Emma’s so excited to be a bridesmaid at her cousin Hannah’s wedding, but it sure does come with a lot of surprises! She did not expect to have to wear a dress the color of celery, or for the ring-bearer to be a bear, or for Alex, the person Hannah’s marrying, to be a girl, too! But it’s a beautiful day and a beautiful traditional Jewish wedding, even in a dress the color of celery.
Grab this one for your youngest readers, and certainly for any flower girls in your life!
A Romanian immigrant named Alter is trying to settle into his new life well enough to bring his mother and sister over, but when his roommate is the latest in a line of Jewish boys found murdered, and his dybbuk takes over Alter’s body in pursuit of the killer, Alter is forced to join forces with the most dangerous (and compelling) boy from his past to find the guilty party, get justice for Yakov, and regain his freedom.
Grab this one for fans of historical fiction (it’s set at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 Chicago at the World’s Fair), thrillers, horror, and anyone who’s regularly immersed in Ashkenazi culture and loves to see it reflected.
Naomi Grant knows she’s more than qualified to lecture on sex positivity and her successful startup, but her past as a porn star keeps getting her blocked from opportunities. Enter Rabbi Ethan Cohen, who’s happy to take a chance on Naomi in order to draw interest to and expand his congregation. They are a most unlikely pair, but they’re certainly successful…a little too much so, maybe.
Grab this one for any fans of sexy romance. Don’t be frightened off by the rabbi hero, because I can definitely confirm It Works.
Controlling her food intake with restriction and ritual is about as religious as Rachel gets, which makes her instant connection with Orthodox, food-loving Miriam of the frozen yogurt shop both confusing and compelling. But while on a therapy-induced hiatus from communicating with her controlling mother, nothing feels better to Rachel than the way Miriam takes care of and nourishes her, even as both struggle with how far this relationship of opposites can possibly go.
Grab this one for the litfic lovers in your life, and anyone coping with complicated relationships with mothers, food (with the obvious content warning in place), religion, or any combination thereof.
B-List actress Lilah and makeup artist Noa need to work together to help both of them succeed and move up in their respective food chains in Hollywood. But the more time they spend together, the harder they fall, giving them the brand-new problem of how to handle love in the spotlight.
Grab this one for the Sapphic adult romance lovers in your life!
Dalia’s plans for a perfect amusement-park filled summer hit a snag when her blended family-to-be decides it’s the perfect opportunity for some quality time. Which sucks, until Dalia learns her future stepsister’s bringing her girlfriend on the trip, and realizes they have more in common than she thought…and she just might have feelings for her own roller coaster companion of choice, Rani.
Grab this one for younger readers, especially if they’re newly out, love romance, are coping with family blending, or just like fun.
Randy’s always loved hanging out with his friends and starring in the musicals at all-queer Camp Outland, but this year, he’s reinventing himself as the considerably more masc Del in order to finally land his crush, Hudson. He’s sure that once Hudson falls for him, he’ll be able to shift back into his old personality, but will he? And would it even be worth it if he could?
Grab this for summer camp kids, romance fans, readers hungry for all-queer casts, and anyone who appreciates books for teens that are a little more Queer 2.0. (Also, this one’s available in paperback, making it a good option for readers who prefer them, and also easier on the budget!)
When Noah seeks refuge during a hurricane, he immediately clicks with the other queer refugees, but not without concern that his also being Jewish and trans could put a target on his back. Support arrives in the most unlikely place: the form of his great-grandfather, German refugee Abe, who coaches Noah on how to survive and forces him to choose what he’s willing to sacrifice in order to live.
Grab this one for readers interested in cli-fi, Dystopian fans, and anyone looking for rare Jewish and trans rep.
Teen witch Nova lives a lovely small-town life with her grandmothers, but it all turns upside-down when she follows a white wolf into the woods and realizes it’s her childhood crush, Tam, who’s been searching for someplace to land. Now Tam needs help taking down a horse demon and everyone else looking to steal their power, and Nova is up to the task…and finding that her old feelings are very much still there.
Grab this one for fans of graphic novels, books that are spooky yet cozy, and anyone particularly looking for bicultural Jewish representation.
Read more about this book and the Judaism within it here.
Zach Glasser looks like he has a dream life as a pro ball player, but truthfully, he’s miserable over the fact that he lost the love of his life, teammate Eugenio Morales, when he wouldn’t and couldn’t come out three years earlier. But now they’re being reunited for an all-star game, and Zach’s finally got another chance. Can he be who Eugenio needs him to be without giving up everything else in his life?
Prefer to give a donation, or simply won’t get books in time because this blogger decided to do this post at the last minute and swears she’ll be earlier next year but right now this is the best we’ve got? Consider giving to Jewish Queer Youth!
San Francisco and Orangevale may be in the same state, but for Héctor Muñoz, they might as well be a million miles apart. Back home, being gay didn’t mean feeling different. At Héctor’s new school, he couldn’t feel more alone.
Most days, Héctor just wishes he could disappear. And he does. Right into the janitor’s closet. (Yes, he sees the irony.) But one day, when the door closes behind him, Héctor discovers he’s stumbled into a room that shouldn’t be possible. A room that connects him with two new friends from different corners of the country—and opens the door to a life-changing year full of magic, friendship, and adventure.
In a modern mega-city built around dragons, one boy gets caught up in the world of underground dragon battles and a high-stakes gang war that could tear his family apart.
Once, dragons nearly drove themselves to extinction. But in the city of Drakopolis, humans domesticated them centuries ago. Now dragons haul the city’s cargo, taxi its bustling people between skyscrapers, and advertise its wares in bright, neon displays. Most famously of all, the dragons battle. Different breeds take to the skies in nighttime bouts between the infamous kins―criminal gangs who rule through violence and intimidation.
Abel has always loved dragons, but after a disastrous showing in his dragon rider’s exam, he’s destined never to fly one himself. All that changes the night his sister appears at his window, entrusting him with a secret…and a stolen dragon.
Turns out, his big sister is a dragon thief! Too bad his older brother is a rising star in Drakopolis law enforcement…
To protect his friends and his family, Abel must partner with the stolen beast, riding in kin battles and keeping more secrets than a dragon has scales.
When everyone wants him fighting on their side, can Abel figure out what’s worth fighting for?
There’s always been a hole in Gio’s life. Not because he’s into both guys and girls. Not because his father has some drinking issues. Not because his friends are always bringing him their drama. No, the hole in Gio’s life takes the shape of his birth mom, who left Gio, his brother, and his father when Gio was nine years old. For eight years, he never heard a word from her … and now, just as he’s started to get his life together, she’s back.
It’s hard for Gio to know what to do. Can he forgive her like she wants to be forgiven? Or should he tell her she lost her chance to be in his life? Complicating things further, Gio’s started to hang out with David, a new guy on the basketball team. Are they friends? More than friends? At first, Gio’s not sure … especially because he’s not sure what he wants from anyone right now.
There are no easy answers to love – whether it’s family love or friend love or romantic love. In Things We Couldn’t Say, Jay Coles shows us a guy trying to navigate love in all its ambiguity — hoping at the other end he’ll be able to figure out who is and who he should be.
For as long as she could remember, all Emry wanted was to be a great magician like her father, the magnificent Merlin. As a kid, she fought to be included in his magic lessons for her twin brother, Emmet, and easily outshone him with each spell she cast. But after her father’s disappearance several years ago, Emry has been feeling a little lost. Fate soon appears in the form of a royal messenger, summoning Emmet to court to serve as Prince Arthur’s right-hand wizard. With Emmett indisposed thanks to a bad spell, Emry has to disguise herself as a teen boy and pretend to be her brother at the castle until they’re able to switch.
Training as a wizard is everything Emry hoped it would be, except working so closely with the unbearably hot Arthur is a growing danger. They soon share adventures and a connection that can’t be denied, but Emry’s secret is a crime punishable by death. When royal scandals involving Lancelot, Guinevere, and Gawain threaten to reveal her truth, Emry must decide whether to stay and risk everything for a love borne out of deceit, or leave and never fulfill her potential to be Camelot’s greatest magician.
Moon Basin has been haunted for as long as anyone can remember. It started when an explosion in the mine killed sixteen people. The disaster made it impossible to live in town, with underground fires spewing ash into the sky. But life in New Basin is just as fraught. The ex-mining town relies on its haunted reputation to bring in tourists, but there’s more truth to the rumors than most are willing to admit, and the mine still has a hold on everyone who lives there.
Clem and Nina form a perfect loop—best friends forever, and perhaps something more. Their circle opens up for a strange girl named Lisey with a knack for training crows, and Piper, whose father is fascinated with the mine in a way that’s anything but ordinary. The people of New Basin start experiencing strange phenomena—sleepwalking, night terrors, voices that only they can hear. And no matter how many vans of ghost hunters roll through, nobody can get to the bottom of what’s really going on. Which is why the girls decide to enter the mine themselves.
The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.
When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.
To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.
Julian Jackson has a short to-do list for his senior year at Crenshaw County High School in Meridian, Texas: football, football, and more football. He knows he’s only got one chance to earn a college scholarship and make it out of his small town, and keeping his head down, his grades up, and his cleats on the field is that one chance. And then Elijah Vance walks back into his life, throwing all of his carefully-laid plans into a tailspin.
Elijah and Julian used to be best friends, maybe even on their way to something more than just friends. But three years ago, Elijah broke into the school to steal money from the coach’s office, and Julian was the one who turned him in. After that, Elijah and his family disappeared without a trace. And now he’s back, sitting at Julian’s grandmother’s kitchen table.
But time and distance haven’t erased all of their feelings, and Elijah knows that he finally has a chance to prove to Julian that he’s not the same person he was three years ago. But with secrets still growing between them and an uncertain future barreling towards them, it may be harder to lean on each other than they thought.
By National Book Award and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award finalist for An Unnecessary Woman, Rabih Alameddine, comes a transporting new novel about an Arab American trans woman’s journey among Syrian refugees on Lesbos island.
Mina Simpson, a Lebanese doctor, arrives at the infamous Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, after being urgently summoned for help by her friend who runs an NGO there. Alienated from her family except for her beloved brother, Mina has avoided being so close to her homeland for decades. But with a week off work and apart from her wife of thirty years, Mina hopes to accomplish something meaningful, among the abundance of Western volunteers who pose for selfies with beached dinghies and the camp’s children. Soon, a boat crosses bringing Sumaiya, a fiercely resolute Syrian matriarch with terminal liver cancer. Determined to protect her children and husband at all costs, Sumaiya refuses to alert her family to her diagnosis. Bonded together by Sumaiya’s secret, a deep connection sparks between the two women, and as Mina prepares a course of treatment with the limited resources on hand, she confronts the circumstances of the migrants’ displacement, as well as her own constraints in helping them.
When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.
Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.
But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.
When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.
Casey Plett’s 2018 novel Little Fish won a Lambda Literary Award, the Firecracker Award for Fiction, and the Amazon First Novel Award. Her latest work, A Dream of a Woman, is her first book of short stories since her seminal 2014 collection A Safe Girl to Love. Centering transgender women seeking stable, adult lives, A Dream of a Woman finds quiet truths in prairie high-rises and New York warehouses, in freezing Canadian winters and drizzly Oregon days.
In “Hazel and Christopher,” two childhood friends reconnect as adults after one of them has transitioned. In “Perfect Places,” a woman grapples with undesirability as she navigates fetish play with a man. In “Couldn’t Hear You Talk Anymore,” the narrator reflects on her tumultuous life and what might have been as she recalls tender moments with another trans woman.
An ethereal meditation on partnership, sex, addiction, romance, groundedness, and love, the stories in A Dream of a Woman buzz with quiet intensity and the intimate complexities of being human.
Love All Year is a romance anthology featuring non-Christian holidays and cultural celebrations from around the world.
“The Koufax Curse” by KD Casey: On Tu Bishvat, former baseball rivals—now teammates—plant the seeds of a new romance.
“Kwanzaa Kiss” by Kosoko Jackson: After a breakup, Anthony Jenkins returns home to Atlanta to lick his wounds and help his parents with their annual Kwanzaa scavenger hunt and is paired with his high school crush. Markus Kennedy. Over the next 12 hours, the two men will try to win the scavenger hunt, where finding the pillars of Kwanzaa might be the goal, but love might find its way into their hearts.
“Their Dragonboat” by Hudson Lin: When OB Julie agrees to join the queer women/enby dragon boat team, she didn’t expect to fall in love. But team captain Rae, with their ever-changing hair color, a silver lip ring, and sleeve of flower tattoos is too fascinating to resist.
“Yes, Chef” by Jasmine Luck: A lawyer finds himself in hot water when his injured mother can’t cook the Lunar New Year feast. He needs lessons, fast. Can new London resident Zoey help him turn up the heat in his kitchen?
“Spiraling Closer” by Elsie Marrone: When recently divorced Jenny accidentally lobs a bread roll at her rabbi’s single, hot nephew, the last thing she expects is to find romance. But in the new year, anything can happen–that is, if she can silence her inner critic long enough to give love a second chance.
“Heart and History” by October Rhea: Liberty Stanley is ready to love herself again after leaving a toxic relationship. Black Love Day is the perfect holiday to put her plan into action. Isaac Golden sees Black Love Day as just another thing to teach his students. He likes to run his classroom in his own way, but he won’t admit to his new co-teacher Liberty that he is both fumbling the lesson plan and falling for her. As they get to know each other, Isaac discovers that Black Love Day may have something for him after all.
“A Tangled Truce” by Soumi Roy: Rohini should be thrilled when the hottie on the plane to Kolkata turns out to be the man her parents want her to marry. Hridan came to sell his grandma’s house, not to fall for a girl whose fear of commitment outweighs their attraction. Hridan has five days of Durga Puja to win her over, while Rohini must decide if he is worth risking her heart for.
It’s the person she least expected who provides a much-needed tune up of her life…
For Dr. Irene Johnson-Moore perception is everything. After living most of her life behind facades built from other people’s expectations, she’s ready for a change. At least that’s what she tells herself. But old habits die hard. And when her car breaks down, forcing her to deal with the town mechanic—a woman whose bluntness always irked Irene—her resolve is instantly put to the test.
Remi Martin prides herself on being unapologetically honest. Brutally so at times. No good ever came from pretending to be someone or something she’s not.
When she responds to a call from a stranded motorist, she never imagined she’d be towing the self-proclaimed “town princess” into her world. Irene Johnson embodies everything Remi tries to avoid, yet she can’t seem to shake her one-time adversary.
However, the more time they spend together, the more feelings begin to idle under the surface. But before their relationship can rev to life, they must release their preconceived notions or things could come to a screeching halt.
With lush language, the meditative poems in the Isabella Gardner Award-winning Tenderness examine the fraught nature of intimacy in a nation poisoned by anti-Blackness and homophobia. From the bedroom to the dance floor, from the natural world to The Frick, from the Midwest to Florida to Mexico City, the poems range across interior and exterior landscapes. They look to movies, fine art, childhood memory, history, and mental health with melancholy, anger, and playfulness.
Even amidst sorrow and pain, Tenderness uplifts communal spaces as sites of resistance and healing, wonders at the restorative powers of art and erotic love, and celebrates the capaciousness of friendship.
Today on the site, we’re welcoming KD Casey, author of the upcoming Jewish m/m sports romance Unwritten Rules, which releases October 12, 2021 from Carina Press. KD’s here to talk about writing queer Jewish rep, but first, here’s the story behind the book:
Zach Glasser has put up with a lot for the sport he loves. Endless days on the road, playing half-decent baseball in front of half-full stadiums and endless nights alone, pretending this is the life he’s always wanted.
The thing is, it could have been everything he ever wanted—if only he’d had the guts to tell his family, tell the club, that he was in love with his teammate Eugenio Morales. Well, ex-teammate now. When Zach wouldn’t—couldn’t—come out, Eugenio made the devastating choice to move on, demanding a trade away from Oakland. Away from Zach.
Three years and countless regrets later, Zach still can’t get Eugenio out of his head. Or his heart. And when they both get selected to play in the league’s All-Star Classic, those feelings and that chemistry come roaring back.
Zach wants a second chance. Eugenio wants a relationship he doesn’t have to hide. Maybe it’s finally time they both get what they want.
I have a confession to make as an author: I hate naming characters.
My first drafts are littered with placeholders, brackets, a healthy amount of [name here], and an unhealthy amount of whining to critique partners. Because names are decisions. They reflect characters’ birthplaces, ethnicities, the era in which they live, and socioeconomic class.
Unwritten Rules, which comes out in October, started as a Gchat conversation with a friend. It’s a conversation I’ve returned to a number of times throughout the editing process, specifically to reflect on the evolution of the book’s main characters, and by extension, their families and histories.
Both main characters began their lives as placeholder names, as unmade decisions. To get from idle conversation to 100,000 word novel, I needed a (small) push. At my request, my friend provided the following list of names: Zach, Cal, Evan, Mario, Yehuda, Andy, Eugenio, Mike. Each of these signify different things about characters. One can imagine the background and experience of someone named Yehuda differs fairly significantly from someone named Cal.
Two of these names eventually became the main characters of Unwritten Rules. The book follows Zach Glasser, a professional baseball player, who unexpectedly reunites with Eugenio Morales, who’s his ex-teammate—and ex-boyfriend.
Along with the decision about names came a lot of information about Zach and Eugenio as histories and backgrounds beyond former partners. Eugenio’s family is from Venezuela, and immigrated to the United States in the late ‘80s. (A few people have asked me how Eugenio is pronounced. Here’s an interview with Eugenio Suárez, a Venezualen infielder on the Cincinnati Reds, where the interviewer says his name a number of times.)
Zach’s name is specifically Ashkenazi Jewish because the character (like me!) comes from a Ashkenazi Jewish family. I didn’t set out to write a Jewish book, but once I decided on Zach’s name, I “knew” a lot about him.
His grandmother immigrated to the United States in the 1920s. His mother drinks tea in a Russian Jewish way: with sugar between her teeth and from a glass mug, not a ceramic one. The book also has a sprinkling of Yiddish, discussions of a ketubah, and an emotionally significant babka.
In naming Zach, I also realized I was writing a queer Jewish baseball book that would, necessarily, focus on Zach’s relationship with his family. His major conflict was being torn between his family’s wishes for him and professional baseball’s “unwritten rules,” the set of dictates that governs, and limits, players’ lives on and off the field.
In general—and this is not limited to works by Jewish authors—I’ve seen queerness with Judaism portrayed in one of two ways: unconditional acceptance or religiously-based intolerance. Both of these are valid, possible experiences, but they aren’t the only experiences. I wanted to write a book where the main character feels the very real Jewish pressures to get married and have a family, but that those pressures come from love and survival rather than bigotry.
Readers, both Jewish and not, come in with their own notions of what Jewish families are like. These notions derive from both personal experience and media depiction, be it realistic or reductive. To be clear, there are pressures: Academically, professionally, romantically. That we should get married. To a doctor. A Nice JewishBoy or Girl who can love us and keep us.
These pressures don’t arise from nowhere. If you’ve experienced generational displacement, then it makes sense to pursue professions that are employable regardless of location. Therefore, marrying a doctor isn’t born of some grasping financial instinct but an acknowledgement of trauma and of history.
So how to portray a family whose love, and anxieties are both valid and limiting? Another early decision I made (spoilers!) is that Zach’s relationship with his family not only survived the book but was deepened and strengthened throughout it. As a queer person, I understand why people write about familial homophobia and rejection. It’s unfortunately a real thing that occurs. If novels are about emotional catharsis, there is a certain satisfaction for a reader when a character stands up to their awful, homophobic family.
But I’m always left wondering—what then? Whose house do they go to on Rosh Hashanah? Who do they call on Passover when their pesadich (kosher for Passover) cake turns out closer to fudge? Where will they get gossip about their second cousin’s wife’s sister? It’s hard for me to balance the romance requirement of an optimistic ending (in addition to a central love story) with the notion of estrangement. That when a fictional character—for legitimate and understandable reasons—closes that door, what happens the next day? The next year?
If romance is a genre of hope, then that happy ending had to extend beyond Zach and Eugenio’s eventual reconciliation to Zach’s relationship with his family and his sense of Jewishness. Those were the hardest parts to write. Because Zach’s family is in many ways my own, not in a literal sense, but in a sense of having gone through similar considerations and compromises.
Without tipping (more) into spoilers, I wanted his family not to be overbearing, uncompromising stereotypes, but real people with real dreams and fears for their child. His mother, in particular, could have easily become the villain of the book: The inflexible, haranguing Jewish woman who is often the only representation we get in media. I wanted her to be sometimes those things and sometimes not those things. More pressingly, I wanted Zach, as her child, to come to see and understand her as much as she comes to see and understand him.
Writing about your own people, your own culture, is often a conversation with stereotypes. Those stereotypes can be challenged or reconstructed, but they are lurking, present, in readers’ assumptions—and my own assumptions. Writing this book became about acknowledging and challenging those assumptions, and about treating characters with care.
Zach’s mother isn’t based on my own mother, but on the distance I see between the stereotypes about Jewish parents and the realities of actually having them. (Also, Mom, if you’re reading this, I asked you not to read the book because of [redacted], [redacted], and please don’t tell the rabbi about this one, [redacted].)
In writing a Jewish family, I wanted them to be imperfect, and loving, and whole. I wanted to show the work it takes on Zach’s part and his family’s part to provide that optimistic ending, one that’s messy but ultimately hopeful. It was a journey I didn’t expect to go on, but I’m glad I did. And hope you join me for it.
KD Casey (https://linktr.ee/KDCaseyWrites) is a romance writer and baseball enthusiast living in the Washington, DC area. Her debut novel UNWRITTEN RULES will be published by Carina Press in October 2021 and is available forpreorder.