It’s that time of year again! I have to say looking over what was published this year, I feel a bit behind. I just got a copy of Nicola Griffith’s epic early Medieval novel about the bisexual saint named Hild out of the library but haven’t managed to even crack it yet. I’m about a third of the way through Matadora by Elizabeth Ruth, which features a Spanish woman bullfighter in the early twentieth century (I am really enjoying it so far—waiting for the queer action still though). Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive by Julia Serano is still on my to-read list. I also recently bought a copy of Anatomy of a Girl Gang by Ashley Little, which I can’t believe I just found out about. It follows a gang of teenage girls in Vancouver’s downtown eastside, and features Indigenous, queer, and South Asian characters; the novel is told from all the girls’ perspectives as well as from the point of view of the city of Vancouver itself. All this to say, I would probably be including all or some of the above books if I had managed to read them this year. Here’s what I did read and love that was published in 2013.
She Rises by Kate Worsley This an incredible, epic novel that’s a complex, smart, and entertaining look at gender, class, and sexuality in mid-1700s England. There are so many things to love about this book: it’s historical queer fiction, it’s a tantalizing mixture of inter-class lesbian romance and navy action, it’s written in an authentic, rough language that’s a bit dizzying at times, and it’s something to read while you’re desperately waiting for Sarah Waters’s next book. If you want to read more about what I loved about this novel (including giant, giant spoilers about the mind-blowing narrative twists!!) check out my review on the Lesbrary. Also, look at that amazing cover!
Canary by Nancy Jo Cullen Canary is quite possibly the best book that I read all year. This short story collection is my favourite mixture of that which is strange, ordinary, Canadian, working class, and smart. Oh yeah, and queer. What’s remarkable about these stories (most of which feature gay, lesbian, or bi characters) is that they focus on things other than coming out and homophobia happening to queer people. These characters are always sympathetic, but that doesn’t mean they’re not doing dark and weird things, sometimes funny and sometimes tragic. Cullen’s dialogue couldn’t be more spot-on. This is the book that I read this year that really felt like it was about people like me and people that I know. I have more to say here.
How Poetry Saved My Life by Amber Dawn This book is both everything you ever wanted and nothing like what you might expect from a memoir about poetry, sex work, class, surviving, and queerness. It’s a messy and fun mix of poetry, personal essays, short stories, and erotica. In fact, it ends with erotica, which is kind of the most awesome way to end this book which is subtitled “a hustler’s memoir.” Poetry is alternatively hilarious, heartbreaking, thought-provoking, and inspiring. Vancouver based writer, performance artist, and filmmaker Amber Dawn isn’t afraid to challenge you or tell some hard truths or use the f word in the title of two of her poems. If you missed this book this year, make sure you check it out in 2014!
Nevada by Imogen Binnie I just finished Nevada, and am still reeling from its impact. The importance of this piece of fiction, which features a queer punk trans woman in her late twenties and breaks from any trans narrative you’ve ever read, can’t be understated. It’s a story that actually tackles a trans woman’s life post-transition. Like, it actually looks at her as a person struggling to be happy and healthy and stay true to her punk values and deal with her shit—life isn’t over after she comes out and transitions, you know? It’s a really exciting time for trans literature and Nevada is a centrepiece of this movement. It’s a brilliant, screamingly well-written, cynical, hilarious novel. Maria’s voice is mesmerizing and she says hilarious stuff like “Oh Williamsburg. There was a point when you seemed like a scary, tough neighbourhood, but now it’s obvious that the graffiti on your walls gets put there by art students.” And oh my god the ending is driving me crazy! Who wants to talk about it with me??
(Also I want to make a shout-out to S. Bear Bergman’s brilliant collection of personal essays, Blood, Marriage, Wine, & Glitter, about reclaiming and expanding the term family [of origin, chosen ones, religious communities, poly lovers, ex-lovers, friends, and kids]).
What were your favourite queer books in 2013?