Machine Gun Legs and Aromanticism: an 8th Grade Story

So excited to welcome Brooklyn Wallace aka Wes Kennedy to the site today! Her debut novella, To Terminator, With Love, features a fat Asian asexual biromantic male main character and a Black pansexual male love interest, and releases today! In honor of its entrance into the world, I asked the author to write my a post, and voila, she wrote a fabulous one! 

29002965Growing up a bisexual aromantic black girl in a Southern Baptist family in a Texas town with a population of less than 1600 wasn’t easy. Growing up a bisexual aromantic black girl in a Southern Baptist family in a Texas town with a population of less than 1600 and being the weird kid into trading cards and theatrical Japanese heavy rock was definitely not easy.

Needless to say, my formative years were the stuff PSAs were made of.

Despite my weird interests that were out of place in my little southern hole in the wall, I was pretty okay with my differences. Being black, I had a hefty extended family that lived in town so I was never really alone. I didn’t get bullied so much as ignored or asked a ton of probing questions. I made a few white friend (“You don’t even sound black!”), and otherwise ate lunch with my cousins and kept to myself. I liked being alone. I still like being alone. Three cheers for dreading human interaction!

The one area I felt weird in was dating. Everyone was doing it, or talking about doing it, or wish they were doing it. When friends would ask I would make up some excuse, or pick a guy at random and just hope they didn’t ask me anymore questions. In reality, I had zero interest in dating. The more I thought about that, though, the more it got to me. I mean, what was wrong with me? I was a teenage girl. Teenage girls date. If Moesha taught me nothing else, it was that.

I knew I appreciated the aesthetic of boys (I still have a Orlando-Bloom-as-Legolas poster in my childhood bedroom), and I would admit to absolutely no one that I appreciated the aesthetic of girls, too (there may or may not be a Rose-McGowan-in-Planet-Terror on my childhood bedroom wall, too).


But can you blame me?Dating, though? Even the thought sounded ridiculous.

So what was wrong with me?

What got me through the hectic mess that was my middle and high school years was books. We had a tiny public library in town, and a tinier school library with a dismal young adult sections. I was one of those kids that read levels ahead of myself (which gave my parents false expectations of me that fueled my spiral into a bottomless pit of C+ college despair, but that’s a horror story for another time), so I stuck with fantasy and sci-fi for my escapism. The Bartimaeus books, Eragon, and Inkheart were stories I read and re-read. In class, at lunch, and sneakily between the pages of my bible in church. You just couldn’t tear me away from lands far, far away.


The first book I ever fell in love with was Nancy Farmer’s Sea of Trolls, the first book in the Sea of Trolls trilogy. I was thirteen and browsing in section when I grabbed it on a whim. I mean, vikings? Norse mythology? I was all in. I read the whole thing in about three days, making myself stop every now and then just to last longer. The story was amazing, and I loved everything it had to give.

What I loved most, though, was what it didn’t have: romance. There’s no romantic subplot in Sea of Trolls. The protagonist, Jack, meets up with a rude, aspiring berserker named Thorgil, but the two become reluctant friends with no hint of anything more.

I had no idea how much I needed to see that until I picked up that book.

Thorgil had no time for boys. She was a shield maiden with dreams of becoming a powerful berserker and one day going up to Valhalla.

Thorgil doesn’t want a boyfriend, I thought to myself during my second reading. She doesn’t want a boyfriend, just like me. Thorgil was strong and determined and so, so cool, and she had no interest in boys. How could I be weird for not wanting to have a boyfriend when Thorgil only had eyes for her sword?

What I found in that book was a kickass shield maiden with dubious morality (like I said, my formative years were wild). I found validation in that story. I remember picking up the second book in the trilogy, The Land of the Silver Apples, with a gnawing sense of dread. What if Jack and Thorgil started liking each other in this one? What if I was wrong?

But nope. Thorgil and Jack met elves, battled evil, and rescued Jack’s sister all without so much as brushing hands. It had felt like I’d won something, which was a big deal, because roughly 86% of my life is dedicated to losing.

Through the long, long eighteen years in my tiny town I scrounged and found pieces of my identity in books. I expanded into libraries town over, broke my mother’s heart when I discovered online shopping, and took advantage of my libraries’ interloan program. Later that year I read Freak Show by James St. James—and I still have no idea how that got through to our library, by the way—and found LGBTQIA representation. I found Sharon G. Flake and was confronted with my own internalized anti-blackness. I read books about powerful black girls and bisexual heroines and weirdos who loved themselves for being weirdos. I found me, and wondered how I ever got through not seeing me for so long.

Later, when I found words for the way I felt, I mellowed. Now I write queer romance novels (Aromantic Romance Author has a ring to it, eh?) and do my best to include a variety of identities into my stories. It’s an amazing experience to write the stories I needed when I was younger, and stories that I still need now, but not everyone has that chance. So many people are quick to call representation in books and shows pandering, but I call it realism. People are diverse, and stories that reflect our lives should be just as diverse.

Somewhere there’s a dorky 8th grader with an unhealthy Rose McGowan obsession wondering if there’s something wrong with them. The stories you tell could help them, even if it’s just one, feel a lot less alone, and isn’t that kind of power amazing?

biopicBrooklyn Wallace (aka Wes Kennedy) is a queer fiction author and starving graduate student from the great state of Texas. She loves libraries, hot wings, Pepsi, Blaxploitation, the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, and kpop. An anxious perpetual sleeper with a penchant for self-deprecating humor, Brooklyn has a soft spot for writing comedies, forbidden love, and nerdy queers.

When not writing, she enjoys touring various anime and sci-fi conventions across Texas, reading and writing fanfiction, yelling about sports, and watching TV shows religiously. Her debut novella, To Terminator, With Love, releases April 27th.

Around the Blogosqueer: Lauren James of LGBT YA

Welcome to the very first Around the Blogosqueer guest post! In this series, you’ll learn a little more about the other sites and features on the internet that are dedicated to LGBTQIAP+ lit via guest posts by the fabulous folk who run them! I’m so excited to have Lauren James here to kick it off and tell us a little more about her review site, LGBT YA!

LGBT YA is a tumblr review blog run by author Lauren James, where she reviews LGBT+ YA titles, with occasional guest posts from authors and bloggers, and reblogs LGBT+ YA related content.

I started the blog when I was writing my own LGBT YA novel, The Last Beginning (out in October!). I was looking for YA books to read which also featured lesbian characters, and I realised there was no resource available with reviews of titles – all I could find was a few defunct blogs and scattered Goodreads lists.

As I’d binge-read about 30 LBGT YA titles, I decided to start my own. I focus mainly on books which aren’t Coming Out stories – while Coming Out stories are important, I feel like that’s been done very well already. As someone past that point in my life, I want to read about what LGBT characters do after they’ve come out – because that’s the start of your life, not the end.

I also tend to focus more on SFF to Contemporary, and more lesbian/bisexual titles than otherwise, as that’s where my personal taste lies. Luckily, guest bloggers fill in the gaps!

I would love to see:

  • More SFF books with LGBT characters like The Abyss Surrounds Us (*cough* and The Last Beginning *cough*)
  • More LGBT YA where sexuality isn’t the main focus
  • Books with whole casts of LGBT characters, instead of just the protagonist and the love interest. We tend to flock together!
  • More explicit LGBT YA sex scenes (I wrote about why that’s important here).
  • I also have an embarrassingly small selection of asexual books reviewed – I would love more of those.
  • More #ownvoices books – especially trans books by trans writers. I’m really looking forward to reading If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.

Actually, my wishlist is endless!

Some of my favourite LGBT YA books are:

  • Everything Leads To You – Nina La Cour
  • I’ll Give You The Sun – Jandy Nelson
  • The Art Of Being Normal – Lisa Williamson
  • Grasshopper Jungle – Andrew Smith
  • A Hero At The End Of The World – Erin Claiborne
  • Clariel – Garth Nix
  • Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin Talley

More can be found in my five star ratings section on the blog.

I’m always looking for guest bloggers – if you’re interested, you can email me at ya.lgbt@gmail.com!

Lauren James sold the rights to her first novel The Next Together, a Young Adult science fiction romance, when she was 21. It was published in September by Walker Books in the UK and Australia. Rights have sold in over six territories worldwide, including the USA. It was described by The Bookseller as ‘funny, romantic and compulsively readable’. She is an Arts Council grant recipient, and is longlisted for the 2016 Branford Boase Award. She is now 23, and lives in the West Midlands. You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James or her website http://www.laurenejames.co.uk.

Fave Five: LGBTQ YAs by Latinx Authors with Latinx MCs

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera (Contemp)

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (Light Sci-Fi)

When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (Magical Realism)

Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Doyle (Contemp)

 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (and presumably its future companion, There Will Be Other Summers) by Benjamin Alire Saenz  (Contemp)

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Cover Reveal: Cinnamon and Cigarettes by Samantha Kate!

So excited to have our very first cover reveal on LGBTQ Reads! Cinnamon and Cigarettes is Samantha Kate’s first novel, and it releases June 1st from Torquere Press. Here’s the story:

Sara Clarke, recent college grad, is sweet, demure, and cautious in all things, but especially romance—until she meets Moira Estrada, a bold amateur pilot and patron at the library where Sara works. Their intimacy blooms rapidly as they share everything from a sudden medical emergency to Christmas with the Estrada family. With her dashing new girlfriend by her side, Sara learns to overcome some of her greatest fears, whether they be acknowledging her own bisexuality, flying across the sky in a Cessna, or falling in love for the first time.

But Sara’s fear of confrontation is harder to conquer. When asked about her relationship, she finds herself lying to her family, pretending to date a man so she can avoid conflict with her straight-laced and image-conscious parents. But her attempts to please everyone cannot last forever and could result in far worse than her parents’ disapproval: she might lose the respect of her new friends at the library, or become estranged from her sister—or, worst of all, Sara might lose the only person she’s ever truly loved.

Aaaand here’s the lovely cover!

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Preorder it! Or just add it to your Goodreads TBR here.

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Samantha Kate works as a paralibrarian (that’s library support staff) for her day job. In her free time, she tries to pursue more creative projects than is humanly possible. Her short story “Bottom of the River” was published in Torquere’s Twisted Fables anthology in February 2016. Cinnamon and Cigarettes is her first novel.

Better Know an Author: Marieke Nijkamp

Welcome to Better Know an Author, a feature title I stole from Colbert Report because I miss it so, which will introduce you to a fabulous author of LGBTQIAP+ books every month! To kick it off, I am so delighted to present my beloved critique partner, Marieke Nijkamp, whose debut, This is Where it Ends, is a freaking New York Times bestseller for five weeks running!

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How badass is hitting the New York Times bestseller list? Spare no details.

Well you got my super ineloquent texts, so I can hardly pretend I was calm and collected. Truth is, after I got the phone call, I sat on the couch and watched my Twitter explode and my hands were shaking so hard I could barely lift a drink—or respond to the social media outburst. It took me three days just to get caught up on the tweets and the emails. It was, and is, the most surreal and the most wonderful experience and I’m deeply grateful to my publisher and to my fantastic readers for getting the book there. It’s extremely badass, and I love that it means the book will reach even more readers. 

What music do you write to, if any?

It depends! For TIWIE, I had a fairly specific (and super sad) playlist, with a lot of poppy songs. With my current WIP, my playlist is far more classical and instrumental, with an additional and rather eclectic collection of Dutch songs. I’m not entirely sure how that happened either. 

Beyond that, I recently discovered the magic of Noisli. I love writing to the sound of rain and wind and thunder. (I need something vaguely winter-y to get me through these summer months. Ew.) 

What’s your ideal way to spend fifty-four minutes?

Doing something that involves stories. So writing, ideally, but also reading. Or traveling/adventuring. J

What’s a particularly conscious choice you made in your representation in This is Where it Ends?

Gah. There was one very conscious choice I made very, very early on, but sharing it is such a spoiler. That thing that happened. Or didn’t happen, depending on your point of view. That was a very conscious choice. 

Vague answer is vague.

tiwieWhat’s something about one of your leading characters in This is Where it Ends that didn’t make it on to the page?

Most everything I wanted to have on the page is there, but because the time frame is so limited, I had to make choices when it came to showing backstory. Which means there were always more scenes I was aware of or that I wanted to explore. One of those things is how and when Autumn fell in love with Sylv. Slower, more gradual, than the other way around. While Sylv fell for Autumn’s glow and her passion, Autumn fell for Sylv because Sylv steadies her world and makes her feel safe, when she needs it most. (Even if that terrifies Autumn.)

What’s the first queer representation you saw in any medium that really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

Hm, I think the first rep that really stuck with me was seeing Willow and Tara in Buffy. I think it might have been the first time I saw queer characters in any medium, period. And there was so much about it that was incredibly empowering. Badass queer witches? Yes, please. Characters I could identify with? Wow.  

Unfortunately it was also my first introduction to Dead Lesbian Syndrome. Or as TV Tropes so classily calls it, Bury Your Gays. I loved the positive aspects of Willow and Tara’s relationship, but I didn’t realize until much later how pervasive it was to see that “model” relationship come to a bad ending. To see so many queer couples not get their happily ever after (or even a happy for now). It took me a long time to realize queer relationships should not be hidden and deserve a happy ending as much as anyone else.

What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

The first time I saw queer characters in a story that wasn’t just about being queer was such an eye opener to me. I think that was Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series (gay thieves for the win) and I loved that eureka moment of “we can have adventures too!”

What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads?

I keep finding more and more favorites! So obviously, Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series is still high up there. All of her books, really. I also still love Annie on My Mind for being my first f/f YA. But in terms of recent books, I loved Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not and when Audrey Coulthurst’s Of Fire and Stars comes along, it’ll blow you mind. I would recommend Alex Gino’s George to everyone and Malinda Lo’s Huntress is so gorgeous. Oh, and Robin Talley’s As I Descended is going to terrify you. I’m so excited for Fox Benwell’s Kaleidoscope Song to hit shelves because it’ll tear your heart out beautifully. And of course, I’m happy to declare my love for Otherbound and Under the Lights and Far From You everywhere ❤

What would you still love to see in LGBTQIAP+ lit?

More great ace rep. More characters exploring their gender identity. More queer casts (because we really do flock together). And more intersectionality in terms of race, disability, but also culture and religion. I think we have some fantastic lit out there already, and I’m so excited to see it continue to grow and expand. But there is such a vast spectrum of LGBTQIAP+ experiences, and I’d love to see more, more, more of it.

What advice do you have for teens who come to you for advice on how to come out?

I usually tell them two things. One, be proud of who you are, regardless of what the world tells you. And two, safety first. It’s unfortunately still the case for all of us queer folk that being out can be dangerous, whether it’s because of family, work, or living in a bigoted environment. So while I understand the need to be out – I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like they can’t be who they are and I will support anyone who wants to take that leap – it’s so, so important to start with people you know you can trust and to consider safety nets, support systems, and your own well-being. Because you matter so much.

What are some of your favorite queer-centric things on the Internet?

TWITTER. Okay, but it actually is at that. I practically grew up on the internet. As a baby queer, I found a lot of information and a good part of my community online, through forums, writing groups, and fanfic. But never before to the extent and scope of (my corner of) the queer community of Twitter. These days, I find myself going more private again too, but knowing it’s out there and we’re not alone is invaluable. 

Macarons or stroopwaffels?

…stroopwafel-flavored macarons. 

😀

What’s up next for you?

A story with an ace main character. And I’m *so* excited about it.

CANNOT WAIT. Marieke’s book, This is Where it Ends, is on sale now, and here’s where you can buy it!

Sourcebooks Amazon US The Book Depository
IndieBound Amazon UK iTunes
Books of Wonder Barnes & Noble Target

Under the Gaydar: Bad Girls Edition

“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but should definitely have on your radar. This edition is all about some great “bad girls” in YA who, in addition to loving lying, petty crime, bullying, and more, also quite love the ladies. (Or at least one lady!)

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Winning by Lara Zeises DelozaMean Girls meets Election, with multiple POVs, including Sam, best friend to the Regina George-esque lead, who’s easily manipulated into helping her BFF get on top… or is she?  (my convoluted little review here)

Trust Me, I’m Trouble by Mary Elizabeth Summer – The second in a series about a teen girl con artist sees her going from a male love interest in book 1 to a female love interest in book 2, and it does so with zero sexuality angst while also not ignoring that sexual angst about your first time having feelings for someone of another gender can be a Thing. This series is so voice-y and fabulous and these girls are hands-down one of my favorite YA pairings ever. I ship it so hard, and so will you.

Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul – Uggghhhh homoerotic toxic friendship novels are my crack, and Mattie and Jolene in this one are basically, like, “Match, meet gasoline. I think you guys are gonna hit it off super well.” Don’t go in thinking this is a Romance – it isn’t – but when I say “Homoerotic toxic friendship novel” I mean every single one of those words to the max.

Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten – My thoughts on this one are similar to Underneath Everything, but whereas UE is sort of dreamily lyrical and introspective, SNFBG is rife with plot twistiness, and I still think about that ending and wish I were in a book club just so I could discuss it with other people.

Vanished by E.E. Cooper – Kalah isn’t really a bad girl, per se, but she’s gone ahead and fallen for one, who also happens to be one of her best friends…who also happens to be missing. There’s a whole web of lies and twists, and all that’s cool, but the best part of this book is Kalah herself, how she comes into her own sexuality, and finally seeing some intersectional diversity in “cool girl” YA.

Fave Five: Winter YA 2016

Fave Five will generally be a little less…well, general, but since this is the first edition of it for the site, I’m gonna use it to quickly catch up on what are in my opinion the most noteworthy LGBTQIAP+ YA titles of the year so far!

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate (P, Contemp)

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (L, Sci-Fi)

This Song is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin (A, Contemp)

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle (G, Contemp)

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (GF, Contemp)

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson (G, Spec Fic)

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(Yeah, I slipped in a sixth. You gonna fight me? I didn’t think so.)