After so many years of LGBTQIAP+ lit struggling for recognition, it’s been pretty killer to watch literary news this year. Whereas a starred review for an LGBTQIAP+ YA book used to be a needle in a haystack, this fall was absolutely rife with them. Whereas coverage of queer Romance novels used to be relegated pretty entirely to queer publications, now it’s been everywhere from Bustle to Washington Post (*tips hat to Sarah Maclean*). And since I think at any given time, we could all use some good news about the progress of LGBTQIAP+ books in publishing, here’s to highlighting some of this year’s biggest successes in mainstream media:
This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp spent 29 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list and was named among 19 of the Best YA Books of 2016 by Buzzfeed and one of the best YAs of the year by Paste.
Today on the site, please welcome Erin Finnegan, author of Luchador, an m/m Contemporary NA about a guy named Gabriel who becomes enthralled with the lucha libre, which releases today. (Buy links at the end of the post! And you can read the blurb and add it to your TBR here.) To learn more about the lucha libre, read on!
Grab a seat for the Sunday evening lucha libre matches at Arena México and you get a great show: Cheap and abundant Victoria beer flows; laser lights blaze; heavy metal blasts at ear-splitting levels; and bikini-clad ring girls ignite the testosterone-fueled weekly wrestling event.
It isn’t the first place people would look for an LGBTQ crowd in Mexico City—and they’d be wrong, especially if an exótico is on the fight card.
In the macho world of traditional lucha libre, exótico luchadores are flamboyant, gay, and out.
They have also become heroes of sorts in Mexico City’s LGBTQ community, to the extent that they have been credited with helping to advance Mexico’s equal rights movement. (While portions of the conservative country still fight marriage equality battles, the federal district of Mexico City approved marriage for all in 2010, five years before the US Supreme Court paved the way for nationwide marriage equality.)
The exóticos represent something not commonly found in professional sports, even “performance sports” such as lucha libre—an arena where gay athletes perform openly with their straight peers. As exótico luchadores like Cassandro and Pimpinela Escarlata gained fame on the lucha libre circuit, empresas found themselves with a new legion of dedicated, rainbow flag-waving fans.
Exóticos are the flamboyant and brutal drag queens of lucha libre, dressed in bedazzled leotards, skirts, and glittery makeup instead of luchador’s traditional tights and mask. They flirt with the refs, bump and grind to dancehall music, and are as likely to attack an opponent with a kiss as with a flying scizzors kick to the neck.
And this is where their story gets complicated, and why I was drawn to this world as the central conflict in my new book, Luchador. Because in lucha libre, gay is welcome to play—but it is often played for laughs.
It isn’t a simple matter of the costumes or makeup. Exóticos are the vamps of the ring, and they play to a crowd that is at once imploring them to attack their opponents or the referees with besos (kisses), while at the same time taunting them with homophobic slurs.
Máximo Sexy, one of the few exóticos who identifies as straight, has said that he decided to wrestle as a gay character for the money. His signature move is the kiss, meant to distract his competitor, and the skirted singlet he wears in the ring is often topped by a t-shirt that says, “KISS ME”. The moment he enters the arena, fans cheer, “¡Beso! ¡Beso! ¡Beso!”
Other exóticos like Cassandro—gay men who wrestle as campy characters—call their stage personas liberating and inspirational.
This is the issue for Luchador protagonist Gabriel Romero, a rising young star in Mexico City’s professional lucha circuit who is committed to being open about his sexuality both in and outside of the ring without trapping himself in a role that he does not identify with. Respectful of lucha’s traditions, he is also wary of the stereotypes it promotes.
The counterpoint to Gabriel is his mentor, Miguel, a successful exótico nearing the end of his career, who views his colorful ring character of La Rosa as a valuable outlet. He also believes that embracing lucha’s traditions have helped him get ahead as both a wrestler and a businessman.
Exóticos in lucha libre date back to the 1940s, when luchadores dressed as dandies handed flowers to female fans and preened as they entered the ring. Today, exóticos are far more sexualized—and athletic.
Do not mistake these luchadores for clowns. Their approach may be camp. Their secret weapon may be the beso planted on a supposedly unsuspecting opponent or referee. But they’re also skilled wrestlers who take down opponents with lucha libre’s signature acrobatic moves: flying scizzor kicks, spinning tornillos, and planchas.
Last winter, I had a chance to watch Cassandro wrestle at Lucha Va Voom, a Los Angeles-based burlesque-meets-lucha show. Lucha Va Voom should not be mistaken for the lucha libre of Arena México or Arena Coliseo. It is abbreviated, and even more showey than the lucha of the Sunday afternoon shows broadcast across Mexico and the US.
Cassandro demonstrated the skills that have earned him championship belts: high kicks, spins, and a swan dive from a balcony that—it was later reported—resulted in a cracked rib.
Though their technical skills can be overshadowed by their characters and costumes, exóticos fight with the same strength and finesse as other top luchadores.
As Miguel tells Gabriel, exóticos’ costumes may be loud, but their actions in the ring speak louder than any Lycra or glitter.
“We give people hope. … We’re not just entertainment. We give people something to rally for, and against. Lucha’s been a part of politics and our social order, always has been,” he said. “Do you know how many men have come up to me after a match and thanked me? How many kids have said we’ve given them courage to come out? We may not be your picture of the perfect postmodern gay or whatever your generation calls it, but we paved the road for you with our glitter and makeup.”
Erin Finnegan is a former journalist and winemaker who lives in the foothills outside Los Angeles. A lifelong sports fan and occasional sports writer, she has had to dive out of the way of flying luchadores at matches in both the US and Mexico. Luchador was recently named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2016. Erin’s debut novel, Sotto Voce, received a PW starred review and a Foreword Reviews Indiefab Silver Book of the Year Award.
Connect with author Erin Finnegan at Erin-Finnegan.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/ErinGoFinnegan and on Twitter at @eringofinnegan.
November always seems to be a pretty quiet release month, so I’m just gonna toss a bunch of stuff on my radar (which includes lots of genre f/f!!) together in one post and hopefully you’ll find something fabulous!
Imogene Hale is a lowly parlourmaid with a soul-crushing secret. Seeking solace, she takes work at a local hive, only to fall desperately in love with the amazing lady inventor the vampires are keeping in the potting shed. Genevieve Lefoux is heartsick, lonely, and French. With culture, class, and the lady herself set against the match, can Imogene and her duster overcome all odds and win Genevieve’s heart, or will the vampires suck both of them dry?
This is a stand-alone LBGTQ sweet romance set in Gail Carriger’s Parasolverse, full of class prejudice, elusive equations, and paranormal creatures taking tea.
When Marian Banner moves to the glittering city of Nottingham with her father, Sir Erik the Fortunate, her entire life changes. She is no longer allowed to run about the countryside in trousers and braids, climbing fences and shooting turkeys, but is thrust into a life of dresses and jewels and dancing lessons, none of which Marian is particularly pleased about. Her dark mood changes when she meets a tiny whip of a girl called Robin Hood. Robin is fierce and brave, and wants more than anything to become a knight, regardless of her gender. Together they explore the city, becoming fast friends along the way.
As time passes, their friendship into something bigger and scarier and far more wonderful. But then Marian’s father is killed in service to the king and she catches the king’s eye.
Can Robin save her one more? Or will Marian discover how to save herself?
Each week, Gabriel Romero’s drive to Sunday mass takes him past “El Ángel,” the golden statue at the heart of Mexico City that haunts his memories and inspires his future. Spurred by the memory of his parents, Gabriel is drawn to the secretive world of lucha libre, where wrestling, performance art and big business collide.
Under the conflicting mentorships of one of lucha libre’s famed gay exótico wrestlers and an ambitious young luchador whose star is on the rise, Gabriel must choose between traditions which ground him but may limit his future, and the lure of sex and success that may compromise his independence. Surrounded by a makeshift family of wrestlers, Gabriel charts a course to balance ambition, sexuality and faith to find the future that may have been destined for him since childhood.
Thanksgiving arrives in one week and one day. Feeling hemmed in by parental expectations? Are they disappointed by your sapphic proclivities? I can help! The only pay I want is the holiday meal!
I didn’t know what I was looking for until I saw her Craigslist ad.
I love my family. I’m lucky to have them—well, most of them. But my aunt? I’m so tired of her giving my mom crap because I happen to be a lesbian. So one pink-haired tattoo artist pretending to be my girlfriend will annoy my Christian fundamentalist aunt right back and make my Thanksgiving perfect.
Only . . . Brooke turns out to be cuter and more complicated than I expected. And before you can say “yorkiepoo,” we kiss . . . and abduct a dog together. I want to keep them both—but Brooke isn’t the kind to be kept. Lucky for me, I’m the kind to chase what I want.
In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.
It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.
And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.
But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.
The decision to stop dating has made Vaughn Hargrave’s life infinitely simpler: he has friends, an excellent wardrobe, and a job in the industry he loves. That’s all he really needs, especially since sex isn’t his forte anyway and no one else seems interested in a purely romantic connection. But when a piece is stolen from his art gallery and insurance investigator Jonah Sondern shows up, Vaughn finds himself struggling with that decision.
Jonah wants his men like his coffee: hot, intense, and daily. But Vaughn seems to be the one gay guy in Toronto who doesn’t do hookups, which is all Jonah can offer. No way can Jonah give Vaughn what he really wants, not when Jonah barely understands what love is.
When another painting goes missing, tension ramps up both on and off the clock. Vaughn and Jonah find themselves grappling not just with stolen art, but with their own differences. Because a guy who wants nothing but romance and a guy who wants nothing but sex will never work—right? Not unless they find a way to fill in the spaces between them.
Dani Perez, a secular Israeli working as a software engineer in Boston, has never had trouble balancing his faith and his sexuality—until he meets Avi Levine, a gay Orthodox Jew and sign language interpreter. As they fall in love, Dani finds himself wanting Avi in his life but confused by Avi’s observance. Dani can’t understand how Avi reconciles what his religion demands with what his body desires. And although he wants to deny it, neither can Avi.
Despite the risk of losing Avi forever to a religious life that objects to their love, Dani supports him through the struggle to find an answer. Will they be able to start a life together despite religious ideology that conflicts with the relationship they are trying to build?
Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.
Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.
When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.
But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.
All her life, Serafina Talarico has searched in vain for a place where she and her mystical talents belong. She never found it in Rome—the city of her birth—where her family’s Ethiopian origins marked them as immigrants. After traveling halfway across Europe to study with Alpennia’s Royal Thaumaturgist, her hopes of finding a home among Margerit Sovitre’s circle of scholars are dashed, for Serafina can perceive, but not evoke, the mystical forces of the Mysteries of the Saints and even Margerit can’t awaken her talents.
When Serafina takes lodgings with Luzie Valorin, widowed music teacher and aspiring composer, both their lives are changed forever. Luzie’s music holds a power to rival the Mysteries, and Serafina alone has the vision to guide her talents. For sorcery threatens the fate of Alpennia—indeed of all of Europe—locking the mountains in a malevolent storm meant to change the course of history. Alpennia’s mystic protections are under attack and the key to survival may lie in the unlikeliest of places: Luzie’s ambition to write an opera on the life of the medieval philosopher Tanfrit.