The Who, What, Why, and How on the Biblio-Social Media Site Goodreads

I started another blog for a class I’m taking. It’s about social media, libraries, and (of course) LGBTQ+ stuff! Here’s my first post:

social media lesbrarian

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much I use the site Goodreads and how it has taken up such a prominent place in my reading practice. I realized I probably check the site at least once every couple days, and I hardly ever miss adding an update of what I’m currently reading or if I’ve finished a book. It’s kind of like that saying, if a tree falls in the forest, etc. If I don’t mark the book as read on Goodreads, then did I really read it?

goodreads

If you don’t know, Goodreads is what you might call a biblio-social media site: kind of like Facebook for people who like reading. It has a news feed quite similar to Facebook or Twitter where you can get updates from your “friends,” and you can send messages and join groups. My favourite part though—and this may be because of my…

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Using Social Media for LGBTQ+ Reader’s Advisory

Here’s the second post on my newly created blog about social media, libraries, and LGBTQ stuff:

social media lesbrarian

On my other blog, Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, I have a column called Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian, where LGBTQ+ people send me emails / tweets / comments about the kind of LGBTQ+ books they want to read and are having trouble finding. I do some research, and then I put up a post on my blog with a bunch of recommendations for them based on what they’ve told me. I’ve always loved recommending books to people and for years some of my friends have treated me and my bookshelves as a personalized recommendation system. I didn’t realize when I started the column a year ago that what I was doing was “reader’s advisory” in library speak, but it is!

white is for witching.jpg A novel a commenter added to a post about queer magic realism!

Social media can be both a venue for contacting and communicating with people who want reader’s…

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A Reflection on My Year of Reading QTPOC Books

When I was looking back on the books that I had read in 2014, I realized that, despite the fact that according to lots of people’s standards I read very ‘diverse’ books, I had read more than twice the amount of white authors compared to authors of colour. I was pretty disappointed in myself, so I decided that to ‘catch up,’ the next year (2015) I would try to read only books by queer and trans people of colour (QTPOC). How did this go? Well, it was disrupted by me going back to school and being forced to read a ton by straight white dudes (erg) but I still made an effort to choose POC authors for my reading-for-fun books—when I had the time to read for fun, that is. I didn’t particularly try for any mix of different ethnicities, although I had a vague idea of mixing it up, so it was pretty interesting when I tallied the books up in this pie chart:

Pie Chart

I’ve never made a pie chart before—that was fun and easy! Anyway, not included here are some books by white people I had to read for school, and a few cheats when I just had to find out what happened in Saga and when I re-read Anne of Green Gables to comfort myself when I was super sick.  It’s interesting that I didn’t read many books by Latin@ or Middle Eastern authors.  I think cause I’m Canadian and the Latin American population here is so small compared to the US, books by Latin@ authors are harder to get here, and I just plain don’t hear of them.  Although I was totally blown away by a few that I did read.  But I have no theories about why I couldn’t find more Arab or Persian authors to read. As it was, I ended up reading a few books (one in French!) by the amazing graphic memoirist Marjane Satrapi, who isn’t actually queer.  If you want to have a look at everything I read, look here.

red azaleaI discovered a ton of awesome new (to me) authors last year that I’m excited to read more from: in particular, Anchee Min, Daisy Hernández, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Charles M. Blow, and Deborah Miranda. All of those are writers I only discovered through consciously searching for QTPOC writers. I pride myself on being kind of a queer book expert, so if I hadn’t heard of some of these authors, that must be really annoying for new QTPOC readers looking for books to reflect their experiences!  Of course, my cultural/racial background is a factor here, so maybe if I wasn’t white, I would be more likely to have heard of some of these great authors. Other authors I really enjoyed that I had heard of before but just hadn’t got around to reading yet: Daniel Heath Justice, Helen Oyeyemi, Vikram Seth, Ryka Aoki, Trish Salah, and Mia McKenzie. Google them and check them out! There’s a big variety of genre and style represented by that list (YA, fantasy, memoir, poetry, magical realism, fairy tale, and more!).

he mele a hiloI guess the biggest thing I took away from this reading project is that a lot of these books are hard to track down, even more so than LGBTQ+ books in general—which is pretty difficult at times, from my experience. Sometimes, I found books I wanted to read, but then found out that I couldn’t get them in Canada—at least not without buying them through Amazon. I can’t afford to buy most of the books that I read, and I don’t usually take a chance on buying a book by an author I’ve never read unless something has been personally recommended. Also, my preference is not to buy things from Amazon unless I have to. Sometimes, though, when I was trying to track down authors, Amazon wasn’t even an option to get their book! Especially when I looked for books written by trans women of colour. I went to the trouble of ordering a book by Dane Figueroa Edidi, which looked so awesome, off her website, but then discovered she doesn’t ship to Canada (or rather, anywhere outside the US). And, I only managed to read Ryka Aoki’s awesome novel He Mele a Hilo (A Hilo Song) by requesting it through inter-library loans at the Vancouver Public Library. Lots of people probably don’t even know about that option, and I bet other libraries might not be able to get it. If a book isn’t available at the public library, or even in Canada through other means, that’s a pretty limiting economic factor, one that’s especially crucial for trans women of colour readers.

bread out of stoneI noticed as the year went on that I was reading books that felt pretty different from what I was used to reading. For one, I had to read less Canadian authors than I normally do. When you added both POC and LGBTQ+ to the deciding factors, there just weren’t a lot of Canadian options (although I did read some books by old favourites of mine Dionne Brand and Shani Mootoo, both of whom fit the bill there). I also found myself reading a lot more non-fiction than I normally do. I’ve always considered myself a fiction person, but I read a ton of memoirs last year. Standouts were definitely Charles M. Blow and Daisy Hernández, who wrote amazing memoirs about growing up black and Latina—respectively—and bisexuality (among lots of other issues). Gorgeous writing in both of those books. I loved them. I wonder, though, is this a pattern where QTPOC are not encouraged to tell fictional stories, that it’s assumed the only stories they have to tell are ‘real-life’? I know this is definitely a problem with trans writers and the transition memoir format; Janet Mock’s memoir, which I read last year, definitely falls into that category. Cat Fitzpatrick explains more about that trend here (in relation to white writer Juliet Jacques’s Trans).

DREYDI also ended up reading a lot more men than I usually do: I read eight books by queer men of colour last year. I think that number of men is probably up from, uh, zero in past years. I even read a couple books by straight men of colour, Thomas King and Ta-Nehisi Coates, since everyone was talking about their books. King’s—The Inconvenient Indian—mostly reminded me about how lovely his fiction is and how I would have rather been reading that instead of his non-fiction. Like everyone else, I thought Coates’s was gorgeously written and powerful; the audiobook (read by the author) is great and I highly recommend it. But why did I end up reading books by men when I had set out to read books by queer women of colour? I don’t know, sexism. When you’re busy and you don’t have a lot of time to seek out and get a copy of a book, you pick up one that’s easy to find. It’s no coincidence that both Coates and King are thought of as spokespersons for their respective communities—an idea that’s problematic in and of itself—and they’re both men. I mean, that’s why their books are everywhere. That in itself isn’t a problem, but why don’t women of colour and their books hold those positions?

I feel like I learnt a lot last year reading through the lens of writers of colour. I don’t even know if it’s anything in particular I can pinpoint; it more feels like a slow expansion of my idea of what the world is like from different perspectives and a more nuanced awareness of my position in it. I feel like I learnt at the same time how different QTPOC’s lives—real and fictional—are and can be from my own, but also a lot of ways in which they can overlap. That feels pretty cool.

I think from now on I’m going to aim for 50 / 50 white and people of colour authors in my reading. What do you all think about that? Is that enough? Has anyone else tried a reading project like this? How did it go?

 

Posted in Asian, Bisexual, Black, Canadian, Caribbean, Dionne Brand, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay, Indigenous, latina, Lesbian, magic realism, Non-Canadian, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Postcolonial, Queer, Shani Mootoo, Short Stories, South Asian, Toronto, Trans, Trans Feminine, Young Adult | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

2015 Bookish Survey

This is an adapted list that I used last year to have a look back at what books I had read, originally stolen from Danika over at the lesbrary!  I did a reading challenge this year where I only read books by LGBTQ+ people of colour–more about that in a separate post–so get excited to hear about lots of those as I review all the awesome books that I read last year!

1. Best book you read in 2015

falling in love with hominidsI read so many books that I loved this year, so this is a really hard question! I think I would have to pick Nalo Hopkinson’s short story collection Falling in Love with HominidsFunnily enough, her other short story collection Skin Folk was one of my two favourites last year. I love love love Hopkinson’s freaky imagination and that collection was full of mind-blowing gorgeously written diverse science fiction and fantasy stories.  Second place goes to Anchee Min’s amazing memoir Red Azalea about growing up (and falling in love with another girl) in the last years of Mao’s reign in China.

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn’t?

1063142I was really pumped to read Jewelle Gomez’s historical black lesbian vampire epic The Gilda Stories, but I ended up feeling kind of underwhelmed by it.  I think I associate lesbian vampires with sex / eroticism, and this book didn’t have much of that in it, which is fine, obviously, but just wasn’t what I was expecting or wanting.  I think there was something else missing for me too, maybe that I felt the vampire motif was only mostly used in that it made the character live a really long time.  I wanted more vampirey stuff!

3. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?

18079683I have two new (to me) authors that I’m excited to read more from: Helen Oyeyemi and Benjamin Alire Sáenz.  I loved Oyeyemi’s gorgeous, fairy-tale like writing and narrative style.  It reminded me a lot of Jeanette Winterson, like all these timeless truths just fall out of her pen as she’s writing.  The words have this mythical quality, like you’re reading the Bible or something. Sáenz’s YA about two Mexican-American boys was also gorgeously written, in a very different way: sparse prose with these sudden emotional punches.  It matched the story of a teengage boy keeping all his feelings bottled up so well.

4. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

coatesI’m not normally a non-fiction reader, except for memoirs, but I loved Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. I guess it’s part memoir, but it’s also history, philosophy, and theory on race and being black (a black man) in the US. The writing was passionate, powerful, beautiful, and I’m so glad I listened to the audiobook, which was wonderfully read by the author in his gorgeous voice.  Maybe audiobooks are the way to go for me for non-fiction.

“The dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves. The stage where they have painted themselves white is the deathbed of us all. The dream is the same habit that endangers this planet. The same habit that stows away our bodies in prisons and ghettos.”

5. Book you can’t believe you waited until 2015 to finally read?

colour purpleThe Color Purple by Alice Walker!  It’s such a classic of queer women’s literature and I was always ashamed I had never read it.  Now I have, and it was kind of nothing like what I was expecting. I had no idea it was an epistolary novel before I picked it up, and I had no idea there was a whole sub-plot that took place in Africa.  It was great.  I’ve never seen the movie, but I’ve heard that it’s pretty straight-washed, which seems unbelievable to me having read the book!  What would be left if you took out all the queer parts?

6. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

sagaDefinitely Saga Volume 5.  This was a cheat from my year of reading people of colour–there are definitely lots of POC featured in this comic, but the creators are neither queer nor POC.  This is kind of an unexplainable book set in a science fiction universe full of robot royalty, a giant cat who can tell you when you’re lying, and a pair of star-crossed lovers with a young child on the run from their respective warring governments’ authorities.  It is so weird and wonderful.  Shout-out to Daniel Heath Justice’s queer Native fantasy trilogy for second place here!

7. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?

220px-Aristotle_and_Dante_Discover_the_Secrets_of_the_Universe_coverI love the whimsical type, I love the classic red truck under the desert sky, I love the Mexican design around the title, I love the cover of Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s YA novel.

8. Most memorable character of 2015?

This one’s gonna go to Benjamin Alire Sáenz again.  I haven’t read about teenagers in a way that reminded me so strongly of being a teenager in a long time until I read about Aristotle and Dante in Artistotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.  They both felt so real to me.  Aristotle’s anger, and his struggle to feel really struck a chord with me.

9. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?

red azaleaRed Azalea by Anchee Min was so so beautifully and strangely written. English is actually her second language, which she learned fairly late in life, and I don’t think a native speaker of English could have come up with much of the phrasing in this memoir.  When I say this book is beautifully, uniquely written I especially mean the way Anchee Min writes about her growing love for Yan, another woman doing forced labour at a communal farm in Mao’s China. It’s Yan who makes her feel this: “I stood in the sunshine, feeling, feeling, the rising of a hope.” A hope like this:

She asked me to feel her heart. I wished I was the blood in that chamber. In the hammering of her hearbeat, the rising and falling of her chest. I saw a city of chaos. A mythical force drew me to her. I felt the blazing of a fire inside me.

10. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2015?

I had to pick more than one here:

a cup of waterI am not to go the way of the two people I long for in the thick terror of the night. The first man I love and the first woman I adore, my father and my mother with their Spanish words, are not in these cards. The road before me is English and the next part is too awful to ask aloud or even silently: What is so wrong with my parents that I am not to mimic their hands, their needs, not even their words?
-Daisy Hernández, A Cup of Water Under My Bed

 

bodymapthis is the truth: every worst thing you can imagine will come true.

you and your ex bff will be asked to keynote a conference together,

and both of you will say yes.

your daughter will indeed hate you. mothering and living are

both losing propositions. that’s

no reason not to do them. the answer is in what comes after. what

you answered the worst thing in the world with. already in the

afterfuture. breathe in breathe out. everything is not going to

stop changing on you.

 hey you sicksauce survivor stunner

you who asked a lot will not always have the right answer.

we’ve always come on boats. we’re going to keep coming. we

know the waves and rough water.

bless the rough water and the small boats.

bless the worst thing

-Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Bodymap

 

SovereignErotics-e1330285357940Work the skin off in a ragged spiral,

separate flare from the pale sunrise within.

Gather up the long curl of rind,

turn it tight and snug, boy center peeking out

from swirled petals.  Make a Clementine rose,

leave it like a love letter on the table.

Let your thumbs find the top dimple, apply pressure.

Not sudden, not hesitant, but cleanly.

Know the joy of secret compartments.

Raise the Clementine’s luminous body

on the tips of your fingers, moist, undressed:

with your strong teeth, neatly pluck the first

sacrificial half-moon from its sisters

with dreamy dedication:

tongue this plump flame till it bursts,

a lush firecracker in the dark.

-Deborah Miranda, “Clementines,” in Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature

11. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?

alanaIt’s a tie between Alana Quick, the main character and bad-ass sky surgeon / space ship mechanic in Jacqueline Koyanagi’s space travel adventure story Ascension and the Brand in Saga, a newly introduced and then cruelly killed butch assassin with a rough front and a soft interior.  Alana and the Brand are both that combination of vulnerable and tough that I love.  Both of these books are awesome science fiction stories with great, complex characters and lots of adventure, by the way.  The hot girls are just the icing on the cake.the brand

12. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year?

DREYDDaniel Heath Justice spends three novels in his trilogy The Way of Thorn and Thunder building a fantasy world to rival all those straight white dudes like Tolkien, but with LGBTQ2 and/or Native characters!  I loved this Indigenous-, Feminist-, Queer-centric magical world.  Like, there are nations and worlds, and spiritualties, and history, and animals, and languages, and epic battles, and Justice has created it all in colour and it is amazing.  I would absolutely love to see this great series made into movies, because it would be so amazing to see the world Justice has built brought to life (outside my head).

13. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2015?

AnneGreenGables17Oh man, I cried in multiple parts of Dante and Aristotle–for happy and sad reasons [trigger warning there is a homophobic hate crime in that book, as well as a mention of a transphobic one, but neither are described in detail].  The Color Purple made me cry too.  Also, I re-read Anne of Green Gables for comfort food when I was really sick, and I cried when Matthew died, even though I’ve read that book and seen the movie so many times.  I will never not be sad about Matthew dying.

14. Hidden gem of the year?

golden gateI had never heard of Red Azalea or Anchee Min before doing a bunch of research to find books written by queer people of colour, and I was totally blown away by that book.  The writing and the (true) story were just incredible.  I also can’t believe more people haven’t heard of Daniel Heath Justice’s trilogy.  But I have to say the best unexpected book I read this year was an strange, older novel from the 80s by Vikram Seth called The Golden Gate that a friend recommended. The description–a novel about a group of California yuppies–makes it sound unremarkable, when it is anything but. This is a novel written in verse people–in rhyming sonnets, in fact–in a way that poetry hasn’t been written in a hundred years (in English, anyway). It was so fun to read; plus, it features a bisexual man which is such a rare treat!

15. Best 2015 debut you read?

Red Azalea was Anchee Min’s first book (she’s since published a bunch of fiction) and I still can’t believe it was her first book, and written in English after only learning that language when she was close to thirty.  Other than that, I don’t think I read any debuts–definitely not any 2015 debuts.

Posted in Bisexual, Black, Canadian, Caribbean, comics, Fiction, Graphic, Indigenous, latina, Non-Canadian, Science Fiction, Short Stories | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian # 12: Fat Positive LBQT Books

Here’s a tweet Shira Glassman sent me: That might be a good question for @canlesbrarian: fat positive f/f?


That is a good question for me! I was so excited to be asked this since I’ve never researched fat positive books, let alone looked for queer fat positive stuff. I love diving into a new area of LGBTQ+ fiction (and non-fiction) and discovering all these awesome reads that I had never heard about before. Here are some cool looking books that I found!  For some reason, this list is pretty erotica heavy.  I’d be interested in anyone has any insights into that!

sideshowQueer writer and scholar Lucas Crawford’s new book of poems Sideshow Concessions definitely fits the bill here. I saw Crawford read from this book at the latest Reverb Queer Reading Series in Vancouver, and the poems were alternately funny, smart, and moving. Funny and smart as in

You don’t know embarrassment until somebody has tried to fuck you in one of your fat folds, and of course I mean embarrassment for the other party and not myself. I felt bad for that person, but only because we were on camera. Can you imagine being documented for life as someone who couldn’t find the cunt of a morbid o-beast? Wouldn’t you just die?

Moving as in the poem called “Your Fat Daughter Remembers What You Said,” addressed to Crawford’s father: “I’m fifteen telling my parents I’m gay. Dad says: I know you think you are / ‘cause you’re a bigger girl / and the boys don’t like you

Another thing that struck a chord with me about this book that might with others is Crawford’s rural Nova Scotian background: there’s a poem dedicated to Rita MacNeil, among other east coast and/or rural Canada references. It reminded me of the time I’ve spent in rural Nova Scotia.

big big loveAn author you definitely want to check out is bisexual writer and historian Hanne Blank, who’s written erotica and non-fiction about sexuality and fat activism. In particular, The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts and Big Big Love: A Sex and Relationships Guide for People of Size (and Those Who Love Them) are considered non-fiction body positivity classics. Big Big Love is explicitly for all genders, sizes, and sexual orientations. She’s also written two books of historical non-fiction about sexuality which may or may not engage with fat issues: Virgin: An Untouched History and Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality. Either way, both of those look super interesting and well done.

unrulyIf it’s fiction you’re interested in though, Blank’s erotica is where you should look. Zaftig: Well Rounded Erotica is a book edited by Blank focusing on “zaftig women, [who are] described variously as full-figured and pleasingly plump, [and who] have long been a source of fetish and humor in erotic literature.” This anthology then “turns the tables with surprising, steamy stories showcasing the sex lives of women of size and their admirers.” Blank has an entire solo collection of erotica called Unruly Appetites: Erotic Stories that sounds fabulous and like just the kind of erotica that I like: full of “tantalizing descriptions, smart writing, and fantastic imagination.” Blank has also edited Best Transgender Erotica and Shameless: Women’s Intimate Erotica which, while obviously not focused on fat issues, likely have some fat positive writing in them as well. Check out Blank’s website for more info on all her books!

venusAnother must-check-out writer is Susan Stinson. She’s won the Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation and so far has published four novels and a poetry / essay collection, most dealing with lesbian and/or fat issues. I had shamefully never heard of her before Catherine Lundoff recommended her. Tip of the hat to you Catherine! Stinson’s earliest novel, Fat Girl Dances with Rocks, sounds AMAZING:

It’s the summer of drinking and driving, disco and diets, fake IDs and geology, and fat 17-year-old Char is wondering if she is animal, vegetable, or mineral. What does it mean when your best friend French-braids your hair, kisses you on the lips, and leaves town? Char gets a summer job in a nursing home, and meets people with bodies and abilities as various as the textures of the rocks her friend Felice collects. Fat Girl Dances with Rocks is a novel about the many shapes of beauty: the fold of a belly, the green swelling of seedlings, the sharp edges of granite, obsidian, and flint. Fat Girl Dances with Rocks is a coming of age story. It is a coming out story, and for Char, it is a story of coming into her own body – all the way to the edges of her skin.

Another older book by Stinson, Martha Moody, is a speculative western and an old-fashioned (lesbian) love story. It also looks great! A more recent novel is Venus of Chalk, which has been called “by turns tender and ruthless, dark and funny, haunting and starkly contemporary.” Here’s the synopsis:

Take the trip of a lifetime with Carline, a lesbian home economist and woman-of-size; Tucker, a bus driver; and Mel, a retiree, as they journey from Massachusetts to Texas to unload an old city bus. In the process, these friends also leave behind their preconceived notions about one other, drop their inhibitions, and become fully who they were meant to be.

23198851A Harvest of Ripe Figs (I love the title) by Shira Glassman is the third book in a fantasy series and features, as one Goodreads reviewer Jess calls her, “A FAT PROTAGONIST WHO IS NOT DEFINED BY HER WEIGHT AND HAS THINGS TO DO BESIDES LOSE WEIGHT.” Actually it looks like this book has one fat (straight) character and a chunky (bi) character.  In what sounds like amazing fantasy world building, in this novel we have a lesbian detective queen Shulamit helping a musician find her beloved stolen violin; in addition to fat positive representation, there’s also apparently a great trans male character. Some readers describe this book as queer comfort food, a kind of LGBTQ domestic fluff–without the negative connotation of that term–that we sometimes don’t get enough of!

dumplin_cYA novel Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy sounds really rad, although the queer characters are on the sidelines, not in the spotlight:  apparently they are drag queen friends of the main character’s aunt. The book’s tagline is: “With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.” You had me at Dolly Parton. Adding that the main character is “self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed ‘Dumplin’ by her former beauty queen mom) [who] has always been at home in her own skin,” this sounds like a really fun read with a great fat-positive message. This review says that this is a rare story where “the fat girl gets to be funny, have friendships, have romances, and have challenges unrelated to her body/‘health’ of her body.”

FuturePerfectHC-C-page-001Future Perfect by Jen Larsen is another fat positive YA book with a fat straight main character and not fat queer secondary characters! Damn! It sounds pretty cool though:

Every year on her birthday, Ashley Perkins gets a card from her grandmother—a card that always contains a promise: lose enough weight, and I will buy your happiness.

Ashley doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way she looks, but no amount of arguing can persuade her grandmother that “fat” isn’t a dirty word—that Ashley is happy with her life, and her body, as it is. But Ashley wasn’t counting on having her dreams served up on a silver platter at her latest birthday party. She falters when Grandmother offers the one thing she’s always wanted: tuition to attend Harvard University—in exchange for undergoing weight loss surgery.

As Ashley grapples with the choice that little white card has given her, she feels pressured by her friends, her family, even administrators at school. But what’s a girl to do when the reflection in her mirror seems to bother everyone but her?

Kellan Sparver recommend some stuff on Slipshine, which looks like a super cool website featuring comics about (explicit) sex of all variations of the rainbow. In particular, he recommends “Iothera” and “Jamie the Trickster.” You do need a subscription to access the material on this site, though, so I didn’t have a chance to check them out. If you know these comics or have a subscription to Slipshine, let me know what they’re like!

show yourselfXan West’s recently published collection of queer kink erotica, Show Yourself to Me, is another book to have a look at if you’re looking for some more erotica. The author tells me that many of the stories centre on fat characters. It also looks like there are people of colour and people with disabilities featured! If you’d like to check out some of West’s work (for free!) online, have a look at this story, “The Tender Sweet Young Thing,” which was published on the sugarbutch chronicles. Also have a look at this work-in-progress, about a fat activist queer woman in a poly romance.  Reviewers on goodreads are praising this book for its prose style, the visceral first person points of view, and the beautiful way the stories have been crafted, among other things!

at her feetSome more erotica featuring queer fat people, although it sounds like it qualifies more as an erotic romance, is Rebekah Weatherspoon’s At Her Feet. Although you wouldn’t guess from the whitewashed cover, the two women featured are also people of colour (the main characters are Latina and Jamaican/Korean)! I’m taking Xan West’s word on this one, since I can’t actually find any references to either of the women in this book referred to as fat. There is BDSM in here too, specifically in an age-play, mommy / little girl kind of way. I have yet to read Weatherspoon’s work, but I’ve heard lots of good things about her sexy well-written erotica. (Trigger warning that there is a scene with sexual assault in At Her Feet, although not one positioned as ‘sexy’).  Another book by Weatherspoon that qualifies here is Blacker Than Blue, which is not only fat positive but featuring lesbian vampires. ‘Nuff said.

nevadaXan West also reminded me that there is a fat activist femme character in Imogen Binnie’s novel Nevada. I couldn’t remember who this character was (it was a few years ago that I read the book), but some kind folks reminded me that it’s the main character’s girlfriend!  Whoops. But if you haven’t read the amazing Nevada, you are seriously missing out. Get your hands on it asap. Or if you already have it, maybe you should re-read it and look out for that character!

Merriam Hayden tells me she has more than one LGBT comic project with fat positive representation.  You can access them on her website called Star Killer. Check them out!  It looks like you don’t need a paid subscription to access them.

Another resource you must peruse is Bevin Branlandingham’s website, the Queer Fat Femme Guide to Life. There is a ton of awesome stuff on this site, including a blog, info about events, opportunities to see / host workshops by Bevin, and lots of snippets of wise words about “body liberation, travel, plus size fashion, sexuality, relationships, spirituality, authenticity, and having a really fun life following your own inner guidance.” Check it out!

fat angieI saved Fat Angie by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo for the bottom of this list even though it’s probably the book that I encountered the most during my search and that was recommended to me a few times. This young adult novel was nominated for a Lambda award and won a Stonewall book award and lots of people have liked it. It’s described as a “darkly comic anti-romantic romance” and deals with the Iraq war and suicide in addition to fat and lesbian issues. But—and that is a big but—some readers have said that the fat representation is … not so positive in the end. Mainly, it seems like Angie’s happy ending includes not being fat anymore. As in, the book begins with “There was a girl. Her name was Angie. She was fat.” and ends with “There was a girl. Her name was Angie. She was happy.” Happy = not fat, apparently? But some readers have said that it’s more that she’s stopped defining herself as fat only, and that the represenation if pretty good!  So, take this one with a grain of salt, I guess! Please chime in with your opinion if you’ve actually read this one (I haven’t!).

284349Another book with an amazing title, Man Stealing For Fat Girls by Michelle Embree, may be iffy on the fat positivity–the fat character does feel bad about her body, but also she also gets love, friends, and confidence throughout the novel.  Her (not fat) friend is a lesbian, and it looks like she is bi.  It sounds like an intense, rollar-coaster kind of read:

This off-kilter novel centers on three girls who are definitely not part of the in crowd: one’s fat, one’s a dyke, and one is missing a breast. Nicknamed “Lezzylard” by her classmates, Angie is seduced by the prettiest girl in school, an anorexic who just wants to make imaginary grocery lists. Inez, the school’s pot dealer, can’t shoplift because security guards are mesmerized by her single enormous breast. Shelby and Angie can’t be together, because then everyone will think Angie’s only a dyke because she’s too fat to get a guy. Manstealing for Fat Girls explodes the locus where patriarchal and class violence intersect, while embracing all that is magical — and dangerous — about adolescence. Set in a working class suburb of St. Louis in the 1980s, the book is replete with music and pop culture references of the era, but the bullying, lunch table treachery, and desperate desire to fit in ring true for every generation.

Trigger warning this book does have a rape and a fair amount of other violence in it as well.

Readers, please add any other books you would recommend or any thoughts if you’ve read some of these ones!  This list is low on people of colour, so I’d especially like to know if readers have recommendations in that vein!


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: casey@uvic.ca and put “Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian” in the subject.

Posted in Erotica, Poetry, Queer, Trans Feminine, Trans Masculine, Transgender, Uncategorized, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Falling in Love with Nalo Hopkinson and Her Short Story Collection FALLING IN LOVE WITH HOMINIDS

falling in love with hominidsWhen one of your favourite authors releases a new book, there’s always some trepidation along with the excitement. Is it going to be as good as your old favourites? What if you get really excited only to be let down when you actually have the book in your hands? What if they’ve decided to veer in a different direction from their older work?

Well, Nalo Hopkinson’s latest book, a short story collection called Falling in Love with Hominids, has managed to surpass even my insanely high expectations. It is simply an amazing, mind-blowing, I-can’t-think-of-enough-superlative-adjectives-to-describe-it kind of book. As the blurb by Junot Diaz on the cover says, Hopkinson is a “writer with an imagination that most of us would kill for.” Time and again, the twists and turns in these stories will leave you in shock, awe, and with a trippy, WTF kind of feeling that will probably remind you of being stoned.

The collection opens with a stunning, scary story: “The Easthound.” It’s a post-apocalyptic, zombie story with this twist: you only change when you hit puberty. Imagine a destroyed Toronto urban wasteland populated only with kids under twelve. The story opens with a bunch of these kids sitting around a fire playing a story telling game. You’ll never guess where it ends.  It scared the crap out of me.

nalo

Nalo Hopkinson via nalohopkinson.com

The most memorable story for me was “Message in a Bottle.” I read this book four months ago, and I can still vividly remember it. It’s definitely the trippiest story in the bunch. The narrator is a artist who doesn’t hate kids, but doesn’t understand them. One kid, especially: the adopted daughter of his friends, who is part of a group of kids with “DGS,” aka delayed growth syndrome. These kids have the heads of adults, but the bodies of children, and it’s a new condition doctors haven’t figured out yet. You know from the beginning that Hopkinson is going to explain what’s all behind this, but what she comes up with is fucking unbelievable. I can’t tell you anymore or I’ll ruin the story.

Other things you have to look forward to in this book:

  • a “what if God was one of us?” story where God is a black tomboy girl who rides a skateboard
  • a story addressed to a “you” who turns out to be a rat that has somehow turned into part orchid
  • a revenge story where a bullied fat girl turns into a dragon
  • a Tempest re-telling where Caliban is running from his island roots by dating white girls
  • an elephant stomping inexplicably into the living room of a fifteenth floor apartment
  • a ghost who died in a mall and is now stuck there
  • a story set in the fantasy Bordertown shared-world series revived by Ellen Kushner and Holly Black

Aside from all that incredible content, what you should also know is Hopkinson’s writing is gorgeous, and the stories are populated by an ethnically diverse cast and plenty of queer characters (men and women). You can especially look forward to black and indigenous characters, a gay dad, and a bit of a love triangle between queer women.

What are you waiting for? I dont know if you’ll be in love with all hominids, but I bet you’ll be in love with a certain one by the time you’re done reading this book.

 

Posted in Black, Caribbean, Fantasy, Nalo Hopkinson, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

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:

optimalHonor-Girl-by-Maggie-Thrash-on-BookDragon

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