Small Press Points: The Feminist Press

From the July/August 2023 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

Whose voices aren’t being heard right now, and why?” This question drove Florence Howe’s decision to establish the Feminist Press in Baltimore in 1970—and it continues to motivate the press today, says editorial director Lauren Rosemary Hook. Initially responding to a call by second-wave feminists to expand the canon of literature by women, the press reprinted then-overlooked authors like Zora Neale Hurston and Charlotte Perkins Gilman while supporting newer voices like Barbara Ehrenreich and Grace Paley, helping to make them household names. “But there are still many people who struggle to see their experiences represented in print, whether they are considered too niche, too intersectional, too experimental, or too risky for mainstream publishers,” says Hook. “It’s our mandate to seek out and give a platform to those voices.”

Now a nonprofit based in Manhattan at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, the Feminist Press publishes twelve to fifteen books a year in multiple genres, including fiction, memoir, political nonfiction, translation, and hybrid genres, which editors acquire through direct solicitation and two open reading periods annually. The press will be open to no-fee submissions of fiction and nonfiction in English during the month of July. “We see open submissions as a crucial component of serving our mission by countering the gatekeeping practices that disproportionately disadvantage writers who lack access to traditional pathways to publication,” says Hook, adding that many of the press’s most successful titles have come through open submissions, including Bishakh Som’s graphic story collection, Apsara Engine (2021), and Grace M. Cho’s memoir about her family history rooted in Cold War–era Korea, Tastes Like War (2021), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. “We are seeking books from insurgent and marginalized writers that drive the feminist conversation forward and spark dialogue in nuanced and exciting ways,” Hook says. Titles forthcoming this year include Shahd Alshammari’s Head Above Water, a memoir about the author’s experience with multiple sclerosis and her career in higher education, and Soula Emmanuel’s Wild Geese, a novel about an Irish trans woman who reunites with an old flame while living in Scandinavia. “We’re especially drawn to voice- and vision-driven stories as well as genre-defying texts,” says Hook.