May Update: Don’t Forget You Can Win Queer Books from Me Each Month!

Yes, did you know that if you’re a patron who gives at the $3 level or more on Patreon you get one entry per month in a draw to win a queer book? It is very fun and exciting to get to send you all these books in the mail. I thought a reminder was maybe needed since the patron who won last month hasn’t answered my email yet! Mandy, did you know you won a free queer book? Check your email for the details.

This month’s winner was Kate. Congrats! Check out which books Kate got to choose from:


I know I haven’t been posting a lot lately and I’m really sorry! My precarious librarian job is kind of wrecking havoc on my writing schedule, and I’m also still working on backlogged writing work from when I was on vacation in April. Did you see my announcement last month about changing the number of posts per month I’m aiming for? I think it’s going to make keeping this blog going a lot more sustainable and also make sure my posts are high quality!

I have been reading a lot of really great books recently and I’ve got five (yes, five!) books sitting on my Goodreads shelf which is titled” “read-need-to-review.” So look for reviews of Forward by Lisa Maas, Little Fish by Casey Plett, Sodom Road Exit by Amber Dawn, All Violet by Rani Rivera, and What the Mouth Wants by Monica Meneghetti in the near future!

Interview with a Queer Reader is still going strong! Check out April’s interview where Sophia talks about ace representation, Jeanette Winterson, queer YA, and more! If you’re interested in participating in one of these fun and short email interview sessions, send me an email to stepaniukcasey [at]

Have you seen any of the queer content I wrote at Book Riot recently? I wrote an in-depth article on the importance of Annie On My Mind and its history as a frequently challenged book. I also wrote a list of 7 Must-Read Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian YA Novels for if you’re new to the coming of gayge genre.

And as always I want to individually thank all of the people who’ve signed up to be patrons. You lovely humans are: Danika, Leigh, Anna Marie, Jane, Jakelene, Emmet, Madeline, Heather, Carla, Laurita, Jason, Jillian, Shelagh, Priscila, James, Seed, Julie, Katherine, Samuel, Amy, Sarah, Daniel, Sarah, Chantelle, Al, Undertheteacup, Karen, Nicole, Leora, Loretta, Mandy, Kate, Elisabeth, Skye, Jes, Carla, Vigdis, and Gail!

Last but not least, are you following me on the social media of your choice? Find Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian (or the ‘real me’) on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram!

Posted in Patreon | Leave a comment

Interview With A Queer Reader: Sophia Talks Ace Representation, Jeanette Winterson, Queer YA, and more!

April’s queer reader is Sophia, a 21-year-old English Literature undergraduate with “a bit of a major love for YA fiction – contentious in [their] degree programme, frustratingly.” They are looking forward to writing their dissertation about Harry Potter both to annoy and impress the naysayers. Sophia identifies as a genderqueer woman—“meaning I am a woman but also not.” Sophia is also bi and greyace/demisexual. They’re very passionate about ace representation as they’d never heard the term ‘asexual’ until they were 18 even though they considered themselves pretty in the know about queerness. Another important thing to know about Sophia is mental health, which has been central to their life as long as they can remember. Sophia writes a lot about mental heath and also has a podcast centred on mental health called the Hurricane Pod. That podcast’s name is a metaphor for Sophia’s mind: as they put it: “the messy, powerful, potentially destructive, weirdly wonderful thing that is my mind!” You can find Sophia on Twitter, or over on their blog. Sophia also writes for an organisation called Powered By Girl, where you can find a lot of bookish writing.


Keep reading to hear Sophia talk about Jeanette Winterson, loving YA even though you’re an adult now, looking for ace girl protagonists, shopping at Gay’s the Word bookshop in London, and more!

What was the first LGBTQ2IA+ book(s) you remember reading? How did you end up reading it?

The first I recall reading was Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. I was 15 and a huge John Green fan, so I absolutely had to read everything with his name on it. I don’t remember feeling much then though. When I was 16, I started actively seeking out women-loving-women content – that was when I started to get excited by queer representation. The first one that made me go ‘ugh, YES!’ was Jeanette Winterson’s memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? I actually picked it up because of the title! I devoured everything she’s ever written pretty swiftly after that.

What is/are your favourite LGBTQ2IA+ books, and why?

YA is what I find most comforting, and although I am *technically* an adult now it is what I tend to identify more with! My favourite YA authors are Nina LaCour and David Levithan, so of course the book that they co-wrote – You Know Me Well – was an immediate winner. I love how each of them write, and the characters felt very real to me. I have read it over and over and over – and it only came out mid-2016! Also, there’s a poem read out by a genderqueer character which made me cry the first time I read it…okay, it makes me cry every time.

Which LGBTQ2IA+ book have you read that best reflects your experiences as an LGBTQ2IA+ person?

Honestly, I still feel as though I have yet to find true representation – ace characters are still few and far between. But I think Mira, the main character in Kate Scelsa’s Fans of the Impossible Life is the closest I’ve ever felt to SEEN. She’s bi, depressed, anxious, living and struggling and loving and messing up and having fun and feeling pain. She also has actual queer friends, unlike the typical ‘one queer amongst the cishets’. I appreciate that.

Which LGBTQ2IA+ book do you wish you could read but can’t because it doesn’t exist yet?

More than anything, I want an ace girl as a protagonist. I don’t want her to have all the basic, stereotypical characteristics of ace folk – we’re not a monolith! I want her to navigate love and learn how to be okay in herself. I want her to live her live and have it be messy but ultimately have a nice ending. She deserves a nice ending.

How do you find LGBTQ2IA+ books? How easy or hard is it in your experience finding the ones that you want to read?

I’m lucky that – although I don’t live there – I’m in London quite frequently, and I nearly always pop into the shop Gay’s the Word! I spend hours sitting on the floor in the corner, reading bits of new things to see if I’m into it. I like talking to their staff too, they’re always lovely and helpful!

Do you know other LGBTQ2IA+ readers or participate in any LGBTQ2IA+ reading communities (in person or on the Internet)? What’s it like?

Two of my closest friends – who I know through writing for Powered By Girl – are also huge fans of YA, and are also queer. We share recommendations, and it’s good because they know what I like and vice versa. We’re also aware of each other’s triggers, so we can trust that we will be told if there is something we might struggle with, and that otherwise it is going to be mostly safe! It’s also just really nice to cry over cute girls in love together.

Thanks for sharing with us Sophia! Fans of the Impossible Life is a favourite of mine too. Anyone have recommendations for books with ace girl main characters for Sophia?

Posted in asexual, Bisexual, Fiction, Interview with a Queer Reader, Queer, Young Adult | 3 Comments

March Queer Can Lit Newsflash: Events Featuring Casey Plett, Amber Dawn, &Joshua Whitehead, Queer BC Book Prize Nominees, and More!

There are a lot of exciting things happening in the queer can lit world! Let’s get to them:

Did you know Casey Plett has a new novel called Little Fish coming out? If you’ve been reading my blog, then yes you do! If you don’t know, here’s the blurb. Did you also know Amber Dawn has a new book out, her second novel called Sodom Road Exit? Read about it here. What about Joshua Whitehead’s debut novel Jonny Appleseed? All three books are published by Vancouver’s Arsenal Pulp Press, which publishes so many great queer books, and are either just released or coming very soon!


Now that you know these three writers have exciting new books being published this spring, you will also want to know that you can see all three of them at two events in April happening in Ottawa and Montreal. In Ottawa on April 29th at the Writer’s Festival, all three of them will be reading on a panel called “This Is Us.” Also with a host of other great LGBTQ writers (Daniel Mendelsohn, Kamal Al-Solaylee, Catherine Herandez, Christopher DiRaddo, and more!), the three Arsenal authors will be participating in The Violet Hour Reading Series on April 27th.

Speaking of Joshua Whitehead, you may have heard that his debut book of poetry full-metal indigiqueer was a finalist in the Lambda Literary Awards in the category of Trans Poetry and that he decided to withdraw. This is my favourite part:

I dream of the day when award cultures, especially settler queer award institutions, etch out space for 2SQ capacities and oratories. So in nehiyawewin fashion, I animate myself: nehiyaw iskwewayi-napew, Cree femme-man, one who works like nîpiy, like water, because I come from the land of straits—I take a lesson from the land, manitowapow, and learn to eddy and etch, learn to break rocks and get them off, learn to carve out space from boulders that may consolidate in the wake. I remind myself that sometimes inclusivity can be spelled as accountability, sometimes literature sounds like “letting go”. I hear Beth Brant when I write this speaking to me, that “we do our work with love,” as much as I hear Chrystos’ cry that we are “not vanishing”.

You can read the beautiful full letter here.


Joshua Whitehead / Photo by Joshua Whitehead

Other than reading in Ottawa and Montreal, Amber Dawn is also going to be at FOLD (Festival of Literary Diversity) in Brampton, ON on May 3rd and 6th. Check out more details about FOLD here. Other LGBTQ2 writers Joshua Whitehead, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Kai Cheng Thom, Catherine Hernandez, and possibly others I don’t know are going to be there too! Want to know more about Amber Dawn’s new book? Read this interview with her from Guts Magazine where she talks about disrupting the idea that queer lives are urban only, subverting ghost tropes, and what novels she thinks we should all be reading.

The 2018 BC Book Prize Finalists were announced earlier this month, and there are a few familiar queer names on there. Daniel Zomparelli’s debut short story collection Everything is Awful and You’re a Terrible Person and Zoey Leigh Peterson’s Next Year, For Sure are up for the Ethel Wilson Fiction prize. Anne Fleming’s first book for young people, The Goat, is up for the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize (I don’t think the book has queer content, but I could be wrong! I love her queer adult fiction anyway so I’m sure The Goat is great). Winners will be announced May 4th in Vancouver.

next-year-for-sureeverything is awful and you're a terrible personthe-goat.jpg

One last event in Montreal that you should go to if you can: McGill is hosting The Arts of Trans, Gender Diverse and Two-Spirit Lives Conference April 5-7th. Creative writers/poets who are going to be there include Trish Salah, Kama La Mackerel, and Lindsay Nixon. Find more info about the presenters here.

Have something you want me to include in the next Queer Can Lit Newsflash? Email me at stepaniukcasey [at]

Posted in Amber Dawn, Canadian, femme, Fiction, Indigenous, Lesbian, News, Poetry, Postcolonial, Queer, Rural, Short Stories, Trans, Trans Feminine, Transgender, Vancouver | 2 Comments

Some Personal Favourites and Canadian Finalists for the 2018 Lambda Literary Awards

Can you believe I’m only writing about the announcement of Lambda Literary Award finalists now? It happened like 2 weeks ago! Well, better later than never. Here are some highlights, of personal favourites and also Canadian finalists:

Fiction Finalists

In Lesbian Fiction, I’m particularly excited about three of the nominees, Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu, Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Machado, and Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country by Chavisa Woods. I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of Marriage of a Thousand Lies and of getting to talk to the author for a piece for Autostraddle, where she talked about queer South Asian identity and literature, new adult coming out stories, and more. This was my favourite quotation from the book:

“Let me tell you something about being brown like me: your story is already written for you. Your free will, your love, your failure, all of it scratched into the cosmos before you’re even born. My mother calls it fate, the story written on your head by the stars, by the gods, never by you.”

I’ve also written something related to Her Body and Other Parties for Autostraddle: a list of 8 similar books for the many people who loved Machado’s short story collection that embodies this uncanny kind of creepy, “bodies as horror,” fabulist, dark fairy tale feel. This was one of the most unique books I’ve ever read and I’m thrilled to see it as a finalist! (Although, also kind of perturbed to see it in the lesbian category, since the author identifies as bi and most of the women in the stories are bi behaving. Queer/bi writer Roxane Gay’s book Difficult Women is also nominated in Lesbian Fiction…)

Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country by Chavisa Woods was one of my favourite reads last year, and I described it in detail in this list The Best (Mostly Queer) Books I Read in 2017. This stunning collection of short stories was mind-blowing: beautifully written with honesty, generosity, insight, inventiveness, and a strong sense of voice. . Here’s a taste of what these stories are about: Baptists over 60 talking sex. Tweens make friends with a homeless woman living in a cemetery mausoleum. A queer writer returning to her Midwest home to crime and strange floating green orbs. A lesbian takes ecstasy with her schizophrenic girlfriend at a Mensa gathering of people with super high IQs.

Another book I featured in The Best (Mostly Queer) Books I Read in 2017 is also nominated, in the Bisexual Fiction category, and it’s a Canadian author: Next Year, For Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson. I LOVED that book; you can read my full review here. If you like character-driven novels, Next Year For Sure is perfect: full of authentic, nuanced, flawed characters, richly drawn with compassion and generosity. The novel is a really luminous, complex look into an intimate, romantic relationship of a long-term guy-girl couple and how their journey leads them to exploring polyamory and other kinds of relationships to deal with their shared loneliness. I also read the guy Chris as exploring being on the asexual spectrum, which is another layer to the journey. I have no idea what is bisexual about this book, though! Maybe the author is bi? Oh lammies, the categorization hardly ever makes any sense.

In the LGBTQ Anthology category, the epic book Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers edited by Casey Plett and Cat Fitzpatrick is a finalist. I think it’s an absolutely phenomenal book, and would be super bummed if it did not win, although I know a few of the other nominees are supposed to be really great. From tear-inducing sci fi stories about an epidemic and a wonder drug that brings people back from the dead to futuristic BDSM erotica to zombie revenge stories, there is a little bit of something for everyone who likes speculative fiction in this book. Other stories include: an alien spawns from an egg and is an exact replica of the non-binary person who found it; body switching takes on new significance for a queer trans woman and her disabled cis partner; a salty trans woman is the first recipient of a uterus transplant and finds herself mysteriously pregnant. You can read my full review here.

Non Fiction Finalists

What the Mouth Wants by Monica Menghetti, a Canadian bisexual writer, is up for Bisexual Nonfiction. I have read this book and … it was okay? It wasn’t really my thing. Stay tuned for a review soon! In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from the blurb:

“This mouthwatering, intimate, and sensual memoir traces Monica Meneghetti’s unique life journey through her relationship with food, family and love. As the youngest child of a traditional Italian-Catholic immigrant family, Monica learns the intimacy of the dinner table and the ritual of meals, along with the requirements of conformity both at the table and in life. Monica is thirteen when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoes a mastectomy. When her mother dies three years later, Monica considers the existence of her own breasts and her emerging sexuality in the context of grief and the disintegration of her sense of family.”

Abandon Me: Memoirs by Melissa Febos is another non-fiction nominee, in Lesbian Memoir/Biography, that I’m excited about. I was lucky to get a review copy of it, and I wrote a Book Riot post 20 Beautiful, Insightful Quotations about Love and Stories from Abandon Me by Melissa Febos. Here are a few of the quotations I chose:

“Every story begins with an unraveling. This story starts with a kiss. Her mouth the soft nail on which my life snagged, and tore open.”

“I already knew…that every love is a sea monster in whose belly we learn to pray.”

“Maybe that’s all bravery is: when your hunger is greater than your fear.”

“I have fallen in momentary love with strangers. Maybe it is a simple curiosity. Maybe it is a symptom of disappointment or fear of disappointment. A hope that somewhere else might be the truer life or love you have hoped for.”

It really is an endlessly beautiful and insightful book. Ha, and guess what? Another bisexual woman author in a lesbian category! Gee, I wonder why that keeps happening??

I must have really picked good books to do full pieces for Autostraddle last year, because the only other book I did in addition to Marriage of a Thousand Lies, Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home, is also a Lambda finalist, in the category of LGBT Graphic Novels. (It’s actually a memoir, but whatever, lammies!). It’s quite a unique queer coming of age memoir, in that it tells the story through Georges’s relationship with her “bad” dog Beija. I really love how it disrupts the “I-always-knew” gay narrative too. To quote myself from my Autostraddle article on Fetch:

Fetch is a beautiful love letter to a pet, a coming of age story, and an exploration of all the complexities of what it really means to take care of another living being.”

Poetry Finalists

Canadian poet Sina Queyras’s colllection My Ariel is a finalist for Lesbian Poetry. I have never read any of her work and I don’t know why! Sometimes people ask how I can possibly focus on something so narrow as LGBTQ2IA Canadian books for my blog and I tell them there’s no way in my life I will ever read all the books that could potentially qualify for inclusion on my site. Anyway, Sina Queyras has been on my radar for a while but alas I am totally unfamiliar thus far with her poetry. The Globe and Mail review said this about My Ariel, which is riffing off Sylvia Plath’s 1965 collection Ariel:

“Few poets are better equipped than Queyras to plunge into the examination of the figure of Plath as a prototype for female genius. With honesty, humour and passionate attention, she lays bare the gendered conventions that circumscribed Plath’s life and how they are still, in new guises, determining her own life as well as that of her female students… Queyras’s masterful collection does not stay in the shadow of Plath’s work. Its mix of scholarship, dramatic monologue, persona-adopting and elegy could give rise to a multipronged new genre: the auto-poetic-bio-epic.”

OF COURSE Canadian Kai Cheng Thom’s debut poetry book a place called No Homeland is a nominee for transgender poetry. I am in love with this collection. I will be super pissed if it does not win! I will probably still be talking about how awesome this book is in 50 years. It is just a fucking phenomenal collection of poetry. Poems with strong roots in oral traditions and spoken word thats you can really hear in your mind and heart. They’re tough and tender meditations on family, race, being trans, femininity, trauma, relationships, community, sex, books, and love. Some favourite parts:

“All i want is to turn my lungs into a glass instrument and let them sing glory to my sisters”

“there is a poem
scratched onto the walls of my throat
no one has heard it
but it is there”

“dear white gay men:
you are neither the face
of my oppression
nor the hands
of my salvation”

Which Lammy nominations are you excited about? And when do you think the Lambda folks and publishers/authors will work together to ensure books by bisexual authors and/or with bisexual characters are actually in bisexual categories?

Posted in Bisexual, Canadian, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic, latina, Lesbian, list, memoir, News, Non-Canadian, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Queer, Science Fiction, Short Stories, South Asian, Toronto, Trans, Trans Feminine, Trans Masculine, Transgender | 6 Comments

March Patreon Update: Important News about the Number of Posts Per Month I’ll Be Doing

Happy March (even though it’s almost over)!

You may have noticed the dismal amount of posts the last month or so (or maybe you haven’t, I don’t know how much people are actually paying attention!). I’ve been working as a librarian pretty much full time, which is awesome, but that on top of my four writing jobs—including this blog—plus volunteer running an LGBTQ2IA+ Library has meant that I just don’t have enough time in the day for everything that I’m committed to. I’ve got to do something differently, because what I am doing right now is totally unsustainable and bad for my mental health.

When I started my Patreon, my goal was 8 posts a month. While I was in school and underemployed, that was totally doable! Unfortunately, it just isn’t anymore. The worst thing to me would be putting out 8 low quality posts just to be hitting a number rather than focusing on creating really great content. So I’ve decided to be realistic about how many high quality posts I can do a month: four, plus this update post that isn’t really a real article. One post will be the Interview With A Queer Reader, one will be the Queer Can Lit Newsflash, and the two others will be book lists, reviews, essays, and/or news/events posts. It’s not I won’t ever do more posts, but I think four plus the update is the most that I should promise.

My Patreon rewards will remain unchanged; it’s just the number of posts on the blog will be a bit fewer and far between. Of course, if any of you are patrons and want to change your amount or put it elsewhere because of the lower amount of posts, I totally understand! If you have any comments or questions, you can comment on this post, or send me an email to stepaniukcasey [at] Thanks in advance for all of your understanding!

Something really nice happened this month with the draw for a free queer book. Chantelle won the first time I “pulled a name from a hat” in the app I use, and very kindly said since they had already won a book this year, that I should pull another person’s name. Thanks for being so generous to your fellow patrons Chantelle! So the winner this month was Katie. Congrats Katie! Here were the books available this month:


And as always I want to individually thank all of the people who’ve signed up to be patrons. You lovely humans are: Danika, Leigh, Anna Marie, Jane, Jakelene, Emmet, Madeline, Heather, Carla, Laurita, Jason, Jillian, Shelagh, Priscila, James, Seed, Julie, Katherine, Rachel, Samuel, Amy, Sarah, Daniel, Sarah, Chantelle, Al, Undertheteacup, Karen, Nicole, Leora, Loretta, Mandy, Kate, Elisabeth, Skye, Jes, and Carla!

Last but not least, are you following me on the social media of your choice? Find Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian (or the ‘real me’) on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram!


Posted in Patreon | 1 Comment

Q&A with Karen Rivers, author of A POSSIBILITY OF WHALES

If you haven’t already, read my full review of the book, which I posted yesterday. A Possibility of Whales is a brand new middle grade book by Canadian author Karen Rivers featuring a supporting trans boy character. I was lucky enough to get to have a quick chat with the author, mostly about the representation of trans kids in middle grade books. Don’t miss the opportunity to win a free signed copy of the book at the bottom of this post!


  1. What made you decide to write sections from Harry’s perspective as well as Nat’s in the book, even though she’s the main character?

“I wanted to give Harry a little more space to talk about who he was, outside of Nat’s perspective.   It felt appropriate to give him the space on the page to do that.  My editor and I talked it over, and we both felt like it worked.   It gave readers a chance to know Harry without relying on too many assumptions.   In short, we both loved Harry and wanted to share his story in a bigger way than it could have been if we hadn’t given him voice.”

  1. What links or parallels do you see between Harry and Nat’s journeys in the book?

“At its heart, this book is about family.   Families all show love and acceptance in different ways and to different degrees.  Harry’s family and Nat’s family, at first glance, couldn’t be more different.  But both kids are trying to figure out who they are within families who don’t necessarily make it easy for them to have a strong sense of self.  In Nat’s case, her dad’s fame is constantly overriding her identity and her ability to establish who she is, as a person apart from him.  In many ways, she’s first and foremost, XAN GALLAGHER’s daughter.   In Harry’s case, his dad straight up doesn’t accept who he is.  Both of them are looking for acknowledgement, acceptance, approval, and, of course, love.  They are both seeking.   And obviously, each of them have what the other one lacks:   Nat has unconditional acceptance from her dad.  Harry has a mother.”

  1. Did you read any books by transgender authors and/or do research on trans kids to prepare yourself to write from Harry’s perspective?

“I have people close to me in my life who have been on similar journeys.  (I’m not willing to accidentally out anyone here for the sake of establishing credentials, however.  The internet, after all, is a public space.)  I didn’t take Harry’s identity lightly, and I wouldn’t have written him if I didn’t feel like I could fairly depict him.  And I would not have included Harry’s perspective if I didn’t feel like I had a thorough understanding of him as a character, where he was coming from, what he wanted, and where he was going.”


Karen Rivers

  1. Which trans kid’s books you would recommend?

“I loved Alex Gino’s George.  There are far too few middle grade books that are about being trans, or even that simply have trans kids in them.  This is the latter.  It is not a book about being trans.   It is not actually Harry’s story.  It’s Nat’s story, and Harry is someone who is important to her, both as her friend, and as her first crush. I wanted to give the readers a broad enough look at Harry and his life such that they could understand who he was, so that they would truly see him.”

  1. How different would the book have been if it had been told solely from Nat or Harry’s point of view?

“At no point did I consider this as a book that could be told from Harry’s point of view.  I suppose it would be as different as any book would be, had it been told from the perspective of a secondary character!  This book is about Nat.   It is her story.  From its conception, I wanted to write an “ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT’S ME MARGARET” that incorporated some of the many complexities of being a kid in 2018, things that were less common in the 1970s when MARGARET made her debut.   I’m a single mother, and I know firsthand how challenging things can be when you’re a child of a single parent.  I gave Nat a single dad — a kind of idealized dad, a fun dad, a larger-than-life dad — because I know also how hard it is to navigate puberty when you are missing the one parent who has been specifically, exactly where you are.

To me, this is a book about connections.    This is a book about searching, about motherhood, about mothering strangers, about how mothers are everywhere — after all, Nat does find the “mothers” that she needs, when she needs them most.  That’s what this story is about, at the end of the day:  Family.  Love.  Acceptance.  Self-discovery.  Friendship.”

If you want to know more about Karen Rivers, you can follow her on her Website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Least but not least: there’s a chance to win a free signed hardcover copy of A Possibility of Whales! Check out the details below:

– Canada Only (full rules found in the T&C on Rafflecopter)
– Giveaway ends Mon. Mar. 19th @ 12AM EST
– Winner will be drawn randomly through Rafflecopter, contacted via email and will have 24 hours to claim their prize

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway. Good luck!

Posted in Canadian, Fiction, Queer, Trans, Trans Masculine, Transgender, Victoria | Leave a comment

Family, Whales, and Trans Kids in Middle Grade Novel A POSSIBILITY OF WHALES by Karen Rivers

A Possibility of Whales by Victoria-based author Karen Rivers is, to my knowledge, the first Canadian middle grade book to feature a transgender character. This makes it a pretty big deal. Overall, I’m happy this book exists for cisgender and transgender kids; although the author isn’t trans, A Possibility of Whales avoids the major pitfalls in other novels with trans characters written by cis authors and it’s a pretty delightful story about family and connection.

While Harry is the young trans boy character that made this book a draw for me, it’s Natalia who is the main character. She’s a unique, quirky 12-year-old girl with an unusual life: her single dad is a super famous actor whose bananas paparazzi following forces them to move nearly every year. Her dad—whose name is always spelled out in capital letters XAN GALLAGHER—is a larger than life force, with a big, extroverted personality that overshadows Nat’s more thoughtful, quiet one. Nat’s mom left when she was really young and her dad refuses to talk about her; Nat doesn’t even know who her mom is, although she suspects she’s another famous person despite her secret dream that mom is a French makeup artist. The dynamic between Nat and her dad is excellently done; it feels messy, and authentic, and very much a mix of good for Nat and not so good. It reminded me of See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles—another LGBTQ middle grade book—which also features a very real family full of love but far from perfect. Both books are very much about family.

When the novel begins, Nat and her dad’s most recent move is to Canada’s west coast. It’s there that she meets Harry (in the bathroom on the first day of school of all places). Nat is instantly drawn to Harry, and considers him her top pick for her new best friend. Finding a new best friend is something she is used to doing every year. Harry, however much he also likes Nat and wants to be friends, is torn because he really wants to establish to the whole outside world that he’s a regular boy and being BFFs with a girl doesn’t exactly fit in that plan. Rivers does a really good job depicting how tricky it is for Harry to establish his masculinity without falling into anti-femininity.

I was really pleased to see that the narrative refers to Harry as a boy and uses the name Harry and he/him pronouns from the very beginning. Rivers immediately establishes his boyness and doesn’t situate his character as seeming to be one thing and then being another. At no point is he ever anything but a boy to Nat. This is NOT a coming out narrative nor is it a story about Harry being trans. Nowhere in the novel or in the promotional material does it use the wrong pronouns or use language like “born a girl” or “used to be a girl.” We do hear Harry’s given name a few times, but the book clearly situates the adults doing that as disrespectful. We know that Harry is very firm in who he is and is also informed about trans issues from looking them up on the internet

Rivers makes an interesting choice to open up the narrative’s perspectives from Nat’s only to include some sections from Harry’s point of view. (See my Q&A with Karen Rivers coming up tomorrow for more thoughts on that decision!) We get to see a little more of what’s going on for Harry and the ways that he is coping with the shitty situation of having one decidedly unsupportive parent and another one not quite brave enough to do the right thing, at least at first. I do still wish Rivers had developed Harry a bit more, but Nat is the protagonist after all. I also wonder what kind of book this would have been if Rivers had made the choice to make Harry’s parents supportive and therefore to not have to focus on his being trans as much. Harry’s lack of parental support is an unfortunate reality for some trans kids though, and I don’t think A Possibility of Whales falls into the trap of seeing him only as a victim or pitying him.

This is definitely a character-driven novel, with not a lot of action for the first two thirds of the book. Things pick up a lot near the end when Nat, her dad, and Harry’s parents go on a trip to Mexico together and the stakes get higher. There’s a gap in time in the middle which the book skips over that, in my reading, made the relationship between Harry and Nat suffer because it didn’t feel like there had been enough time to establish it. There are some wonderfully poignant moments at the end that feel a bit squished into too few pages to really have the full impact they should. If only the pacing had been adjusted in the editing process!

Criticisms aside, I would definitely recommend this book as a great addition to any middle grade collection at a public or school library or the shelves in your very own home. Oh, and did I mention there are really cool whales?

Stay tuned tomorrow for my official blog tour post on A Possibility of Whales; it’s a Q&A with the author! There will also be a Canada-only giveaway!


Posted in Canadian, Fiction, Queer, Trans, Trans Masculine, Transgender, Victoria | Tagged | 1 Comment