Tag Archives: Kwanzaa Kiss

Better Know an Author: Kosoko Jackson

I’m so thrilled to welcome Kosoko Jackson back to the site, this month of his newest release, I’m So (Not) Over You (Berkley), which publishes on the 22nd! I have been floored by how much he’s been putting out in the world lately, and I’m so excited about everything coming up, so please give him a warm welcome!

I’m so, so excited to see you keep jumping into new spaces, but perhaps the one I’m most excited about is the world of rom-coms! What’s the story behind I’m So (Not) Over You and making the move from YA to Adult?

Thank you! I’m super excited to be here. It’s been so much fun writing them, exploring tropes, and writing HEAs. Honestly, the story isn’t that jaw dropping, haha. About 3 years ago, I really needed to reevaluate what I wanted to write and what brought me joy. I was lying in bed, listening to Taylor Swift, as one does, and thought; I want to write rom-coms. I emailed my agent, and then over the next year or so, I wrote…4 different proposals, each 50 pages each, until we narrowed down the right one, sent it off, and 4 months later, I was signed to Berkley! It was a leap of faith I’m really happy I took.

Of course, that’s not a permanent move; in fact you’ll be back in YA in about five seconds with Survive the Dome, which could not feel like a more relevant story right now. What was it like to write that book against the background of 2020s America, and what do you hope readers take from it?

Don’t remind me! True whiplash! Survive the Dome couldn’t be more different than I’m So (Not) Over You. Survive The Dome was my act of resistance against everything happening in the news. I couldn’t go out and protest, thanks to the pandemic and living in NYC, so I wanted to do something, so I really poured my resistance into this book. I want people to take away that revolutions are often led by people of color, women of color, and youth of color, and we should put them at the forefront of conversations far more often than we do.

Dipping back into adult romance for a sec, you also published a short story last fall in Love All Year, which sounds like the most delightful anthology. How did you get involved, and can you tell us a little bit about “Kwanzaa Kiss”?

Sure! Honestly, it was an open call. I was chatting with Denise Wiliams (read her book The Fastest Way To Fall, by the way), chatting about a Kwanzaa rom com, and she mentioned the Love All Year sequel. The story wasn’t enough for a full book, so this seemed a perfect way to tell the story. “Kwanzaa Kiss” is a scavenger hunt rom com between two men who team up to find seven things that represent each of the core principles of Kwanzaa. And of course, love comes through!

You also have a new essay in the collection Black Love Matters, which released with perfect timing to kick off Black History Month. How was collaborating on an essay collection, and what do you love about it as a whole?

You’re making me realize I need to take a BREAK. I’ve written so much the past year haha. This was so much fun! I’m so honored Berkley put oy name forward, and Jessica was into the idea. I rarely see anthologies that center not only Black people, but Black love. It was so great to work with such rom com and romance titans, and be in an anthology with them and learn from them. I also got to talk about my favorite topics, movies, tv and love, so honestly, I won, haha.

I got the joy (completely coincidentally) of revealing the covers for both of your new books, but you had a fabulous third new cover out this year, for the paperback of Yesterday Is History. How did that cover change come about, and what do you love about the new design?

Yesterday Is HistoryThank you so much for doing them both by the way. The hardest-working person in publishing right here. I LOVE the new cover for Yesterday Is History. Honestly, again, not the most interesting story. My publisher, Sourcebooks, said they wanted a cover that resonated with the key thing people loved about the story; the romance. So they wanted to put that front and center with a speculative hint towards it. Having Andre falling also represents his first jump in time, in chapter 1. And the cover shows he ends up with someone but you don’t know who! It’s so beautiful.

You’ve also been on LGBTQReads before, in a pre-author capacity, in one of my favorite posts in the history of the site. Where is the Black Queer Male Voice in YA? was published back on August 31, 2017, back before authors like you, Ryan Douglass (also featured), Julian Winters, Kacen Callender, and Jay Coles made your way onto shelves and changed the game. How are you feeling about the queer Black male voice in YA now, and where you’d still like to see it go?

2017? That was so long ago and it feels like yesterday. I’m loving to see so many more queer Black boys. Especially in YA and Middle Grade. I wish I had these authors to look up to when I was 13. But it’s awesome to see that teens and young adults will be able to read books that aren’t just about coming out, or the struggles of being Black and queer, but to see stories where Queer characters are fully fledged and well thoguht out people, with motives, feelings, fears, and flaws. That’s crucial, not only for us, to see ourselves, but for others to learn empathy.

Of course, the conversation about being a queer man in romance is one that’s gotten a whole lot of traction lately as well. Given the floor to say your piece about it, what would you like both the industry and readers to know about the experience of publishing m/m romance as a queer (or whatever label you prefer!) man?

I think it’s important that we as a community understand we cannot and should not police who writes what. That’s a dangerous slope and a dangerous path to go down. That being said, I think its also very important we allow queer men to tell their stories authentically. We shouldn’t judge by hetronormative standards and publishing should, along with readers, make more of an effort to uplift queer stories. Marginalized voices within the community should be prioritized when telling those stories. That, to me, isn’t an out-there idea.

I think we’re all out of ways to sugarcoat the fact that publishing during a pandemic sucks, and debuting during a pandemic doubly so, although there are definitely some perks as far as increased access to events goes. What have you found to be the best and worst parts of debuting in 2021, and what fellow pandemic debuts would you like to shout out?

I think the best also goes back to the Great Resignation of workers. I’ve found that I’ve really honed in on what I care about and the stories I want to tell. I’ve become braver and more confident in my writing, because I’ve seen how fleeting everything that we have erected and held dear. I think that’s morbid, sure, but I embrace this confidence I’ve fostered. The saddest thing, as we all know, is no in person events, but also how much stress is being put on publishing employees. We’re losing great talent during this pandemic because of how our industry treats publishing employees, especially marginalized ones and people of color.

With so many different things under your belt, I’m particularly interested in your answer to my final question: what’s up next for you?

By the time this comes out my next YA, coming out in 2023 by Quilltree would have been announced, and I’m so so thrilled to be stepping into fantasy and dark academia. My next rom com also comes out December of this year, A Dash of Salt and Pepper, and it follows a small town DILF chef in a fictional version of Stars Hollow, the 20-something who returns home after losing his job and his boyfriend, and Taming of the Shrew vibes!

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New Releases: September 21, 2022

Middle Grade

The Insiders by Mark Oshiro

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.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

City of Thieves by Alex London

54671391. sy475 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?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Young Adult

Things We Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles

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.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Other Merlin by Robyn Schneider

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.

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To Break a Covenant by Alison Ames

50638239. sy475 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.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

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.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Sidelined by Kara Bietz

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.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Adult Fiction

The Wrong End of the Telescope by Rabih Alameddine

57427350By 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.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune

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.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

A Dream of a Woman by Casey Plett (21st)

A Dream of a WomanCasey 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.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | Arsenal Pulp Press

Love All Year ed. by Elizabeth Kahn

Love All Year 2021: A Holidays Anthology by [KD Casey, Kosoko Jackson, Hudson Lin, Jasmine Luck, Elsie Marrone, October Rhea, Soumi Roy, Elizabeth Kahn]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.

Buy it: Amazon | Books2Read

Mechanics of Love by Meka James (22nd)

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.

Buy it: Amazon | Apple

Essays, Memoir, and Poetry

Tenderness by Derrick Austin

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.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound