All posts by Dahlia Adler

Coming Out Catholic, a Guest Post by Alex Dunkin

Today on the site, please welcome Alex Dunkin, author of Coming Out Catholic, to talk about his experiences growing up gay and Catholic and how he’s reconciled the two.

25652102Religion has been part of my life ever since I can remember. The meaning of the role religion has played has changed over time, from the fun community activity it was in my childhood, to the complete rejection of all faith I went through in early adulthood, and now returning to a curiosity about how religion operates in my own and others’ lives. Coming Out Catholic is the culmination of years of research, self-exploration and acceptance. It started as a simple question: Does being gay mean having to give up other aspects of my life and identity, most notably faith? Answering that question also became for me a release of all the frustration of trying to understand and reconcile Catholicism’s stance on homosexuality (rather than solely the Bible’s position on it).

The quick and easy answer to that question is that it doesn’t mean that at all. You can be Catholic and gay. One of these identities does not need to be sacrificed for the other to survive.

Some may be (and are) upset by this concept, and insist that it contradicts the Bible. But the Bible has been re-translated and re-released many times, and those translations are influenced by the social and political climate of the day, and so changes get introduced that differ from the original text. Some of these changes are necessary, to retain relevance across cultural differences and to reflect the development of civilization across the millennia. But many of these changes are politically charged, to promote the views of those in power, and even to undermine the rights of minorities.

This leaves the issue of how to apply the (often outdated) social views of previous generations represented in the Bible  to modern society open to debate and a diverse range of interpretations.

Alongside all these arguments about Bible interpretations, another aspect of religion thrives: the faith. Faith is what allows quarrels over translations and literal meanings to fade away and shifts the focus of religion towards community, acceptance, family, and forgiveness. Faith is not found in quotable passages selectively pulled to further an argument, but in the community of people and their ability to support each other and allow everyone to live openly, without fear.

It is this approach to faith that reached out to me, and caused me to examine how some people used Bible passages according to their own agenda to reject and demonise the daily lived experiences of myself and countless others. Faith means using the Bible as a philosophical and spiritual guide, not a tool to segregate and belittle others, or as rules to control them out of fear of condemnation or the wrath of God.

Coming Out Catholic has allowed me to explore and express my curiosity and how it interacted with my research into the Bible. It was a pleasure to develop and once again find acceptance within my sense of faith without having to compromise my integrity as an openly gay man.

Buy Coming Out CatholicAmazon * Booktopia

Alex is an author, researcher and reviewer based in Adelaide, South Australia. He is the author of Homebody and Coming Out Catholic. More author information can be found at alexdunkin.com/about

 

 

Fave Five: Gay/Bi Historical Fiction Set in Early 20th Century Europe

At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill (1916 Ireland)

The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood (1931 Berlin)

The Book of Salt by Monique Truong (1929 Paris)

History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason (1907 Amsterdam)

While England Sleeps by David Leavitt (1930s London and Spain)*

*There are strong accusations that Leavitt plagiarized Stephen Spender’s life for this novel. You may also want to check out Spender’s autobiography, World Within World, which contains an afterword addressing the allegations.

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Judith Utz Interviews Kris Ripper on Kith and Kin, Writing Personal Experiences, and Why Co-Authoring is Off the Table

Today on the site we’ve got two familiar contributors: Judith Utz, owner and curator of Binge on Books and Open Ink Press, whom you may recognize from this interview, and Kris Ripper, author of more than thirty queer novels (many written about here) with gender and sexuality rep all over the spectra. They’re discussing Ripper’s latest, Kith and Kin, a multi-POV look at family, connection, and perception that releases today from Brain Mill Press: 

What does it mean to have a family?

Singer and Lisa Thurman did everything right for their entire childhood. Their mother wanted a perfect life, and they knew how to fit that vision.
Then they grew up. Singer came out of the closet and Lisa joined a cult.

Singer and his partner are adopting a son. Unfortunately, all that practice being the perfect child didn’t prepare Singer to be a merely adequate father. Lisa’s just trying to get through the day. After three years in a cult, it’s almost impossible to leave her bedroom, so redemption is going to have to wait.

What does it mean to be a family?

When their mother shows up and attempts to reclaim the illusion of her perfect family,  old lives clash with new ones.

Recovering from perfection is messy, complicated, and fraught, but the riotous clan that rises from the ashes is full of joy—and the best kind of trouble.

A groundbreaking, honest, and provocative novel, Kith and Kin is contemporary family drama that grafts an entirely new species of family tree.

Family is what you make of it.

Buy Kith and Kin

And now, here are Judith and Kris!

Judith: Ripper, hi! Thanks for joining me on LGBTQReads to celebrate the release of Kith and Kin. Tell me all about this latest book that is “not a romance”.

Kris Ripper: Kith and Kin is a great big family drama. Its code name for a long time was Domestic Rock Opera because it gives the impression of a whole lot happening at once (but no actual rock, sorry).

Whether it’s a romance…I leave genre calls to readers. But if I read this, I wouldn’t read this as A Romance. It does have loads of romantic relationships, all of which end on a positive note!

I come from a huge family of origin, and I built a family of choice. This book is essentially about the intersections between all different forms of family.

Judith: With such a big family, did any of your own experiences infuse Kith and Kin?

Ripper: My experiences infuse everything I write, but I don’t veer autobiographical. Though some of these scenes have been redrafted so many times that they feel like memories. I’ve written six versions of the first scene. The one that’s in the book was written the night before copyedits were due.

Judith: Since you are constantly reworking scenes and drafts, was there anything that was edited out that you wish you could have kept in?

Ripper: Ohhh, good question. Absolutely not, in that the book is stronger without everything I cut. But man, I cut a lot. I cut an entire scene when K&K was in copyedits. I’ll eventually release all of those either on my blog or on Patreon, so if you’re into cut scenes, check that out!

Judith: Can you talk about your creative process. How do the ideas come? How do you process them? How much research goes into a story?

Ripper: HOW ARE ALL OF THOSE ONE QUESTION?

Ideas come from everywhere. The shower and during a run are my favorite places to get them. Or a friend says, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to place a book in a comic book shop?” And then you plan a series in a comic book shop.

I will always have more ideas than I can write. There’s basically a big holding pen in my brain (I picture it as a netted off area of ocean) where all the ideas swim around. Some are bigger than others. Some eat others and get bigger. Some die off. I go fishing and hope I catch something good.

Every story requires some research; some require a metric shit ton of research.

Judith: With all these characters and books percolating in your mind, which of them do you most identify with and why?

Ripper: All of them and none of them, I guess. I know that’s a boring answer, but I don’t write a lot of “this really happened” into my books, even in small ways. People have told me I remind them of Hugh Reynolds in the Scientific Method Universe books, which is kind of hilarious. (Hugh’s an arrogant know-it-all control freak. I can’t say that assessment is inaccurate…)

Judith: Ha! Well, I won’t comment about the veracity of that here but knowing both you and the character? Umm….well….uhhh…on to the next question! Would love to hear about what are the top influences in your writing?

Ripper: Watching people—in bus stations, in coffee shops, on street corners, in grocery stores. Listening to the way people talk to each other. I’ve learned a lot about series storytelling from Lois McMaster Bujold. I love Stephen King and Nicola Griffith and Guy Gavriel Kay. I could lose myself forever in Audre Lorde. I also really love TV, but I haven’t hit anything that made my fingers itch to write lately.

Judith: Speaking of writing lately, who would you most want to write a book with and why?

Ripper: What like, collaborating? Please see “control freak” comment above. I’d be a horrible collaborator. And if I ever did it, I’d want to do it old school, like Peter Straub and Stephen King, trying to trick readers into thinking certain lines belonged to the other author.

Judith: And lastly, after Kith and Kin, what’s up next for Kris Ripper?

Ripper: The next thing I’m super excited to write is the Scientific Method Universe New Year’s book, Let Every New Year Find You. The narrator of that one will be Davey, whom we last saw in Roller Coasters, dumping Will on a sidewalk, and I’m so damn excited to see how he’s doing that my fingers tingle when I think about it.

Also, this is Amy Jo Cousins’ fault. FYI. She’s always been a book rec machine, but I had no idea she could reach into my brain, snap her fingers, and make stories appear.

Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a toddler, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and prefers the z-based pronouns because they’re freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write, and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.

The site: krisripper.com
The email: kris(at)krisripper.com
The Facebook group: Ripper’s Irregulars: https://www.facebook.com/groups/405062456366636/
The Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/SmutTasticKris

Fave Five: Contemporary MGs and YAs with Queer Dads

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy (MG)

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton (YA)

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (YA)

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa (YA)

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz (YA)

Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen (YA)

Yup, I cheated and did six because I couldn’t make myself leave any off. So sue me.

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Fave Five: Same-Sex Romance with Christian MCs

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown (f/f YA)

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by JC Lillis (m/m YA)

Her Name in the Sky by Kelly Quindlen (f/f YA)

Blueberry Boys by Vanessa North (m/m)

Covet Thy Neighbor by LA Witt (m/m)

Bonus: Coming up in September, Autoboyography by Christina Lauren is m/m YA romance with a Mormon LI

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On Section 28 and Its Effect on Queer Lit, a Guest Post by Kathleen Jowitt

On the site today we have Kathleen Jowitt, the author of Speak Its Name, the first self-published book ever to be shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize. (More on that below.) In honor of Pride Month, Kathleen is here to share a piece of queer lit history, namely the British rule of Section 28, and how that affected the publication path of Speak Its Name. Before we get to that, a little more on the book itself:

A new year at the University of Stancester, and Lydia Hawkins is trying to balance the demands of her studies with her responsibilities as an officer for the Christian Fellowship. Her mission: to make sure all the Christians in her hall stay on the straight and narrow, and to convert the remaining residents if possible. To pass her second year. And to ensure a certain secret stays very secret indeed.

When she encounters the eccentric, ecumenical student household at 27 Alma Road, Lydia is forced to expand her assumptions about who’s a Christian to include radical Quaker activist Becky, bells-and-smells bus-spotter Peter, and out (bisexual) and proud (Methodist) Colette. As the year unfolds, Lydia discovers that there are more ways to be Christian – and more ways to be herself – than she had ever imagined.

Then a disgruntled member of the Catholic Society starts asking whether the Christian Fellowship is really as Christian as it claims to be, and Lydia finds herself at the centre of a row that will reach far beyond the campus. Speak Its Name explores what happens when faith, love and politics mix and explode.

Buy it: Amazon (US) * Amazon (UK) * Lulu (paperback) * Lulu (ebook)

And now, here’s Kathleen:

My first novel has just become the first self-published book ever to be shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize. This is an annual award presented to the best first novel by an author under the age of 35.

Speak Its Name is the story of an evangelical Christian, and closeted lesbian, trying to navigate the troubled waters of university politics. The judges called it “An original, closely-observed, funny and often touching story with an unusual setting and a keen understanding of the interactions between members of small communities.”

I’m thrilled, of course, and I’m very proud to be the first self-published author on that shortlist. It’s pretty amazing to have the quality of my work affirmed in such an unarguable manner.

But I can’t help wondering… if history had been different, might there have been a route into conventional publishing, a route that wasn’t closed off to me and my book? What would have things been like, if it hadn’t been for Section 28?

Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act is notorious in British LGBT history. It stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

It came into effect in 1988, three years before I started primary school, and was repealed in 2003, just as I’d begun my first year at university. The whole of my school career, therefore, was overshadowed by this silence. I can only imagine what my life would have been like if I’d heard the word ‘bisexual’ before I turned eighteen.

Because Section 28 was assumed to apply to the school library as much as it did to biology or citizenship classes, it stunted a whole branch of LGBT teen literature. If a library (a public library or a school library – both would fall under the Local Government Act) couldn’t be expected to buy a book, then a publisher couldn’t be expected to publish it.

As a result, the long, honourable tradition in the United States of America stretching from Nancy Garden to David Levithan and beyond, just doesn’t exist in British publishing. Jacqueline Wilson, who’s tackled issues from adoption to eating disorders, homelessness to mental illness, doesn’t address homosexuality in any sort of depth until 2007.

The one book with any sort of LGBT theme that I can remember getting into my school library was Dare, Truth or Promise – by New Zealand author Paula Boock. The only Nancy Garden was, ironically enough, The Year They Burned The Books.

That meant that, when I wrote Speak Its Name, nobody knew quite what to do with it. Even though Section 28 had been gone for the best part of a decade, the genre that my novel would have slotted into had never recovered.

So I published it myself. And, while my shortlisting shows that this was absolutely the right decision and I don’t regret it for a second, I can’t help but be a little bit wistful. Not for my book, but for all the other books, the ones that never made it to print because “nobody would publish them'” because “nobody would buy them'” because of Section 28. The ones that my fifteen-year-old self would have loved to read.

*****

Kathleen Jowitt was born in Winchester, UK, and grew up deep in the Welsh Marches and, subsequently, on the Isle of Wight. After completing her undergraduate degree in English Literature at the University of Exeter she moved to Guildford and found herself working for a major trade union. She now lives in Cambridge, works in London, and writes on the train.

LGBTQIAP+ Pride Month Sales

It’s Pride Month, which means a whole lot of LGBTQIAP+ books are on sale! (And some of them are just cheap year round. Basically, this post is a collection of stuff that’s under five bucks.)

Due to my personal life being a little hectic right now (*insert wave from very cute new baby*) I’m just throwing all categories and genres together in one post, but hopefully that’ll inspire people to find something brand-spankin’-new they might not have checked out otherwise!

(Please note I’m assembling this post nearly a week in advance of its going up. It’s possible some of the sale prices will no longer apply. Sorry about that if so.)

(Just about all links are Amazon Affiliate. Money earned via these links goes back into the site.)

Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver (f/f/f fantasy, $0.99)

Second Kiss and Double Exposure by Chelsea Cameron (f/f contemporary romance, $0.99)

Plastic Wings by C.T. Callahan (ace-spec Dystopian, $0.99)

In Memoriam by Nathan Burgione (m/m Fantasy, $0.99)

Daybreak Rising by Kiran Oliver (f/f Fantasy, $0.99)

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova (f/f YA fantasy, $1.25)

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee (bi contemporary MG, $1.99)

The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles (m/m historical romance, $1.99)

The Traitor’s Tunnel by C.M. Spivey (NA High Fantasy, $1.99)

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman (contemporary f/f Romance, $1.99)

HeartShip by Amy Jo Cousins (m/m Romance, $2.99)

Signal Boost by Alyssa Cole (m/m Post-Apocalyptic Romance, $2.99)

The Noble of Sperath by Siera Maley (f/f YA fantasy, $2.99)

Safe in Your Fire by Darien Cox (m/m PNR, $2.99)

Defying Convention by Cecil Wilde (contemporary m/nb romance, $2.99)

Wild by Hannah Moskowitz (bi m/f contemporary YA, $3.99)

Autumn by Cole McCade (m/m contemporary romance, $3.99)

Bliss by Fiona Zedde (lesbian erotica, $3.99)

Out on Good Behavior by Dahlia Adler (pan f/f contemporary NA, $3.99)

A Hundred Thousand Words by Nyrae Dawn (m/m contemporary NA romance, $3.99)

Goodbye Paradise by Sarina Bowen (m/m contemporary romance, $3.99)

Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones (f/f historical fantasy, $4.99)

Small Change by Roan Parrish (bi m/f contemporary romance, $4.99)

City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault (ace fantasy, $4.99)

Mature Content by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell (contemporary m/m romance, $4.99)

The Butch and the Beautiful by Kris Ripper (contemporary f/f romance, $4.99)

Documenting Light by E.E. Ottoman (trans m/m romance, $4.99)

Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon (contemporary f/f NA romance, $4.99)

Takeover by Anna Zabo (contemporary m/m romance, $4.99)

Poison Kiss by Ana Mardoll (f/f/m PNR, $4.99)

Hello World by Tiffany Rose and Alexandra Tauber (ace sci-fi, $4.99)

 

 

Backlist Book of the Month: Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

It’s Pride Month! And also the U.S. is currently kinda in shambles. So what better choice for June’s Backlist Book of the Month than Francesca Lia Block’s seminal Love in the Time of Global Warming, a reimagining of The Odyssey that features a whole lot of queer representation (of the bisexual, transgender, and gay varieties) set against an Apocalyptic LA? 

Her life by the sea in ruins, Pen has lost everything in the Earth Shaker that all but destroyed the city of Los Angeles. She sets out into the wasteland to search for her family, her journey guided by a tattered copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Soon she begins to realize her own abilities and strength as she faces false promises of safety, the cloned giants who feast on humans, and a madman who wishes her dead. On her voyage, Pen learns to tell stories that reflect her strange visions, while she and her fellow survivors navigate the dangers that lie in wait.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * iBooks

Can A Story Be Too Diverse? a Guest Post by Felix Yz author Lisa Bunker

Today on the site, we welcome Lisa Bunker, author of the just-released-yesterday Felix Yz! This Middle Grade debut features a gay protagonist, several other characters under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, and a whole lot more. Here’s the info:

28525367When Felix Yz was three years old, a hyperintelligent fourth-dimensional being became fused inside him after one of his father’s science experiments went terribly wrong. The creature is friendly, but Felix—now thirteen—won’t be able to grow to adulthood while they’re still melded together. So a risky Procedure is planned to separate them . . . but it may end up killing them both instead.

This book is Felix’s secret blog, a chronicle of the days leading up to the Procedure. Some days it’s business as usual—time with his close-knit family, run-ins with a bully at school, anxiety about his crush. But life becomes more out of the ordinary with the arrival of an Estonian chess Grandmaster, the revelation of family secrets, and a train-hopping journey. When it all might be over in a few days, what matters most?

IndieBound (find Felix through your local indie bookseller)
Penguin Random House (Hardcover, ebook, audiobook)
Barnes and Noble (Hard cover, Nook book, audiobook)
Amazon (Hard cover, Kindle edition, audiobook)
Felix on Goodreads

And here to talk more about the publication of the book is Lisa Bunker!

In the leadup to the publication of Felix, when I started getting reader reviews based on advance copies, one reviewer remarked that there were too many LGBTQ+ characters in the book. The queerness-density strained credulity, she said. (This comment about a story of a boy melded with a fourth-dimensional being.) There have been other similar remarks too, from other quarters.

Hm. Interesting.

Identity is not The Point of Felix. This is a coming-of-age novel about love, death, and family. It’s a story about a young human grappling with mortality.

That said, it is also true that among various other plot threads this young human has a crush, and as it happens both he and the crush were assigned male at birth. Likewise, Felix has a quirky supportive grandparent, and one of the quirks is that this grandparent switches off regularly between the names Vera and Vern (and uses veir own gender-neutral pronouns – vo ven veir). Also likewise, in the course of the novel, Felix’s mom navigates a love triangle, and as it happens the two love interests are one of each gender. Etc.

I approached the character design for Felix in a spirit of gleeful experimentation/play – just how many of these characters can I give at least one letter? You know, just to see how it reads? Turns out, most of them, and I love how it reads. But, each identity is no more than a facet, and not the most important facet, of the character in question. Not the preachy teachy Point; just lots of identities.

But, too many?

No. Dear reader-reviewer and other skeptics, upon reflection (and I have thought a lot about this), I feel the need to push back respectfully here. There are not too many queer characters in Felix. But I’m fascinated about why you might think so.

Consider: I recently read and was blown away by Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. Quite apart from the ripped-from-the-headlines story and the clean, powerful writing, what a fantastic submersion into the rich variety of contemporary African-American life in its many manifestations – family and friend-groups and church and more. And there are plenty of other books in which all or almost all of the characters are from the same race, nationality, or religion. Such books seem within the norm, and they’re valuable and important and great fun to read.

So why not also books full of queer folk? Why so many books with one or two tokeny LGBTQ+ characters, but no more than some implied limit seems to allow? Well, perhaps it is not yet generally understood that queer folk also form community and have culture.

There are plenty of families like Felix’s. Mine, for example: I’m a trans woman in a committed relationship with another woman, and one of my two children is genderfluid. (My poor son – the token cis-het member of the family.) And there are many other clusters in my circle of acquaintance – friend groups, group houses, families of choice, community meeting places and flashpoints, both in the real world and online. We rainbow umbrella people are a misunderstood and often maligned sector of humanity, and part of our response to that is to seek and find each other. We join together for solace and strength. We have community and culture too.

Can you imagine anyone saying a book had too many Hispanic characters? Too many Jewish characters? Too many refugee characters? Me neither, thankfully, at least other than at the farther fringes of public discourse. But, it still seems reasonable to some people to say “too many LGBTQ+ characters.”

I aim to do what I can to rectify that. What started out as something of a writerly lark in Felix has evolved into a sense of mission. Moving forward, I aim to work toward a world in which no number of queer characters is too many. And I hope my books and others like mine will both give LGBTQ+ readers a much-needed chance to see their worlds celebrated in fiction, and also invite the general reading public to visit those worlds and perhaps discover, once again, the common bedrock of humanity that unites us all.

The story I’m working on now is about a trans girl with a troubled past and advanced coder/hacker skills who solves cyber-crimes with the help of her genderqueer best friend and her cool Lesbian aunties, while attempting to survive adolescence and middle school. Onward!

Lisa BunkerBefore setting up shop as a full-time author and trans activist, Lisa Bunker had a 30-year career in non-commercial broadcasting, most recently as Program Director of the community radio station in Portland, Maine. Besides Maine she has made homes in New Mexico, southern California, Seattle, and the Florida panhandle. She currently lives in Exeter, New Hampshire with her partner and her cat. She has two grown children. When not writing she reads, plays piano, knits, takes long walks, does yoga, and studies languages. @LisaBunker on Twitter; author website at www.lisabunker.net.