Lower YA is still a wildly underrepresented subcategory in queer YA, so I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover for a new one entitled Chase: the Boy Who Hid by Z. Jeffries, which is a sci-fi releasing digitally on October 15 and starring a bisexual hero and nonbinary love interest. Here’s a little more on the book:
Don’t hide from your feelings. Hide from the giant robot trying to kill you.
I always knew I’d inherited my grandad’s mind for science and technology, but when he goes missing, I get his spot in a top-secret government game of hide and seek. The military camouflage challenge, DARPA’s game where shapeshifters, mechs, and telepaths hide from a robot seeker, is where Grandad vanished.
To find out what happened to him, I’ll play along- gain the team’s trust, master the tech, and avoid catching feelings for the team navigator. If I can do all that, then maybe I can survive the dangerous game. But if it comes down to winning or finding Grandad, I’ll ditch the game and betray my team in a millisecond. Even if it means I go missing, too.
Book One in the Hide & Seek Series, the action-packed coming of age stories of STEM-minded queer kids getting their hands on the tech of the future.
And here’s the cover, compliments of Mikki Noble of Paracoze Designs!
Z Jeffries (left) can’t wait for you to read his debut YA novel. A son of an English teacher, one of his earliest memories was after a day at kindergarten, sitting in the back of his mom’s classroom and listening to her describe Dr. Jekyll reeling from the violence of Mr. Hyde. Under various names, he’s written, produced, and directed theatre in Chicago and along the east coast, as well as published several adult short stories. His interests include space travel, cheese, and whether cheese will be allowed during space travel. He lives in American suburbia with his wife, daughter, dog, and garden. Visit ZJeffries.com just for the heck of it.
Today on the site I’m pleased to present the cover for Queens of Noise, the newest in Neon Hemlock‘s 2020 novella series, releasing on March 25th. It’s got a nonbinary protag, tons of queer rep, and a battle of the bands, so by law, it absolutely has to rock. Here’s the gist:
In Queens of Noise, Mixi fronts the Mangy Rats, a motley found family of queers, crust punks and werecoyotes. Mixi and their band know they’re gonna win the Battle of the Bands final showdown, no matter what it takes. But to make that happen, they’ll also have to contend with poser goths, murderous chickens, and a bullshit corporate takeover ruining the best bar in town.
Leigh Harlen is a queer, non-binary writer who lives and works in Seattle with their partner, a very goofy dog named Anya, and a mischief of rats. Their short fiction has appeared in several magazines and anthologies including Pseudopod, Lost Films, and Shoreline of Infinity. Their non-writing hobbies include petting strangers’ dogs and enthusing about bats. Find them online at www.leighharlen.com or follow them on Twitter @LeighHarlen.
Their novella Queens of Noise is part of Neon Hemlock’s 2020 Novella Series.
I’m so thrilled to be featuring this groundbreaking anthology on the site today, along with eleven notes by queer contributors on their entries! The representation in this book is so wonderfully varied, and it’s great to have so many authors here to talk about it! So here’s The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce ed. by the fabulous Angie Manfredi.
Chubby. Curvy. Fluffy. Plus-size. Thick. Fat. The time has come for fat people to tell their own stories. The (Other) F Word combines personal essays, prose, poetry, fashion tips, and art to create a relatable and attractive guide about body image and body positivity. This YA crossover anthology is meant for people of all sizes who desire to be seen and heard in a culture consumed by a narrow definition of beauty. By combining the talents of renowned fat YA and middle-grade authors, as well as fat influencers and creators, The (Other) F Word offers teen readers and activists of all ages a guide for navigating our world with confidence and courage.
“I’ve always had a weird relationship with clothes. I feel like it’s something that a lot of fat trans people deal with. Already clothing and fashion is hard to navigate when you’re fat, this industry doesn’t like you, it doesn’t want to see you be fashionable. It also wants to make you pay extra for daring to have a body. But when you’re trans on top of all of that? It can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. It’s so much harder to find clothing as a fat trans person, clothing that can literally save your life, or make you feel like the person you truly are.
Clothing is a life-line for both of us, for fat people, and for trans people. It has the magic to make us feel like our real selves, to be more confident in who we are. I’d never seen anything talk about this connection, ever, so I wanted to say my piece. Because it’s a hard world to navigate, and I want teenagers dealing with the same feelings to know that they aren’t alone with them.”
S. Qiouyi Lu, “Fat, And”
I wrote “Fat, And” because I’ve often been frustrated by fat spaces that focus on fatness to the exclusion of other identities and experiences. As not only a fat person, but a nonbinary person of color, I wanted to represent the complexity of a multilayered identity: Each layer influences the others and is inextricable from the whole. I hope I can inspire people to see themselves as a whole instead of a collection of parts, especially considering how often we’re forced to turn our bodies into parts (my stomach, my arms, my legs, etc.) in a body-negative culture.
Jess Walton, “Losing My Religion”
As a teenager, I came out and found a beautiful, vibrant community that accepted and celebrated me as a bisexual person. Having that community around me helped me stand up to hateful bigotry over the years.
I did not find disability and fat pride and community until my thirties, so ableism and anti-fatness have had a lot more time to do me harm. I wrote ‘Losing my Religion’ because joining Weight Watchers as a teenager was formative and extremely damaging to the way I felt about myself. It led to an adulthood focused on weight loss and ‘fixing’ my body. I was so ashamed of the way I looked – I felt undesirable and unloveable. Every time I managed to lose weight, I would be congratulated and told how good I looked, which reinforced the idea that I needed to lose weight, and that fat bodies were bad, failed bodies. For me, disability and fat pride are closely linked. They’re both about saying my body is not a failed body. I can be proud of who I am instead of ashamed. I can reject those who hate the fat and disabled parts of me, just as I reject those who hate the queer part of me.
I also wrote ‘Losing My Religion’ because Weight Watchers still exists, and is still doing serious harm to fat people, including kids. In fact, they’re targeting kids and teens with their kurbo app. They can try rebranding themselves as ‘Wellness that Works’, but I’ll always see them for what they are – a harmful, predatory, profit driven cult.
I’m honoured to be a part of this anthology; it’s one of the books I really needed as a fat, queer, disabled teen. I’m so, so relieved that it exists in the world now.
Alex Gino, “Body Sovereignty: This Fat Trans Flesh is Mine”
I have the right to change my transgender body. I do not have an obligation to change my fat body. Body sovereignty, the idea that I am the decision-maker over my very self, holds these two statements in balance. It’s also the idea at the heart of my essay Body Sovereignty: This Fat, Trans Flesh is Mine. Like the title, this piece mixes a touch of radical body theory with a practical look at how transgender and fat bodies are treated, and why it’s so important to claim and reclaim control over how and whether our bodies are altered. There’s even a little chart! I can only imagine the hard roads I could have skipped down a little more easily if someone had slipped an essay like this, as part of a book like this, into my hands when I was a teen, and I’m delighted to be able to do that for others, especially for fat queer, trans, and nonbinary youth.
Jiji Knight, “Brighter Than Starlight”
This book is everything I wish I had when I was growing up fat and struggling to answer the the question “What is normal?”
No one ever assures you that yes! You are the norm. Your body is the norm. Body positivity is still such a foreign movement to some people – hell – most people. The very concept that fat people are reclaiming the word ‘fat’ and celebrating their curves, their bodies, is exhilarating.
I am fat. I am bisexual. I am an artist. And I am proud to have been a part of such a wonderful amalgamation of beautiful contributors.
Miguel M. Morales, “50 Tips from a Fat and Fabulous Elder”
The pieces I submitted to the anthology revealed themselves as I walked in the park near my home in Kansas. I wanted to build up stamina for all the walking I’d be doing on an upcoming trip to Hawai’i. I’d never been that far from home and I wanted to do, see, and taste so much. I also wanted to make sure I didn’t push my body too hard all at once. My secret unspoken goal was to hike Diamond Head.
At the park, I listened to music to help me set a pace for the hike. That’s when I noticed changes in my body’s movement; in its rhythm. I noticed the beauty of nature’s largeness and how society celebrates this grandeur yet blames ours on weakness. I wondered if we amused the trees by hastily moving on a circular path going nowhere, trying to get smaller while we admired their size.
I found my relationship my clothes began to change. Instead of tugging at my shirts desperate for them to hang loose on me, I allowed them to caress my curves. Instead of pulling up my shorts constantly afraid I’d display plumber’s crack, I allowed them to gently settle and rest comfortably on my hips without a worry.
I thought about the anthology and advice I’d want to share. Things my oldness and my queerness and my brownness has taught me about being fat. I remembered those who’ve helped me learn not only to operate this body but to love it.
I’m thrilled this anthology features four of my pieces. I’m eager to write more about intersectional fatness.
Oh, I did hike Diamond Head. I got passed up on the trail by some elderly people and some children, but it was amazing. I was amazing. You should have seen me.
Laina Spencer, “To All the Pizzas I’ve Loved Before”
Funnily enough, I don’t normally write non-fiction, but when Angie approached me about writing as essay for The (Other) F Word, I was so excited that I couldn’t say no. I kept thinking about myself as a teenager, and what it would have meant to read something like this. And because I’m always thinking about books and representation, and especially YA books, that’s what I decided to write about that.
And as someone who’s aroace, I wanted to talk about how I don’t necessarily relate to certain narratives, and how it feels sometimes to be aroace in fat spaces, and vice versa. Hopefully I did that pretty well!
Hillary Monahan, “Fatness & Horror: The Match Made in Not Heaven”
“When Angie asked me to talk about fatness in my genre of choice–horror–I was delighted. It was something I’d ranted and railed about in my private circles for years. How can we exist in a world, take up space in the world, people the world and be either completely absent from stories OR be “punished” for our fatness by making comedic, convenient victim fodder? I want none of that–as a fat fan and as a fat creator.”
“Write Something Fat” by Sarah Hollowell
When I wrote my first book in high school, it never occurred to me that my characters could be anything other than skinny. I didn’t understand then how much damage I was internalizing from a lack of positive representation – not just feeling bad about myself, but erasing myself at every opportunity.
I wasn’t just erasing my fatness. Finding out that bisexuality existed as an option was an amazing, freeing moment in my life. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, but most of the reactions I got were that it was a phase or I was trying to be trendy. I also went to a high school in southern Indiana in the early 2000s – not a lot of out-and-proud queer people there! It was mostly me, my gay best friend, the girl who was my first kiss, the one other out gay kid, and the ones we suspected were closeted.
I wasn’t seeing queer people like me in the media, I wasn’t seeing them in my life, and even well-meaning people around me seemed to think I’d grow out of it. I didn’t write a queer story until I was in college. I was erasing myself, again.
“Write Something Fat” is about giving myself permission to not erase myself. I wrote it to the teenage version of me, but I also wrote it to the current version of me who wonders if now I write too many fat bisexual girls.
But here’s the thing: If other authors can write dozens of books about straight skinny characters, then I can sure as hell write as many as I want about the fat queer ones. And you can, too.
Jon Higgins, Ed.D., “Black, Fat, Fem: The Weight of a Queen”
As soon as I heard about this anthology, the fat 16 year old queer kid inside of me jumped for joy. After reaching out and learning that my work had been accepted, I not only felt validated, but that my work and journey would in turn help someone who might really need the reassurance that they are seen and valued.
Working on this project reminded me that I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams. I am fat, Black and queer and I am leaving behind seeds of my experiences to help other people grow. What’s even more riveting is knowing that I, in my own way, got to share a narrative that is often overlooked and undervalued in my own voice and in my own experience.
Working on this project reminded me of why I began writing in the first place. Why I felt the need to continue to remind others that their lives and their experiences need to be heard and more, that these stories will be the ones that change the lives of those who need it most. I am so grateful for the opportunity and I can’t wait for the world to engage in the greater context of this book and it’s many chapters of knowledge, hope and resistance.
“You Are Loved” by Ady Del Valle
I wrote the chapter “You Are Loved” because these are words we don’t get told often but also words we don’t tell ourselves often. I wanted to be able to write something real and meaningful for this amazing and inspiring book, while relating it to myself ans what I do in the industry to do mt part. “You Are Loved” is a chapter of self-love with fashion or without, no matter your size or how you identify you are worthy in more ways the one. The “Other” F Word: A Celebration of the Fat and Fierce is a book that will speak to so many in many ways that we all can relate to, its real words form real people. I hope my chapter and the book as whole helps and inspires anyone who flips through the pages no matter who they are and give them motivation to love who they are as they are.
Angie Manfredi is a librarian and writer who owns every season of Law and Order on DVD and sends over 150 handwritten Valentines every year. She has spent the last 11 years working directly with children and teens of all ages in a public library and now works in library consulting on all things youth services. Angie is fat and not sorry about it. She is a passionate advocate for literacy, diversity, and decolonizing the discourse surrounding children’s literature. Her latest book is The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce.
A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…
First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.
The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.
As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?
“‘We were sun children chasing an eternal summer.’ This boisterous chronicle of a summer in Montauk sees a group of 20-something housemates who’ll grow to know, to love, and care for one another. They work hard during the week, party hard on weekends, and each will face heartthrob and heartbreak. A coming out story told with feeling and humor and above all with the razor-sharp skill of a delicate and highly gifted writer.” -Andre Aciman, New York Times bestselling author of Call Me by Your Name They call Montauk the end of the world, a spit of land jutting into the Atlantic. The house was a ramshackle split-level set on a hill, and each summer thirty one people would sleep between its thin walls and shag carpets. Against the moonlight the house’s octagonal roof resembled a bee’s nest. It was dubbed The Hive.
In 2013, John Glynn joined the share house. Packing his duffel for that first Memorial Day Weekend, he prayed for clarity. At 27, he was crippled by an all-encompassing loneliness, a feeling he had carried in his heart for as long as he could remember. John didn’t understand the loneliness. He just knew it was there. Like the moon gone dark.
OUT EAST is the portrait of a summer, of the Hive and the people who lived in it, and John’s own reckoning with a half-formed sense of self. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, The Hive was a center of gravity, a port of call, a home. Friendships, conflicts, secrets and epiphanies blossomed within this tightly woven friend group and came to define how they would live out the rest of their twenties and beyond. Blending the sand-strewn milieu of George Howe Colt’s The Big House, the radiant aching of Olivia Liang’s The Lonely City, OUT EAST is a keenly wrought story of love and transformation, longing and escape in our own contemporary moment.
When 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.
The spellbinding tale of six queer witches forging their own paths, shrouded in the mist, magic, and secrets of the ancient California redwoods.
Danny didn’t know what she was looking for when she and her mother spread out a map of the United States and Danny put her finger down on Tempest, California. What she finds are the Grays: a group of friends who throw around terms like queer and witch like they’re ordinary and everyday, though they feel like an earthquake to Danny. But Danny didn’t just find the Grays. They cast a spell that calls her halfway across the country, because she has something they need: she can bring back Imogen, the most powerful of the Grays, missing since the summer night she wandered into the woods alone. But before Danny can find Imogen, she finds a dead boy with a redwood branch through his heart. Something is very wrong amid the trees and fog of the Lost Coast, and whatever it is, it can kill.
Lush, eerie, and imaginative, Amy Rose Capetta’s tale overflows with the perils and power of discovery — and what it means to find your home, yourself, and your way forward.
Being a teenager is difficult enough, but having to go through puberty whilst realising you’re in the wrong body means dealing with a whole new set of problems: bullying, self-doubt and in some cases facing a physical and medical transition.
Alex is an ordinary teenager: he likes pugs, donuts, retro video games and he sleeps with his socks on. He’s also transgender, and was born female. He’s been living as a male for the past few years and he has recently started his physical transition.
Throughout this book, Alex will share what it means to be in his shoes, as well as his personal advice to other trans teens. Above all, he will show you that every step in his transition is another step towards happiness. This is an important and positive book, a heart-warming coming-of-age memoir with a broad appeal.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets I’ll Give You the Sun in an exhilarating and emotional novel about the growing relationship between two teen boys, told through the letters they write to one another.
Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam “Kurl” Kurlansky are partnered in English class, writing letters to one another in a weekly pen pal assignment. With each letter, the two begin to develop a friendship that eventually grows into love. But with homophobia, bullying, and devastating family secrets, Jonathan and Kurl struggle to overcome their conflicts and hold onto their relationship…and each other.
For Ari Silverman, the past has never really passed. After 20 years, the trauma from a childhood assault resurfaces as he grapples with the fate of his ex-husband, a colleague accused of sexually harassing a student. To gain perspective, Ari arranges to reconnect with his high school crush, Justin Jackson, a bold step which forces him to reflect on their relationship in the segregated suburbs of Detroit during the 1990s and the secrets they still share. An honest story about recovery and coping with both past and present, framed by the meteoric rise and fall of the band Nirvana and the wide-reaching scope of the #metoo movement, NIRVANA IS HERE explores issues of identity, race, sex, and family with both poignancy and unexpected humor. Deftly told intertwining stories with rich, real characters are reminiscent of the sensuality and haunting nostalgia of André Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name blended with the raw emotion of Kurt Cobain’s lyrics.
Written by award-winning writer Aaron Hamburger, Nirvana Is Here is “a wonder of a book,” according to acclaimed novelist Lauren Grodstein (Our Short History). “As a Jewish Gen-Xer, the novel reminded me exactly of who I once was—and all that I still want to be. A brilliant accomplishment.”
This book is about the Stonewall Riots, a series of spontaneous, often violent demonstrations by members of the gay (LGBTQ+) community in reaction to a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. The Riots are attributed as the spark that ignited the LGBTQ+ movement. The author describes American gay history leading up to the Riots, the Riots themselves, and the aftermath, and includes her interviews of people involved or witnesses, including a woman who was ten at the time. Profusely illustrated, the book includes contemporary photos, newspaper clippings, and other period objects. A timely and necessary read, The Stonewall Riots helps readers to understand the history and legacy of the LGBTQ+ movement.
Fresh out of college and back on his older sister’s couch, Kit expected his days to return to the way they’d always been. He anticipated spending his days perusing Netflix with one hand on the remote and the other in a box of pizza, but when he’s given the opportunity for a job at one of New York City’s newest advertising agencies, there’s no way he can turn the offer down. Unfortunately for Kit, this job might be more than he bargained for.
Not only does Roman – his handsome yet ruthless new boss – let his wandering eye linger just a little too long, Kit can’t seem to shake the feeling that the glitzy personal assistant gig he just landed might be a bit shadier than he imagined. Before he’s even able to make a reservation for Roman’s dinner at Le Bernardin, Kit’s professional and personal life become one, and he finds himself forced to somehow separate business from pleasure.
Easier said than done, especially when it’s his job to take care of Roman’s every need.
The white picket fence.
That life was never meant for him.
For years he’s been bouncing from city to city—from one cage fight to another.
That’s his outlet. That’s pain Erik can control.
But in Seattle, everything changed.
River’s an artist.
He’s a pretty boy.
He does yoga.
Someone so soft shouldn’t be intrigued by Erik’s rough edges.
His life was quiet. He had a simple routine.
Designing tattoos, avoiding drama. Well, mostly.
Then Erik comes along—scarred and dangerous, shrouded in mystery.
A mystery River can’t resist trying to solve.
Maybe a secret as dark as his own.
Neither of them expected a relationship so complicated, so intense.
Neither of them expected…each other.
Erik and River are both trying to escape a shadowed past.
But the thing about shadows is: the faster you run, the faster they chase you.
I’m so wildly psyched to have Xan West’s newest cover on the blog today for so many reasons. First of all, dual enby representation FTW. Second of all, Xan’s recs and reviews have helped provide so many titles to this blog, and if you’re not familiar with their bookish website (including the dedicated section of #ownvoices trans reviews), you should be. And third of all, the artist, Laya Rose, happens to be the mastermind behind one of the best Twitter threads ever, which is entirely fanart of wlw books.
So with that said, let’s get to the book, Nine of Swords, Reversed! It’s a speculative romance with a genderfluid/genderfluid pairing (including neopronouns) and includes fat, Jewish, queer, spoonie, and autistic representation, as well as characters who are trauma survivors with chronic pain and depression. Here’s the blurb:
Dev has been with xyr service submissive Noam for seven years and xe loves them very much. Dev and Noam have built a good life together in Noam’s family home in Oakland, where they both can practice their magecraft, celebrate the high holidays in comfort, support each other as their disabilities flare, and where Noam can spend Shabbos with their beloved family ghost.
But Dev’s got a problem: xe has been in so much arthritis pain recently that xe has not been able to shield properly. As an empath, no shielding means Dev cannot safely touch Noam. That has put a strain on their relationship, and it feels like Noam is pulling away from xym. To top it off, Dev has just had an upsetting dream-vision about xyrself and Noam that caused one of the biggest meltdowns xe has had in a while. It’s only with a timely tarot reading and the help of another genderfluid mage that Dev is able to unpack the situation. Can xe figure out how to address the issues in xyr relationship with Noam before everything falls apart?
And here’s the cover, done by the fabulous Laya Rose!
It was good to be out of the house, sitting down with Ezra in one of our places, a feast spread before us. Comforting to see our canes leaning against the booth next to each other, to know Ezra wouldn’t let lunch pass without pushing me to tell zir what was going on. Ze had already indicated that in the car, clucking zir tongue over my low maintenance outfit—just a deep purple maxi dress and my sapphire boots—and how tired I looked, demanding I say what would taste the best for lunch, and driving us all the way to Berkeley for it.
A magical herbalist, Ezra favored floral colors. It had started as a joke ze pulled on one of zir first magic teachers, but had evolved into zir signature style. Today, Ezra was of course dressed impeccably, curly dark hair flowing over zir shoulders, nails pale peach and sparkly to match both zir lipstick and zir hat, in a gorgeous white suit with a dark peach dress shirt. It was Shabbos, and Ezra always dressed up for shul. Besides, ze had this image in zir head of our Friday lunches, our own genderfluid brand of Ladies who Lunch, which absolutely included dressing impeccably. Ze even insisted on singing the Sondheim tune at least once on the way, every time.
As we ate, I concentrated on getting my hands to hold things while Ezra entertained me with a story about teaching zir new boy how to weed the garden properly and not throw away any of the good stuff. Then ze said it was time to tell zir about it.
“I don’t know where to start.”
“Start with why you look so tired, of course.”
“Oh, that. I woke up too damn early because of this dream-vision.”
“That sounds like where to start. Written it down yet?”
“No,” I said quietly. “My hands hurt too much.”
Ezra clucked zir tongue in empathy, and went rooting through zir bag, taking out a notebook, a pen, and a jar of zir salve, which ze opened and gently rubbed into my hands, humming all the while. It felt like ze was rubbing soft sunlight into my skin and the sensation was so much to process that I couldn’t speak, or even look. I closed my eyes, counting my breaths, feeling the pain ebb away. In some ways, its immediate absence was sharper, harder to tolerate.
When ze was done, ze pressed the jar into my hand. “I brought this for you, ‘cause you said you’d run out.”
I took my time putting it away in my bag, getting used to the absence of pain, gathering myself back together. Then I took a long sip of tea, before I started telling zir about being made of ice, surrounded by it, protected by it, in the dream-vision. How at first I felt safe in my ice silo, didn’t even notice the cold until light came and hurt my eyes, and then I was freezing, and able to see the chasm below. A chasm separating me from Noam. How I realized that I couldn’t move, or speak. That they were stuck in their ice silo and me in mine, and Noam was terrified and trapped, just like me. I was helpless to do anything about it. I kept trying, but I could not get to them. How I watched their ice silo shatter, and the dust that was Noam blow away on the wind, waking me into a terrified meltdown.
Ezra didn’t say a word, as ze scribbled down the last details. My heart was a tiny frantic bird beating against my chest, as I remembered. I felt so cold that I took out my tarot deck, put it on the table, and huddled in the scarf I usually wrapped it in, my hands the only thing that felt warm. Ze waited for me to stop trembling before ze spoke.
“What do you think it means?” Ezra asked quietly.
Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, an autistic queer fat Jewish genderqueer writer and community activist with multiple disabilities who spends a lot of time on Twitter.
Xan’s erotica has been published widely, including in the Best S/M Erotica series, the Best Gay Erotica series, and the Best Lesbian Erotica series. Xan’s story “First Time Since”, won honorable mention for the 2008 National Leather Association John Preston Short Fiction Award. Their collection of queer kink erotica, Show Yourself to Me, is out from Go Deeper Press.
After over 15 years of writing and publishing queer kink erotica short stories, Xan has begun to also write longer form queer kink romance. Their recent work still centers kinky, trans and non-binary, fat, disabled, queer trauma survivors. It leans more towards centering Jewish characters, ace and aro spec characters, autistic characters, and polyamorous networks. Xan has been working on a queer kinky polyamorous romance novel, Shocking Violet, for the last four years, and hopes to finish a draft very soon! You can find details and excerpts on their website, and sign up for their newsletter to get updates. Their Troublesome Crush, a polyamorous kinky queer m/f romance novella about metamours realizing they have a mutual crush on each other as they plan their shared partner’s birthday celebration, is due out in March 2019.
New month, new author to meet! And today is a very special day to meet Fox Benwell, because he has a story in the all-#ownvoices disability anthology, Unbroken, edited by Marieke Nijkamp, which releases today! So let’s get right to it!
It’s September 2018, and that means two things: 1) you have a new short story out and 2) it’s been a year since your incredibly unique f/f YA novel set in South Africa, Kaleidoscope Song, released. Newest things first: What can you share with us about your contribution to Unbroken?
“A Play in Many Parts” is…sort of a Faustus retelling. Or a number of retellings all tangled together and on the page at onceIt’s a love letter to (Marlowe’s version of) the play, and to theatre itself…a tale of bargaining for one more curtain call, whoever you are.
And your narrator is a cane-using enby with chronic pain, dodgy joints, fatigue, and wild love for crafting stories that change people.
For those who aren’t familiar with Kaleidoscope Song, can you tell us a little about it?
Set in Khayelitsha, Kaleidoscope Songis a tale of first loves (both musical and human), of growing up queer in a sometimes-hostile environment, and of the power that lies in figuring out how to use your voice.
Both of your YA novels, The Last Leaves Falling and Kaleidoscope Song, are set in foreign countries (Japan and South Africa respectively). What draws you to writing about locations beyond your home nation of the UK, and what are your favorite ways to research them?
Honestly, while I’m intensely proud of those books in and of themselves, the world – and publishing – has shifted since I wrote those stories. Everything I’m working on at the moment is much closer to home, and I’d rather concede the floor to own-voices representation, for now.
That said, if you’re going to write other places (or experiences) than your own, research and respect in equal measure are the key. And not just for obvious facts: seeking out the stories and art and food and music and film (and hey, did I mention stories?) of those places and people is a good start to understanding someone else’s perspective, in addition to where your story might lie.
Music is really at the heart of Kaleidoscope Song, which of course means I must ask: what are you listening to and loving right now, and what are your forever favorites?
Oh my godddd, have you heard Grace Petrie’s new album, Queer as Folk? The entire thing is a roller coaster of queer feels. But I’ve had Black Tie on loop for a fortnight and it’s still making me cry. It’s big and hopeful and a little bit heartbreaking, and I love it.
And I’m working on a winter-and-music story right now, which means lots of not-so-Christmassy Christmas music is sneaking its way into my work playlists. Stuff like In Terra Pax, and old, obscure carols and folk songs.
Both The Last Leaves Falling and obviously Unbroken center around disability, as does your academic research. What are your thoughts on the state of disability rep in YA right now, both queer and otherwise?
How long have you got? No, seriously, my academic thesis will be 80k, and it’s not nearly enough. 😉
We have a tendency to use disability as a (tragic and/or inspirational) plot point, and to fall back on notions of intelligence, ability and beauty of measures of worth or humanity. Sometimes this is big and obvious. Sometimes it’s subtle, in subplots and casual language, but it’s nearly always there.
There are, of course, some excellent books with equally excellent representation! But on the whole we need, quite simply, to do better.
There are some excellent people working on that, and it takes time, and changing societal perceptions of us isn’t always going to be an easy sell. But we must, because right now we’re doing a massive disservice to readers, disabled or otherwise: they deserve better. Consistently. Emphatically. Better.
What are your favorite representations of disability in queer YA, and what would you still love to see?
Everyone should read Unbroken, obviously: so much intersectional fabulousness in those pages.
And I know this is sort of sidestepping the YA thing, but if you’re interested in the intersection of queerness and disability, you should read everything that Kayla Whaley ever writes.
As for what I’d love to see: I had to go back to my shelves to answer this, because my first instinctive answers were all one or the other – queer, or disabled – which clearly means there’s not enough of us multiply-marginalised folks on the shelves yet. We shouldn’t have to think for answers.
You transitioned between books 1 and 2, which came complete with a name change to the fantastic Fox. What was the process of changing your authorial name like, and what advice would you give to authors pondering doing the same?
It was terrifying. And then not nearly as terrifying as I had imagined: I’d somehow expected more pushback than I got. And sure, sometimes there’s a disconnect between books under one name and the next (which eventually will fade, if books go into the next reprints) but it’s worth it. It’s worth it for that first time you see your real name right there on a cover (I did not get that feeling the first time around, under my old name, at all). It’s worth it for not wincing every time somebody talks to you, or every time you sign a book. It’s worth it, because somewhere out there is another kid just like us, for whom it means everything to see that they could live that out-and-proud life, too.
What’s the first LGBTQIAP+ representation you remember seeing in media, for better or for worse?
Uhhh. I think I discovered Boys don’t Cry and Priscilla in the same week O_o.
And 13-year-old me accidentally found the gay erotica shelves in his Borders bookstore and somehow found the guts to buy (and hide) an anthology of ‘fairies and fantasy beasts’ stories. I don’t remember story details, but I do remember the magically right feeling of gender and attraction not being fixed points.
What are you working on these days?
I just finished copyedits for another geeky (D&D/ bathroom rights) story, coming soon, in Stripes’ anthology, Proud.
And amongst my current WIPs you’ll find a pregnant trans boy building his kid a new, better world, a story of winter-song and deep dark voices, ace-spectrum rep and QPRs, transitioning, anxiety, neurodivergence, and chronic pain. And also pirates. Because we will populate your shelves with our adventures.
Fox Benwell is a perpetual student of the world, a writer, adventurer, and wannabe-knight, who holds degrees in international education and writing for young people, and believes in the power of both to change the world. His in-progress PhD research examines disability in current YA fiction.
He is the author of the critically acclaimed The Last Leaves Falling, and Kaleidoscope Song.
The story of Mona and her unusual friends, who must work together to defend humanity from countless horrific monstrosities! Perhaps they will succeed, and humanity will prevail as it always has. Or perhaps this will be… The Last Halloween.
Horror with funny parts, ongoing. There’s a parallel world of monsters, one for every human, and the Phagocyte — the figure who normally keeps the worlds in balance — just died without a replacement. On Halloween, naturally.
Separately, there are a bunch of your typical horror-movie creatures secretly hanging out on Earth. Vampires, mummies, that sort of thing. A group of kids from this team meets up with Mona, a ten-year-old human who is 100% done with everything, and they set out (very unwillingly, in Mona’s case) on a quest to find a replacement Phagocyte before the whole human race goes extinct.
As of the beginning of the story, Mona is being raised by a single nonbinary Parent. They get separated from Mona pretty early on, and end up forming their own mini-team-up with another parent, one of the monster kids’ vampire dad. (Also, there’s definitely a spark between them.)
The art style is perfectly fitted to the story. Expressive characters, creepy detailed backgrounds, classy monster designs, lots of areas of solid black that frequently close in around the panels. The black-and-white lineart also mutes the ick factor when things get bloody — which does happen, but this series is much more interested in being Gorey than gory.
There’s not much that goes on in the village of Lefthand Goat Way and the surrounding areas – unless you count some wholly accidental necromancy, a wizard who came by their powers thanks to a clerical error, a depressed villain with a chinchilla…
Fantasy comedy, ongoing. This one resists summaries — it jumps around between a bunch of groups, showcasing characters from different species, magic levels, social classes, moral alignments, mortality, and so on.
It’s in this rec post on account of Flea, the wizard-due-to-clerical-error, who we meet on the way to a magical Consortium with their pet teacup manticore. (They explain that, in the big city, tiny designer manticores are bred as pets for rich people who eventually get bored and dump the animals in the sewers.) They get help from Alta, a renowned dragonslayer with an anxiety disorder who speaks in high-fantasy argot when she’s nervous, and Marigold, the squire whose duties include translating for her and whose hobbies apparently include magical Candy Crush.
And all that happens after several chapters with Ru, who accidentally summoned a revenant — turns out his own blood counted as “virgin” by necromancy standards, because none of his sexual experiences, with men or women, involved PIV. His housemate Mica asks for help from the local evil wizard, who she made friends with, because she ran out of books to read when she’s bedridden with a flare-up and he’s the only local with a library.
With this much good stuff you’d think a comic would have to run out of steam at some point, right? But this one just…keeps going. It keeps dropping into new scenes and character groups, in between building up ongoing conflicts with the familiar ones, and the writing is funny and entertaining enough that you can roll with it.
Bonus notes: The artist has a great eye for expressions and body language. I’m very into the developing f/f romance. And the various critters are adorable.
broken is about a fairie general and his army struggling to protect their city-state after an alchemical anomaly brought eldritch monsters into their dimension. Warning: this comic contains graphic violence, horror, and flashing images.
Horror-drama, ongoing. To fight off a set of encroaching horrors, this high-tech fairie society has basically gone in the military-dystopia direction. Their tactics include using homunculi, genderless artificial lifeforms that do whatever task they’re assigned; and constructs, the dead bodies of corrupted citizens of neighboring countries, which can be puppeted into dangerous situations while all the living people stay at a safe distance.
Lots of scenes make great use of animated gifs to enhance the fear, tension, and creepiness. There’s a wonderful use of color overall, too — the details of fairie wings alone add so much worldbuilding and atmosphere.
Our main character is Huvrye (hoov-rai), a homunculus general who never aspired to lead murderous offense-as-the-best-defense campaigns, but he’s really good at it so it’s what he’s stuck with. Things get weird when his construct starts behaving unusually in the middle of a battle. It’s supposed to be corrupted past the point of recovery — it’s not supposed to have reactions.
In the middle of the post-apocalyptic worldbuilding, the emotional hook here is the story of a heartwarming friendship growing between two people, in a society that really doesn’t want them to be people…and will enforce that with military-grade weaponry if it has to.
Meet the members of the (someday) legendary bardic troupe, the Court of Roses!
Fantasy comedy, ongoing. Merlow the Rose is a half-elf bard traveling the world. The good news: he has both musical and magical talent, including the power to charm his way out of tense situations. The bad news: he plays the bagpipes.
In spite of this drawback, he spends the first couple of chapters picking up new friends: Diana the friendly human, Nocturne the unnerving infernal, Sven the goliath who plays war drums, and Feliks the energetic one-gnome band. (Feliks is nonbinary. Also, though so far everybody’s single, Diana has mentioned being into the ladies, while Merlow is into anyone.)
Great expressions in the art, snappy one-liners in the writing, and building shenanigans in the plot. This is laying all the right groundwork to be one of those series that starts out funny, and will eventually build to being epic-without-ever-ceasing-to-be-funny.
The escapades of a house-spirit in an old apartment building.
Fantasy fluff, ongoing. Adorable domestic adventures with the itty-bitty Alasdair (about the size of a Borrower, also magic). Doing little repairs! Shooing away spirits of corruption! Tidying up giant objects! Reading books taller than they are!
Some of the mini spirits go by “they,” inclusing Alasdair and an unnamed houseplant spirit. Others include Malcolm, who uses “he”, and Plish, a tiny aquarium mermaid who gets referred to as both “they” and “she” depending on the post.
Early on Alasdair makes friends with Alicia, the human resident of one of the apartments, who shares her books with them. She’s also the one who warns them that the building is slated to be torn down. So there’s a bit of ongoing plot, but don’t expect it to move fast — this comic is mostly a vehicle for lovingly-rendered cute scenes with tiny people.
Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (where Timothy/Camellia is finally out of the bigender work closet) and Leif & Thorn (featuring nonbinary knights, guards, and secret agents). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.
Today on the site, we’re revealing the gorgeous cover for the brilliant Ana Mardoll’s No Man of Woman Born, a collection of fantasy stories featuring transgender and nonbinary characters, releasing on July 10! (See tags for more details on rep!)
Destiny 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 Bornis 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.
And now the cover with a note from the author!
I’m so excited to reveal the cover for this short story collection, which I feel I’ve been gushing about for actual years now! No Man of Woman Born is a collection of seven stories told from the point of view of trans, nonbinary, and gender-questioning characters each going about their epic fantasy lives mostly unaware that they are fated to fulfill seemingly impossible prophecies. If you enjoyed Éowyn’s helmet-pull, hair-tumble, I-am-no-man reveal to the Witch-King, you’ll love these stories as much as I do.
[That, but with 1000% more transness.]
I’ve loved epic fantasy since I was a child, but never felt represented in the old canon despite loving the classic elements–particularly prophecy, which is so often like a riddle you can only appreciate after the answer is in front of you. It’s been amazing and affirming to allow myself to really explore gender in a fantastical setting and build worlds that accept my complex, messy, never neat-and-tidy genderfeels.
So many characters in this collection are transgender, and all of them carry a piece of myself. Wren is an agender fisherperson who uses my pronouns and carries my autism with xer through the story. Caran is a bigender witch with magic that isn’t flashy, but is useful all the same. Nocien is a boy, period. Even when others struggle to accept his gender, the magic surrounding him never falters. Every character is accepted by the rules of magic that govern their lives, which is something I needed: affirmation so deeply interwoven into a world that even the laws of nature recognizes trans and nonbinary genders. We didn’t blink when cis authors gave us feminine moon magic, so why shouldn’t magical forces recognize a genderfluid princess?
At its heart, No Man of Woman Born is a work of love: a combination of my passion for epic fantasy and a deep-seated need to turn characters trans and set them free to shine on the page. For the cover, I wanted something that could capture their vibrancy and I was fortunate to work with the phenomenal Anna Dittmann. She beautifully brought to life the character of Finndís, a trans woman we meet in the story “Daughter of Kings”. Finndís’ rightful legacy has been denied to her, and she must now find and retrieve a magical sword stuck in stone and left in the heart of a dark forest. Anna perfectly captured the look and feel of this setting and produced a cover which I could not love more.
I hope you’ll love this collection as much as I do. All gushing aside, I think it’s an important addition to the fantasy genre: a glimpse into how normal and normalized transness and nonbinary genders can be in a setting. We can have these characters and have them not be unusual or weird. Each of these characters is special and they’re trans, as opposed to being special because they’re trans.
No Man Of Woman Born is available for preorder on Amazon! The book will be released on July 10th (the Tuesday before International Nonbinary Day, July 14!)
Ana Mardoll is a writer and activist who lives in the dusty Texas wilderness with two spoiled cats. Xer favorite employment is weaving new tellings of old fairy tales, fashioning beautiful creations to bring comfort on cold nights. Xie is the author of the Earthside series, the Rewoven Tales novels, and several short stories. Aside from reading and writing, Ana enjoys games of almost every flavor and frequently posts videos of gaming sessions on YouTube. After coming out as genderqueer in 2015, Ana answers to xie/xer pronouns.