If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (Iran)
A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith (Japan)
Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley (Mexico)
Another Word for Happy by Agay Llanera (Philippines)
Kaleidoscope Song by Fox Benwell (South Africa)
Welcome to Better Know an Author, a feature title I stole from Colbert Report because I miss it so, which will introduce you to a fabulous author of LGBTQIAP+ books every month! This month, the spotlight is on Robin Talley, who just released her newest book, Our Own Private Universe! Robin is an extremely prolific author of LGBTQ YA, as well as a huge reader and supporter of it, and I’m thrilled to have her here!
So, new book! I know with Our Own Private Universe, you were aiming for something like a queer-girl version of Judy Blume’s Forever, and you know I think you succeeded there! What was particularly important to you to include in the book, and why?
Thank you! With Our Own Private Universe, I set out to write the book I wished I’d had when I was a teenager and was first starting to figure out I was queer (which took me quite a while). What I wanted then, but wouldn’t have even known to look for, was a story that validated happy endings for queer girls. I wanted someone to tell me that however I wound up identifying, my life would go on, and it would be fun and interesting and with the usual ups and downs, just like it was for my straight friends. At that time, I was also desperate for representations of what it was like to be a girl in a relationship with another girl, complete with flirting and fighting and sex and everything in between. So I set out to cover all that in OOPU.
You’ve had some damn cool experiences in the publishing world, including hitting the NYT bestseller list and getting shortlisted for the Carnegie. What’s been the absolute coolest thing, and how do you usually celebrate?
I was pretty excited about the Carnegie situation. I got to go to London for that, which was awesome. Plus my UK publisher sent me a bottle of fancy champagne as a congratulations gift, which was lovely of them. My wife and I are not very good at finishing bottles of champagne by ourselves so we had some friends over and we made tacos and drank champagne. That might have been my favorite writerly celebration. 🙂
It will probably not shock you to learn that I’m a major fangirl of As I Descended. Have you considered queering up any other retellings, and if so, which ones? And whether or not you’re looking to write more, what kinds would you like to read?
Thank you again! And I might have a queer contemp retelling of Taming of the Shrew coming up, actually. Stay tuned for more on that! There are a bunch of other classic stories I’ve tried to tackle but haven’t been able to make work. Doesn’t someone have an f/f Pride & Prejudice in the works right now? That would probably be my #1 request.
What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
Right now what I’m most excited about are stories that focus on straight-up friendships between queer characters, like You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan. Those friendships can wind up being much more significant and lasting much longer than romantic relationships do, especially in the teen years. I’m glad we’re seeing that represented more in YA.
What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads, and which ones are you most looking forward to?
My all-time favorite has long been The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth. Other faves include When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore, Ask the Passengers by AS King, The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan, Far From You by Tess Sharpe, Ash by Malinda Lo, and The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson. And coming up I’m really, really, really excited for Ramona Blue by the amazing Julie Murphy.
I’m excited that we’re anthology buddies in All Out, the historical all-LGBTQ antho coming out in 2018. What setting did you pick for your story, and why?
I am SO EXCITED for All Out. I can’t believe I got to be in an anthology with all of these amazing authors!! My story is set in 1726 in Kensington Palace in London, and it focuses on a romance between two servant girls. I chose the Georgian period after finding lots of fascinating tidbits about this era in my research. Now I want to know what the setting of yours is, Dahlia!
(Blogger’s note: I was slightly less ambitious about the “historical” aspect…like, 1994 Seattle less ambitious!)
My character in Feral Youth is definitely a girl who likes girls. And without giving too much away, readers interested in queer characters will find a LOT to like in this book.
And finally, what can you share with us about the awesome-sounding Pulp?
Pulp is my current work-in-progress, slated for 2018. It’s about lesbian pulp fiction, which were these incredible books were published in the 1950s and 1960s and sold very cheaply (think 25 cents) in drugstores and bus stations. They were intended for a male audience and often had lurid covers featuring scantily clad women, but a lot of the books were actually written by lesbians, and the best ones wound up being these really frank portrayals of lesbian life at a time when there were NO mainstream media images of queer people at all. So for a lot of readers, these books, with their lurid covers and all, were an essential lifeline—the only indication they had that there existed a community of other people like them. My own book, Pulp, has two different stories taking place in two timelines. One focuses on an 18-year-old girl in 1955 who’s just realizing she’s a lesbian and is writing a lesbian pulp romance, and the other follows a modern 17-year-old out-and-proud queer girl who comes across the other character’s book in the present day and tries to uncover the author, who wrote under a pseudonym and mysteriously disappeared from the public scene as soon as the book was published.
Robin Talley is the New York Times-bestselling author of four novels for teen readers: Our Own Private Universe, As I Descended, What We Left Behind, and Lies We Tell Ourselves. Her first book, Lies We Tell Ourselves, was the winner of the inaugural Amnesty CILIP Honour. Her work has been short-listed for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Concorde Book Award, and has been included on the American Library Association Rainbow List, the Amelia Bloomer Project List, and the Capitol Choices List. It has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize, the Young Adult Library Services Association Teens’ Top Ten, and the Goodreads Choice Awards, and has been selected for the Junior Library Guild. Robin was a Lambda Literary Foundation fellow, and has contributed short stories to the young adult anthologies A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers and Other Badass Girls, All Out, and Feral Youth.
Robin lives in Washington, D.C., with her wife, their daughter, and an antisocial cat. She enjoys reading about queer characters, analyzing Disney movies, and chocolate. You can find her at www.robintalley.com.
Ansa has always been a fighter.
As a child, she fought the invaders who murdered her parents and snatched her as a raid prize. She fought for her place next to Thyra, the daughter of the Krigere Chieftain. She fought for her status as a warrior in her tribe: blood and victory are her way of life. But the day her Krigere cross the great lake and threaten the witch queen of the Kupari, everything changes.
Cursed by the queen with fire and ice, Ansa is forced to fight against an invisible enemy—the dark magic that has embedded itself deep in her bones. The more she seeks to hide it, the more dangerous it becomes. And with the Krigere numbers decimated and the tribe under threat from the traitorous brother of the dead Chieftain, Ansa is torn between her loyalty to the Krigere, her love for Thyra, and her own survival instincts.
With her world in chaos and each side wanting to claim her for their own, only one thing is certain: unless Ansa can control the terrible magic inside her, everything she’s fought for will be destroyed.
Being orphaned and almost kidnapped in the space of a week sent Blake Marks into hiding. For months, Blake tries to help the Calvers—a family of vigilante bodyguards—investigate the people behind the hit on Blake’s father, Isaac, but then the safehouse is compromised. Just as hired thugs storm the house to grab Blake, Daelan Calver dives into the fight, getting them both out alive.
Hiding isn’t an option anymore, but hit squads, under-the-table deals, and international espionage? Blake has no idea how to handle any of it, not even with Daelan’s family there to play teachers. The one thing Blake knows for sure is that there are only two options: keep up with the Calvers or get out of their way.
But even with the Calvers’ help and the glimmer of a possible future with Daelan giving Blake hope, chances of survival keep shrinking. The man who ordered the hit on Isaac may be dead, but his partner is viciously cold-blooded, and her plans could change the course of history. Blake wants to finish what Isaac started, but it’s looking like someone is going to die before this is over. And that someone might be Blake.
While on holiday in Toronto, Evie Whitmore planned to sightsee and meet other asexuals, not audition for a dance competition. Now she’s representing Toronto’s newest queer dance studio, despite never having danced before. Not only does she have to spend hours learning her routine, she has to do it with one of the grumpiest men she’s ever met. Tyler turns out to be more than a dedicated dancer, though—he might be the kind of man who can sweep her off her feet, literally and figuratively.
Tyler Davis has spent the last year recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship. So he doesn’t need to be pushed into a rushed routine for a dumb competition. Ticking major representation boxes for being trans and biracial isn’t why he went into dance. But Evie turns out to be a dream student. In fact, she helps him remember just how good partnering can be, in all senses of the word. Teaching her the routine, however, raises ghosts for him, ones he’s not sure he can handle.
Plans change, and people change with them. Learning a few steps is one thing; learning to trust again is another entirely.
When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.
To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.
If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.
For as long as she can remember, it’s been just Ariel and Dad. Ariel’s mom disappeared when she was a baby. Dad says home is wherever the two of them are, but Ariel is now seventeen and after years of new apartments, new schools, and new faces, all she wants is to put down some roots. Complicating things are Monica and Gabe, both of whom have stirred a different kind of desire.
Maya’s a teenager who’s run from an abusive mother right into the arms of an older man she thinks she can trust. But now she’s isolated with a baby on the way, and life’s getting more complicated than Maya ever could have imagined.
Ariel and Maya’s lives collide unexpectedly when Ariel’s mother shows up out of the blue with wild accusations: Ariel wasn’t abandoned. Her father kidnapped her fourteen years ago.
What is Ariel supposed to believe? Is it possible Dad’s woven her entire history into a tapestry of lies? How can she choose between the mother she’s been taught to mistrust and the father who has taken care of her all these years?
Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.
It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.
She doesn’t have time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.
Fifteen-year-old Aki Hunter knows she’s bisexual, but up until now she’s only dated guys—and her best friend, Lori, is the only person she’s out to. When she and Lori set off on a four-week youth-group mission trip in a small Mexican town, it never crosses Aki’s mind that there might be anyone in the group she’d be interested in dating. But that all goes out the window when Aki meets Christa.
Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon (NA)
37 Things I Love (in No Particular Order) by Kekla Magoon (YA)
The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson (YA)
F*ths by G.L. Thomas (NA)
A Hundred Thousand Words by Nyrae Dawn (NA)
Bonus: Coming in 2017, Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert (YA)
Double Bonus: For a Sci-Fi NA, check out To Terminator, With Love by Wes Kennedy (NA)
For those of you who feel like you’ve already read every LGBTQIAP+ book in existence, not to worry – there’s plenty still to come! Every TBRainbow Alert will have a mix of five LGBTQIAP+ titles to make sure are on your radar, along with three reasons why you should know them. If you missed the earlier alerts, you can check out those titles here. And now, because I can’t wait to get these books on your reading lists, check out some of what awaits in 2017!
Title: History is All You Left Me (January 17)
Author: Adam Silvera
Genre/Category: YA Contemporary
Rainbow details: gaaaaay (and a bi LI)
Why put it on your radar?
1. I mean, you read More Happy Than Not, right?
2. Not only is this a lovely, soul-crushing grief novel, but the exploration of mental illness as the MC wrestles with his OCD is excellent.
3. If you’ve ever wondered how quickly a book will shatter your heart, enjoy!
Title: Our Own Private Universe (January 31)
Author: Robin Talley
Genre/Category: Contemporary YA
Rainbow details: f/f with a bi MC
Why put it on your radar?
1. Robin Talley’s the most consistently publishing author of mainstream LGBTQ YA right now (this is book number 4, plus she’s got a queer short story in The Tyranny of Petticoats), so you’ll wanna stay on top of whatever she does!
2. If you’ve read books like Judy Blume’s Forever or Daria Snadowsky’s Anatomy of a Boyfriend that walk through both the emotional and physical complexities of a first sexual relationship in great detail and have thought “Maaaan, queer girls could really use that,” WELL. You are in luck!
3. No, seriously, this is the first YA I’ve ever read that discusses dental dams.
Title: Born Both: An Intersex Life (March 14)
Author: Hida Viloria
Genre/Category: Adult memoir
Rainbow details: Intersex
Why put it on your radar?
1. I don’t know if you’ve read any #ownvoices Intersex lit but I sure as hell haven’t.
2. In addition to being intersex, Viloria is also genderfluid and Latinx.
3. Viloria also has videos and an active blog on he/r site, so there’s already plenty of bonus content!
Title: The Cursed Queen (January 3)
Author: Sarah Fine
Genre/Category: YA Fantasy
Rainbow details: Bi female MC, f/f
Why put it on your radar?
1. Book one in this series, The Impostor Queen, was one of my fave fantasies of last year, so I’m dying for the next one!
2. This book positive screams “badass MC,” which is my crack.
3. Magic and torn loyalties and a romance with a chieftain’s daughter?? I MEAN.
Title: Star Crossed (March 14)
Author: Barbara Dee
Genre/Category: Contemporary MG
Rainbow details: Bi female MC
Why put it on your radar?
1. DO YOU EVEN KNOW HOW LITTLE LGBTQ MG THERE IS?
2. Look how freaking adorable that cover is. LOOK.
3. I…actually don’t think I’ve ever seen a bi MC this young. The blurb alone pretty much makes my heart explode.