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Great Reads for Winter 2012

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
By Jeanette Winterson, Grove Press

Winterson's debut novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was a thinly veiled memoir of her budding lesbian life within a strict religious family. Now she drops the mask of fiction, reexamines her difficult adoptive mother, searches for her birth mother and reconciles her problems with love.

Girl Reading
By Katie Ward, Scribner

Ward's debut novel deftly weaves together seven beautifully crafted vignettes, each based on an actual painting or portrait of a girl or woman caught in the act of reading. The result is a kaleidoscopic rendering of intellectual women from the Renaissance to the present.

Intimate Wars: The Life and Times of the Woman Who Brought Abortion from the Back Alley to the Boardroom
By Merle Hoffmam, The Feminist Press at CUNY

Hoffman founded one of the nation's first abortion clinics, edits a feminist magazine and is a crusader for reproductive rights and self-made millionaire. Her stirring memoir recounts a remarkable life in a tone part wry, part battle cry.

Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness
Edited by Rebecca Walker, Soft Skull Press

Sixteen black intellectuals muse on the concept of "cool" and its inextricable ties to blackness. Standout pieces by bell hooks and Staceyann Chin consider cool as a tool of gender oppression and creative resistance.

A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman
By Margaret Drabble, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The devoted fans of British author Margaret Drabble—who has said she'll never write another novel—will rejoice at this complete collection of her no-less-engaging short works. These 14 stories, dating from 1964 to 2000 and gathered for the first time, shine light on the lives of 20th-century English women.

Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality
By Hanne Blank, Beacon Press

The author of Virgin: The Untouched History, the preconception-busting intellectual history of virginity, traces the Western notion of heterosexuality to its 19th-century roots (it's only about as old as the traffic light). Readers won't unquestioningly think "straight" again.

The Angel Makers
By Jessica Gregson, Soho Press

Gregson bases her novel on the true story of Hungarian women, known as the Angel Makers of Nagyrév, who poisoned oppressive husbands. When the men of a small village go off to battle in World War I, the women realize their lives are much better without their husbands. After the war ends, they do what it takes to keep their newfound freedom.

Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women
Edited by Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi, Soft Skull Press

Candid essays by Muslim women relate courtships of all sorts: happy and unhappy; arranged and unarranged; from finding a partner online to claiming one's own virginity by "giving it up to a man who doesn't want to own you."

Black Like Us: A Century of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual African American Fiction
Edited by Devon W. Carbado, Dwight A. McBride and Donald Weise Cleis Press

More than just a rich history of queer African American fiction, this anthology is a showcase of great literature. Its 37 authors include Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Langston Hughes, E. Lynn Harris, April Sinclair, Jewelle Gomez and Jacqueline Woodson.

Somebody's Children: The Politics of Transracial and Transnational Adoption
By Laura Briggs, Duke University Press

Heroic rescue narratives of "orphaned" brown babies—from the adoption of native children to the fairy-tale story of Zahara Jolie-Pitt—often crumble under scrutiny. Briggs, who adopted a Mexican American daughter, looks unflinchingly at the disturbing history of U.S. adoption across race and borders.

Voices of the Women's Health Movement, Vols 1 and 2
Edited by Barbara Seaman with Laura Eldridge, Seven Stories Press

Before her death, crusading journalist Seaman compiled this hefty collection of feminist writings on women's health. Revisit the struggle for control of our bodies through the works of Shere Hite, Shulamith Firestone, Gloria Steinem, Phyllis Chesler and more.

No One Is Here Except All of Us
By Ramona Ausubel. Riverhead Books

Set in a Jewish village in 1939 Romania, this novel is based on the experiences of Ausubel's great-grandmother. Realizing war is coming, the villagers follow the suggestion of an 11-year-old girl and reinvent their world, reshuffling families and histories. As the real world rears its ugly head, these stories help shape their future.

Reprinted from the Winter 2012 issue of Ms. To have this issue delivered straight to your door, join the Ms. community.

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