Tag Archives: Essays

Most Anticipated Non-Fiction: January-June 2023

This post contains titles published by HarperCollins. Please note that the HarperCollins Union has been on strike since 11/10/22 to get a fair contract for their workers, and this site very much supports that effort. Visit the HarperCollins Union linktree to learn how you can support their fight for a fair contract: linktr.ee/hcpunion.

I Am Ace: Advice on Living Your Best Asexual Life by Cody Daingle-Orions (January 19th)

I Am AceHow do I know if I’m actually sexual?

How do I come out as asexual?

What kinds of relationship can I have as an ace person?
If you are looking for answers to these questions, Cody is here to help. Within these pages lie all the advice you need as a questioning ace teen.

Tackling everything from what asexuality is, the asexual spectrum and tips on coming out, to intimacy, relationships, acephobia and finding joy, this guide will help you better understand your asexual identity alongside deeply relatable anecdotes drawn from Cody’s personal experience.

Whether you are ace, demi, gray-ace or not sure yet, this book will give you the courage and confidence to embrace your authentic self and live your best ace life.

Buy it: Waterstones | Book Depository

Bisexual Men Exist by Vaneet Mehta (January 19th)

Bisexual Men Exist“You’re just being greedy.”
“Are you sure you’re not gay?”
“Pick a side.”

Being a bisexual man isn’t easy – something Vaneet Mehta knows all too well. After spending more than a decade figuring out his identity, Vaneet’s coming out was met with questioning, ridicule and erasure. This experience inspired Vaneet to create the viral #BisexualMenExist campaign, combatting the hate and scepticism m-spec (multi-gender attracted spectrum) men encounter, and helping others who felt similarly alone and trapped.

This powerful book is an extension of that fight. Navigating a range of topics, including coming out, dating, relationships and health, Vaneet shares his own lived experience as well as personal stories from others in the community to help validate and uplift other bisexual men. Discussing the treatment of m-spec men in LGBTQ+ places, breaking down stereotypes and highlighting the importance of representation and education, this empowering book is a rallying call for m-spec men everywhere.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Black on Black by Daniel Black (January 31st)

Black on Black“There are stories that must be told.”

Acclaimed novelist and scholar Daniel Black has spent a career writing into the unspoken, fleshing out, through storytelling, pain that can’t be described.

Now, in his debut essay collection, Black gives voice to the experiences of those who often find themselves on the margins. Tackling topics ranging from police brutality to the AIDS crisis to the role of HBCUs to queer representation in the Black church, Black on Black celebrates the resilience, fortitude and survival of Black people in a land where their body is always on display.

As Daniel Black reminds us, while hope may be slow in coming, it always arrives, and when it does, it delivers beyond the imagination. Propulsive, intimate and achingly relevant, Black on Black is cultural criticism at its openhearted best.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H (February 7th)

Hijab Butch BluesWhen fourteen-year-old Lamya H realizes she has a crush on her teacher–her female teacher–she covers up her attraction, an attraction she can’t yet name, by playing up her roles as overachiever and class clown. Born in South Asia, she moved to the Middle East at a young age and has spent years feeling out of place, like her own desires and dreams don’t matter, and it’s easier to hide in plain sight. To disappear. But one day in Quran class, she reads a passage about Maryam that changes everything: when Maryam learned that she was pregnant, she insisted no man had touched her. Could Maryam, uninterested in men, be . . . like Lamya?

From that moment on, Lamya makes sense of her struggles and triumphs by comparing her experiences with some of the most famous stories in the Quran. She juxtaposes her coming out with Musa liberating his people from the pharoah; asks if Allah, who is neither male nor female, might instead be nonbinary; and, drawing on the faith and hope Nuh needed to construct his ark, begins to build a life of her own–ultimately finding that the answer to her lifelong quest for community and belonging lies in owning her identity as a queer, devout Muslim immigrant.

This searingly intimate memoir in essays, spanning Lamya’s childhood to her arrival in the United States for college through early-adult life in New York City, tells a universal story of courage, trust, and love, celebrating what it means to be a seeker and an architect of one’s own life.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Choosing Family: A Memoir of Queer Motherhood and Black Resistance by Francesca Royster (February 7th)

As a multiracial household in Chicago’s North Side community of Rogers Park, race is at the core of Francesca T. Royster and her family’s world, influencing everyday acts of parenting and the conception of what family truly means. Like Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, this lyrical and affecting memoir focuses on a unit of three: the author; her wife Annie, who’s white; and Cecilia, the Black daughter they adopt as a couple in their forties and fifties. Choosing Family chronicles this journey to motherhood while examining the messiness and complexity of adoption and parenthood from a Black, queer, and feminist perspective. Royster also explores her memories of the matriarchs of her childhood and the homes these women created in Chicago’s South Side—itself a dynamic character in the memoir—where “family” was fluid, inclusive, and not necessarily defined by marriage or other socially recognized contracts.

Calling upon the work of some of her favorite queer thinkers, including José Esteban Muñoz and Audre Lorde, Royster interweaves her experiences and memories with queer and gender theory to argue that many Black families, certainly her own, have historically had a “queer” attitude toward family: configurations that sit outside the white normative experience and are the richer for their flexibility and generosity of spirit. A powerful, genre-bending memoir of family, identity, and acceptance, Choosing Family, ultimately, is about joy—about claiming the joy that society did not intend to assign to you, or to those like you.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Unsafe Words: Queering Consent in the #MeToo Era ed. by Shantel Gabrieal Buggs and Trevor Hoppe (February 10th)

Unsafe WordsQueer people may not have invented sex, but queers have long been pioneers in imagining new ways to have it. Yet their voices have been largely absent from the #MeToo conversation. What can queer people learn from the #MeToo conversation? And what can queer communities teach the rest of the world about ethical sex? This provocative book brings together academics, activists, artists, and sex workers to tackle challenging questions about sex, power, consent, and harm. While responding to the need for sex to be consensual and mutually pleasurable, these chapter authors resist the heteronormative assumptions, class norms, and racial privilege underlying much #MeToo discourse. The essays reveal the tools that queer communities themselves have developed to practice ethical sex—from the sex worker negotiating with her client to the gay man having anonymous sex in the back room. At the same time, they explore how queer communities might better prevent and respond to sexual violence without recourse to a police force that is frequently racist, homophobic, and transphobic.

Telling a queerer side of the #MeToo story, Unsafe Words dares to challenge dogmatic assumptions about sex and consent while developing tools and language to promote more ethical and more pleasurable sex for everyone.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Ace Notes: Tips and Tricks on Existing in an Allo WorldWhat is the ace lens?
Is my relationship queerplatonic?
Am I sex-favorable, sex-averse or sex-repulsed?

As an ace or questioning person in an oh-so-allo world, you’re probably in desperate need of a cheat sheet. Allow us to introduce your new asexual best friend, an essential resource serving up the life hacks you need to fully embrace the ace. Expect interviews with remarkable aces across the spectrum, advice on navigating different communities, and low-key ways to flaunt your ace identity.

Covering everything from coming out, explaining asexuality and understanding different types of attraction, to marriage, relationships, sex, consent, gatekeeping, religion, ace culture and more, this is the ultimate arsenal for whatever the allo world throws at you.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Justice is Served: A Tale of Scallops, the Law, and Cooking for RGB by Leslie Karst (April 4th)

When Leslie Karst learned that her offer to cook dinner for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her renowned tax law professor husband, Marty, had been accepted, she was thrilled—and terrified. A small-town lawyer who hated her job and had taken up cooking as a way to add a bit of spice to the daily grind of pumping out billable hours, Karst had never before thrown such a high-stakes dinner party. Could she really pull this off?

Justice is Served is Karst’s light-hearted, earnest account of the journey this unexpected challenge launched her on—starting with a trip to Paris for culinary inspiration, and ending with the dinner itself. Along the way, she imparts details of Ginsburg’s transformation from a young Jewish girl from Flatbush, Brooklyn, to one of the most celebrated Supreme Court justices in our nation’s history, and shares recipes for the mouthwatering dishes she came up with as she prepared for the big night. But this memoir isn’t simply a tale of prepping for and cooking dinner for the famous RBG; it’s also about how this event, and all the planning and preparation that went into it, created a new sort of connection between Karst, her partner, and her parents, and also inspired Karst to make life changes that would reverberate far beyond one dinner party.

A heartfelt story of simultaneously searching for delicious recipes and purpose in life, Justice is Served is an inspiring reminder that it’s never too late to discover—and follow—your deepest passion.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Yards Between Us by R. K. Russell (May 16th)

60021329In 2019, R.K. Russell broke the mold when he came out as bisexual in an essay for ESPN that ignited the sports world. Now, in his powerful memoir, The Yards Between Us, he shares his story and explores his love of football, men and women, walking the devastating tightrope of keeping his sexuality secret, the tension between his private and public lives, and the importance of crashing through barriers.

Told through the people and moments that have shaped him, Russell traces the highs and lows of his life in and out of football, from his early life as a shy kid struggling with the expectations on a Black boy and the pull between his quiet nature and his athletic ability,  to being drafted by his hometown team the Dallas Cowboys, and then on to seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills. And as his time in the sport comes into full bloom, Russell realizes that keeping his secret in the NFL is easier than in college when life and football are so much more connected to social worlds.

Through being cut, injured, and frustrating setbacks, Russell’s confidence lags as the secret of his sexuality weighs heavier and heavier. And when that frustration is combined with the devastating loss of his best friend and sole confidant, the darkness that follows also brings a deep understanding that perhaps it’s time to make a change. In Los Angeles, against the backdrop of the swaying palm trees and warm sands of Malibu, Russell falls in love and it’s the final push he needs to stand up for every part of himself—a professional athlete, a writer, a son, a friend, a lover, a bisexual Black man. In The Yards Between Us, R.K. Russell shows us the life-changing power of embracing who you are and fighting to make space so others can do the same.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

From Here by Luma Mufleh (May 16th)

In her coming-of-age memoir, refugee advocate Luma Mufleh writes of her tumultuous journey to reconcile her identity as a gay Muslim woman and a proud Arab-turned-American refugee.

With no word for “gay” in Arabic, Luma may not have known what to call the feelings she had growing up in Jordan during the 1980’s, but she knew well enough to keep them secret. It was clear that not only would her family have trouble accepting who she was, but trapped in a religious society, she could also be killed if anyone discovered she was gay. Luma spent her teenage years increasingly desperate to find a way out. After two suicide attempts, she finally realizes that to survive, she must leave the Middle East for good. While attending college in the United States, Luma endures the agonizing process of applying for political asylum, which ensures her safety—but causes her family to break ties with her.

Suddenly becoming a refugee in America is a rude awakening. Disowned, depressed, and broke, Luma must rely on the grace of both friends and strangers as she builds a tenuous new life finally embracing her full self. Slowly, she forges a new path forward with both her biological and chosen families, eventually founding Fugees Family, a nonprofit dedicated to the education and support of refugee children in the United States.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Lesbian Love Story by Amelia Possanza (May 30th)

When Amelia Possanza moved to Brooklyn to build a life of her own, she found herself surrounded by queer stories: she read them on landmark placards, overheard them on the pool deck when she joined the world’s largest LGBTQ swim team, and even watched them on TV in her cockroach-infested apartment. These stories inspired her to seek out lesbians throughout history who could become her role models, in romance and in life.

Centered around seven love stories for the ages, this is Possanza’s journey into the archives to recover the personal histories of lesbians in the twentieth century: who they were, how they loved, why their stories were destroyed, and where their memories echo and live on. Possanza’s hunt takes readers from a drag king show in Bushwick to the home of activists in Harlem and then across the ocean to Hadrian’s Library, where she searches for traces of Sappho in the ruins. Along the way, she discovers her own love—for swimming, for community, for New York City—and adds her record to the archive.

At the heart of this riveting, inventive history, Possanza asks: How could lesbian love help us reimagine care and community? What would our world look like if we replaced its foundation of misogyny with something new, with something distinctly lesbian?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Horse Barbie by Geena Rocero (May 30th)

As a young femme growing up in Manila in the 1990s, Geena Rocero endured shouts of bakla, bakla!, a Filipino taunt aimed at her feminine sway, whenever she left the little universe of her eskinita. Eventually she found her place in trans pageants, events as widely attended and culturally significant as a national sport, going to high school by day and competing by night. When her competitors denigrated her with the nickname “horse barbie,” due to her statuesque physique, tumbling hair, long neck, and dark skin, she leaned into the epithet, stepping onto stage with an undeniable charisma—part equine and all fashion. By seventeen, she was the Philippines’ most prominent and highest-earning trans pageant queen.

When she moved to the United States, Geena was able to change her name and gender marker on her documents, which wasn’t—and still isn’t—possible for trans people in the Philippines. But legal recognition didn’t come with any guarantee of safety. In order to survive, Geena went stealth and hid her trans identity, gaining one type of freedom and truth at the expense of another. For a while, it worked. Within a few years she’d become an in-demand model, appearing in music videos, billboards, and magazine campaigns, and was hailed as the epitome of feminine beauty. But as her star rose, her sense of self eroded. She craved acceptance as her authentic self, yet had to remain eternally vigilant in order to protect her dream career. The tenuous, high-stakes double life finally led Geena to a breaking point when she had to decide how to reclaim the power of Horse Barbie once and for all: radiant, head held high, and unabashedly herself.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Male Gazed by Manuel Betancourt (May 30th)

Manuel Betancourt has long lustfully coveted masculinity—in part because he so lacked it. As a child in Bogotá, Colombia, he grew up with the social pressure to appear strong, manly, and, ultimately, straight. And yet in the films and television he avidly watched, Betancourt saw glimmers of different possibilities. From the stars of telenovelas and the princes of Disney films to pop sensation Ricky Martin and teen heartthrobs in shows like Saved By the Bell, he continually found himself asking: Do I want him or do I want to be him?

The Male Gazed grapples with the thrall of masculinity, examining its frailty and its attendant anxieties even as it focuses on its erotic potential. Masculinity, Betancourt suggests, isn’t suddenly ripe for deconstruction—or even outright destruction—amid so much talk about its inherent toxicity. Looking back over decades’ worth of pop culture’s attempts to codify and reframe what men can be, wear, do, and desire, this book establishes that to gaze at men is still a subversive act.

Written in the spirit of Hanif Abdurraqib and Olivia Laing, The Male Gazed mingles personal anecdotes with cultural criticism to offer an exploration of intimacy, homoeroticism, and the danger of internalizing too many toxic ideas about masculinity as a gay man.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

A Very Gay Book by Nic Scheppard and Jenson Titus (June 6th)

A Very Gay BookFrom the creators of @verygaypaint, the immensely popular comedy design brand, A VERY GAY BOOK paints a cheeky and satirical portrait of the world where everything—from sports to science to soup—is gay.

Trees are gay. It’s why their branches brush up against each other so softly. Right-handed people are gay because that’s the first hand you use when you do the Macarena. Left-handed people are also gay. Magnets. Palindromes. All gay. A satirical textbook—including sections on history and heroes, customs and traditions—celebrating a very gay world, A Very Gay Book is an invitation to revel in the (both real and absurdly fictional) iconic successes of the LGBTQ+ community.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Pageboy by Elliot Page (June 6th)

“Can I kiss you?” It was two months before the world premiere of Juno, and Elliot Page was in his first ever queer bar. The hot summer air hung heavy around him as he looked at her. And then it happened. In front of everyone. A previously unfathomable experience. Here he was on the precipice of discovering himself as a queer person, as a trans person. Getting closer to his desires, his dreams, himself, without the repression he’d carried for so long. But for Elliot, two steps forward had always come with one step back.

With Juno’s massive success, Elliot became one of the world’s most beloved actors. His dreams were coming true, but the pressure to perform suffocated him. He was forced to play the part of the glossy young starlet, a role that made his skin crawl, on and off set. The career that had been an escape out of his reality and into a world of imagination was suddenly a nightmare.

As he navigated criticism and abuse from some of the most powerful people in Hollywood, a past that snapped at his heels, and a society dead set on forcing him into a binary, Elliot often stayed silent, unsure of what to do, until enough was enough. Full of behind the scenes details and intimate interrogations on sex, love, trauma, and Hollywood, Pageboy is the story of a life pushed to the brink. But at its core, this beautifully written, winding journey of what it means to untangle ourselves from the expectations of others is an ode to stepping into who we truly are with defiance, strength, and joy.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

A Place for Us by Brandon J. Wolf (June 6th)

You never forget your first. First kiss. First love. First heartache. They all burrow their way into your subconscious, destined to reshape how you see the world forever.

Growing up in rural Oregon, Brandon Wolf grappled with the devastating loss of his supportive mother and with the embedded racism and homophobia of a community that made him feel like an unwelcome stranger. After the lack of connection and role models led him down a spiral of risky behavior, Wolf escaped to survive. In Orlando, he found what he’d been searching for: belonging―in a community that was a safe space with people he’d come to call his chosen family. They taught Wolf how to love, and be loved, unconditionally. Then, on June 12, 2016, in an exhilarating refuge where Wolf and hundreds of others had discovered a liberating new normal, they were suddenly challenged with fighting for a way out―in order to survive. Overnight, everything was ripped away by chaos, panic, and fear. But the unimaginable tragedy also gave Wolf a new power: purpose.

In this unforgettable coming-of-age memoir, Wolf shares his transformative journey from young outsider to galvanizing activist. Marshaling the compassion and strength of a community, Wolf explores how to get through the darkest times with healing, hope, and resistance. “With our backs against the wall,” he writes, “we find a way out together.”

Buy it:  Amazon | IndieBound

Leg: the Story of a Limb and the Boy Who Grew From It by Greg Marshall (June 13th)

61783798. sy475 Greg Marshall’s early years were pretty bizarre. Rewind the VHS tapes (this is the nineties) and you’ll see a lopsided teenager limping across a high school stage, or in a wheelchair after leg surgeries, pondering why he’s crushing on half of the Utah Jazz. Add to this home video footage a mom clacking away at her newspaper column between chemos, a dad with ALS, and a cast of foulmouthed siblings. Fast forward the tape and you’ll find Marshall happily settled into his life as a gay man only to discover he’s been living in another closet his whole life: he has cerebral palsy. Here, in the hot mess of it all, lies Greg Marshall’s wellspring of wit and wisdom.

Leg is an extraordinarily funny and insightful memoir from a daring new voice. Packed with outrageous stories of a singular childhood, it is also a unique examination of what it means to transform when there are parts of yourself you can’t change, a moving portrait of a family in crisis, and a tale of resilience of spirit. In Marshall’s deft hands, we see a story both personal and universal—of being young and wanting the world, even when the world doesn’t feel like yours to want.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

To Name the Bigger Lie: A Memoir in Two Stories by Sarah Viren (June 13th)

Sarah’s story begins as she’s researching what she believes will be a book about her high school philosophy teacher, a charismatic instructor who taught her and her classmates to question everything—in the end, even the reality of historical atrocities. As she digs into the effects of his teachings, her life takes a turn into the fantastical when her wife, Marta, is notified that she’s been investigated for sexual misconduct at the university where they both teach.

Based in part on a viral New York Times essay, To Name the Bigger Lie follows the investigation as it upends Sarah’s understanding of truth. She knows the claims made against Marta must be lies, and as she uncovers the identity of the person behind them and then tries, with increasing desperation, to prove their innocence, she’s drawn back into the questions that her teacher inspired all those years ago: about the nature of truth, the value of skepticism, and the stakes we all have in getting the story right.

A compelling, incisive journey into honesty and betrayal, this memoir explores the powerful pull of dangerous conspiracy theories and the pliability of personal narratives in a world dominated by hoaxes and fakes. To Name the Bigger Lie reads like the best of psychological thrillers—made all the more riveting because it’s true.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Tar Hollow Trans: Essays ed. by Stacy Jane Grover (June 20th)

“I’ve lived a completely ordinary life, so much that I don’t know how to write a transgender or queer or Appalachian story, because I don’t feel like I’ve lived one. … Though, in searching for ways to write myself in my stories, maybe I can find power in this ordinariness.”

Raised in southeast Ohio, Stacy Jane Grover would not describe her upbringing as “Appalachian.” Appalachia existed farther afield―more rural, more country than the landscape of her hometown.

Grover returned to the places of her childhood to reconcile her identity and experience with the culture and the people who had raised her. She began to reflect on her memories and discovered that group identities like Appalachian and transgender are linked by more than just the stinging brand of social otherness.

In Tar Hollow Trans, Grover explores her transgender experience through common Appalachian cultural traditions. In “Dead Furrows,” a death vigil and funeral leads to an investigation of Appalachian funerary rituals and their failure to help Grover cope with the grief of being denied her transness. “Homeplace” threads family interactions with farm animals and Grover’s coming out journey, illuminating the disturbing parallels between the American Veterinary Association’s guidelines for ethical euthanasia and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s guidelines for transgender care.

Together, her essays write transgender experience into broader cultural narratives beyond transition and interrogate the failures of concepts such as memory, metaphor, heritage, and tradition. Tar Hollow Trans investigates the ways the labels of transgender and Appalachian have been created and understood and reckons with the ways the ever-becoming transgender self, like a stigmatized region, can find new spaces of growth.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Better Know an Author: Kristen Arnett

Today on the site I’m so excited to have Kristen Arnett, author of the flamingo-covered book everyone is talking about. (And if you think you haven’t heard about it, consider whether you’ve seen the words “lesbian taxidermy” cross your timeline at some point.) Believe the hype, because Arnett is a master of nailing that rare combination of brutal but funny, open and honest but dry and self-protective. It’s one of the most memorable books I’ve read in a long time, with an opening that knocked me flat on my ass. If you don’t believe me, you can go ahead and check out The New York Times or Autostraddle or any of Kristen’s brilliant essays, but you can also just go ahead and check out this interview, as long as you’re here!

First, though, let’s check out this debut novel, Mostly Dead Things, releasing tomorrow, June 4, by Tin House Books!

One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the failing business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Her mother starts sneaking into the shop to make aggressively lewd art with the taxidermied animals. Her brother Milo withdraws, struggling to function. And Brynn, Milo’s wife—and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with—walks out without a word. As Jessa seeks out less-than-legal ways of generating income, her mother’s art escalates—picture a figure of her dead husband and a stuffed buffalo in an uncomfortably sexual pose—and the Mortons reach a tipping point. For the first time, Jessa has no choice but to learn who these people truly are, and ultimately how she fits alongside them.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Books & Books

And now, come meet the author, Kristen Arnett!

Let’s begin with the stuffed elephant in the room – your first novel! Mostly Dead Things has one of the most viscerally memorable openings I’ve read in a long time. How did this story of a lesbian taxidermist taking over the family business following her father’s suicide become The One after all your years in essays and short fiction? And please God can you share a little about your taxidermy research?

I was busy working on a short story about a brother and sister who attempt, and fail, to properly taxidermy one of their neighbors goats. At the time, I was doing a lot of weird internet deep dives into fucked up terrible taxidermy. It was funny to me, and I also loved the idea of writing about two siblings fighting over something as bizarre as a dead goat, so I sat inside that story for a while. When I was done, I realized I wanted to keep thinking about them: the characters, the setting, their relationship dynamics, all of it. So I decided to toss out that story and see what I could do with these characters in a broader sense. And that eventually became the novel!

With regard to taxidermy, I am a librarian, so research is a natural path my brain loves to take. When it came to looking up taxidermy, I spent a ton of time online: videos, chat rooms, web forums, etc. I also bought a lot of old school taxidermy manuals and read through them constantly. I wanted all the work I was having the characters do on any animal to not only feel authentic, but to seem hyper realistic. I wanted to make absolutely sure everything felt just right!

Speaking of short fiction, your fiction came a couple of years ago with felt in the jaw. For those who’ll be discovering you through Mostly Dead Things, what are some themes you see rising up in both works? Is there a particular story in that collection that’s closest to your heart, and if so, is it the same one you felt closest to when it first released?

I definitely want to write about the queer lives of women. By that I mean I am interested in something that I’ve called “the lesbian domestic.” I wanna see the day-to-day interactions of queer women in households. I know that theme filters into all of my work because it is something I also want to see as a reader. I am also deeply interested in bodies – tactile sensations, physical forms. That crops up over and over again in my work. Also Florida! I’d say all of these themes coalesce in much of my writing, but particularly in the title story from that first collection. I felt it exemplified all of the things I was trying so desperately to write about when it comes to queerness in a household: relationships between queer women, household dynamics and their breakdown, and the actual landscape of a Florida backyard.

Of course, you’re also well-known for your personal essays; I don’t think anyone could make the Olive Garden and 7-11 sound quite as poignant as you do. What’ve been your favorite and most unexpected reactions to your non-fiction work?

I would say the thing that has been the most surprising and what I have absolutely enjoyed the most in hearing from readers is that they have identified with Florida in my work. Specifically, I have loved hearing that from other Floridians. It is always so dicey, trying to write lovingly (or maybe not-so lovingly, maybe writing something in a raw, painful way) about home and the places where we live and live in us. So whenever I am putting my version of Florida out there, I always get that little worry that people won’t understand it, or maybe it won’t sit right with them like how I envisioned it in my own head. I have been so lucky in that, because the people who have read my work for place have all been so thoroughly encouraging about it. Not only that, but they share with me their own stories of Florida and home. That is very precious to me, so special. I feel like it’s just an even bigger kind of community, but through writing, and it makes me feel so glad.

Fellowships! Residencies! I’ve always wondered what it’s like to truly surround yourself with an environment dedicated to honing your craft and to experts in it. Do you have a favorite experience or anything that’s particularly notably emerged from those times? 

I’ve been truly lucky to have experienced several residencies over the course of my writing career. I would say one that really stuck with me as a place that allowed me to get a tremendous amount of work done was my residency at the Millay Colony. It’s located in upstate New York and is pretty secluded. I decided to drive myself up there all the way from Florida, stopping midway in Virginia. I had never driven alone that far by myself before and took it as an opportunity to sit with myself and really try and think about things – my writing, my work, my relationships to those things. And when I got there I was able to still spend so much time in solitude. It truly gave me the time I needed to kind of fix my mind in the new directions I was trying to take it. I got so much from that residency. I know that I am lucky that I was able to do it – not everyone can afford to take time off from work like that, so I especially tried to appreciate every single moment of it.

What’s the first queer rep you saw that really resonated with you? Is there anything you’d still really like to see?

My first experience in queer reading was sitting down with Dorothy Allison’s Bastard out of Carolina. It was the first book I’d ever read where I just sat and thought, “wow, here I am – I see myself in here.” The writing was so raw and bare. It was a revelation for me. It’s the book I read that made me know I wanted to be a writer. I love all of Dorothy’s work for sure, but I can think about that book any time and still have that feeling in my chest, that huge heart glow that made me feel just a tiny bit less alone.

I would say I am always reading looking for other queer writing that makes me feel like I am experiencing the day-to-day dynamics of queer relationships. I am much less interested in reading coming out stories and would just love to see more narratives that focus on how dynamics sit between queer people in a family, in a household, in a region, in a place. Those little moments of time, smaller pockets. I am forever searching for that as a reader. Also I would love to see more queer horror narratives!

There’s a lot of talk about how adult fiction, particularly literary fiction, is harder to find online, and as a blogger for a site that tries to cover it all, I certainly can’t argue with that. How do you stay on top of queer lit coming out, and is there any you’d particularly like to recommend, or are especially excited to read?

I would say that I try and search for it, for sure, but there are places I definitely go to hear about new queer lit. One of those places is Lambda Literary. I also have a large community of queer writers who I trust and value their opinions, so I am forever picking everyone’s brains when it comes to new work. There is also a ton of queer poetry out there now that I am obsessed with and I don’t think gets talked about as much as it should. Tommy Pico’s entire body of work is a revelation. I wish everyone could read every single book of his! I love T Kira Madden’s memoir that dropped in March, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls. Also Nicole Dennis-Benn’s Patsy that drops very soon! Jaquira Diaz has an essay collection dropping as well called Ordinary Girls. That’s very queer and also VERY Florida.

And finally, perhaps most important question: what is, technically, the best ravioli?

Human beings are the finest raviolis on the planet.

***

Kristen Arnett is a queer fiction and essay writer. She was awarded Ninth Letter‘s 2015 Literary Award in Fiction, was runner-up for the 2016 Robert Watson Literary Prize at The Greensboro Review, and was a finalist for Indiana Review’s 2016 Fiction Prize. She’s a columnist for Literary Hub and her work has appeared or is upcoming at North American Review, The Normal School, Gulf Coast, TriQuarterly, Guernica, Electric Literature, McSweeneys, PBS Newshour, Literary Hub, Volume 1 Brooklyn, OSU’s The Journal, Catapult, Bennington Review, Portland Review, Tin House Flash Fridays/The Guardian, Salon, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her debut story collection, Felt in the Jaw, was published by Split Lip Press and was awarded the 2017 Coil Book Award. Her novel, Mostly Dead Things, will be published by Tin House Books in June 2019.

Good News Roundup of LGBTQ Reads, 2018 Edition

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:

Picture Books

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

Middle Grade

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender was named one of Booklist‘s Top 10 First Novels for Youth: 2018, a Malka Penn Award Honor Book,  and a Best Book of the Year by School Library Journal

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

Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell was named one of the Best Children’s Books of 2018 by New York Public Library and a Best Book of the Year by School Library Journal

Young Adult

*Graphic novels listed separately below

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour was awarded the Printz

The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller won The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert won the Stonewall Award

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee received a Stonewall Honor and made the 2018 Top Ten Best Fiction list by YALSA

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

Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron was a finalist for the Carnegie Medal and was named among the Best YA of 2018 for Feeding Imaginations by Kirkus

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp hit the New York Times bestseller list and was named a Best YA of 2018 by Seventeen

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli hit the New York Times bestseller list, was named Best Young Adult Fiction by Goodreads voters, and was named among the Best YA Romances of 2018 by Kirkus

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee hit the New York Times bestseller list and was named among the Best Historical YA of 2018 by Kirkus

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

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan hit the New York Times bestseller list and was named to the Kids’ Indie Next List Top Ten for Winter 2018-19

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 BlogPaste, 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 SeventeenAmazonSchool 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

Black Wings Beating by Alex London was named a Best YA of 2018 by Seventeen and Paste and a Best YA Fantasy of 2018 by Kirkus

People Like Us by Dana Mele was named a Best YA of 2018 by Seventeen

The Beauty that Remains by Ashley Woodfolk was named a Best YA of 2018 by Seventeen and Bustle, and the Best YA Debut of 2018 by Paste

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

Pulp by Robin Talley was named to the Kids’ Indie Next List Top Ten for Winter 2018-19 and included among the Best Teen Fiction of 2018 by Chicago Public Library and the Best YAs of 2018 by Paste

The Disasters by MK England was named to the Kids’ Indie Next List Top Ten for Winter 2018-19

Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon was named to the Kids’ Indie Next List for Winter 2018-19

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan was named to the Kids’ Indie Next List for Winter 2018-19

This is What it Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow 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

A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma was named a Best Book of the Year by School Library Journal and NPR and a Best YA of 2018 by Bustle and Paste 

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake was named among the Best Teen Fiction of 2018 by Chicago Public Library and Best YAs of 2018 by B&N Teen Blog

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson was named among the Best Teen Fiction of 2018 by Chicago Public Library and a Best YA of 2018 by The Boston Globe

Odd One Out by Nic Stone was named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR and among the Best YAs of 2018 by The Boston Globe and Paste

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

The Spy With the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by Paste and B&N Teen Blog and among the Best Jewish Children’s Books of 2018 by Tablet

A Blade so Black by L.L. McKinney was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by Paste

Home and Away by Candice Montgomery was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by B&N Teen Blog and Paste and among the Best YA Mysteries and Thrillers of 2018 by Kirkus

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

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by B&N Teen Blog and Paste and among the Best YA Books of 2018 About Speaking Your Truth by Kirkus

Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by The Boston Globe and Paste

This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by Bustle and B&N Teen Blog and a Best YA Romance of 2018 by Kirkus

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

Final Draft by Riley Redgate was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by B&N Teen Blog and the Best YA Romances of 2018 by Kirkus

Running With Lions by Julian Winters was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by B&N Teen Blog

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta was named among the Best YAs of 2018 by B&N Teen Blog and a Best YA Romance of 2018 by Kirkus

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

Romance

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

When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri was named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR

Contemporary and Historical Adult Fiction

Less by Andrew Sean Greer won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

John Rechy received the 2017 Robert Kirsch Award

White Houses by Amy Bloom was named a Best Book of 2018 by New York Public Library

Who is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht was named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR

The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara was named one of the Best Debuts of 2018 by Entertainment Weekly

Sugar Run by Mesha Maren was named to the January 2019 Indie Next List

SFF

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novel

The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novella

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey was nominated for a a Nebula Award for Best Novella

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado was a finalist for the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado is being developed into an FX series

The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez is being developed into a TV series

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller was named a Publishers Weekly Best SF/Fantasy/Horror of 2018 and a Kirkus Best Sci Fi and Fantasy of 2018

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

The Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard was named one of Tor.com Reviewers’ Best Books of 2018

The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson was named one of Tor.com Reviewers’ Best Books of 2018

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab was named Best Science Fiction by Goodreads voters

Nonfiction

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

Poetry

Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen was named one of the Best Books of 2018 by New York Public Library

Graphic Novels

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

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang was named a Best YA of 2018 by Publishers Weekly, Amazon, New York Public Library, School Library Journal, NPR, and The Boston Globe

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden was named a Publishers Weekly Best YA of 2018 and a Best Book of the Year by School Library Journal

For lists of the best queer books of 2018, check out these on BookRiot and Autostraddle!