Natalie Cannon is a person of many hats: writer, editor, and reader for three. She writes urban fantasy short stories for her MFA Fairleigh Dickinson University and her first short story is going to be published in Ink & Locket’s Warrior anthology! She also copyedits everything from YA novels to yard sale guidebooks. She said her “personal appetite for books is an endless bi space void.” She loves reading and thinking about storytelling and thinks of them as her own form of magic. You can find her on Twitter @NMCannon if any of these shenanigans interest you. She tweets a lot about diverse books, intersectional feminism, writing, and smashing the patriarchy. (Uh, who wouldn’t want to hear about that?)
Here’s a peek into Natalie’s queer reading habits, where she talks about finding queer subtext in the original Sherlock Holmes books, Jacqueline Carey’s epic fantasy trilogy featuring a pansexual protagonist, wondering if there are any good asexual romance novels, and more. You should probably pull up your Goodreads or whatever else you use to keep track of the books you want to read, cause Natalie’s about to give you some awesome recs.
What was the first LGBTQ2IA+ book(s) you remember reading? How did you end up reading it (i.e., were you searching for queer books or did you just happen across it?)
Haha, that’s a bit complicated. Growing up, I didn’t know queer identities existed, and my big introduction to the LGBTQ world was through BBC Sherlock. After watching the TV series, I was really excited about all things Holmesian and re-read Doyle’s work with an eye for queer subtext (hint: there’s a lot). I had read Doyle before, but not through that lens. However, whether Holmes and Watson are queer is debatable and unproveable, so I’m unsure if those count as queer stories.
So, just to make sure I really answer this question, the first book I ever picked up knowing what queerness was and actively seeking out queer lit was Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart. Basically, Phédre, a biracial, pansexual woman, becomes a courtesan spy and tears down entire regimes and regicide plots with her monk boyfriend. It’s excellent.
What is/are your favourite LGBTQ2IA+ books, and why?
OOO, this will be difficult. Hmmm….Since I mentioned Kushiel’s Dart, I have to recommend the whole series, Kushiel’s Legacy. This consists of two trilogies, and there’s another trilogy after that for those who don’t want to leave Carey’s world behind (I mean, why would you, it’s expertly crafted, beautiful, and devastatingly thrilling).
Second, I’d have to say If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo because it’s so, so fantastic. Trans girl Amanda decides to switch high schools after she transitions, hoping for a fresh start. But this is small town, Deep South, and Amanda struggles to keep her secrets and have a normal high school life. This is a brilliant read for those looking for a friendly introduction to what being trans is like and an affirmation for those who live it already.
Third, Kali Wallace’s Shallow Graves. It’s effortlessly diverse, which means the author put in a lot of work. Breezy goes to a party and wakes up as a member of the undead. If that doesn’t raise enough questions, I don’t know what else will. I read this in October to scare myself, and it worked.
Last, a classic: Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. It just about squeezed all the blood out of my heart.
Which LGBTQ2IA+ book have you read that best reflects your experiences as an LGBTQ2IA+ person?
Ah, so this will reveal my true nerd, but the books that most reflect back my own experience, to the point of it being kind of creepy, is the Girl Friends manga series by Milk Morinaga. While I wasn’t into fashion or clothes during high school, the characters’ experience of awkwardly, confusingly, and desperately falling in love with their best friend is my story too.
Which LGBTQ2IA+ book do you wish you could read but can’t because it doesn’t exist yet?
I’m sure the instant I say something, someone will post a listicle with this exact thing. Recently though, I’ve been wondering if there’s any asexual romance novels. As in, romance novels that feature an asexual protagonist. That sounds like an oxymoron, but here me out: ace people not only being present, but being loved. Wild idea, I know, but maybe someone has published that somewhere.
One of the perks of being a writer is that I can write the stories I think are missing. If no one posts a listicle, I claim my own prompt.
How do you find LGBTQ2IA+ books? How easy or hard is it in your experience finding the ones that you want to read?
The Internet is a wonderful thing. Bookstores with good signage are also wonderful, but free wifi or a good data plan get me where I want more often than not. I read a lot of articles with book recommendations, and I keep track of the ones I want to read through GoodReads. GR also will suggest books based on my past reads, and the lists are stupendous. With the Internet, it’s easy to find titles and stories with LGBTQ themes and characters.
However, it’s another adventure to actually lay hands on the digital or physical copy of the books I want. I walk over to my local library 90% of the time and search those stacks until either I find what I’m looking for or something equally gay. Sometimes that is easy. Sometimes that is difficult. Inter-library loan is a lifesaver.
The other 10% of the time, I purchase the book. I try to do this through my local bookstores, but more often then not I have to go online.
Do you know other LGBTQ2IA+ readers or participate in any LGBTQ2IA+ reading communities (in person or on the Internet)? Why or why not?
I don’t have a strict community of LGBTQ readers, but more of an informal, freeform group of friends and family. My partner and I talk about books constantly. When friends or family are curious about queerness, they come to me, and I tell them to read such-and-such book to grow their understanding and empathy.
Online, I participate in Twitter’s lively writing community with #WeNeedDiverseBooks, #ownvoices, and #YAlit. Young Adult as a genre is experiencing a huge push towards diversity right now, and I find books, people, articles, and affirmation aplenty there. Plus this blog! It was on it for ten minutes and I came away with ten books I wanted to read!
Thank you for the lovely interview and happy reading, everybody!
Thank you Natalie for your lovely in-depth answers!
Interview with a Queer Reader is a series where I talk to everyday LGBTQ2IA+ readers just like you about all the queer book things. If you’re interested in participating, send me an email at email@example.com. You can do the interview via email, Skype, or in person if you’re in the Vancouver area. Happy queer reading!