The best fiction and non-fiction coming in 2021

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (7 January, Serpent’s Tail, fiction)

Reese nearly had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York, a job she didn’t hate. She’d scraped together a life previous generations of trans women could only dream of; the only thing missing was a child. Then everything fell apart and three years on Reese is still in self-destruct mode, avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

When her ex calls to ask if she wants to be a mother, Reese finds herself intrigued. After being attacked in the street, Amy de-transitioned to become Ames, changed jobs and, thinking he was infertile, started an affair with his boss Katrina. Now Katrina’s pregnant. Could the three of them form an unconventional family – and raise the baby together?

little scratch by Rebecca Watson (14 January, Faber & Faber, fiction) 

Rebecca Watson’s debut novel little scratch tells the story of a day in the life of an unnamed woman, living in a lower-case world of demarcated fridge shelves and office politics; clock-watching and WhatsApp notifications. In a voice that is fiercely wry, touchingly delicate and increasingly neurotic, the protagonist relays what it takes to get through the quotidian detail of that single trajectory – from morning to night – while processing recent sexual violence.

Luster by Raven Leilani (21 January, Picador, fiction)

Edie is just trying to survive. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all-white office, is sleeping with all the wrong men, and has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting. No one seems to care that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life beyond looking for her next hook-up. Razor sharp, provocatively page-turning and surprisingly tender, Luster by Raven Leilani is a painfully funny debut about what it means to be young now.

Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden (28 January, Canongate, fiction)

In the debut novel by one of Britain’s best loved poets and performers, Mrs Death has had enough. She is exhausted from spending eternity doing her job and now she seeks someone to unburden her conscience to. Wolf Willeford, a troubled young writer, is well acquainted with death, but until now hadn’t met Death in person – a black, working-class woman who shape-shifts and does her work unseen.

Self Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye, translated by Jordan Stump (February, Influx Press, non-fiction) 

Obsessed by her encounters with the mysterious green women, and haunted by the Garonne River, a nameless narrator seeks them out in La Roele, Paris, Marseille, and Ouagadougou. Self Portrait in Green is the multi-prize winning Marie NDiaye’s brilliant subversion of the memoir. Written in diary entries, with lyrical prose and dreamlike imagery, we start with and return to the river, which mirrors the narrative by posing more questions than it answers.

What She’s Having (February, Dear Damsels, fiction/non-fiction/poetry)

The collective championing new women’s writing, Dear Damsels, are publishing their second anthology. In What She’s Having, sixteen writers explore the complex and meaningful relationships that women have with the food we cook, eat and share. Featuring emerging authors such as Ansa Khan, Hannah Lawrence, Syeda Salmah, Amy Feldman, Candy Ikwuwunna, Alice Slater, Terri-Jane Dow and many more.

Chauvo-Feminism by Sam Mills (11 February, Indigo Press, non-fiction)

Acclaimed author Sam Mills investigates the phenomenon of the chauvo-feminist, the man whose public feminism works to advance his career, whilst his private self exhibits age-old chauvinistic tactics. Through testimonies and her own experience, Mills examines the psychological underpinnings of the chauvo-feminist, exploring questions of modern relationships, consent, and emotional abuse and asks how we might move beyond ‘trial by Twitter’ to encourage an honest and productive dialogue between men and women.

Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again by Katherine Angel (2 March, Verso Books, non-fiction)

Katherine Angel surveys medical and psychoanalytic understandings of female desire, from Freud to Kinsey to present-day science; MeToo-era debates over consent, assault and feminism; and popular culture, TV and film to challenge our assumptions about female desire. In contrast to the endless exhortation to know what we want, Angel proposes that sex can be a conversation, requiring insight, interaction, and mutual vulnerability – a shared collaboration into the unknown.

This Is How We Come Back Stronger (23 March, And Other Stories, fiction/non-fiction)

Hard-hitting but ultimately uplifting, published on the one-year anniversary of lockdown for the US and the UK, This Is How We Come Back Stronger is an essential intersectional feminist collection for our times. In essays, interviews, fiction, and more, forty feminist writers from both sides of the Atlantic reflect on what matters most to them right now, and what comes next. Featuring contributions from Fatima Bhutto, Laura Bates, Lisa Taddeo, Gina Miller, Sara Collins, Layla Saad, Yomi Adegoke, Kerry Hudson, Juliet Jacques and many more.

An Ordinary Wonder by Buki Papillon (25 March, Dialogue Books, fiction)

Richly imagined with art, proverbs and folk tales, this moving and modern novel follows Oto through life at home and at boarding school in Nigeria, through the heartbreak of living as a boy despite their profound belief they are a girl, and through a hunger for freedom that only a new life in the United States can offer. An Ordinary Wonder is a powerful coming-of-age story that explores complex desires as well as challenges of family, identity, gender and culture and what it means to feel whole.

Ultimatum Orangutan by Khairani Barokka (25 March, Nine Arches Press, poetry)

Ultimatum Orangutan is a collection focused on environmental crises, disability and colonial legacies by acclaimed poet and academic Khairani Barokka. It follows Barokka’s first collection, Rope, which draws on issues of climate change, sexuality, violence, nature, desire and the body. 

This One Sky Day by Leone Ross (1 April, Faber & Faber, fiction)

Following two star-crossed lovers finding their way back to one another over a single day, This One Sky Day is set on a fictional Caribbean archipelago called Popisho. A sensual meditation on the nature of love and addiction, it is also a dazzling, funny and incisive disquisition on post-colonial politics.

Fifty Sounds by Polly Barton (14 April, Fitzcarraldo Editions, non-fiction)

Polly Barton is a Japanese to English translator. In her debut non-fiction work, Barton recounts her life as an outsider in Japan through a personal dictionary of the Japanese language. Irreverent, humane, witty and wise, Fifty Sounds is an exceptional debut about the quietly revolutionary act of learning, speaking and living in another language.

A Decolonial Feminism by Françoise Vergès, translated by Ashley J. Bohrer (20 April, Pluto Press, non-fiction)

For too long feminism has been co-opted by the forces they seek to dismantle. In this powerful manifesto, Francoise Verges argues that feminists should no longer be accomplices of capitalism, racism, colonialism and imperialism: it is time to fight the system that created the boss, built the prisons and polices women’s bodies.

Museum of Ice Cream by Jenna Clake (22 April, Bloodaxe, poetry)

Following on from her debut collection Fortune Cookie, Jenna Clake’s new collection of poetry examines objects, scenes and flavours, exploring how food can both connect and divide. In turning to television, childhood films and social media accounts, her collection investigates how to reveal and conceal, what it means to have a secret, to be intimate, to navigate something that should be natural, but feels sickly, sour and wrong.

Yes Yes More More by Anna Wood (6 May, Indigo Press, fiction)

In her electric debut short story collection, Anna Wood skips through the decades of a woman’s life, meeting friends, lovers, shapeshifters and doppelgangers along the way. Pleasures and regrets pile up, time becomes non-linear, characters stumble and shimmy through moments of rupture, horror and joy. Written with warmth, wit and swagger, these stories glide from acutely observed comic dialogue to giddy surrealism and quiet heartbreak, and always there is music – pop songs as tiny portals into another world. Yes Yes More More is packed with friendship, memory, sexuality, love, and the radical possibilities of pleasure.

We Need to Talk About Money by Otegha Uwagba (13 May, HarperCollins, non-fiction)

A deeply honest account of the ups and downs wrought by money, We Need To Talk About Money explores issues and dynamics that will be familiar to most. This is a book about toxic workplaces and sexist bosses. About getting pay rises and not getting pay rises. About class and privilege and racism and beauty standards. About shame and pride, compulsion and fear.

Transgender Marxism ed. by Jules Joanne Gleeson and Elle O’Rourke (20 May, Pluto Press, non-fiction)

Named as the ‘first collection of its kind’, Transgender Marxism interrogates the contribution of capitalist society to the oppression of trans people. Looking at the history of transgender movements, historical materialist interventions into developmental theory, psychoanalytic speculation and workplace ethnography, the authors gathered in this anthology ultimately conclude that for trans liberation, capitalism must be abolished.

Absorbed by Kylie Whitehead (27 May, New Ruins, fiction) 

The debut novel by Kylie Whitehead, and the first publication of imprint New Ruins, Absorbed follows protagonist Allison who has been with Owen since university. Having given up on writing her novel and now working a dull office job, Allison feels like the only interesting thing about her is that she’s Owen’s girlfriend. But he’s slipping away from her and Allison has no idea who she’ll be without him. Panicking, she absorbs him: Allison begins taking on Owen’s best qualities, becoming the person she always thought she should be. But is Owen all she needs to complete herself? Will Allison ever be a whole person? 

Variations by Juliet Jacques (June, Influx Press, fiction) 

Variations is the debut short story collection from one of Britain’s most compelling voices, Juliet Jacques. Using fiction inspired by found material and real-life events, Variations explores the history of transgender Britain with lyrical, acerbic wit. 

All titles will be available to pre-order from the publisher or to purchase at your local independent bookshop after publication.

The image shows a selection of the book covers included in the list. Clockwise from top left: 1) The outline of a face drawn on scrap paper against a pink background, 2) An illustration of a wolf and a rabbit making a circle with their bodies against a dark, floral background, 3) The silhouette of a woman holding herself in shades of green, 4) The book title in large font against a striped pink and yellow background, 5) The image of a black woman in a white dress flowing down the length of the cover, 6) The book title in large font against a light pink background, 7) An unpeeled orange against an orange background, 8) The book title in large, multi-coloured font against a white background, 9) A photograph of the back of a person with dark hair submerged in white liquid, 10) A circle in black and white halves against a background of blue and pink halves.