Women on the Rise: Ten Emerging Female Authors

In celebration of Women’s History Month 2020, we’ve put together a list of emerging female authors who have recently made a big splash in the publishing industry. From poets and playwrights to graphic novelists and genre-blenders, there’s something here for everyone! Let’s look back at ten women writers who blew us away over the past year.

Fiction: Julia Phillips

What you might know her from: Disappearing Earth (May 14, 2019 from Penguin Random House)

Who she is: With a number of articles, essays, and short stories already under her belt, Phillips released her debut novel in 2019 to resounding praise. Disappearing Earth opens with the kidnapping of two young girls in a Russian city and explores the subsequent impact of the crime on the community—particularly on the women. The novel was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and a finalist for a National Book Award.

What some reviewers are saying:

“Phillips has certainly woven a sophisticated and powerful literary thriller; the stitches of her language make you go, Damn, that’s good.” —Randy Rosenthal, LA Review of Books

“More than a crime novel, the book questions how a girl, an entire region, a culture, could vanish into thin air because no one’s paying attention.” —Meredith Boe, Chicago Review of Books

Website: https://www.juliaphillipswrites.com/

Poetry: Camonghne Felix

What you might know her from: Build Yourself a Boat (April 2019 from Haymarket Books)

Who she is: Already a notable political strategist at the time of her debut poetry collection, Felix focuses on pressing contemporary social issues both within her writing and without. Build Yourself a Boat is an “anthem of survival” amid explorations of trauma, and was received with great acclaim upon publication, earning a spot on the National Book Award longlist. Felix also contributed to The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic, and was named one of Black Youth Project’s sixteen “Black Girls From the Future You Should Know.”

What some reviewers are saying:

“Camonghne Felix’s compelling debut drew me in and never let go…” —Bee, The Book Stack

“Camonghne Felix’ Build Yourself a Boat… is not meant to be a solution for any of life’s ills. It is, however, a look at truth.” —Christopher Margolin, The Poetry Question

Website: http://www.costuracreative.com/camonghne-felix.html

Short Story Collection: Kali Fajardo-Anstine

What you might know her from: Sabrina and Corina (April 2, 2019 from Penguin Random House)

Who she is: Fajardo-Anstine’s remarkable short story collection follows the lives of Indigenous Latina characters navigating the harsh world of Denver, Colorado. A practiced short story writer already, Fajardo-Anstine released her debut in early 2019, and it became a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award.

What some reviewers are saying:

“[A] nearly perfect collection of stories that is emotionally wrenching but never without glimmers of resistance and hope.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“You will clutch your heart reading Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s short story collection Sabrina & Corina.” —Anjanette Delgado, New York Journal of Books

Website: https://www.kalifajardoanstine.com/

Nonfiction: Jaquira Díaz

What you might know her from: Ordinary Girls (Oct. 29, 2019 from Algonquin Books)

Who she is: Díaz’s debut memoir Ordinary Girls details a life growing up in the housing projects of Puerto Rico and Miami Beach—a life spent struggling with sexuality, mental health, and family, in addition to the threats of violence and colonialism. A writer, editor, and professor, Díaz’s fiction and essays have appeared in numerous publications since 2011. Her first book-length work has been labelled by Library Journal as “[a] must-read memoir on vulnerability, courage, and everything in between from a standout writer.”

What some reviewers are saying:

“It takes courage to write a book like Ordinary Girls, and Díaz does not shy away from her deepest, most troubling truths. She jumps into the writing of her story and gets her hands dirty, her heart broken, her spirit bruised.”—Reyna Grande, NY Times

“The stunning beauty of Díaz’s memoir grows out of its passion, its defiance, its longing, its love and its clear-eyed honesty.” —Henry L. Carrigan Jr., BookPage

Website: http://www.jaquiradiaz.com/

YA [Fantasy] Fiction: Isabel Ibañez

What you might know her from: Woven in Moonlight (January 7, 2020 from Page Street Publishing).

Who she is: Ibañez’s debut novel, Woven in Moonlight, is a Bolivian-inspired YA fantasy packed with “magic, romance, and revolución,” following determined protagonist Ximena on her mission to restore the rightful leaders of her land. The sequel, Written in Starlight, is projected to release in Winter 2021. Besides writing, Ibañez also works as a graphic designer; she is founder of 9th Letter Press, and her work has appeared in notable brands across the country.

What some reviewers are saying:

“If the rest of the debuts [of 2020] are this promising, then we’re going to have a very good year.” —Zoraida Córdova, Tor.com

Woven in Moonlight—appropriately—weaves a beautiful spell that takes culturally specific details and spins them into an engaging fantasy world.” —Caitlyn Paxson, NPR

Website: http://www.isabelibanezdavis.com/

YA [Fantasy] Fiction: Katy Rose Pool

What you might know her from: There Will Come a Darkness (September 3, 2019 from Holt Books for Young Readers/Macmillan)

Who she is: I bet you expected to see Katy Rose Pool on this list! There Will Come a Darkness blew readers away when it first hit the shelves last September. Praised for its excellent worldbuilding and attention to character, Pool’s debut fantasy—the first in a projected trilogy—follows five diverse characters set on a path to prevent—or cause—a prophesied Age of Darkness. There Will Come a Darkness is Pool’s first published work.

What some reviewers are saying:

“[C]lear your schedule as soon as you pick it up, because it’s a novel that’s almost impossible to put down once you start in on the first page.” —Lacy Baugher, Fansided

“Do not miss your chance to join what will surely be the next great YA fantasy trilogy at the beginning.” —Jamie Sugah, The Geekiary

Website: https://katyrosepool.com/

Children’s/Middle-grade: J. M. M. Nuanez

What you might know her from: Birdie and Me (Feb. 18, 2020 from Kathy Dawson Books / Penguin Young Readers)

Who she is: J. M. M. Nuanez is new to the publishing scene, with her debut middle-grade novel Birdie and Me being her first published work. Birdie and Me follows a girl named Jack and her “gender non-conforming brother” Birdie, who together, after their mother’s death, look for a new home with their uncles. Nuanez is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), a self-professed cat lover, and the author of what one critic is calling an “outstanding debut.”

What some reviewers are saying:

“Sure-handed storytelling and choice details… mark a strong middle grade debut.” —Publishers Weekly

Website: https://www.jmmnuanez.com/

Playwright: Sylvia Khoury

What you might know her from: Power Strip (premiered October 20, 2019 at Lincoln Center Theater’s Claire Tow Theater)

Who she is: Her play Power Strip debuted in late 2019 at Lincoln Centre Theatre’s Claire Tow Theatre, preceded by The Place Women Go (February 2019) and Against the Hillside (February 2018), as well as the world premiere of Selling Kabul (July 2019). Khoury has been praised for her striking depictions of refugee and immigrant experiences in both Power Strip and Selling Kabul. Not only is Khoury debuting these two plays in the same season, but she is also in her fourth year of medical school!

What some reviewers are saying:

“Something ancient and enraged drives [Khoury’s] narrative. This is the rare script I long to read.” —Kathleen Campion, New York Theatre Guide

“It’s less a play, really, than an experience.” —J. Peter Bergman, The Berkshire Edge

Website: https://www.sylviakhoury.com/

The New York premiere of Selling Kabul opens at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre on March 27, 2020. Find out more and buy tickets here.

Graphic Novelist: Hannah Templer

What you might know her from: Cosmoknights, Book 1 (October 22, 2019 from Top Shelf Productions)

Who she is: Having worked as an artist on such projects as the comic adaptation of GLOW, Templer was already a celebrated cartoonist before the release of her first solo work, Cosmoknights. Templer originally published Cosmoknights serially as a webcomic in March 2019, with the hopes that her story would be more accessible to readers still in the closet. Written and illustrated by Templer, Cosmoknights follows a cast of queer women taking down a galactic patriarchal society—one gladiatorial joust at a time.

What some reviewers are saying:

“[A] gorgeous and timely space adventure saga.” —Publishers Weekly

“Hannah Templer’s graphic novel CosmoKnights introduces an exciting space-operatic world with a queer twist.” —Peter Dabbene, Foreword Reviews

Website: http://www.hannahtempler.com/

Genre-blending: Claudia D. Hernández

What you might know her from: Knitting the Fog (July 9, 2019 from The Feminist Press)

Who she is: Hernández stunned audiences with her release of Knitting the Fog, a memoir about immigration told through narrative essays and poetry in both English and Spanish. Besides being an avid poet, editor, photographer, translator, and teacher, Hernández also founded Today’s Revolutionary Women of Color, a project dedicated to inspiring young girls and confronting oppression by celebrating exceptional women of color. Her manuscript of Knitting the Fog won the second annual Feminist Press Louise Meriwether First Book Prize, which celebrates remarkable women or nonbinary authors of color by publishing a debut work.

What some reviewers are saying:

“[Knitting the Fog] pulls you in with its rawness, then keeps you there with its eye-opening journey.” —Jaylynn Korrell, Independent Book Review

“It is a work that is as important as it is beautiful and is a must-read, particularly in today’s political climate.” —Mariana Huerta,Latinas Leyendo

Website: https://www.claudiadhernandez.com/

Jaclyn Morken

Jaclyn is an aspiring writer and editor from Saskatoon, Canada, where she completed an MFA in Writing and BA Hons in English at the University of Saskatchewan. Her work can be found in antilang no. 1, Dually Noted (March 2019), and River Volta Review of Books. Jaclyn writes fantasy and speculative fiction.


Image by Amberzen from Pixabay.