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Literary

Best of LGBTQ+ 2019: Books

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If you’re looking for gift ideas for that queer bibliophile in your life or maybe just looking to add a little more LGBTQ+ diversity to your reading list, be sure to check out this year’s Lambda Literary Award winners. Covering twenty-four categories, this year’s list of Lammy Award winners shows the diversity and range of queer literary talent.

LESBIAN

LESBIAN | FICTION

The Tiger Flu

Larissa Lai, Arsenal Pulp Press

In this visionary novel by Larissa Lai — her first in sixteen years — a community of parthenogenic women, sent into exile by patriarchal and corporate Salt Water City, go to war against disease, technology, and an economic system that threatens them with extinction.

Kirilow is a doctor apprentice whose lover, Peristrophe, is a “starfish,” a woman who can regenerate her own limbs and organs, which she uses to help her clone sisters whose organs are failing. When a denizen from Salt Water City suffering from a mysterious flu comes into their midst, Peristrophe becomes infected and dies, prompting Kirilow to travel to the city, where the flu is now a pandemic, to find a new starfish who will help save her sisters. There, Kirilow meets Kora, a girl-woman desperate to save her family from the epidemic. Kora has everything Kirilow is looking for, except the will to abandon her own family. But before Kirilow can convince her, both are kidnapped by a mysterious group of men to serve as test subjects for a new technology that can cure the mind of the body.

Bold, beautiful, and wildly imaginative, The Tiger Flu is at once a saga of two women heroes, a cyberpunk thriller, and a convention-breaking cautionary tale — a striking metaphor for our complicated times.


LESBIAN | MEMOIR/BIOGRAPHY

Chronology

Zahra Patterson, Ugly Duckling Presse

Taking as its starting point an ultimately failed attempt to translate a Sesotho short story into English, Chronology explores the spaces language occupies in relationships, colonial history, and the postcolonial present. It is a collage of images and documents, folding on words-that-follow-no-chronology, unveiling layers of meaning of queering love, friendship, death, and power. Traveling from Cape Town to the Schomburg Center in New York, Zahra Patterson’s Chronology reveals and revels in fragments of the past-personal and the present-political.


LESBIAN | MYSTERY

A Study in Honor: A Novel

Claire O’Dell, HarperCollins / HarperVoyager

Set in a near future Washington, D.C., a clever, incisive, and fresh feminist twist on a classic literary icon—Sherlock Holmes—in which Dr. Janet Watson and covert agent Sara Holmes will use espionage, advanced technology, and the power of deduction to unmask a murderer targeting Civil War veterans.

Dr. Janet Watson knows firsthand the horrifying cost of a divided nation. While treating broken soldiers on the battlefields of the New Civil War, a sniper’s bullet shattered her arm and ended her career. Honorably discharged and struggling with the semi-functional mechanical arm that replaced the limb she lost, she returns to the nation’s capital, a bleak, edgy city in the throes of a fraught presidential election. Homeless and jobless, Watson is uncertain of the future when she meets another black and queer woman, Sara Holmes, a mysterious yet playfully challenging covert agent who offers the doctor a place to stay.

Watson’s readjustment to civilian life is complicated by the infuriating antics of her strange new roommate. But the tensions between them dissolve when Watson discovers that soldiers from the New Civil War have begun dying one by one—and that the deaths may be the tip of something far more dangerous, involving the pharmaceutical industry and even the looming election. Joining forces, Watson and Holmes embark on a thrilling investigation to solve the mystery—and secure justice for these fallen soldiers.


LESBIAN | POETRY

Each Tree Could Hold a Noose or a House

Ru Puro, New Issues Poetry & Prose

Preoccupied by haunting, poisoned places and bodies, Puro explores the intersections of personal history and social forces, integrating representations of femininity and the body, creating an undercommons, a multiplicity, a “we.”

Nina Puro’s writing is in Guernica, the PEN / America Poetry Series, Witness, & others, including chapbooks from Argos Books and dancing girl press. They are a member of the Belladonna* Collaborative and recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Syracuse University (MFA, 2012), Deming Fund, & others.


LESBIAN | ROMANCE

Beowulf For Cretins: A Love Story

Ann McMan, Bywater Books

English professor and aspiring novelist, Grace Warner spends her days teaching four sections of “Beowulf for Cretins” to bored and disinterested students at one of New England’s “hidden ivy” colleges. Not long after she is dumped by her longtime girlfriend, Grace meets the engaging and mysterious Abbie on a cross-country flight. Sparks fly on and off the plane as the two strangers give in to one night of reckless passion with no strings attached, and no contact information exchanged.

Back home at St. Albans, the college rocks Grace’s world when it announces the appointment of a new president, the first woman in its 165-year history. Cue Abbie—and cue Grace’s collision course with a neurotic dog named Grendel, a fractious rival for tenure, and a woman called Ochre, in what very well might be Grace’s last real shot at happiness.

This full-length novel reimagines and expands on the short story, “Falling From Grace,” which was originally published in the award-winning story collection, Sidecar by Ann McMan.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links where, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on our website.

GAY

GAY | FICTION

Jonny Appleseed

Joshua Whitehead, Arsenal Pulp Press

“You’re gonna need a rock and a whole lotta medicine” is a mantra that Jonny Appleseed, a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, repeats to himself in this vivid and utterly compelling debut novel by poet Joshua Whitehead.

Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Self-ordained as an NDN glitter princess, Jonny has one week before he must return to the “rez”–and his former life–to attend the funeral of his stepfather. The seven days that follow are like a fevered dream: stories of love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition, and the heartbreaking recollection of his beloved kokum (grandmother). Jonny’s life is a series of breakages, appendages, and linkages–and as he goes through the motions of preparing to return home, he learns how to put together the pieces of his life.

Jonny Appleseed is a unique, shattering vision of First Nations life, full of grit, glitter, and dreams.


GAY | MEMOIR/BIOGRAPHY

No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America

Darnell L. Moore, Bold Type Books

From a leading journalist and activist comes a brave, beautifully wrought memoir.

When Darnell Moore was fourteen, three boys from his neighborhood tried to set him on fire. They cornered him while he was walking home from school, harassed him because they thought he was gay, and poured a jug of gasoline on him. He escaped, but just barely. It wasn’t the last time he would face death.

Three decades later, Moore is an award-winning writer, a leading Black Lives Matter activist, and an advocate for justice and liberation. In No Ashes in the Fire, he shares the journey taken by that scared, bullied teenager who not only survived, but found his calling. Moore’s transcendence over the myriad forces of repression that faced him is a testament to the grace and care of the people who loved him, and to his hometown, Camden, NJ, scarred and ignored but brimming with life. Moore reminds us that liberation is possible if we commit ourselves to fighting for it, and if we dream and create futures where those who survive on society’s edges can thrive.

No Ashes in the Fire is a story of beauty and hope-and an honest reckoning with family, with place, and with what it means to be free.


GAY | MYSTERY

Late Fees: A Pinx Video Mystery

Marshall Thornton, Kenmore Books

It’s Thanksgiving, 1992 and Noah Valentine is late picking his mother up from the airport. When he arrives he discovers that she’s made a friend on the flight whose also waiting for her son. When the woman’s son doesn’t show up, they eventually take her home for breakfast with neighbor’s Marc and Louis. Soon after, they learn that her son has overdosed—or has he? Noah and his motley crew investigate over the holiday weekend; which includes a fabulous dinner, a chat with a male stripper, a tiny little burglary and some help from Detective Tall, Dark, and Delicious.


GAY | POETRY

Indecency

Justin Phillip Reed, Coffee House Press

Indecency is boldly and carefully executed and perfectly ragged. In these poems, Justin Phillip Reed experiments with language to explore inequity and injustice and to critique and lament the culture of white supremacy and the dominant social order. Political and personal, tender, daring, and insightful—the author unpacks his intimacies, weaponizing poetry to take on masculinity, sexuality, exploitation, and the prison industrial complex and unmask all the failures of the structures into which society sorts us.


GAY | ROMANCE

Crashing Upwards

S.C. Wynne, self-published

Harper Jones is a professional bike courier, and in his business if you don’t ride fast, you don’t make money. His apartment has mice, he’s barely able to scrape up the rent, but at least he’s living life on his terms and doesn’t depend on anyone.Sam Foster is the gay son of a wealthy conservative senator. He’s noticed Harper before when he’s dropped off packages at his dad’s company, but he’s never had the nerve to speak to his secret crush.When Sam accidentally hits Harper with his car, Harper’s bike is destroyed and he’s injured seriously enough that he won’t be delivering packages for a while. Sam decides Harper needs rescuing, and he moves in with Harper to take care of him. Unfortunately, Sam’s politician dad is convinced Harper’s a con-artist and he’ll do whatever it takes to get him away from his son.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links where, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on our website.

BISEXUAL

BISEXUAL | FICTION

Disoriental

Négar Djavadi, Translated by Tina Kover, Europa Editions

Kimiâ Sadr fled Iran at the age of ten in the company of her mother and sisters to join her father in France. Now twenty-five and facing the future she has built for herself as well as the prospect of a new generation, Kimiâ is inundated by her own memories and the stories of her ancestors, which come to her in unstoppable, uncontainable waves. In the waiting room of a Parisian fertility clinic, generations of flamboyant Sadrs return to her, including her formidable great-grandfather Montazemolmolk, with his harem of fifty-two wives, and her parents, Darius and Sara, stalwart opponents of each regime that befalls them.

It is Kimiâ herself––punk-rock aficionado, storyteller extraordinaire, a Scheherazade of our time, and above all a modern woman divided between family traditions and her own “disorientalization”––who forms the heart of this bestselling and beloved novel.


BISEXUAL | NONFICTION

Out of Step: A Memoir

Anthony Moll, Mad Creek Books / The Ohio State University Press

What makes a pink-haired queer raise his hand to enlist in the military just as the nation is charging into war? In his memoir, Out of Step, Anthony Moll tells the story of a working-class bisexual boy running off to join the army in the midst of two wars and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era. Set against the backdrop of hypermasculinity and sexual secrecy, Moll weaves a queer coming-of-age story.

Out of Step traces Moll’s development through his military service, recounting how the army both breaks and builds relationships, and what it was like to explore his queer identity while also coming to terms with his role in the nation’s ugly foreign policy. From a punk, nerdy, left-leaning, poor boy in Nevada leaving home for the first time to an adult returning to civilian life and forced to address a world more complicated than he was raised to believe, Moll’s journey isn’t a classic flag-waving memoir or war story—it’s a tale of finding one’s identity in the face of war and changing ideals.


BISEXUAL | POETRY

We Play a Game

Duy Doan, Yale University Press

Duy Doan’s striking debut reveals the wide resonance of the collection’s unassuming title, in poems that explore—now with abundant humor, now with a deeply felt reserve—the ambiguities and tensions that mark our effort to know our histories, our loved ones, and ourselves. These are poems that draw from Doan’s experience as a Vietnamese-American while at the same time making a case for—and masterfully playing with—the fluidity of identity, history, and language. Nothing is alien to these poems: the Saigon of a mother’s dirge, the footballer Zinedine Zidane, an owl that “talks to his other self in the well”—all have a place in Doan’s far-reaching and intimately human art.

Duy Doan is a Kundiman Fellow whose poetry has appeared in Poetry, Slate, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. He received an MFA in Poetry from Boston University. Carl Phillips is the award-winning author of twelve books of poetry. His most recent work is the poetry collection Reconnaissance. This is his seventh year as judge of the Yale Series of Younger Poets.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links where, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on our website.

TRANSGENDER

TRANSGENDER | FICTION

Little Fish

Casey Plett, Arsenal Pulp Press

It’s the dead of winter in Winnipeg and Wendy Reimer, a thirty-year-old trans woman, feels like her life is frozen in place. When her Oma passes away Wendy receives an unexpected phone call from a distant family friend with a startling secret: Wendy’s Opa (grandfather) — a devout Mennonite farmer — might have been transgender himself. At first she dismisses this revelation, but as Wendy’s life grows increasingly volatile, she finds herself aching for the lost pieces of her Opa’s truth. Can Wendy unravel the mystery of her grandfather’s world and reckon with the culture that both shaped and rejected her? She’s determined to try.

Alternately warm-hearted and dark-spirited, desperate and mirthful, Little Fish explores the winter of discontent in the life of one transgender woman as her past and future become irrevocably entwined.


TRANSGENDER | NONFICTION

Histories of the Transgender Child

Julian Gill-Peterson, University of Minnesota Press

A groundbreaking twentieth-century history of transgender children.

Histories of the Transgender Child uncovers a previously unknown twentieth-century history when transgender children not only existed but preexisted the term transgender and its predecessors, playing a central role in the medicalization of trans people, and all sex and gender. Using a wealth of archival research from hospitals and clinics, Julian Gill-Peterson reconstructs the medicalization and racialization of children’s bodies.


TRANSGENDER | POETRY

lo terciario / the tertiary

Raquel Salas Rivera, Timeless, Infinite Light

Written in response to the PROMESA bill (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act) Bill, lo terciario / the tertiary offers a decolonial queer critique and reconsideration of Marx. The book’s title comes from Pedro Scaron’s, El Capital, the 1976 translation of Karl Marx’s classic. Published by Siglo Veintiuno Editores, this translation was commonly used by the Puerto Rican left as part of political formation programs. lo terciario / the tertiary places this text in relation to the Puerto Rican debt crisis, forcing readers to reconsider old questions when facing colonialism’s newest horrors. This re-release of lo terciario / the tertiary features a new introduction by Urayoán Noel and images by José Ortiz Pagán.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links where, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on our website.

LGBTQ

LGBTQ | ANTHOLOGY

As You Like It: The Gerald Kraak Anthology Volume II

The Other Foundation, Jacana Media

The second offering in the Gerald Kraak annual anthology, As You Like It, is a collection of the short-listed entries submitted for the Gerald Kraak Award. This anthology offers a window into deeply located visions and voices across Africa. It brings together stories of self-expression, identity, sexuality and agency, all located within Africa and its legacy.

The Gerald Kraak Award showcases some of the most provocative works of fiction, poetry, journalism, photography and academic writing by allies of the LGBTQI+ community as fierce defenders of human rights. Curated by some of our favorite thinkers Sisonke Msimang, Mark Gevisser and Sylvia Tamale, this anthology is not only a celebration of emerging writers from across the continent; it also provides a space for storytellers to keep doing what they love and to turn what they love into careers.


LGBTQ | CHILDREN’S/YOUNG ADULT

Hurricane Child

Kacen Callender, Scholastic / Scholastic Press

Being born during a hurricane is unlucky, and twelve–year–old Caroline has had her share of bad luck lately. She’s hated and bullied by everyone in her small school on St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands, a spirit only she can see won’t stop following her, and –– worst of all –– Caroline’s mother left home one day and never came back.

But when a new student named Kalinda arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, becomes Caroline’s first and only friend –– and the person for whom Caroline has begun to develop a crush.

Now, Caroline must find the strength to confront her feelings for Kalinda, brave the spirit stalking her through the islands, and face the reason her mother abandoned her. Together, Caroline and Kalinda must set out in a hurricane to find Caroline’s missing mother –– before Caroline loses her forever.


LGBTQ | DRAMA

Draw the Circle

Mashuq Mushtaq Deen, Dramatists Play Service

The hilarious and deeply moving story of conservative Muslim mother at her wits’ end, a Muslim father who likes to tell jokes, and a queer American woman trying to make a good impression on her Indian in-laws. In a story about family and love and the things we do to be together, one immigrant family must come to terms with a child who defies their most basic expectations of what it means to have a daughter…and one woman will redefine the limits of unconditional love. This unique play compassionately brings to life the often ignored struggle that a family goes through when their child transitions from one gender to another.


LGBTQ | EROTICA

Miles & Honesty in SCFSX!

Blue Delliquanti & Kazimir Lee, self-published

Written in response to the PROMESA bill (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act) Bill, lo terciario / the tertiary offers a decolonial queer critique and reconsideration of Marx. The book’s title comes from Pedro Scaron’s, El Capital, the 1976 translation of Karl Marx’s classic. Published by Siglo Veintiuno Editores, this translation was commonly used by the Puerto Rican left as part of political formation programs. lo terciario / the tertiary places this text in relation to the Puerto Rican debt crisis, forcing readers to reconsider old questions when facing colonialism’s newest horrors. This re-release of lo terciario / the tertiary features a new introduction by Urayoán Noel and images by José Ortiz Pagán.


LGBTQ | GRAPHIC NOVELS

The Lie and How We Told It

Tommi Parrish, Fantagraphics Books

After a chance encounter, two formerly close friends try to salvage whatever is left of their decaying relationship. They are in for an awkward, painful night that leaves them feeling lonelier, more uncertain, and more estranged than ever before. Parrish’s first graphic novel for Fantagraphics is a visual tour de force, always in the service of the author’s ever-prevalent themes: navigating queer desire, masculinity, fear, and the ever-in-flux state of friendships.

Parrish makes emotionally loaded painted comics about everyday relationships, doubts, and anxieties. The psychological acuity in the work pairs perfectly to the graphic style. The Lie and How We Told It is a remarkably resonant work from an exciting new voice in contemporary graphic novels.


LGBTQ | NONFICTION

Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry

Imani Perry, Beacon Press

A revealing portrait of one of the most gifted and charismatic, yet least understood, Black artists and intellectuals of the twentieth century.

Lorraine Hansberry, who died at thirty-four, was by all accounts a force of nature. Although best-known for her work A Raisin in the Sun, her short life was full of extraordinary experiences and achievements, and she had an unflinching commitment to social justice, which brought her under FBI surveillance when she was barely in her twenties. While her close friends and contemporaries, like James Baldwin and Nina Simone, have been rightly celebrated, her story has been diminished and relegated to one work—until now. In 2018, Hansberry will get the recognition she deserves with the PBS American Masters documentary “Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart” and Imani Perry’s multi-dimensional, illuminating biography, Looking for Lorraine.

After the success of A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry used her prominence in myriad ways: challenging President Kennedy and his brother to take bolder stances on Civil Rights, supporting African anti-colonial leaders, and confronting the romantic racism of the Beat poets and Village hipsters. Though she married a man, she identified as lesbian and, risking censure and the prospect of being outed, joined one of the nation’s first lesbian organizations. Hansberry associated with many activists, writers, and musicians, including Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois, among others. Looking for Lorraine is a powerful insight into Hansberry’s extraordinary life—a life that was tragically cut far too short.


LGBTQ | SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY/HORROR

The Breath of the Sun

Isaac R. Fellman, Aqueduct

Lamat Paed understands paradoxes. She’s a great mountain climber who’s never summited, the author of a tell-all that didn’t really tell anything. For years she guided pilgrims up the foothills of the Sublime Mount, leading them as high as God would let them go. And then she partnered the apostate Southern priest Mother Disaine on the most daring, most blasphemous expedition in history—an attempt to reach the summit of the sacred mountain, the top of God’s head. Disaine returned in triumph, claiming to be the first person since the prophet to have summited and lived. But Lamat went into hiding.

Now, late in life and exiled from the mountain, Lamat finally tells her story to her partner, Otile. It’s the story of why she really wrote her first book all those years ago, how she came to be cast out from the mountain-dwelling Holoh people, and how she fled to the anonymity of the city to hide from her fame. Most of all, it’s the story of her bond with Mother Disaine—the blasphemer, charlatan, and visionary who stole Lamat’s life to serve her own purposes—and what really happened on their last, greatest expedition.


LGBTQ | STUDIES

Toxic Silence: Race, Black Gender Identity, and Addressing the Violence Against Black Transgender Women in Houston

William T. Hoston, Peter Lang International Academic Publishers

Toxic Silence: Race, Black Gender Identity, and Addressing the Violence against Black Transgender Women in Houston contributes to a growing body of transgender scholarship. This book examines the patriarchal and heteronormative frames within the black community and larger American society that advances the toxic masculinity which violently castigates and threatens the collective embodiment of black transgender women in the USA. Such scholarship is needed to shed more light on the transphobic violence and murders against this understudied group.

Little is known about the societal and cultural issues and concerns affecting black transgender women and how their gender identity is met with systemic, institutional, and interpersonal roadblocks. During a time period in American history defined by Time Magazine as “The Transgender Tipping Point,” black transgender women have emerged as social, cultural, and political subjects to advance our understanding of the lives of people who identity as a part of both the black and LGBTQIA communities. In the end, this book calls on the black community and culture to end the toxic silence and act instead as allies who are more accepting and inclusive of differing sexualities and gender identities in an effort to improve the generative power of black solidarity.

Chase is the founder and Creative Director of therepubliq.com, former host and Executive Producer of OutCast Austin, an award-winning LGBT weekly radio program on KOOP 91.7 FM in Austin. In 2011, he was named the Critics Pick for 'Most Gaybiquitous' in the Austin Chronicle's Best of Austin. In 2012, CultureMap Austin named him one of Austin's Top LGBT bloggers and he received the AGLCC's Chamber Award for Social Media Diva.

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april 2020

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