Anna is a bisexual and gray-ace trans woman from Wisconsin, and is finally settling into these identities after years of questioning. Reading, especially LGBTQ2IA+ books, is a crucial part of this process for her. She loves being outdoors, especially going hiking and camping and she lives somewhere with ample opportunities for those things! She also enjoys cooking, listening to music, and playing board games with friends. She says she’s “always been a geek at heart” (hey, me too!) and her first reading loves were science fiction and fantasy. Her tastes are a little broader now, but speculative fiction will always have a special place in her heart, doubly so if it features queer and trans characters!
Keep reading to hear Anna talk about how Nevada by Imogen Binnie was a life-changing read as a trans reader, looking for light and uplifting books by trans authors about trans feminine characters, how perfect The Miseducation of Cameron Post is, having a wife who’s a librarian, and more!
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?)
My first was Queer 13: Lesbian And Gay Writers Recall Seventh Grade, an essay collection from 1998 edited by Clifford Chase. I somewhat bravely bought this from my favorite local used bookstore and coffee shop. I remember spending a lot of time browsing the small but exhilarating “Lesbian & Gay” section on a back shelf, and this title spoke to me at a time when I just began to question my own identity. I read Queer 13 in 2006 at the age of 25, and yet I related so intensely to the authors’ experiences of being 13 and (often awkwardly) exploring such important parts of themselves. I now find it telling that I clung to the stories of the queer women in this book, though I couldn’t articulate why at the time.
What is/are your favourite LGBTQ2IA+ books, and why?
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth. I love this book so much, and I recommend it as often as possible! Cameron Post offers such a vivid sense of time and place (Eastern Montana in the early 90s), and its characters are all portrayed with such compassion and humanity. Cameron herself is a wonderfully realized protagonist; her feelings are palpable and she grows magnificently through the course of the story.
Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden. This book is so beautiful and sweet; it also still astounds me that it was published in 1982! Garden’s prose evokes both the passion and tenderness of young love, and it warms my heart.
Adaptation and Inheritance by Malinda Lo. This is a terrific adventure story featuring a bisexual protagonist, thrilling action and SF intrigue, and one of my all-time favorite kiss scenes! Inheritance also explores some fascinating ideas about empathy and relationships in a way that I really relate to.
Nevada by Imogen Binnie. I expand on this in the next section, but Nevada is the first book I read by an out trans author. I connected with it quite deeply at times, and I look forward to revisiting it in the near future.
Which LGBTQ2IA+ book have you read that best reflects your experiences as an LGBTQ2IA+ person?
Nevada by Imogen Binnie. While I’m fairly different than the characters in this book, some of their thoughts and feelings hit home in unexpectedly intense ways. I read Nevada a few years ago in the early days of my transition; it was a tumultuous time for me, and I came to this book exactly when I needed to read it. It’s funny how that sometimes happens! Nevada is the first book I read that captures some of the subtler experiences of being a trans woman. The protagonist, Maria, shares such hopes, fears, and uncertainties with the reader; she felt so real to me. I’d never before encountered a trans character with such dimension and personality. I saw some of my own feelings and struggles reflected in Maria, and felt a little less alone. Considering what my life was like at the time, this is saying something!
Which LGBTQ2IA+ book do you wish you could read but can’t because it doesn’t exist yet?
I desperately want to read something uplifting, lighthearted, and charming that features a transfeminine protagonist. Maybe a love story? An adventure? Both? Just as importantly, I want something that’s not focused on personal struggles, violence, or the character’s transition. That said, I appreciate the importance of books that handle those difficult subjects – especially given the lived realities of so many trans women. I want more stories about the many other aspects of trans peoples’ lives, especially something that’s fun and engaging to read. There are probably some stories like this that I haven’t encountered yet; there’s still a lot of trans-centric fiction by trans authors on my to-read list. What I want is more specific, though. I want a major publishing house to publish and market such a book, and it needs to be written by a trans author. To my knowledge, only one book comes close to these criteria: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo. While it’s an excellent read, it’s also fairly dark and emotionally taxing – especially for trans readers.
How do you find LGBTQ2IA+ books? How easy or hard is it in your experience finding the ones that you want to read?
I have a few great go-to resources for new book recommendations. First and foremost, I hear about a lot of books and comics through Autostraddle and the contributors there. I also follow some of my favorite queer authors on Twitter, and they often provide great recommendations. Malinda Lo is a particularly good resource if you want suggestions for queer YA speculative fiction! Lastly, my wife is a librarian and she knows my tastes incredibly well. I get wonderful customized reader’s advisory through her. As for literally locating these books, my first stop is my local public library’s online catalog and digital collection. I’ve also learned how to make interlibrary loan requests and library purchase recommendations, so I can usually find what I’m looking for as long as I’m willing to be a bit patient for it.
Do you know other LGBTQ2IA+ readers or participate in any LGBTQ2IA+ reading communities (in person or on the Internet)? What’s it like? Why or why not?
Many of my queer friends are also avid readers, so we discuss favorite books and recommendations pretty often. I’m not part of any formal queer reading groups, but I’d jump at the chance if I could find one in my area. I also participate in a wonderful fandom-oriented group chat with a couple of queer friends who live in different parts of the country. We started this group as a way to share our numerous Harry Potter feelings, especially since one friend just read the series for the first time and I’m finally rereading it. It’s also a great place to discuss queer headcanons and fan theories, along with other queer media like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Steven Universe.
Thanks for sharing with us Anna! I’m really glad to finally be able to feature Nevada in this column since it’s such an amazing and ground-breaking book. Also I love how heavily libraries feature in this interview!