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!

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  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.”

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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!

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

Queer Can Lit Newsflash: Lots of Queer and Trans Writers Will Be at Growing Room in Vancouver, Plus Exciting New Work to Read and Put On Your TBR

Here are some rad things that have happened or will be happening in the queer Can Lit world recently:

Did you know queer Vancouver based poet Leah Horlick has a new poem called “Wing (I Take It Back)” published online in the new issue Skin Haunt from Hematopoiesis Press? It starts: “Looking back it’s better that you stayed / home. You would have crushed / her.” You can read the full poem here.

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Growing Room, a feminist literary festival put on by Room Magazine, is happening this weekend, March 1-4, on traditional, unceded, and ancestral territory of the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish peoples, aka Vancouver. There are a bunch of awesome writers who are going to be there, including, of course, some queer and trans authors. There were even a few names who were new to me! They include Amber Dawn, Adèle Barclay, Gwen Benaway, Molly Billow, Jillian Christmas, Farzana Doctor, barbara findlay, Lydia Kwa, Casey Plett, Vivek Shraya, Betsy Warland, and Rita Wong! Forgive me if I’ve missed someone–I’m only one lesbrarian! No matter what kind of event you’re into—writing workshops, music performances, or panels and readings—there should be something for you at Growing Room!

Some of my absolutely favourite writers are going to be at Growing Room, and I think sadly I will not be able to go because of my nuts work schedule. Please go for me and have the best time!

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Photo by Liane Hentscher

You’ll definitely be wanting to add this upcoming book to your to-read list: it’s called Me, Myself, They: The Future is Non-Binary and it’s by Joshua M. Ferguson, a non-binary trans filmmaker, writer, and activist. It will be published by House of Anansi Press in spring 2019. Anansi has this to say about the book:

Me, Myself, They: The Future Is Non-Binary examines what it means to live with a non-binary identity in today’s world. Through their exploration of the discourse around gender, sex, and sexuality, Joshua M. Ferguson challenges common notions of these terms and discusses their public and private life and what it is to live as neither man nor woman.

“I found me in my resilience. I found myself in my storytelling. And I found they in stories of brave people,” says Ferguson. “Me, Myself, They elevates our shared humanity by creating connections with our similarities to see beyond either/or differences. An opening exists for my non-binary memoir thanks to people across generations and cultures who have written, voiced, and fought for their truth.”

“We are thrilled to be publishing Joshua M. Ferguson’s Me, Myself, They,” says editor Douglas Richmond, who acquired the project for Anansi. “This book will educate and challenge readers, encouraging them to open their minds to the diversity of gender and sexuality, while at the same time offering the warmth of Joshua’s brilliant and unique insights into the non-binary trans experience.”

Combining private and personal stories alongside an analysis of emerging trends in popular culture that signal a massive shift in our understanding of gender and sex, Me, Myself, They promises to counter non-binary trans exclusion, erasure, and invisibility.

Joshua Whitehead’s debut book of poetry called full-metal indigiqueer came out in 2017, but it was just reviewed by Gwen Benaway on Plenitude Magazine this month. Benaway calls it “cyberpunk dystopian vision of modern queer Indigenous life.” This is obviously a must-read, and I’m glad Benaway’s review brought it to my attention again!

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The Malahat Review has put out a call for submissions (due July 15 2018) for their upcoming queer perspectives issues. Here’s the info:

The Malahat Review invites writers identifying as LGBTQ2S? to submit their work for consideration for an issue celebrating contemporary queer writing in Canada.

To be published in January 2019, “Queer Perspectives” will celebrate the aesthetics, concerns, contributions, and achievements of queer writers living in Canada, recognizing their crucial role in providing a truly complete picture of what it is like to be alive in this country in the past, future, and especially today. Submissions are welcome from all LGBTQ2S? writers. All aspects of diversity and inclusivity welcomed and encouraged.

Guest editors Ali Blythe, Trevor Corkum, and Betsy Warland are interested in considering submissions of exciting contemporary LGBTQ2S? writing by poets, short-story, and creative-nonfiction authors whose work makes vivid and particular their experience of being alive in the world.

“Queer Perspectives” emphasizes inclusivity, diversity, and trust. Rather than the guest editor each reading and selecting for a single genre in isolation, they will work collaboratively, bringing to bear their expertise and insights into queer writing on all submissions irrespective of genre.

Have something you want me to include in the next Queer Can Lit Newsflash? Send me an email stepaniukcasey [at] gmail.com and put “Queer Can Lit Newsflash” in the subject line.

Posted in Amber Dawn, Canadian, Indigenous, News, Non Binary, Poetry, Postcolonial, Queer, Queer Can Lit Newsflash, Trans, Trans Feminine, Transgender, Vancouver | 1 Comment

Interview With A Queer Reader: Sam Talks SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, Feeling Less Alone While Reading Queer Books, and More!

This month’s second queer reader is Sam, who writes LGBT+ stories under the name Anthony James. He’s bisexual (or maybe pansexual), transmasculine, and likely autistic too (although undiagnosed for now). Even if his writing isn’t focused on any of those aspects of his identity, they tend to show up in one way or another, explicitly or implicitly. You can follow Sam on Twitter @anthjameswrites, on Instagram @fromtheimagination, and check out his website. Sam is also in charge of LGBT+ stories/submissions at Cepheus Publishing, which you should definitely check out if that’s up your alley. Find Cepheus Publishing on Twitter @cephpublishing.

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Keep reading to find out about Sam’s undying love for Simon vs. the Homo Sapien’s Agenda, reading to escape the real world, feeling less alone while reading queer books, 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?)

I don’t remember what the series was called, it was a fantasy series – not YA, though one of the protagonists was about 16/17 (I think, definitely younger than 20). I borrowed the first book, because my friend said I’d enjoy it. It was the first M/M book I’d ever read that wasn’t fanfiction and I raced through the first two books. I was about 15/16 then and not out.

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

Simon vs. the Homo Sapien’s Agenda. No other book will ever take over top spot for my favourite LGBT+ book. I read Simon two years ago – November 2015. I had long known I was queer and realised I was trans around May, but was only just coming out. It has a special place in my heart; why will be in the next question. I also love Becky Albertalli’s book The Upside of Unrequited and Adam Silvera’s books. And definitely The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue; reading about a short, bisexual boy from Cheshire England really made my life, its the closest thing to seeing myself in a book I’ve ever gotten. I’m always looking for more LGBT+ books, especially ones with transmasculine protagonists.

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

What attracted me to Simon was the quote on the back of the book, about straight people coming out. I knew it was an LGBT+ book, so I was always going to read it, but that quote on the book made me really excited to start, because it was always how I felt about it. I lived in a really accepting family, so I was never afraid of coming out as queer, but I never did until I was throwing it in with my gender because it never felt… normal to, for me. Being transgender is a little different, I wanted to change how I looked so felt I had to tell people, but no one has said they were straight, so why did I have to come out as ‘not straight’? (Which was all I was really sure of at thirteen.) Something must have shown on my face or in the things I did, because that’s around the time people started asking if I was gay; I didn’t lie about anything and just say no, but didn’t tell them the truth either because I wasn’t exactly sure where I fit, they were assuming gay girl and I was dreaming of being a boy, and it generally just didn’t feel right.

I also felt a lot like Simon. He had his thing that he felt confident with (his being drama, mine being writing). He was generally more open in writing. I always felt less alone when I was reading Simon.

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

I wish I was reading about about a mentally ill trans guy from Northern England just trying to figure out where he fits in the world and maybe finding someone who genuinely likes him along the way. I guess I could write that one, never properly tackled an own voices story before. Just transmasculine protagonists in general would always be nice.

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

I borrowed the series from a friend and Simon was given to me. The rest I hear about because of Twitter, I follow a lot of authors and reviewers, or because I’ve searched one I’ve already read on Amazon and scroll through the ‘if you liked this book’ section at the bottom. Sometimes I’m lucky and an LGBT+ book will be in a store in my small town (that’s how I got two of Adam Silvera’s). Sometimes I have the time and the money to travel into the closest city and find it there. Half the time I go to a bookstore in my town and ask them to order it in for me; the last book I did this for was The Gentleman’s Guide. I had to wait a few days for it to come in, but it was worth 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?

Part of me wishes I did, but I never know how to interact with people and that makes me panic and avoid them. If I could get over that or be invited first, I probably wouldn’t turn it down. Part of me is okay with it, though. I always read to kind of escape the real world and talking about it with others feels like sharing a secret sometimes. It’s why I’m so late writing reviews for books I’ve read; as soon as I share them, they won’t just be my thoughts anymore. I do have a friend I talk to about books; it is nice to share them sometimes.

Thanks for sharing with us Sam! I know you aren’t alone in your love for Simon; it’s so exciting that the movie is coming out soon!

Posted in Bisexual, Coming-of-age, Fiction, Gay, Interview with a Queer Reader, Queer, Trans, Trans Masculine, Transgender, Young Adult | Leave a comment

The Ten Queer Black Books I’m Most Excited to Read in 2018

Happy Black History Month! Some of these are new, some of these are old, all of them are undoubtedly going to be awesome when I finally read them. They range from magical realism and science fiction to middle grade and YA to romance and thriller. Let me know in the comments which queer Black books are on your to-read list that you’re excited about!

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

My latest interviewee in the Interview With A Queer Reader series recommended this book by a Black, queer, non-binary author as the one that most represented her own experiences. Obviously I immediately added it to my Goodreads. It’s a 2018 Stonewall Book Award Nominee for Literature. Check out the description:

Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, as they accuse, she’d be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the cookfire.

Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.

When the autopsy of Matilda‘s sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother’s suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother’s footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she’s willing to fight for it.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

I had somehow known about this book for a while but didn’t know it had queer content until Danika at the Lesbrary tipped me off. I’m looking forward to what sounds like amazing world-building and a Black interjection into the white-dominated and often imperialism erasing steampunk genre:

Everfair is a wonderful Neo-Victorian alternate history novel that explores the question of what might have come of Belgium’s disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier. Fabian Socialists from Great Britian join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo’s “owner,” King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated.

Shawl’s speculative masterpiece manages to turn one of the worst human rights disasters on record into a marvelous and exciting exploration of the possibilities inherent in a turn of history. Everfair is told from a multiplicity of voices: Africans, Europeans, East Asians, and African Americans in complex relationships with one another, in a compelling range of voices that have historically been silenced. Everfair is not only a beautiful book but an educational and inspiring one that will give the reader new insight into an often ignored period of history.

Two Moons: Stories by Krystal A. Smith

I originally heard about this book from Autostraddle’s 65 Queer and Feminist Books to Read in 2018. Jewelle Gomez says: “Krystal A. Smith writes of shape shifters, magical herbalists, and women ripe for love. Her collection of stories marries African American mysticism to speculative fiction announcing Smith’s solid place in the next generation of Afro Futurists. With its sensuous language, deftly drawn characters, and engaging narrative style, Two Moons shines bright.” It’s out March 20th. Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

A splendid debut collection of speculative fiction that traverses the connections between earth and the heavens, the living and the spectral, human and animal.

In “Cosmic,” a former drug addict has a chance to redeem herself and restore honor to her family’s name. In “Harvest,” a woman tasked with providing for her community ponders her inability to bear live children. In the title story, “Two Moons,” a young woman falls in love with the moon, and is astonished by the moon’s response. In “What the Heart Wants,” a rejected lover discovers that her physical and emotional desires are incongruent with the organ pumping blood through her veins.

Sensitive, ethereal, humorous, and at times, heart-breaking, Smith’s collection of speculative fiction signals the arrival of an exceptionally talented writer with a promising career ahead of her.

Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon

I have been doing a new reading project in 2018 of trying a new-to-me-genre focusing on romance. Weatherspoon is one of those authors who has been recommended to me multiple times and I can’t believe I haven’t read any of her books yet. I think this one (which I featured on this Autostraddle list of books with masculine-of-centre characters and no sexual assault) sounds like an excellent one to start with, and it has two queer Black women leads!

Her sister’s bachelorette party is the highlight of a miserable year for Alexis Chambers, but once her bridesmaid’s dress is packed away, she’s back to coping with her life as a once popular athlete and violinist turned loner and the focus of her parents’ disappointment. She isn’t expecting much from her freshman year of college until she finds herself sharing a class with Treasure, the gorgeous stripper from her sister’s party.

Trisha Hamilton has finally gotten the credits and the money together to transfer to a four-year university. Between classes, studying, and her job as a stripper, she has little time for a social life, until she runs into the adorably shy baby butch from the club. Trisha can’t seem to hide her feelings for Alexis, even when Trisha discovers what she has been through, but will Alexis have the strength to be just as fearless about their new love?

brewBrew by Dane Figueroa Edidi

I bought a copy of this trans YA book off the author’s website last year (even though my resolution in 2017 was to not buy books…) when her books finally became available to ship to Canada, and I still haven’t read it! What is wrong with me? It sounds amazing:

Arjana Rambeau, a trans teenager from Baltimore, carries many secrets, one of which is she is a witch. Beginning to start a new school, she finds herself at the center of an unwarranted conspiracy. As she makes new friends, while attempting to maintain her old ones, she must learn how to distinguish who she can trust, because it seems everyone wants a piece of her and her growing powers.

Bembe Rambeau is a mystery, infamous amongst the magical community, she has very few friends but a collection of enemies; enemies, who seem to be attempting to remove not only her allies but her daughter as well; threatening both her small empire and family’s legacy. Bembe must now combat shifting loyalties while crafting an alliance with an enemy who she once wished dead.

Brew follows the lives of a mother and daughter, one who thinks she knows everything and another discovering what she knew isn’t true at all.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Another book I can’t believe I haven’t read yet! I mean, it’s about a Black bisexual Jewish teen girl! It won the Stonewall Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature in 2018 and it deals with themes of mental illness and complicated family relationships:

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender

There are so few middle grade books with LGBTQ2IA+ characters and even fewer with queer characters of colour that this book has literally been on my radar for YEARS. It’s out March 27th.

Prepare to be swept up by this exquisite novel that reminds us that grief and love can open the world in mystical ways.

Twelve-year-old Caroline is a Hurricane Child, born on Water Island during a storm. Coming into this world during a hurricane is unlucky, and Caroline has had her share of bad luck already. She’s hated by everyone in her small school, she can see things that no one else can see, and — worst of all — her mother left home one day and never came back. With no friends and days filled with heartache, Caroline is determined to find her mother. When a new student, Kalinda, arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, seems to see the things Caroline sees, too. Joined by their common gift, Kalinda agrees to help Caroline look for her mother, starting with a mysterious lady dressed in black. Soon, they discover the healing power of a close friendship between girls. Debut author Kheryn Callender presents a cadenced work of magical realism.

Skin Deep Magic by Craig Laurance Gidney

I listened to the audiobook of Gidney’s other collection of speculative short stories and absolutely fell in love with his imagination and language. (So much so that I included it on my Book Riot list of 8 Amazing Audiobooks by Black Authors). His stories sit in a really cool space of in between: not exactly horror, not exactly realism, not exactly fantasy. Plus: look at the beautiful cover. So obviously I am very excited to read his other book of short stories, which was a 2015 finalist for the Lambda Award for LGBT SF/F/Horror:

Magic is more than skin-deep. It hides in the folds of a haunted quilt and illuminates the secret histories of Negro memorabilia. Magic reveals the destiny of a great storyteller and emanates from a sculpture by an obscure Harlem Renaissance artist. Magic lurks in the basement of an inner-city apartment building and flourishes in a city park. Magic is more than skin-deep; it shimmers in the ten stories in this collection.

Alice Walker: A Life by Evelyn C. White

Another awesome queer Black book I own and have not read (shame on me), this one is a little intimidating because it is such a thick biography! But this is clearly because there is so much to tell about Alice Walker’s incredible life. Now that I’ve finally read The Color Purple (another book it took me way too long to read) I feel like I’m ready to dive into this non-fiction book about the author:

Alice Walker’s life is remarkable not only because she was the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in fiction (the book that won her that award, The Color Purple, has been translated into nearly thirty languages and made into an Academy Award–nominated film), but also because these accomplishments are merely highlights of a luminous and varied career made from inauspicious beginnings in rural Georgia. Drawing on extensive interviews and exhaustive research, Evelyn C. White brings this life to light.

The Girl with the Treasure Chest by V.A. Fearon

It’s not for lack of trying that I haven’t read this book yet, it’s that it’s been hard to get a hold of so far, at least as far as access through my local libraries is concerned. Maybe it’s time to get an inter-library loan going or bite the bullet and buy it, because there’s something about the description that just sounds so good (plus, the black panther on the cover):

Dani Fenton thought her life was sorted. But when her private and professional lives collide, she is forced to walk a dangerous line and risk everything for love. At home Dani has a loving partner with a young child who adores her. At work she is a powerful broker in London’s vicious gangland, where she uses her influence to negotiate deals between rival gangs at underground “meets”. Her intuition has never failed her and her charisma has attracted a loyal band of “soldiers” who would go to any lengths to please her. Life is good until Susanna returns. Enigmatic, sexual, hot-tempered and fragile, Susanna is irresistible to Dani, who soon finds herself in a spiral of obsession and violence that threatens to devastate every aspect of her life. Dani must choose between the love she has and the love she wants, and she knows the wrong decision could prove fatal.

Posted in Bisexual, Black, Caribbean, Fiction, Jewish, Lesbian, list, magic realism, mystery, Non Binary, Non-Canadian, Non-Fiction, Postcolonial, Queer, Romance, Science Fiction, Sex Work, Short Stories, Trans, Trans Feminine, Transgender, Young Adult | Tagged | 3 Comments

Interview With A Queer Reader: Paige Allen Talks AN UNKINDNESS OF GHOSTS, Queer Fan Fiction, and More!

Paige Allen is a a 24-year-old navigating corporate life in Greater Boston by day; by night, she is, in her own words, “a passionate fangirl and supporter of superheroes, comics, science fiction, fantasy, YA fiction and the Food Network.” In particular she enjoys using her position as a queer, black, diaspora’d feminist to look at all those things from a critical and analytical perspective. Paige is also a junior editor at Bookmarked, the book vertical of Bleating Heart Press, as well as a freelance writer with bylines in Harper’s Bazaar, Geeks of Color, and Black Girl Nerds. She would love if you wanted to geek out with her on Twitter @goodbye_duppy!

Paige S. Allen - headshot

Keep reading to hear Paige talk about queer fan fiction, An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, today’s queer renaissance in publishing, how important representation in media is for marginalized people, 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?)

Ha, does fanfiction count? Seriously though, my first experiences with queer writing definitely came from the fandoms I participated in when I was younger – Harry Potter, Cardcaptor Sakura, and Sailor Moon being especially formative influences on me at the time. I wasn’t looking for anything specific when I stumbled into these fandoms but, since I was a boldly curious kid, I found queer fanfiction pretty quickly. And I was amazed! The romantic feelings these characters experienced were the same I was just starting to realize within myself, and it was all considered normal. Representation is a powerful thing at any age, so it wasn’t too surprising that I feel in love with fandom (and why I’m still a huge fangirl over a decade later).

Outside of fanfiction, my first queer book was David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy. I discovered the book tucked away in my middle school library right when it came out in 2005. By then I had been reading fanfiction for about a year, so my queer radar was locked and loaded when I saw that title peaking out at me. And I wasn’t disappointed. Boy Meets Boy is a sweet little book about a super progressive town full of queer and trans characters, who are trying to plan their futures and end up falling in love in the process. It’s a romantic comedy where no one dies, no one suffers from explicit violence or hatred because of who they are, and the boy gets the boy in the end. This book positively shaped my budding understanding of my queerness and the potential happiness I could find from it.

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

Oh, this question is painful! Let me just throw out the books that I’ve read recently:

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee: it’s a new favorite of mine that came out just this year, and it’s such a gem. The book delivers a deliciously tense will-they-or-won’t-they historical love story that also deftly explores race, disability, abuse, and feminism. I was also lucky enough to interview Lee about the book during this year’s Flame Con, and she is beyond cool!

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin: this book was assigned reading during a Cold War history class in college (gotta love those liberal arts schools), and it’s held a special place in my heart ever since. Left Hand was my introduction to Le Guin’s writing, and through her I have discovered so many new literal and literary worlds. Literary, she has helped shape my gender identification in ways that I’m still trying to personally articulate and express. Meanwhile, Left Hand was the first science fiction novel I read that showed all the imaginative and important possibilities the genre can hold for our ideas of race, gender, and love in the future.

The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox: my feelings for this book are so biased. I bought this book during a particularly stressful period when I lived in Paris, and it comforted me even while everything else in my life was, to put it mildly, a total shit-show. Vintner’s Luck is a somewhat obscure and bittersweet love story between an angel and a human (whose life is also a shit-show, actually, so maybe I was projecting while reading this!). It absolutely broke my heart a million times, but sometimes you need a queer story to remind you of your own humanity and the choices you make to find happiness in this life. It’s not all bad, though. I can guarantee I looked tragically beautiful to all the strangers that caught me crying at this little café by the Seine when I finished reading it. And that just perfectly captures the j’en sais quoi de Paris, non?

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

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon. I’ve spoken about this book a lot this year on Bookmarked and my personal social media, and I am more than happy to do so again because I felt so seen by it. I share many of the same identities and experiences as the main protagonist of this harrowing science fiction novel, which so rarely happens in a literary landscape that is still shamefully scarce of non-white stories and perspectives. This connection is all thanks to Solomon who, as a nonbinary queer black author, colors this fictional world with many of their own experiences.

Can I say again how important representation is in the media we consume? Yeah, I’m saying it again, and I’m going to add how critical it is for marginalized creators to have the opportunity to share their work and forge this shared connection with readers who do not often see themselves. We learn about the boundless and legitimate nature of our humanity from seeing it, in all its variety and nuance, reflected back at us. I cannot describe the joy and relief I’ve felt since reading this book.

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

Queer superheroes! Queer horror! Queer black and brown people living good lives and going on adventures! Queer friendships! Queer older people! Queer poly relationships! I’m a girl with simple needs, and my needs can pretty succulently be described as “make it gay.”

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

While I’ve never had a problem with finding queer books in the past, I definitely feel like we are experiencing something of a queer renaissance in the publishing world. Not only is there an abundance of queer stories being distributed in all sorts of literary works these days, but I’ve been so happy to discover the increasing amount of queer black and brown stories being published as well. This increase is nowhere near as it should be in 2017, mind you, but it’s noticeable enough to celebrate the transformative work we’re getting. This change can especially be seen in young adult fiction, which this year alone has been dominated by authors such as Adam Silvera and Anna-Marie McLemore. And where fiction fails overall, indie comic books have taken up the slack in a pretty significant way. It’s been a great moment for queer fiction thus far, and I sincerely believe it will only get better – and should strive to be better – in the coming years.

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?

Since becoming a Real Adult with corporate, freelance, and family responsibilities, I don’t have the time to actively participate in communities that share my voracious queer reading habits. Besides that, I’m actually really shy, so I’ve never particularly sought them out. This is just in real life, of course, since I somehow find the time to read Autostraddle and procrastinate on Twitter and Tumblr. These sites are conveniently accessible outlets for me to connect with other queer readers and some of my favorite authors, but I would like to use them more consciously to build and participate in queer communities. #2018Goals, anyone?

Thanks so much for sharing with us Paige, especially your beautiful thoughts about the importance of media representation for marginalized folks. I’m very excited to read An Unkindness of Ghosts now!

Posted in Bisexual, Black, Fiction, Interview with a Queer Reader, Non Binary, Queer, Science Fiction, Trans, Young Adult | 2 Comments

February Patreon Update: Thanks For Supporting Me My First Year of Using Patreon!

Happy February!

It’s been over a year since I started this Patreon and I am so grateful for all your support! Many of you have been patrons since the very beginning when I hesitantly dove into the whole Patreon thing in January 2017 and I want to say THANK YOU SO MUCH. Your support has really motivated me to keep this little ol’ book blog going when I might not have with all the other work and non-work stuff going on in my life. Can you believe I’ve been doing this blog since 2012?!

I hope you have been enjoying the two Interview With A Queer Reader posts a month! I changed it from one to two a month after hearing from many of you how much you liked that series. I love getting that kind of feedback from you, so please feel free to comment on the blog or send me an email at stepaniukcasey [at] gmail.com if you have any other suggestions. If you participated in my reader survey last year and asked for specific topics to be covered, don’t think I’ve forgotten about you! I have them recorded and am planning to get to them.

This month’s winner of a free queer book is Chantelle. Congrats, Chantelle! Here are the choices this month:

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I haven’t done an update since December, so there are lots of posts to remind you about in case you didn’t see them the first time around. The post I’m most proud of from December is “Reading and Re-Reading Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald”, which is kind of a hybrid personal essay about the experience of re-reading a heartbreaking book, review of the audiobook version read by Cassandra Campbell, and musing about the prevalence of dark traumatic stories about queer people.

In January, I wrote two posts about my 2017 reading year: Looking Back at My 2017 Year of Reading: A Bookish Survey and The Best (Mostly) Queer Books I Read in 2017. I read so many amazing books last year! I also wrote a review of Trish Salah’s stunning poetry collection Lyric Sexology Vol 1, where I talked about how Salah writes about gender, love, mythology, religion, sex, and trans ancestors (both real and mythical) through the lens of the idea of the self, of becoming and “I.”

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, and Elisabeth!

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!

 

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