Fave Five: Queer YA Takes on Shakespeare

As I Descended by Robin Talley (Macbeth)

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (Twelfth Night)

Nothing Happened by Molly Booth (Much Ado About Nothing)

Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig (Hamlet)

That Way Madness Lies ed. by Dahlia Adler (an anthology containing a number of queer retellings)

New Releases: April 2020

Note: As you may have noticed, a lot of pub dates are doing some last-minute changes due to the global pandemic. We’re doing our best to keep up with the moves but the photo collage was made far in advance and does not reflect the most up-to-date pub schedules. (It’s possible the post does not either, but it’s certainly a closer fit.)

All Amazon, Indiebound, and Bookshop links are affiliate links. Purchasing through these links brings a small percentage of income back to the site, so please do!

Check, Please!, Book 2: Sticks and Scones by Ngozi Ukazu (7th)

Bitty is heading to junior year of college and though he has overcome his fear of getting ‘checked’ on the ice, he and Jack now face new challenges. They must navigate their new relationship while being apart and also decide how they want to reveal their relationship to those around them. Not only that, but Jack and the Falconers are now a big part of the NHL—and Bitty’s life! It’s a hockey season filled with victories and losses.

A collection of the second half of the mega-popular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: Sticks and Scones is the last in a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Girl Crushed by Katie Heaney (7th)

Before Quinn Ryan was in love with Jamie Rudawski, she loved Jamie Rudawski, who was her best friend. But when Jamie dumps Quinn a month before their senior year, Quinn is suddenly girlfriend-less and best friend-less.

Enter a new crush: Ruby Ocampo, the gorgeous and rich lead singer of the popular band Sweets, who’s just broken up with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. Quinn’s always only wanted to be with Jamie, but if Jamie no longer wants to be with her, why can’t Quinn go all in on her crush on Ruby? But the closer Quinn grows to Ruby, the more she misses Jamie, and the more (she thinks) Jamie misses her. Who says your first love can’t be your second love, too?

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

The Sword in the Stars by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy (7th)

This is the sequel to Once & Future

36233087. sy475 In this epic sequel to Once & Future, to save the future, Ari and her Rainbow knights pull off a heist…thousands of years in the past.

Ari Helix may have won her battle against the tyrannical Mercer corporation, but the larger war has just begun. Ari and her cursed wizard Merlin must travel back in time to the unenlightened Middle Ages and steal the King Arthur’s Grail—the very definition of impossible.

It’s imperative that the time travelers not skew the timeline and alter the course of history. Coming face-to-face with the original Arthurian legend could produce a ripple effect that changes everything. Somehow Merlin forgot that the past can be even more dangerous than the future…

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie (7th)

A young pilot risks everything to save his best friend–the man he trusts most and might even love–only to learn that he’s secretly the heir to a brutal galactic empire.

Ettian Nassun’s life was shattered when the merciless Umber Empire invaded. He’s spent seven years putting himself back together under its rule, joining an Umber military academy and becoming the best pilot in his class. Even better, he’s met Gal Veres–his exasperating and infuriatingly enticing roommate who’s made the Academy feel like a new home.

But when dozens of classmates spring an assassination plot on Gal, a devastating secret comes to light: Gal is the heir to the Umber Empire. Ettian barely manages to save his best friend and flee the compromised Academy unscathed, rattled both that Gal stands to inherit the empire that broke him and that there are still people willing to fight back against Umber rule. As they piece together a way to deliver Gal safely to his throne, Ettian finds himself torn in half by an impossible choice. Does he save the man who’s won his heart and trust that Gal’s goodness could transform the empire? Or does he throw his lot in with the brewing rebellion and fight to take back what’s rightfully theirs?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Somebody Told Me by Mia Siegert (7th)

After an assault, bigender seventeen-year-old Aleks/Alexis is looking for a fresh start―so they voluntarily move in with their uncle, a Catholic priest. In their new bedroom, Aleks/Alexis discovers they can overhear parishioners in the church confessional. Moved by the struggles of these “sinners,” Aleks/Alexis decides to anonymously help them, finding solace in their secret identity: a guardian angel instead of a victim.

But then Aleks/Alexis overhears a confession of another priest admitting to sexually abusing a parishioner. As they try to uncover the priest’s identity before he hurts anyone again, Aleks/Alexis is also forced to confront their own abuser and come to terms with their past trauma.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown (7th)

This is the US release of the 2019 UK YA title

Sydney’s dad is the only psychiatrist for miles around their small Ohio town.

He is also unexpectedly dead.

Is Sydney crazy, or is it kind of weird that her dad-a guy whose entire job revolved around other peoples’ secrets-crashed alone, with no explanation?

And why is June Copeland, homecoming queen and the town’s golden child, at his funeral?

As the two girls grow closer in the wake of the accident, it’s clear that not everyone is happy about their new friendship.

But what is picture perfect June still hiding? And does Sydney even want to know?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Indigo by Ellen Bass (7th)

Indigo, the newest collection by Ellen Bass, merges elegy and praise poem in an exploration of life’s complex grey areas. Whether her subject is oysters, high heels, a pork chop, a beloved dog, or a wife’s return to health, Bass pulls us in with exquisite immediacy. Her lush and precisely observed descriptions allow us to feel the sheer primal pleasure of being alive in our own “succulent skin,” the pleasure of the gifts of hunger, desire, touch. In this book, joy meets regret, devotion meets dependence, and most importantly, the poet so in love with life and living begins to look for the point where the price of aging overwhelms the rewards of staying alive. Bass is relentless in her advocacy for the little pleasures all around her. Her gaze is both expansive and hyperfocused, celebrating (and eulogizing) each gift as it is given and taken, while also taking stock of the larger arc. She draws the lines between generations, both remembering her parents’ lives and deaths and watching her own children grow into the space that she will leave behind. Indigo shows us the beauty of this cycle, while also documenting the deeply human urge to resist change and hang on to the life we have, even as it attempts to slip away.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Ruthless Gods by Emily Duncan (7th)

This is the sequel to Wicked Saints

Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. They’re pieces on a board, being orchestrated by someone… or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

In her dramatic follow-up to Wicked Saints, the first book in her Something Dark and Holy trilogy, Emily A. Duncan paints a Gothic, icy world where shadows whisper, and no one is who they seem, with a shocking ending that will leave you breathless.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Diary of a Drag Queen by Crystal Rasmussen with Tom Rasmussen (14th)

A cocktail-spitting, norm-pinching dive into everyday queer life in the twenty-first century—a hilarious, moving memoir

Life’s a drag . . . Why not be a queen?

When you peel off the sequins and lashes, wipe away the lipstick and mascara, open your heart and your eyes—what does the life of a drag queen really look like? Crystal (and Tom) Rasmussen tell all in this outrageous, raunchy, moving, naked (in more ways than one) memoir about life on and off the stage.

Born into a loving working-class family in northern England, Crystal finds her way to London, to a coveted, soul-crushing job in New York fashion, and back again. Searching for good sex, good stories, and “the one,” she shags men of all kinds from all sorts of platforms, sells cider to tourists, and performs with her college drag band, DENIM. She learns about true love from her mum and falls in love with her best friend. Charting her day-to-day adventures over the course of a year, we encounter tucks, twists, and unfiltered sexy bits, heinous overspending, body shame and self-love, and endless nights sprinting from snag to snafu in a full face of makeup.

In these pages the previously unspeakable becomes the everyday and the celebrated, and Crystal makes sure we feel every single thing along the way. A full-hearted, full-throated, full-disclosure portrayal of the queer experience that makes you laugh and cry and wish for understanding, Diary of a Drag Queen is a dazzling, true performance of a real, flawed, extraordinary life.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Inked with a Kiss by Jennie Davids (13th)

Tattoo artist Jamie Winston is used to caring for others. Between her assistant manager position at a tattoo parlor, single-parenting her twelve-year-old daughter and supporting her alcoholic parents, Jamie rarely prioritizes her own needs—unless Sierra Clark is in her chair. The bubbly younger woman somehow manages to make Jamie feel like the carefree teenager she never got to be, making anything seem possible.

For Sierra, time with Jamie is a much-needed escape. She takes her work as a social worker seriously, but with budget cuts threatening her job, there’s a lot riding on the fund-raiser she’s planning with Jamie. The fact that it means working closely with the sexy older tattooist is a bonus—a deliciously tempting bonus. Sierra isn’t one for relationships, but she’s never felt such a strong desire to mix business with pleasure.

Sizzling chemistry quickly erodes Jamie’s fears of being too old for Sierra, but navigating a romance with someone who’s at such a different stage in life is no easy task. They’ve each come to rely on themselves more than anyone else, but having a future together will mean letting their guards down and accepting each other as a safe place to fall.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Confessions of a Gay Priest by Tom Rastrelli (15th)

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen (21st)

Seventeen is nothing like Codi Teller imagined.

She’s never crashed a party, never stayed out too late. She’s never even been kissed. And it’s not just because she’s gay. It’s because she and her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory, spend more time in her basement watching Netflix than engaging with the outside world.

So when Maritza and JaKory suggest crashing a party, Codi is highly skeptical. Those parties aren’t for kids like them. They’re for cool kids. Straight kids.

But then Codi stumbles upon one of those cool kids, Ricky, kissing another boy in the dark, and an unexpected friendship is formed. In return for never talking about that kiss, Ricky takes Codi under his wing and draws her into a wild summer filled with late nights, new experiences, and one really cute girl named Lydia.

The only problem? Codi never tells Maritza or JaKory about any of it.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Rick by Alex Gino (21st)

Rick’s never questioned much. He’s gone along with his best friend Jeff even when Jeff’s acted like a bully and a jerk. He’s let his father joke with him about which hot girls he might want to date even though that kind of talk always makes him uncomfortable. And he hasn’t given his own identity much thought, because everyone else around him seemed to have figured it out.

But now Rick’s gotten to middle school, and new doors are opening. One of them leads to the school’s Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities congregate, including Melissa, the girl who sits in front of Rick in class and seems to have her life together. Rick wants his own life to be that … understood. Even if it means breaking some old friendships and making some new ones.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan (21st)

april18Jubilee has it all together. She’s an elite cellist, and when she’s not working in her stepmom’s indie comic shop, she’s prepping for the biggest audition of her life.

Ridley is barely holding it together. His parents own the biggest comic-store chain in the country, and Ridley can’t stop disappointing them–that is, when they’re even paying attention.

They meet one fateful night at a comic convention prom, and the two can’t help falling for each other. Too bad their parents are at each other’s throats every chance they get, making a relationship between them nearly impossible . . . unless they manage to keep it a secret.

Then again, the feud between their families may be the least of their problems. As Ridley’s anxiety spirals, Jubilee tries to help but finds her focus torn between her fast-approaching audition and their intensifying relationship. What if love can’t conquer all? What if each of them needs more than the other can give?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N| IndieBound

Non-Binary Lives: An Anthology of Intersecting Identities ed. by Jos Twist, Ben Vincent, Meg-John Barker, Kat Gupta (21st)

What does it mean to be non-binary in the 21st Century? Our gender identity is impacted by our personal histories; the cultures, communities and countries we are born into; and the places we go and the people we meet. But the representation of contemporary non-binary identities has been limited, until now. Pushing the narrative around non-binary identities further than ever before, this powerful collection of essays represents the breadth of non-binary lives, across the boundaries of race, class, age, sexuality, faith and more. Leading non-binary people share stories of their intersecting lives; how it feels to be non-binary and neurodiverse, the challenges of being a non-binary pregnant person, what it means to be non-binary within the Quaker community, the joy of reaching gender euphoria. This thought-provoking anthology shows that there is no right or wrong way to be non-binary.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman (21st)

This is the sequel to The Devouring Grey

The teenagers of Four Paths must save their home.

Though the Beast is seemingly subdued for now, a new threat looms in Four Paths: a corruption seeping from the Gray into the forest. And with the other Founders preoccupied by their tangled alliances and fraying relationships, only May Hawthorne seems to realize the danger. But saving the town she loves means seeking aid from the person her family despises most–her and Justin’s father.

May’s father isn’t the only newcomer in town–Isaac Sullivan’s older brother has also returned, seeking forgiveness for the role he played in Isaac’s troubled past. But Isaac isn’t ready to let go of his family’s history, especially when that history might hold the key that he and Violet Saunders need to destroy the Gray and the monster within it.

Harper Carlisle isn’t ready to forgive, either. Two devastating betrayals have left her isolated from her family and uncertain who to trust. As the corruption becomes impossible to ignore, Harper must learn to control her newfound powers in order to protect Four Paths. But the only people who can help her do that are the ones who have hurt her the most.

With the veil between the Gray and the town growing ever thinner, all of the Founder descendants must put their grievances with one another aside to stop the corruption and kill the Beast once and for all.

But maybe the monster they truly need to slay has never been the Beast…

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Bookshop

Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski (28th)

When university student Ludwik meets Janusz at a summer agricultural camp, he is fascinated yet wary of this handsome, carefree stranger. But a chance meeting by the river soon becomes an intense, exhilarating, and all-consuming affair. After their camp duties are fulfilled, the pair spend a dreamlike few weeks camping in the countryside, bonding over an illicit copy of James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. Inhabiting a beautiful natural world removed from society and its constraints, Ludwik and Janusz fall deeply in love. But in their repressive communist and Catholic society, the passion they share is utterly unthinkable.

Once they return to Warsaw, the charismatic Janusz quickly rises in the political ranks of the party and is rewarded with a highly-coveted position in the ministry. Ludwik is drawn toward impulsive acts of protest, unable to ignore rising food prices and the stark economic disparity around them. Their secret love and personal and political differences slowly begin to tear them apart as both men struggle to survive in a regime on the brink of collapse.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (28th)

39834234. sy475 In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

The Knockout Queen by Rupi Thorpe (28th)

Bunny Lampert is the princess of North Shore⁠—beautiful, tall, blond, with a rich real-estate-developer father and a swimming pool in her backyard. Michael⁠⁠—with a ponytail down his back and a septum piercing⁠—lives with his aunt in the cramped stucco cottage next door. When Bunny catches Michael smoking in her yard, he discovers that her life is not as perfect as it seems. At six foot three, Bunny towers over their classmates. Even as she dreams of standing out and competing in the Olympics, she is desperate to fit in, to seem normal, and to get a boyfriend, all while hiding her father’s escalating alcoholism. Michael has secrets of his own. At home and at school Michael pretends to be straight, but at night he tries to understand himself by meeting men online for anonymous encounters that both thrill and scare him. When Michael falls in love for the first time, a vicious strain of gossip circulates and a terrible, brutal act becomes the defining feature of both his and Bunny’s futures⁠⁠—and of their friendship.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Queer Speculative Aotearoa New Zealand: a Guest Post by AJ Fitzwater

Today on the site I’m delighted to welcome author AJ Fitzwater, author of the very queer fantasy short story collection The Voyages of Cinrak The Dapper, which releases today from Queen of Swords Press! Here’s a little more on the book:

Cinrak the Dapper is a keeper of secrets, a righter of wrongs, the saltiest capybara on the sea and a rider of both falling stars and a great glass whale. Join her, her beloveds, the rat Queen Orvilia and the marmot diva Loquolchi, lead soprano of the Theatre Rat-oyal, her loyal cabin kit, Benj the chinchilla, and Agnes, last of the great krakens, as they hunt for treasures of all kinds and find adventures beyond their wildest dreams. Let Sir Julius Vogel Award-winning storyteller A.J. Fitzwater take you on a glorious journey about finding yourself, discovering true love and exploring the greatest secrets of the deep. Also, dapperness.

Buy it!

***

And here’s AJ to talk about queer speculative fiction of Aotearoa New Zealand!

Aotearoa New Zealand may be a small country (current population approx. 4.5 million), but our literary history is unique and strong.

The queer speculative of Aotearoa New Zealand is a niche within a niche. Where it’s come from and where it’s heading (like all star gazers, we have multiple understandings of our past and future) is a cloak woven with the threads of colonialism, indigeneity, race, and marginalization.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s colonial history carries many parallels to other lands claimed by the British Empire. We inherited their hetero-patriarchal religions, laws, and social sensibilities. Like many countries, our queer people were paraded in front of the courts and people as freaks, deviants, and society destroyers. Our history survived in the underground and in enclaves, through activism, oral storytelling and perseverance.

Our queer heroes include Carmen Rupe, a drag artist, activist, sex worker, and club owner who ran a safe space coffee lounge in Wellington back in the 60s and 70s; Georgina Beyer, the first transgender mayor in the world; Richard O’Brien, Rocky Horror creator; and Marilyn Waring, MP, activist, and economist. Since the turn of the century, we’ve had a great crop of MPs working hard on Rainbow Politics, like Louisa Wall, Jan Logie, Chris Carter, Tim Barnett, and Chris Finlayson. Our historic watersheds are the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1986 (a campaign that began back in the 60s) in the midst of the AIDS crisis, the first Hero Parade in 1991, and the passing of Marriage Equality in 2013. Our current legal battles include trans rights in multiple sectors, like inclusive language, employment, health care (standard, gender affirmative, and mental health), prison reform, and gender changes on official documents.

With the weight of history, the rich living cultures of Māori, Pasifika, and multiple cultures and ethnicities, a secular society, a sea-locked geography that often gives us a cut-off dystopian feel, and walking arm-in-arm with those who paved the way, we can begin to understand what’s different about our literature.

Many early century queer authors wrote in the closet, like Frank Sargeson, and we’re still coming to grips with the lost history of suppressed voices. Voices who led the charge into the 21st century include Witi Ihimaera, Renée, and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, often working across multiple disciplines.

So now I’ve given you a little bit of our queer history and landscape, I can talk about who is creating our speculative narratives, the people picking up the threads, reweaving, and sharing a new spread of stories, sensibilities, and hope.

Academic, activist and historian Ngahuia Te Awekotuku has spent more than 50 years immersed in multiple strands of Māori culture and queer rights. Two of her sectors of interest were researching and revising pre-colonial Māori stories of women’s power and sexuality and gender. This produced the great collection Ruahine: Mythic Women (2003, Huia Publishers).

Everyone is gushing about Tamsyn Muir’s lesbian necromancer epic Gideon the Ninth (Tor, 2019), and quite rightly so. Like many local creatives who work on the big publishing stage, she works from an overseas base, but still claims Aotearoa New Zealand as a home.

Working in the YA sector, Karen Healey is the award winning author of Guardian of the Dead (2010, Allen and Unwin), The Shattering (2011, Allen and Unwin), When We Wake (2013, Allen and Unwin) and While We Run (2014, Allen and Unwin), and as a teacher in Christchurch tends to the hearts and souls of the next generation of authors. There’s also up-and-coming poet and YA author Alexander Te Pohe, who created Ruru Reads,  a site for publishing work from PoC and Indigenous people; a great site in it’s time, Alec has now moved on to fully focus on their writing career.

What does Aotearoa New Zealand’s urban fantasy taste like? Check out Rem Wigmore’s The Wind City (2013, Steam Press), which, as it’s title suggests, brings to life all that makes Wellington interesting. Jamie Sands has a flair for romantic fantasy, including The Suburban Book of the Dead (2018, self published), and the Fairyland Romances series (Self Published).

Author and trans rights activist Caitlin Spice has a versatile story telling voice, just as much at home writing dark fantasy and horror in the short story collection The Silver Path (2017, Mungfish Publishing), as co-authoring the fairy tales Promised Land (2017), Maiden Voyage (2018), and Raven Wild (2019), for LGBTQ children.

Writing aromantic Chinese fairy tales is Michelle Kan, including Come Drink With Me (2019), Gold and Jasper (2019), and East Flows the River (2020, Fish and Swallow). Under her Fish and Swallow Productions company, she also creates independent film, documentary, and online content.

Author of The Dawnhounds (2019, Little Hook Press), Sascha Stronach describes the book as “beserk, witchy, LBGTQ+ mycopunk”. If you like weird and cool and gritty, this is the book for you.

Writing across disciplines is Darusha Wehm. A well travelled creative, Darusha does everything from short stories to games to podcasts to interactive fiction to novellas and novels. They’re just as eclectic in their genres, including cyberpunk, future detective, and political sci-fi. Check out Children of Arkadia (2015, Bundoran Press),   The Voyage of the White Cloud (2018, in potentia press), and the Andersson Dexter series.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s speculative scene isn’t just about literature. FafSwag is a collective of indigenous creators, producing ballrooms, dance, costume, theatre, film, and art with a decidedly futurist bent. And creating comics is Jem Yoshioka with the queer romantic sci-fi webcomic Circuits and Veins.

In short fiction, you’ll find author and editor Andi C. Buchanan. Their novella From a Shadow Grave (2019, Paper Road Press) is a ghost story set in Wellington taking an innovative approach to split narratives; their short stories can be found in a variety of venues, including Fireside Magazine, Apex Magazine, and GlitterShip; and they are also the editor of the speculative magazine Capricious.

And there’s me. There’s my short collection The Voyage of Cinrak the Dapper (2020, Queen of Swords Press) about a lesbian capybara pirate and her found family, and my novella No Man’s Land (June 2020, Paper Road Press) about shape shifting land girls in WW2. I’ve also been published in magazines such as Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Fireside Fiction, and Shimmer.

This is just a taster of Aotearoa New Zealand’s speculative creative output. Once you look into one, you fall down the rabbit hole of many.

***

AJ Fitzwater lives between the cracks of Christchurch, New Zealand. Their work focuses on feminist and queer themes, and has appeared in venues of repute such as Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer, Giganotosaurus, GlitterShip, and in various anthologies. They are the author of rodent pirate escapades in The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper, and the WW2 land girls shape-shifter novella No Man’s Land. With a background in radio, AJ lends their voice to podcast narrations, including for the Escape Artists universe. They enjoy maintaining a collection of bow ties. A unicorn disguised in a snappy blazer, they tweet @AJFitzwater

New Release Spotlight: Somebody Told Me by Mia Siegert

Out on April 7th, this intense contemporary I’d argue borders on thriller has traditional publishing’s first bigender MC, and we love a new trad pub milestone in this house! Check it out:

Somebody Told Me by Mia Siegert

After an assault, bigender seventeen-year-old Aleks/Alexis is looking for a fresh start―so they voluntarily move in with their uncle, a Catholic priest. In their new bedroom, Aleks/Alexis discovers they can overhear parishioners in the church confessional. Moved by the struggles of these “sinners,” Aleks/Alexis decides to anonymously help them, finding solace in their secret identity: a guardian angel instead of a victim.

But then Aleks/Alexis overhears a confession of another priest admitting to sexually abusing a parishioner. As they try to uncover the priest’s identity before he hurts anyone again, Aleks/Alexis is also forced to confront their own abuser and come to terms with their past trauma.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

 

Happy Trans Day of Visibility!

Books to Read Now

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

emezibookPet is here to hunt a monster.
Are you brave enough to look?

There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question-How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Birthday by Meredith Russo

BIRTHDAY Meredith Russo

ERIC: There was the day we were born. There was the minute Morgan and I decided we were best friends for life. The years where we stuck by each other’s side―as Morgan’s mom died, as he moved across town, as I joined the football team, as my parents started fighting. But sometimes I worry that Morgan and I won’t be best friends forever. That there’ll be a day, a minute, a second, where it all falls apart and there’s no turning back the clock.

MORGAN: I know that every birthday should feel like a new beginning, but I’m trapped in this mixed-up body, in this wrong life, in Nowheresville, Tennessee, on repeat. With a dad who cares about his football team more than me, a mom I miss more than anything, and a best friend who can never know my biggest secret. Maybe one day I’ll be ready to become the person I am inside. To become her. To tell the world. To tell Eric. But when?

Six years of birthdays reveal Eric and Morgan’s destiny as they come together, drift apart, fall in love, and discover who they’re meant to be―and if they’re meant to be together. From the award-winning author of If I Was Your Girl, Meredith Russo, comes a heart-wrenching and universal story of identity, first love, and fate.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, ill. by Kaylani Juanita

WHEN AIDAN BECAME A BROTHER Kyle Lukoff

When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl’s room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of his life that didn’t fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life.

Then Mom and Dad announce that they’re going to have another baby, and Aidan wants to do everything he can to make things right for his new sibling from the beginning–from choosing the perfect name to creating a beautiful room to picking out the cutest onesie. But what does “making things right” actually mean? And what happens if he messes up? With a little help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication, and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self.

When Aidan Became a Brother is a heartwarming book that will resonate with transgender children, reassure any child concerned about becoming an older sibling, and celebrate the many transitions a family can experience.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Little Fish by Casey Plett

LITTLE FISH Casey Plett

In this extraordinary debut novel by the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning story collection A Safe Girl to Love, Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman who comes across evidence that her late grandfather—a devout Mennonite farmer—might have been transgender himself. At first she dismisses this revelation, having other problems at hand, but as she and her friends struggle to cope with the challenges of their increasingly volatile lives—from alcoholism, to sex work, to suicide—Wendy is drawn to the lost pieces of her grandfather’s life, becoming determined to unravel the mystery of his truth. Alternately warm-hearted and dark-spirited, desperate and mirthful, Little Fish explores the winter of discontent in the life of one transgender woman as her past and future become irrevocably entwined.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

I’ve Got a Time Bomb by Sybil Lamb

I'VE GOT A TIME BOMB Sybil Lamb

On her way home from a gay wedding, Sybil’s eponymous protagonist is ambushed, beaten, and left for dead on the train tracks. Days later, Sybil awakens in a hospital and finds her skull has been reconstructed, but it quickly becomes clear that her version of “normal” and “reality” may have been permanently altered. When she falls in love with a very beautiful, but very married, actress, Sybil does what comes naturally: she presents the object of her affection with a homemade explosive device, and then abruptly leaves town.

I’ve Got A Time Bomb chronicles her surrealistic journey living among the loners, losers, and leave-behinds in the dark corners of Amerika.

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The Seep by Chana Porter

THE SEEP Chana PorterTrina Goldberg-Oneka is a fifty-year-old trans woman whose life is irreversibly altered in the wake of a gentle—but nonetheless world-changing—invasion by an alien entity called The Seep. Through The Seep, everything is connected. Capitalism falls, hierarchies and barriers are broken down; if something can be imagined, it is possible.

Trina and her wife, Deeba, live blissfully under The Seep’s utopian influence—until Deeba begins to imagine what it might be like to be reborn as a baby, which will give her the chance at an even better life. Using Seeptech to make this dream a reality, Deeba moves on to a new existence, leaving Trina devastated.

Heartbroken and deep into an alcoholic binge, Trina follows a lost boy she encounters, embarking on an unexpected quest. In her attempt to save him from The Seep, she will confront not only one of its most avid devotees, but the terrifying void that Deeba has left behind. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on.

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The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

THE BRILLIANT DEATH Amy Rose Capetta

Teodora di Sangro is used to hiding her magical ability to transform enemies into music boxes and mirrors. Nobody knows she’s a strega—and she aims to keep it that way.

The she meets Cielo—and everything changes.

A strega who can switch outward form as effortlessly as turning a page in a book, Cielo shows Teodora what her life could be like if she masters the power she’s been keeping secret. And not a moment too soon:  the ruler of Vinalia has poisoned the patriarchs of the country’s five controlling families, including Teodora’s father, and demands that each family send a son to the palace.

If she wants to save her family, Teodora must travel to the capital—not disguised as a boy, but transformed into one. But the road to the capital, and to bridling her powers, is full of enemies and complications, including the one she least expects: falling in love.

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Their Troublesome Crush by Xan West

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In this queer polyamorous m/f romance novella, two metamours realize they have crushes on each other while planning their shared partner’s birthday party together.

Ernest, a Jewish autistic demiromantic queer fat trans man submissive, and Nora, a Jewish disabled queer fat femme cis woman switch, have to contend with an age gap, a desire not to mess up their lovely polyamorous dynamic as metamours, the fact that Ernest has never been attracted to a cis person before, and the reality that they are romantically attracted to each other, all while planning their dominant’s birthday party and trying to do a really good job.

Buy it: Amazon | Gumroad

Call Me Max by Kyle Lukoff, ill. by Luciano Lozano

47771322._SX318_When Max starts school, the teacher hesitates to call out the name on the attendance sheet. Something doesn’t seem to fit. Max lets her know the name he wants to be called by–a boy’s name. This begins Max’s journey as he makes new friends and reveals his feelings about his identity to his parents.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Blood Sport by Tash McAdam

Jason is sure his sister, Becca, was murdered, but he’s the only one who thinks so. After finding a photograph Becca kept hidden, he decides to infiltrate a boxing gym to prove that she didn’t die accidentally. As a transgender kid, Jason’s been fighting for as long as he can remember, and those skills are going to come in handy as he investigates. Quickly invited into the inner circle, Jason must balance newfound friendships with the burning hate that drives him. Jason soon feels torn between two worlds, determined to discover what happened to his sister but struggling with the fact that this is the first time he’s ever felt like he belonged somewhere.

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Sorted by Jackson Bird

When Jackson Bird was twenty-five, he came out as transgender to his friends, family, and anyone in the world with an internet connection. Assigned female at birth and having been raised a girl, he often wondered if he should have been born a boy. Jackson didn’t share this thought with anyone because he didn’t think he could share it with anyone. Growing up in Texas in the 1990s, he had no transgender role models. He barely remembers meeting anyone who was openly gay, let alone being taught that transgender people existed outside of punchlines.

Today, Jackson is a writer, YouTuber, and LGBTQ+ advocate living openly and happily as a transgender man. So how did he get here? In this remarkable, educational, and uplifting memoir, Jackson chronicles the ups and downs of growing up gender confused. Illuminated by journal entries spanning childhood to adolescence to today, he candidly recalls the challenges he faced while trying to sort out his gender and sexuality, and worrying about how to interact with the world. With warmth and wit, Jackson also recounts how he navigated the many obstacles and quirks of his transition––like figuring out how to have a chest binder delivered to his NYU dorm room and having an emotional breakdown at a Harry Potter fan convention. From his first shot of testosterone to his eventual top surgery, Jackson lets you in on every part of his journey—taking the time to explain trans terminology and little-known facts about gender and identity along the way. Through his captivating prose, Bird not only sheds light on the many facets of a transgender life, but also demonstrates the power and beauty in being yourself, even when you’re not sure who “yourself” is.

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The Right Thing to Do at the Time by Dov Zeller

If Jane Austen and Sholem Aleichem (Fiddler on the Roof) schemed in an elevator, this just might be their pitch. Ari is Elizabeth and Itche is Jane–and this Jewish, queer, New York City retelling of Pride and Prejudice is for everyone.

Ari Wexler, a trans guy in his late 20s, is barely scraping by. His family life is a mess, he feels like a failure when it comes to love, and his job at a music library is on the rocks. His relationship with Itche Mattes, his doting best friend, helps him get through the days. Then a famous actress comes to town and sweeps Itche off his feet, leaving her dreadful sidekick to step on Ari’s toes.

As Ari’s despair grows, a fascinating music project falls into his lap, and he s faced with a choice: to remain within his comfort zone, however small and stifling, or to take a risk that could bring meaning and joy to his life.

Buy it on Amazon

To My Trans Sisters by Charlie Craggs

Dedicated to trans women everywhere, this inspirational collection of letters written by successful trans women shares the lessons they learnt on their journeys to womanhood, celebrating their achievements and empowering the next generation to become who they truly are.

Written by politicians, scientists, models, athletes, authors, actors, and activists from around the world, these letters capture the diversity of the trans experience and offer advice from make-up and dating through to fighting dysphoria and transphobia.

By turns honest and heartfelt, funny and furious or beautiful and brave, these letters send a clear message of hope to their sisters: each of these women have gone through the struggles of transition and emerged the other side as accomplished, confident women; and if we made it sister, so can you!

Buy it on Amazon

Books to Preorder

Somebody Told Me by Mia Siegert (April 7)

After an assault, bigender seventeen-year-old Aleks/Alexis is looking for a fresh start―so they voluntarily move in with their uncle, a Catholic priest. In their new bedroom, Aleks/Alexis discovers they can overhear parishioners in the church confessional. Moved by the struggles of these “sinners,” Aleks/Alexis decides to anonymously help them, finding solace in their secret identity: a guardian angel instead of a victim.

But then Aleks/Alexis overhears a confession of another priest admitting to sexually abusing a parishioner. As they try to uncover the priest’s identity before he hurts anyone again, Aleks/Alexis is also forced to confront their own abuser and come to terms with their past trauma.

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Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (May 5)

FELIX EVER AFTER Kacen Callender

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.

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The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar (May 19)

THIRTY NAMES OF NIGHTFive years after a suspicious fire killed his ornithologist mother, a closeted Syrian American trans boy sheds his birth name and searches for a new one. He has been unable to paint since his mother’s ghost has begun to visit him each evening. As his grandmother’s sole caretaker, he spends his days cooped up in their apartment, avoiding his neighborhood masjid, his estranged sister, and even his best friend (who also happens to be his longtime crush). The only time he feels truly free is when he slips out at night to paint murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria.

One night, he enters the abandoned community house and finds the tattered journal of a Syrian American artist named Laila Z, who dedicated her career to painting the birds of North America. She famously and mysteriously disappeared more than sixty years before, but her journal contains proof that both his mother and Laila Z encountered the same rare bird before their deaths. In fact, Laila Z’s past is intimately tied to his mother’s—and his grandmother’s—in ways he never could have expected. Even more surprising, Laila Z’s story reveals the histories of queer and transgender people within his own community that he never knew. Realizing that he isn’t and has never been alone, he has the courage to officially claim a new name: Nadir, an Arabic name meaning rare.

As unprecedented numbers of birds are mysteriously drawn to the New York City skies, Nadir enlists the help of his family and friends to unravel what happened to Laila Z and the rare bird his mother died trying to save. Following his mother’s ghost, he uncovers the silences kept in the name of survival by his own community, his own family, and within himself, and discovers the family that was there all along.

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Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith (May 26)

STAY GOLD Tobly McSmith

Pony just wants to fly under the radar during senior year. Tired from all the attention he got at his old school after coming out as transgender, he’s looking for a fresh start at Hillcrest High. But it’s hard to live your best life when the threat of exposure lurks down every hallway and in every bathroom.

Georgia is beginning to think there’s more to life than cheerleading. She plans on keeping a low profile until graduation…which is why she promised herself that dating was officially a no-go this year.

Then, on the very first day of school, the new guy and the cheerleader lock eyes. How is Pony supposed to stay stealth when he wants to get close to a girl like Georgia? How is Georgia supposed to keep her promise when sparks start flying with a boy like Pony?

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I’m Not a Girl by Maddox Lyons and Jessica Verdi, ill. by Dana Simpson (May 26)

I'M NOT A GIRL

Nobody seems to understand that Hannah is not a girl.

His parents ask why he won’t wear the cute outfits they pick out. His friend thinks he must be a tomboy. His teacher insists he should be proud to be a girl.

But a birthday wish, a new word, and a stroke of courage might be just what Hannah needs to finally show the world who he really is.

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Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (June 9)

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

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The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg (September 1)

Two transgender elders must learn to weave from Death in order to defeat an evil ruler—a tyrant who murders rebellious women and hoards their bones and souls—in the first novella set in R. B. Lemberg’s award-winning queer fantasy Birdverse universe

Wind: To match one’s body with one’s heart
Sand: To take the bearer where they wish
Song: In praise of the goddess Bird
Bone: To move unheard in the night

The Surun’ nomads do not speak of the master weaver, Benesret, who creates the cloth of bone for assassins in the Great Burri Desert. But aged Uiziya must find her aunt in order to learn the final weave, although the price for knowledge may be far too dear to pay.

Among the Khana in the springflower city of Iyar, women travel in caravans to trade, while men remain in the inner quarter, as scholars. A nameless man struggles to embody Khana masculinity, after many years of performing the life of a woman, trader, wife, and grandmother. As his past catches up, the man must choose between the life he dreamed of and Uiziya – while Uiziya must discover how to challenge the evil Ruler of Iyar, and to weave from deaths that matter.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Even if We Break by Marieke Nijkamp (September 15)

End the game before it ends you.

For five friends, it was supposed to be one last getaway before they went their separate ways—a time to say goodbye to each other, and to the game they’ve been playing for the past 3 years. But they all have their own demons to deal with and they’re all hiding secrets.

Finn hasn’t been able to trust anyone since he was attacked a few months ago. Popular girl Liva saw it happen and did nothing to stop it. Maddy was in an accident that destroyed her sports career. Carter is drowning under the weight of his family’s expectations. Ever wants to keep the game going for as long as they can, at all costs.

And things take a deadly twist when the game turns against them.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Into the Real by Z Brewer (October 6)

Three different worlds. Three different Quinns. Who decides which one is real?

The first Brume is a waking nightmare, overrun by literal monsters and cutthroat survivors. For Quinn, who is openly genderqueer, the only bright side is their friendship with Lia—and the hope that there might still be a safe place to live beyond the fog.

The second Brume is a prison with no bars. Forced by her conservative parents to “sort out” their sexuality at Camp Redemption, Quinn must also, secretly, figure out why presenting as female has never felt quite right.

The third Brume is a war zone. For Quinn, who presents as male, leading the Resistance against an authoritarian government is hard, since even the Resistance might not accept them if they knew Quinn’s truth.

As Quinn starts to realize that they might be one person alternating among these three worlds and identities, they wonder: Which world is the real one? Or do they all contain some deeper truth?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Trans-Galactic Bike Ride: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories of Transgender and Nonbinary Adventurers ed. by Lydia Rogue (October 15/February 9)

What would the future look like if we weren’t so hung up on putting people into boxes and instead empowered each other to reach for the stars? Take a ride with us as we explore a future where trans and nonbinary people are the heroes.

In worlds where bicycle rides bring luck, a minotaur needs a bicycle, and werewolves stalk the post-apocalyptic landscape, nobody has time to question gender. Whatever your identity, you’ll enjoy these stories that are both thought-provoking and fun adventures.

Featuring brand-new stories from Hugo, Nebula, and Lambda Literary Award-winning author Charlie Jane Anders, Ava Kelly, Juliet Kemp, Rafi Kleiman, Tucker Lieberman, Nathan Alling Long, Ether Nepenthes, and Nebula-nominated M. Darusha Wehm. Also featuring debut stories from Diana Lane and Marcus Woodman.

Buy it

Books to Add to Your TBR

Featured Trans Books

Featured Trans/Non-Binary Authors

Guest Posts

Rec Posts

March Book Deal Announcements

Adult Fiction

2015 Golden Heart finalist and debut author Kelly Farmer‘s OUT ON THE ICE, a contemporary slow burn romance set in an all-girls hockey training center, in which the owner, a retired women’s hockey legend more confident on the ice than off falls for her new summer coach: a woman who lives life out loud and won’t slow down for fear of losing her pro-athlete identity, to Kerri Buckley at Carina Press, for publication in August 2020 (world).

Children’s/YA

Auriane Desombre‘s debut I THINK I LOVE YOU, pitched as a modern-day romcom retelling of Jane Austen’s EMMA meets MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, following the story of two girls who start as rivals in a filmmaking competition, but after a twist of events, end up falling for one another, to Kelsey Horton at Underlined, for publication in summer 2020, by Penny Moore at Aevitas Creative Management (world).

V.S. Santoni‘s IN THE CITY OF THE NIGHTMARE KING, book two in the Gay Wizard series, picking up immediately after the events of the first book, and going deeper and darker into the fantastical world that the author created, to Deanna McFadden at Wattpad, for publication in fall 2020 (world English).

Sarah Hollowell’s debut A DARK AND STARLESS FOREST, about nine magical siblings who live in a secluded house cut off from the rest of the world by a sinister forest with their enigmatic caretaker who is grooming them for a dark and mysterious purpose, to Nicole Sclama at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s, for publication in fall 2021, by Thao Le at Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency (world English).

Anthony Oliveira’s APOCRYPHA, pitched as Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Paradise Lost, in which a teen guided by an angel and another possessed by a demon find themselves at the center of a terrible cosmic war—and their own confusing queer awakenings, to Stephanie Guerdan at Harper Teen, by Lauren Abramo at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).

Jarad Greene’s A-OKAY, a semi-autobiographical story featuring a 13-year-old with severe bouts of acne who’s battling his skin, the side effects of a potent acne prescription, and his understanding of being ace, all while trying to survive eighth grade, to Andrew Arnold at Harper Alley, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in fall 2021, by Kelly Sonnack at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (world).

Film/TV

Comedy Women in Print Prize Winner Laura Steven‘s THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS, optioned by Lime Pictures, led by executive Louise Sutton, and scout Hannah Griffiths, by Suzie Townsend and Pouya Shahbazian at New Leaf Literary & Media.

Non-Fiction

Author and illustrator Stacey Chomiak’s STILL STACE: MY GAY CHRISTIAN COMING OF AGE STORY, an illustrated memoir about her teenage and young adult years of wrestling with her gay Christian identity, trying to become “ex-gay,” and ultimately finding peace, to Naomi Krueger at Beaming Books, in a nice deal, for publication in spring 2021, by Claire Draper at The Bent Agency (world English).

*Copyright (c) Publishers Weekly PWxyz LLC. Used by permission.

Will Teens Today Relate to YA Set in the ’90s?: a Guest Post by Jake Martinez

Today on the site, I’m delighted to welcome Jake Martinez, whose debut YA, The Mixtape to My Life, releases today from Deep Hearts YA! Here’s a little more about the book:

Justin Ortega might as well be starring in his very own coming-of-age 80s movie. If only he could find his dream boy to pull up in front of his house in a red convertible and sweep him off his feet, already! At seventeen years young, he isn’t quite Mexican enough for his South Texas town; isn’t manly enough for his father; can sometimes be too much of a smart mouth for his mother; and as for the other kids at school—let’s just say he’d be cast as the quiet nerd with a heart of gold…and an ear for music.

The one solace Justin has is his love of 80s hair metal bands, which he listens to on his beloved Sony Walkman. The songs, lyrics, and melody keep him just sane enough to escape the pressures of school and help navigate the hurdles life brings. Especially with the doozy this year is shaping up to be. Not only does he have to try out for a captain position which is rightfully his, but his best friend has found a new girlfriend, leaving Justin to fend for himself in a school where he’s mostly known as simply Coconut.

Enter Dominic Mendoza. Sweet, funny, and a blast from his past, the hunky football player has moved in next door. Justin could never forget how Dominic protected him in the eighth grade, nor the way Dominic made him feel, then…and now.

Except, this isn’t a movie. Confusion, friendship, and love won’t guarantee a happy ending unless Justin can learn to accept himself for who he truly is. Hair bands and all.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

And here’s Jake discussing his ’90s inspiration!

***

I’d like to thank LGBTQ Reads for giving me the opportunity to talk about my book and why I decided to set it during the 90s.

When I started writing The Mixtape to My Life, there were certain things I knew I wanted. First, that it was going to be a Young Adult story. Second, that I wanted it to be set in South Texas. Then third, and most important, I wanted it to take place during the 90s. It’s not that I didn’t think that I wouldn’t be able to write a novel set in today’s world, it’s just that I thought if I were able to tap into the feelings I had as a young gay kid growing up in 90s era South Texas, then it might make the main character and all his pent up emotions feel more authentic. But it did make me wonder that if my novel is set in the 90s, would today’s YA audience be able to relate? The answer is yes, because even though it’s a different time, some things never change.

Universal Emotions

One of the main motivations I had for writing a YA novel was the fact that even though we have made great strides in this world towards LGBTQIA+ acceptance, there are still places where many young people feel the need to hide who they are. The fear and uncertainty of what might happen if they came out is a frightening thought. Some go on with their lives, while others pray and pray that they will change and become what others consider to be “normal.”

I thought, maybe, just maybe if they saw that someone in a different time went through the same thing and came out of it okay, then maybe it might give them hope. That’s why it doesn’t matter if they don’t know what Teen Witch is or know the words to Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses. Emotions are universal despite the time frame. So is hope. That’s what I wish for people to feel when they read this: hope.

Bullying and Homophobia

One thing that maybe make people uncomfortable about The Mixtape to My Life is the use of homophobic and racial slurs that bullies in the book hurl at Justin, the main character. Some of them are quite harsh and could cause a negative reaction in someone. Trust me, I thought long and hard about whether or not to use them. But in the end, I felt that the story would lose something without it. I heard them on almost a daily basis, and while those slurs may not be as accepted as they were before, they are still used against many in the gay community. A queer teen who hears them as much as I did needs to see that someone can overcome this and find true acceptance. Like I mentioned before, I want that shy queer kid who feels alone to know that no matter what people throw at them, there is still hope that things will get better. You can find people who accept you, and you don’t have to change who you are to have that.

So yes, despite possible unfamiliar cultural references, I do feel that today’s YA audience can relate to a book set during the 90s. The techniques may be more advanced in this current age, but bullying is still bullying, and we can all relate to the hurt that it causes.

***

Jake Martinez is a former South Texas resident who has found a new home in Chicago. He has been writing all his life but has only recently sought to be published. His debut novel, The Mixtape to My Life, reflects on life as a gay teen growing up in South Texas. Jake holds an MFA in Creative Writing and also loves to write plays and screenplays. Aside from writing, you can find him hanging out at home with his husband, their newborn son, and an eclectic group of fur babies.

Authors in Conversation: Kit Rosewater and Nicole Melleby

Welcome back to another Authors in Conversation post on LGBTQReads! If you’ve been following LGBTQA MG, you know it’s been blowing up in the most gorgeous way these past couple of years, and here are two of the authors responsible for that: Kit Rosewater (L), author of The Derby Daredevils, a brand-new illustrated series that kicks off with Kenzie Kickstarts a Team today(!), and Nicole Melleby (R), author of last year’s Hurricane Season, next month’s In the Role of Brie Hutchens…, and at least two more queer MGs after that! (Not to mention co-editor with Katherine Locke of the upcoming all-queer MG anthology This is Our Rainbow!)

Kit and Nicole are here to talk about their new books, what’s up next, and more, so pull up a seat and listen in!

Nicole: Hey Kit! I’m excited to get to do this interview with you! I’m a pretty easy sell when it comes to queer kid lit, but The Derby Daredevils is such a special addition to LGBTQ+ middle grade shelves. It made me want to go dust off my skates, which I haven’t used in, like, a decade. (It’s like riding a bike, though, right?) For those who weren’t lucky enough to get their hands on it before its March 24th release, why don’t you tell us a little bit about it?

Kit: Thank you so much Nicole! I literally dusted off my childhood skates as I researched and wrote The Derby Daredevils! (My feet didn’t grow much after fifth grade.) Book 1 of the illustrated series, Kenzie Kickstarts a Team, follows best friends Kenzie and Shelly as they set out to expand their Dynamic Duo into a whole team of roller derby skaters so they can play together on the Austin junior league. But for every potential new player they recruit, more and more tension gets wound into their own friendship… until Kenzie’s not sure she wants the Dynamic Duo to change at all. As the cast of characters slowly builds, the story shifts, and a big turning point comes when Shelly tries to get Kenzie’s secret crush to join the crew.

You should also tell us about your upcoming middle grade, In the Role of Brie Hutchens! I love how you’ve infused this in-depth history of soap operas and coming out scenes with Brie’s personal story. The way Brie sees the world is so darn relatable, and I have to admit that I slipped right back into my days of first girl crushes as I read along.

Nicole: In the Role of Brie Hutchens is what I keep referring to as Love, Simon meets Lady Bird. Brie is a soap opera obsessed Catholic school girl (much like myself) who has a complicated relationship with her mom, which is only further complicated by her mom’s strong faith and Brie’s first crush on another girl. Nothing seems to really go Brie’s way, especially when her mom walks in on Brie googling inappropriate photos of Brie’s favorite soap opera actress, and to divert her mom’s attention, Brie lies and says she’s been chosen to play the big role in her 8th grades religious May Crowning ceremony…which she obviously hasn’t been. So, to make that actually happen, Brie decides to ask the smartest girl in her class (who happens to be Brie’s crush) for help.

I’m excited we both have queer middle grade novels out this year, especially ones that deal with that awkwardness of a first crush (and those poor decisions you sometimes make because of them!) Kenzie Kickstarts a Team is your debut, and I know you’ll be following up with a sequel later in the year. Would you tell us a bit about your journey to publishing queer middle grade? Did you face any roadblocks or fears when you started?

Kit: I love that both our books explore first queer crushes too! Honestly, this was a subject that until a few years ago, I didn’t realize I was allowed to write about. I was a pretty escapist kid, always trying to disappear into worlds I made up in my head, and my earliest manuscripts were mostly fantasy. I experienced A LOT of typical roadblocks in my publishing journey, from moving between agents to having various projects not make it out of revisions. But the biggest roadblock for publishing queer middle grade was ultimately… me. For so long I had looked back on my first girl crushes in 5th and 6th grade with absolute shame–the same kind I get when I think about accidentally wrecking my mom’s car as a 16-yr-old. It took a long time to realize I could “escape” into positive queer middle grade stories. Now I never want to stop writing about kids who are queer and not cloaked with the type of shame I felt.

There is so much room for all kinds of queer stories in the middle grade canon, and I love every type of story out there–the coming out stories, the unrequited feelings stories, the found families stories, the happy ending stories–all of them! While reading Brie Hutchens, I was so impressed at the way you handled some hefty topics like reconciling being queer within a heavily religious setting. You said that like Brie, you were a Catholic school girl. Would you mind sharing your experience with writing some details from your own childhood into Brie’s story?

Nicole: It’s actually funny–I said earlier that In the Role of Brie Hutchens could be comped to the movie Lady Bird. I actually walked out of the theater after seeing Lady Bird and said, “I want to write about a coming of age queer middle grade story based on my experience in Catholic school.” Only, when I sat down to write that story, I realized that the experiences of middle grade readers now are much different than when I was that age. In big part thanks to the internet (I sound about a thousand years old right now), today’s middle grade readers have access to and an understanding of queer identities and vocabulary that I had no idea existed until I was in my twenties. I had to find a way to tell the story I wanted to tell, but for today’s audience. Brie is exactly like I was: dramatic, confused, a little self-centered, questioning the idea of faith and religion. But Brie knows that she has feelings for girls and doesn’t really struggle with understanding what that means–just what to do about it.

Speaking about main characters–Kenzie (or should I say Kenzilla?) was likeable and relatable right from the start. She’s determined to start her own team, and even with her mistakes along the way, I was rooting for her to succeed while maintaining her changing friendship with Shelly. Can you tell us more about Kenzie, and who she is as a character? Are there any similarities between Kenzie and your younger self?

Kit: Thank you so much! As much as I try not to get personally attached to reader’s opinions… it’s such a relief to know that Kenzie is relatable, because this girl is basically me. I tend to enfold myself into almost every character I write, and because The Derby Daredevils series has rotating protagonists, I wanted a huge chunk of my personality in each team member. But Kenzie feels especially close to home. At her best, Kenzie’s a leader, and she cares deeply about dynamics and how everyone works together. Whenever I’m thriving in a group setting, whether it’s a writers meeting or a school project, it’s because I’m taking on that same role. At her worst, well… Kenzie can be a bit exclusionary. And so was I. I’m embarrassed about how often I bristled when a new person came into my friend group. Maybe I was worried they would replace me in some way. Or maybe, like Kenzie, I was just scared of change. As an adult I try to be really conscientious of including others, but I can still be a bit of a butt about it from time to time. I was one of those kids who always pined for one best friend, and that kind of pining relies on exclusion to some extent.

Brie’s friendship with Parker really tugged on my heartstrings in the best way over the course of their relationship in the book. I love the moments of disconnect they have because they’re such different girls, but the ultimate reassurance that their friendship is one built on mutual support and care. Did you have a close friend like Parker growing up? Were there allies in your life as you explored various parts of your identity?

Nicole: I was actually the kid who was friends with everyone, so I had different groups of friends and different best friends throughout the years. What I wanted to do with Parker was a couple of things. Like I said above, I wanted to tell a coming of age Catholic school queer story for contemporary readers, and Parker played a big role in that. She’s understanding and supportive, because kids are full of empathy and understanding in ways that I didn’t always have growing up. She doesn’t question Brie’s sexuality; they have the knowledge and vocabulary to have a conversation about it. When I was Brie’s age, I remember turning to a friend of mine and saying, “Do you ever just…really like the way another girl’s face looks??” I had no idea I was talking about attraction! I also wanted Parker to be completely boy crazy–because some eighth grade girls are, and there’s nothing wrong with that!–so that I could have Brie encounter those awkward moments and feelings and conversations I was used to. Those ones where a friend says, “Which guy are you crushing on?” and you have to decide, “Am I going to lie?”

As an adult, when I knew I needed to fully come out of the closet, I did have important allies, though, which is why I put a lot of people in Brie’s corner. Teachers, friends, even some family members…it was important for me to build Brie’s support system, because my support system was the only thing that got me through my whole coming out process. I had friends who bought me ice cream and beer the night I came out to my parents, and I had a mentor who listened and helped me get to a point where I was ready to come out at all. Without all that, I don’t know what I would have done. So while not everything goes well for Brie, I wanted some things to go well, too.

What I really liked about Kenzie’s story is that she wasn’t new to the idea of queer identities either–Kenzie even has a transgender parent. It’s another one of those contemporary queer stories–our audience has queer friends and families and are discovering their queer identities themselves openly and in a way queer middle grade books are starting to reflect. Could you tell us more about your decision to write Kenzie’s dad’s identity, along with her own budding sexuality?

Kit: Absolutely! I wrote the queer themes in Kenzie Kickstarts a Team both as a queer/bisexual author and also as an ally to the transgender community. Someone very close in my life came out to friends and family as transgender in 2017. They were in the midst of seeking help for anxiety and depression, and the process of coming out was long and fraught with a lot of emotional speed bumps and roadblocks. As their primary support and contact, I spent so many days crying on the phone with this person, sending notes, contacting other people in our network to buffer negative reactions or intercept inappropriate questions… I couldn’t get any writing done during that time. I finally reached out to my agent and said I just wasn’t interested in continuing to work on the darker middle grade project we’d had in revisions for months. I needed to write a different story, one where being transgender was normalized and celebrated, and where being queer in general was normalized and celebrated. I had gotten into the Austin roller derby scene a few months earlier, and it was like all the pieces fell into place. Once I started writing through Kenzie’s lens, I knew I wanted her to explore her sexuality in a positive and open environment. The only queer stories I’d been exposed to as a kid were tragic ones! I wanted young readers–especially young queer readers–to know there is nothing inherently negative about the queer identity. If people react negatively, that’s 100% ON THEM.

Brie ends up dealing with a variety of reactions–both immediate and eventual reactions–as she explores her own sexuality. I absolutely loved the complexity in her dynamics within each of those relationships. There wasn’t a cliché bigot villain or hero ally, which allows Brie the agency and freedom to navigate the coming out process in her own beautiful, messy way. What would you say is the number one takeaway you hope young readers get from reading Brie’s story?

Nicole: My goal in having Brie come out again, and again, and again… throughout the novel, to a variety of responses, was to show that “coming out” isn’t one moment. It’s a lifetime of moments. And it sucks, it does. It’s frustrating for Brie as much as it is freeing. But I wanted to balance the bad reactions with the good ones. I wanted to show that, despite the struggle and the pain, there is good, there is hope. The soap opera scene that Brie consistently goes back to, the one where the character Bianca comes out to her mom, Erica Kane, is this sweet, heartbreaking scene where Bianca begs her mom to see her. “Can’t you see who I am? I want you to see who I am.” That’s exactly what Brie wants throughout her whole process, too. She wants to be seen, she wants her mom to see her. My number one takeaway I’ve always wanted my young readers to get from this story (and every story I write) is that *I* see them, regardless of the rest.

I think that’s so important in queer middle grade especially–for us to give our readers hope. I think you do that especially beautifully with Kenzie’s story, with the queerness being so celebrated and normalized. I know you have a sequel coming out, too. Could you give us a sneak preview of what we can expect from this continuing story? Are you working on anything else at the moment?

Kit: Book 2 of the Daredevils series is called Shelly Struggles to Shine, and follows Kenzie’s best friend Shelly as the Daredevils team gears up for their first roller derby tournament! Shelly’s story is an artist’s story as she tries to figure out how being creative fits into a sport setting… which it absolutely does in derby! But finding that “in” is tricky. Shelly doesn’t identify as queer, but I wanted to keep the loving and open queer community ongoing in this book. Kenzie’s crush continues to flourish. Shelly’s friend and mentor in art class is non-binary. And many characters from Book 1 make some surprising guest appearances!

Apart from the Daredevils series, I have an upper middle grade WIP with characters closer to Brie’s age. There is a fair bit of queerness in there… with some of my favorite cheesy tropes! One pivotal scene chases my two lead characters, who are camp enemies with secret hots for each other (f/f) up a tree and leaves them stranded. I love the camp setting and the bickering, and am having so much fun with the whole project. My biggest hope is that eventually it will make its way onto shelves and be comped to In the Role of Brie Hutchens!

Nicole, thank you so much for joining me in chatting about our upcoming releases. I’ve been a huge fan of yours since Hurricane Season, and couldn’t be more thrilled to sit down and gab about queer middle grade and the long and drawn out process of coming out! Thank you Dahlia at LGBTQ Reads for hosting us!

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Kit Rosewater writes books for children. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her spouse and a border collie who takes up most of the bed. Before she was an author, Kit taught middle school theatre and high school English, then worked as a children’s bookseller. She has a master’s degree in Children’s Literature and a knack for finding her characters in clouds, ceiling plaster, and Cheetos. Books 1 & 2 of her debut series THE DERBY DAREDEVILS rolls out in 2020 through Abrams.

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Nicole Melleby is a born-and-bred Jersey girl with a passion for storytelling. She studied creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and currently teaches creative writing and literature courses with a handful of local universities. When she’s not writing, she can be found browsing the shelves at her local comic shop or watching soap operas with a cup of tea.

Exclusive Cover and Excerpt Reveal: The Shadow War by Lindsay Smith

You may remember Lindsay Smith from one of my favorite bi YA thrillers, A Darkly Beating Heart or her excellent queer historical story in A Tyranny of Petticoats. Well, now she’s back with something entirely different but still wildly queer, and we get to reveal the cover! The Shadow War is a new YA fantasy releasing on October 13th from Philomel/Penguin, and it’s pitched as Inglorious Basterds meets Stranger Things, which !!! Here’s the official blurb: 

World War II is raging, and five teens are looking to make a mark. Daniel and Rebeka seek revenge against the Nazis who slaughtered their family; Simone is determined to fight back against the oppressors who ruined her life and corrupted her girlfriend; Phillip aims to prove that he’s better than his worst mistakes; and Liam is searching for a way to control the portal to the shadow world he’s uncovered, and the monsters that live within it–before the Nazi regime can do the same. When the five meet, and begrudgingly team up, in the forests of Germany, none of them knows what their future might hold.

As they race against time, war, and enemies from both this world and another, Liam, Daniel, Rebeka, Phillip, and Simone know that all they can count on is their own determination and will to survive. With their world turned upside down, and the shadow realm looming ominously large–and threateningly close–the course of history and the very fate of humanity rest in their hands. Still, the most important question remains: Will they be able to save it?

And here’s the electrifying cover, designed by Kristie Radwilowicz!

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Book Depository

But wait, there’s more! Here’s an excerpt!

A world on fire…

Fires raged, purple and blue and savage, flowing like liquid through the trees. The sky glowed with unnatural light against a swallowing gulp of darkness. And in the distance, a column of flaming stones soared skyward—a pillar. Shadows circled it like giant bats, impossibly long wings scraping against one another in their jagged dance.

Daniel shrank back, pulse racing. What had happened to his world, his life? The wings beat louder, threatening to drown out his thoughts. “What have you done to me?”

“To you? Not a damn thing. In fact, I think we might be able to help each other.”

Daniel turned toward him. Liam smiled so easily, as if his earlier black rage had never happened. He’d said the rules were different here, without explaining, yet, where here was.

Liam appeared to be in total control. He was confident—calm, even—despite the strangeness surrounding them. He was just an ordinary college student, a little disheveled, though nothing that couldn’t be fixed by a hot bath. His tweed jacket, his satchel, his tidy leather loafers—nothing about him hinted he could unleash hell from his palm.

But Daniel was used to monsters that wore the plainest faces.

In the distance, something howled, slavering and cruel.

“What is this place?” Daniel asked again, though he wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to know the answer.

“This,” Liam said, “is how we’re going to win the war.”

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Lindsay Smith is the author of Sekret and other novels for young adults. She writes for Serial Box’s Marvel’s Black Widow: Bad BloodOrphan Black: The Next Chapter, and The Witch Who Came In From the Cold. She has also written for comics, RPGs, and more. She lives in Washington, DC, where she works in international cybersecurity.

Queering up your shelf, one rec at a time!