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  • Writer's pictureJami Moore

5 Female Authors You Should Start Reading This Year

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

It used to be that if a woman wanted to be published, she would have to submit under a male name. Writing, much like everything else, was a man's world, and woe betide those who wanted in who didn't have the luxury to be born the correct gender. And if you weren't white? Triple that. Now, though, while there's still a long way to go, women and people of every color have finally been able to forge a seat at the table for their stories to be told. And you know what? They're pretty damn great stories. When I began picking out books for this year, I promised myself that I was going to seek out female, queer, and non-white authors. There are so many perspectives out there, so many tales to be told that I can learn from.

It's honestly the best literary decision I've ever made.

So while there's a myriad of authors to choose from (and you can bet that I'll write many iterations of this post over time) here are five of the women who write stellar books, that I think you should take a look at. There are some horror authors in here (it's me, I'm the problem) but I think you'll find a number of genres included.

1) Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I first read Silvia Moreno-Garcia's work through Mexican Gothic, but she is a force of nature in every genre she writes. From period dramas to horror to romance, she entrances her readers and practically dares them to put the book down. I love everything about her work, from her characters, to her ideas -- but it's not enough to have good ideas. The fantastic thing about this author is that she has these ideas and actually manages to carry them out with amazing flair. As we all know that our ideas sound better in our head, I'd love to see what it was before it came out, because her work always blows me away.

Moreno-Garcia's works are brimming with Mexican culture and flavor. They serve as love letters to her ancestral home that are full of realism and wit. She doesn't shy away from histories of white colonizers and their impact on Mexico, which is something I know will always do me good to read, to remind myself that history -- even ugly history -- deserves to be remembered.

The name of the game with Moreno-Garcia is balance. Her plots move at a perfectly-balanced pace: not too slow, but not fast enough that the reader feels overwhelmed or confused. Her prose is perfectly aligned between being elegant and accessible, so that I always sort of feel like I'm eating homemade ice cream: eager to lap up every last drop, wanting to savor it because I know that once it's over, I'm going to feel slightly melancholy that it's over. In Mexican Gothic, her characters are well-parsed out without being self-indulgent for a short work, and I always felt as if there was a new secret just waiting around the next corner, if I dared myself to look.

Moreno-Garcia has several works out. Not just Mexican Gothic, but also books like Velvet Was the Night, The Beautiful Ones, Certain Dark Things, and her new release (which is currently sitting in my hot little hands, begging to be opened) The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, a moody period piece with a touch of science-fiction in the vein of its inspiration, The Island of Doctor Moreau by beloved classic author, H.G. Wells. Stay tuned for more about this phenomenal author -- or just sign up for her newsletter! I did.

2) Erin Morgenstern

Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus is one of my favorite books in all that mankind (womankind?) has ever put forth. I even have a scarf and writing gloves from Storiarts out of Portland, that have the opening paragraphs from the book emblazoned on them, and I wear them with pride. (I'm not being paid. I just think they're awesome.) The eponymous circus is Le Cirque du Rêves, the Circus of Dreams -- a sea of black and white that appears, unannounced, at the edge of a city on its tour. It opens at midnight, lasts all night for an undisclosed span of time, and then it just disappears, and may not come again for years. But its secret lies in its heart, behind the scenes, where two magicians are in a competition to outshine the other with their real magic -- magic that most assume are only clever illusions.

The Cirque du Rêves is an immensely appropriate name, because the entire book feels like a dream. It's rife with lush, vivid descriptions of fantastical sights and sensations. Every time I opened her book, it was like falling down the proverbial rabbit hole, into a wonderland that I never wanted to crawl out of. Which of course, meant that when I was done (and rather morose about the whole business) that my wife bought me my own, hardcover copy of the book and a copy of her other major novel, The Starless Sea. (You can probably expect a review of that at some point, too, but it's not on my immediate list.) Morgenstern has managed to land herself a spot on this list by creating a love story for the ages, that has instantly turned itself into a modern-day classic. (To my mother-in-law: this is an author I think you'd really enjoy, and I promise, it's not horror.)

3) Jennifer Givhan

A writer friend first recommended Jennifer Givhan's Trinity Sight to me as something to read when I was going through infusions for an autoimmune disorder, and was stuck in a chair at the hospital for hours at a time. And you know that when a writer gives a recommendation, it's bound to be good. I told myself I wasn't going to include any authors I'd reviewed already in this list, but I just couldn't help myself. Givhan is a genre-bending illusionist with the most creative brain that I wish I could just pick at for days and then steal her ideas for my own.

Jennifer Givhan is one of those authors who writes so much of herself into her work that I feel like I know her a bit better after I close the book, and then I think to myself just how much I want to be friends with this woman in real life. There is spirituality poured over every book like a hot chocolate sauce that fills my body with delight as I learn more about it (are all my metaphors going to be food-related? Sorry, everyone, I haven't had breakfast.) And I can tell she's a mom in the real world, because she writes the perspective of a mother, fighting for her children (whether born or unborn) like a warrior, brandishing a spear for battle.

Givhan understands what it means to write powerful women. She lifts us up as she writes, and says "we all have flaws, and failings, and sagging bits on our bodies that we wish we didn't have. But look at us. We are magic. Come with me and we'll discover our power together." Her writing style is vivid and colorful, full of tiny details that dials the reader's immersion up to about a fourteen (that's on a scale of one to ten, folks.) For those of you who haven't picked up my review of her latest novel, River Woman, River Demon, I highly recommend that you take a look and then pick her book up when you can. This is a book I literally keep sending to people at random, just because I want them to experience her bewitching work.

4) C.M. Waggoner

C.M. Waggoner is a relatively new author, but she has such a unique style. A self-described "wizard author," her writing is as magic as her subject matter. Her first book, Unnatural Magic, was a fantasy murder mystery set in another world full of mathematical magic and erudite, artisan trolls (complete with racial tension with humans). Her world is so unique, and the dichotomy she places between the two intertwined stories she tells manages to draw the reader in, even though they're relying on vague hopes that the two sides will ever cross paths (they do).

Waggoner has incredibly fresh, new ideas on how to create a fantasy world, and her most monumental strength is of hiding relevant commentary inside these stories. The entirety of Unnatural Magic is a play on gender roles, and I found myself falling head-over-heels for the unlikely love story in its pages that took everything our patriarchal society knows about male dominance, turned it on its head, and still managed to feel natural, healthy, and loving. I couldn't get enough, and the ending had me sighing happily and having to tell my wife all about it.

Her newer book, The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry, came out in January of last year, and I haven't read it yet, but it's now on my list. If you like fantasy, but find that the usual tropes bore you a bit, Waggoner is definitely the author for you. You will never be bored with her exceptional world-building, you will fall in love with her characters, and she'll always find a way to make important points through her writing.

5) Camilla Sten

Look, I told you there would be a horror author in here. But most of the writers on this list write in many genres, or defy the idea of genre altogether, so I feel justified in saving one spot for my happy place. Camilla Sten is no exception to this rule, either. She writes hair-raising, thrilling horror, but she also has a YA series out. I honestly don't know much about it, and I'm not sure if it's been translated into English, but it's worth a look if you're interested.

My first exposure to Sten was through her debut horror novel, The Lost Village. I bought it at a Barnes and Noble in San Francisco one afternoon while on vacation visiting my wife's family, picked it up the next morning, and had it wrapped up by that evening after a day of non-stop thrills. Every once in a while, I'd look up at my wife and say "welp, so-and-so is dead," and then I'd tell her the gory details and go back to what I'd been doing. Now, I don't know if it's because the book was originally published in Swedish, but the language is very direct and to-the-point in this book. Some reviewers didn't like this, but I found it satisfying, because it was still descriptive enough that I was lost in the grayscale world of Silvertjärn, but I never felt like the prose was standing in the way of my immersion.

I will definitely talk more about The Lost Village at some point on this blog, if only to discuss how I took it as an inspiration and morphed it into my own one-day Pathfinder game for myself and some friends on a trip to a cabin in the woods. (Other people go hiking, biking, spend time with nature. We brought so many board games, y'all. It was amazing.)

I honestly love her tender, careful exploration of heavy themes like mental health and family trauma in what she writes. She, like several of the others on this list, excels at saying something meaningful through the vessel of her literature, and I love that. Most of all, though, in this book, at least, she ascribes to the Shirley Jackson idea of "there are no haunted houses; only haunted people." Her play between past and present serves to give a clearer understanding of the tragedies and atrocities committed in Silvertjärn, and I can't wait to read her other horror novel, The Resting Place, which is sitting sadly on my shelf, waiting for a rainy day.

The Conclusion

There are so many female authors taking the world by storm right now, I can't even mention them all. Some of the women I will be featuring soon include Erika T. Wurth, Oyinkan Braithwaite, Jennifer McMahon, Scarlett St. Clair, Allison Saft, Rachel Harrison, Isabel Cañas, Christina Henry, Alexis Henderson, Helen Oyeyemi, and Leigh Bardugo. To all the badass women out there, making waves in literature -- whether I mentioned you or not -- keep writing. Keep sending your stories into the world, because we need to hear them. You inspire me to no end, and make me want to join your ranks with stories of my own.

This is a stock photo of some silver-haired woman I've never met, lying on a pillow, on a field of... sheep's wool? Dryer lint? I don't even know. But she looks very warm and comfy, and she's reading a book in a black sweater and sage green shawl.  So it can't be that bad.

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