015. As an outspoken woman on the internet, she has been the victim of the worst kind of trolling for things like speaking up against racism in the romance world and sharing her dating experiences. But she keeps being herself, and sharing herself, and we are so grateful to her for that, because herself is a pretty special person.

Alisha Rai is one of our favorite examples of the best of what modern romance is: inclusive, sex-positive, diverse in both race/culture/background and in sexuality of her characters. Consent is at the center of sexual relationships, and mutual trust and respect are givens. Plus her books are just so darned fun, it’s hard to put them down! 

Our Partners in Crime colorway ins inspired by her upcoming release of the same name (our calendars are marked for October, when it comes out!). 

Books by Alisha Rai:

  • Modern Love Trilogy (The Right Swipe, Girl Gone Viral, & First Comes Like)
  • Forbidden Hearts Trilogy (Hate to Want You, Wrong to Need You, & Hurts to Love You)
  • Hot as Hades
  • Upcoming Partners in Crime (publishing in October!)

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

  • Rebekah Witherspoon
  • Tia Williams
  • Courtney Milan
  • Lucy Score
  • Alexis Hall
  • Mia Sosa
  • Jayci Lee

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/