On this final day of Black History Month of 2018, here are some books, sites, and posts to read, enjoy, promote, support, review, and share:
Sistahs on the Shelf – SotS is run by Rena, a Black lesbian who reviews Black lesbian books. You can also follow on Twitter at @SotS!
WoC in Romance – this is a site highlighting all Romance written by WoC, but there’s a page just for LGBTQ Romances. It’s run by Rebekah Weatherspoon, whose name you may recognize as being a prolific author of LGBTQ lit herself! You can follow on Twitter at @WOCInRomance, and make sure you check out their Patreon; link is in the pinned tweet!
Black Lesbian Literary Collective – To nab from their site, “The Black Lesbian Literary Collective creates a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers.” Looking for more reviews of Black lesbian fic? Ta da! The site is new, so it’s not packed with posts just yet, but there is already an active radio show linked to it. Find them on Twitter at @LezWriters.
The Brown Bookshelf – this is a site dedicated to Black kidlit; here are the posts that come up if you search LGBT.
(Electric Literature editor, Lambda Literary Fellow, and Iowa Writer’s Workshop fellow Brandon Taylor’s REAL LIFE, a novel of unexpected intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, and a story collection, to Cal Morgan and Riverhead, in a pre-empt, by Meredith Kaffel Simonoff at DeFiore and Company.)
Today on the site, we’ve got a brand-new cover reveal! A Tiny Piece of Something Greater is Sierra’s newest gay contemporary romance, which releases from Interlude Press on May 17, 2018, involving scuba diving, mental illness, and a secret past. Check out the official description:
Reid Watsford has a lot of secrets and a past he can’t quite escape. While staying at his grandmother’s condo in Key Largo, he signs up for introductory dive classes, where he meets Joaquim Oliveira, a Brazilian dive instructor with wanderlust. Driven by an instant, magnetic pull, what could have been just a hookup quickly deepens. As their relationship evolves, they must learn to navigate the challenges of Reid’s mental illness—on their own and with each other.
Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBT romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews.
Please welcome Ellyn Oaksmith to LGBTQReads today to discuss her new book, Chasing Nirvana (which happens to center my favorite band of all time) and depression. (TW: suicide mentions.)
A girl, a band, a dream.
Fran Worthy is just another girl trying to make it through senior year in Aberdeen, Washington. But it’s 1993 and Fran is gay. Her comfortably off the radar life turns vividly public when a student nominates Fran for prom queen. When confronted by angry parents, Fran refuses to back down, promising to deliver her hometown heroes in hopes of winning prom queen votes.
Fran heads out on a 24-hour road trip to Daly City California with four friends, including her crush, who may or may not be gay. Their plan? To sneak backstage and ask Kurt Cobain and Nirvana to come home and play prom.
Deep into the writing of Chasing Nirvana, a book about a young gay girl who tries to get Nirvana to play at her prom, my more than slightly puzzled mom asked me a question. How I could write about a gay girl from the poverty stricken flats of Aberdeen, Washington? A girl who is bullied, despised and harassed for being gay. Unlike Fran Worthy, my main character, I come from a loving, tight knit family that is very progressive. My 80-year-old parents march in protests and have socialized for decades with openly gay friends. Perhaps the underlying questions was how could I, a woman given abundant love and support all my life, channel the inner emotional life of someone given so little?
At the time I brushed off the question. “I’m a writer, it’s what I do. I live other lives.” And yet, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered. What was driving me to write this story? What was the shared emotional core? In the first draft the story was told entirely from the main character’s point of view. The problem was that for much of the story, she’s concussed, which made the story too bleak. Fran’s concussion made her feel isolated, confused, tired and overwrought. That’s when it hit me. I had unwittingly written about my own struggles with depression. Sure, it’s deeply buried in a fast moving plot with a road trip quest to meet Nirvana but the more I thought about it, the more I uncovered my own links to my main character and her savior: Kurt Cobain.
On the surface the comparison is laughable: a suburban mother of two comparing herself to the rock god Kurt Cobain. (Insert eye rolls from my two teens.) But everyone consists of layers of all the different lives we’ve led. At one point I was a screenwriter in Hollywood. I’d visit studios, pitching stories to neurotic, narcissistic, over-privileged producers and their sycophantic assistants, struggling through the entire ordeal under the shadow of depression. Writing stories is what kept me sane. If I could create, I could live in an alternate world. A world with happily ever afters. Where people grow and learn from their adventures and mistakes. The imaginary world upon which I built my career didn’t include a sink hole of blackness that followed me like a monster, waiting to swallow me whole. What does a depressed person write? Comedies. Naturally.
Kurt Cobain was about 13 when he saw a body hanging from a tree outside the Aberdeen grade school. He and a classmate stared at the corpse for a half hour before school officials sent them packing. Several members of his family killed themselves and at 14, Cobain told a school friend that he would become a rich and famous rock star then kill himself in a blaze of glory like Jimi Hendrix. Neither kid realized that Hendrix’ death wasn’t suicide.
It’s hard to say when exactly Kurt became depressed. Aberdeen wasn’t an easy place for a sensitive young man fixated on art instead of sports or more manly pursuits. Kurt developed a taste for booze, finding a morbidly obese man to buy him and his friends malt liquor in exchange for pushing the man’s wheelchair to the store. In high school Kurt began writing songs that would become the basis for Nirvana’s first albums. Kurt channeled his anger, frustration, sadness and disillusionment into lyrics that were filled with longing, alienation and irony. My experience with depression and writing has been that writing, like depression, has a cyclical rhythm. When a great idea hits, life is a blast of high octane sunshine fueling manic energy and productivity. When the story (or song) is written, consumed by the public and the world moves on, it feels like the end of a passionate relationship. I want to wallow in sadness. Wear pajamas all day, eat ice cream, drink bourbon and eat potato chips for dinner. Kurt had far worse predilections.
Heroin isn’t a subject in my book. The Kurt I wanted to capture was funny, charming, quirky and quite possibly, in 1993, burnt out by fame. But not so badly that he couldn’t spend a few moments with a fan and recognize a fellow artist. Someone who, like him, was just trying to make it day by day by channeling the pain of living into something beautiful: creation. A song that’s never been sung. A book that’s never been written and in my main characters case: a photograph that captures a seminal moment in rock history.
Ellyn Oaksmith is the USA Today bestselling author of four books including the Kindle bestseller Chasing Nirvana. She lives in Seattle with her family. Luckily, she’s waterproof.
Today on the site we’ve got an excerpt from Greetings From Janeland, the sequel to Dear John, I Love Jane, a collection of essays from women writing about leaving men for other women. Check it out:
In an increasingly common phenomenon, women who once identified as straight are leaving men for women?and they have fascinating stories to tell.
In this sequel to Lambda Literary Finalist Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write About Leaving Men for Women, writers who come from a diverse array of perspectives open up and bare their souls. Essays on subjects such as repercussions, both bad and good; exes, both furious and supportive; bewildered and loyal family and friends; mind-blowing sexual and emotional awakenings; falling in the deepest of love; and finding a sense of community fill the pages of this anthology. One story is as different from the next as one person is from another.
With a foreword by former Editor-in-Chief of AfterEllen and Trish Bendix, and essays by acclaimed writers including BK Loren, Louise A. Blum, and Leah Lax, relax, sit back and take a journey into Janeland–a very special place where women search for, discover, and live their own personal truths.
I said good-bye in a coffee shop on an appropriately bitter Iowa December night. He took my hands and held them in his own, warmed them with his breath. It was the kind of detail he’d been good at: the small comfort gestures—the cut flower, the rolled joint, the proffered mug of coffee, black. It felt so good to break it off, a clean, solid break, the kind that renders the bone twice as strong as it was before. He kissed my hands, and then, with a single phrase he determined the course of the rest of my life. If you don’t want me, he told me, softly, thenyou must be a lesbian. His breath on my palms chilled my skin. His reasoning was, to him, readily apparent: I’d have to be a lesbian not to want a guy as “sensitive” as him.
I left him there, sauntered out into the starlit sky. I tried to laugh it off, but the black Midwestern winter wind stole the sound from my throat before it could leave my lips. I walked home alone in the pale light of a distant constellation, fighting the chill that settled in my bones, his words seeding themselves deep within my brain, where they lingered like a curse. Then you must be a lesbian. Somewhere deep inside, I had the nagging desire to prove him wrong. But if I had learned anything from that relationship, it was that I would rather be single for the rest of my life than settle for less than I deserved.
Candace Walsh is the author of Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity, a New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards winner and the editor of Dear John, I Love Jane, and Ask Me About My Divorce. Her writing has appeared in numerous national and local publications, including Newsday, Travel + Leisure, Sunset, Mademoiselle, New York magazine, and New Mexico Magazine. Her essays have been published in the anthologies Here Come the Brides!, Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage, Blended, and Spent, and she is currently editor in chief of El Palacio Magazine. She lives in Santa Fe with her wife Laura André, their two children, and two dogs.
Barbara Straus Lodge is an essayist whose work has appeared in the New York Times Motherlode blog and the “LA Affairs” section of the Los Angeles Times. An essay under her pseudonym, Leigh Stuart, was published in the anthology Dear John, I Love Jane. Her work has also appeared in Parabola Magazine, The Rumpus, Literary Mama and a variety of anthologies.
You know what’s awesome about capital-R Romance? (And capital-E Erotica?) You don’t need a Valentine’s date to enjoy ’em! Here’s a shopping list of some great Valentine’s Day reads all over the map in terms of length, genre, and rep, and all under five bucks — no reservations, champagne, or chocolate hearts required.
(Trans rep has been noted with a T, for those specifically looking!)
I love when books that’ve been on my to-read list since announcement day finally get close enough to get publication to get covers, and I love love love when those covers are excellent! So today is a total double whammy for me, and I’m thrilled to exclusively reveal the cover of Jack of Hearts (and other parts) by L.C. Rosen, which releases from Little, Brown on October 30, 2018!
Jack has a lot of sex—and he’s not ashamed of it. While he’s sometimes ostracized, and gossip constantly rages about his sex life, Jack always believes that “it could be worse.”
But then, the worse unexpectedly strikes: When Jack starts writing a teen sex advice column for an online site, he begins to receive creepy and threatening love letters that attempt to force Jack to curb his sexuality and personality. Now it’s up to Jack and his best friends to uncover the stalker—before their love becomes dangerous.
L. C. Rosen, also known as Lev Rosen, has written several books for adults and children, but this novel is his YA debut. His books have been featured on numerous Best of the Year lists and nominated for several awards. He lives in New York City with his husband and a very small cat.
This is one of my favorite under the radar YAs, and one of the earliest queer YAs starring a person of color. (And, while this cover is gorgeous, there’s a different one on the paperback that makes this one a perfect under-the-gaydar choice, too.) It’s a short, lovely book about grieving and finding support and love where you least expect it, and a great choice for those looking for more tentative, newly questioning and discovering representation. (Note that I’ve tagged the book as bisexual, but labels do not appear.)
Ellis only has four days of her sophomore year left, and summer is so close that she can almost taste it. But even with vacation just within reach, Ellis isn’t exactly relaxed. Her father has been in a coma for years, the result of a construction accident, and her already-fragile relationship with her mother is strained over whether or not to remove him from life support. Her best friend fails even to notice that anything is wrong and Ellis feels like her world is falling apart. But when all seems bleak, Ellis finds comfort in the most unexpected places.
Life goes on, but in those four fleeting days friends are lost and found, promises are made, and Ellis realizes that nothing will ever quite be the same.
Sports romance is on an upswing, and I think one of the major developments this time around is the significant presence of queer sports romance. For as long as there have been sports, queer people have been playing them, but that doesn’t mean we’ve been hearing about it. Which is only one of the reasons I love the crop of queer romances that are out right now. Sports has a way of uniting people; fans who root for the same team in a league, or who are supporting a national team during the Olympics or other international sporting event. It has a way of otherwise uniting people who may not see eye to eye or share similar interests.
We often talk about how important representation is, and I’d love to see more professional and elite athletes who are out, and I’d love to see more queer athletes in romance. That was one of the reasons I felt it was really important to be inclusive when I wrote the Snow and Ice Games series, which has m/f, m/m, and f/f pairings. Also,there are stories that just can’t be told with a het couple. Here are just a few of the reasons I love queer sports romance:
There’s a special kind of tension when you want to bang your teammate.
Team dynamics add yet another layer to the heady tension already present in sports. In addition to the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, you also get the internal jockeying, the rivalries, but also the encouragement and intimacy inherent in everyone working toward the same goal. In Layla Reyne’s Relay, Alex and Dane are teammates on the Olympic swim team who loathe each other. Like, seriously hate each other with the kind of passion only broken hearts can bring. Having to navigate team politics and training isn’t easy under the best of circumstances, but add to that complicated family situations and pants feels and you’ve got a recipe for high stakes drama. I’m also eagerly awaiting Medley, book two in the duology.
While Alex and Dane are roughly the same age, in my Seduction on the Slopes, Miles is the older, more experienced, weathered veteran, and Crash is the disaster of a newbie upstart who’s had a thing for Miles since he was a kid. Both slalom skiers on the US SIG team, they have to navigate the challenging dynamics of being teammates but also rivals, mentor and mentee, having completely different backgrounds and also a total and complete misunderstanding of each other. Oh, and the inconvenient pants feels…
The bodies, and the money, and the press, oh my.
Yes, these things are common to all pro sports, and they’re some of the reasons sports romance is so popular. But the stakes for queer athletes are different than for their het counterparts, especially in the high testosterone arenas of pro football, hockey, baseball, and basketball. I’d argue especially football. Your own team and opposing teams may treat an athlete who’s queer and out differently than a het athlete, and the press frequently treats any celebrity’s sexuality as a news story.
Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell features Gavin who is a pro football player under house arrest for assaulting a man. In need of someone to keep track of his life and also be his gopher while he can’t leave his property, he hires Noah as his personal assistant. This one got off to a bit of a slow start for me, but in the end I loved how hard Gavin falls for Noah. Good news, if you like Illegal Contact, book two in the series—Down by Contact—is already out!
In f/f romance, the presence of female athletes.
In m/f sports romance, the hero is—almost without exception—the athlete. In the SIG series, all of the heroines are athletes whereas not all of the heroes are. But when you’re reading f/f sports romance, you’re guaranteed that at least one of the heroines is an athlete, and oftentimes both of the heroines are. That’s the case in Edge of Glory by Rachel Spangler which is a slow burn romance featuring a prim and proper skier recovering from a career-threatening injury, and a fun-loving snowboarder looking at maybe her last Olympics. I liked the opposites attract dynamics of this book, and also the focus on all the training and work that goes into preparing to compete at an event like the Olympics. Elise and Corey are both intense in their own ways, and I loved how dedicated they were to their sports, and in the end, to each other.
I’ve also got two athlete heroines in Fire on the Ice, one an American speed skater and the other a Canadian figure skater. Theirs is a bit of a second chance romance after having hooked up at the previous SIGs but not contacting each other at all in the previous four years. This book also has the distinction of making my very seasoned editor blush so hard she had to stop reading it on the subway.
Other queer sports romances you may want to check out are below, let me know if you have any other favorites!
Glasgow Lads series by Avery Cockburn (Also, Avery has a CURLING romance coming out soon that I am SO LOOKING FORWARD TO. Ahem.)
Tamsen Parker is a stay-at-home mom by day, USA Today bestselling erotic romance writer by naptime. Her novella CRAVING FLIGHT was named to the Best of 2015 lists of Heroes and Heartbreakers, Smexy Books, Romance Novel News, and Dear Author. Heroes and Heartbreakers called her Compass series “bewitching, humorous, erotically intense and emotional.”
She lives with her family outside of Boston, where she tweets too much, sleeps too little and is always in the middle of a book. Aside from good food, sweet rieslings and gin cocktails, she has a fondness for monograms and subway maps. She should really start drinking coffee.
In the hours after a bridge collapse rocks their city, a group of Boston teenagers meet in the waiting room of Massachusetts General Hospital:
Siblings Jason and Alexa have already experienced enough grief for a lifetime, so in this moment of confusion and despair, Alexa hopes that she can look to her brother for support. But a secret Jason has been keeping from his sister threatens to tear the siblings apart…right when they need each other most.
Scott is waiting to hear about his girlfriend, Aimee, who was on a bus with her theater group when the bridge went down. Their relationship has been rocky, but Scott knows that if he can just see Aimee one more time, if she can just make it through this ordeal and he can tell her he loves her, everything will be all right.
And then there’s Skyler, whose sister Kate—the sister who is more like a mother, the sister who is basically Skyler’s everything—was crossing the bridge when it collapsed. As the minutes tick by without a word from the hospital staff, Skyler is left to wonder how she can possibly move through life without the one person who makes her feel strong when she’s at her weakest.
In his riveting, achingly beautiful debut, Richard Lawson guides readers through an emotional and life-changing night as these teens are forced to face the reality of their pasts…and the prospect of very different futures.
Junior year for Brooke Winters is supposed to be about change. She’s transferring schools, starting fresh, and making plans for college so she can finally leave her hometown, her family, and her past behind.
But all of her dreams are shattered one hot summer afternoon when her mother is arrested for killing Brooke’s abusive father. No one really knows what happened that day, if it was premeditated or self-defense, whether it was right or wrong. And now Brooke and her siblings are on their own.
In a year of firsts—the first year without parents, first love, first heartbreak, and her first taste of freedom—Brooke must confront the shadow of her family’s violence and dysfunction, as she struggles to embrace her identity, finds her true place in the world, and learns how to let go.
Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza is the product of a virgin birth.
This can be scientifically explained (it’s called parthenogenesis), but what can’t be explained is how Elena is able to heal Freddie, the girl she’s had a crush on for years, from a gunshot wound in a Starbucks parking lot. Or why the boy who shot Freddie, David Combs, disappeared from the same parking lot minutes later after getting sucked up into the clouds. What also can’t be explained are the talking girl on the front of a tampon box, or the reasons that David Combs shot Freddie in the first place.
As more unbelievable things occur, and Elena continues to perform miracles, the only remaining explanation is the least logical of all—that the world is actually coming to an end, and Elena is possibly the only one who can do something about it.
Blaze Bellamy is the bad girl of the short track speed skating world. Looking like a roller derby bruiser when she’s not in her Team USA uniform, she’s an unlikely American heroine. She’s got a punk attitude to match her provocative dress and her dyed hair, and she’s determined to get onto the front pages of the papers regardless of how she has to do it.
Maisy Harper is the workhorse of the Canadian women’s figure skating team. Serious, modest, and above all, polite, Maisy would prefer to win her victory on the ice rather than in the press, and is exasperated by Blaze’s antics. When she’s not lusting after her anyway. After they both failed to make the medal podium at the last Snow and Ice Games, they drowned themselves in gin—and each other.
Despite their hookup being drunken, they both harbor fond memories of their night together and are keen for a repeat. But they’ve got different ways of going about getting what they want, and Blaze’s willingness to go to any lengths for the spotlight could ruin any chance she has with Maisy.
The epic conclusion to Lauren James’s debut The Next Together about true love and reincarnation.
Sixteen years ago, after a scandal that rocked the world, teenagers Katherine and Matthew vanished without a trace. Now Clove Sutcliffe is determined to find her long lost relatives.
But where do you start looking for a couple who seem to have been reincarnated at every key moment in history? Who were Kate and Matt? Why were they born again and again? And who is the mysterious Ella, who keeps appearing at every turn in Clove’s investigation?
For Clove, there is a mystery to solve in the past and a love to find in the future, and failure could cost the world everything.
High school students—Soph, who attends private school in Manhattan, and Tess, a public school student who lives on a dairy farm in New Hampshire—are thrown together as roommates at a week-long writing conference. As they get to know each other and the other young women, both Soph and Tess discover unexpected truths and about friendship, their craft, and how to hold fast to their convictions while opening their hearts to love.
Zack Scherzo likes his notebooks. And his pens. And, okay, he really loves to organize stuff. He’s organized his whole life into the ideal trajectory for his ten year plan, at which point his career will be solid and he’ll be ready for a husband and family. Everything makes perfect sense.
Until he meets Isaiah.
Driven entrepreneur Isaiah Carlin generally doesn’t get involved with lost causes, like the climbing gym Zack’s trying to keep afloat. But there’s something about the gym—and there’s definitely something about Zack—that intrigues him. He wants to help. He also wants to see what happens when Zack shakes loose some of his rules and allows himself to feel.
When passion collides with Zack’s regimented life path, something’s gotta give. And it looks like that thing is going to be Isaiah, unless he can convince Zack that sometimes real life is even better than the best laid plans.
Welcome to Daniel Boone Middle School in the 1970s, where teachers and coaches must hide who they are, and girls who like girls are forced to question their own choices. Presented in the voice of a premier storyteller, One True Way sheds exquisite light on what it means to be different, while at the same time being wholly true to oneself. Through the lives and influences of two girls, readers come to see that love is love is love. Set against the backdrop of history and politics that surrounded gay rights in the 1970s South, this novel is a thoughtful, eye-opening, look at tolerance, acceptance, and change, and will widen the hearts of all readers.
Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.
The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.
Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.
From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.