Did you know it was exactly five years ago that I started this blog? I can’t believe it, and probably wouldn’t have noticed except for a handy WordPress notification that popped up last week when I logged in and informed me. Thanks WordPress bot!
This blog has evolved so much from when I decided to start something in place of the PhD thesis I had planned to write about queer Canadian women writers before I decided to drop out of my English Lit PhD program. (Honestly, some of the best decisions in my life have been quitting things: I recommend it. I also quit taking Math 12 and switched to Literature 12 in my last year of high school, and look how well that turned out.)
Over the years I’ve gradually included different kinds of content, in addition to the reviews, which have been constant. I do a ton of themed book lists now, which I didn’t really do at the beginning, not realizing how much people love them and how fun they are to write. To date, some of my most popular posts are lists: 5 Incredible Two-Spirit and Queer Indigenous Writers to Read Right Now, in fact, is my most popular post of all time. Other super popular lists that I’m proud of are: 6 Canadian Trans Women Writers You Should Know, Parts 1 and 2; 4 Queer Black Canadian Women Writers You Should Be Reading for Black History Month; The Best Bisexual Women’s Literature; and Canadian Queer Women’s Classics: A Top Ten Must-Read List.
I also originally started my Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian queer book advice column on this blog; now it has a home at Autostraddle, which I couldn’t be happier about! It is so much fun hear from queer readers about what kind of books they’re looking for. I’ve also learnt a lot about different types of books and identities through writing that column too, especially about books featuring asexual characters, YA with genderqueer/non-binary teens, and fat-positive LGBT books.
I’ve also done the occasional opinion / personal essay kind of piece. My most popular and personal favourite of these is definitely Why I Don’t Want to Be a Queer Book Detective Anymore (Although I Do Still Want to Be Harriet the Spy), which stemmed from my frustration at how hard it can be to find queer books and to figure out if any given book has LGBTQ content. I wrote about the weird little tricks I’ve developed in this queer book detective work, and also wondered about why it’s like this. My favourite part of the essay is:
I don’t want the priority reading audience for our books to be non-queers. I don’t want them to be palatable to straight and cisgendered people. I don’t want publishers to have their cake and eat it too: slyly de-queer the book to appeal to cis/straight audiences and assume LGBTQ folks will figure it out and buy the book too…I understand that literature is a very powerful activist tool and that non-queers reading about queers is a great thing. I can see that by not proclaiming their queer content on the cover that some books are going to gain readership they might not otherwise and that this reading experience might be transformative for said non-queer people and could positively impact their interactions with queers in the future. But that’s not as important to me as a queer person who needs queer literature finding and reading it.
(I also wrote a follow-up article to the responses I got from this post, which were many and sometimes kind of strange in that they weren’t really responding to my original points.)
The most recent new series that I’ve started is Interview with a Queer Reader, which has been a ton of fun. I ask people what their favourite queer books are, what the first queer books they read were, how they find queer books, and more! Like Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian, it’s great to get to talk to individual readers. I also love getting to pass the reins on to someone else for a bit to give recommendations to my readers.
Reviews never get as many hits as lists posts, but they are kind of the bread and butter of this site. The three reviews that have got the most hits on my blog overall are of Lee Maracle’s Ravensong, Kathleen Winters’s Annabel, and Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night. (“Spoiler”: Annabel is terrible and Ravensong and Cereus Blooms at Night are great). I’m pretty sure this is because all three of those novels are taught in English classes (specifically, Can Lit classes) regularly. I’m guessing that a lot of the hits I get are from confused and/or desperate undergrads who need ideas on what to write about in their essays.
Some of my personal favourite reviews, though, have never got a ton of traffic. But I’d love to share them with you here so if you missed any of these when they were originally published (some of them are many years old!) you can check them out now. It probably goes without saying that some of these are also my favourite books:
Passage by Gwen Benaway: I love how I got to weave in Gwen’s powerful essay about cultural appropriation into this review of her beautiful poetry collection.
I’ve Got a Time Bomb by Sybil Lamb: Somehow I managed to review this book which initially felt unreviewable to me
(You) Set Me on Fire by Mariko Tamaki: I particularly enjoy how the voice of this novel affected me so much that you can hear it in my writing style in the review.
Canary by Nancy Jo Cullen: I got to weave in stuff about rural Canadian life and everyday Canadian vernacular, which I usually don’t get to do in queer book reviews!
With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn edited by Amber Dawn and Trish Kelly: “Can I just start this review by saying that With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn … is by far THE BEST EROTICA I HAVE EVER READ.”
Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson: This is the first book that made me fall in love with Nalo Hopkinson.
Hood by Emma Donoghue: I try to convince readers this book about a closeted lesbian in 90s Ireland losing her partner in a car crash is not the depressing book that it seems.
Kynship by Daniel Heath Justice: “The queer, Indigenous, feminist fantasy novel you never knew you wanted so badly.”
Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall: I was IN LOVE WITH this book when I read it (it was my first Zoe Whittall) and I think it shows. But this review also has a picture of my cat who died in it, so it’s sad for me to read too.
The Mystics of Mile End by Sigal Samuel: I try to capture the beautiful intelligence—emotional, spiritual, and intellectual—of this-hard-to-believe-it’s-a-debut novel set in Montreal.
Big Big Sky by Kristyn Dunnion: This is a YA dystopian novel that truly stands out from the pack, and it was great fun to get to describe all the ways it does that.
Next Year For Sure by Zoey Peterson: This was one of those reviews that turned into half personal essay musing about the fascinating ways issues (love, relationships) in the novel resonated for me in real life.
All Inclusive by Farzana Doctor: “If someone had told me, hey, this new book All Inclusive is a critical look at all-inclusive resorts, bisexuality, swinging and polyamory, spirituality, death, and terrorism, I probably would have said, are you kidding?”
Here’s to another five years of the blog! And if you want and are able to, help me continue to keep creating content and to get better and better by signing up to support me on the Patreon for Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian. Patreon is a site where creators of all sorts of things can make some money via subscription payments from their readers/etc. It can be as little as a dollar a month! You can win stuff like queer books and postcards with personalized book recommendations! Click on the link for more details and to sign up.