Once you see the cover, it’ll become quickly clear why it feels so extra special to be able to introduce to you The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros, a queer, Jewish historical YA thriller that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about in weeks. It releases from Inkyard Press on September 7th, and I could not encourage you more strongly to use the preorder links below! Here’s the story:
Death lurks around every corner in this unforgettable Jewish historical fantasy about a city, a boy, and the shadows of the past that bind them both together.
Chicago, 1893. For Alter Rosen, this is the land of opportunity, and he dreams of the day he’ll have enough money to bring his mother and sisters to America, freeing them from the oppression they face in his native Romania.
But when Alter’s best friend, Yakov, becomes the latest victim in a long line of murdered Jewish boys, his dream begins to slip away. While the rest of the city is busy celebrating the World’s Fair, Alter is now living a nightmare: possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk, he is plunged into a world of corruption and deceit, and thrown back into the arms of a dangerous boy from his past. A boy who means more to Alter than anyone knows.
Now, with only days to spare until the dybbuk takes over Alter’s body completely, the two boys must race to track down the killer—before the killer claims them next.
And here’s the magnificently Gothic cover designed by Mary Luna with art direction by Erin Craig!
Yes, that is my blurb on there! “The City Beautiful is the haunting, queer Jewish historical thriller of my darkest dreams.” Extremely accurate!
Aden Polydoros grew up in Illinois and Arizona and has a bachelor’s degree in English from Northern Arizona University. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys going to antique fairs and flea markets. He can be found on Twitter at @adenpolydoros.
Today on the site we’re revealing the cover of The Papercutter by Cindy Rizzo (author of Exception to the Rule), which kicks off the Split series, about a divided United States in a Dystopian future. It releases from Bella Books on June 22, 2021, and here’s the story:
A deeply polarized and ungovernable United States of America has separated into two nations―the God Fearing States (GFS) and the United Progressive Regions (UPR).
Judith Braverman, a teenager living in an Orthodox Jewish community in the GFS, is not only a talented artist accomplished in the ancient craft of papercutting, she also has the gift of seeing into peoples’ souls―and can tell instantly if someone is good or evil.
Jeffrey Schwartz has no love for religion or conformity and yearns to escape to the freedom of the UPR. When he’s accepted into an experimental pen pal program and paired with Dani Fine, an openly queer girl in the UPR, he hopes that he can finally find a way out.
As danger mounts and their alarm grows, Judith embeds a secret code in her papercuts so that she and Jeffrey can tell Dani what’s happening to Jews in the GFS without raising suspicions from the government. When the three arrange a quick, clandestine meeting, Jeffrey is finally faced with the choice to flee or to stay and resist. And Judith is reeling from a pull toward Dani that is unlike anything she has ever felt before.
Cindy Rizzo is the author of three novels, Getting Back (2015, Ylva Publishing), Love Is Enough (self-published, 2014), and Exception to the Rule (self-published, 2013), which won the 2014 Goldie for Best Debut Author. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Unwrap These Presents (Ylva), Conference Call (Bella Books), Language of Love (Ylva), and Our Happy Hours, LGBT Voices from the Gay Bars (Flashpoint Publ.). Cindy has a long career in social justice philanthropy and has served on the boards of many LGBTQ organizations, including currently, Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE). She is a member of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the world’s largest LGBTQ synagogue. She lives in NYC with her wife and their three cats. They have two adult sons and three wonderful granddaughters.
I am delighted to have Xan West back on the site today to reveal the cover of their newest Romance, which just happens to take place during Chanukah! Eight Kinky Nights is a kinky polyamorous f/f Romance releasing just in time for the holiday on December 16, 2019, and includes friends to lovers, roommates to lovers, kink lessons, seasoned romance and getting your groove back tropes, and polyamorous, gray ace, pansexual, Jewish, fat, autistic, and disabled representation. (More details in the tags.) Here’s the official blurb, with content warnings located here:Newly divorced stone butch Jordan moves into her friend Leah’s spare room, ready, at 49, to take on a new job and finally explore kink and polyamory. But moving to NYC during the holidays sends grief crashing through her, and Jordan realizes that when she isn’t solely focused on caring for others, her own feelings are unavoidable. Including her feelings for Leah.
51-year-old queer femme Leah, an experienced submissive kink educator who owns a sex shop, has recently come to terms with being gray ace and is trying to rework her life and relationships to honor that.
Leah has a brainstorm to help them both: she offers Jordan eight kink lessons, one for each night of Chanukah, to help Jordan find her feet as a novice dominant, and to create a structured space where Leah can work on more deeply honoring her own consent, now that she knows she’s gray ace.
She’d planned to keep it casual, but instead the experience opens cracks in the armor Leah’s been using to keep people at a distance and keep herself safe. Now she needs to grapple with the trauma that’s been impacting her life for years.
Can these two autistic queers find ways to cope with the changes they are making in their lives and support each other, as they build something new they hadn’t thought was possible?
And here’s the warm, lovely, kinky cover, illustrated by Hannah Zayit!
But wait, there’s more! Here’s an excerpt!
“So I had this idea and I wanted to see what you thought about it,” Leah said.
“Okay, I’m listening.”
“I was thinking about Chanukah, and had this idea for a present for you. You said you wanted to learn how to be a good dominant. I thought I could give you lessons, as your present. One lesson per night of Chanukah.”
Jordan felt her eyes go wide. She really had not been expecting that. “But, I thought you didn’t want to, so you told Iris to do it.” She hadn’t even decided to say that, had just blurted it out. It probably came out wrong. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful.”
“No, no it’s fine. I just want to make sure I understand what you meant. You thought I was rejecting you?”
“Well. Yeah. I mean, I’m used to it. You never took me to kink things. You didn’t really want me to go to your class. You seemed all weird after the party.”
“Oh, fuck. I’ve made a mess of this. I’m sorry. I didn’t take you to kink things because I was trying to be respectful of your vanilla-ness. Now that I know you’re kinky…I think I’ve been playing catch-up. I don’t change how I think of things very fast, you know that about me. So…I’ve acted all weird, not because I’m rejecting you, but because I’m awkward with change.”
“That’s the only thing that’s going on? Nothing else is making this weird?” Jordan wanted to be sure.
“Well, I think that’s the main thing that’s going on.”
“Uh huh.” Jordan knew there was something else.
“There’s this other thing I’ve been dealing with, and I’m still figuring out how to handle it. It might’ve had some splash over.”
“Okay. Do you want to tell me about it?”
“I’m not sure I have the words. But yeah I would, maybe. Though not right this minute.”
“Okay. So you really want to give me kink lessons? I don’t want you to feel obligated.”
“Yes, I really want to.”
“That would actually be great. It was okay getting stuff for my toybag with Iris, and I like her and everything, but if you were up for teaching me, I think that would feel…safer, if that makes sense?”
“Yeah, I get that. We have such a deep friendship, it could make a safer place to learn.”
Jordan nodded. “I trust you, and it feels better learning from another autistic person, honestly. You won’t expect me to learn in an allistic way.”
Leah grinned at her. “I definitely will not expect that. I didn’t even consider that aspect of this.”
“It feels like a big deal, for me anyway. I haven’t had the best learning experiences. You know that, you saw how hard college was for me.”
“Yep, I remember. So I was thinking about eight lessons, one per night, though eight nights in a row might be too much, so they can always be postponed.”
“How would you feel about a structure where I do some teaching, then we do a short scene where you get to practice what we covered? And then we could do follow-up, if you have questions or want feedback.”
“So a bit like where Iris taught me some safety stuff about clips, and then I got to try it out?”
“Yeah, but a bit more formal than that. I might even make a handout for the lesson, and it would be a bit longer, probably. Not quite so quick and dirty.”
“I do better if I get to practice, and a handout would help me, actually. I also get things better if you can lead me to realizing them myself, and help me connect to other things I know.”
“Okay, I can work with that. So it sounds like this is something you want to do, then?”
Jordan took several slow breaths and held the idea for a few moments, just to be sure. “Yes. This is a really wonderful present, Leah.”
“I want to be sure it doesn’t fuck things up with our friendship. You mean so much to me, Jordan. I don’t want this to ruin what we have. So we need to keep it strictly about learning, okay?” Leah’s voice was raw.
“I don’t want us to ruin what we have, either. It’s been thirty years, darlin’. We made it this far; I really think we’ll be okay. Our friendship might change, might have new layers to it, move slightly differently. But then, that’s already started, and it seems okay so far, yes?”
Leah nodded. “I might need you to reassure me about this,” she whispered, closing her eyes.
“I can do that. We have a solid foundation. I truly believe that. We’re just adding new aspects to what we already have. Sex, kink, romance…none of that is more important than friendship.” Jordan watched Leah’s face carefully to see how she reacted to the fact that she’d snuck the word romance in there. A small tentative smile grew on Leah’s face, like she was rolling the words around in her head, wanting to believe in them. She definitely didn’t seem to object to the word. Jordan would just leave it there, for now.
Eight Kinky Nights is available for preorder from Gumroad and Amazon and releases December 16, 2019!
Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, an autistic queer fat Jewish genderqueer writer with multiple disabilities who spends a lot of time on Twitter.
Xan’s erotica has been published widely, including in the Best S/M Erotica series, the Best Gay Erotica series, and the Best Lesbian Erotica series. Xan’s story “Trying Submission,” won the 2018 National Leather Association John Preston Short Fiction Award. Their collection of queer kink erotica, Show Yourself to Me, will be rereleased soon.
After over 15 years of writing and publishing queer kink erotica short stories, Xan has begun to also write longer form queer kink romance. Their recent work still centers kinky, trans and non-binary, fat, disabled, queer trauma survivors. It leans more towards centering Jewish characters, ace and aro spec characters, autistic characters, and polyamorous networks. Xan has two other queer kink romances currently available: Nine of Swords, Reversed and Their Troublesome Crush.
Make way, make way, for the first bigender MC in traditionally published YA! (Or at least that I know of, but I feel pretty good about this.) This is a very exciting cover for me to be revealing in particular because the author is the person who taught me the very time “bigender” lo a bunch of years ago, so I’m thrilled to be showing off the cover of Somebody Told Me by Mia Siegert, which releases from Carolrhoda on April 7, 2020 and tells the story of a Russian Jewish bigender teen who discovers they can overhear confessions to their priest uncle and takes it upon themselves to become a “guardian angel.” Here’s the story:
After an assault, bigender seventeen-year-old Aleks/Alexis is looking for a fresh start―so they voluntarily move in with their uncle, a Catholic priest. In their new bedroom, Aleks/Alexis discovers they can overhear parishioners in the church confessional. Moved by the struggles of these “sinners,” Aleks/Alexis decides to anonymously help them, finding solace in their secret identity: a guardian angel instead of a victim.
But then Aleks/Alexis overhears a confession of another priest admitting to sexually abusing a parishioner. As they try to uncover the priest’s identity before he hurts anyone again, Aleks/Alexis is also forced to confront their own abuser and come to terms with their past trauma.
And here’s the brilliantly bi-coded cover, designed by Kimberly Morales!
But wait, there’s more! Want an excerpt? We’ve got you covered with the entire first chapter, so come check it out! (cw: internalized transphobia)
The last place I ever thought I’d live was next to a Catholic church.
I stared at the street view on my phone screen. The building I would live in looked pretty normal. You know, two stories, flat roof and brick siding and a fire escape. And the church itself was pretty humble-looking too. Not some huge cathedral with gothic architecture and creepy statues of Jesus getting crucified. At least on the outside.
“The rectory’s actually very comfortable, according to your aunt,” Mom said, knuckles clenched so tightly around the steering wheel that they were blanched. “Very homey, aside from the church office. It’s basically an apartment. The couple of other priests attached to Saint Martha’s live in a separate space, so you’ll have a fair amount of privacy.”
“Yup,” I said, putting my phone away. We’d been over this before.
Mom’s eyes remained locked on the road ahead of her. Not one glance behind. “And the cemetery is right across the street. Your uncle said you’re welcome to treat it like your backyard and use it anytime. Well, almost anytime. No barbeques during a funeral.”
I snorted. “He actually said that?”
“Mm-hmm. He was dead serious, too.”
Damn. What sort of heathen did he take me for? Granted, I hadn’t even seen the guy in years. Not since he went from being an Episcopal priest to a Catholic one. According to my internet research, there are only about two hundred people in the country who’ve gone this route—marry, convert, become a priest—so it was no surprise that Uncle Bryan took his new calling seriously. But you’d think that if he got to keep his wife, he would’ve been allowed to keep a sense of humor too. “What does he think I’d do if someone died? Tie a badminton net up on the statues? Play horseshoes with the American flags?”
Mom chimed in: “Croquet through the headstones, stomping over letters and stuffed animals for the deceased.”
“Damn, Mom. And I thought I was brutal.” I waited for her smile. It never came. She gazed ahead, unblinking. She’d never admit she was hurting, that my decision tore her to bits, but she radiated so much pain I could feel it in my chest.
I sank in my seat. Well, no need to keep riffing about the cemetery. Wasn’t like I was planning to set foot in there anyway. Not because I was afraid or thought cemeteries were eerie, even though they kind of were. They just made me sad. Maybe a little angry. I wasn’t really sure why. Last year, maybe I’d have taken advantage of it with my cosplay group just to get an edgy photo for tons of likes. Something provocative by the inevitable statue of Mary. I’d done that sort of stupid shit a lot, especially with him.
Don’t go there, Aleks, I reminded myself. That part of my life was over. No more trolling, no more CAPSLOCK LOLZ, and definitely no more being an asshole just for a bunch of likes. I was going to pretend that segment of time didn’t exist. I’d always been good at pretending.
Although I should have, I hadn’t deleted my social media accounts. Believe it or not, Mom was the one who convinced me not to do it. She thought that one day I’d get nostalgic and not have anything to look back on. I’d taken her word for it because she’d been in tears as she said it. Figured that came from personal experience, maybe with my aunt. So I just disabled notifications and comments and logged out of everything. I didn’t want to deal with the messages from my friends. Former friends, I mean. Why was past-tense so hard to say? To think?
I didn’t want to deal with the other bullshit either. You know, the “faux trans” or “ugly girl” crap that made me nauseous. I’d dealt with that for years, people refusing to believe my identity was legit, people insisting that I was calling myself bigender for attention. I was done with going to conventions where at least three girls would approach me, asking me if I was a boy or girl and, if I said boy, ask “Are you sure?” about seven times before adding, “because you’re really hot.” And I didn’t know if that was because they were lesbians or because they wanted to make sure I was an effeminate guy because that meant they were still straight. And my friends would laugh, especially him, saying, “Yeah, you’re such a hot guy” while the voice inside said something else:
Where’s your dick at? Huh?
Who does that?
That voice still made me shudder. It crept in like a waiting storm, then suddenly it was there, breaking down my mental walls like a hurricane, destroying everything in its path. It was there way before I got in trouble. And afterward, it never went away. Sometimes the voice sounded just like one of my exes. Ring, ring, ring. Buzzing in my ears. No matter how many times I tried to tune it out, it wouldn’t leave me. No. It became louder. Faster. Pulsed like my heartbeat. Like its own breathing, living thing.
Louder, louder, LOUDER.
The noise was almost unbearable by the time we pulled up in front of a sign that read SAINT MARTHA ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. Loud enough for me to scrape my nails against my scalp, sliding down to rub my fingers against the back of my neck, getting the tension out. Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut—
“You doing okay, Aleks?” Mom asked, her voice shaking.
Trying to sound convincing, I said, “Yep. I’m good.” After all, this was my idea.
“Because if you’re having second thoughts, we can call this off. I could ask for an emergency leave from work—”
“Mom, we’ve been over this.”
“Seriously, don’t.” And then to prove my point, “If you do, I’m going to feel guilty as hell. So don’t. Please.”
She fell silent.
The second I’d told my parents I wasn’t safe, Mom had started looking for transfers. There weren’t any openings. I couldn’t let her quit, not when she’d spent so long building her career, trying to get her twenty years to collect pension. And Dad was stationed in Iraq. It wasn’t like I could say “come home” when he was on active duty.
There were only two options I could think of.
One: Do nothing.
Two: Move in with Aunt Anne Marie and Uncle Bryan while Mom waited for a transfer to go through or until I went to college, whichever came first. I had two more months of summer break before I had to decide where I’d spend my senior year of high school, so it was the perfect time to move.
“You know what kind of people they are, right?” Mom had asked me once she’d regained the ability to speak.
“Yeah, I know,” I’d said, although I was mostly guessing based on offhand comments she and my dad had made. My parents had strong opinions on Catholicism, so strong I used to fear that if I ever met a Catholic, they’d curse me simply for existing. But then I got older. I learned that extremists and shitty people exist everywhere. Sure, some Catholics might be scary, but a person could say that about members of literally any group. I was trying to be a less shitty person myself these days, so I didn’t want to make assumptions about my aunt and uncle. Especially because I wasn’t like anyone else I knew, even in the cosplay communities I’d belonged to.
The last time I’d seen my aunt and uncle, I was little. So little, I didn’t remember how old I’d been. I didn’t know if they had converted to Catholicism yet or if Uncle Bryan was still an Episcopal priest. I did remember being entranced by Aunt Anne Marie’s sewing machine and liking Uncle Bryan’s laugh. But I also remember an argument through the walls and the door slamming. Mom’s sobs: What happened to her?
What happened, I guess, was that she was a good Episcopalian girl who grew up to marry an Episcopal priest, and then gradually both she and her husband got into Catholicism. Fun fact, courtesy of my internet research: Protestant clergy are sometimes allowed to switch teams and become Catholic priests, and if they’re already married, they’re allowed to stay married. I still didn’t get it though. Like, did celibacy laws still apply? In which case, what was the point?
My aunt was a puzzle even without all that. My grandparents on Mom’s side were pretty liberal, always vocal about equality, just cool in general. They died a couple of years ago, but back when I was twelve, after Mom told them about me coming out as bigender, they called to tell us all about joining their local PFLAG group. But Aunt Anne Marie wasn’t like them. I had so many friends who’d broken away from their conservative families as they discovered more inclusive values. I didn’t think I’d met a single person who came from a family as chill as Mom’s and left for Faux News. It was different. Weird.
Living with them still had to be better than what I was running from. Coming here was the safest option, because it was the last place anyone would ever think to look for me.
Mom parked the truck and turned the ignition off. “We’re here.”
The rectory—the priests’ residence—looked just like it had online. Right up against it was another building that I knew was the church. It actually looked like an extension of the same building, except the windows on the church part were more arched and the double doors at the front looked more imposing.
We climbed out of the truck. I approached the building and traced my fingers along the cracks in the brick facade. Up close, it looked nicer than in the pictures. They must have done some renovations recently.
There was some chattering and commotion as people came out the front doors of the church, a few yards away. Don’t make eye contact, don’t make eye contact—but they went the other direction, oblivious. I exhaled, relieved. For now, I was still invisible. Just the way I wanted.
The front door of the rectory opened. Immediately, I withdrew from the wall, moving to stand next to Mom. An older woman clattered down the steps with an uneven stride, like she was in pain but trying not to limp. Surely that couldn’t be . . .
Mom cleared her throat. “Hey, Annie.”
The old woman corrected her: “Anne Marie. Please.”
I barely kept from gawking as Aunt Anne Marie approached. This didn’t make sense. Aunt Anne Marie wasn’t that much older than Mom. Like a few years. This wrinkly-faced woman looked like she should have been my grandma instead of my aunt.
She embraced Mom stiffly and briefly, like she was being polite even though she couldn’t stand to be near her. Judging from Mom’s expression, the feeling was mutual. Next, she moved to me hugging me for just a second, if even. Like she wasn’t sure it would be welcome. “It’s—it’s good to see you, Alexis.”
A rock formed in the pit of my stomach.
Before I could open my mouth, Mom said, “It’s Aleks today. He and him.”
“It’s fine,” I told Mom quickly. I’d already decided I wouldn’t publicly present as male here. I didn’t know if that counted as going back in the closet or whether it was self-preservation.
Mom frowned. “Pronouns are important.”
“I know, but not today. Okay?” I touched her arm. “It’s fine. I promise.”
Mom frowned but dropped it. Good. Last thing I wanted was super high tension around me before I even moved in. Besides, this was their home. I was a temporary guest. Coming here was my idea. I knew what I was getting into. Sort of.
Aunt Anne Marie didn’t respond to my mother. She looked at me, smiling. It seemed genuine but also strained, like it’d been so long since she smiled it ached. She looked so old. So tired. So thin. Had Uncle Bryan aged that quickly too? “I was worried you’d look more . . .” She trailed off, leaving me to fill in the gap:
Butch? Queer? Covered in glitter with rainbows shooting out of my butt?
Aunt Anne Marie tried again. “I was worried you’d stand out. If you stay like this, you’ll fit right in.”
I exhaled with relief. Good. Fitting right in was exactly what I needed, even if boy-me was going to hate it in about 0.0008 seconds, and probably girl-me too. It didn’t matter how much this place sucked because it would be safe. If I hid inside my skin, I wouldn’t be in direct danger. No one would notice the ugly girl. She was innocuous and easy to ignore, which was perfect, even though sometimes, just sometimes, I wished she wasn’t so ugly.
Here’s the sad part: I never thought she was ugly until people told me again and again that she was. All those school formals, me standing awkwardly by the wall as everyone was asked to dance except me. That kid who threw a tape dispenser at me in class, telling me to put it on my upper lip to rip the mustache off. The classmates who called me an ugly slut for wearing layers of tank tops in winter when, really, I just got overheated and sweated through my clothes. I guess the masochist in me preferred the bullying to the silence I now was seeking. Any attention was better than no attention, or so I’d thought. I knew better now.
How would people here react if they saw two different people with the same face? If I left the house as a girl one day and a boy the very next? Would they think I had a twin? Think it was a costume? Condemn me to hell? Hold signs outside the rectory and shout slurs at me?
I could picture all that so clearly. Images of horrible things happening to me, worst-case disasters, gleefully narrated by “the voice.” No matter how many times I told it to shut up, it was always there. Left ear, right ear, crashing like a turbulent sea.
“This is just temporary,” Mom said to Aunt Anne Marie. Then, almost as an afterthought, “Thank you for doing this.”
Aunt Anne Marie looked at me instead of my mother. “We’re family.” Like she was erasing Mom from existence. The tension was so thick, it was almost visible. Was there ever a time when she and Mom were close? Like when they were children? Had they confided in each other, whispering secrets in the dark? It was hard to imagine. The few times I’d asked Mom about Aunt Anne Marie, she’d said, “I don’t want to talk about her.” I never pressed. My parents had taught me that if someone doesn’t want to talk about something, you should leave them alone. Don’t prod snakes.
“There are going to be a few ground rules,” Aunt Anne Marie said.
“Ground rules?” Mom asked. “You didn’t say anything about ground rules on the phone.”
Aunt Anne Marie turned on my mother. “I haven’t seen you in years. Not a word of communication. When you called me out of the blue, I gladly stepped in. Money doesn’t grow on trees—”
“Fine!” Mom reached in her purse for her wallet. “If you want money—”
“I don’t want your money. I want to get to know my niece. Is that a crime?”
I flinched. From that perspective, she sort of had a point, even though she’d called me “niece” after Mom had requested male pronouns today on my behalf. Although it was hard to swallow, I could forgive it for now. Tons of people made mistakes, misgendering people out of ignorance rather than cruelty. I’d known to expect it here.
I’d never heard the term bigender until I was twelve. Honestly, I can’t remember if I’d ever heard it. One day I woke up and, out of nowhere, said, “I’m bigender.” Everything immediately felt right, like I’d had a massive epiphany. Simultaneously, it made me really . . . lonely. I couldn’t even find much use of the term online. Of course, the internet is full of people who identify outside of the male or female boxes. Genderqueer and genderfluid have floated around in the mainstream for a little while, but those terms never fit me. There’s a lot of crossover in those brackets, a lot of beautiful transition and blending, but for as different as I was, everything was black and white. There was no gray space. I’d wake up in the morning and know whether I was a girl or a boy. Rarely, in the middle of the day, I’d change. When that happened, it wasn’t a gradual shift. More like a light switch. Off on, on off. And almost always, that sudden shift felt bad.
But now wasn’t the time to think about that. Now was the time to play “blend in” and avoid rocking the boat so that I’d stay safe. My aunt and uncle, despite their religious views, were safe. Thou shalt not kill. Maybe I could suggest an addendum: Thou shalt not be a douchebag to thy nephew.
“What are the ground rules?” I asked.
Aunt Anne Marie looked delighted that I was talking to her. “We eat dinner together at six unless your uncle is helping a troubled parishioner.”
I wondered if “troubled” meant a depressed person or a sinner. Or were depressed people automatically considered sinners?
“If he’s late, we wait for him . . .”
Ooh, toxic patriarchy! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!
“. . . unless he tells us ahead of time that we should eat without him, which is the case today. He’s helping out with the summer day camp over at the school.” She nodded toward a building across the way: Saint Martha Elementary. “We’ll eat without him. He’s a very busy man.”
I’m sure he is.
“Also,” Aunt Anne Marie said, “do you have a nice dress?”
Define “nice dress.”
“Um . . . yeah? I think,” I said cautiously as the voice in my head screamed, It’s a trap. “If not, I could sew one, I guess. Why?”
“You’ll need one for Sundays, when we go to church.”
Mom’s eyes widened. “You can’t make Aleks—”
“Mass is nonnegotiable,” my aunt said. “If Alexis is going to stay here, it’s what we do. Can you imagine a priest’s niece not attending?”
Mom grumbled beneath her breath, “Unfortunately I can imagine a lot of things.”
“Do you want us to help or not?”
Mom glanced at me, like somehow she was failing even though she was trying her absolute hardest.
I touched her arm. “It’s just a dress.”
“It’s more than just a dress.”
She was right, but that wasn’t a problem for today. “Mom, really. It’s okay. I can deal.”
At least for the next few months.
Mom hesitated but then sighed. “No making Aleks say grace before meals or any of that.”
“That’d be her choice.”
I flinched. Was the emphasis on “her” intentional, or was I extra sensitive today?
When Mom called my aunt and uncle to bring up the idea of me staying there temporarily, one of the first things she said was, “Alexis is bigender. That means some of the time, they identify as female and Alexis, and some of the time they identify as male and Aleks. They’re also queer. If either of you make them uncomfortable or spout homophobic, nonbinary-phobic nonsense, I’ll rip out your throat.”
Mom could be a little theatrical sometimes. And by sometimes, I mean all the time. I had to inherit it from someone. I’m sure my aunt and uncle weren’t impressed, but I thought it was pretty damn funny. And it certainly couldn’t have sent a clearer message.
Let me give my aunt the benefit of the doubt just for today. Maybe for the next week, since there would have to be an adjustment. A learning curve.
What if it’s longer than a week? I tried to ignore the nagging worry. What if she uses only female pronouns forever?
Aunt Anne Marie continued, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Alexis finds that this is the right path for her.”
Sure. I might also find that I enjoyed bashing my head against concrete.
Aunt Anne Marie looked at her watch. “As I said, your uncle will be working late tonight.” Was he really working late or was he deliberately avoiding Mom?
. . . or me.
“Let’s get your things to your room, get you settled, and have a little dinner. Okay?” She forced another big smile. “I’m so happy I’ll finally get to know you.”
“Sounds good,” I said, forcing some pep into my voice.
As we walked to the back of the truck, Mom latched to my side. Quietly, she said, “If you need an escape . . .”
“I’ll let you know immediately. I promise.”
I embraced my mother, cutting her off. I turned my face against her neck, trying to remember the smell of her perfume and the way her huge hoop earrings jingled. “Thank you,” I whispered. “For letting me do this.”
“I’d do anything to protect you.”
“Is there anything else I should be doing?”
“No, Mom. It’s not you.” It’s them, I thought. It’s their fault.
“Aleks?” Mom asked, worried.
“I’m fine,” I said instinctively. Then, with the bravest face I could muster, I grabbed the first box.
One of my favorite things about blogging is pushing myself into reading new things, and I could not have made a better choice for my first graphic novel than Mooncakes, written by Suzanne Walker and drawn by Wendy Xu. This book is a freaking delight, targeted to a YA audience and featuring a queer hard-of-hearing witch who lives with her grandmas and is delighted at the return of her old friend, a non-binary werewolf. Together, they fight a demon and celebrate Jewish and Chinese heritage and honestly it is all just glorious!
A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.
Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.
One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.
Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.
Keep faith, in the broad sense of the word. It doesn’t have to be a religion, unless you want it to be. It doesn’t have to speak about the universe, unless you want it to. It doesn’t have to be about anyone but yourself. Keep faith, in other planets and other houses; be it in the face of danger, grief, or while you spread your arms and laugh. Keep faith the same way you keep hope, bright and shiny, ever present. Keep faith in all your queer, beautiful self. Because you deserve it.
This is an anthology of 14 short stories, by 14 queer authors, where faith and queerness intersect. Incidental, purposeful, we-exist-and-that’s-why queerness. And faith meaning whatever you want it to mean.
In “And I Entreated,” nonbinary trans kid Gil is preparing for their bar mitzvah on a cramped space station, while their mom Shoshana has turned into a houseplant. “And I Entreated” is a fun story, but it also tackles some serious issues, like how trans people can have different feelings about misgendering, how traditional Jewish observance interacts with nonbinary gender, and whether to keep the term “bar mitzvah” – which is gendered in itself.
I have been writing a lot of stories that are about Jewishness and growing up, in one way or another; and also incorporating trans and/or intersex aspects. And I confess I always wanted to write a story from the perspective of a houseplant! So this time I put the two together. While I was working on “And I Entreated,” our kid was also preparing for his bar mitzvah. Our household is very different – we are two trans parents, for instance –, but some aspects of Jewish family life are similar regardless. Including the endless practicing of the Torah reading: like Gil’s mom, I also know our kid’s Torah portion backwards, forwards, upside down… His bar mitzvah went great, and I have no doubt that Gil’s will too. With this story, I’d like to offer a bit of warmth and belonging to everyone around the world, regardless of religious affiliation.
“Bigger Than Us” by Megan Manzano
“Bigger Than Us” is about two teenaged girls, Jude and Mari, who have to face a reality they had been ignoring since they were children—Jude could be a Mage. In the country of Aurora, Mages are reincarnations of Gods and are immediately whisked away by the government to become servants of the people. Jude always believed she was meant for this path, but falling in love with Mari threw a rather large wrench in her future. She has to reconcile being a Mage with her love for Mari and if ultimately, either is worth keeping.
While we may not be in a fantasy world like Jude and Mari, it was important to show not every decision is black and white. As a teenager, and especially getting older, we tend to question systems in place and the responsibilities they’ve placed on our shoulders. My hugest motivator for “Bigger Than Us” was teasing out these nuances and making the reader ask what happens when your faith in something is shaken, especially by someone you love.
“Droplets Of Starlight” by Vanshika Prusty
“Droplets of Starlight” is a short story about Payal, a girl who is head over heels, struggling with her heart and her society. We follow her, an almost eighteen-year-old girl who is bisexual, and who struggles with understanding how she fits into her Indian society because of her sexuality.
Set in New Delhi during the monsoon, “Droplets of Starlight” will take you on a quiet journey of struggle, acceptance and love all under thunderous clouds and starry night skies.
“Godzilla” by Kate Brauning
I love this story because I love Halloween– I never got to trick-or-treat as a child (though I go every year with my nieces and nephews now!), so it was fun for me to write that into reality. I pretty quickly knew I wanted to write Emily’s story because while in some countries progress toward safety and acceptance has been made for queer kids, even in those places, adolescents find themselves dealing with really complex and difficult situations, often from lacking the relationship modeling cis-gendered, straight people their age often have. Churches meaning to be accepting and welcoming too so often hold their LGBTQ members up like mascots or poster children of their own progressiveness, and the spotlight is a hard place to be as you learn who you are and how to love. An anthology like this full of hard and transformative and hopeful moments about this intersection between faith and queerness is priceless, and I’m so honored to have been able to celebrate that through Emily.
“Golden Hue” by Mayara Barros
My story is about finding hope in the unknown and what happens when you die. It’s set in a fantasy world, where people have powers, but technology has also developed to about our current era. Even with all that, there are still mysteries that neither science nor magic can solve.
I lost my grandmother last year and it still hurts some times. She never knew about by queerness, so I guess I wrote this story to tell myself she still loves me wherever she is.
“How Not To Die (Again)” by Gabriela Martins
Do you ever just have a crush on someone and deny it so hard that you totally die? Because Margô can’t take all the dying anymore. Every single time she denies her feelings for Josie, the universe flips her off by killing her in a yet more ridiculous way.
I wrote this short story because I think we all deserve some sapphic joy, especially romcom style. Especially ridiculous. Especially Brazilian. Especially trans. Anyway, there’s a lot we deserve! Faith in this story comes very much in the form of having faith in yourself. … because, don’t you doubt it. If you keep self-sabotaging (YOU. You know I’m talking about you!), the universe will find a way to teach you a lesson.
“Life Is A Story Of Change” by Elly Ha
Even when she didn’t know the terminology as a young teen, she knew she was ace and aro. Knowing she’ll always be ace, she never expected to doubt herself. Especially not when she gets to college and starts to fall in love with her best friend of almost a decade. What changed? Are her anti-depressants clearing her head so that she can focus on her own long-lost feelings? Is she simply maturing? Are her Korean parents right, and she’s finally found The One? The scarier question continues to gnaw at her: is she still ace if she feels attracted to him this way?
“Life is a Story of Change” is a semi-autobiographical story at the intersection of mental illness, sexuality, and personal faith. I wrote it from my personal experience with self-doubt in questioning my sexuality once I fell in love with who I can only describe as my ride-or-die partner. Despite that I am happily in love, I also endure occasional existential crises, always asking myself, “What am I, if not ace and aro?” For others who end up questioning their hearts, I hope that this story serves as a reminder that you are valid no matter where you land on the a-spectrum. You can be a little ace or entirely ace, or, like me, you can just be sure that you’re not not ace.
“Nothing Left Standing” by C. T. Callahan
“Nothing Left Standing” is the story of a queer teen, who—facing abuse and bigoted parents at home—decides to run away with his boyfriend for a chance to find his happily ever after. It’s a story about coming from trauma and pain and learning to put your faith in someone else. And essentially, it’s about that struggle of wanting to be optimistic and proactive, and the fear that that’s naive and you’re just going to get hurt again.
I have a very complicated relationship with religion and capital “F” Faith, so when I was asked to write a story about holding on to faith, I was instantly reminded of my life in high school. I went to a Catholic high school, and while my friends were all praying to God, I was constantly putting my faith in other things—music, people, fiction, etc. In the long run, it’s probably easier to have faith in religion because you aren’t looking at a flawed person who’s guaranteed to mess up, but I’d been so betrayed by it that my last resort was putting faith in people with the constant fear that it was only a matter of time before they let me down. And so I wrote this story to explore that fear, the feeling of sitting on a ledge and knowing it’s only a matter of time before you fall, but doing it anyway because that’s what faith is about, and when your life refuses to give you something to have faith in, sometimes you just have to make your own.
“On The Other Side” by Shenwei Chang
“On the Other Side” is a story that draws on my own experiences with Buddhism, which my mom’s side of the family practices. It’s not a very commonly portrayed religion, so I wanted to shine a little light on it. My story doesn’t dig super deep into the belief system, but it does touch on a some of the rituals (disclaimer: Buddhism is an extremely diverse religion/spiritual tradition, so I’m limited to portraying the ones I know).
I also wanted to depict the experience of having an ambivalent relationship with faith and religion that I haven’t seen very often when it comes to fiction. This story is dedicated those of us who are half-familiar and half-ignorant when it comes to our parents’ faiths, who have some exposure but not enough to feel entirely comfortable in a religious setting, who are receptive to immersing ourselves more in it but don’t know how or where to start. This story is also dedicated to all the queer people who wanted to come out to one or both of their parents but didn’t get the chance to because their parent(s) passed away before they could. It’s hard to cope with not knowing how your parent(s) would have reacted and not being able to share something so intimate and important with them. I want those people to know they’re not alone.
“Read The Room” by Sofia Soter
“Read the Room” features many of my favorite things: clueless teens, rituals, queerness and polyam crushes. It’s a short and sweet story, centered around Jo, a girl whose experiences with love and spirituality mirror my own in many ways; there’s specificity to her world and life that I sometimes shy away from writing, worrying about how (un)relatable it might be, but I hope it resonates with readers who are—like me, like Jo—looking for connection with others and themselves.
“Ten Steps To Becoming A Successful Blogger” by Julia Rios
I’ve been thinking about influencers a lot lately. It’s fascinating to me how and why certain people become cultural touchpoints, and what that means, both for them, and for their followers. In times of difficulty, we can look for messages all around us, and I wanted to think explicitly about the messages I give and the ones I listen to. It’s easy to dismiss Instagrammers and YouTubers as shallow and frivolous, but I think they can be doing good and important work, and I wanted to explore why and how that might happen for queer people who feel isolated in their daily lives. Also, I just really love the idea of a Bigfoot makeover. Glam Bigfoot!
“The Language Of Magic” by Adiba Jaigirdar
“The Language Of Magic” is the story of Asha, a Bangladeshi teen in Ireland, who wakes up in the early morning of the new year to a hint of magic in the air. The magic presents her with a vision of her grandmother back in Bangladesh. Motivated by her vision, Asha decides she has to find a way to travel back to Bangladesh, even though she knows it’s almost impossible. But maybe with the help of a stranger, the impossible can be possible.
I was motivated to write “The Language Of Magic” because when I was a kid and living in Saudi Arabia as an immigrant, my maternal grandfather (my nanabhai) suddenly passed away. My Mom was distraught and it was my first major experience with death. But we couldn’t go back to Bangladesh. We couldn’t attend the funeral. We couldn’t comfort my grandmother or the rest of our family. We were mourning but there was so much distance, and that distance created a strange boundary and a sort of emptiness to my sadness. After that experience, I moved to Ireland for good and over time I lost more members of my family. Every time I experienced the same lack of closure, the same kind of distance and emptiness. Unfortunately, this is simply a part of being an immigrant. I wanted to imagine a world where this wasn’t a part of being an immigrant. Where the universe, or magic, wanted to help us out and give us the closure that we need.
“The Messenger” by Mary Fan
“The Messenger” tells the story of a woman who transferred her consciousness into a probe in order to explore the multiverse. After years of dimension-hopping alone, she accidentally crash-lands near a pre-industrial civilization and is mistaken for a miracle — a prophesized messenger from the Infinite Spirit. At first, she goes along with it. But when she falls in love with a local girl, she realizes she can no longer keep up the charade.
I grew up atheist—not in a “God is dead” kind of way, but in that religion just wasn’t a thing in our household (probably a byproduct of my parents’ upbringing during the Chinese Cultural Revolution). Yet the studies of religion and faith always fascinated me. I spent years in church choirs both for the music and because I found the rituals fascinating (and was fortunate enough to have very accepting local churches that didn’t care whether their choristers were also worshipers). With “The Messenger,” I wanted to explore the question of just what faith is. And to depict a world where two women can fall in love, and it’s not a big deal.
“Whatever She Wants” by Kess Costales
“Whatever She Wants” is a queer fake-dating story about a Filipino teen named Theodora who is asexual and biromantic with a Catholic upbringing. She believes in God as a creator who loves and accepts all people, including those who are queer. The story shows her journey of discovering her sexuality along with her classmates. The story shows her journey toward self-acceptance as she discovers romantic love for her best friend, Magnolia, and for a boy named Alastor. After she and her best friend break up with their boyfriends, they agree to pretend to date each other to make their exes jealous. But the entire, Theodora hides that she’s in love with her. Spoiler: there’s a happy ending to it as they come out to each other and realize that they stopped pretending somewhere along the way.
When Gabhi approached me with this opportunity, I quickly realized the only thing I could write was something personal and similar to my own journey (except being in love with my best friend). I grew up Catholic like Theodora, attending Catholic schools and going to Mass on Sundays. And like Theodora, as I started understanding myself and my sexuality, I realized I couldn’t believe in a God who wouldn’t love all people, especially if He supposedly created us in His image. So I wrote about my doubts and emotions through Theodora and hoped to share a story that resonates with someone else. Plus, it’s always nice to have a chance to write something sweet and fluffy when life is dark and difficult.
Today on the site we’re revealing yet another super cute cover by Xan West, this one for Their Troublesome Crush, the contemporary polyam trans m/cis f Romance novella that kicks off the Kink & Showtunes series with its release on April 16, 2019! Here’s the blurb:
In this queer polyamorous m/f romance novella, two metamours realize they have crushes on each other while planning their shared partner’s birthday party together. Ernest, a Jewish autistic demiromantic queer fat trans man submissive, and Nora, a Jewish disabled queer fat femme cis woman switch, have to contend with an age gap, a desire not to mess up their lovely polyamorous dynamic as metamours, the fact that Ernest has never been attracted to a cis person before, and the reality that they are romantically attracted to each other, all while planning their dominant’s birthday party and trying to do a really good job.
(An illustrated cover featuring a fat brunette cane-using woman in a cupcake-printed dress holding hands with a fat redheaded trans man in jeans and an open plaid shirt in front of a bakery display case full of cupcakes.)
Ernest had the best idea for Daddy’s birthday and he couldn’t wait to share it with Nora. When would she get here? He was so excited that his hands were fluttery, and he was bouncing a little. They were going to throw Gideon an amazing birthday party, and Gideon was going to ruffle his hair and call him a good boy, and cup Nora’s cheek and give her that sweet smile he had just for her, and he would tell them both they did a good job. There was nothing better than doing a good job.
Ernest was getting ahead of himself, he knew, but he couldn’t help it. He always got giddy at the beginning of tasks; this was their first joint task doing service for Gideon as metamours, and that was exciting, and Ernest was rather bouncy in general, anyway. Luckily, Nora was more grounded and moved slowly and deliberately, so they would balance each other out, he thought. Ernest had this image in his head, of himself tugging on Daddy’s hand, racing forward, unruly short red curls going every which way, and Nora holding Gideon’s other hand, moving slow and steady, gazing up at him like he hung the moon, her tight dark curls framing her face in a somewhat controlled cloud. Maybe there was a song in that, he thought, the two rhythms dancing around the melody, balancing it. His fingers moved on his thighs, building the rhythms, as his head started to fill with the melody. Then these two women sat right next to him, talking loudly about the bat mitzvah they were planning, and he lost the song altogether. He should have sat in the corner.
Ernest moved to the corner table, which was quieter, thankfully, but he couldn’t get the song back, so he sketched out the idea in his notebook and turned his attention back to the party planning. There were a ton of cupcake shops in NYC, but Nora favored this one on the Lower East Side; they were meeting there so Ernest could try them out. He still wasn’t sure cupcakes were the right choice. They would be perfect for his own birthday, but perhaps Gideon would want something more dignified. He had his eye on a pie shop in Brooklyn. But it made sense to at least try the cupcakes, didn’t it? How could he resist a chance to try cupcakes?
Maybe they should get a half dozen and sample. It would give him a chance to take leftovers home and see what Daddy thought. But he knew Nora was diabetic and that made it thorny to fill the table with cupcakes. What if it was a mean thing to do, since she probably could only have a few bites? At least, that was what she generally did with desserts, when they had gotten them in the past. They always shared so she could have a taste but not mess up her blood sugar. But maybe it wasn’t right for him to not ask just because she was diabetic? He didn’t want to act like he was in charge of her food choices. He thought it through, considering it from a few angles, trying to figure out what would be the most considerate and the least intrusive and the most respectful of her autonomy, his brain filling with these spiraling thoughts that contradicted each other, until he remembered what Jax had said to him once: “People think they are being so caring when they comment on what you eat, when you’re a fat diabetic. They don’t see the way our food choices are constantly scrutinized and judged, the way we’re so often blamed for having diabetes, how we have unhelpful non-consensual help pushed on us all the time. What I really need is to be left alone…unless I ask for information or help.”
Well, that cleared things up. He would do the sampler thing and try a few flavors, and let her do what made sense for her. Ernest got enough shit from the world as a mid-sized fat not-really-passing-most-of-the-time trans guy, for eating sweets in public…it seemed likely that as a larger fat diabetic femme cis woman, she got a whole lot more. He definitely didn’t want to add to that. Once he connected those ideas, a whole bunch more slotted into place, as he thought about unhelpful non-consensual help, and all the ways it messed things up, about the ways that kind of help interacted with ableism and fat oppression and misogyny. He started mapping it out in his notebook, connecting the dots for himself. Writing it, mapping it, helped make it stick when there was a gap in a pattern like this, like it was reinforcing a piece of the puzzle that had been missing but was now in place. He didn’t want to lose this piece again.
Ernest traced the pattern he’d drawn in his notebook, and felt his brain ready itself for a leap to another connection, just as he heard his name being said in a husky musical voice that held tones of humor, like perhaps she’d already said it a few times and he’d missed that. So he looked up, and Nora was there, taking off her adorable raincoat, which was bright pink and had white polka dots. She was wearing purple tights and a short black dress. Her dress had cupcakes on it! Nora managed to look both powerful and cute at the same time; it was something about how her clothes suited her pear-shaped fatness perfectly, and something about how she held herself. Her face was flushed, she was smiling, and her chin-length dark brown hair was all wild frizzy curls today. So was his own hair, come to think of it. He actually had a curl in the center of his fucking forehead, which of course put his mother’s voice in his head, exactly where he did not want her. He dug his nails into his thigh to try to get rid of her and focus on the present.
“You were in your own world,” she said.
He ducked his head. “Um, yeah. I do that.”
“I do it too, when I’m writing. My world is a pretty good place to spend time in.”
He smiled. His world was pretty great too. “I know what you mean. My world is a lot better than most places in NYC. Maybe you could tell me about your world sometime?”
“You want to hear about the world I’m writing, the novel I’m working on?”
“Yes, please,” he said firmly. He definitely wanted to hear about that.
“Hmm. That rates a please, does it?”
Ernest blinked, trying to figure out what she meant. Was he not supposed to say please? Was he not supposed to want to hear about her world? He didn’t know what to say, so he just nodded.
She was still standing over the table, though she’d draped her raincoat over her chair, and moved closer to him, so it wasn’t that she was going to leave. Was he supposed to be standing too? She made him nervous, looking down at him, standing so close. His heart was racing. Why did he like being around her so much if she made him nervous like this?
“Come on,” Nora said, and her hand appeared. He was supposed to take it, he knew. But they hadn’t ever touched, so it was a shock to be suddenly faced with it. Did he want to take her hand? After a moment the answer came: yes. So he stood up, and took it. She tugged him over to the display case of all the cupcakes, and then stood next to him, reaching over his body to point out her favorite flavors, closer than she had ever stood before. It made him a bit dizzy, but not in a scary way. It was like being filled with bubbles; he was unsteady, almost floating, definitely not firmly planted on the ground.
He dug his boots into the floor, not wanting to fall, as her voice filled him up, talking about why she loved these particular flavors. The scent of sugar and butter was so strong in this part of the shop. But that wasn’t all he smelled. Her raincoat had a hood but he didn’t think she’d been wearing it, because her hair, which was so close it had brushed his face, smelled like rain. He closed his eyes for a moment and breathed in, concentrating on the smell of rain. He’d always loved the rain, would stand outside in it every chance he got, savoring the sensation of it on his skin. There was nothing like spinning in the rain. He’d tried spinning in the shower but it wasn’t the same. “Singin’ in the Rain” came into his head, and he hummed it, knowing that he couldn’t sing, not in a bakery, even though he wanted to. Humming would have to do.
Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, an autistic queer fat Jewish genderqueer writer and community activist with multiple disabilities who spends a lot of time on Twitter.
Xan’s erotica has been published widely, including in the Best S/M Erotica series, the Best Gay Erotica series, and the Best Lesbian Erotica series. Xan’s story “First Time Since”, won honorable mention for the 2008 National Leather Association John Preston Short Fiction Award. Their collection of queer kink erotica, Show Yourself to Me, is out from Go Deeper Press.
After over 15 years of writing and publishing queer kink erotica short stories, Xan has begun to also write longer form queer kink romance. Their recent work still centers kinky, trans and non-binary, fat, disabled, queer trauma survivors. It leans more towards centering Jewish characters, ace and aro spec characters, autistic characters, and polyamorous networks. Xan has been working on a queer kinky polyamorous romance novel, Shocking Violet, for the last four years, and hopes to finish a draft very soon! You can find details and excerpts on their website, and sign up for their newsletter to get updates.
In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.
The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.
Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.
A high-stakes survival story about eight teenagers who outlive an alien attack—perfect for fans of The 5th Wave
Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.
When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.
Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.
A stunning psychological thriller about loss, sisterhood, and the evil that men do, for readers of Ruth Ware and S.K. Tremeyne
Two solar eclipses. Two missing girls.
Sixteen years ago a little girl was abducted during the darkness of a solar eclipse while her older sister Cassie was supposed to be watching her. She was never seen again. When a local girl goes missing just before the next big eclipse, Cassie – who has returned to her home town to care for her ailing grandmother – suspects the disappearance is connected to her sister: that whoever took Olive is still out there. But she needs to find a way to prove it, and time is running out.
A transgender reporter’s narrative tour through the surprisingly vibrant queer communities sprouting up in red states, offering a vision of a stronger, more humane America. Ten years ago, Samantha Allen was a suit-and-tie-wearing Mormon missionary. Now she’s a senior Daily Beast reporter happily married to another woman. A lot in her life has changed, but what hasn’t changed is her deep love of Red State America, and of queer people who stay in so-called “flyover country” rather than moving to the liberal coasts.
In Real Queer America, Allen takes us on a cross-country road-trip stretching all the way from Provo, Utah to the Rio Grande Valley to the Bible Belt to the Deep South. Her motto for the trip: “Something gay every day.” Making pit stops at drag shows, political rallies, and hubs of queer life across the heartland, she introduces us to scores of extraordinary LGBT people working for change, from the first openly transgender mayor in Texas history to the manager of the only queer night club in Bloomington, Indiana, and many more.
Capturing profound cultural shifts underway in unexpected places and revealing a national network of chosen family fighting for a better world, Real Queer America is a treasure trove of uplifting stories and a much-needed source of hope and inspiration in these divided times.
After abducting Arthur of Brittany from his own time in 1203, thereby creating the mystery that partly prompted the visit in the first place, Alice and her team discover that they have inadvertently brought the smallpox virus back to 1780 with them.
Searching for a future vaccine, Prudence finds that the various factions in the future time war intend to use the crisis to their own advantage.
Can the team prevent an international pandemic across time, and put history back on its tracks? At least until the next battle in the time war…
By day, Mary Ballard is lady’s maid to Charlotte Walden, wealthy and accomplished belle of New York City high society. Mary loves Charlotte with an obsessive passion that goes beyond a servant’s devotion, but Charlotte would never trust Mary again if she knew the truth about her devoted servant’s past. Because Mary’s fate is linked to that of her mistress, one of the most sought-after debutantes in New York, Mary’s future seems secure—if she can keep her own secrets…
But on her nights off, Mary sheds her persona as prim and proper lady’s maid to reveal her true self—Irish exile Maire O’Farren—and finds release from her frustration in New York’s gritty underworld—in the arms of a prostitute and as drinking companion to a decidedly motley crew consisting of a barkeeper and members of a dangerous secret society.
Meanwhile, Charlotte has a secret of her own—she’s having an affair with a stable groom, unaware that her lover is actually Mary’s own brother. When the truth of both women’s double lives begins to unravel, Mary is left to face the consequences. Forced to choose between loyalty to her brother and loyalty to Charlotte, between society’s respect and true freedom, Mary finally learns that her fate lies in her hands alone.
A stirring, bold and moving anthology of stories and poetry by top LGBTQ+ YA authors and new talent, giving their unique responses to the broad theme of pride. Each story has an illustration by an artist identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Compiled by Juno Dawson, author of THIS BOOK IS GAY and CLEAN.
A celebration of LGBTQ+ talent, PROUD is a thought-provoking, funny, emotional read.
Contributors: Steve Antony, Dean Atta, Kate Alizadeh, Fox Benwell, Alex Bertie, Caroline Bird, Fatti Burke, Tanya Byrne, Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Frank Duffy, Simon James Green, Leo Greenfield, Saffa Khan, Karen Lawler, David Levithan, Priyanka Meenakshi, Alice Oseman, Michael Lee Richardson, David Roberts, Cynthia So, Kay Staples, Jessica Vallance, Kristen Van Dam and Kameron White.
Besotted is the ballad of Sasha and Liz, American expats in Shanghai. Both have moved abroad to escape—Sasha from her father’s disapproval, Liz from the predictability of her hometown. When they move in together, Sasha falls in love, but the sudden attention from a charming architect threatens the relationship. Meanwhile, Liz struggles to be both a good girlfriend to Sasha and a good friend to Sam, her Shanghainese language partner who needs more from her than grammar lessons. For fans of Prague by Arthur Phillips and The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee, Besotted is an expat novel that explores what it means to love someone while running away from yourself.
In a chronicle of mourning and survival, Ali Liebegott wallows in loneliness and overassigns meaning to everyday circumstance, clinging to an aging dog and obsessing over dead birds. But these unpretentious vignettes are laced with compassion, as she learns to balance the sting of death with the tender strangeness of life.
This darkly comic debut novel by an award-winning playwright is like Mean Girls meets Heathers with a splash of Bring it On.
Jenna Watson is a cheerleader. But it’s not some Hollywood crap. Cheerleaders are not every guy’s fantasy; they are not the “popular girls” or the “mean girls” of Marsen High School. They’re too busy for that. They’re literally just some human females trying to live their lives and do a perfect toe touch. But that all changed after Raejean stopped talking to Jenna and started hanging out with Meghan Finnegan. Jenna stopped getting invited out with the rest of the squad and she couldn’t tell if it was on purpose or if it was all in her head.
At times heartbreaking, at others hilarious, Squad follows Jenna through her attempts to get revenge on Raejean and invent a new post-cheer life for herself through LARPING (live action role-playing) and a relationship with a trans guy that feels like love—but isn’t. In the, end Jenna discovers that who she is is not defined by which squad she’s in.
Mads is pretty happy with her life. She goes to church with her family, and minor league baseball games with her dad. She goofs off with her best friend Cat, and has thus far managed to avoid getting kissed by Adam, the boy next door. It’s everything she hoped high school would be… until all of a sudden, it’s not.
Her dad is hiding something big—so big it could tear her family apart. And that’s just the beginning of her problems: Mads is starting to figure out that she doesn’t want to kiss Adam… because the only person she wants to kiss is Cat.
Kiss Number 8, a graphic novel from writer Colleen AF Venable and illustrator Ellen T. Crenshaw, is a layered, funny, sharp-edged story of teen sexuality and family secrets.
Eight hundred years ago, the Zhen Empire discovered a broken human colony ship drifting in the fringes of their space. The Zhen gave the humans a place to live and folded them into their Empire as a client state. But it hasn’t been easy. Not all Zhen were eager to welcome another species into their Empire, and humans have faced persecution. For hundreds of years, human languages and history were outlawed subjects, as the Zhen tried to mold humans into their image. Earth and the cultures it nourished for millennia are forgotten, little more than legends.
One of the first humans to be allowed to serve in the Zhen military, Tajen Hunt became a war hero at the Battle of Elkari, the only human to be named an official Hero of the Empire. He was given command of a task force, and sent to do the Empire’s bidding in their war with the enigmatic Tabrans. But when he failed in a crucial mission, causing the deaths of millions of people, he resigned in disgrace and faded into life on the fringes as a lone independent pilot.
When Tajen discovers his brother, Daav, has been killed by agents of the Empire, he, his niece, and their newly-hired crew set out to finish his brother’s quest: to find Earth, the legendary homeworld of humanity. What they discover will shatter 800 years of peace in the Empire, and start a war that could be the end of the human race.
Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the wrong side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends.
One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.
Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more . . .
In K. Ancrum’s signature poetic style, this slow-burn romance will have you savoring every page.
While popular discussions about queerness in video games often focus on big-name, mainstream games that feature LGBTQ characters, like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, Bonnie Ruberg pushes the concept of queerness in games beyond a matter of representation, exploring how video games can be played, interpreted, and designed queerly, whether or not they include overtly LGBTQ content. Video Games Have Always Been Queer argues that the medium of video games itself can—and should—be read queerly.
In the first book dedicated to bridging game studies and queer theory, Ruberg resists the common, reductive narrative that games are only now becoming more diverse. Revealing what reading D. A. Miller can bring to the popular 2007 video game Portal, or what Eve Sedgwick offers Pong, Ruberg models the ways game worlds offer players the opportunity to explore queer experience, affect, and desire. As players attempt to ‘pass’ in Octodad or explore the pleasure of failure in Burnout: Revenge, Ruberg asserts that, even within a dominant gaming culture that has proved to be openly hostile to those perceived as different, queer people have always belonged in video games—because video games have, in fact, always been queer.
Or so Amastan has been taught. As a new assassin in the Basbowen family, he’s already having second thoughts about taking a life. A scarcity of contracts ends up being just what he needs.
Until, unexpectedly, Amastan finds the body of a very important drum chief. Until, impossibly, Basbowen’s finest start showing up dead, with their murderous jaan running wild in the dusty streets of Ghadid. Until, inevitably, Amastan is ordered to solve these murders, before the family gets blamed.
Every life has its price, but when the tables are turned, Amastan must find this perfect assassin or be their next target.
Fresh out of high school, Babe Vogel should be thrilled to have the whole summer at her fingertips. She loves living in her lighthouse home in the sleepy Maine beach town of Oar’s Rest and being a barista at the Busy Bean, but she’s totally freaking out about how her life will change when her two best friends go to college in the fall. And when a reckless kiss causes all three of them to break up, she may lose them a lot sooner. On top of that, her ex-girlfriend is back in town, bringing with her a slew of memories, both good and bad.
And then there’s Levi Keller, the cute artist who’s spending all his free time at the coffee shop where she works. Levi’s from out of town, and even though Babe knows better than to fall for a tourist who will leave when summer ends, she can’t stop herself from wanting to know him. Can Babe keep her distance, or will she break the one rule she’s always had – to never fall for a summer boy?
Things are going great for Sutton Kay, or at least they were. Her yoga studio is doing well, she’s living with her best friend, and she just got two kittens named Mocha and Cappuccino. Sure, she doesn’t have a girlfriend, but her life is full and busy.
Then her building is sold and the new landlord turns out to be the woman putting in a gym downstairs who doesn’t seem to understand the concepts “courtesy” and “don’t be rude to your tenants.” Sutton can’t get a read on Tuesday Grímsdóttir, but she can appreciate her muscles. Seriously, Tuesday is ripped. Not that that has anything to do with anything since she’s too surly to have a conversation with, and won’t stop pissing Sutton off.
Sutton’s life gets interesting after she dares Tuesday to make it through one yoga class, and then Tuesday gives Sutton the same dare. Soon enough they’re spending time working out together and when the sweat starts flowing, the sparks start flying. How is it possible to be so attracted to a person you can barely stand?
But when someone from Tuesday’s past shows up and Sutton sees a whole new side of Tuesday, will she change her mind about her grumpy landlord? Can she?
In the city of Houston – a sprawling, diverse microcosm of America – the son of a black mother and a Latino father is coming of age. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, weathering his brother’s blows, resenting his older sister’s absence. And discovering he likes boys.
Around him, others live and thrive and die in Houston’s myriad neighborhoods: a young woman whose affair detonates across an apartment complex, a ragtag baseball team, a group of young hustlers, hurricane survivors, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing, a reluctant chupacabra.
Bryan Washington’s brilliant, viscerally drawn world vibrates with energy, wit, and the infinite longing of people searching for home. With soulful insight into what makes a community, a family, and a life, Lot explores trust and love in all its unsparing and unsteady forms.
Acclaimed literary essayist T Kira Madden’s raw and redemptive debut memoir is about coming of age and reckoning with desire as a queer, biracial teenager amidst the fierce contradictions of Boca Raton, Florida, a place where she found cult-like privilege, shocking racial disparities, rampant white-collar crime, and powerfully destructive standards of beauty hiding in plain sight.
As a child, Madden lived a life of extravagance, from her exclusive private school to her equestrian trophies and designer shoe-brand name. But under the surface was a wild instability. The only child of parents continually battling drug and alcohol addictions, Madden confronted her environment alone. Facing a culture of assault and objectification, she found lifelines in the desperately loving friendships of fatherless girls.
With unflinching honesty and lyrical prose, spanning from 1960s Hawai’i to the present-day struggle of a young woman mourning the loss of a father while unearthing truths that reframe her reality, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is equal parts eulogy and love letter. It’s a story about trauma and forgiveness, about families of blood and affinity, both lost and found, unmade and rebuilt, crooked and beautiful.
I’ve been chased my whole life. As an illegal immigrant in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.
Now I’m done hiding.
My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.
When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.
When genderqueer fourteen-year-old Z Chilworth wakes from death after a car crash that killed their parents and sisters, they have to adjust quickly to their new status as a zombie. Always a talented witch, Z can now barely perform magic and is rapidly decaying. Faced with rejection from their remaining family members and old friends, Z moves in with Mrs. Dunnigan, an elderly witch, and befriends Aysel, a loud would-be-goth classmate who is, like Z, a loner. As Z struggles to find a way to repair the broken magical seal holding their body together, Aysel fears that her classmates will discover her status as an unregistered werewolf. When a local psychiatrist is murdered in an apparent werewolf attack, the town of Salem, Oregon, becomes even more hostile to monsters, and Z and Aysel are driven together in an attempt to survive a place where most people wish that neither of them existed.
With Miranda in Milan, debut author Katharine Duckett reimagines the consequences of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, casting Miranda into a Milanese pit of vipers and building a queer love story that lifts off the page in whirlwinds of feeling.
After the tempest, after the reunion, after her father drowned his books, Miranda was meant to enter a brave new world. Naples awaited her, and Ferdinand, and a throne. Instead she finds herself in Milan, in her father’s castle, surrounded by hostile servants who treat her like a ghost. Whispers cling to her like spiderwebs, whispers that carry her dead mother’s name. And though he promised to give away his power, Milan is once again contorting around Prospero’s dark arts.
With only Dorothea, her sole companion and confidant to aid her, Miranda must cut through the mystery and find the truth about her father, her mother, and herself.
I’m so wildly psyched to have Xan West’s newest cover on the blog today for so many reasons. First of all, dual enby representation FTW. Second of all, Xan’s recs and reviews have helped provide so many titles to this blog, and if you’re not familiar with their bookish website (including the dedicated section of #ownvoices trans reviews), you should be. And third of all, the artist, Laya Rose, happens to be the mastermind behind one of the best Twitter threads ever, which is entirely fanart of wlw books.
So with that said, let’s get to the book, Nine of Swords, Reversed! It’s a speculative romance with a genderfluid/genderfluid pairing (including neopronouns) and includes fat, Jewish, queer, spoonie, and autistic representation, as well as characters who are trauma survivors with chronic pain and depression. Here’s the blurb:
Dev has been with xyr service submissive Noam for seven years and xe loves them very much. Dev and Noam have built a good life together in Noam’s family home in Oakland, where they both can practice their magecraft, celebrate the high holidays in comfort, support each other as their disabilities flare, and where Noam can spend Shabbos with their beloved family ghost.
But Dev’s got a problem: xe has been in so much arthritis pain recently that xe has not been able to shield properly. As an empath, no shielding means Dev cannot safely touch Noam. That has put a strain on their relationship, and it feels like Noam is pulling away from xym. To top it off, Dev has just had an upsetting dream-vision about xyrself and Noam that caused one of the biggest meltdowns xe has had in a while. It’s only with a timely tarot reading and the help of another genderfluid mage that Dev is able to unpack the situation. Can xe figure out how to address the issues in xyr relationship with Noam before everything falls apart?
And here’s the cover, done by the fabulous Laya Rose!
It was good to be out of the house, sitting down with Ezra in one of our places, a feast spread before us. Comforting to see our canes leaning against the booth next to each other, to know Ezra wouldn’t let lunch pass without pushing me to tell zir what was going on. Ze had already indicated that in the car, clucking zir tongue over my low maintenance outfit—just a deep purple maxi dress and my sapphire boots—and how tired I looked, demanding I say what would taste the best for lunch, and driving us all the way to Berkeley for it.
A magical herbalist, Ezra favored floral colors. It had started as a joke ze pulled on one of zir first magic teachers, but had evolved into zir signature style. Today, Ezra was of course dressed impeccably, curly dark hair flowing over zir shoulders, nails pale peach and sparkly to match both zir lipstick and zir hat, in a gorgeous white suit with a dark peach dress shirt. It was Shabbos, and Ezra always dressed up for shul. Besides, ze had this image in zir head of our Friday lunches, our own genderfluid brand of Ladies who Lunch, which absolutely included dressing impeccably. Ze even insisted on singing the Sondheim tune at least once on the way, every time.
As we ate, I concentrated on getting my hands to hold things while Ezra entertained me with a story about teaching zir new boy how to weed the garden properly and not throw away any of the good stuff. Then ze said it was time to tell zir about it.
“I don’t know where to start.”
“Start with why you look so tired, of course.”
“Oh, that. I woke up too damn early because of this dream-vision.”
“That sounds like where to start. Written it down yet?”
“No,” I said quietly. “My hands hurt too much.”
Ezra clucked zir tongue in empathy, and went rooting through zir bag, taking out a notebook, a pen, and a jar of zir salve, which ze opened and gently rubbed into my hands, humming all the while. It felt like ze was rubbing soft sunlight into my skin and the sensation was so much to process that I couldn’t speak, or even look. I closed my eyes, counting my breaths, feeling the pain ebb away. In some ways, its immediate absence was sharper, harder to tolerate.
When ze was done, ze pressed the jar into my hand. “I brought this for you, ‘cause you said you’d run out.”
I took my time putting it away in my bag, getting used to the absence of pain, gathering myself back together. Then I took a long sip of tea, before I started telling zir about being made of ice, surrounded by it, protected by it, in the dream-vision. How at first I felt safe in my ice silo, didn’t even notice the cold until light came and hurt my eyes, and then I was freezing, and able to see the chasm below. A chasm separating me from Noam. How I realized that I couldn’t move, or speak. That they were stuck in their ice silo and me in mine, and Noam was terrified and trapped, just like me. I was helpless to do anything about it. I kept trying, but I could not get to them. How I watched their ice silo shatter, and the dust that was Noam blow away on the wind, waking me into a terrified meltdown.
Ezra didn’t say a word, as ze scribbled down the last details. My heart was a tiny frantic bird beating against my chest, as I remembered. I felt so cold that I took out my tarot deck, put it on the table, and huddled in the scarf I usually wrapped it in, my hands the only thing that felt warm. Ze waited for me to stop trembling before ze spoke.
“What do you think it means?” Ezra asked quietly.
Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, an autistic queer fat Jewish genderqueer writer and community activist with multiple disabilities who spends a lot of time on Twitter.
Xan’s erotica has been published widely, including in the Best S/M Erotica series, the Best Gay Erotica series, and the Best Lesbian Erotica series. Xan’s story “First Time Since”, won honorable mention for the 2008 National Leather Association John Preston Short Fiction Award. Their collection of queer kink erotica, Show Yourself to Me, is out from Go Deeper Press.
After over 15 years of writing and publishing queer kink erotica short stories, Xan has begun to also write longer form queer kink romance. Their recent work still centers kinky, trans and non-binary, fat, disabled, queer trauma survivors. It leans more towards centering Jewish characters, ace and aro spec characters, autistic characters, and polyamorous networks. Xan has been working on a queer kinky polyamorous romance novel, Shocking Violet, for the last four years, and hopes to finish a draft very soon! You can find details and excerpts on their website, and sign up for their newsletter to get updates. Their Troublesome Crush, a polyamorous kinky queer m/f romance novella about metamours realizing they have a mutual crush on each other as they plan their shared partner’s birthday celebration, is due out in March 2019.