Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst
The Second Mango by Shira Glassman
In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard
Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells
After so many years of LGBTQIAP+ lit struggling for recognition, it’s been pretty killer to watch literary news this year, and to watch it get more mainstream multimedia recognition than ever. And since I think at any given time, we could all use some good news about the progress of LGBTQIAP+ books in publishing, here’s to highlighting some (but not even all!) of this year’s biggest successes in mainstream media:
Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love was named one of Amazon’s best Children’s Books of the year for ages 3-5 and one of the Best Children’s Books of 2018 by New York Public Library, Time, and School Library Journal, as well as a Notable Children’s Book by The New York Times
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake was a recommended title for the 2019 NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children and was named one of the Best Children’s Books of 2018 by New York Public Library and Chicago Public Library, and a Best Book of the Year by School Library Journal and NPR
*Graphic novels listed separately below
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour was awarded the Printz
Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert won the Stonewall Award
The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera was a finalist for the Carnegie Medal
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James was a finalist for the Carnegie Medal
What If It’s Us? by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera was optioned for film, hit the New York Times bestseller list, and was named a Best YA of 2018 by Seventeen, Amazon, Bustle, Paste, B&N Teen Blog, and New York Public Library, and a Best Audiobook of 2018 by Audible
Sadie by Courtney Summers hit the New York Times bestseller list and was named a Publishers Weekly Best YA of 2018, one of Booklist’s 10 Best YAs of 2018 for Adults, a Best Book of the Year by School Library Journal and NPR, a Best Teen Fiction of 2018 by Chicago Public Library, a Best YA Mystery and Thriller of 2018 by Kirkus, a Best Audiobook of 2018 by Google Play, and a Best YA of 2018 by B&N Teen Blog, Paste, Amazon, and The Boston Globe
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland hit the New York Times bestseller list and was named a Best YA of 2018 by Seventeen, Amazon, School Library Journal, New York Public Library, B&N Teen Blog, and one of Booklist‘s 10 Best YAs of 2018 for Adults, as well as the Best YA of the Year by Paste
Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram was a finalist for the Morris Award and named a Publishers Weekly Best YA of 2018, a Best YA of 2018 by The Boston Globe, New York Public Library, Time, Amazon, and B&N Teen Blog, and among the Best YA Books of 2018 that Explore on Family and Self by Kirkus
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli released as a feature film called Love, Simon
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth released as a feature film
Ship It by Britta Lundin was named a Best YA of 2018 by Seventeen
Camryn Garrett, author of 2019’s Full Disclosure, was named one of Teen Vogue‘s 21 Under 21 Class of 2018
The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan was named to the Kids’ Indie Next List for Winter 2018-19
Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore was named one of Tor.com Reviewers’ Best Books of 2018, a Best YA Fantasy of 2018 by Kirkus, a Best YA of 2018 by The Boston Globe, and a Best Book of the Year by School Library Journal
Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman was named one of Booklist’s 10 Best YAs of 2018 for Adults, among the Best YA Books of 2018 About Speaking Your Truth by Kirkus, and a Best YA of 2018 by New York Public Library, B&N Teen Blog, and Paste
Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner was named a Best YA of 2018 by New York Public Library
Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert was named a Best Book of the Year by School Library Journal and among the Best Teen Fiction of 2018 by Chicago Public Library, Best YA Books of 2018 that Explore Family and Self by Kirkus, and Best YAs of 2018 by B&N Teen Blog
The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in LA) by Amy Spalding was named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR, a Best YA Romance of 2018 by Kirkus, and among the Best YAs of 2018 by The Boston Globe and Paste
A Blade so Black by L.L. McKinney was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by Paste
Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by Paste
For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by Paste
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by Bustle
Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by B&N Teen Blog
Running With Lions by Julian Winters was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by B&N Teen Blog
Jack of Hearts (and other parts) was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by B&N Teen Blog
Unbroken ed. by Marieke Nijkamp was named among the Best YAs of 2018 that Feed Imaginations by Kirkus
Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones was named among the Best YA Books of 2018 that Explore on Family and Self by Kirkus
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia is a Junior Library Guild selection
Rend by Roan Parrish was named a Best Romance of the Year by Amazon
Time Was by Ian McDonald was named a Best Book of 2018 by New York Public Library
Less by Andrew Sean Greer won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
John Rechy received the 2017 Robert Kirsch Award
Who is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht was named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR
Sugar Run by Mesha Maren was named to the January 2019 Indie Next List
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado was a finalist for the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction
Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg was named a Best Historical Fiction of 2018 , a Best Debut Fiction of 2018 by Kirkus, and among “10 More Great Debuts” by Entertainment Weekly, a supplement to their list of the 10 Best Debuts of the 2018
Vengeful by V.E. Schwab was named Best Science Fiction by Goodreads voters
Garrard Conley’s memoir, Boy Erased, was released as a feature film and hit the New York Times bestseller list
I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya was named among the Best YA Books of 2018 About Speaking Your Truth by Kirkus
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee was named a Best Book by TIME, Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Wired, Esquire, Buzzfeed, New York Public Library, The A.V. Club, Book Riot, PopSugar, The Rumpus, My Republica, Paste, Bitch,Library Journal,Bustle, Christian Science Monitor,Shelf Awareness, Tor.com, Chicago Public Library, Entropy Magazine,The Chicago Review of Books, The Coil, iBooks, and Washington Independent Review of Books, and was longlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay
Bingo Love by Tee Franklin was named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR
My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame, translated by Anne Ishii, was named among the Best YA Books of 2018 that Explore on Family and Self by Kirkus
Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu was a finalist for the Morris Award and named one of Booklist’s 10 Best YAs of 2018 for Adults, a Best YA of 2018 by New York Public Library and The Boston Globe, and among the Best YA Books of 2018 that Explore on Family and Self by Kirkus
Today on the site I’m delighted to welcome Aliette de Bodard, whose The Vanishers’ Palace, “A dark Beauty and the Beast retelling, where they are both women and the Beast is a dragon,” releases tomorrow! But before we get to her post, I’m gonna have to show off this book, because it could not look more awesome:
In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land…
A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.
A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.
When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.
But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…
And here’s the post!
Some books are terrifying to write.
In the Vanishers’ Palace didn’t start out as this. It was 2017, and due to rather a lot of stressors in my personal life, writing had stopped being fun or being fulfilling. I was skating pretty close to burnout. To prevent a really ugly crash, I put my contractual obligations on the backburner, and decided to write for fun.
I wanted a book about escape, one I could sink into for comfort: something that would take the Vietnamese legends of my childhood, the awe-inspiring dragons that lived in underwater palaces and the poor scholars who fell in love with them, and merge them with a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that would engage with the problematic issue of lack of consent when one falls in love with one’s jailer. I would write a book in which an impoverished scholar fell in love with the dragon to whom she’d been indentured. I would make it casually, normatively queer, because I was tired of being punched in the face by media in which bi or lesbian characters in a relationship with another woman died as a matter of course. I wanted a fun and fluffy f/f romance with strong supporting female and non-binary characters.
What I wrote instead felt, in many ways, like opening my chest and putting my heart’s blood on the page. I hadn’t expected this to turn out so personal. As I wrote this, I dug into old tales and old images that meant so much to me as a child: a dragon rising from the heart of the river, a scholar piecing together words that turned out to be magical spells, a library that held all the books of the world and one had only to ask… I wrote into my universe the darkness inherent in fairytales, but also that of history: the world of In the Vanishers’ Palace isn’t ruined by climate warming, but by colonial masters who tear it apart for fun and then leave when everything is ashes, never caring what happens to their former servants.
But I also ended up pushing on things that bled: on questions of who is allowed happiness, who is allowed escape and comfort, who is allowed stories. As I wrote, my treacherous brain kept whispering to me that I was wrong, that people like my geeky lesbian Vietnamese scholar or my honourable, duty-bound bi dragon spirit couldn’t possibly be the centre of a decent narration, or have a relationship with a happy ending. That a fantasy book had to be about violence rather than the breaking of the cycle; that discussions of consent were too weighty and too fraught; and that a book set in a post-colonial, ruined world couldn’t possibly hold out hope.
It wasn’t the first time this had happened: when I wrote my Vietnamese domestic space opera On a Red Station, Drifting, I had similar feelings (and a similar root cause of digging deep into personal meaningful things, and pushing back against my brain’s ideas of acceptable narratives). I knew, to some extent, how to fight them, but it left me exhausted and drained. And when In the Vanishers’ Palace was rejected, it felt (for the first time in many, many years) life-shattering in a way that I couldn’t quite articulate: I only realised afterwards that it was because the book was so personal, and the writing of it so challenging.
Fortunately, my friends came to my rescue. They’d read the book (sometimes in multiple versions), and they were sure to remind me of their enthusiasm, and of what it had meant to them. They offered me their support as I navigated through the process of publishing it. And I remembered the lessons I’d learnt as a writer: that there is no correlation between the quality of a book and how I feel about it. That all writing is an act of letting go, and that books go out in the world to be read and become the readers’ as much as the writer’s. That it’s natural to be scared, but that it’s no reason to hide a manuscript.
Once upon a time, I wrote a book and I dug deep into my own self, and it was terrifying. But it’s ok, because I remembered how to write through fear, and because I remembered how to let go–and most of all, because my friends are fabulous and have my back, and that makes it all way less terrifying.
Aliette de Bodard writes speculative fiction: her short stories have garnered her two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and two British Science Fiction Association Awards. She is the author of the Dominion of the Fallen series, set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war, which comprises The House of Shattered Wings (2015 British Science Fiction Association Award, Locus Award finalist), and its standalone sequel The House of Binding Thorns (Ace/Gollancz, 2017 European Science Fiction Society Achievement Award, Locus award finalist). She lives in Paris.Twitter: https://twitter.com/aliettedbWebsite: https://www.aliettedebodard.comNewsletter: https://www.aliettedebodard.com/newsletter