Tag Archives: Olympia Knife

On Being Out in the Trump Era: a Guest Post by Alysia Constantine

When I was writing the first draft of my novel Olympia Knife, the 2016 U.S. Presidential election was looming. I, like most folks (with the possible exception of election hackers and those who hired them) did not know what the outcome would be. I finished that first draft in September 2016, well before the November 9 morning on which I burst into tears in front of a fellow professor. (I’m not normally a public weeper, but I’d stayed up late watching election results, and was exhausted and devastated.)

I sent the draft of the novel to the publisher for editing, and, after months and months of daily hacking away at it, I gratefully took the reprieve. When it came time to edit, I had to read the manuscript for the first time I’d read it since sending it off, the first time since the election, and I’d forgotten much of it. Luckily, I’ve got the memory of a goldfish, so I could read with a clean slate and murder, as they say, my darlings.

Olympia Knife is the story of a turn-of-the-century travelling circus filled with cultural outsiders who, one by one, disappear. The queer woman at its center and the woman she loves must fight to stay solid (literally) as everyone around them vanishes under some insidious and pervasive force. Reading it anew, I was struck by how easily the novel can be understood as an allegory about being Other in the Trump era. I mean, Otherness was totally on my mind as I wrote, but Trump certainly was not, unless I was, for some reason, musing over Celebrity Apprentice, or thinking about orange things. As I finished work on the initial draft of the manuscript, the specter of Trump loomed, and one saw a distinct rise in America of what looked like Fascism and more anti-LGBTQ and racist violence because of his supporters, and that necessarily made its way into the manuscript. Now that he’s been installed into office, reading the book in this light is a more urgent reading.

LGBTQ folks like me in much of the US have gotten somewhat comfortable. I’m not saying it’s easy for everyone, but I am saying that it’s easier now for many of us than it was, say, in the 1980s. One has the option to be out in many places, one can have straight friends and be accepted into straight communities. When I attended college in the late 1980s, I hid in any closet I could find. Now as a professor, I’ve offered classes in queer theory that rapidly fill beyond capacity every time. Many of my students have been openly queer, and I’ve been able to be candid about my own queerness without being ascribed some nefarious motive.

Things have changed in most of America, to say the least. It’s easier for many of us to find love, get legally married, have children and settle happily into a gayborhood where we are not outcast, and thus it’s also easy to forget all the other folks (in the US and beyond) who are gay or bi or trans or otherwise Other who are still under dire threat because of that very Otherness.

Being out used to mean accepting a duty to work, to educate and agitate, fighting to stick around and helping others do likewise. People wrote and demonstrated and risked their very lives in order simply to live them. I’m not romanticizing; I’m not saying that’s a great state of affairs, but I am saying many of us have gotten comfortable enough that it’s easy to forget that we must still work, and that there are others (in the US and outside of it) who have no choice but to fight because otherwise they will die.

Olympia Knife now takes on new relevance for me in the US’s current Trump era. The novel is about a time when Othered folks—the queers, the outsiders—are being insidiously disappeared (made irrelevant, made powerless, made invisible, made gone), and the force that’s doing it is so pervasive it’s hard to predict or protect against it.

In the US, after all the apparent political gains of the last decade, we’re forced again to fight just to stay, to make our own families and cling to relevance, so that we are not disappeared, and we can’t even clearly see the monster against which we’re fighting. There is the imminence of a horrible thing—a more horrible thing than has already come—all the deaths of queer folk (both individual and massacre), the riots at certain political rallies, beatings by cops, denial of our rights to public space and safety, the swell of neo-fascism—this is all ramping up to something, and I, for one, am scared. I feel more powerless than I ever have (and I vividly remember the Reagan years).

Olympia Knife is a rallying cry, then, to all us queers and POC, crips and resisters and Others of all types: we must stick together, and we must resist. Making our own enclaves is no longer enough, because the awful thing that wants us gone is seeping in and getting us, even in our own spaces. We must fight fiercely and tirelessly simply to persist.

BIO

Alysia Constantine is a novelist and former literary and cultural studies professor. Her second novel, Olympia Knife, is a magical-realist adventure that takes place in a turn-of-the- century travelling circus and traces the struggles of Olympia and her lover Diamond in the face of the disappearance of one circus performer after another. You can find more at http://www.alysiaconstantine.com.

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New Releases: November 2017

 Olympia Knife, by Alysia Constantine (2nd)

Born into a family of flying trapeze artists, Olympia Knife has one small problem: When her emotions rise, she becomes invisible. Everyone in the traveling circus has learned to live with this quirk; they banded together to raise Olympia in a loving environment when her parents vanished midair during their act, never to return. But the same fate befalls Arnold, the world’s shortest man, followed by one act after another, until the show is a crumbling mess of tattered tents and terrified troupers. Into this chaos walks Diamond the Danger Eater. Olympia and Diamond forge a friendship, then fall in love, and, together, resolve to stand the test of time, even as the world around them falls apart.

Buy it: Amazon * Interlude

Citywide by Santino Hassell (13th)

This is a novella collection in the Five Boroughs series

In Rerouted, Chris Mendez is trying to live a drama-free life. That doesn’t include another threesome with Jace and Aiden Fairbairn. But then a citywide blackout leaves them trapped together, and Chris is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about relationships and his own heart.

In Gridlocked, former Marine Tonya Maldonado is keeping real estate heiress Meredith Stone on permanent ignore. Mere isn’t Tonya’s type. Not even close. Who cares if she kisses like a dream and has the filthiest mouth this side of the East River? But then a security detail at a summer party ends with her saving Mere’s life and discovering they have more chemistry than she’d ever imagined.

In Derailed, Stephanie Quinones escapes the heat and her complicated love life by going on a company retreat. Trouble is, it’s a couples’ retreat, and she lied about having a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the only person willing to play pretend is her on-again/off-again fling, Angel León. They’re currently “off again,” but after a week in the woods, Stephanie realizes she wouldn’t mind them being permanently on.

Buy it: Riptide

Walking on Water by Matthew J. Metzger (13th)

WalkingonWater-f500When a cloud falls to earth, Calla sets out to find what lies beyond the sky. Father says there’s nothing, but Calla knows better. Something killed that cloud; someone brought it down.

Raised on legends of fabled skymen, Calla never expected them to be real, much less save one from drowning—and lose her heart to him. Who are the men who walk on water? And how can such strange creatures be so beautiful?

Infatuated and intrigued, Calla rises out of her world in pursuit of a skyman who doesn’t even speak her language. Above the waves lies more than princes and politics. Above the sky awaits the discovery of who Calla was always meant to be. But what if it also means never going home again?

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Runebinder by Alex R. Kahler (14th)

When magic returned to the world, it could have saved humanity, but greed and thirst for power caused mankind’s downfall instead. Now once-human monsters called Howls prowl abandoned streets, their hunger guided by corrupt necromancers and the all-powerful Kin. Only Hunters have the power to fight back in the unending war, using the same magic that ended civilization in the first place.

But they are losing.

Tenn is a Hunter, resigned to fight even though hope is nearly lost. When he is singled out by a seductive Kin named Tomás and the enigmatic Hunter Jarrett, Tenn realizes he’s become a pawn in a bigger game. One that could turn the tides of war. But if his mutinous magic and wayward heart get in the way, his power might not be used in favor of mankind.

If Tenn fails to play his part, it could cost him his friends, his life…and the entire world.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Being Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer (14th)

Born in the backseat of a moving car, Carmel Fishkill was unceremoniously pushed into a world that refuses to offer her security, stability, love. At age thirteen, she begins to fight back. Carmel Fishkill becomes Fishkill Carmel, who deflects her tormenters with a strong left hook and conceals her secrets from teachers and social workers. But Fishkill’s fierce defenses falter when she meets eccentric optimist Duck-Duck Farina, and soon they, along with Duck-Duck’s mother, Molly, form a tentative family, even as Fishkill struggles to understand her place in it.

This fragile new beginning is threatened by the reappearance of Fishkill’s unstable mother — and by unfathomable tragedy. Poet Ruth Lehrer’s young adult debut is a stunning, revelatory look at what defines and sustains “family.” And, just as it does for Fishkill, meeting Duck-Duck Farina and her mother will leave readers forever changed.

Buy it: Indiebound | Barnes&Noble | BAM | Amazon

Beulah Land, by Nancy Stewart (16th)

Seventeen-year-old Vi Sinclair’s roots run deep in the Missouri Ozarks, where, in some areas, it can still be plenty dangerous to be a girl who likes girls. Her greatest wish is to become a veterinarian like her boss, Claire Campbell. Fitting in at school wouldn’t be so bad, either. Only one obstacle stands in the way: She may not live long enough to see her wishes fulfilled.

With help from her only friend, Junior, Vi unravels a mystery that puts her in conflict with a vicious tormentor, a dog fight syndicate, and her own mother. Vi’s experience galvanizes her strength and veracity as she overcomes the paradox of mountain life, in which, even today, customs and mores seem timeless, and where a person can wake up dead simply because of being who she is.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N