Author: Hilton Als
Publisher: McSweeney's
Buy it here

Junot Diaz hailed it as "the read of the year," and he wasn't kidding. In a year where so much of the pop cultural conversation has revolved around race, representations of black men and women, and what constitutes appropriation, Hilton Als' essay collection is beyond essential. Als writes about a variety of subjects, from Richard Pyror to Eminem, silent film stars to romance in the AIDS-riddled New York of the 1980s, but the through line is race and gender in America, and how they are performances both put on and inflicted upon us. What does it mean to be a white girl? Or a gay man of color? And is it possible to be one and then the other, or everything all at once?

White Girls, in addition to having the prettiest prose of the year, astounds because of how it asks the reader to work. You learn to read it as you go. You get on Als' level. And in the process, you find that your vision has been altered, and there's no seeing race or gender or sexuality the same way again. —Ross Scarano