Tag Archives: Black

Fave Five: Memoirs by Queer Black Authors

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me by Janet Mock

Officer Clemmons by François S. Clemmons

I Can’t Date Jesus by Michael Arceneaux

The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin

Bonus: These are all Adult, but for a YA memoir-essay collection, try All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson.

Finding Queer Black Love in Literature: a Guest Post by Katrina Jackson

I’m really thrilled to have Katrina Jackson back on the site today for this beautiful essay on finding queer Black love in literature. I asked her to write it after seeing her Twitter threads about it, and I’m so grateful that she did. You can see more about Kat and her books here, but frankly, I’m antsy to get to the post, so, onward!

***

I didn’t start reading romance with any kind of intention until I was an adult, but I have loved love stories my entire life, especially Black love stories. There was something about seeing movies with Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee and realizing that they had spent decades sharing their passion for art and activism with one another, that made my heart swell. It still does. I’ve also always loved queer love stories for as long as I can remember, even when I didn’t understand that I loved queer love stories for the same reasons I loved Black love stories: I was searching for depictions of love that reflected pieces of myself. I was searching for something that felt like a little slice of me on the big and small screens.

The first DVD I bought was The Color Purple. It was one of those old-school DVDs where the movie was split between two discs with those cheap plastic covers. I cherished that DVD, because once it was mine, I could watch that scene of Celie and Shug’s tentative kiss – with the juke joint providing a muffled backdrop – whenever I wanted. And I wanted to watch it over and over and over again. I felt similarly engrossed, years later as I watched the climax of Moonlight. I was a puddle of happy, relieved tears as the tumult of Chiron’s life culminates in this hardened, resilient man sitting across a diner table, staring at his childhood love with softness and warmth in his eyes. These two scenes, among so many others, spoke to that quietest part of my heart and the longing many of us hold to look at someone we love and feel fully and completely seen and loved for all that we are.

I turned to romance books while getting my master’s degree. I was in the depths of one of the worst depressive episodes of my adult life. Every day I received messages from professors and other students, that I did not belong, and I dreamt about abandoning the program and running home to the places and people who loved me. I didn’t leave, but I did start reading romance. Finding love stories that centered people who looked like me made the world feel much less alone and allowed me to start down a years-long road to fully identifying as bisexual, even though I’ve always known that I wasn’t straight. It took a little work to find queer stories with Black people, but once I found one, I found more and more and more.

The point I’m trying to make is that I have looked for Black queer love stories for most of my life and I have found them! They have buoyed me when I was at my lowest, when life seemed bleak and when looking at the news made my entire body hurt so much that I spent days in bed mourning.

So you can imagine how much it hurt when, in the midst of the most recent cluster of stories about American police officers killing Black people like Tony McDade and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I saw bookish twitter accounts – some I follow, some I don’t – begin recommending books by Black authors that refused to recognize the full breadth of Black life and humanity. Romance accounts, specifically, were so cavalier in their lists that many recommended books by non-Black authors who wrote Black characters, sometimes problematically, because they didn’t read much romance by Black authors, but refused to cede space to reviewers and readers who did. Across the board, I watched romance outlets, writers, reviewers and readers, recommend books that focused on white characters, books filled with anti-Black stereotypes, and on top of all that many patently ignored queer Black authors and books with queer Black characters.

While I don’t particularly agree with recommending fiction in a moment where people need to confront the depths of their anti-blackness and begin to consider the realities of global white supremacy, watching romance readers who imagined themselves as supportive of diversity, erase (queer) Black people (authors and characters) dug deep in my chest. It sent the message that people like me and the characters I write don’t actually matter, even while people were putting the hashtag in their bios. It was an erasure that struck a painful chord because it reminded me that the people and stories I love – who are the center of my life – are so easily forgotten and ignored.

I love Black people. I love queer Black people and QPOC. They don’t just matter to me, they are precious. I would not be alive today without them. I would not be writing without them. And I would not have the solace of these stories on the days when I still can’t get out of bed because everything hurts. At least with the stories that Black authors have written, my heart doesn’t have to hurt nearly as much, because it is so full of love for queer Black people.

Unfortunately, even when I’m depressed, I have a near obsessive desire to catalog books, so I took to twitter to begin a thread of queer romance written by Black authors. I began with books I love by authors I respect and appreciate and asked for recommendations. What I found in this process was instructive in many ways. I made a few caveats for recommendations that might have seemed random at the time but were not. I asked that the author identify as Black, since I’d seen so many outlets recommending non-Black authors. It mattered to me that if the response to Black murder was to uplift Black authors, that those authors better be Black and stand firm in their blackness. I wanted to focus specifically on adult romance because the YA book community had rallied their recommendations firmly behind Black authors (trans, cis, queer and het). It was exciting to watch and frustrating to compare to the adult romance community.

The other critical requirement was that the books feature Black characters and all the love interests should be Black or other people of color. Again, this was not arbitrary. Romance, like other literary genres, is steeped in white supremacist narratives. It is not just that so many traditionally published romance authors are white, it is that the foundation of the genre is based on whiteness as the norm. The tropes and story structures and even the Happily Ever After (the only requirement of romance literature) have been defined by a white default, even when some of the characters are people of color.

The proliferation of romance stories (traditionally published, indie and self-pub) that peddle in anti-Black, homophobic, transphobic, racist and xenophobic stereotypes is alarming, but not new. What feels new are the ways in which so many of these books are classified as “diverse” and “inclusive” even when they are not. So when I asked that all the recommendations focus on Black and POC characters, it was because I wanted to create a list of queer romances that rejected the white supremacist narrative in romance that centers whiteness, that demands white love interests and requires a translation of queer love between characters of color for white audiences. I wanted to find books by Black authors who, hopefully, wrote for readers of color.

What I found in this process was a mixed bag, as much of life is. On the downside, I found that I spent hours of my day clarifying fairly clear instructions, asking readers to verify that the authors and characters were Black and POC. I found that some people were disinterested in the idea of queer Black people and QPOC loving one another. I found that readers, writers and reviewers – many who jumped at the chance to make recommendation lists themselves – had become comfortable ignoring blackness. They considered it incidental or a box to check on the list of diversity brownie points. They were perfectly fine to tokenize Black authors and characters but were never challenged to consider why.

But the other, far better, thing I discovered was the wealth of queer romance written by Black authors. There was Black Romance and IR, polyamorous, m/m, and even the apparently elusive f/f romance. There were so many bisexual and pansexual characters! I found contemporary and historical and paranormal and urban. Certainly, there is room to grow in many areas, for instance so far there is only one trans Black romance recommendation (noted below) and ace spectrum representation is similarly lacking. In this moment, I choose to celebrate that the few books we have exist, but I hope for more.

There were many highs and lows in this process. I won’t pretend that I didn’t often wish I hadn’t decided to field the barrage of twitter notifications in a moment when I really should have given myself peace and quiet. Self-care is a thing I’m working on, especially now. But for all the new books and authors I and others discovered, I’ve decided that the exercise was worth it.

Below are a sample of books that emerged in the conversation, some I’ve read, some I’ve moved up my TBR and some I’m waiting impatiently to be released. These are books that remind me of the things that were true at the beginning of this all. I love being Black with every cell in my body. This is not incidental to me. And queer Black people are still PRECIOUS and CRUCIAL to my life and well-being.

Stud Representation!

Interracial Romance w/QPOC

F/F Romance

M/M Romance

Polyamory FTW!

For even more recommendations put together by Katrina, check out this list on Goodreads! (Blogger’s Note: Please do not add to this list anything that does not fit the above-stated requirements or I may do a murder.)

***

Katrina is a college professor by day who writes romances by weekend when her cats allow. She writes high heat, diverse and mostly queer erotic romances and erotica. She also likes sleep, salt-and-pepper beards, and sunshine.

She’s super active on twitter. Follow her: @katrinajax

*All links are affiliate, bringing a small percentage of each purchase back to the site (Amz = Amazon | Bks = Bookshop)

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Stone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar

You know those covers that are just so badass you barely even need to know what it’s inside to know you need it? But then you see what’s inside and you know you need it? I present to you today exhibit A, in the form of Stone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar, which is part of Neon Hemlock’s 2020 Novella Series and releases on September 5, 2020. Here’s a little more about it:

In Stone and Steel, when General Aaliyah returns triumphant to the city of Titus, she expects to find the people prospering under the rule of her Queen, the stone mage Odessa. Instead, she finds a troubling imbalance in both the citizens’ wellbeing and Odessa’s rule. Aaliyah must rely on all of her allies, old and new, to do right by the city that made her.

Stone and Steel is a sharp and sexy story of love, loyalty and magic. Eboni has given us a world where Black Queerness reigns supreme, and our world is better for it.” — Danny Lore, co-author of Queen of Bad Dreams

And here is the glorious cover, painted by Odera Igbokwe and designed by dave ring!

Pre-order Stone and Steel here!

Eboni Dunbar is a queer, black woman who writes queer and black speculative fiction. She resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her partner.  She received her BA from Macalester College and her MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. She is a VONA Alum, an associate editor for PodCastle, an acquiring editor for FIYAH Literary Magazine and a freelance reviewer. Her work can be found in FIYAH, Drabblecast, Anathema: Spec from the margins and Nightlight Podcast. She can be found online at www.ebonidunbar.com and on Twitter as @sugoionna87.

Her novella Stone and Steel is part of Neon Hemlock’s 2020 Novella Series.

Fave Fave: M/M Romances with Black MCs

Work for It by Talia Hibbert

American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera

Bang & Burn by Katrina Jackson

His Convenient Husband by Robin Covington

Kitten by Jack Harbon

Bonus: These are all adult, but in YA, definitely check out By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery, The Secrets of Eden by Brandon Goode, and How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters!

Double Bonus: Coming up in May, Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon!

Fave Five: Poetry by Queer Black Authors

Homie by Danez Smith

Black Queer Hoe by Britteney Black Rose Kapri

trigger by Venus Selenite

When the Only Light is Fire by Saeed Jones

Reacquainted With Life by KOKUMỌ

The Black Unicorn by Audre Lord

(Yeah, it’s six. Fight me.)

TBRainbow Alert: 2020 YA Starring QTPoC, Part I

Stay tuned for more to come when their covers and pub dates are revealed!

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim (January 7th)

When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide. Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one…

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera (January 14th)

Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore (January 14th)

Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland (February 4th)

This is the second book in the Dread Nation series

After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother.

But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a

devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodemus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880s America.

What’s more, this safe haven is not what it appears—as Jane discovers when she sees familiar faces from Summerland amid this new society. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her.

But she won’t be in it alone.

Katherine Deveraux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by—and that Jane needs her too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not.

Watching Jane’s back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it’s up to Katherine to keep hope alive—even as she begins to fear that there is no happily-ever-after for girls like her.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia (February 25th)

This is the sequel to We Set the Dark on Fire.

Being a part of the resistance group La Voz is an act of devotion and desperation. On the other side of Medio’s border wall, the oppressed class fights for freedom and liberty, sacrificing what little they have to become defenders of the cause.

Carmen Santos is one of La Voz’s best soldiers. She spent years undercover, but now, with her identity exposed and the island on the brink of a civil war, Carmen returns to the only real home she’s ever known: La Voz’s headquarters.

There she must reckon with her beloved leader, who is under the influence of an aggressive new recruit, and with the devastating news that her true love might be the target of an assassination plot. Will Carmen break with her community and save the girl who stole her heart—or fully embrace the ruthless rebel she was always meant to be?

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco (March 3rd)

45184250Tala Warnock has little use for magic – as a descendant of Maria Makiling, the legendary Filipina heroine, she negates spells, often by accident. But her family’s old ties to the country of Avalon (frozen, bespelled, and unreachable for almost 12 years) soon finds them guarding its last prince from those who would use his kingdom’s magic for insidious ends.

And with the rise of dangerous spelltech in the Royal States of America; the appearance of the firebird, Avalon’s deadliest weapon, at her doorstep; and the re-emergence of the Snow Queen, powerful but long thought dead, who wants nothing more than to take the firebird’s magic for her own – Tala’s life is about to get even more complicated….

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

A Phoenix Must Burn ed. by Patrice Caldwell (10th)

43887961. sy475 Sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic.

Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them.

Authors include Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Dhonielle Clayton, Jalissa Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Davis, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justina Ireland, Danny Lore, L.L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia (March 31st)

39297951. sy475 Nandan’s got a plan to make his junior year perfect. He’s going to make sure all the parties are chill, he’s going to smooth things over with his ex, and he’s going to help his friend Dave get into the popular crowd—whether Dave wants to or not. The high school social scene might be complicated, but Nandan is sure he’s cracked the code.

Then, one night after a party, Dave and Nandan hook up, which was not part of the plan—especially because Nandan has never been into guys. Still, Dave’s cool, and Nandan’s willing to give it a shot, even if that means everyone starts to see him differently.

But while Dave takes to their new relationship with ease, Nandan’s completely out of his depth. And the more his anxiety grows about what his sexuality means for himself, his friends, and his social life, the more he wonders whether he can just take it all back. But is breaking up with the only person who’s ever really gotten him worth feeling “normal” again?

From Rahul Kanakia comes a raw and deeply felt story about rejecting labels, seeking connection, and finding yourself.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (April 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

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (May 12th)

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.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar (May 12th)

Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, and it only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flávia is beautiful and charismatic, and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat decide to showcase their talent as henna artists. In a fight to prove who is the best, their lives become more tangled―but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush, especially since Flávia seems to like her back.

As the competition heats up, Nishat has a decision to make: stay in the closet for her family, or put aside her differences with Flávia and give their relationship a chance.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust (May 12th)

51182650. sx318 sy475 There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Date Me, Bryson Keller! by Kevin Van Whye (May 19th)

52739801. sx318 sy475 Everyone knows about the dare: Each week, Bryson Keller must date someone new–the first person to ask him out on Monday morning. Few think Bryson can do it. He may be the king of Fairvale Academy, but he’s never really dated before.

Until a boy asks him out, and everything changes.

Kai Sheridan didn’t expect Bryson to say yes. So when Bryson agrees to secretly go out with him, Kai is thrown for a loop. But as the days go by, he discovers there’s more to Bryson beneath the surface, and dating him begins to feel less like an act and more like the real thing. Kai knows how the story of a gay boy liking someone straight ends. With his heart on the line, he’s awkwardly trying to navigate senior year at school, at home, and in the closet, all while grappling with the fact that this “relationship” will last only five days. After all, Bryson Keller is popular, good-looking, and straight…right?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta (May 26th)

This book was previously published in the UK. This is its US cover and pub date.

Fiercely told, this is a timely coming-of-age story, told in verse about the journey to self-acceptance. Perfect for fans of Sarah Crossan, Poet X and Orangeboy.

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.

*I masquerade in makeup and feathers and I am applauded.*

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (June 2nd)

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha (June 2nd)

50160953Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV.

Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative.

Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.

When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has-had-been dating. See, Henrique didn’t disclose his positive HIV status to Victor until after they had sex, and even though Henrique insisted on using every possible precaution, Victor is livid.

That’s when Victor meets Ian, a guy who’s also getting tested for HIV. But Ian’s test comes back positive, and his world is about to change forever. Though Victor is loath to think about Henrique, he offers to put the two of them in touch, hoping that perhaps Henrique can help Ian navigate his new life. In the process, the lives of Ian, Victor, and Henrique will become intertwined in a story of friendship, love, and stigma-a story about hitting what you think is rock bottom, but finding the courage and support to keep moving forward.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (June 9th)

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.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron (July 7)

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover of a YA debut I’ve been highly anticipating, Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron, which releases from Bloomsbury on July 7, 2020! Of course, you may better know this book from its perfectly succinct deal announcement, which described it as “queer black girls team up to overthrow the patriarchy in the former kingdom of Cinderella,” but here’s a fuller picture of the story:

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

And here’s its beautiful cover, designed by Manzi Jackson!

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

***

Black Forest Photography

Kalynn Bayron is a debut author and classically trained vocalist. She grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. When she’s not writing you can find her listening to Ella Fitzgerald on loop, attending the theater, watching scary movies, and spending time with her kids. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas with her family.

New Release Spotlight: Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett is one of those books that just nails it, from concept to voice to nuance, and Simone is one of the main characters you just can’t forget. She’s handling friendships, a budding romance, questioning her sexuality, and directing the student play, all while managing being HIV-positive and everything that comes with it, including keeping her diagnosis a secret as needed, even under the threat of blackmail. There’s nothing quite like it out there right now so do yourself a favor and pick it up!

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Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…

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Better Know an Author: Candice Montgomery

You may have already heard me hype Candice Montgomery a million times, but honestly, it’ll never be enough. Their voice in YA is like nothing else out there, and if you haven’t yet read their work, I hope this’ll convince you to dive in! (If not, just read the acknowledgements of By Any Means Necessary, which just released on October 8 and is basically a master class in voice all on its own.) Especially if you’ve been looking for more queer and/or nonbinary Black voices and/or Muslim voices, have I got some wonderful news for you. So please welcome the utterly fabulous Candice Montgomery!
New book! New book! It’s well documented that I’m obsessed with Torrey and By Any Means Necessary, but could you please share a little about your sophomore novel and how it came to be for those who didn’t get an early read?
HAAA! It is absolutely well documented that you run my literary (and personal) life better than I do.
So, By Any Means Necessary is a story about a newly minted college freshman. He’s hyped and ready to take on his new town up in San Francisco, and nervousness—though present!—takes a backseat. That is, until he gets news that the apiary he owns back home, by way of his late uncle, is being seized.
So he’s torn between taking on this new thing that’s only about Torrey himself (and also maybe a little about a certain dancer boy named Gabriel) and going home to a place that’s chewed him up raw, all to save his uncle’s legacy.
The idea for BAMN came to me when a friend and I were on the phone talking about gentrification and how it was affecting us directly, as individuals. And then, common to our conversational flow, we segued into talking about weird hobbies for main characters. She talked about her characters operating a vineyard and I suddenly had the idea for a character to run a bee farm where his struggle (getting stung constantly) and his desire to be free (flying away from the hive he knows) would mirror his hobby. In Torrey’s case, his passion.
Queerness (and specifically queer characters of color) also feature in your debut Home and Away, which has a kickass female football-playing protag and a wonderful male love interest who happens to be bi. What would you say draws Tasia and Kai together, and in your mind, where are they now?
I think Taze and Kai are opposite sides of the same very big coin. And that’s what works for them. Kai brings out Tasia’s looser side and she not only lets Kai just be who he is, but she actively enjoys it. It’s basically just two teens who don’t feel they fit in finding out that they actually DO. With each other.
In my mind, Taze and Kai are still very much together but also attending separate colleges about an hour from one another. Taze is playing ball for Cal and studying Pan African Studies and Kai is over at the San Francisco Art Institute taking the art world by storm. And making Taze laugh while he does it.
For readers looking for even more of your published work, you’ve got a fabulous story in Habibi, the all-Muslim anthology edited by Hadeel Al-Massari and Nyala Ali, starring a Muslim girl who’s managing both depression and her feelings for her best friend, a trans guy named Aaron. What made this the story you wanted to tell in this collection in particular?
Oof! Thank you! I love that story and that anthology so much. Don’t forget about that one by the way. It’s got big plans for the future.
But my story in Habibi is called “Love God Herself.” And it’s a story I wanted to tell because a muslimah (now) friend of mine tweeted on a trending about wanting to see hijabis who are questioning their faith, who are bucking back against traditional Islamic partnerships, who are depressed and not instantly healed, all—MASHALLAH!!!
I reached out to her. Asked her if she’d write it. And then she turned around and asked ME if I would.
And speaking of anthologies, we’ll get even more Cam goodness in 2020 when you feature in the upcoming all-queer anthology Out Now: Queer We Go Again!, the contemporary followup to All Out, once again edited by Saundra Mitchell. What can you tell us about your story for that collection?
My story for Out Now was honestly one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written. I’m so in love with it. I struggled for months with it and then one night it all just poured out of me, start to finish. I didn’t even read it through before I sent it off to Saundra; I was already so past deadline. Twice. And from there, I didn’t get asked to make any structural changes to the story, either. Just a few grammatical things. It’s a raw story and probably the best thing I’ll ever write. It’s about a skateboarding enby who has a crush on a girl whom they think will NEVER notice them. Maybe she will, maybe she won’t. But the main character will take you all the way through it.
Cam Anthology Goodness of 2020 Part II has you breaking into MG in Once Upon an Eid! What was it like to write for a younger audience, and is it something you could see yourself doing in longer form?
First—CAM ANTHOLOGY GOODNESS OF 2020! YESSSS. ONCE has been such a fun process. It was just happy-making anytime I worked on it. This was my first time writing ANYTHING MG. And immediately after my story was submitted, I started drafting an MG novel of my own. It’s on hold for a moment, but I’m 12K words deep and still sooo excited about it.
You’re such a great advocate for more midlist authors and especially for other queer/trans Black authors, and QTAoC in general. What books and authors would you love to see get more attention, and what queer books have meant a lot to you as a both an author and a reader?
Oooh! I love this question. There are a few key QTAoC that I’d undoubtedly return to religiously, one of whom being Rivers Solomon (they), author of An Unkindness of Ghosts. It is the queer Afro-futurist fic of my marshmallow heart. And I wish I’d written it myself. Also entirely jealous of this human’s 12-ton talent: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (they). I should say that these are some pretty heavy novels, though. But I think anybody who reads them will be made better for them. My heart needed ’em.
And if we’re talking books that formed me as both an author and a reader—it’s not fiction, it’s a memoir. But my favorite book in the world, the reason I was able to tell my family I’m queer, the path through which I found my label as a Pansexual person—it’s Paul Monette’s Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir. Yes, it’s a memoir. Yes, it’s horrifically heartbreaking. Yes, it ends in a way that will ruin your entire week (lololo). But also… it’s romantic in ways I’ve never seen expressed on the page before.
What’s your first memory of LGBTQIAP+ representation in the media, for better or for worse?
Glee. It was, unfortunately, when Glee introduced Kurt and… the kid with the chin and the hair? Blaine? My mom and my little sister and I would watch it together every week and I remember sitting in strained, awkward silence with them, while such an explicit and open GAY display moved across the television. We never talked about it. I just wanted it to be over, not for my discomfort, but for theirs. My mom and sister’s. I wanted to tone down my relationship to queerness in order to make others more comfortable.
And as far as I knew, out of the 3 of us, I was the only one who connected to it. (spoiler: my little sister is out and openly panromantic polyamorous).
As someone contributing to a couple of great collections next year, what would be a dream project for you specifically to helm? 
I absolutely have an answer to this… but that’s all I can say for now. Stay tuned! 😉
What can you share about what you’re working on right now?
Right now, I’m pulling my own teeth out trying to draft a new YA romance about two Black teens who explore their ancestry through Hoodoo and Voodoo. It’s difficult. And it’s unlike anything I’ve written before.
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Candice “Cam” Montgomery is an LA transplant now living in the woods of Seattle, where they write Young Adult novels. Their debut novel, featured on the 2018 Kirkus Best list, HOME AND AWAY can be found online and in stores now, and their sophomore novel, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY was released earlier this October. By day, Cam writes about Black teens across all their intersections. By night, they bartend at a tiny place nestled inside one of Washington’s greenest trees. They’re an avid Studio Ghibli fan and will make you watch at least one episode of Sailor Moon and listen to one Beyoncé record before they’ll call you “friend.”