Tag Archives: Non-Binary

Happy National Poetry Day!

In celebration of National Poetry Day, check out these Poetry titles that discuss queerness, sexuality, identity, and more. This year’s theme is “Truth,” and given how much of queerness is grappling with that concept, whether for yourself or making other people understand yours or both, you can’t really go wrong here. (For a longer but less detailed list, check out our Poetry page.)

Disintegrate/Dissociate by Arielle Twist

42363258In her powerful debut collection of poetry, Arielle Twist unravels the complexities of human relationships after death and metamorphosis. In these spare yet powerful poems, she explores, with both rage and tenderness, the parameters of grief, trauma, displacement, and identity. Weaving together a past made murky by uncertainty and a present which exists in multitudes, Arielle Twist poetically navigates through what it means to be an Indigenous trans woman, discovering the possibilities of a hopeful future and a transcendent, beautiful path to regaining softness.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Masquerade by Cyrus Parker

Non-binary poet Cyrus Parker returns with an all-new collection of poetry and prose dedicated to those struggling to find their own identity in a world that often forces one into the confines of what’s considered “socially acceptable.”

Divided into three parts and illustrated by Parker, masqueradegrapples with topics such as the never-ending search for acceptance, gender identity, relationships, and the struggle to recognize your own face after hiding behind another for so long.

Buy it: Indiebound | Amazon | B&N

Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul by Ryka Aoki

25352976Following up her 2014 novel, He Mele A HiloWhy Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul is Ryka Aoki’s first book dedicated completely to poetry.

Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul is currently a finalist for the 2016 Lambda Literary Award in Transgender Poetry.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Holy Wild by Gwen Benaway

In her third collection of poetry, Holy Wild, Gwen Benaway explores the complexities of being an Indigenous trans women in expansive lyric poems. She holds up the Indigenous trans body as a site of struggle, liberation, and beauty. A confessional poet, Benaway narrates her sexual and romantic intimacies with partners as well as her work to navigate the daily burden of transphobia and violence. She examines the intersections of Indigenous and trans experience through autobiographical poems and continues to speak to the legacy of abuse, violence, and colonial erasure that defines Canada. Her sparse lines, interwoven with English and Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe), illustrate the wonder and power of Indigenous trans womanhood in motion. Holy Wild is not an easy book, as Benaway refuses to give any simple answers, but it is a profoundly vibrant and beautiful work filled with a transcendent grace.

Buy it: B&N | IndieBound | Amazon

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

23841432Ocean Vuong’s first full-length collection aims straight for the perennial “big”—and very human—subjects of romance, family, memory, grief, war, and melancholia. None of these he allows to overwhelm his spirit or his poems, which demonstrate, through breath and cadence and unrepentant enthrallment, that a gentle palm on a chest can calm the fiercest hungers.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Feed by Tommy Pico

Feed is the fourth book in the Teebs tetralogy. It’s an epistolary recipe for the main character, a poem of nourishment, and a jaunty walk through New York’s High Line park, with the lines, stanzas, paragraphs, dialogue, and registers approximating the park’s cultivated gardens of wildness. Among its questions, Feed asks what’s the difference between being alone and being lonely? Can you ever really be friends with an ex? How do you make perfect mac & cheese? Feed is an ode of reconciliation to the wild inconsistencies of a northeast spring, a frustrating season of back-and-forth, of thaw and blizzard, but with a faith that even amidst the mess, it knows where it’s going.

Buy it: IndieBound | B&N | Amazon

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Better Know an Author: Katherine Locke

I am so thrilled to have Katherine Locke on the site today, not only as one of my best friends and not only as one of my favorite authors, but as one of the editors of It’s a Whole Spiel, an anthology in which I happen to be a contributor and which releases on the 17th from Knopf! Here’s where I’ll mention that you can see us both at Books of Wonder in NYC on September 17th and Children’s Book World in Haverford on September 19th! And now, on to get to better know Katherine Locke! (Which, by the way, you can also do as a Patron at the $10+ level, as they’ve also done an interview there!)

Happy It’s a Whole Spiel month!

Thank you!! I’m so excited it’s finally here 😀

Of course, I have a little more insight into this one than usual being that I’m a contributor to this all-#ownvoices Jewish anthology you coedited with Laura Silverman, but for those a little less in the know, can you share a little bit about the process of editing it, and about the queer stories in it?

36511766._sy475_Yes! Spiel is Laura Silverman’s brain child. She called me in February 2017 and wanted me to co-edit this anthology with her. I was fresh off finishing my story for Unbroken (edited by Marieke Nijkamp) which had been a tough story for me to write (personally, but also from a craft perspective, I hadn’t written short stories since college and hadn’t read much either, to be honest.) But I said yes right away. We worked really collaboratively on putting together the author list, the proposal, and then the editing of the anthology.

It’s been a really interesting experience. There are four explicitly queer stories in it, all by out queer authors–Alex London wrote about a gay boy at summer camp who falls in love with a fellow camp counselor, while also trying to make sense of a crisis aboard the space station, one of his favorite nerdy topics. David Levithan wrote a really moving story about a Jewish boy’s coming of age, falling in love, and how that weaves through being Jewish too. It has lines that brought tears to my eyes and lines that made me sigh. It’s lovely. Hannah Moskowitz’s short story is about a Jewish girl who is dating a more observant Jewish girl, and grappling with her eating disorder on Yom Kippur. Hannah writes with this beautiful sparse language that really guts you, and this story really showcases that. I love that it’s the story of two girls dating and religious observance all tangled up together (with a good serving of self-acceptance and taking the first steps toward recovery mindset as well.) And my story is also queer!

Your own story has some A+ queer content, including a non-binary sibling who undergoes a religious coming-of-age ceremony. It’s a great example of how queerness and religion intersect, and I’d love for you to talk a little about that!

Yes! Davey, the younger sibling to my narrator Gabe, is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. I used B’nai Mitzvah for the name of their coming of age ceremony (for non-Jewish readers, Bar and Bat Mitzvah are gendered (as is Hebrew) after consulting with a rabbi and parents of nonbinary kids. I really loved writing Davey and writing Gabe’s interactions with Davey. Gabe’s fiercely protective of his sibling (a theme that comes up a LOT in my work). Gabe identifies as cishet, but there’s another character, Yael, who is the moderator of the fandom website Gabe haunts, who is also nonbinary and uses they/them but online only. That’s all I can say without spoilers!

Of course, this isn’t your first queer work (or even your first Jewish queer work); your most recently published novel, The Spy With the Red Balloon, is a dual-POV set during WWII and told from the perspectives of two Jewish siblings, one of whom is a bi girl and one of whom is a demi boy in a relationship with another boy. How do you go about writing historical with identities that didn’t have the terminology we have now, and in what ways does their queerness impact the story you’ve told?

38650956I struggle a lot with terminology in historical fiction. A lot of it, including phrases which marginalized people used to self-identify, would be considered slurs and harmful now. And sometimes, people just didn’t have the language we have now. I try to describe how they feel instead, being as precise as possible. I was more vague with Wolf (my demisexual MC in Spy) at first and my editor asked me to be MORE explicit. I balked at first, mostly because I think it’s hard to describe demisexuality on the page (I am demisexual and I wrote Wolf’s ID largely from my experience). But I’m glad I did because that’s been something readers really connected with. But Wolf uses the word ‘queer’ because that’s the word that came up frequently in my research that I could be comfortable with, versus other words I wasn’t comfortable putting on the page. Ilse doesn’t have the word “bisexual” but says she likes some girls the way she likes some boys.

Spy was the first time I’d written queer main characters. I really loved writing those queer relationships that felt bold and brave and hopeful in that book because a lot of that book is grim and dark. When I think about the book, I think about those quiet, gentle moments between those characters–Ilse and Polly’s first kiss, Wolf asking Max if he volunteered to be a pilot because Wolf was on the mission, Ilse teasing Wolf and Max, the last scene that I can’t talk about because spoilers. Those relationships got me through the dark parts of writing the book. And they were often the first scenes to come to me. Writing SPY was a really hard process and I wrote it in a pretty chaotic fashion. But Ilse and Polly’s first kiss has been there from the first draft, written exactly as it is now. Those are the lights in the dark. (Tl;dr: writing the queer relationships in SPY gave me the same joy writing fanfic does.)

Like our most recently featured author, you’ve got a short story in the upcoming Out Now, edited by Saundra Mitchell. What can you tell us about it?

Ahhh! I can tell you…that technically it lives in the same universe as my short story in It’s A Whole Spiel! There’s an overlapping coffee shop, because queer coffee shop AUs are the best? The Out Now story is called ‘Seditious Teapots’ because the main character, Rory, collects teapots. They don’t drink tea. They just like teapots. (Their mom does not get it.)

I’m not sure everyone realizes this, but back when YA Pride had a book club, you were its spectacular moderator! Any advice for someone seeking to do a queer book club, and any recommendations that sparked particularly interesting conversation?

Yes! I did that for many years, actually. I would use this lovely website, LGBTQReads as a great resource, if I was running a book club now. And I would talk and communicate with the group members! Some people really don’t want to read any stories in which queer characters come up against tragedy or hate, and that’s totally fair! Some people aren’t into coming out stories. That’s also okay. It’s good to know what your group’s hard limits are. Book recommendations: all of Ashley Herring Blake‘s books sparked great conversation, as did A Line In The Dark by Malinda Lo. I think that one makes a particularly good book club book because it gets that true crime x lgbtqreads crossover. Plus that cover literally sends shivers down my spine.

Your books require a lot of research, and your writing schedule requires a lot of discipline. What are your favorite resources for looking up historical details, and your favorite resources and tricks for staying on track?

I wish I had all the discipline my writing schedule requires! I do a lot of reading for my books. I think the book I’m researching now is going to end up being about 22 books in total. And then there’s the movies, tv shows, articles online, and interviews. I borrow books from the library when I think I can read it, get the general gist and won’t need to touch it again. I buy them when I think I’ll need to reference them again and again. I have a pretty good memory so for the most part, I highlight and bookmark. I only write down the timeline of the events because I do not have the brain for dates/years/times/etc (a problem for my previous two YA novels which were time travel books…)

I have a rule that I read 3 sources before I begin, and the rest I read as I go along. Otherwise, I’ll drown in the research and never surface to write the book. So I usually try to read an overview of the time or event, a personal memoir or biography, and then something broader about that time period in the world OR the time period right before the time period I’m writing about (history builds on what came before it. You can’t write historical fiction and only read about that ONE time period.)

I flag things in manuscripts as I first-draft so that I don’t slow myself down. Part of my problem is my brain gets distracted very easily (ADHD, and also, our brains are being rewired by our technology to have shortened attention spans). So if I open up a tab to look up a street name, I’ll end up with ten tabs open, buying a rug, researching swimsuits, and in a twitter argument. It’s best if I just put [STREET NAME] in my document, and fill it in later in revisions. Everything can be fixed in revisions. EVERYTHING.

What’s the first LGBTQIAP+ representation you recall in media, for better or for worse?

I think Jack? From Will & Grace. I can’t think of one earlier. I certainly didn’t read one in books until college, I think. Or one that I recognized. I suppose in retrospect there’s a lot of queer coding that I did not catch.

Naturally, you’re one of my favorite people to talk upcoming books with, so I have to ask: what are you really excited about this fall and in 2020?

OKAY. I’m excited for everyone to read The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (which has a gay protagonist!) because it is simply stupendous. I’m also excited to read Gideon The Ninth which I’ve heard great things about. I have not read, but am absolutely dying to read, King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender. Kace is one of my favorite kidlit writers (they also have an adult novel called Queen of the Conquered coming out this fall I think that I want to dive into!) and King looks lush and magical and heartfelt. I am also DYING-ACTUALLY DYING to get my hands on Julian Winters’ next book How To Be Remy Cameron! I loved his debut, Running With Lions, so much and I just want to shove his books into everyone’s hands. And I’m excited to read By Any Means Necessary because bees! (BEES!) Also: Crier’s War. That’s on my list. (I’m just scrolling through pre-orders right now.) Jackpot by Nic Stone because the voice in Dear Martin blew me away and I just want to get sucked in like that again. OH and The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd Jones because I try to read one creepy book each year even though I don’t do creepy well, and this is my pick this year. But I’m in it to win it because I’ve been promised an undead goat. [Blogger’s Note for readers: Those last three are not queer books, AFAIK, though both authors do have other queer work! I forgot to specify the queer part in my question.]

Also I hear there’s a really amazing Edgar Allen Poe anthology that’s coming out? His Hideous Heart! That’s the one. So I guess I’m going to get creeped out TWICE this fall. *shivers* *buys more blankets and hot chocolate to make up for it*

What’s up next for you?

*nervous laugh* UHHHHH. It’s A Whole Spiel is out on September 17th, and Out Now is out in May 2020. I am breaking out in my picture book debut in spring 2021 (!!!). And right now, I’m hard at work on another novel! It’s adult, historical fantasy (similar vein as the Balloonmakers books but with a weirder magic system), and I love it very, very much. It’s so weird. It’s so historical. That’s my favorite.

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Katie Locke April 2016-21Katherine Locke lives and writes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with their feline overlords and their addiction to chai lattes. They are the author of The Girl with the Red Balloon, a 2018 Sydney Taylor Honor Book and 2018 Carolyn W. Field Honor Book, as well as The Spy with the Red Balloon. They are the co-editor and contributor to It’s A Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes and Other Jewish Stories, and a contributor to Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens. They not-so-secretly believe most stories are fairytales in disguise. They can be found online at KatherineLockeBooks.com and @bibliogato on Twitter and Instagram.

Inside an Anthology: Keep Faith ed. by Gabriela Martins

47779089. sy475 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.

Buy now!

“And I Entreated” by Bogi Takács

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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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!

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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Happy (Upcoming) International Nonbinary Day!

July 14th is International Nonbinary Day, so here’s a post to help you celebrate in traditional bookish fashion!

Books to Read Now

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

34198648For Teodora DiSangro, a mafia don’s daughter, family is fate.

All her life, Teodora has hidden the fact that she secretly turns her family’s enemies into music boxes, mirrors, and other decorative objects. After all, everyone in Vinalia knows that stregas—wielders of magic—are figures out of fairytales. Nobody believes they’re real.

Then the Capo, the land’s new ruler, sends poisoned letters to the heads of the Five Families that have long controlled Vinalia. Four lie dead and Teo’s beloved father is gravely ill. To save him, Teo must travel to the capital as a DiSangro son—not merely disguised as a boy, but transformed into one.

Enter Cielo, a strega who can switch back and forth between male and female as effortlessly as turning a page in a book. Teo and Cielo journey together to the capital, and Teo struggles to master her powers and to keep her growing feelings for Cielo locked in her heart. As she falls in love with witty, irascible Cielo, Teo realizes how much of life she’s missed by hiding her true nature. But she can’t forget her mission, and the closer they get to the palace, the more sinister secrets they uncover about what’s really going on in their beloved country—and the more determined Teo becomes to save her family at any cost.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon 

The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang

33099588Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.

A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

No Man of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll

39878322Destiny sees what others don’t.

A quiet fisher mourning the loss of xer sister to a cruel dragon. A clever hedge-witch gathering knowledge in a hostile land. A son seeking vengeance for his father’s death. A daughter claiming the legacy denied her. A princess laboring under an unbreakable curse. A young resistance fighter questioning everything he’s ever known. A little girl willing to battle a dragon for the sake of a wish. These heroes and heroines emerge from adversity into triumph, recognizing they can be more than they ever imagined: chosen ones of destiny.

From the author of the Earthside series and the Rewoven Tales novels, No Man of Woman Born is a collection of seven fantasy stories in which transgender and nonbinary characters subvert and fulfill gendered prophecies. These prophecies recognize and acknowledge each character’s gender, even when others do not. Note: No trans or nonbinary characters were killed in the making of this book. Trigger warnings and neopronoun pronunciation guides are provided for each story.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz

24727102Fifteen-year-old Kivali has never fit in. As a girl in boys’ clothes, she is accepted by neither tribe, bullied by both. What are you? they ask. Abandoned as a baby wrapped in a T-shirt with an image of a lizard on the front, Kivali found a home with nonconformist artist Sheila. Is it true what Sheila says, that Kivali was left by a mysterious race of saurians and that she’ll one day save the world? Kivali doesn’t think so. But if it is true, why has Sheila sent her off to CropCamp, with its schedules and regs and what feels like indoctrination into a gov-controlled society Kivali isn’t sure has good intentions?

But life at CropCamp isn’t all bad. Kivali loves being outdoors and working in the fields. And for the first time, she has real friends: sweet, innocent Rasta; loyal Emmett; fierce, quiet Nona. And then there’s Sully. The feelings that explode inside Kivali whenever Sully is near—whenever they touch—are unlike anything she’s experienced, exhilarating and terrifying. But does Sully feel the same way?

Between mysterious disappearances, tough questions from camp director Ms. Mischetti, and weekly doses of kickshaw—the strange, druglike morsel that Kivali fears but has come to crave—things get more and more complicated. But Kivali has an escape: her unique ability to channel and explore the power of her animal self. She has Lizard Radio.

Will it be enough to save her?

Buy It: B&N | Amazon

Documenting Light by E.E. Ottoman

31145748 (1)If you look for yourself in the past and see nothing, how do you know who you are? How do you know that you’re supposed to be here?

When Wyatt brings an unidentified photograph to the local historical society, he hopes staff historian Grayson will tell him more about the people in the picture. The subjects in the mysterious photograph sit side by side, their hands close but not touching. One is dark, the other fair. Both wear men’s suits.

Were they friends? Lovers? Business partners? Curiosity drives Grayson and Wyatt to dig deep for information, and the more they learn, the more they begin to wonder — about the photograph, and about themselves.

Grayson has lost his way. He misses the family and friends who anchored him before his transition and the confidence that drove him as a high-achieving graduate student. Wyatt lives in a similar limbo, caring for an ill mother, worrying about money, unsure how and when he might be able to express his nonbinary gender publicly. The growing attraction between Wyatt and Grayson is terrifying — and incredibly exciting.

As Grayson and Wyatt discover the power of love to provide them with safety and comfort in the present, they find new ways to write the unwritten history of their own lives and the lives of people like them. With sympathy and cutting insight, Ottoman offers a tour de force exploration of contemporary trans identity.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde

35901105A teen rockstar has to navigate family, love, coming out, and life in the spotlight after being labeled the latest celebrity trainwreck in Jen Wilde’s quirky and utterly relatable novel.

As a rock star drummer in the hit band The Brightsiders, Emmy King’s life should be perfect. But there’s nothing the paparazzi love more than watching a celebrity crash and burn. When a night of partying lands Emmy in hospital and her girlfriend in jail, she’s branded the latest tabloid train wreck.

Luckily, Emmy has her friends and bandmates, including the super-swoonworthy Alfie, to help her pick up the pieces of her life. She knows hooking up with a band member is exactly the kind of trouble she should be avoiding, and yet Emmy and Alfie Just. Keep. Kissing.

Will the inevitable fallout turn her into a clickbait scandal (again)? Or will she find the strength to stand on her own?

Buy It: B&N | Amazon

Behrouz Gets Lucky by Avery Cassell

27214426Behrouz Gets Lucky is a romantic, literary, kinky, and political novel about two older San Francisco queers – a butch dyke gardener named Lucky and a genderqueer librarian named Behrouz. A coffee date at Café Flore in the Castro, sparks a fiery trans masculine relationship that ends with the couple eating falafel in bed at 3 am half way around the world in a hotel room in Tehran. Forced gentrification in modern San Francisco goads Behrouz and Lucky to find their own uniquely sexual way of reclaiming the city’s lost queer spaces. Behrouz Gets Lucky is also tenderly sensual – an immersive novel, full of fragrances, delicious food, delirious sexual touch, dandy fashion, and beauty.

Buy It: B&N | Amazon

Masquerade by Cyrus Parker

Non-binary poet Cyrus Parker returns with an all-new collection of poetry and prose dedicated to those struggling to find their own identity in a world that often forces one into the confines of what’s considered “socially acceptable.”

Divided into three parts and illustrated by Parker, masquerade grapples with topics such as the never-ending search for acceptance, gender identity, relationships, and the struggle to recognize your own face after hiding behind another for so long.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Book to Preorder

Dithered Hearts by Chace Verity (July 24th)

A gender-confused farmer desperate to reclaim her farm and escape her stepparents’ abuse. A closeted prince more interested in helping his people than finding a bride. A fairy godfather with a ton of secrets and no powers. In this diverse fairy tale, everyone is searching for a happy ending.

The masquerade ball to find Prince Longhollow’s future bride might be Cynthia Lynah’s best chance at getting her family farm back. If she can marry him, she’ll have all the money and power she needs. Her newly discovered fairy godfather is ready to help her, but his magic can’t do anything to stop her heart from falling for two women she shouldn’t be attracted to–her stepsisters. In the midst of her flirtations, she causes her fairy godfather to lose his magic and stirs trouble for the prince desperate to save his nation from a famine.

Everyone gets a chance to be the hero of their story, but happy endings seem impossible when they need more than magic to make them happen.

Buy it: Amazon 

Previously Featured Works with Nonbinary MCs

Upcoming Books to add on Goodreads:

Rec Posts

Features with Non-Binary Creators

Backlist Book of the Month: An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Confession: I’ve never read an adult sci-fi novel in my life, but I’m asked for recommendations for them with a decent amount of frequency, which means I spend a lot of time looking into the good ones. When I find one that’s purported to be engaging, brilliant, nuanced, and full of good rep, I know it needs more eyes. So check out An Unkindness of Ghosts and find yourself a new fave!

Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, as they accuse, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the cookfire.

Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.

When the autopsy of Matilda‘s sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother’s suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother’s footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she’s willing to fight for it.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Interview and Exclusive Look At Queer YA Comics Anthology Shout Out

44059948Join us on the adventures of young demon hunters, star-crossed Viking lovers, and cyberpunk street artists as we invite you into new worlds where brave heroes with diverse queer identities demonstrate the strength of their hearts and the power of their dreams!
Inside this book you’ll find eighteen LGBTQ2SIA+ stories crafted by award-winning international creators. Find your place alongside ace necromancers, glamorous jazz musicians, fey outsiders, friendly monsters, and a superhero still finding his way out of the phone booth.

Spotlighting the work of diverse voices, this collection includes Kieron Gillen (The Wicked + The Divine), Kelly & Nichole Matthews (Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy), Vivian Ng​​ (Legend of Korra: Turf Wars), and many others.

Our stories have heroes who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming, two-spirit, and asexual, from creators who share those identities.

Find it on Goodreads

Excerpt from SHOUT OUT: “Show Me Your Teeth” written by Angela Cole, illustrated by Cheryl Young

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1. What influenced your style for Show Me Your Teeth, and what parts were the most fun to draw?

Cheryl: I like to think of comics as a fun, enjoyable experience to not only read, but visually enjoy. If I have fun drawing the expressions of the characters as they interact with each other, my hope is the readers will too!

Angela: I’m pretty shy and socially awkward in real life and I appreciate it when someone takes the time to explain things when I make a mistake, especially if it’s about something important to them. I wanted a story where the characters could talk about gender honestly and without judgement. Di makes a mistake but is earnest and wants to understand Kaoru, and Kaoru explains their gender and what it means to them in words I hope someone else can understand, too.

2. Why do monsters and fantasy hold so much appeal for you?

Cheryl: Monsters and fantasy are only a small extension of the world we live in, just adding a little extra fantastical element alongside the real world we face every day. It can mean a lot of things to people, yet also very little. It’s interesting to see people’s interpretations of that and see that we’re not all that much different.

Angela: I think that monsters are the manifestations of our own ignorance of the world and they’re very important in the history of all cultures. They represent the terrible unknowns in every society, whether it be a natural phenomena or a person who is different, and I’ve always had a deep love for the outcasts and misunderstood. Also, I just think they’re pretty neat. I wanted to incorporate monsters from different cultures in this story and it was incredibly difficult to choose which would appear. As for fantasy, there’s so much freedom and possibility in it. Growing up, fantasy was my go-to safe space I would retreat into whenever things got too difficult.

3. Which fictional heroes inspired you as a child?

Cheryl: I didn’t have any as a child, but I really enjoyed playing the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series. Just the fantasy RPG role playing aspect of the game along with the storytelling got me really immersed in the world as a player. Consuming various media with fantastical creatures and worlds made me want to create the same thing now in my work.

Angela: Wonder Woman was absolutely the first and remains top. There was also She-Ra, Storm (of Marvel), Elisa Maza from Gargoyles, the unicorn and Molly Grue (The Last Unicorn), and many others I am forgetting. Wonder Woman, Storm, and She-Ra are obvious choices for a young girl, but Elisa was the first biracial character I had seen in something I religiously watched, and she was friends with monsters! The unicorn and Molly are opposite sides of the same coin in the story and I like to say that I wanted to be the unicorn when I was little, but I grew up to understand Molly more.

4. What modern piece of queer media do you wish had been a part of your childhood?

Cheryl: Bisexuality and non binary spectrums being explored, as well as allonormativity being dismantled and more diverse characters being celebrated for just being friends instead of love interests.

Angela: Steven Universe. I grew up in a time bereft of queer media for children and it would have been game-changing to have had something as inclusive and beautifully sincere as Steven Universe.

5. What are you working on now, and where can readers find more of your work?

Cheryl: I’m working on building my universe of Hong Kong and Japanese inspired environments through visual storytelling, found on my twitter (@cysketch)

Angela: I have a spooky comic about a story from my family to be published in the Local Haunts Anthology with beautiful art by Anastasia Longoria! I also have a few pitches in the works.

New Release Spotlight: I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

In case you’re not already aware, this book is a Very Big Deal, being the first contemporary YA from a major publisher (in this case, Scholastic) with an on-page non-binary MC by an openly non-binary author. It’s also sweet and affirming and I could not agree with that front-cover blurb by Becky Albertalli more: this book will save lives. So let’s get to it!

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

41473872When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Park Road Books (signed)

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Shine of the Ever by Claire Rudy Foster

As a well-documented fan of music coming out of PNW in the 90s, I’m so thrilled to revealing the cover on the site today for Shine of the Ever by Claire Rudy Foster, a collection of short stories that “explores what binds a community of queer and trans people as they negotiate love, screwing up and learning to forgive themselves for being young and sometimes foolish.” The stories feature a whole rainbow of representation, including people who identify as queer, bisexual, gay, lesbian, binary transgender, non-binary transgender, polyamorous, asexual, pansexual, and genderfluid.

NOW, is there any better format for mashing the best things together like a mix tape?? And that’s what makes this cover, designed by C.B. Messer, so perfect!

Behold!

Shine of the Ever Cover

Shine of the Ever comes out on November 5th, 2019 from Interlude Press

Pre-order: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Book Depository

But wait, there’s more! In addition to the cover, we have an exclusive excerpt from the short story that gave the collection its name, “Shine of the Ever”!

***

We spent most of the winter in and around my apartment, which overlooked a boring section of southeast Belmont, before the cafes and PNW-inspired restaurants moved in. My rent back then was five-hundred-fifty dollars a month. It had hardwood floors, a bedroom, pocket doors, and a view of Mount Tabor. My neighbors were older people who had been there since the 1980s. I was the youngest person in the building, young enough that I was the only one who didn’t have a player for the tapes the other tenants swapped in the laundry room “library.” I only had a binder of CDs. I didn’t buy a lot of music, because at the time the rent I paid was considered kind of high. Since then, it has more than tripled. I’m pretty sure my old neighbors are all out in the Numbers now. I’m just saying. I don’t live there anymore. Nobody I know does, but there’s never a vacancy. Explain how that works. Where the hell do all these new people come from? At least the weather hasn’t changed. That winter with Ada, it mostly rained, but one day snow piled like popcorn in the gutters, and on another morning a white fog, so muffling that we couldn’t even see the mattress company storefront across the street.

We were a we, an actual couple. We did relationship things. Ada went to her classes at Portland State, and I went to my library job, but we always met up at the end of the day. She didn’t want to spend time with anyone else, and I wasn’t bored yet, so it worked. She served me free beers when she picked up shifts at the Crow Bar. When school got too busy, she quit, and started bringing over a bottle of whiskey a couple times a month.

She didn’t want me to ever feel deprived or like I was missing out, she said. She didn’t want me to have a reason to go anywhere but home.

We went to places that are other places now. We shared beers at Blue Monk, which was a bar and music venue where you could hear actual good hip-hop and jazz musicians who didn’t play that gooey, elevator shit. The Blue Monk is called something else, and there’s a line out front with a doorman and a velvet rope. The people waiting are all dressed up. Lines were never a thing, back then. I associate never waiting with that time of my life, because the timing was always just magically perfect. Anything you wanted, you could have right then: brunch, beer, a turn in the horseshoe pit. Delayed gratification didn’t exist, when I was twenty-three.

Ada and I kissed in bars that are too clean for me now and too expensive. It’s bizarre, when I go back now and try to approximate the proportions of the places I used to know so well. I went to one of my old dives a few years after it closed, and only the ceiling was the same. Pipes and drywall, peeling paint, that was all. Everything else, from the lighting to the tinted mirrors over each booth, was styled. The weird thing was, the place was styled to look like Old Portland. My Portland. They spent a fortune trying to do it too. The matching frosted globes that hung from the exposed rafters would run at least four hundred apiece. A matched set in such good condition must have cost a mint. The tables were tropical salvage. I had that feeling I was in a movie set of my own living room, where every object looked exactly like my personal possession, but nicer, cleaner, and more appealing. I hate it. These designers put in a lot of effort to make things seem natural, but I think the only people who believe it are the ones who never saw the original. They don’t understand that this isn’t Portland anymore: it’s Portlandia. A theme park of the places we used to love.

If you have no point of reference, you are very easy to fool.

Foster
Photo by Elizabeth Ehrenpreis

Claire Rudy Foster is a queer, trans single parent in recovery. Their short story collection, I’ve Never Done This Before, was published to warm acclaim in 2016. With four Pushcart Prize nominations, Claire’s writing has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, and many other journals. Their nonfiction work has reached millions of readers in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Narratively, among others. Claire lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. 

New Releases: May 1-7, 2019

Precious and Adored: The Love Letters of Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Simpson Whipple, 1890–1918 ed. by Lizzie Ehrenhalt and Tilly Laskey (1st)

In 1890, Rose Cleveland, sister of President Grover Cleveland, began writing to Evangeline Simpson, a wealthy widow who would become the second wife of Henry Whipple, Minnesota’s Episcopal bishop. The women corresponded across states and continents, discussing their advocacy and humanitarian work—and demonstrating their sexual attraction, romance, and partnership. In 1910, after Evangeline Whipple was again widowed, the two women sailed to Italy and began a life together.

The letters, most written in Cleveland’s dramatic, quirky style, guide readers through new love, heartbreak, and the rekindling of a committed relationship. Lillian Faderman’s foreword provides the context for same-sex relationships at the time. An introduction and annotations by editors Lizzie Ehrenhalt and Tilly Laskey discuss the women’s social and political circles, and explain references to friends, family, and historical events.

After Rose Cleveland’s death, Evangeline Whipple described her as “my precious and adored life-long friend.” This collection, rare in its portrayal of nineteenth-century LGBTQ history, brings their poignant story back to life.

Buy it: Indiebound |Amazon | B&N 

Reverb by Anna Zabo (6th)

Twisted Wishes bass player Mish Sullivan is a rock goddess—gorgeous, sexy and comfortable in the spotlight. With fame comes unwanted attention, though: a stalker is desperate to get close. Mish can fend for herself, just as she always has. But after an attack lands her in the hospital, the band reacts, sticking her with a bodyguard she doesn’t need or want.

David Altet has an instant connection with Mish. A certified badass, this ex-army martial arts expert can take down a man twice his size. But nothing—not living as a trans man, not his intensive military training—prepared him for the challenge of Mish. Sex with her is a distraction neither of them can afford, yet the hot, kink-filled nights keep coming.

When Mish’s stalker ups his game, David must make a choice—lover or bodyguard. He’d rather have Mish alive than in his bed. But Mish wants David, and no one, especially not a stalker, will force her to give him up.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

The Lady and Her Secret Lover by Jenn LeBlanc (7th)

44053809Much to her father’s dismay Lady Louisa Adele Kathryn Present is quite solidly on the shelf. She shows no interest in finding a husband after three long seasons of, well, not particularly trying.

She begins this season anew, somewhat jaded and uninterested in yet another season and the annoyance she’ll certainly face from her family when she remains with them, yet again.
But a single glance from one of the new set has her reeling— straight back into a potted palm.

Maitland Alice Elliot-Rigsby has trained to be the wife of a duchess.
Or perhaps a Viscount, an Earl at the very least. She has only her training — and a rather healthy dowry — to recommend her.
So when she catches the eye of a viscounts daughter her own mother is thrilled.

Louisa hasn’t ever trusted anyone the way she trusts Maitland and it frightens her, but how will they survive a world in which the both of them must marry?

Buy it: IndieboundAmazon | B&N

Me, Myself, They: a Non-Binary Life by Joshua M. Ferguson (7th)

40645112Me, Myself, They: Life Beyond the Binary chronicles Joshua M. Ferguson’s extraordinary story of transformation to become the celebrated non-binary filmmaker, writer, and advocate for trans rights they are today. Beginning with their birth and early childhood years of gender creativity, Ferguson recounts the complex and often challenging evolution of their identity, including traumatizing experiences with gender conversion therapy, bullying, depression, sexual assault, and violent physical assault. But Ferguson’s story is above all about survival, empathy, and self-acceptance. By combining their personal reflections on what it feels like to never truly fit into the prescribed roles of girl or boy, woman or man, with an informed analysis of the ongoing shifts in contemporary attitudes towards sex and gender, Ferguson calls for recognition and respect for all trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people, and an inclusive understanding of the rich diversity of human identity. Through their honest and impassioned storytelling, we learn what it means to reclaim one’s identity and to live beyond the binary.

Buy it: IndieboundAmazon | B&N 

Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby (7th)

40591956Fig, a sixth grader, wants more than anything to see the world as her father does. The once-renowned pianist, who hasn’t composed a song in years and has unpredictable good and bad days, is something of a mystery to Fig. Though she’s a science and math nerd, she tries taking an art class just to be closer to him, to experience life the way an artist does. But then Fig’s dad shows up at school, disoriented and desperately searching for Fig. Not only has the class not brought Fig closer to understanding him, it has brought social services to their door.

Diving into books about Van Gogh to understand the madness of artists, calling on her best friend for advice, and turning to a new neighbor for support, Fig continues to try everything she can think of to understand her father, to save him from himself, and to find space in her life to discover who she is even as the walls are falling down around her.

Nicole Melleby’s Hurricane Season is a stunning novel about a girl struggling to be a kid as pressing adult concerns weigh on her. It’s also about taking risks and facing danger, about love and art, and about coming of age and coming out. And more than anything else, it is a story of the healing power of love—and the limits of that power.

Buy it: AmazonB&N | IndieBound

Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins (7th)

41734205Regal romance abounds in this flirty, laugh-out-loud companion novel Royals, by New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins.

Millie Quint is devastated when she discovers that her sort-of-best friend/sort-of-girlfriend has been kissing someone else. And because Millie cannot stand the thought of confronting her ex every day, she decides to apply for scholarships to boarding schools . . . the farther from Houston the better.

Millie can’t believe her luck when she’s accepted into one of the world’s most exclusive schools, located in the rolling highlands of Scotland. Everything about Scotland is different: the country is misty and green; the school is gorgeous, and the students think Americans are cute.

The only problem: Mille’s roommate Flora is a total princess.

She’s also an actual princess. Of Scotland.

At first, the girls can barely stand each other–Flora is both high-class and high-key–but before Millie knows it, she has another sort-of-best-friend/sort-of-girlfriend. Even though Princess Flora could be a new chapter in her love life, Millie knows the chances of happily ever afters are slim . . . after all, real life isn’t a fairy tale . . . or is it?

This second book in Rachel Hawkins’ fun, flirty Royals series brings a proud perspective to a classic romance.

Buy it: Indiebound |Amazon | B&N 

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki (7th)

29981020Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school, was Frederica Riley’s dream girl: charming, confident, and SO cute. There’s just one problem: Laura Dean is maybe not the greatest girlfriend.

Reeling from her latest break up, Freddy’s best friend, Doodle, introduces her to the Seek-Her, a mysterious medium, who leaves Freddy some cryptic parting words: break up with her. But Laura Dean keeps coming back, and as their relationship spirals further out of her control, Freddy has to wonder if it’s really Laura Dean that’s the problem. Maybe it’s Freddy, who is rapidly losing her friends, including Doodle, who needs her now more than ever. Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnists like Anna Vice to help her through being a teenager in love.

Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell bring to life a sweet and spirited tale of young love that asks us to consider what happens when we ditch the toxic relationships we crave to embrace the healthy ones we need.

Buy it: Indiebound |Amazon | B&N

Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley (7th)

39798147For sixteen years, Nate was the perfect son—the product of a no-nonsense upbringing and deep spiritual faith. Then he met Cam, who pushed him to break rules, dream, and accept himself. Conflicted, Nate began to push back. With each push, the boys became more entangled in each others’ worlds…but they also spiraled closer to their breaking points. And now all of it has fallen apart after a fistfight-turned-near-fatal-incident—one that’s left Nate with a stab wound and Cam in jail.

Now Nate is being ordered to give a statement, under oath, that will send his best friend to prison. The problem is, the real story of what happened between them isn’t as simple as anyone thinks. With all eyes on him, Nate must make his confessions about what led up to that night with Cam…and in doing so, risk tearing both of their lives apart.

Buy it: IndieboundAmazon | B&N 

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju (7th)

42202063Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.

Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she’ll have to learn to accept lost love to get there.

Buy it: IndieboundB&N | Amazon

Everything Grows by Aimee Herman (7th)

42932817

Fifteen-year-old Eleanor Fromme just chopped off all of her hair. How else should she cope after hearing that her bully, James, has taken his own life? When Eleanor’s English teacher suggests students write a letter to a person who would never read it to get their feelings out, Eleanor chooses James.

With each letter she writes, Eleanor discovers more about herself, even while trying to make sense of his death. And, with the help of a unique cast of characters, Eleanor not only learns what it means to be inside a body that does not quite match what she feels on the inside, but also comes to terms with her own mother’s mental illness.

Set against a 1993-era backdrop of grunge rock and riot grrrl bands, EVERYTHING GROWS depicts Eleanor’s extraordinary journey to solve the mystery within her and feel complete. Along the way, she loses and gains friends, rebuilds relationships with her family, and develops a system of support to help figure out the language of her queer identity.

Buy it: IndieboundB&N | Amazon

Carmilla by Kim Turrisi (7th)

41717470An adaptation of Shaftesbury’s award-winning, groundbreaking queer vampire web series of the same name, Carmilla mixes the camp of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the snark of Veronica Mars, and the mysterious atmosphere of Welcome to Nightvale.

Newly escaped from the stifling boredom of a small town, college freshman Laura is ready to make the most of her first year at Silas University. But when her roommate, Betty, vanishes and a sarcastic, nocturnal philosophy student named Carmilla moves into Betty’s side of the room, Laura decides to play detective. Turns out Betty isn’t the first girl to go missing; she’s just the first girl not to come back. All over campus, girls have been vanishing, and they are completely changed when (or if) they return. Even more disturbing are the strange dreams they recount: smothering darkness, and a strange pale figure haunting their rooms. Dreams that Laura is starting to have herself.

As Laura closes in on the answers, tensions rise with Carmilla. Is this just a roommate relationship that isn’t working out, or does Carmilla know more than she’s letting on about the disappearances? What will Laura do if it turns out her roommate isn’t just selfish and insensitive, but completely inhuman? And what will she do with the feelings she’s starting to have for Carmilla?

Buy it: IndieboundB&N | Amazon

Castle of Lies by Kiersi Burkhart (7th)

29229432Thelia isn’t in line to inherit the crown, but she’s been raised to take power however she can. She’s been friends with Princess Corene her whole life, and she’s scheming to marry Bayled, the heir to the throne. But her plans must change when an army of elves invades the kingdom.

Thelia, her cousin Parsival, and Corene become trapped in the castle. An elf warrior, Sapphire, may be Thelia’s only hope of escape, but Sapphire has plans of their own. Meanwhile, an ancient magic is awakening within the castle, with the power to destroy the whole kingdom. Can Thelia find a way to protect her future–and her life?

Buy it: IndieboundB&N | Amazon

Waves by Ingrid Chabbert (7th)

40744544A young woman and her wife’s attempts to have a child unfold in this poetic tale that ebbs and flows like the sea.

After years of difficulty trying to have children, a young couple finally announces their pregnancy, only to have the most joyous day of their lives replaced with one of unexpected heartbreak. Their relationship is put to the test as they forge ahead, working together to rebuild themselves amidst the churning tumult of devastating loss, and ultimately facing the soul-crushing reality that they may never conceive a child of their own.

Based on author Ingrid Chabbert’s own experience, coupled with soft, sometimes dreamlike illustrations by Carole Maurel, Waves is a deeply moving story that poignantly captures a woman’s exploration of her pain in order to rediscover hope.

Buy it: IndieboundB&N | Amazon

Disintegrate/Dissociate by Arielle Twist (7th)

42363258In her powerful debut collection of poetry, Arielle Twist unravels the complexities of human relationships after death and metamorphosis. In these spare yet powerful poems, she explores, with both rage and tenderness, the parameters of grief, trauma, displacement, and identity. Weaving together a past made murky by uncertainty and a present which exists in multitudes, Arielle Twist poetically navigates through what it means to be an Indigenous trans woman, discovering the possibilities of a hopeful future and a transcendent, beautiful path to regaining softness.

Buy it: IndieboundB&N | Amazon

Masquerade by Cyrus Parker (7th)

Non-binary poet Cyrus Parker returns with an all-new collection of poetry and prose dedicated to those struggling to find their own identity in a world that often forces one into the confines of what’s considered “socially acceptable.”

Divided into three parts and illustrated by Parker, masquerade grapples with topics such as the never-ending search for acceptance, gender identity, relationships, and the struggle to recognize your own face after hiding behind another for so long.

Buy it: IndieboundAmazon | B&N

Tinfoil Crowns by Erin Jones (7th)

Seventeen-year-old internet video star Fit is on a mission to become famous at all costs. She shares her life with her fans through countless videos (always sporting some elaborate tinfoil accessory), and they love her for it. If she goes viral, maybe she can get out of her small casino town and the cramped apartment she shares with her brother and grandpa. But there’s one thing Fit’s fans don’t know about her: when Fit was three-years-old, her mother, suffering from postpartum psychosis, tried to kill her.

Now Fit’s mother, River, has been released from prison. Fit is outraged that River is moving in with the family, and it’s not long before Fit’s video followers realize something’s up and uncover her tragic past. But Fit soon realizes that the only thing her audience loves more than tragedy is a heartwarming tale of a family reunion. Is faking a relationship with River the key to all Fit’s dreams coming true?

Buy it : Indiebound |Amazon | B&N

Write What You Know (as Someone Else): a Guest Post by Lissa Reed, Author of the Sucre Coeur Series

Today on the site I’m delighted to welcome Lissa Reed, author of the Sucre Coeur series (which you can see from the cover of the digital box set that releases February 12 I  happen to be quite the fan of), to talk about one of queer lit’s hottest topics: writing from a male POV when you yourself are not male. It’s a complicated question, and one that doesn’t have easy answers, and here to discuss it with honesty and nuance is Lissa Reed:

“Write what you know.”

A common mantra. Writers hear it all the time.

“Write what you know.”

I know baking. I know anxiety. I know emotional post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Write what you know.”

I know that I don’t want to write about these things from a female perspective.

When I first began writing what would become the Sucre Coeur trilogy, I identified—however reluctantly—as female, and one who had a lot to process. I was a few years out of a very toxic relationship and still coping with the damage it had inflicted on me. And I was ready to be done with it, or as done as I could be, at least; some things, I knew, would be with me for way longer than I would want them to be, and there was nothing I could do about that.

But all the imaginary confrontations? The emotional conflict? My reconciling myself with my anxiety? I could do something with those, I could cough them up and out and try to make sense of them: I could write them. All of them. Get them all out.

As long as I didn’t write them from a female perspective.

I’d been drawn to writing from a male perspective for years, and truly enjoyed doing so, even as it baffled many of my friends. “But… why?” they would ask, perplexed. “You’re not a guy.”

I know now, of course, what I didn’t know then, that I identify as non-binary, that I do not adhere to labels at either end of the gender spectrum. And I think subconsciously, that had at least a little something to do with it, the voice of that stifled part of me trying to speak up. But that wasn’t all of it, or even most of it.

As someone then identifying as a woman, I could not write about being an abused, traumatized woman. I would never have been able to get all of my anger and distress out if the form it was taking wasn’t at least slightly removed from my own. I needed that step back, that distance. The character who was going to carry my issues couldn’t be me, or anything that resembled me, and at the time, the sharpest line I could draw between myself and my fictional counterpart was to make them male.

Alex Scheff, the romantic interest in Sucre Coeur 1: Definitely, Maybe, Yours, is not like me in a dozen other ways that go beyond gender—I’m not a professional photographer. I am not a college graduate. My parents are not lawyers. I’m not from Seattle. I’m not a lanky, freckled, skinny-jeans-wearing hipster with an unruly shock of hair and a frighteningly boisterous Russian-German-American family.

But Alex carries my emotional trauma, the way I flailed through an abusive relationship without knowing I was also dealing with a severe case of undiagnosed anxiety. Every panicked thing he does, every bad decision he makes in Definitely, Maybe, Yours, every time he takes two steps forward only to hustle one step ass-over-teakettle back – all of these were things I knew, so I wrote about them, and because this character was not me, I was able to write my way out of them.

If I had been writing a female character, she would have become me, and I would have just been mired in all of the darkness once again. Instead, Alex became a movie screen for me, a way to view everything that had happened through someone else’s eyes. And as I was writing him through his darkness, he was guiding me through the last stretch of mine.

So Definitely is of course an extremely personal book for me, even though I’ve otherwise never lived anything like it. No hot British baker has ever wooed me with cookies, my own closest cousin is not a thing like the dizzy, meddling mess that is Samantha. I’m not as close with any of my exes as Craig is with his. I am definitely not a dog person, no matter how adorable Yorkies are. And all of the people in that book are in and out of each other’s houses without so much as texting beforehand! In my circle of friends, that’s punishable by death.

But in every other way, I wrote what I knew – in a roundabout way.

***

Lissa Reed is a queer, non-binary (she/they) writer of fiction, blogs, and bawdy Renaissance song parodies. She traces her early interest in writing back to elementary school, when a teacher gifted her with her first composition book and told her to fill it with words. After experimenting with print journalism, Reed shifted her writing focus to romance and literary fiction and never looked back. She lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Sucre Coeur, her culinary romance trilogy about a circle of friends and lovers in a Seattle bakery, will be released as a digital boxed set on February 12.

LissaReed.com

Sucre Coeur on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43383568-sucre-coeur