More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (YA)
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova (YA)
Brooklyn, Burning by Steven Brezenoff (YA)
The Five Boroughs series by Santino Hassell (m/m)
The SoHo Loft series by Melissa Brayden (f/f)
I am beyond psyched to have this month’s featured author on the site, because ICYMI, I am a pretty tremendous fangirl of Not Your Sidekick, and in case you’re not familiar with C.B. Lee, she’s a seriously kickass human. Not Your Sidekick actually first crossed my radar at the Romantic Times conference in 2016, where every Interlude Press author was also handing out swag for this title; it was clear she was an author they wanted to support! So of course, I had to check it out, and if you haven’t yet read it, please put this series on your to-read list: it’s so much fun, the romance is adorable, the characters and their friendship is great, and the representation is diverse and amazing.
But enough of listening to me babble; please welcome C.B. Lee!
It’s been so much fun seeing how much love and attention Not Your Sidekick has gotten! (See: Gay YA Book Club, WoC in Romance book club, Bisexual Book Awards, Lambda Awards…) What was the coolest part of your publication experience and what was your biggest surprise?
I was so overwhelmed to the response to the book being announced! It was kind of incredible how the original cover reveal with the summary really took off—over the first weekend on Tumblr it hit over 5000+ notes and I was just like whoa! I’d looked through the tags and it was really such a response: people were excited Jess was Asian American, people were excited that the romance was between two girls, and I was just stunned and just so happy and grateful.
Publishing Not Your Sidekick has been an amazing journey. I think the readers are the best part of the experience, from meeting readers at book festivals and conventions to readers reaching out to me personally to talk about how much the story resonated with them, whether it was Jess feeling like not quite one or the other in terms of being Chinese-Vietnamese American, to her being the middle child and being overshadowed by her siblings, to being bisexual, and the story in general.
The biggest surprise was just seeing people respond to the novel! I had no idea it would become a thing, and I’m so happy people are enjoying it. I was really honored to be nominated for the Lambda Literary Awards and the Bisexual Book Awards, too!
I am so excited that the gang will be returning for a sequel called Not Your Villain. What can you tell us about it?
It’s been so much fun to write in Bells’ perspective! Not Your Villain actually starts off a little before the timeline when you meet Jess in the first novel. I’m really excited to finally share what was going on during Not Your Sidekick when Bells kept disappearing on Jess and Emma. We’ll learn all about his superhero origins and more about the inner workings of the Heroes’ League of Heroes, and then we move forward with Bells and his friends as they start off on a mission to find the Resistance and deal with things that they think the adults aren’t prioritizing.
More info on Not Your Villain at my website!
Selkies, magic, bisexuals, first love!
You keep some great writing tips on your site. What’s been the best source of craft education for you, and what’s some of your favorite advice?
I think there’s something to learn from everyone, and the Internet is such a great resource. As far as research goes in facts and worldbuilding, it makes it easy to search for anything and learn all about it, from how popular a word was in a historical era and to seasons in countries and anything and everything in between.
As far as craft, I think writing is different for everyone, so writing tips will vary. What will work for some people won’t work for other people, and it’s easy to get disheartened if you see a piece of writing advice, especially if it’s not your style and doesn’t work for you and to see other people swear by it. But as far as any advice goes, I would say to read broadly because there are so many resources, and just pick and choose what works for you. I’ve reblogged and organized a number of different writing posts on my Tumblr, and have also written a few ideas as well, but I don’t think there’s an end-all-be-all of writing advice in terms of craft.
I do have a favorite piece of advice from Erin Bow:
“No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Francisco is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfrancisensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can’t put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better.”
This is really reassuring to me, about how your efforts efforts are not wasted. In writing a lot of work goes unseen: first drafts with huge chunks thrown out, paragraphs deleted, characters rebuilt from the ground up. Everything you do, whether it’s writing character bios or imagining them in alternate universes, or writing almost entire drafts one way and having to do it another way, it’s part of the learning process and just adds to your overall skill and ability as a writer.
What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
I think the message of hope is a persistent one I’ve seen across genres, and I think that’s so important. The fact that these novels exist and readers can identify with the characters and say I’m here, I’m seen and just have all kinds of stories is so powerful. And I love that I’m starting to see more and more people who want stories with happy endings, stories that are fluffy and cute, stories where the main conflict has nothing to do with their identity.
What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads, and which ones are you most looking forward to?
I have so many favorites! Malinda Lo and Benjamin Alire Saenz are two authors whose works I love, and as far as recent favorites, I really adored FT Luken’s The Rules and Regulations of Mediating Myths and Magic. It’s a hilarious read and has a wonderful bisexual coming-out story as well as wonderfully complex and dynamic friendships and family relationships. (There’s also werewolves and Bigfoot and the end of the world, but it’s wonderful.
A few novels I’m looking forward to this fall include It’s Not Like It’s A Secret by Misa Sugiura, They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by EK Johnston, Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke, and A Line in The Dark by Malinda Lo!
What do you wear, listen to, read, and/or watch when you need to feel a little more like a superhero?
I love movie soundtracks—Pacific Rim has to be my all time favorite, I always feel ready to take on aliens and get in a giant robot when I listen to it, although it’s usually my writing action soundtrack. Other soundtracks that make me feel like a hero: Wonder Woman, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones.
I also really love my leather lace-up boots. I would definitely go hero-ing in them.
It’s really important to me to show characters from different marginalized communities have adventures and fall in love and just do all the things straight white characters do.
Is your full name a total secret, or will we someday know the meaning behind “CB”?
Any idea what’s up next after Not Your Villain?
The next part of the adventure will be told from Emma’s perspective in Not Your Backup! I can’t say much other than the stakes will be raised! I’m also planning two short novellas within the universe, so look out for those!
Thank you so much for having me on the blog! You can find me at the following:
Preorder Not Your Villain
C.B. Lee is a bisexual Chinese-Vietnamese American writer who also works in outdoor education in Los Angeles for low-income youth.
NOT YOUR SIDEKICK was a 2017 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist for Best In YA/Children’s Fiction and a 2017 Bisexual Book Awards Finalist in Speculative Fiction. SEVEN TEARS AT HIGH TIDE is the recipient of a Rainbow Award for Best Bisexual Fantasy Romance and also was a finalist for the 2016 Bisexual Book Awards in the YA and Sci-Fi/ Speculative Fiction categories.
CB has been featured at literary events such as the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Lambda Litfest’s Celebrating the Asian American LGBTQ+ Experience at the Chinese American Museum, YALLWEST and Pasadena Litfest as well as a guest at popular panels and discussions such as DragonCon’s “LGBTQIA in YA” , “BiScifi: Queer Heroes in Science Fiction and More”, “The Craft of Dystopia”, “Magic and Worldbuilding,”, WonderCon’s “Sisterhood of the Self-Sufficient,” Emerald City Comic Con’s “Diversity in Publishing,” and San Diego Comic Con’s “Super Asian America” and “Into the Fanzone!”
On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: they’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news is: there’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—an unforgettable day that will change both their lives forever.
Dear Best Friend,
I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.
(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)
We’re still in the same room, you weirdo.
So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?
Desperate to pay for college, Bridger Whitt is willing to overlook the peculiarities of his new job—entering via the roof, the weird stacks of old books and even older scrolls, the seemingly incorporeal voices he hears from time to time—but it’s pretty hard to ignore being pulled under Lake Michigan by… mermaids? Worse yet, this happens in front of his new crush, Leo, the dreamy football star who just moved to town.
When he discovers his eccentric employer Pavel Chudinov is an intermediary between the human world and its myths, Bridger is plunged into a world of pixies, werewolves, and Sasquatch. The realm of myths and magic is growing increasingly unstable, and it is up to Bridger to ascertain the cause of the chaos, eliminate the problem, and help his boss keep the real world from finding the world of myths.
Poignant and captivating, Ignatz Award winner Tillie Walden’s powerful graphic memoir, Spinning, captures what it’s like to come of age, come out, and come to terms with leaving behind everything you used to know.
It was the same every morning. Wake up, grab the ice skates, and head to the rink while the world was still dark.
Weekends were spent in glitter and tights at competitions. Perform. Smile. And do it again.
She was good. She won. And she hated it.
For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden’s life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing at ice rinks across the state. It was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But over time, as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life, and whether all the work was worth it given the reality: that she, and her friends on the figure skating team, were nowhere close to Olympic hopefuls. It all led to one question: What was the point?The more Tillie thought about it, the more Tillie realized she’d outgrown her passion–and she finally needed to find her own voice.
Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.
But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.
It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.
Seventeen-year-old Jaya Mehta detests wealth, secrets, and privilege, though he has them all. His family is Indian, originally from Gujarat. Rasa Santos, like many in Hawaii, is of mixed ethnicity. All she has are siblings, three of them, plus a mother who controls men like a black widow spider and leaves her children whenever she wants to. Neither Jaya nor Rasa have ever known real love or close family―not until their chance meeting one sunny day on a mountain in Hau’ula.
The unlikely love that blooms between them must survive the stranglehold their respective pasts have on them. Each of their present identities has been shaped by years of extreme family struggles. By the time they cross paths, Jaya is a transgender outsider with depressive tendencies and the stunningly beautiful Rasa thinks sex is her only power until a violent pimp takes over her life. Will their love transcend and pull them forward, or will they remain stuck and separate in the chaos of their pasts?
Mira, a dom in New York City, is delighted when Clive, a one-time playmate, turns up at a BDSM party. When a fire breaks out, Mira frees Clive from captivity; they are rescued by a group of magic-workers calling themselves the Circle of Light. Skeptical, Mira must accept that magic is real when a ritual saves Clive’s life and ties his soul to hers.
Erotic play strengthens their bond and deepens their love for each other…a love they share freely with the Circle, save those who must hold themselves apart from the pleasures of the flesh. Mira’s idyll is shattered when the Circle is attacked by the Partisans of Fire, who want control over the Circle’s ancient knowledge.
Set in contemporary New York, Initiates of the Blood combines sex, blood magic, and romance into a stimulating, sensual, satisfying tale.
Adam Thorn doesn’t know it yet, but today will change his life.
Between his religious family, a deeply unpleasant ultimatum from his boss, and his own unrequited love for his sort-of ex, Enzo, it seems as though Adam’s life is falling apart. At least he has two people to keep him sane: his new boyfriend (he does love Linus, doesn’t he?) and his best friend, Angela.
But all day long, old memories and new heartaches come crashing together, throwing Adam’s life into chaos. The bindings of his world are coming untied one by one; yet in spite of everything he has to let go, he may also find freedom in the release.
South Africa is loud. Listen. Do you hear the song and dance of it? The chorus of Khayelitsha life? Every voice is different, its pitch and tone and intonation as distinct as the words we choose and how we wrap our mouths around them. But everybody has a voice, and everybody sings…
Fifteen year old Neo loves music, it punctuates her life and shapes the way she views the world. A life in radio is all she’s ever wanted.
When Umzi Radio broadcasts live in a nearby bar Neo can’t resist. She sneaks out to see them, and she falls in love, with music, and the night, but also with a girl: Tale has a voice like coffee poured into a bright steel mug, and she commands the stage.
It isn’t normal. Isn’t right. Neo knows that she’s supposed to go to school and get a real job and find a nice young boy to settle down with. It’s written everywhere – in childhood games, and playground questions, in the textbooks, in her parents’ faces. But Tale and music are underneath her skin, and try as she might, she can’t stop thinking about them.
After scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate.
Fate is now a calculation.
But loving someone isn’t.
When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate.
Victoria “Vix” Vincent has only two weeks to find a replacement fiddle player for her band’s summer tour. When classically trained violinist Sawyer Bell shows up for an audition, Vix is thrilled. Sawyer is talented, gorgeous, funny, and excited about playing indie rock instead of Beethoven. Their friendship soon blossoms into romance, even though Vix tries to remember that Sawyer’s presence is only temporary.
Sawyer’s parents think she’s spending the summer months touring Europe with a chamber ensemble. But Sawyer is in dire need of a break from the competitiveness of Juilliard, and desperately wants to rediscover her love of music. Going on tour with her secret high school crush is just an added bonus. Especially when Vix kisses her one night after a show, and they discover that the stage isn’t the only place they have chemistry.
But the tour won’t last forever, and as the summer winds down, Sawyer has to make a tough decision about her future—and what it means to follow her heart.
Buy it: Riptide
Newly minted professor Evangeline “Van” Thompson’s academic dreams have turned into nightmares. She can’t wait to escape the pressure cooker of the university to spend the summer at Camp Firefly Falls with her bestie, Nate.
Unfortunately, Nate breaks his leg halfway through the season, and his little sister Willa fills in for him as resident tennis instructor. Van has fond memories of the blonde moppet, but when Willa shows up at camp, she’s not so little anymore. She’s grown into a bombshell and a menace on the tennis court—why do those skirts have to be so short, anyway?
Willa Carter has had a crush on Van Thompson since the third grade but Van’s always been more interested in hanging out with Willa’s older brother. Not much seems to have changed—Van’s managing the camp’s web presence while Willa rocks her tennis whites.
Camp will be closing in a few weeks, and Van’s barely spoken to Willa despite sharing a cabin. But when the two get thrown together to plan the last session of camp, s’mores might not be the only thing getting sticky and sweet before the season’s out…
It doesn’t take a lot of in-depth knowledge to know that intersectionality is lacking in the current LGBTQIAP YA market, but there’s perhaps no gaping hole in it quite as glaring as that of the queer Black teen boy perspective. In the past five* years, to the best of my knowledge, there has only been one YA novel released by a major mainstream publisher with an explicitly** Black male narrator, and if you guessed it was by a white woman, you are correct.
Wanna find one by a Black male author by a major mainstream publisher***? You have to go back to Sunday You Learn How to Box by Bil Wright.
Which was published in the year 2000.
Yes, you read that right: the last YA released by a major mainstream publisher with a queer Black male narrator and written by a Black male author is itself already a teenager.
So, hey, that’s pretty messed up! It might almost make you wonder about the queer Black male authors trying to get their #ownvoices stories published, wouldn’t it.
Good news! Here are four such authors with a whole lot of wisdom, thoughts, and experiences to share.
Please introduce yourselves! Who are you, what do you write, and where are you in the publishing journey?
A. Leon: Hello, everyone! Dahlia, thank you so much for this exciting opportunity. This is truly a dream come true. My name is A. Leon Walker (A stands for Anthony), I write fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays, and am currently unpublished.
Kosoko: Hi! I’m Kosoko Jackson. I write YA novels in every genre, but my bread-and-butter is historical fiction with POC main characters and contemporary novels. I’m currently agented and working with my agent on my debut novel.
Ryan: I’m Ryan Douglass, I write YA horror and thriller and I’m represented by Rena Rossner of the Deborah Harris Agency. We’re still working on my manuscript.
Brandon: Hello! My name is Brandon Goode. I’m from Orlando and I write YA Fantasy and poetry. I’m currently working on my second novel and two books of poetry. Outside of writing I can be found eating sushi while watching Degrassi reruns, shopping at the local thrift stores in Orlando, and popping into the Disney Parks when I can.
Between querying, subbing, and self-pubbing, what are you finding to be the greatest obstacles so far? Any constant refrain in responses?
Kosoko: I think querying was the hardest, but that’s more from a personal level. Agents are the first level of gatekeepers and in many situations, you have to, in your writing, query, etc, prove that your story is something that can make it through all the further gauntlets. Sometimes, it’s the real first time you have someone independently say “This is good” or “this is crap” (hopefully no one says THAT). But nonetheless, that’s hard. Many great stories don’t get published, or even get agents because of this—and sometimes you get little feedback from agents you query. Agenting, to me, is harder because it’s very cut-and-dry, with little insight, and felt, often, like stabs in the dark. I do think that sort of diligence builds a good first skin you need to be a creative POC LGBT person, though.
Ryan: Querying was definitely my biggest hurdle. I wrote three manuscripts before writing the one that landed me my agent! But I needed to write the failures to learn who I was as a writer. My rejections were varied while sending out my last manuscript but for the ones before that, I often heard the stories lacked originality (which they did).
Brandon: I think the one thing I have found to be the greatest obstacle so far was spreading the word about my novel. The Secrets of Eden was released in March of this year and I had to do everything on my own since I self-published this novel. So take that and add in the disaster of a year that 2017 has been so far with social issues, and that’s why it’s been a great obstacle. Twitter has been a great tool in spreading the word and getting my novel out there, but of course I feel like more could’ve been done.
A. Leon: Querying used to be my biggest hurdle. These days, drafting seems to be the beast to conquer. It’s one of the reasons I’ve committed to writing a short story collection; for one thing, I’ve dreamed since I was 20 years old and first read Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things of composing my own cohesive collection but it has also proven rather useful in keeping me writing. Due to my day job, the one that pays the bills, I’m blessed to afford a four-day weekend every other week, which I spend writing my stories. I’ve a novel building in the subconscious, which will hit the page when I come to it.
So far, two of my shorts have been rejected. I’ve a third on submission. Fingers daily crossed until I hear back.
Even as we start to see more intersectional YA on shelves, the intersection of Blackness, queerness, and masculinity is probably the rarest in the category, especially by queer Black men. Why do you think that is?
Brandon: I think it’s rare first of all because of the stereotypes to be honest. Black men have so many stereotypes about us, that sometimes the truth is rarely given the time of day by a proper audience. Growing up, I couldn’t really identify with many novels that were on the shelves because the characters weren’t black or gay, and I wish there were more novels. I can only speak for myself, but growing up I was taught to never cry. To always “man up” and be tough.
Masculinity is something that was shoved down my throat by my mother and father. My dad was never really in the picture, but the times I did see him it was the same masculinity hype over and over. Being black and gay and trying to be “masculine” in the eyes of my family was tough and was something that I have shut away in the past. I’ve evolved into the person I’m supposed to be through all of those experiences, but for those who don’t know what it’s like they can’t try to fake it in literature. I honestly think that even within certain corners of the black community, queerness is still a taboo topic. I always found it hypocritical for those within all communities, especially the black community, to turn their nose up at queerness. Everyone in this country, one way or the other, has faced some sort of inequality a time in their life. The Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Suffrage, etc. all happened in American history and someone on the other side had to believe in those movements in order for equality to blossom. That same support needs to be given to the LGBTQIAP community. Until these conversations start happening more frequently, allowing those who are growing up or surrounded by it the proper push to share their voice, then those types of YA won’t exist. Even for those who are adults now, until they feel that their voice will be received then those books won’t come.
There’s a moment I remember breaking out of what I thought was a hold on me from being myself, but not everyone is surrounded with love and support being Black and queer. That’s why YA is important to share those stories. That’s why we have to cultivate this platform and provide the necessary support to those who aren’t receiving it.
Ryan: It’s hard to get Black stories in the mainstream publishing sphere and for queer, Black stories it’s even harder. Maybe the industry doesn’t think the stories will sell. On the writers’ side, there’s a strong possibility Black, queer writers are afraid to tell their own stories because they have no examples of their stories on shelves yet. It can feel like compromising your chances of success as a writer to write something there’s no precedent for. I used to think I had to write about straight, white people or I couldn’t be an author. But we won’t know if the stories will sell until we give them a chance, will we? There is also still a lot of pressure on Black men in the community to be masculine and heterosexual. Some Black writers could be closeted and writing about straight characters, which is okay and how I wrote my first two books.
Kosoko: I think, honestly, it’s because of the number of intersections. It’s easy to say “no” in the publishing world. The data is just starting to back the statement that “POC/LGBT stories have a place in our canon”. That’s because of successes like Angie Thomas, Jason Reynolds, and Nic Stone—and people like Adam Silvera. For each success, it’ll get easier, but there are still many reasons to say no from the publishing side. The whole conversation has to be shifted from “what sold before” to “what is needed now.” YA literature should reflect the times and the need of the youth who read it and as our society becomes more and more intersectional, we need more intersectional literature. That should, in my opinion, be reason enough.
A. Leon: My thoughts on this subject are too voluminous to sum up here; I’ll do my best to keep things brief. While masculinity, in and of itself, bears great privilege in all of society, therefore dominates the literary landscape despite the overwhelming female presence of the YA category and the romance genre (both outsell every single genre in the business, including thrillers—a male-driven genre), add anything to that algorithm other than white or hetero and issues abound. Black male, queer male, black queer male—each requires some deterioration to the male ego before your audience even begins engagement. Because we’ve all met black men, right? We’ve all met queer men? We’ve all met queer black men? Okay, then: we know how they act. There they must stay. Black men, you get to be Native Son and Invisible Man. Queer men, you get to be Boy Meets Boy and A Little Life. Black queer men, you get to be Giovanni’s Room. So when people read, unless you happen to disturb the male algorithm in some way, you don’t really ask yourself questions such as: Where all the black folks at? Where all the black queers at? This, of course, is just the beginning; to ask such questions means you’ve done little more than left the tarmac. Action, particularly on the part of writers and reviewers and critics, is due. Overdue, in my opinion.
Obviously, we’re seeing a tremendous push for diversity from advocates. How much do you feel like that’s making a difference? What actions do you feel would make a difference, and like to see more people engaging in?
Ryan: I feel like it’s making a difference in the types of books the community is paying attention to. For a long time black stories were relegated to the “black section” and gay ones to the “gay section”, et cetera, as if those stories could onIy be appreciated by those groups. I see these stories being normalized now and more people are open to reading them. I would love to see more people engaging in conversations about the content of books by marginalized authors and what is being taught through these narratives. In the YA community it can feel dangerous to admit you don’t know or understand something about an experience outside of your own because you risk being called problematic. But I think what we’re doing in writing books about our experiences is teaching, so it’s normal to learn and discuss a changed perspective. I think we should approach these conversations in open ways.
A. Leon: A greater sense of urgency, in terms of lacking queer voices, couldn’t hurt. Not only black queerness but Muslim queerness & Latin@ queerness & Biracial queerness & Asian queerness & international queerness. More & more & more & more. Variety, depth, nuance. This isn’t just dependent upon writers. It begins with critics & reviewers. We need thinkpieces, Op-Eds, reviews pointing out the absolute absence of diverse queer representation, even (or especially) within books written by white gays. Let’s look at the greater culture for a moment here as an example: Moonlight was the first-ever QUILTBAG+ film to win Best Film at the Academy Awards, although Brokeback Mountain got snubbed. This is significant. But why aren’t we hearing about it in droves? How many more people preferred La La Land because it was the one they saw as opposed to genuinely believing it the superior film? Writers of all forms need to take a closer probing glimpse at this lack, question and force others to question why we’re still stuck on white maleness as the paradigm within an already oppressed community.
Brandon: I think it’s great to have diversity! This world is one giant melting pot, and if there isn’t representation then people are excluded which isn’t right. I think that it’s a great idea, but I want to see more authors of color getting their recognition and their works published and publicized. I feel that authors who aren’t of color get more recognized for “diverse” stories as opposed to those who really should. There should be more LGBTQIAP authors and authors of color getting their moments in the spotlight as well. I think in order to further make a difference, pushing diversity needs to be championed more. I love things like #DVPit, Diverse Book Bloggers, etc. that are opening the doors for diversity, but there should be resources for diverse authors. Diversity isn’t a gimmick and people need to remember that.
Kosoko: Overall, the trends are slowly moving towards more representative societal reflections in literature, in my opinion. That doesn’t mean it’s happening fast enough. Outspoken advocates like Justina Ireland, Dhonielle Clayton & L.L. McKinney have really helped us push the conversation and narrative forward, but I think sometimes that get’s lost in the mix. We think because the conversations are happening on Twitter, and the likes/retweets are high, there’s actual change going on, and there isn’t…not in the way we need.
Nicole Brinkley has a great thread on twitter where she shows the Publisher’s Weekly sales and compares the POC sales to the POC percentage of the US. It’s usually about 66% lower than the percentage of POCs in the US.
If you asked me one way to change that? I’d say we need more POC/LGBT people in publishing. Not just more agents, we need more editors and more POC/LGBT people in all positions. We need these people in the room where it happens (ha, Hamilton), and our presence to be reflective of society. I’d also like to see more POC LGBT writers, writing their own stories. I struggled with that for years–about 3–and though I’m not saying they HAVE TO, or should be forced to, I certainly think there should be a bigger push to have those stories. But that’ll only happen when there is a safety feeling in the YA community…
…and safety in YA is a COMPLETELY different topic.
What’s really important to you in the publishing staff that works with you and your books, especially you work that features queer Black boys?
A. Leon: First and foremost: all my work features queer Black boys. It’s the one subject I cannot avoid, despite how hard (in the early days, especially) I’ve tried. That being said, a deep understanding of the great necessity for wider, deeper, more nuanced representation within queer literature is something publishing staff working with my oeuvre must understand. Otherwise, they’re not going to get it. Most beta readers who’ve not addressed these questions within themselves tend not to sit well with my work. They say things like, “This is good. Really good, in some places. But can’t you write about something other than gay sex?” Or they’ll say, “You don’t believe in writing stories with white guys or straight guys in them, do you?” I need desperately NOT to work with publishing staff who even consider questions like this as valid.
Kosoko: To me, it’s important to find like-minded individuals in the publishing world who understand that the single narrative of POCs, Queers, and that intersection isn’t the only story…and continuing to perpetuate that single story, does more harm than good. It’s important queers of color see a wide range of authentic stories that reflect a wealth of backgrounds. Personally, I’m a queer POC who hasn’t faced the disownment of my family that is so commonly associated with the story of queer POCs. I don’t relate as strongly to that sense of story, but I identify stronger with stories where the character has to struggle with the split identity of self. Someone else will say the reverse. Having publishers and those in the industry who understand, champion, and advocate this is important.
I think it’s also important POCs, and queer POCs, are given the same leeway as our white, straight counterparts. Think about the “quiet” YA novels. That same freedom isn’t often given to queer POCs, and that’s a disservice to the community as a whole.
Brandon: I think allowing the authenticity of an experience or story that you want to incorporate into your novel to stay intact. Being a gay Black male, I have experienced many things from pitfalls to triumphs, heartbreaks and falling in love, and anything else of the like that I can morph into a plot line for a novel to motivate someone is very important to me. I want my voice to be a voice that they can trust, and that comes from being real and vulnerable with my work.
Ryan: It’s so important to me that my work is not sanitized to push an agenda for what queer Black boys (or just Black boys or queer boys) should look like. I think there’s pressure when writing marginalized characters to make them paragons of nobility because a lot of people think victimhood makes someone inherently noble and likable. My characters are imperfect because they’re human. They’re also victims. I don’t want my work censored. The harshness of what happens to my characters is very important to me because it’s realistic, and my work usually has elements of horror to it, so it’s supposed to be uncomfortable. I really don’t want to see that damaged.
There’s been some really incredible success for authors of color in the past couple of years, including Black authors Angie Thomas, Jason Reynolds, Tomi Adeyemi, and Nicola Yoon. Is there a deal or award or other event that really stuck out to you as being an inspirational kick in the butt?
A. Leon: Two things: N.K. Jemisin winning the Hugo Award two years in a row for her best work to date. She’s the first black author to do so, despite the current wealth of black SF out there right now. So that’s been hugely inspiring! Also, encountering the work of Kai Ashante Wilson, whom everyone should read. Like, right now.
Ryan: Angie Thomas’s 13-house action and Tomi Adeyemi’s 7-figure movie deal were inspirational for me because it appeared publishers were looking for black stories. I also loved seeing Everything, Everything on the big screen because we don’t get to see black teens leading movies very often. I’ve been reading and admiring Jason Reynolds for some time now.
Kosoko: This is small, but being Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything as a movie meant a lot to me. Seeing a black girl on a poster, was something I never really saw before unless it was about some gang movie or some violent movie. To see black kids having that kind of inspiration; to be happy, to live their authentic lives, and to take chances and risks for their own happiness? That mean’s a lot to me. When I was younger, seeing something like that on the big screen would have influenced my writing, and been pivotal to becoming an author. I have a feeling it’ll do the same for other kids, and movies like The Hate U Give and Children of Blood and Bone will have similar results. And I’m so excited for that.
I mean, hell—they inspire ME.
What’s the first book you ever remember reading with a queer Black character? What about other media?
Kosoko: This was the question that took me the longest to answer. I don’t think I ever remember reading a queer black character (that may be on me, but also another reflection of the society we live in). TV wise, that’s not the same. I’d like to say Lafayette Reynolds from True Blood was the first I ever saw. And that really meant a lot to me because of how bad ass and genderfluid in some senses he was, which is something I’ve grasped with in some aspects of my life.
Ryan: I think it was Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda! The first one I saw on TV was Lafayette from True Blood. I was obsessed with that show back in the day.
A. Leon: The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin. The book with the most significant impact on me was Sorcerer of the Wildeeps and A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. Sorcerer of the Wildeeps stars a gay black wizard in probably the deepest read about masculinity I’ve ever read; A Taste of Honey is a fantasy romance of epic proportions, addressing queerness of all types and including women in the conversation of masculinity. Obviously, Moonlight was an impactful film; my best friend from high school refers to me as Titus Andromedon (from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt); and there’s a great gay black cop with a beautifully complex perspective in HBO’s Six Feet Under.
Brandon: The first book I read with a queer Black character was If This World Were Mine by E. Lynn Harris. Mr. Harris has many books on my bookshelf because growing up, there really weren’t any other books featuring Black queer characters that I could find or have access to. Thinking back to other media, the one show that sticks out for me is Noah’s Arc from creator Patrik-Ian Polk. It was like the black and gay version of Sex and the City. This show provided me with some of the inspiration I needed to become comfortable in my own skin and to live life to the fullest!
Of the LGBTQIAP YA that exists right now, what book(s) is closest to your heart?
Ryan: More Happy Than Not changed my life and what I thought was possible in LGBTQ fiction. It felt like receiving an undeserved present to have a gay character who was also a character of color and from a lower class background. But it is deserved. Everyone should be able to see themselves. I think that’s the first time I experienced that feeling of immediate connection that straight white people are getting when they read the majority of books.
Brandon: The book that is closest to my heart is Hero by Perry Moore. I read this book my senior year of high school and I have a tradition now of reading it once a year. This book really showed me that we could have YA novels where a gay character was the main character and not supporting. This novel also tackled topics of acceptance, family, loss and it touched me so much that I actually reached out to Perry Moore and had the honor and privilege of interviewing him before he passed away. Because of this experience, this novel became a part of me.
A. Leon: What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson. There’s a beautiful relationship at the center of that novel between the main white gay character and his PoC boyfriend. That shower scene makes me want to have sex in the shower, even though I hate sex in the shower. I read that book every year. (Not just for the sexy shower scene.)
Kosoko: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich, Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy, If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan, and Looking for Group by Rory Harrison. Each of them has things I love in books and things I can identify with in my own life. I also won a preorder give away of They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, so I’m pretty excited for that!
What’s your dream conference panel to sit in on? To be on?
Brandon: I would LOVE to sit on a #BlackBoyJoy panel for YA literature. I think it would be neat to sit alongside other black male authors, whether LGBTQIAP or not, and share our stories and successes to inspire the next generation of authors and readers. Adversity is an obstacle that many may feel that they can’t overcome, but showing them that light always triumphs over the darkness will help push them forward in their individual journeys.
Kosoko: I’d LOVE to be on a panel at FlameCon or World Con, especially since World Con 2019 is in Dublin, Ireland—one of my favorite cities in the world—and speaks heavily to my desire to make more LGBT POC YA stories international. It kills 2 birds with one stone. FlameCon would be amazing because it’s so many awesome LGBT creators in one space of all types.
A. Leon: I want to play the 92Y. Roomful of deeply thinking people waiting to hear my deep thoughts. Yeah, that.
Ryan: I’d love to be on a panel with other queer writers of color, any of the wonderful authors I’ve connected with on Twitter, or any of my influences. Neal Shusterman is my biggest influence but if I shared a panel with him I would not be able to talk or breathe.
What’s on your bookish bucket list, i.e. something book/publishing-related you dream of achieving at some point?
Kosoko: I don’t know if one exists but I’d love to sit on a panel/be on the steering committee devoted to POC creators in the creative arts (if there is one—tell me if not; I’d love to work with someone to create it). Conversations and topics are different when they center around POCs—like the POC version of Sirens—and I think that space really is needed. So I’d love to be a part of that, steering committee, etc.
A. Leon: Bestseller. And a whole shelf of books written by me that readers adore, whether they sold well or not. Some prize-winners in there, or at least nominated. Prize of choice: Michael Printz Award. Also, I just want to keep writing and publishing. I wish to leave behind shelves of books across all ages, platforms, techniques.
Ryan: International book tours because I love to travel and talk about myself.
Brandon: One day I hope to have one of my works produced for either television or film. I understand that not everyone enjoys reading, and some prefer watching great stories instead of reading them. So in order to reach that audience, a show or movie would do just that.
Got any words of inspiration for aspiring queer Black authors out there, and/or for your future readers?
Ryan: To queer, Black authors: write your stories. Don’t be afraid to write them. Write boldly and without fear. Include the ugly, the sexy, the awkward, the scary, the honest. We need your vulnerability! Things are changing and people are starting to listen. If you’re not ready to be open about your sexuality, write whatever you want.
To readers: I write what I know and do my best to make a narrative compelling and characters relatable. Everyone’s experience is different but marginalized people are often treated as a monolith and a lot of pressure is put on us to write for the whole community. I hope we can all give writers space to write their individual stories without having to speak for everyone at once. I hope you like my creepy work because it’ll only get creepier.
Brandon: If I could give any words of inspiration it would be, “Love yourself more than anyone else. YOU are the most important person in your life and you and your dreams DO matter. Never give up until you reach the finish line, and even when you do that, drink more water and keep going!”
Kosoko: As a POC you have to work twice as hard as your white counterparts. As someone LGBT, you have to work twice as hard as your straight counterparts. As both? You need to work four times as hard. Don’t let that deter you. The harder the opposition, the more reason for you to keep sweating, keep shedding blood, and most of all—continuing to write.
A. Leon: Read others’ work. Write your work. Be relentless.
*It was actually more than five years ago, as the Stonewall Honored Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz was published in April 2012.
**Proxy and Guardian by Alex London feature a dark-skinned male character one who might absolutely be read as Black, but it is not explicitly stated as such. Ditto Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. And yes, still white authors.
***Of course, it always behooves to support authors who are publishing through other means, so while you wait for these authors to grace your shelves, note that you can already buy The Secrets of Eden by Brandon Goode and check out the work of Craig Laurance Gidney.
Guessing at least most of these sales will only last until the end of the month, so get ’em while you can! (All links are Amazon affiliate.)
Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler ($1.99)
Marian by Ella Lyons ($1.99)
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown ($1.99)
Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson ($1.99)
The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie ($1.99)
Noteworthy by Riley Redgate ($2.99)
Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate ($2.99)
How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake ($3.99)
Geography Club by Brent Hartinger ($3.99)
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore ($8.25, hardcover)
I am so psyched today to bring you this guest post by asexuality authors and advocates Claudie Arseneault and Lynn O’Connacht, bringing some stellar recs for ace SFF. They’ve got plenty of wisdom on the subject between the two of them, so I’m just gonna tiptoe off and let them take it away! (But not before reminding you that you can obviously also find great ace stories by supporting these two authors; links to their websites are in their bios at the end of the post!)
On August 11, 2017, Every Heart a Doorway, the most visible traditionally published story with explicit asexual representation won the Hugo Awards for Best Novella and, with it, a clean sweep of SFF’s most prestigious awards. Yet the discussions we’ve seen surrounding asexual representation in fiction since Every Heart a Doorway was published usually seem to ignore many great stories with asexual representation. There is so much more out there, and a lot of what’s out there is ownvoices.
Asexual indie and short story writers have been producing a wealth of stories involving ace spectrum characters for years now, and it’s always a pleasure to share their work. These are talented folks who tend to go unnoticed, but their stories are varied and gut-wrenching. We can only hope that the light shined on asexual representation by Every Heart a Doorway will reach other deserving authors.
As ace spectrum readers and indie author the idea that there are only a handful of books that include characters on the asexual spectrum out there hurts so much. True, there aren’t anywhere near as many as we would like, but there’s so much more out there than these discussions suggest. We’ve selected just five stories that we feel are similar to Every Heart a Doorway not just because they feature ace-spec characters, but also because we feel that the story has some overlap with narrative elements in McGuire’s novella. All of the authors on this list are ownvoices and somewhere on the asexual spectrum. We hope you’ll enjoy the books!
Nkásht íí by Darcie Little Badger is a short story rather than a novel or a novella, but if you’re looking for something that captures that sense of eeriness and creepiness that’s at the core of Every Heart a Doorway‘s mystery plot, you’ll love this. The story follows two Lipan Apache friends as they try to unravel the mystery behind a car crash, and the family a man lost in it. Josie, the narrator, is aromantic and asexual. If you wanted a more in-depth look at a ‘death world’ like Nancy visited, Nkásht íí also has you covered. It’s deliciously scary and invites rereading to gather more of what’s happening in the text.
The Traitor’s Tunnel by C.M. Spivey may seem like a strange book to recommend to readers of Every Heart a Doorway, as its heart is more caper-heist than gruesome mystery, but readers will find that the mystery Theo gets drawn into by his sister has some very dark undertones. Together, he and Bridget will have to discover who is the traitor who’s been abducting orphan children from the streets and why. Readers looking for a panromantic asexual lead in an established and adorable relationship will love the representation in this book. (Blogger’s Note: You can read an excerpt of The Traitor’s Tunnel here!)
Good Angel by A.M. Blaushild is a great pick if you were disappointed by the way Every Heart a Doorway stopped following Nancy’s attempts to adapt to life in our realm and make friends at school. In Good Angel, Iofiel is a newly created angel who goes off to university to become a guardian angel, but after deciding to help an imp with his studies, she finds herself unsure of her place in the world. Good Angel is the first novel in a humorous duology, and features a curious angel who isn’t quite sure where she fits onto the spectrums of asexuality and aromanticism. It features classes, studying and making friends with people who the environment of the school finds… a little less than ideal.
Stake Sauce by RoAnna Sylver is an urban fantasy webserial/novel and will appeal to readers of McGuire’s work in general. Like, Every Heart a Doorway it’s got several unexpected twists (which we won’t spoil, of course!). Jude is a demiromantic asexual former firefighter with PTSD, and no one believes him when he insists there are vampires about until he meets Pixie, an adorable punk vampire who needs help with bigger, meaner vampires. In turns weird, dark, and delightfully hopeful, Stake Sauce contains one secret ingredient… love. No, really!
The Stake Sauce webserial runs on Patreon and the full story will be released as an ebook on October 31, 2017.
Fourth World by Lyssa Chiavari is a YA science fiction novel with two protagonists on the asexual spectrum. Nadin is asexual and sex-repulsed and Isaak is demisexual. We recommend this one for its at-times punch-in-the-gut representation of asexuality, and because much like Every Heart a Doorway it features teens trying to solve a mystery (a Mars archeology one!) and two distinct worlds, so if you enjoyed the idea of portal fantasy set forth this explores such a narrative in more depth. Nadin and Isaak are worlds and years apart, but when Isaak finds an ancient coin, they’ll have to work together to save both their planets.
And there you have it. Five stories that feature asexual characters just as prominently as Every Heart a Doorway does and that also have narrative overlap for you to enjoy. These aren’t all the asexual stories out there by a long shot. If you’d like a larger range of options or more detailed information on the representation in the stories we mentioned, check out Claudie’s database of asexual and aromantic characters in SFF. If you’d like non-SFF recommendations (or recs for games and tv/film as well) as well, there’s also Fuck Yeah Asexual’s database here. Happy reading!
Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very-French Québec City. Her stories focus on non-romantic relationships and often feature large queer casts. The latest, City of Strife, is the first of a political fantasy trilogy released in February. Find out more on her website!
Lynn O’Connacht has an MA in English literature and creative writing, but wouldn’t call herself an authority on either. She currently resides on the European continent and her idiom and spelling are, despite her best efforts, geographically confused, poor things. Her latest book is a companion collection to her asexual retelling of The Little Mermaid, Sea Foam and Silence. Find out more on her website!
My new book, Venturess, is about three friends who are in love with each other, whose love makes them a family. It was important to me not to define that love in an explicitly romantic or sexual way, because those particular elements aren’t part of every intense, loving relationship, or of every family unit.
Someone asked me in a recent interview if I based any of my characters on people from my life, and I said no – the people I know definitely inform my characters, but I don’t tend to base them on one single source.
But there was a time when I fell in love with three people at once . . .
I spent the summer I turned seventeen living with a host family in the south of France.
Life was good.
I mean, life in Royan was good, with the language immersion and the food and the sunflower fields and a cooking class taught by an actual giant-mustachioed French chef and . . . OK, yes, all of that was really great. But it’s not what makes that summer stand out with so much warmth and affection in my memory.
During orientation, I met three other students named Olivia, Sasha, and Hannah, and we were best friends by the end of the day. It was probably the closest thing to love at first sight that I’ve ever felt – maybe love at first conversation?
We were all very different people. Olivia was fiery and sarcastic, lived in Manhattan when she wasn’t at boarding school, and wanted to be a filmmaker. Sasha, the only boy, was obsessed with economics and lived in Hong Kong, where he attended a glamorous-sounding international school. Hannah was from Texas and had spent probably the most time travelling of any of us, and she was a devout Christian who loved to read. I loved books too, I’d been Christian most of my life but was recently and bitterly disillusioned, and I’d lived what suddenly seemed like a very sheltered and boring existence in rural New England.
I don’t really remember what we talked about that first day, only that it made us all laugh so much our sides hurt. We quickly absconded to a nearby cafe to continue reveling in our enjoyment of each other. Every moment that we weren’t in class or with our host families, we spent together. We went to French movies that we struggled to understand and American ones with subtitles. We ordered ice cream dishes with liqueur toppings that made us feel madly rebellious (maybe we were all a little sheltered). We wandered the Royan boardwalk and sat on the beach late into the night, talking about anything and everything.
I loved these people. I adored them.
By the end of the program we had a collective nickname: KOSH, for each of our initials. (I hated being called Betsy when I was younger, and I’d rebranded myself as Kat for the summer because I thought it would make me cooler. Shockingly, I was still the same person – although through O,S, and H’s eyes, I started to like myself a little more.)
When the summer ended, we left France and went back to our respective corners of the world.
I didn’t see them again for ten years.
In 2015, we decided to reunite in New York City on 4th of July weekend. I was teaching writing at a summer camp in Pennsylvania that year, and I remember feeling slightly terrified as I took the train up to Penn Station. We’d been some kind of soul mates when we were teenagers, but would we be able to connect again now?
I didn’t need to worry. Whatever magic was there before lit right up again when one of us asked if anyone still spoke French – and everyone burst out laughing. We roamed around the city all weekend finding bookstores and French food and semi-affordable Broadway tickets, and once more talking later into the night than was really wise, especially since we were now grown-ups with jobs and things to get back to.
Olivia works for a production company in L.A. Sasha is an economist in Ontario. Hannah is a teacher and librarian in Texas. I live in Ireland and write books. Three of us are married (not to each other).
Maybe it’s a cop-out to claim this intense friendship as inspiration for the intentionally queer family dynamics in Venturess. I’m a bisexual cis woman married to a cis man, and I don’t consider myself polyamorous. I don’t want to lay claim to something that isn’t mine – and yet that’s a kind of self-shaming that I’ve often felt as a bisexual person, worrying that I’m “not queer enough” for the community. I write a lot about liminality, partly because so much of the love that I’ve experienced falls into those funny in-between places that are not easy to describe.
Still, the relationships in Venturess felt very close to home, close to my heart, as I wrote them. When Nick begins sleeping in the same bed with her friends Fin and Caro, and wakes up feeling more at home than she ever has before, I know that feeling. The four of us slept together (in the same-bed sense) in France. We all carried with us the acute loneliness that I think only teenagers feel, and in our love for each other we were able to alleviate it, for a little while. We were each other’s family that summer, and our love will always be part of who I am.
Betsy Cornwell is the New York Times best-selling author of Tides,
Mechanica, and Venturess. She graduated from Smith College and was a columnist and editor at Teen Ink before receiving an MFA in creative writing from Notre Dame, where she also taught fiction. After grad school, she ran away to Ireland to live with the fairies, and she now resides in a small cottage on the west coast with her horse-trainer spouse. To learn more, visit her at www.betsycornwell.com, on Twitter at @Betsy_Cornwell, and on Instagram at @BetsyCornwell.
It’s no secret to anyone who reads this site that while I aim to have recommendations for all readers of LGBTQIAP+ lit, I, like I’d venture to guess all readers, only a few areas I’d consider to be my expertise. Thankfully, every now and again, someone steps up to fill in the gaps and share their knowledge on an area that’s essentially a black hole for me, and today I’m grateful to have Jaylee James doing just that on Yuri! (And yes, as the title indicates, this will not be er only post on the subject!)
Yuri is anime, manga, and other Japanese media involving a romantic or sexual relationship between two women. It’s the female version of yaoi, which depicts relationships between men.
In the past year, there has been an influx of yuri manga being translated into English. Whereas before, yuri recommendation lists included basically the same four series, or stretched the idea of yuri to include series like Lucky Star and K-On that focus on the relationships between female friends, or was included in the list because of heavy subtext but no actual canonical romantic relationship between the characters (such as Madoka).
But recently, there is a much wider variety of stories to choose from, and the series are ongoing, with books coming out every couple of months. We’re currently being spoiled with yuri manga, and it’s amazing.
Here are five ongoing manga series that center the experiences of queer women (and one bonus standalone)!
First two volumes available in English from Seven Seas, with volume three coming out September 2017.
Yuu is a first-year student who is roped into volunteering for the student council. While there, she meets Nanami, an older student who possesses a lot of traits Yuu admires, especially the ability to turn down potential suitors with ease. She tells Yuu that “no one’s love confession has ever made her heart-pound.” Yuu sees a kindred spirit in Nanami, since Yuu has never experienced romantic feelings for someone, and is worried she never will, though she desperately wants to.
However, as soon as Yuu confesses this, Nanami shares her own confession – Yuu is the only person she’s ever met who does give her romantic feelings.
The two work to navigate their friendship and Nanami’s one-sided romantic feelings. The story is told with beautiful art, in an almost cinematic style. The mood of the story is slow, languid, and gives you a chance to feel deeply what the characters are going through amid lovely, detailed background settings.
Content warning: A character “steal kisses” against the others’ wishes, and later apologizes and they talk about it. Yuu’s feelings about her lack of romantic feelings tend to dip negatively, with insecurity, worry, and a desire to change, though the tone of the story was not (to me, an alloromantic person) forcing a judgment call on her.
Note: Since this is manga, identity labels are never used (and it’s important to remember not all cultures share Western identity labels) but a number of things Yuu says in the series sound very similar to feelings expressed by my aromantic friends, and aro-spec readers might relate to this story.
First two volumes available in English from Yen Press, with volume three coming out August 2017.
This series is about a group of classmates at an all-girl’s school who all have feelings for each other. There are many different pairings with a wide variety of dynamics, and no one questions it. (This series reminds me of Strawberry Panic, in that way – a sort of utopia where all the girls are into other girls.)
Because of the number of characters and couples, it reads more like a series of interconnected short stories. Each couple has their own relationship troubles and dynamic. There’s a pair of rivals who develop romantic feelings for each other, a track star and the girl she works hard for, and an older student about to graduate high school and the two younger students who love her. There are single-page one shots between the chapters focusing on background characters and their own attractions and relationships.
The scope of this series means there will be something for everyone, though it can be difficult to tell the characters apart or remember them all, since they all wear the same uniform, have similar faces, and only their hair distinguishes the characters from one another.
Content warning: The first volume depicts a “stolen kiss” without the other girl’s consent, and many of the relationships have elements of manipulation or emotionally dependent dynamics.
Five volumes available in English from Seven Seas, with the next one available August 2017.
Citrus is the story of two girls whose parents just married each other, and they are suddenly stepsisters. The bulk of this series is tropey porn, putting the girls into situations that strain the reader’s ability to suspend belief (Mom asking two teenage girls who met last week to share a bath because they’re “sisters” now, for instance).
But amidst the fanservice and overdone sexual scenes is a story about Mei, a closed-off girl in a lot of pain, and her new step-sister Yuzu, the only person who has made an effort to understand her. This series is nonstop drama, tropes, stereotypes, and steamy scenes.
Content warning: Constant consent issues, with Mei pushing Yuzu’s boundaries and taking out her painful feelings on Yuzu by forcing sexual situations on her – kissing, groping, and removing clothing.
First volume available from Viz Media. Since the second volume was just released in Japan July 2017, details about when it will be released in English are still to come.
Unlike the rest of the manga on this list, After Hours is not about high school students. It’s such a refreshing change to read yuri about adult women (in this case, one is in her twenties, the other her thirties). A lot of common manga tropes are left out of this story – shame about sex, excessive bashfulness, internalized homophobia (“but we’re both girls!!”). There’s not even any fan service, and the kissing is vocally consented to.
While the two characters have a sexual relationship, the story focuses on everything else going on in their lives. Emi just got out of college but has no idea what she’s doing in life or what she wants. Kei is finding a way to pursue her passions as hard as she can, and inviting Emi to join in.
The art is cinematic and the story is well-done, with funny moments and characters you can get behind. This is a unique addition to the current yuri offerings in English, and it deserves a lot more attention than I’ve seen it given.
Content warning: Depictions of alcohol and drunkenness in club scenes, as well as a friendship that could be read as emotionally abusive.
First two volumes available in English from Seven Seas, beginning with “Kase-San and Morning Glories,” with volume three coming out September 2017.
In one word, the Kase-San series is adorable. It follows the relationship between Yamada, a sweet, clumsy girl in the gardening club, and Kase, a popular track star who Yamada describes repeatedly as “much cooler than any boy.” They meet when Yamada catches Kase watering the flowers she’s planted, and from then on, Yamada is head-over-heels for the sports star.
The tagline for the second volume is “We’re girlfriends… now what?” and it’s the perfect descriptor for the series, as the two work out the details of how they fit together when they’re such different people. Riddled with lighthearted humor, honest feelings, and sweet moments between the girls, the series is nonstop fluff. Takashima allows her characters to be shy and innocent in their affections while also acknowledging they’re sexually attracted to each other.
Overall, Kase-San is tooth-rotting fluff that will have you full of warm fuzzies, giggling the whole way through the series.
Content warning: None 😊
A short standalone volume available in English from Seven Seas, released June 2017.
While not strictly yuri, My Lesbian Experience is a graphic memoir about the author’s mental health struggles and recovery, her discovery and acceptance that she was a lesbian, and her experience hiring a female escort for her first sexual experience.
This is a raw, honest look at the author’s personal life. Nagata is open about her binge eating, wanting to die, and being so depressed she couldn’t leave her bed. It’s also a great portrayal of recovery – finding the few things in life you enjoy and letting them save you from drowning. For the author, those things were manga… and seeing a female sex worker.
My Lesbian Experience is very real, and also really funny. The author lets us laugh with her at how awkward she was, how frustrated life made her, and eventually, how healthy and stable she got to be.
Content warning: eating disorders, trichotillomania, self-harm, suicidal ideation, depression, and possibly also dissociation and emotional abuse by parents. Also touches on outdated psychological theories about the causes of homosexuality.
Jaylee James is a demi-bisexual, bigender writer and editor from Kansas City with purple hair. Er main projects are Spectrum Lit, which publishes LGBTQ+ flash fiction, and Polycule, a true story blog about er polyamorous dating adventures. When not writing, e spends far too much time on twitter (@thewritingj), cuddling er dogs, and dating the entire metro area. More of er work can be found at JayleeJames.com.