LGBTQ Fall Book Releases to Be Excited About, version 2.0

Well there are just so many great books being released or that have already come out this fall that I just had to write another one of these. I could have kept them to myself, but that just would have been selfish, wouldn’t it? Also, I am quite excited about all of these books and excitement is just something that I want to share.

longredhairLong Red Hair by Meags Fitzgerald is a graphic memoir by a Montrealer about her bisexuality, witches, make believe, and teenage girlhood and it just came out last month!  Fitzgerald also wrote a non-fiction graphic book called Photobooth: A Biography about the history of photobooths, which came out last year. Except for the fact that I don’t have red hair, I think she and I may be twins separated at birth. ALL OF THOSE THINGS EXCITE ME SO MUCH TOO.  Broadly did a great interview with Fitzgerald that you should read and Autostraddle also has a glowing review of the book. You should probably just go read it now. Also, here is an excerpt:

long-red-hair-is-body-image-1444010313hunger makes me a modern girl

How did I not know Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and Portlandia fame had a memoir coming out (tomorrow, in fact)? It’s called Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl and it sounds fabulous. Riot grrrl? Feminism? Punk rock? Bisexuality? It’s all here. The official synopsis makes it sound like Brownstein is only focusing on her experiences in the music industry, but if you check out this pretty lengthy excerpt in The New Yorker, it’s clear this is also a personal memoir that covers Brownstein’s childhood. SO EXCITED! I’m just so pumped about all these books I can’t stop using all caps. If you don’t know the song the title of the memoir is referring to, you MUST listen to it. I love it so much it gives me goosebumps. I’m betting that this memoir is gonna make me feel the same way.

beyondHow amazing does an anthology of comics and graphic stories that are all queer AND all sci-fi and fantasy sound? Beyond: The Queer Sci-fi and Fantasy Comic Anthology, edited by Sfé Monster, is just such a book. According to Mey’s review on Autostraddle, there’s a ton of diversity in this book, of genre (ghosts! dragons! aliens! robots!), gender, sexuality, body type, age, and ethnicity. For example, one story follows a trans teenage girl who is also a robot clone. Another is about a woman astronaut on a mission to rescue her astronaut girlfriend. There are also queer space pirates, princesses who fall in love with monsters, and robot aliens with two “genders.” Apparently there are already plans for a second anthology, which is pretty damn exciting.  Here’s a bit from “Optimal” by Blue Delliquanti, the story about the teenage trans girl:


Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash is another queer graphic memoir, set in the 90s at a summer camp and featuring all those things you love to read about in a young adult coming of age / coming out story: all-girl camp, first kisses, first heartbreak, and all the awkwardness in between. It’s supposed to be cute, funny, touching, and sweet. And to add to the drama, the girl Maggie falls in love with is … older! Four years older! And is actually her counselor.  So of course the plot involves Maggie trying to figure out if the beloved older woman is a) queer and b) interested in a lowly fifteen-year old.

uncoveredThe last book I have to recommend is Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home by Leah Lax. It’s also a memoir, and details Lax’s life as a Hasidic Jew, a path she choose as a teenager despite having been brought up in a secular home, and her eventual break from this life and coming out as a lesbian. What I thought sounded really interesting about this book was its portrayal of religion and religious fundamentalism in a complex rather than simplistic way as they so often are, especially in relation to LGBTQ issues. Her coming out is also complex, not only a joyous revelation but also necessarily a loss of her family and the meaning, structure, and ritual that her religion and community gave her. You can check out a full review on the Lambda site.

Posted in Bisexual, comics, Graphic, Lesbian, memoir, Non-Canadian, Non-Fiction, Trans, Trans Feminine, Trans Masculine | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

LGBTQ Fall Book Releases to Be Excited About

Fall! The leaves are turning colours and everyone is going back to school (well, I am, at least). Fall is also an especially awesome time for book lovers because so. many. books are released in this lovely season. Here are some new queer book releases that I’m excited about:

udala treesUnder the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

I thought Okparanta’s debut short story collection was great, so I was pumped to see her first novel was coming out. Today, in fact! Here is the publisher’s synopsis:

Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child and they, star-crossed, fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls.   When their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself. But there is a cost to living inside a lie.

Under the Udala Trees has been reviewed at Lambda Literary if you want to check that out.

all inclusiveI’ve read, reviewed, and enjoyed Farzana Doctor’s two previous novels (Six Metres of Pavement and Stealing Nasreen) and her latest, All Inclusive, sounds like it will be just as innovative and psychologically complex:

What’s it like when everyone’s dream vacation is your job? Ameera works at a Mexican all-inclusive resort, where every day is paradise — if “paradise” means endless paperwork, quotas to meet, and entitled tourists to deal with. But it’s not all bad: Ameera’s pastime of choice is the swingers’ scene, and the resort is the perfect place to hook up with like-minded couples without all the hassle of ever having to see them again.

Despite Ameera’s best efforts to keep her sideline a secret, someone is spreading scandalous rumours about her around the resort, and her job might be at stake. Meanwhile, she’s being plagued by her other secret, the big unknown of her existence: the identity of her father and the reason he abandoned her. Unbeknownst to Ameera, her father, Azeez, is looking for her. The fact that he’s dead is just a minor detail.

dirty riverI’ve been eagerly awaiting Dirty River: A Queer Femme Dreaming Her Way Home by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarsinha ever since I read her most recent poetry collection Bodymap, which also came out this year. The memoir Dirty River is set to come out in October. This is what to expect:

In 1996, poet Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha ran away from America with two backpacks and ended up in Canada, where she discovered queer anarchopunk love and revolution, yet remained haunted by the reasons she left home in the first place. This passionate and riveting memoir is a mixtape of dreams and nightmares, of immigration court lineups and queer South Asian dance nights; it reveals how a disabled queer woman of color and abuse survivor navigates the dirty river of the past and, as the subtitle suggests, “dreams her way home.”

NeverComingHomeTopside Press—which is run by and publishes trans writers—has been putting out quality stuff from the very beginning (see the anthology The Collection, Casey Plett’s A Safe Girl to Love, and Sybil Lamb’s I’ve Got a Time Bomb). They’ve recently started publishing poetry, and one of those new collections coming out this fall is Never Coming Home by Tyler Vile. It sounds great:

What do you do when you live in a moldering unfinished mansion with a megalomaniac father and a mostly-unconscious mother and your only sister has quit on you? Maybe you run.

Tyler Vile has been entertaining audiences with her audacious slam poetry for years. Her new novel-in-verse follows her eponymous heroine through the parks, bars and punk houses of Baltimore as she tries to escape her childhood and build a community for herself. Which, given that all she has to work with is people. isn’t going to be easy.

Heyday-Cover-Web-copy1Marnie Woodrow is a queer Canadian author who has been writing for quite some time. I reviewed an earlier novel of hers, Spelling Mississippi, way back when I was first starting this blog. Her newest novel, Heyday, came out in early September, and here’s what you’ll find in it:

Two lively girls meet aboard a roller coaster in 1909 and develop a special connection. A modern-day woman grieves the loss of her lesbian partner with whom she was not in love. Heyday is a double-barreled novel that features separate story lines set in different eras, both of which explore the soul’s quest for pleasure and the power of love to endure through lifetimes.

Zoe Whittall says this about Heyday: “Heyday is both a fun, parallel romantic romp through time, and a heart-wrenching epic about timeless truths of the heart and the importance of seeking out what thrills us while we can. A stunning book.”

InvisibleOrientationCoverI’ve been asked a few questions recently in my book advice column about books with asexual characters and about asexuality, and there’s a new one that was just released in paperback this month, which looks quite promising: The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker. Looking at a bunch of goodreads reviews, a lot of people have very good things to say about this book, which uses no-nonsense, non-jargony language and is geared towards both asexuals and their allies. Although it incorporates research, it’s mostly informed by personal experience, which, of course, is a con for some people, but a pro for others. Here’s (part of) the publisher’s blurb:

When an asexual person comes out, alarming reactions regularly follow; loved ones fear that an asexual person is sick, or psychologically warped, or suffering from abuse. Critics confront asexual people with accusations of following a fad, hiding homosexuality, or making excuses for romantic failures. And all of this contributes to a discouraging master narrative: there is no such thing as “asexual.” Being an asexual person is a lie or an illness, and it needs to be fixed.

In The Invisible Orientation, Julie Sondra Decker outlines what asexuality is, counters misconceptions, provides resources, and puts asexual people’s experiences in context as they move through a very sexualized world. It includes information for asexual people to help understand their orientation and what it means for their relationships, as well as tips and facts for those who want to understand their asexual friends and loved ones.

bright linesBonus! This book was technically released in the summer (August), but I haven’t read it yet and you probably haven’t either: Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam. I probably can’t explain it any better than the official synopsis, but it sounds FANTASTIC:

A vibrant debut novel, set in Brooklyn and Bangladesh, Bright Lines follows three young women and one family struggling to make peace with secrets and their past.

For as long as she can remember, Ella has longed to feel at home. Orphaned as a child after her parents’ murder, and afflicted with hallucinations at dusk, she’s always felt more at ease in nature than with people. She traveled from Bangladesh to Brooklyn to live with the Saleems: her uncle Anwar, aunt Hashi, and their beautiful daughter, Charu, her complete opposite. One summer, when Ella returns home from college, she discovers Charu’s friend Maya—an Islamic cleric’s runaway daughter—asleep in her bedroom.

As the girls have a summer of clandestine adventure and sexual awakenings, Anwar—owner of a popular botanical apothecary—has his own secrets, threatening his thirty-year marriage. But when tragedy strikes, the Saleems find themselves blamed. To keep his family from unraveling, Anwar takes them on a fated trip to Bangladesh, to reckon with the past, their extended family, and each other.

Readers, are there any other LGBTQ+ books coming out this fall that you’re excited about?

Posted in asexual, Bisexual, Black, Canadian, Fiction, Lesbian, Marnie Woodrow, Non-Canadian, Non-Fiction, Poetry, South Asian, Trans, Trans Feminine, Transgender | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian # 11: Bisexual Women Navigating Queer Communities

Dear Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian,

I’m looking for books about the experiences of bisexual women who come out later in life after identifying as straight, and, in particular, the tensions involved in navigating and joining a queer community. Thank you for your recommendations!


Hi Erica!

I’m so glad you asked this question! Not only for selfish reasons, because I’m bisexual too and love researching bisexual books, but because I was excited by the idea of “tensions involved in navigating and joining a queer community.” When you look at a lot of popular so-called lesbian fiction (and other pop culture like movies and TV shows), there are often formerly-straight women who fall in love with another woman over the course of the story. Rarely, though, do they identify explicitly as bisexual or does the book/movie/etc. address how hard it usually is for bisexual women to be active members of the queer (women’s) community—i.e., the biphobia that bi women encounter from lesbians. For some reason, so many of these stories seem to talk place in an apolitical world where labels don’t matter, or, conveniently, where every character seems to have forgotten about the existence of the word bisexual. Check out Anna Pulley’s article “Why Won’t ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Acknowledge That Bisexuals Exist” for an exploration of this in recent TV.

As I said, there are actually a lot of “lesbian” books that feature women whose behaviour / desire is bisexual (the ever popular Sarah Waters’s books come to mind), but finding the ones that actually address non-monosexuality is a lot trickier. For some reason, people seem to love stories like the movie Imagine Me and You where a “straight” girl falls in love with a lesbian, but don’t want to actually hear about the complexities inherent in such a character’s sexuality.

dear johnThat said, of course I have some recommendations for you! The first book I thought of when you asked this question was Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write About Leaving Men for Women edited by Candace Walsh and Laura Andre, which is an all-round fucking fantastic anthology. I loved it, and I’m sure you will too. There’s a very wide range of experiences written about in this book, but women who identified as straight for some time before coming out as bi definitely take up a good share of Dear John, I Love Jane. What I love about this collection is seeing women questioning and attacking conventional understandings of sexual orientation—that model that’s built for gay men that just doesn’t seem to do a lot of LBQ women justice.  One woman writes about her lack of “brazen knowledge about” her sexuality; taught that she would be sure if she was queer, she felt paralyzed because she didn’t know for certain.  Another compares her newfound feelings for women as an acquired taste for fancy espresso when she used to slurp down drip coffee from a styrofoam cup without thought.

a cup of waterAnother book I loved that I want everyone to read is Daisy Hernández’s memoir A Cup of Water Under My Bed. It’s a gorgeous book, structured thematically rather than linearly, that deals with things like growing up working class, language politics, Cuban and Colombian cultural and spiritual traditions, racism, money, and, of course, bisexuality. She writes about coming out as bi after identifying as straight in a striking, honest way:

There isn’t a good verb for what begins happening to me in college. Yes, I am meeting lesbians, but I am not one of them. I still find men attractive; it is that I am thinking of women in a new way. It is as if I am learning that I can shift my weight from one leg to the other, that I have a second leg. Kissing women is like discovering a new limb.

adaptationThe only fiction that I can think of (that I’ve read, obviously) that really addresses a struggle with bisexual identity and is also a fun read, is Malinda Lo’s young adult, science fiction series Adaptation and Inheritence. These books are kind of like an episode of the X-Files, but with thoughtful teenager characters from diverse racial and sexual orientations. Along with discovering that aliens are actually living on earth and that Area 51 government conspiracies are real, the main character Reese is also figuring out that she’s bisexual. Of course, there’s a love triangle, which is eventually resolved in a way that might / might not be satisfactory to you in the end. It’s a fast-paced, easy read that will probably remind you of reading when you were thirteen.  But it’s a great, realistic look at the confusion that happens when you thought your only options were gay or straight.

getting biThere are a couple bi specific anthologies, Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World edited by Sarah E. Rowley and Robyn Ochs and Best Bi Short Stories edited by Sheela Lambert, that I haven’t read yet, but that look awesome. Ochs is an outstanding bisexual activist, and has the best definition of bisexuality around:

I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.

So, I am pretty much convinced that an anthology she co-edited must be awesome. Lambert’s book looks great too: there are some familiar names for me (Deborah Miranda, Jane Rule) and it’s pretty much the first of its kind of fiction anthology. Both of these, I’m sure, will address all different kinds of bisexual stories, including the ones you’re especially looking for.

twice the pleasureIf you’re interested in some erotica, Twice the Pleasure: Bisexual Women’s Erotica edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel has been highly recommended to me, although I’ve yet to read my copy of it! All of the stories feature bisexual women (as well as some bi men too), and some address biphobia directly, although, of course, the focus here is on sexy times. Many of the women in these stories are previously straight women who are exploring relationships/sex with women for the first time (what you’re looking for), although there are also some formerly-lesbian-identified women who’ve started dating men too (an alternate perspective that is often ignored, and happens to be mine too!)

bi notes for a bisexual revolutionSince it sounds like you’ve recently come out as bi, I definitely think you should read Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution by Shiri Eisner. It’s quite anti-assimilationist and radical, so you might connect or not connect with Eisner on that point, but it is an amazing overview and interrogation of bisexual politics, biphobia, and monosexism—the assumption that people are either gay or straight. As a newly out bisexual, I found it an incredibly empowering read, even if you don’t agree with everything Eisner is saying (I didn’t). Instead of saying we should apologize for and feel guilty about being different and complicated vis-à-vis gay and straight folks, Eisner says we should value it. Eisner writes directly about bisexuals’ experiences in queer (and straight) communities, and articulates a lot of what I’ve experienced or seen but not really put into words as biphobia. One of my favourite points that she made was that the sometimes positively-viewed assertion that ‘everyone is really bi’ is really the other side of the ‘bisexuality doesn’t exist’ coin. Both statements are trying to deny the validity of a bisexual orientation and the uniqueness of bisexual people.

I also highly recommend checking out what Autostraddle has tagged as bisexual, especially these articles, “Becoming Visible: On Coming Out as Bisexual” and “We See You: An Open Thread for Bisexual Women Dating Men.” I’m not going to lie, the second article there made me cry. In a good way. A lot of resources for queer women that claim to be bi-inclusive are really not, or even if there are positive articles/posts, the comments are inundated with dribble from biphobic jerks. Autostraddle is not like that, and that’s one of the reasons I love that site.

I’ve also made a list of best bisexual women’s literature that you should definitely check out: the books on there don’t necessarily deal with the specific issue you’re looking for, but they are awesome bisexual-themed books, also often by bisexual authors.

Okay, readers: what else should be on this list? Do you know any books where bi characters are dealing with being a part of the queer community or characters who’ve come out later as bi after identifying as straight?

Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian is a Book Advice Column where you can send me your LGBTQ book related questions and recommendation requests. Send me an email: and put “Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian” in the subject.

Posted in ask your friendly neighbourhood lesbrarian, Bisexual, Erotica, memoir, Non-Canadian, Non-Fiction | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Trish Salah’s Poetry Collection WANTING IN ARABIC: Why to Read It, and How

wanting in arabicHave you ever read something that felt too smart for you? Winnipeg-based writer Trish Salah’s poetry collection Wanting In Arabic was like that for me, especially when I first picked it up. I’ve actually had quite a few unsuccessful starts with this book: I borrowed it from the library twice, and neither time did I manage to finish it before a) someone else requested it, or b) the library wouldn’t let me renew it any more times. There was something about reading this poetry collection that just couldn’t be rushed. I managed to find my own copy of it at Little Sister’s in Vancouver (yay queer bookstores!) and then, reading in fits and spurts, a lot of the time in the bath, I finally (re)read the poems in Wanting In Arabic.

So, needless to say, this book was a challenging reading experience for me. But—and this is a significant but—in the end, it was also very rewarding. So, if you want to read Wanting In Arabic but you’re intimidated, I have a few tips for you. One thing that I generally try to do with poetry is to try to resist the impulse to understand, or to “get it,” that is, for most of us, the governing norm of how we read, whether we realize it or not. Even more so then I usually have to, while reading Salah’s book I had to keep reminding myself to let go of this impulse. When you can relax into it, it’s actually really nice to read and not focus on the content, but rather on how something looks and sounds, without worrying about what it means.

It’s not that there’s not a lot of meaning in Salah’s poetry; on the contrary, there is so much meaning I doubt whether I will ever “get” some of these poems even after reading them many times (which I certainly plan to do). But don’t worry if you have no idea what Salah is talking about in some of the poems. I definitely didn’t. Just keep reading and see which ones you do get, or get something out of: that might be just that an image or line is beautiful, or it might be that you appreciate the play on words that you only realized was there the second time you read the stanza.

So, why should you put in the effort to read this book I just told you was challenging for someone like me who studied English literature for 7 years? Because it is beautiful, revelatory, and sexy, and there is quite simply no other book like it in the English language.

Trish Salah, photo by Kaspar Saxena

Trish Salah, photo by Kaspar Saxena

Wanting in Arabic won the Lambda award for transgender fiction last year, but that’s underestimating at best and a misnomer at worst. First of all, it’s really poetry, not fiction, or perhaps a kind of poetic memoir in some places. It’s also full of lesbian / queer sex.  Also, in her afterword, Salah writes that “while trans identities, subjectivities, communities and their relation to writing is an axis for this book, it is only one of several.” In the introduction by Lisa Robertson—which I wouldn’t recommend reading unless you are interested in English literature criticism / the history of poetic forms—she basically traces the lyric form (the kind of poems Salah is writing) back to medieval Arabic poetry and “ungrammared” women’s language. It’s interesting to imagine contemporary poetry reaching back to these traditions–both feminine and Arabic–and this is certainly one of the other axes.

I like this idea of reaching back, because it feels like so many of these poems are taking up what, at first, seem like ridiculously tired, cliché images, like roses and the immortal beloved. They seem so old, but they’re really made new in Salah’s deft hands. For example: “What a heart is, is forever at risk. Reborn to you, / I know this, and to that condition, consent.”

I’m certainly at a loss for words trying to describe the intricacies of these poems, so I think I’ll just let a few favourites speak for themselves. If you’re wondering what they’re about, the list of themes that I made is pretty exhaustive: war, love, cultural belonging, the loss or lack of cultural artefacts (like language), the (trans) body, desire, mythology, language, and poetry. Or, you know, like everything.

From the title poem:

Face down in the deep olive crush

to my tongue yr imagined melting

What I can want is just to learn

just what learning is, though …

Oh linger here, warming my breath, secreted

furtive moment of fingers, clasped, released

for the day. It’s enough, today, strangely to grow

like this, desire’s plunge and deepening moment

You and I twined in looking, tender intake

roaring quiet under our friends’ clever banter

Shadows warm more than December sun

shadows blanket us. Until we might peel one,

another, press to heat winter skins, trembling

beneath glances like hands, hands…

Passion knows we breathe, what to do.

Goes airy and unseen the better to enter

you and I, our verging   inward

maps, fold old futures, in. Might we

be eaten and eat my dear? As pomegranates

quicken awhile longer, come, inside me, you.

From “What Daphne wrote Georgia”:

You threaten, giddy and rudely, you promise

To devour me roughly, to take me wholly inside.

Under your mouth and in your hands, I become again,

So protean as to survive that, more, to grow wide and lovely.

Beloved, consider a carefully cultivated flame.

Of how it is that I want, with you.

From “when there are three”

because I was caught up in my own narrative, careening towards your

thighs, your lips & yours,

white tusks shining

like knights on white chargers off to slay sexism,

you know, though progressive non-possessive, wet and wild,

truly liberatory…

here in your shoulder it’s another story

i know, the rain

doesn’t ever stop

being metaphorical

it’s a wash of falling down city in steady sodden desolation

it’s tearing rents in air

it’s tongue scarfing sexy down throat to thorax

From “Orpheus, the Muses’ return”:

Sometimes you can say, This is language

theft, sometimes, This is gorgeous blood.

Sometimes you take the winding path

to the water, sometimes in to the shore.

Sometimes, when you have been skinned, snake!

You kiss the one who peeled you,

slowly and with method

with infinite submission.

Sometimes the bell she has curled

of your dermis

flutters in the breeze,

and inverted tulip                                                                                         (nine aflush, prophet!)

some other you might stumble out of

I liked nothing about parades

except maybe you

in your tux and tails so handsome

leatherfag girl in straight boy-drag

a hot day in the park.

Seeing what was coming

I nearly wept

spoiling the picnic


Don’t you just want to tattoo some of these words on your body? That’s how I know a good poem from the great ones that pepper Trish Salah’s Wanting in Arabic.

Posted in Poetry, Queer, Trans Feminine, Transgender | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian #10: Asexual YA Characters with Different Romantic Orientations

Hi Casey!

I was wondering if there are any books out there whose characters have a different sexual orientation to romantic? I’m on the asexual spectrum (I think – I’m so confused right now) and biromantic, but until recently, I had no idea that was even a ‘valid’ thing because I’ve only ever seen how romantic and sexual orientation align. It kinda sucks. I particularly am interested in young adult fiction, but I’m not sure it exists in that genre, I feel like I would know by now! But would you know? Not only in YA, but other literature too.

Thank you for taking time to answer all these questions and find these amazing reads, it’s very much appreciated!


Hi Sophia!

heart of acesI am always happy to help!  First of all, you might want to check out my other post on books that feature asexual characters.  There are quite a few YA titles on that list.  In particular, have a look at The Heart of Aces, edited by Sarah Sinnaeve.  It’s a short story collection, featuring asexual characters in all sorts of romantic relationships, from hetero- to homo-romantic.  All the authors in this anthology are asexual too, which is pretty cool!

Here are some other books I found that I hope you’ll find interesting!  You should also have a look at this list of YA book with asexual characters.  Unfortunately, even with a bunch of research, I couldn’t figure out if some of these asexual characters have different romantic orientations, but you never know!  And some of them look pretty awesome.

daughter-of-smoke-and-boneLaini Taylor’s fantasy series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, comes highly recommended by lots of readers.  There’s magic, demons, angels, monsters, and, specifically, an emotionally closed-off warrior girl named Liraz who is revealed to be asexual in the second book, Days of Blood and Starlight.  However, given that she falls in love with a shape-shifting character called Ziri later in the series, she must be some kind of (hetero?) romantic.  All the reviews I read of this series suggest that it’s impossible to really describe, so you should probably just read it.  Beware of spoilers, but you might want to read this excellent in-depth review of the treatment of Liraz’s asexuality.

boston marriagesBoston Marriages: Romantic but Asexual Relationships Among Contemporary Lesbians, edited by Esther D. Rothblum, isn’t YA, but it does sound pretty amazing and affirming.  While the first half is more academic, and contains theoretical articles about asexuality, the second half is full of personal essays by women who are in romantic lesbian relationships that are not sexual.  One goodreads reviewer calls it inspiring, and praises it for being a much needed affirmation for romantic asexuals that they’re not alone.  It seems like this book is a hidden treasure!

Aces by Kathryn Burns might be another underrated find.  It was only published this year, which means it’s up-to-date on such important American milestones like Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out and equal marriage.  Its short description is this: “Love and sex go hand in hand. Until they don’t. This is an asexual love story.”  I can’t find a lot of information on this, so I can’t say if the love story is biromantic, homoromantic, or any other persuasion, but it seems pretty clear there’s asexuality and romance of some kind.  Check out the book’s goodreads page for one reader’s really enthusiastic review.

lunasideLunaside by J.L. Douglas, who is demisexual, features a biromantic asexual teen girl, although unfortunately she’s only a side character.  The rest of this YA book sounds pretty interesting, though: a summer camp lesbian love triangle.  If you’re looking for a light, fun summer read, it looks like Lunaside will deliver.  Not really a spoiler alert: there’s a happy ending.

Scott Westerfield’s protagonist in Afterworlds isn’t exactly asexual, but more demisexual or grey-asexual, as identified in this post from Aro Ace Reads.  She is definitely homoromantic though, and has a girlfriend in this series, which sounds like it has a pretty unique concept:

afterworldsDarcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she’s made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings… Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the ‘Afterworld’ to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved – and terrifying – stories need to be reconciled.

wittlinger-hard-loveHard Love by Ellen Wittlinger looks like an amazing, complex book, although the issue of whether the main character John is asexual or not is left open.  Read this great review that I found.  Hard Love is a YA novel about love that is unlike any other, because the kind of love that is uncategorizable.  John falls in love with his best friend Marisol, who is a lesbian, but he’s not really sure if he is sexual at all, as he writes here in one of his zines:

I can’t stand it anymore, the constant talk about girls and sex. I just don’t feel like thinking about that stuff. Maybe it’s weird, but I’m not interested in it. I mean, it worries me a little sometimes, because I guess guys my age are supposed to be like Brian, lusting after pouty lips and big boobs. But to me, the mystery of female body parts is one I’d just as soon not solve. Not that I’m interested in boys either–I’m just not interested in the whole idea of locked lips or proclamations of love.

Anything else to recommend, readers?  I’m certainly no expert on asexuals in literature, but it’s been a fun topic to research a couple times now; I feel like I’ve learned a lot about a community I knew hardly anything about before!

Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian is a Book Advice Column where you can send me your LGBTQ book related questions and recommendation requests. Send me an email: and put “Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian” in the subject.

Posted in asexual, ask your friendly neighbourhood lesbrarian, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Young Adult | Tagged , | 7 Comments

“Ink on paper, picking up trails”: A Review of Beth Brant’s MOHAWK TRAIL

mohawk trailIf you’ve never heard of Beth Brant (Degonwadonti), that’s a damn shame.   I mean, she’s one of the founding grandmothers of lesbian writing in English, of Native lesbian writers, and women of colour writers.  Shame on me for not reading her earlier, and shame on the mainstream queer literary scene for not paying more attention to this fascinating Mohawk author, today and in the past.  Did you know that she didn’t start writing until she was forty?  If that’s not inspirational for aspiring literary types, I don’t know what is.  Actually, the whole story of how she began to write, as told in her bio, is awesome:

Brant began writing at the age of forty after a motor trip through the Mohawk Valley, where a Bald Eagle flew in front of her car, sat in a tree, and instructed her to write.  She has been writing ever since.

Mohawk Trail is Brant’s first book, published in 1985—so it’s as old as me!—and I thought that I might as well start with it.  It’s multi-genre, containing poetry and fiction.  There’s a visceral quality to many of the pieces in this book, an immediacy evoked by the disarmingly simple writing and the often direct, clean voices.  These are stories and poems about Native, working-class, and queer people (usually women) but they’re not about identity.  They’re slices of life, in seamlessly authentic voices that sound just like there’s someone beside you, or maybe across the dinner table, talking.  Take the simply titled “Terri”:

My name is Terri.  With an i.  Yeah, I was born right here in this neighborhood.  It don’t matter much how old I am, let’s just say I’m over twenty-one. Ha!  I’ve been dancing for about two years now.  I like it.  Five days a week I work at K-Mart as a cashier.  It sure gives me something to look forward to, being a go-go girl on Friday nights.  It makes me feel happy to get all dolled up and go out and dance for the ladies…Did I tell you my ma was part Indian?  Yeah, Chippewa.  My dad’s a Polack.  That’s how come I got Indian hair and hazel eyes.  Some of the girls here thought I should change my name to Honey on account of the colour of my skin.  But they thought it should be spelled Honee.  With two e’s.

You can picture the woman talking to you, can’t you?  Brant has such a strong command of voice.

“Coyote Learns A New Trick” is also a stand-out story.  As you probably know, Coyote characters are known for their tricks, but in this story, Coyote’s trick backfires on her.  Planning to prank Fox, who’s always bragging about how sly and clever she is, Coyote  cross-dresses and marches up to Fox’s house, intent on seducing her.  You can probably guess where the story goes, with Coyote realizing she “had not fooled Fox.  But somehow, playing the trick didn’t seem so important anyway.”  It gets pretty sexy, for a story about a coyote and a fox.

While the first two sections of Mohawk feature shorter poems and stories, the last part contains longer pieces, some of them addressing heartbreaking issues.  “A Long Story” juxtaposes two mothers who have both lost their children to a colonial, sexist, homophobic government: one woman in 1890, whose children have been taken to an American Indian boarding school (the American version of Canada’s residential schools), and another in 1978, whose custody of her daughter has been given to her ex-husband because her new partner is a woman.

The last tale, if I can call it that, is hybrid fiction/poetry, and a fitting, powerful end to this debut collection, which was to become the first of many of Beth Brant’s:

A gourd is a hollowed-out shell, used as a utensil.

We make our bowls from the stuff of nature.  Of life.

We carve and scoop, discarding the pulp.

Ink on paper, picking up trails I left so many lives ago.

Leaving my mark, my footprints, my sign.

I write what I know.

If you’d like to know more about Brant, check out this biographical article which also details her philosophy on writing, identity, and spirituality.  I think I’ll read her book of essays, Writing as Witness: Essay and Talk next!

Posted in Canadian, Fiction, Indigenous, Poetry, Postcolonial | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian # 9: Books With Queer Lady Scientist Characters

Request number two from my friend L:

Any books where a queer woman protagonist is a scientist of some kind and that’s not used as a shorthand for her queerness?

Well this is a toughie.  When I tried googling some key search terms, I found this interesting Autostraddle article on how queer women scientists are as hard to find as unicorns.  Hmm, if real-life ones are hard to find, how hard are they going to be to find in fiction?  Also, because the term “scientist” is close enough to science, during my searches I found a whole whack of resources on queer women in science fiction, which is awesome, but not what I was looking for.

I had a few false starts, too with this question.  L, I know you had mentioned hearing about a book from the now sadly defunct Queer Books Please podcast with a scientist character.  I managed to track it down: it’s The Big Bang Symphony by Lucy Jane Bledsoe.  There is a geologist in that book, but she’s unfortunately not the lesbian character, who is a musician.  Rats!

I’m intrigued by this idea of “shorthand for her queerness” because I’ve never heard of science being used that way before!  As far as I can tell, none of these books that I found fall into that category at all.

y the last manI’ve really only got two full books I’ve read that I can heartily recommend.  The first is Y: The Last Man, a comic series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra.  One of the three main characters is Dr. Allison Mann, a geneticist and scientific genius, whom humanity is now depending on for the survival of our species.  No big deal.  This series takes place in a strange sci-fi world where everything with an XY chromosome has suddenly dropped dead except one guy and his pet monkey.  Allison is a totally bad-ass, smart, Asian-American lesbian.  She was my favourite character in the series.  Her gender probably falls under what I’d call chapstick femme and in comparison to other characters’ more masculine genders, I thought it was an unconventional and interesting choice to establish her as the self-assured lesbian.  Later on in the series, Allison gets a really awesome girlfriend who’s an Australian pirate/sailor with an eyepatch.  For serious.

gut_symmetriesJeannette Winterson can’t help but write beautiful and strange stories and her novel Gut Symmetries, which features an English theoretical physicist who manages to fall in love with her American counterpart and then, his wife.  It’s part bisexual love triangle, and part meditation on the nature of love and the world.  It’s only fitting that two of the characters are physicists, studying and trying to discover how everything in the universe fits together.   Look at this gorgeous excerpt:

Stella turned towards me and crumpled my heart in her hand.

‘Do you fall in love often?’

Yes often. With a view, with a book, with a dog, a cat, with numbers, with friends, with complete strangers, with nothing at all. There are children who grow up as I did, with the love clamped down in them, who cannot afterwards love at all. There are others who make fools of themselves, loving widely, indiscreetly, forgetting it is themselves they are trying to love back to a better place.

happinessHappiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta has a scientist in one story, “America,” which is about a young woman who is studying water and oil spills (forgive me since I don’t remember exactly what kind of scientist).  She’s trying to get a visa to go study in the US and join her partner.  It’s only one story, but I did want to take the chance to plug this book, because it’s really great!

Oddly enough, this list about lesbians in cold places on goodreads that Danika from the Lesbrary made using resources from the Queer Books Please podcast was quite useful.  I figured that one plausible reason authors might come up with for sending their characters to places like Antarctica might be that they’re scientists, and I was right.   Most of these are your standard romance genre books, so don’t expect literary fiction L!

ice holeIce Hole by Kiera Dellacroix is about a scientist falling in love with a commander in Antarctica while on a secret government mission.  This story takes a paranormal turn!  Melt by Robbi McCoy features a former student and teacher reuniting and falling in love in Greenland.  The teacher is a glaciologist.  Warming Trend by Karin Kallmaker also has a protagonist studying glaciers, this time in Alaska, and, obviously, falling in love.  Colder Than Ice by Helen Macpherson features “Allison Shaunessy [who] is a woman on the edge. As an archaeologist with the Flinders Museum of Australasian Exploration, she and her team are racing against time to secure funding for an unprecedented excavation in Antarctica.”

business strangeI reached out on twitter while doing this search, and got some much-needed recommendations!  Two folks, Megan Derr and Julia Alaric, both put in a word for Business Makes Strange Bedfellows by E. E. Ottoman, which sounds deliciously gothic.  One goodreads reviewer calls it “Frankenstein meets Dracula with lesbians!”  The main character is the Frankenstein, a scientist studying the arcane and occult field of resurrection in 19th century New York.  When a monstrosity that she has created gets loose and begins to murder, she is forced to make a deal with a dangerous and manipulative vampire, who wants payment in a method other than cold cash.

love by theBrooke Carr brought up Love by the Numbers by Karin Kallmaker, which is another romance, featuring a behavioural scientist who is thrust out of her anti-social comfort zone “[w]hen her academic tome is treated as a viral ‘love manual’ [and] her ecstatic publisher books her to appear all over the U.S. and Europe.”  She needs an assistant, and ends up with this interesting character: “Lillian Linden-Smith needs this job. With a relentless TV lawyer and public mob still out for her blood for crimes committed by her “American royalty” parents, getting out of the country is her only hope for anonymity.”  Love/hate at first sight, of course.

pennancePennance by Clare Ashton also looks great, albeit a very different kind of book.  A quiet study of a woman—who’s a computer tech kind of scientist—dealing with the loss of a partner through a car crash and fire, Pennance is set in a “small introverted village in Cornwall [the U.K.].”  What many readers remarked on in reviews of this book was the palpable emotional atmosphere Ashton creates, and how readers are steeped in Lucy the bisexual main character’s depression, isolation, and eventual slow-burning romance with a new neighbour.  There’s also some polyamory in this novel!

A-door-into-oceanJPGCatherine Lundoff recommended two feminist science fiction books: A Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski and Ammonite by Nicola Griffith.  A Door Into Ocean sounds like fascinating world building: “it concerns the Sharers of Shora, a nation of women on a distant moon in the far future who are pacifists, highly advanced in biological sciences, and who reproduce by parthenogenesis–there are no males–and tells of the conflicts that erupt when a neighbouring civilization decides to develop their ocean world, and send in an army.”

ammoniteNicola Griffith is a writer who’s been on my to-read list for ages, but I haven’t managed to read one of her books yet.  Maybe Ammonite might be a good one to start with.  I’ve heard nothing but high praise for her imaginative SF and historical fiction.  Here’s the synopsis:

Centuries earlier, a deadly virus shattered the original colony, killing the men and forever altering the few surviving women. Now, generations after the colony has lost touch with the rest of humanity, a company arrives to exploit Jeep–and its forces find themselves fighting for their lives. Terrified of spreading the virus, the company abandons its employees, leaving them afraid and isolated from the natives. In the face of this crisis, anthropologist Marghe Taishan arrives to test a new vaccine. As she risks death to uncover the women’s biological secret, she finds that she, too, is changing…

little white lieDanika Ellis mentioned Little White Lie by Lea Santos, which looks like a fun, light read by and about a Latina lesbian who is a geneticist and who somehow gets tricked into appearing on a makeover TV show and falling in love with the make-up artist.  Danika also told me about Saving Grace by Jennifer Fulton, featuring what sounds like a morally dubious “scientist [whose] her secret mission [is] to evaluate Moon Island for corporate purchase by a chemicals giant looking for a waste dump far from civilization” and Gulf Breeze by Gerri Hill, with a wildlife biologist doing environmental work for Habitat for Nature and becoming close with a wildlife photographer.

A few other friendly people on twitter recommended: Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein [two bisexual scientist characters], Stolen Time by J.M. Brink [lesbian scientist main character], Waking Up Gray [bisexual linguistic anthropologist] and crime novels by R.E. Bradshaw [queer criminal scientists], Ladyfish by Andrea Bramhall [lesbian biologist], When Dreams Tremble by Radclyffe [lesbian biologist], The Ghost Sister by Liz Williams [one scientist protagonist], and Ellen Klages’ short story “Time Gypsy.”

Thanks to the storm of folks on twitter who responded to my question!  Literary queers are a pretty awesome bunch of people.  Any more to add to this list, readers?

Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian is a Book Advice Column where you can send me your LGBTQ book related questions and recommendation requests. Send me an email: and put “Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian” in the subject.

Posted in ask your friendly neighbourhood lesbrarian, Bisexual, Hiromi Goto, Lesbian, paranormal, Science Fiction | Tagged , , | 27 Comments