November 2021 Deal Announcements

Adult Fiction

Russian poet, artist, and feminist activist Oksana Vasyakina’s WOUND, following a young queer woman on a journey across Russia to Siberia, where she has promised to take her mother’s ashes, woven through with memories of a traumatic and impoverished childhood, experiences of the sublime, her sexual and artistic awakening, and the pains and joys of life as a lesbian in Russia, to Katharina Bielenberg at MacLehose Press, in a nice deal, at auction, by Rachel Clements at Abner Stein on behalf of Marleen Seegers at 2 Seas Agency, for Catapult.

Victoria Lee’s A SHOT IN THE DARK, a contemporary queer romance featuring Elisheva Cohen, a now-sober young artist who returns to New York to study photography after nearly a decade in Los Angeles and has an unforgettable one-night stand with a gorgeous trans man who turns out to be her teacher, the legendary Wyatt Cole, to Shauna Summers at Dell, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Holly Root and Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary.

Sophie Burnham’s SARGASSA, a queer speculative novel set in contemporary North America in a world where the Roman Empire never fell, following the high-and low-born children of a murdered politician as they are swept up in a revolution and race to find a powerful artifact, to Joshua Demarest at CatStone, by Maria Napolitano at Bookcase Literary Agency (world English).

ACLU-NJ honoree and LGBTQ activist Robyn Gigl’s next two books in her Erin McCabe legal thriller series, featuring a transgender attorney, to John Scognamiglio at Kensington, in a two-book deal, for publication in 2023 and 2024, by Carrie Pestritto at Laura Dail Literary Agency (world).

Author of NYTBR Editors’ Choice THE RECENT EAST Thomas Grattan’s IN TONGUES, a coming-of-age novel set in New York City and Europe in fall 2001, following a gay 24-year-old Midwesterner as he gets swept up in the charm and desires of a powerful older couple, examining issues of social class and queer desire, the pursuit of religious and physical ecstasy, and the complicated relationships between fathers and sons, both biological and chosen, again to Jackson Howard at MCD/FSG, for publication in fall 2023, by Jody Kahn at Brandt & Hochman (world).

Argentinian author Marina Yuszczuk’s THIRST, a queer Gothic vampire novel set in Buenos Aires, following two women in different time periods who confront desire, fear, violence, loneliness, and mortality, pitched as having echoes of Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN and for readers of Samanta Schweblin, Carmen Maria Machado, and Samantha Hunt, to Pilar Garcia-Brown in her first acquisition for Dutton, by Elianna Kan at Regal Hoffmann & Associates (world English).

Hell’s Library series author A.J. Hackwith’s HOLLOW ROAD HOME and its sequel, pitched as a queer, millennial AMERICAN GODS, about a fae working at a truck stop in Kansas to hide from her past, until she’s blackmailed by a self-taught magician to guide him and his sister—a girl born with a changing map on her skin—across the strange backroads and forgotten spaces of the gothic American Midwest in search of a powerful treasure, to Miranda Hill at Ace, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2023, by Caitlin McDonald at Donald Maass Literary Agency (world).

Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellow and UMass Amherst MFA/PhD Shastri Akella’s THE SEA ELEPHANTS, a queer bildungsroman set in 1990s India, following a young gay man who, after the sudden death of his sisters, flees his father’s threats to send him to a conversion center by joining a street theater troupe; pitched as reminiscent of THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS in the way it blends the personal and the political to tell an epic story of forbidden love, to Caroline Bleeke at Flatiron Books, in a pre-empt, by Chris Clemans at Janklow & Nesbit (NA).

Author of A TIP FOR THE HANGMAN Allison Epstein’s LET THE DEAD BURY THE DEAD, a historical novel in which the arrival of a mysterious woman at the 19th-century Russian court divides the second son of the tsar and his lover, a captain in the imperial army, when one of them believes her to be a creature out of myth, setting all three on a collision course with revolution, again to Carolyn Williams at Doubleday, in a very nice deal, by Bridget Smith at JABberwocky Literary Agency (NA).

Young Adult Fiction

Author of SWEET & BITTER MAGIC Adrienne Tooley’s THE THIRD DAUGHTER and THE SECOND SON, pitched in the tradition of Three Dark Crowns and Girl, Serpent, Thorn, a dual PoV series featuring a crown under siege, an enchanted well of sadness, a ruthless antiheroine, and a slow-burning romance, to Jessica Anderson at Christy Ottaviano Books, in a good deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2023, by Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).

Jenna Miller’s OUT OF CHARACTER, a queer, fat-positive contemporary romance that follows a girl who escapes the stressors of the real world by roleplaying online in secret—but after falling for her roleplay bestie, she must decide if she can be honest about her double life, to Alyssa Miele at Quill Tree, in a two-book deal, for publication in winter 2023, by Michaela Whatnall at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).

Author of THE MYTHIC KODA ROSE Jennifer Nissley’s THE RULES OF US, pitched as the intersection between Becky Albertalli and Nina LaCour in a queer YA love story about longtime couple and best friends, who have dated throughout high school only to come out to each other on prom night, challenging their meticulously planned future as they try to disentangle their lives and identities, explore their sexualities, and learn not only a new way to be together, but how to be alone, to Liesa Abrams at Labyrinth Road, for publication in summer 2023, by Danielle Burby at Mad Woman Literary Agency (NA).

University of Cambridge student Sarah Underwood’s LIES WE SING TO THE SEA, pitched as a sapphic, feminist reclamation of the story of the hanged maids in THE ODYSSEY in a YA CIRCE, in which a failed oracle and a vengeful immortal must break the curse on their kingdom by killing its prince, to Stephanie Stein at Harper Teen, in a major deal, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in winter 2023, by Catherine Cho at Paper Literary (NA).

Dan Clay’s BECOMING A QUEEN, about a teenage boy who turns to drag performance to overcome his grief when tragedy strikes, to Mekisha Telfer at Roaring Brook Press, in a very nice deal, for publication in spring 2023, by Brent Taylor at TriadaUS Literary Agency (world).

LGBTQ+ romance and fantasy author Lauri Starling’s POISON FOREST, pitched as HOUSE OF SALT AND SORROWS meets Holly Black, featuring a mage who joins two teens with powerful abilities to track down the magic-stealing sorcerer who kidnapped her royal ex-girlfriend, braving a cursed forest and a betrayal that leaves them at the sorcerer’s nonexistent mercy, to MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy at Sword and Silk, for publication in October 2022.

Screenwriter and NYT-bestselling coauthor of FIVE FEET APART and ALL THIS TIME Mikki Daughtry’s untitled lesbian love story, unfolding over two sets of lives, 100 years apart, to Stephanie Pitts at Putnam Children’s, in a pre-empt, for publication in fall 2023, by Liz Parker at Verve Talent & Literary (NA).

Non-Fiction

Men’s Health sex and relationship columnist Zachary Zane’s BOYSLUT: A MEMOIR-MANIFESTO, a series of essays told through a bisexual lens, exploring the author’s coming-of-age in a world riddled with harmful messages about sex and sexuality, moving toward a place of embrace and celebration unencumbered by shame, to Zachary Knoll at Abrams Image, at auction, by Katherine Latshaw at Folio Literary Management (world).

Prince Shakur’s WHEN THEY TELL YOU TO BE GOOD, a memoir that mines the author’s many eras of radicalization and self-realization through examinations of place, childhood, queer identity, and a history of uprisings, to Hanif Abdurraqib at Tin House Books, for publication in October 2022 (NA).

Author of A NIGHT AT THE SWEET GUM HEAD Martin Padgett’s PRIVATE MATTERS, an exploration of the 1986 Supreme Court case Bowers v. Hardwick, which Laurence Tribe lost in the Court’s ruling that allowed Georgia to prosecute private homosexual acts (and which was not overturned until 2003), showing how the case ignited the gay rights movement of the 1980s while upending the life of Michael Hardwick, to Amy Cherry at Norton, in an exclusive submission, for publication in summer 2023, by Beth Marshea at Ladderbird Literary Agency (world English).

Fave Five: F/F Winter Holiday Romances

All I Want for Christmas and Christmas in Mistletoe by Clare Lydon

Under the Mistletoe by Everly James

Under a Falling Star by Jae

Collie Jolly by Leigh Landry

Eight Kinky Nights by Xan West z”l

Bonus: For a novella collection, try All I Want for Christmas by Georgia Beers, Maggie Cummings, and Fiona Riley

Double Bonus: Coming in 2022, keep your eyes on In the Event of Love by Courtney Kae, My First Noelle by Helena Greer and Kiss Her Once For Me by Alison Cochrun

Gift Guide: Chanukah/Hanukkah 5782

Give a loved one celebrating the Festival of Lights the joy of queer Jewish literature!

The Flower Girl Wore Celery written by Meryl Gordon and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

The Flower Girl Wore Celery by [Meryl G. Gordon, Holly Clifton-Brown]Emma’s so excited to be a bridesmaid at her cousin Hannah’s wedding, but it sure does come with a lot of surprises! She did not expect to have to wear a dress the color of celery, or for the ring-bearer to be a bear, or for Alex, the person Hannah’s marrying, to be a girl, too! But it’s a beautiful day and a beautiful traditional Jewish wedding, even in a dress the color of celery.

Grab this one for your youngest readers, and certainly for any flower girls in your life!

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros

A Romanian immigrant named Alter is trying to settle into his new life well enough to bring his mother and sister over, but when his roommate is the latest in a line of Jewish boys found murdered, and his dybbuk takes over Alter’s body in pursuit of the killer, Alter is forced to join forces with the most dangerous (and compelling) boy from his past to find the guilty party, get justice for Yakov, and regain his freedom.

Grab this one for fans of historical fiction (it’s set at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 Chicago at the World’s Fair), thrillers, horror, and anyone who’s regularly immersed in Ashkenazi culture and loves to see it reflected.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound | Blackwell’s

The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan

Naomi Grant knows she’s more than qualified to lecture on sex positivity and her successful startup, but her past as a porn star keeps getting her blocked from opportunities. Enter Rabbi Ethan Cohen, who’s happy to take a chance on Naomi in order to draw interest to and expand his congregation. They are a most unlikely pair, but they’re certainly successful…a little too much so, maybe.

Grab this one for any fans of sexy romance. Don’t be frightened off by the rabbi hero, because I can definitely confirm It Works.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Milk Fed by Melissa Broder

Controlling her food intake with restriction and ritual is about as religious as Rachel gets, which makes her instant connection with Orthodox, food-loving Miriam of the frozen yogurt shop both confusing and compelling. But while on a therapy-induced hiatus from communicating with her controlling mother, nothing feels better to Rachel than the way Miriam takes care of and nourishes her, even as both struggle with how far this relationship of opposites can possibly go.

Grab this one for the litfic lovers in your life, and anyone coping with complicated relationships with mothers, food (with the obvious content warning in place), religion, or any combination thereof.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler

Lara’s finally landed Chase, the guy of her dreams, so why can’t she stop thinking about Jasmine, the girl she hooked up with over the summer? And WTF is Jasmine doing at her new school?

Grab this one for tweens, teens, questioning and/or bi friends of any age, and romance lovers.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

I Kissed a Girl by Jennet Alexander

B-List actress Lilah and makeup artist Noa need to work together to help both of them succeed and move up in their respective food chains in Hollywood. But the more time they spend together, the harder they fall, giving them the brand-new problem of how to handle love in the spotlight.

Grab this one for the Sapphic adult romance lovers in your life!

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | Books-A-Million

Almost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow

Dalia’s plans for a perfect amusement-park filled summer hit a snag when her blended family-to-be decides it’s the perfect opportunity for some quality time. Which sucks, until Dalia learns her future stepsister’s bringing her girlfriend on the trip, and realizes they have more in common than she thought…and she just might have feelings for her own roller coaster companion of choice, Rani.

Grab this one for younger readers, especially if they’re newly out, love romance, are coping with family blending, or just like fun.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Camp by L.C. Rosen

Randy’s always loved hanging out with his friends and starring in the musicals at all-queer Camp Outland, but this year, he’s reinventing himself as the considerably more masc Del in order to finally land his crush, Hudson. He’s sure that once Hudson falls for him, he’ll be able to shift back into his old personality, but will he? And would it even be worth it if he could?

Grab this for summer camp kids, romance fans, readers hungry for all-queer casts, and anyone who appreciates books for teens that are a little more Queer 2.0. (Also, this one’s available in paperback, making it a good option for readers who prefer them, and also easier on the budget!)

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Depart, Depart! by Sim Kern

53417444. sy475 When Noah seeks refuge during a hurricane, he immediately clicks with the other queer refugees, but not without concern that his also being Jewish and trans could put a target on his back. Support arrives in the most unlikely place: the form of his great-grandfather, German refugee Abe, who coaches Noah on how to survive and forces him to choose what he’s willing to sacrifice in order to live.

Grab this one for readers interested in cli-fi, Dystopian fans, and anyone looking for rare Jewish and trans rep.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

Teen witch Nova lives a lovely small-town life with her grandmothers, but it all turns upside-down when she follows a white wolf into the woods and realizes it’s her childhood crush, Tam, who’s been searching for someplace to land. Now Tam needs help taking down a horse demon and everyone else looking to steal their power, and Nova is up to the task…and finding that her old feelings are very much still there.

Grab this one for fans of graphic novels, books that are spooky yet cozy, and anyone particularly looking for bicultural Jewish representation.

Note: Want to make this an extra-special gift? Grab the collector’s edition!

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Unwritten Rules by KD Casey

Read more about this book and the Judaism within it here.

Zach Glasser looks like he has a dream life as a pro ball player, but truthfully, he’s miserable over the fact that he lost the love of his life, teammate Eugenio Morales, when he wouldn’t and couldn’t come out three years earlier.  But now they’re being reunited for an all-star game, and Zach’s finally got another chance. Can he be who Eugenio needs him to be without giving up everything else in his life?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Grab this one for fans of sports, romance, and sports romance!

Don’t see something for your recipients here? Take a glance at this post for a whole bunch more queer Jewish reads!

Going with a gift card this year? Consider pairing it with recommendations for upcoming books, like This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke, Ellen Outside the Lines by AJ Sass!

Prefer to give a donation, or simply won’t get books in time because this blogger decided to do this post at the last minute and swears she’ll be earlier next year but right now this is the best we’ve got? Consider giving to Jewish Queer Youth!

Fave Five: Queer Reimaginings of 19th Century Literature

For more takes on Pride and Prejudice, click here.

A Clash of Steel by C.B. Lee (YA, Treasure Island)

The Wife in the Attic by Rose Lerner (Jane Eyre)

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim (YA, The Count of Monte Cristo)

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur (Pride and Prejudice)

Fresh by Margot Wood (YA, Emma)

Bonus, coming in 2022: Great or Nothing by Joy McCullough, Caroline Tung Richmond, Tess Sharpe, and Jessica Spotswood (YA, Little Women) and Epically Earnest by Molly Horan (YA, The Importance of Being Earnest)

Fave Five: LGBTQ YA Featuring Time Travel

Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson

The Last Beginning by Lauren James

The Unintentional Time Traveler by Everett Maroon

A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith

Spin Me Right Round by David Valdes

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Wrath Goddess Sing by Maya Deane

I have been anticipating this book since what feels like the beginning of time, so I’m thrilled to be revealing Maya Dean’s Wrath Goddess Sing, releasing June 7, 2022 from William Morrow! Here’s the story:

Drawing on ancient texts and modern archeology to reveal the trans woman’s story hidden underneath the well-known myths of The Iliad, Maya Deane’s Wrath Goddess Sing weaves a compelling, pitilessly beautiful vision of Achilles’ vanished world, perfect for fans of Song of Achilles and the Inheritance trilogy.

The gods wanted blood. She fought for love.

Achilles has fled her home and her vicious Myrmidon clan to live as a woman with the kallai, the transgender priestesses of Great Mother Aphrodite. When Odysseus comes to recruit the “prince” Achilles for a war against the Hittites, she prepares to die rather than fight as a man. However, her divine mother, Athena, intervenes, transforming her body into the woman’s body she always longed for, and promises her everything: glory, power, fame, victory in war, and, most importantly, a child born of her own body. Reunited with her beloved cousin, Patroklos, and his brilliant wife, the sorceress Meryapi, Achilles sets out to war with a vengeance.

But the gods—a dysfunctional family of abusive immortals that have glutted on human sacrifices for centuries—have woven ancient schemes more blood-soaked and nightmarish than Achilles can imagine. At the center of it all is the cruel, immortal Helen, who sees Achilles as a worthy enemy after millennia of ennui and emptiness. In love with her newfound nemesis, Helen sets out to destroy everything and everyone Achilles cherishes, seeking a battle to the death.

An innovative spin on a familiar tale, this is the Trojan War unlike anything ever told, and an Achilles whose vulnerability is revealed by the people she chooses to fight…and chooses to trust.

And here’s the stunning cover by Marcela Bolivar, with art direction by Richard Aquan!

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

***

Maya Deane first retold the Iliad at the age of six. Athena was the protagonist; all six pages were typed up on a Commodore 64; there were many spelling errors. (She has only doubled down since then.) A graduate of the University of Maryland and the Rutgers-Camden MFA, Maya lives with her fiancée of many years, their dear friend, and two cats named after gods. She is a trans woman, bisexual, and fond of spears, books, and jewelry. Aphrodite smiles upon her.

Love and Death in London 1932: a Guest Post by A Death in Bloomsbury Author David C. Dawson

Please welcome David C. Dawson to the site, author of historical gay mystery A Death in Bloomsbury, which releases today! He’s here to share a little more about how gay men survived in 1930s London, but first, here’s the story, which is the first in a brand-new series:

Everyone has secrets… but some are fatal.

1932, London. Late one December night Simon Sampson stumbles across the body of a woman in an alleyway. Her death is linked to a plot by right-wing extremists to assassinate the King on Christmas Day. Simon resolves to do his patriotic duty and unmask the traitors.
But Simon Sampson lives a double life. Not only is he a highly respected BBC radio announcer, but he’s also a man who loves men, and as such must live a secret life. His investigation risks revealing his other life and with that imprisonment under Britain’s draconian homophobic laws of the time. He faces a stark choice: his loyalty to the King or his freedom.

This is the first in a new series from award-winning author David C. Dawson. A richly atmospheric novel set in the shadowy world of 1930s London, where secrets are commonplace, and no one is quite who they seem.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Waterstones | Booktopia

And here’s the post!

My latest novel A Death in Bloomsbury is set in the shadowy world of gay life in 1930s London. I wanted to write a book that explore what it was like if you were gay when homosexuality was illegal. The story is a thriller set at Christmas time with gay characters as the main protagonists.

If you were a man in love with another man back in 1932 it was tough. Really tough. In the UK, the anti-gay laws had become strengthened with a new law in 1885. So much so that the new regulations were called a blackmailer’s charter.

Ten years later Oscar Wilde was to fall foul of them.

He was sentenced to two years hard labour, something from which he never fully recovered and died a few years later at the age of just forty-one.

The law was so strict you could be charged if your letters to your lover were discovered. Or if your neighbour reported you for a having a gentleman friend stay over.

And then there was entrapment.

Police would sometimes use their “pretty officers” to hang around known gathering places for gay men. If they were propositioned, the propositioner was promptly arrested.

The penalties for being found guilty of “gross indecency” as it was known were harsh. Two years hard labour meant two years walking on a vertical treadmill for up to six hours a day, climbing the equivalent of fourteen thousand feet. If you were a gentleman like Wilde, unused to physical work, your body was all but destroyed.

So how did gay men avoid prosecution?

In my research I discovered that they were remarkably resourceful. The word gay in those days meant happy and bright. The word homosexual was hardly used. Men who loved other men referred to themselves as being other. Incidentally, the authorities considered it impossible for a woman to love another woman. Lesbians didn’t exist. Women who loved women referred to themselves as Sapphic-leaning.

There were many other euphemisms used in 1930s London. In fact, gay men used an entirely invented language called Polari.

Polari had been used in London’s fish markets, fairgrounds and the theatre. It borrowed words from Romany, London slang and Yiddish. For example legs became lallies and look became vada.

It also created code words by reversing certain words. Hence face became ecaf, shortened to eek. Many gay men worked in the theatre and so adopted the language to be able to talk openly to each other without fear of other people understanding. Two gay men in a pub could admire a handsome new arrival by saying to each other: “Vada the bona lallies on that uomi” meaning “Look at the attractive legs on that man” without anyone knowing.

Gay men also had allies. Through the centuries, straight allies have often helped gay men when they faced oppression. Straight allies are still crucially important today. In 1930s London they would provide safe meeting places for gay men. In A Death in Bloomsbury much of the action centres on a pub called The Fitzroy Tavern. This is an actual pub in the 1930s run by a straight couple. It was known to welcome gay men, as well as “artists, Bohemians and other creative types”. In my book I refer to the pub owner using persuasive techniques to ensure the local police didn’t raid them, and this did actually happen with another similar pub in London.

There was also the famous Lyon’s Corner House on the Strand. This popular restaurant had a whole floor where gay men could meet discreetly, and it became known as The Lily Pond. Of course Soho was the best place to go to meet other men, have a drink and maybe a dance. But you were always at risk of the police raiding the venue. Knowing your escape route in an emergency was crucial.

Straight allies remain vital for gay men up to this day. There are still many parts of the world where being gay is illegal with punishments ranging from a straightforward fine to stoning or death. Our struggle for the right to be who we are, to love who we love will sadly never be over. And it is with the love and support of our straight allies that we can continue that struggle. Thank you to all who have worked to support us.

***

David C. Dawson is an award-winning author, journalist and documentary maker. He writes British-themed thrillers, both contemporary and period. He also writes gay romance. His latest book, A Death in Bloomsbury, was published in November 2021. His first novel, The Necessary Deaths, won an FAPA award in the best suspense/thriller category. It’s the first of three books in the Delingpole Mysteries series. David has also written two gay romances: For the Love of Luke and Heroes in Love. David lives in London, with his boyfriend and two cats. In his spare time, he tours Europe and sings with the London Gay Men’s Chorus. You can find out more about David at his website: http://www.davidcdawson.co.uk

 

Fave Five: Queer Boarding School YAs, Fantasy Edition

Please note this does not include any titles already listed here.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

Livingston Girls by Briana Morgan

Simon Snow by Rainbow Rowell

The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl

My Dearest Darkest by Kayla Cottingham (Coming April 5, 2022)

Bonus: Coming in Fall 2022 (as of now), Fraternity by Andy Mientus

Double Bonus: While I wouldn’t call it a “boarding school book,” It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts is set at a Wizard Academy, so I’m gonna slip it in here

 

Fave Five: Queer Boarding School YAs, Contemporary Edition

Please note this does not include any titles already listed here.

Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins

People Like Us by Dana Mele

If We Were Us by K.L. Walther

Any Place But Here by Sarah Van Name

Never Kiss Your Roommate by Philline Harms

Bonus: Coming February 15, 2022, The Chandler Legacies by Abdi Nazemian

The Liberating Politics of Queernorm Fiction: a Guest Post by Where the Rain Cannot Reach Author Adesina Brown

I’m excited to welcome Adesina Brown to the site today, who’s gues-posting on queernorm fiction in honor of their upcoming release, Where the Rain Cannot Reach, which publishes with Atmosphere Press on December 7th! Here’s the story:

Tair has never known what it means to belong. Abandoned at a young age and raised in the all-Elven valley of Mirte, the young Human defines herself by isolation, confined to her small, seemingly trustworthy family.

Abruptly, that family uproots her from Mirte and leads her on an inevitable but treacherous journey to Doman: the previous site of unspeakable Human atrocities and the current home of Dwarvenkind. Though Doman offers Tair new definitions of family and love, it also reveals to her that her very existence is founded in lies. Now, tasked with an awful responsibility to the Humans of Sossoa, Tair must decide where her loyalties lie and, in the process, discover who she wants to be… And who she has always been.

In their debut fantasy novel Where the Rain Cannot Reach, Adesina Brown constructs a world rich with new languages and nuanced considerations of gender and race, ultimately contemplating how, in freeing ourselves from power, we may find true belonging.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N

And here’s the post!

Death is inevitable. We learn this fact when we are young. Our family and friends will all die, and so too will this earth, as well as all the stars and moons and planets that make up the universe. Death does not discriminate, I once thought.

Until I died, or something of the sort. Spiteful and unchecked, cisgender and heterosexual people the world over harass, attack, and kill those in the queer and transgender community. In bearing witness to these deaths, a part of myself dies, too—a part of my irrevocably queer, non-binary self dies. In other words, I have learned that death is particularly inevitable for me, and for queer and trans people like me. Before that death, life is a just a series of unavoidable sexuality- and gender-based discrimination defined by constant fragmenting of self to ensure our safety. Because we are preoccupied with surviving all the hostility we face, we have not had the opportunity, neither the time nor the space, to dream of better worlds where we do not have to simply survive.

Unfortunately, fiction reflects nonfiction; our stories reflect our realities. An early fan of speculative fiction, particularly sci-fi and fantasy, I quickly recognized a pattern: if a character was queer and/or trans, they died a horrible, tragic death. This is known as the “bury your gays” trope. If a queer and/or trans character did not die, they lived otherwise miserable lives surrounded by bigots and non-LGBTQ+ people who eased the pain of such bigotry with placating reminders of allyship and frequent rebukes of society, of which they are apparently not a part. Their advice? Look for and accept only the small joys where you can get them; it’s all we can hope for when the world is so tragically against us. It gets better.

We yearn for more, yet we are told that “more” is an unattainable, naïve dream. I found few refuges in fiction where people like me were not being mocked or harassed for character growth, where our deaths were not fodder for the main characters to reach their final act. And, like any of us, I desperately needed that refuge; I needed representation to demonstrate to me that we all may live in ways that feel complicated and authentic—not simply to live, then, but to thrive, unencumbered by prejudice.

My first refuge, as was the case for many young nerds, was in fanfiction written by other people who sought representation in the same ways I did, who did not want to create more worlds where we were marginalized. Instead, we would be accepted, embraced, even expected in these worlds. We wrote dreams of safety and understanding that centered characters who had already provided us some emotional comfort; we wrote them to be as true as us, despite all the lies we had to tell to protect ourselves.

Thankfully, such a haven of queer and trans happiness did not stop with fanfiction, nor did it truly start there. For decades, many authors have written in the spirit of that dream in what is known as “queernormative” or “queernorm” fiction. Speculative by nature, queernorm fiction imagines worlds in which there is no homophobia nor transphobia and often centers a queer and/or trans main character. In it, queerness and transness is a given, and still it is not central; our identities are not made plot points, nor are they the reason we experience (or inevitably cause) harm. Queernorm fiction intends not to create safe spaces for queer and trans people but to create safe worlds for queer and trans people.

The richness of that dream cannot be exaggerated. Whether it be Kameron Hurley’s Worldbreaker Saga or Becky Chambers’s Wayfarers series, or my own novel Where the Rain Cannot Reach, our authors are offering us worlds where gender and sexual diversity is a given, where our visions of gender and sexuality can be morphed into something so thankfully new. Queer and trans characters are not late add-ons to these series, nor do they fall into other tropes that limit queer and trans happiness solely due to our non-normative identities.

When offered the vision of an identity-diverse world, we receive much more than pacifications of fortitude and hope; instead, we are gifted the radical imagination of wider liberation and cannot be satiated with incremental changes. We now know what else is possible. The inherent optimism in queernorm fiction has helped me to cultivate and sustain my dream for radical changes to the way we are treated as marginalized people overall.

And, with that, I am reminded the value of life in ways that cisgender and heterosexual people never have to imagine. When I think on the inevitability of death, I include in that now a hope for a future in which we are all offered the chance to recognize and take joy in our multitudes. For now, as I live, I also write with that dream in mind. I offer myself refuge in worlds of my making, where we are safe in our variance. Our words, our wishes.

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Where the Rain Cannot Reach is Adesina Brown’s debut novel. To learn more, please visit their website adesinabrown.com.