Patreon May Update: New Domain Name and Revised, Current Queer Can Lit Links Page

Hello readers and happy spring!

This is my Patreon update for last month, which was pretty bananas! Trying to finish my assignments for the end of the semester at the beginning of April meant I got super behind on all blog-related things. So if you were wondering why my blog posts all appeared in the second half of the month, that’s why!

So, exciting news on the Patreon front is that after hitting the $75 mark last month I was able to make some time to get two really important things done on the blog. The first is that I FINALLY bought my own domain name after having my blog for five years. So instead of the lengthy url including wordpress.com that used to bring you to my blog, it’s now just caseythecanadianlesbrarian.com. Good thing no one snagged that rad domain name in the meantime! The second is that I spent a bunch of time updating my Queer Can Lit Links page, which is a list of authors, blogs, publishers, and bookstores relevant to the queer Can lit world. I’m excited to have added a bunch more authors of colour as well as more trans women and genderqueer authors. Let me know if you think there’s someone/thing missing!

The weird thing is that a few patrons have adjusted their amounts and one person left, so my monthly amount is now below $75 again, haha. I totally get that people have different financial things going on in their lives, so that’s cool. But if you’re wondering why I said I hit the $75 mark and it doesn’t say that on Patreon, that’s why!

Another lucky person got a free queer book this month! Check out what the options were:

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I hope you all enjoyed the content this month, which included Five Queer Canadian New Adult Books for those you in your early twenties or people who enjoy revisiting that time of life/looking forward to it; Six More Canadian Trans Women Writers, which was just as popular as the first installment; an interview with queer reader Kasey Keeley about genderqueer books and queer Canadian favourites; reviews of a (sadly disappointing) bi YA book and an anthology of queer and trans people talking about health and more!

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, Kim, Jane, Jakelene, Emmet, Madeline, Heather, Rhiannon, Carla, Naz, Laurita, Kirsten, Ashleah, Jason, Jillian, Anton, Shelagh, Priscila, Allison, Ang, James, Seed, Rachael, and Julie! If any of you new (or old) folks are interested in being a part of the Interview with a Queer Reader series, write me at stepaniukcasey [at] gmail.com.

Posted in Patreon | 1 Comment

Five Queer Canadian New Adult Books

So there’s some debate as to whether new adult is actually a legit thing or not, as the term was only coined in 2009 by St. Martin’s Press in order to market books that were a kind of older YA or books with characters who were from the ages of 18-25, going through stuff like university/college, figuring out their sexuality, deciding on career choices, and moving out of their parents’ houses. Some might say new adult is YA but with explicit sex. But I say who cares about legitimacy anyway. There are real people aged 18-25 who might want to read about people going through the same things they are, and there are maybe even older people—like me—who find it fun to go back and relive their early twenties (and the gratefully return to their early thirties). So here are five queer Canadian books that we could call “new adult.”

bottle rocket heartsBottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall

Bottle Rocket Hearts is about the journey of 19-year-old Montreal Anglophone, Eve, in her first year of university and learning about queer, feminist, and language politics for the first time. Along the way she earns a bit of street cred from attending many a protest and getting her heart broken by an older Francophone dyke. The novel is chock full of Whittall’s dark, witty humour: Eve tells us things like “Intellectually, non-monogamy made complete sense; emotionally, it felt like sandpaper across my eyelids.” It’s also a nostalgic snapshot of 90s Montreal smack in the middle of the Riot Grrl era and the province of Quebec’s referendum about whether to separate from the rest of the country. Take this wild ride of newly discovered adult freedoms with none of the responsibilities with Eve as she rides her bike down Rue St. Catherine, wearing silver spray-painted Doc Martens and listening to the new Luscious Jackson CD. Check out my full review here.

child of a hidden seaChild of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica

You might find it surprising to hear that I’m calling this portal fantasy novel a new adult book, but hear me out. Child of a Hidden Sea—by Toronto queer author A.M. Dellamonica, who wrote a great bisexual magical book called Indigo Springs that could also be classified as new adult—features a 24-year-old main character. So protagonist Sophie Han is the right age, and I think, also going through some of those adult growing pains. They just happen to be taking place in Stormwrack, a series of island nations with strange cultures, economies, and languages that Sophie stumbled into from a back alley in San Francisco. Somehow, everyone there seems to know who she is. But they also don’t like her. Why does everyone know her? What is her purpose in this world? Does she want to stay? Sounds just like what anyone in their early twenties is trying to figure out, but in a super cool magical setting, am I right?

you set me on fire(You) Set Me on Fire by Mariko Tamaki

Allison Lee is technically 17 when this book opens, but whatever. Allison starts off her first year of college, hoping to never be burned—literally or figuratively—again after accidentally setting herself on fire in a ceremonial backyard burning of items associated with her high school ex-girlfriend. Allison is hoping college is gonna be the fresh start she needs to shed her loser status. She’d also like to make some friends, and maybe (?) even find a girlfriend. (Allison thinks she might be a lesbian, but she isn’t sure). When Allison meets Shar on her first night in res—Allison helps Shar find the lighter she’s drunkenly searching for in the grass by spotting it in a pile of puke—you know Shar is bad news. (By the way, true to many first year university experiences, there’s a lot of drinking and puking in this book). Is Allison gonna get burned again? Or maybe the question is: how badly? Check out my full review.

the skin beneathThe Skin Beneath by Nairne Holtz

Sam is the quintessential 90s new adult who’s a bit lost and not sure what to do with her life. She’s been living in Montreal, taking university classes but never actually getting a degree. Her butch / androgynous look prevents her from getting some of the more lucrative jobs you can get without a degree, but she eventually gets a job dishwashing at a restaurant where her older sister Chloe used to work. She gets some direction in her life when she receives a mysterious postcard indicating that Chloe’s death five years ago wasn’t the accidental drug overdose at a bohemian New York Hotel as she was told it was. This leads her on a road trip following a trail of clues from Montreal to Detroit to New York, where, as is usual in road trips in books/movies, she finds a bit of herself.

girl unwrappedGirl Unwrapped by Gabriella Goliger

This coming-of-age novel is kind of half new adult, meaning that half of it takes place when the main character is a kid and younger teen, and half of it takes place as she strikes out on her own, continuing until she’s 25. Set in the 50s and 60s in Montreal, Girl Unwrapped tells the story of Toni Goldblatt, a tomboy dyke whose lesbian sexuality and butch gender expression conflicts with her parents’ expectations. It only makes matters worse that she’s an only child and her Jewish, Holocaust-scarred parents have especially high hopes for her life. Wanting to reinvent herself, she follows Zionism to Israel in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day war, but it’s not until she returns to Montreal and finds the 60s butch/femme bar scene that she really finds out who she is. Not only does she understand herself, she comes to an understanding of her parents too.

Posted in Asian, Bisexual, Butch, Canadian, Fantasy, Fiction, Jewish, Lesbian, Mariko Tamaki, Montreal, mystery, Queer, Zoe Whittall | Tagged | 1 Comment

A Military-Tastic End to This Lesbian Military Sci Fi Saga: A Review of VORTEX OF CRIMSON by Lise MacTague

BEL-Vortex Crimson_2Vortex of Crimson by Lise MacTague is the third book in her military science fiction / romance trilogy On Deception’s Edge. If you intend to read this trilogy—and I definitely recommend it for fans of both the genres lesbian romance and military sci fi—you should go back now and read the first in the series, Depths of Blue . At the end of the second book we left Torrin and Jak reunited and having got over the hurdles of misunderstanding that plagued them throughout Heights of Green. But there’s a cruel irony in their reunion, since Jak is literally losing her mind, which is riddled with maps and other tactical information from her time as a sniper. Torrin’s desert planet, where they currently are, doesn’t have the technology to remove the information, so the couple head off, reluctantly on Torrin’s part, for Jak’s home planet Haefen. Little do they know that Jak’s rapidly deteriorating mental health is going to be only one of the many problems they are going to have to deal with…

Readers were already aware at the end of Heights of Green that Torrin’s sister Nat’s spaceship had been attacked and Nat kidnapped, but Jak and Torrin don’t get the bad news until they get to Haefen. Jak’s old nemesis, the sniper for the opposing army who killed her brother and who she’s had a vendetta against, has also re-emerged. A few of their problems converge when it turns out that it is him who’s captured Nat and is holding her as bait to lure Jak. But what is it exactly that he wants? His actions also show that he’s getting information from the other side, and Jak and Torrin end up having a mole to find as well as figuring out how to kill the sniper after they discover who he is and what his motivations are. If this sounds exciting to you, go forth and get this book (after reading the first two in the series, obviously!).

To be honest, I found myself missing the fun, sexy romance of the first book and the relationship drama from the second book while reading the third book. As I said in my review of the first book, military sci fi is definitely not a genre I usually read, mostly because I’m not interested in the military part. I love science fiction, and am really interested in how that genre interrogates what it means to be human and its ability to look at humanity from a totally alien—pun intended—perspective. Those aren’t the concerns of this trilogy, which is totally fine. My sense is that military sci fi in general does not really do that.

The military action in Vortex of Crimson could conceivably have taken place on Earth in some kind of alternate history or something. Since I’m not particularly interested in military stories, I was looking for a way in which the science fictional setting made this military story different. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t. This probably means that readers who do like stories focused on the military (with the bonus of lesbian characters) will really like this trilogy, and especially the closing book Vortex of Crimson. For me—a reader who loves a good romance plot but military stuff not so much—the trilogy got less interesting for me as it went on since by the end Jak and Torrin are pretty solid. (Yes, of course, this lesbian romance has an HEA).

So I guess my final word is, even though the military-focused plot in this final book didn’t jive with me personally, if that’s your jam you should definitely check out Vortex of Crimson.

Bonus! Did you enjoy this post or find it useful? Consider supporting me on the Patreon for Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian! Patreon is a site where creators of all sorts of things can make some money via subscription payments from their readers/etc. It can be as little as a dollar a month! Help me continue to be able to devote time to this site and you can win stuff like queer books and postcards with personalized book recommendations! Click on the link for more details and to sign up.

Posted in Canadian, Fiction, Lesbian, Queer, Romance, Science Fiction

A Sadly Disappointing Bi YA Novel: A Review of Nicole Markotić’s ROUGH PATCH

rough patchHere’s the sad truth readers: I wanted to love YA novel Rough Patch by Nicole Markotić so much. IT HAS THE WORD BISEXUAL ON THE FIRST PAGE. I thought after that there was nothing this book could do to make me unlove how great it is to see the word bisexual used in fiction by a character to describe themselves right off the bat. Especially in a book for teens! Well, I was wrong.

Okay, so here’s a synopsis of the set-up and plot of Rough Patch (although admittedly, my description of the “plot” makes it sound more coherent than it actually is). Fifteen-year-old Keira is about to start high school in Calgary and she wishes she could just write “Hi! I’m Keira and I’m bisexual” on a nametag and get it over with. Of course, in real life she’s way too shy for that, and is scared of telling her family, her boy-crazy BFF Sita, and pretty much everyone else. She’s also still figuring out what being bisexual means, after crushing on her camp counsellor for the last two months but then making out with a boy at the end of the summer. She finds solace in training for the regional figure skating competitions, a hobby she acknowledges as geeky, and hanging out with her younger sister. When she and Sita have a falling out, Keira is drawn to a lesbian girl her age named Jayne who’s hiding her sexuality from her conservative Christian family. As the novel progresses, it becomes harder and harder for Keira to keep all the different parts of herself separate, until a violent homophobic attack at a school dance brings everything to a head.

As much as it is empowering for bisexual teens that this novel uses the word “bisexual” on the first page, I can’t give the rest of it a pass, because there are many aspects that need major work. The writing contains far too much telling and not enough showing and the plotting is very uneven: not much at all happens for the first 150 pages, and then a ton of action is squeezed into the last 30 pages. The first few chapters in particular are basically the same material recycled with no forward movement. It’s especially unfortunate that homophobia fuels what is really the only significant plot point.

Characterization, however, is fairly well done—Markotic excels especially at the sensitive and complex depiction of Keira’s younger sister who uses a wheelchair, as well as Keira’s unique mix of shyness and quirkiness. Keira’s parents also feel like fleshed out, complex human beings, people who had kids before they were financially or emotionally ready, who are struggling to support their family with jobs that aren’t fulfilling, and whose relationship is faltering. I also appreciated how Sita wasn’t slut-shamed from Keira’s or the narrative’s point of view.

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Nicole Markotic / Photo credit Don Denton

Keira’s voice feels mostly authentic, almost as if the novel were meant to be a diary; teen readers may see a reflection of their own voices in how Keira narrates, even if the narrative’s vocabulary and the way in which the same thoughts and events are told again and again become repetitive (at least for this adult reader). Unfortunately this repetitiveness doesn’t feel especially deliberate or thoughtfully used, suggesting that the novel merely needs editing. At times the book kind of feels like what an amateur teen writer would actually write about high school, which might be appealing to some teens but also makes it feel inauthentic to what high school life is actually like.

There’s also some cringe-worthy slang used that feels very much like an adult trying to sound hip and cool to teens (if 32-year-old me can hear it, it must be pretty bad). For example, the chapters end with these little statements from Keira about what just happened categorized as “HET-GIRL ALERT” and “LESBO ALERT.” Has anyone ever said “het-girl” in this slangy way, ever? I have no idea why Markotić didn’t just say “straight girl” since what follows this bizarre marker always refers to the traditional images and stereotypes of the “straight girl.”

There is definite potential in this novel, which is maybe why it makes it all the more disappointing that it’s such a drag to read. Rough Patch feels like a rough draft that is many revisions away from being a great book. The interesting, intricate characters are mostly there, and the bones of a plot are present, but the execution could do with a total re-write.

I’d say this book could be suitable for teen readers who like character-driven novels and bisexual teens looking for fictional peers, although the attack at the end may be triggering for teens who’ve experienced similar homophobic incidents. I don’t think many adults who enjoy YA will like this particular one. Not too long ago I would have said well at least we have one YA book about a bisexual teen, but the truth is there are other, fantastic bisexual YA books like Long Red Hair by Meags Fitzgerald, Adaptation by Malinda Lo, and Empress of the World by Sara Ryan. This recent list on Autostraddle of new and upcoming YA books with queer girl characters promises a ton of bi content, so go forth and find quality YA about bi girls this spring and summer and report back to me on which ones are the best.

Bonus! Did you enjoy this post or find it useful? Consider supporting me on the Patreon for Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian! Patreon is a site where creators of all sorts of things can make some money via subscription payments from their readers/etc. It can be as little as a dollar a month! Help me continue to be able to devote time to this site and you can win stuff like queer books and postcards with personalized book recommendations! Click on the link for more details and to sign up.

Posted in Alberta, Bisexual, Canadian, Fiction, Queer, Young Adult | 1 Comment

“Never forget that you too can do this healing work”: A Review of THE REMEDY: QUEER AND TRANS VOICES ON HEALTH AND HEALTH CARE, Edited by Zena Sharman

the remedy zena sharmanI’ll be honest: I’ve never been particularly interested in health or health care, beyond wondering why my anxiety is so strongly triggered by anything related to visiting the doctor. So I was surprised by how much The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Health Care held my attention. There are some really great, emotionally resonant personal essays in this anthology as well as pieces that are really informative about health-related needs of our communities, especially the more marginalized ones.

The Remedy was curated by Zena Sharman, who has a pretty impressive health and queer related resume. Her bio says she is “a femme force of nature and a passionate advocate for queer and trans health. She has over a decade’s experience in health research, including seven years as the Assistant Director of Canada’s national gender and health research funding institute. Zena co-chairs the board of the Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre, a holistic health care centre for transgender and gender-diverse communities.” You might also remember her as the co-editor of 2011’s anthology (also published by Arsenal Pulp Press) Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme with Ivan Coyote.

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Zena Sharman, via writetheremedy.com / photo by Sarah Race

The Remedy is quite a diverse book, in more ways than one. While the majority of the pieces are essays, some leaning to the personal side and others more academic, there is also poetry, a graphic story, lists, and profiles of queer and trans health initiatives. While trans-related stuff gets probably the most attention (although not even the majority), quite a variety of the LGBTQ2IA+ spectrum is represented, with a few knock-out essays about asexuality, intersexuality, and bisexuality, along with pieces about / by gay men and lesbians navigating heteronormativity. I was also happy to see that nearly half of the contributors are people of colour, including more than one Indigenous person! In short, there’s something in here for everyone, even if everything won’t be exactly your cup of tea.

Let me tell you about some of my favourites from the anthology. Sean Safia Wall’s essay “Navigating This Life as a Black Intersex Man” was hard-hitting and politically contextualized in both the Black Lives Matter movement and the history of how intersex people have been treated in the medical industry. Going over his experiences, he sums up by writing: “At no point did anyone ask me what I wanted to do with my body.”

Sand C. Chang’s essay on being on both sides of the gate as a genderqueer person who’s also a psychologist, part of the profession that acts as gatekeepers to allow trans people to access physical health services, was fantastic. Chang writes about this position of “dual otherness” as well as about a growing list of problematic dynamics witnessed while doing trans and gender-non-conforming (TGNC) health care services, like demeaning situations like “This phone call: Do you have ten minutes to teach me how to work with TGNC people?” from colleagues.

Kelli Dunham’s personal story “Our Caregiving, Ourselves” made me cry. It’s about care-giving for her dying partner Cheryl with a big group of chosen queer family and Orthodox Jewish family camped out in the hospital and working as an unlikely team to bend the rules so that as many people as possible could be with Cheryl.

“A Journey Towards Safety” by Ahmed Danny Ramadan was a stand-out personal essay about coming to Canada as a refugee from Syria and the long journey towards mental health. He writes about trying to avoid the “White Man Saviour Complex—thinking they know better than me how to handle my own life” as he tries to figure out why the traditional white health care providers cannot help him bring down the walls he had built to survive the Arab world as a gay man.

Amber Dawn’s “Sex Work Solidarity as Healing” was brilliant as is everything I’ve read by her. She blends personal accounts of shitty experiences with doctors as a sex worker, anti-sex work jokes and sentiments in the queer community, tools for healing, and creates a “sex workplace scenario” a la WorksafeBC.com for readers to spot the risks and harm-reduction activities in the picture she paints. She ends by urging readers: “Never forget that you too can do this healing work.”

In “Trans Grit,” readers follow Cooper Lee Bombardier along a journey of being a “trans curmudgeon” who keeps thinking that today’s trans youth don’t know how good they have it to realizing that trans folks “as a demographic have evolved enough to believe we deserve better.” He writes, powerfully:

People are so much more willing to understand us than we ever give them credit for. And, that we spend so much time and energy convincing non-trans people of the truth that we are a vulnerable and victimized population to such an extent that sometimes we forget also how fucking strong and resilient we are. These things can exist in tandem: recognition of the injustices against us and also celebration of the fortitude it takes for each of us to live in this world.

Margaret Robinson’s piece “Five Things Providers Need to Know about Bisexual People” is obviously aimed at people who work in the health care industry, but I think pretty much everyone who isn’t bisexual could stand to hear her points: “Bisexuality is authentic and distinct,” ‘Bisexual people have significant health disparities,” and “Bisexual people lack social support.” She weaves in personal experiences with the statistics she cites, like being told by a therapist ‘Oh, well, you just have to choose,’ and having clinic staff assume being bisexual means having sex with multiple partners and being at high risk for STIs.

Eli Erlick’s “Depathologizing Trans” investigates how the psychiatric model of being transgender reinforces Western cissexist ideas about gender. She writes about her experiences and realizing how exploitative of trans people the medical system can be:

Medical professionals insinuated that my desirability and existence would not be validated until I ‘fully’ transitioned. According to them, I would no longer ‘feel trapped in the wrong body’ (which I never did in the first place)… Perhaps in a society more accepting of women with nonnormative bodies, I would not have needed surgery.

These are just some of the pieces in The Remedy that I enjoyed, and I’m sure whatever your tastes and experiences are will guide you to some of the other essays that I haven’t mentioned. Which means you’ll have to check out the book yourself! Let’s end with this beautiful affirming statement from local Vancouver poet Esther McPhee, which is also how the anthology ends:

Your body

hasn’t lost anything, is still a blazing

alchemy of heat and breath, still eager

to see every new sunset through your bedroom window

that patch of sky polished to a gleam.

Bonus! Did you enjoy this post or find it useful? Consider supporting me on the Patreon for Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian! Patreon is a site where creators of all sorts of things can make some money via subscription payments from their readers/etc. It can be as little as a dollar a month! Help me continue to be able to devote time to this site and you can win stuff like queer books and postcards with personalized book recommendations! Click on the link for more details and to sign up.

Posted in Amber Dawn, Anthology, asexual, Asian, Bisexual, Black, Canadian, disability, femme, Gay, Graphic, Indigenous, Lesbian, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Queer, Trans, Trans Feminine, Trans Masculine, Vancouver | 1 Comment

Interview with a Queer Reader: Kasey Keeley talks FALL ON YOUR KNEES Being Beautiful while Talking about Ugly Things, Genderqueer Books, and Looking for Stories about Trans People Who Aren’t Perpetual Works-in-Progress

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This is a portrait of Kasey riding a pegasus, courtesy of S. Knaus at https://cuovamesto.wordpress.com

Kasey Keeley is a fellow queer librarian (yay!) who semi-regularly gets a heads up about my blog because when people they know find it, it makes them think of Kasey. Kasey’s a queer, non-binary person who realized they were queer—or bisexual, at the time—in high school after falling in love with their best friend. (Aww, isn’t that a cute story that may have also happened to many of us…) They realized they were non-binary in their mid-20s after a few years of intense interest and amazement at the idea of non-binary options, realizing that the fact that the idea was resonating so deeply meant their brain was trying to tell them something! They started a blog Valprehension around the same time, while also processing trauma from a previous abusive relationship “*and* … just beginning to get really into feminism.” They’ve managed to keep the blog going and are still writing today. You should definitely check out Kasey’s blog: recently they’ve written some really cool personal essays about coming out as non-binary at work, and also have an ongoing series called “the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet,” where they tackle different transphobic and misinformed shit starting with each letter of the alphabet. You should also follow Kasey on on Tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook!

Here’s a look at Kasey’s reading habits, past and present. They talk about Ann-Marie MacDonald’s majestic and devastating first novel Fall on Your Knees, genderqueer books like Gender Failure, Lost Boi, and Genderqueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary, looking for books about trans people who aren’t always works-progress, what working at a public library does to your “to-read” list, 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?)

This… is a surprisingly difficult question. I don’t think I read any books with queer content before figuring out that I am queer, through a combination of not seeking it out, and also just not being exposed/having access to it. LGBTQ2IA+ books were even fewer and further between when I was younger than they are now, of course, but I was also raised Catholic, and my parents would scan through books to check for ‘inappropriate’ content, which pretty much meant anyone having sex, but also probably would have included and LGBTQ2IA+ content as well.

Fall-on-your-kneesAnyway, I think the first book I read with queer content was Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees, which to this day is one of my favourite books ever – I even took one of my middle names from the book when I changed my name! I definitely didn’t know it had lesbian characters before reading it and I have no idea why I picked it up in the first place (it seems likely that it was recommended by that best friend I fell for, but I don’t actually remember that being a thing so who knows?)

The first centrally ‘queer’ book I read (not long after Fall on Your Knees, really!) was Joey Comeau’s Lockpick Pornography, (which you can read for free on his web site!). To this day, this book is one of the most cathartic things I have ever read. It’s such a quick read that I can pick it up whenever I am just so sick and angry about anti-queer shit and need both to have my feelings reflected and expressed really bitingly, and find a way to laugh about it. Lockpick Pornography gives me both of those things and I love it so much for that!

I kind of love that both of these are also Canadian lit, to be honest!

What is/are your favourite LGBTQ2IA+ books, and why? (Choose up to five if you want!)

Oh gosh, so there’s the two I already mentioned above, for sure! Fall on Your Knees is my favourite for reasons largely unrelated to it’s LGBTQ2IA+ content (I am a sucker for writing that manages to be beautiful while talking about ugly things, and the content of Fall on Your Knees is very, very heavy and will break your heart in a thousand places!) and I actually already described why I love Lockpick Pornography, so let’s move on to some other faves.

genderqueerI think that Genderqueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary deserves to be on this list because when I first read it, it so strongly shook up my understanding of gender, in so many ways that resonated with me, that it was probably directly instrumental in my coming to understand myself as a non-binary person. I don’t think it would stand up as well if I revisited it now, but it will always have a special place in my heart anyway!

I also have to mention Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon’s Gender Failure. I saw the live show that the book was based on twice, and it made me cry both times. I love both Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote so much – two amazing queer  non-binary Canadians from underrepresented parts of the country (the prairies and the Yukon, respectively) who produce achingly beautiful art, and they got together to produce this book! It couldn’t have been anything other than amazing!

lost boiOk, just one more? Another book I read recently that I loved a lot is Lost Boi by Sassafras Lowrey. I love the way it throws you into a community where gender, sexual, and all kinds of other norms are just so alien from the mainstream, and you’re just expected to roll with it without a huge amount of context. That, and I am always a sucker for fairy tale adaptations, and the mapping of iconography from Peter Pan onto a hyper-queer, kinky, squatter commune is surprisingly perfect.

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

gender failureGender Failure, for sure! The book focuses on the experience of failing to fit into the binary, and examines both authors’ personal journeys toward non-binary identities, and so much of it either resonates with me, or provides me with role models for who and how I want to be in the world!

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

I think what I want most of all is more books that feature LGBTQ2IA+ characters without their LGBTQ2IA+-ness being necessarily central to the plot. I want books about people who are in happy healthy queer relationships that are about the struggles they face together in figuring out life in general, (y’know the same way cisgender, straight people do!)

I want stories about trans people who aren’t in the middle of their transition, because that story has been told to death and we need more examples of what comes ‘after’. I want trans people who aren’t portrayed as perpetual works-in-progress, really. I want us to just be allowed to be and exist in fiction as so many of us do in real life.

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

I mean, I work at a public library, and I look at hundreds of a books a day, so finding LGBTQ2IA+ books isn’t terribly hard for me. I am always checking out all of the new books we get in, and if they have LGBT2QIA+ content they inevitably end up on my “to-read” list (which grows much more quickly than I can read).

I definitely favour books that are written by LGBTQ2IA+ authors, because they are more likely to allow their LGBTQ2IA+ characters to be whole people who aren’t simply defined by that single characteristic that makes them ‘different’ from the norm.

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?

I used to be part of a book club (formed of my friends) that focused on books by LGBTQ2IA+ and/or POC authors, which was lovely! I also recently joined the LGBTQ book club at my local public library branch, but I haven’t been to a meeting yet, so it remains to be seen how that will go, but I am excited about having a new community of people who are likely to have similar interests in and struggles with LGBTQ2IA+ portrayals in books.

Thanks for sharing with us Kasey! It was great to e-meet another queer librarian!

Posted in Interview with a Queer Reader, Trans, Transgender | 3 Comments

Six More Canadian Trans Women Writers You Should Know

Back in January I published a list of Six Canadian Trans Women Writers You Should Know. To my utter delight, it was a super popular post and to date has been viewed on my blog over 1700 times! Of course, after the post went up, I was like, aw, damn, I forgot that person, and that person, and then a few readers wrote things like, hey, have you heard of this person? It became obvious that my first post was only part one, if unintentionally. So please enjoy below six more Canadian trans women writers you should know.

Trish Salah

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Trish Salah / image via yorku.ca

I honestly don’t know why Trish Salah wasn’t the first person I thought of when brainstorming my original list. She’s a foremother of Canadian trans and queer writing, having first published her stunning book of poetry Wanting in Arabic back in 2002; the book’s second edition in 2014 won the Lambda Award for Transgender Fiction (uh, despite the fact it’s not fiction). Wanting in Arabic is the kind of poetry that somehow manages to make the most clichéd poetic images—like roses and the immortal beloved—brand new. Her second book of poetry, Lyric Sexology Vol 1 was released in 2014. Her writing is often about gender, sexual, racial, and cultural identities, but it’s also about beauty, sex, language, mythology, and more. Check out the ground-breaking anthology Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics for more of Salah’s work. In addition to being a poet, Salah is an academic who studies trans literature (among other things) at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON.

Zoey Leigh Peterson

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Zoey Leigh Peterson / image via zoeyleighpeterson.com

Zoey Leigh Peterson is one author who I kind of can’t believe I haven’t heard of until now. Her first novel, true, only came out this year. But she’s also published fiction in The Walrus, EVENT, Grain, PRISM international, and had stories appear in the anthologies The Journey Prize Stories and Best Canadian Stories. Apparently she’s also a librarian in Vancouver! Where have I been?? Her debut novel, Next Year For Sure is about a long-term straight couple, Kathryn and Chris, who are the kind of people whose relationship others envy. Despite this, Kathryn and Chris have a shared loneliness that they can’t place. This leads them stumbling into polyamory, as Peterson tracks their relationship with incredible empathy, honesty, emotional realness, and plenty of generosity. I LOVED Next Year For Sure and recommend you all read it. If you’re a fan of Zoe Whittall, you’ll be interested to know she blurbed Peterson’s book, calling it “precise and patient … [and] absolutely impossible to put down.”

Morgan M Page

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Morgan M Page / image via theheroines.blogspot.ca

Morgan M Page is a multi-talented artist whose writing is only one mode of expression (she’s also an award-winning performance and video artist). At work on her first novel as we speak, Page has published work in Feministing, PrettyQueer.com, Plenitude, the anthologies Best Sex Writing of the Year and Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse and more. Her fiction and non-fiction are often centred on trans, sex work, and HIV issues. She’s particularly known for BRAZEN: Trans Women’s Safer Sex Guide, available from CATIE. I especially love this interview she did with Trish Salah and Casey Plett for CWILA. I have one of her chapbooks called The Black Cube which is a deliciously spooky SF short story full of trans inside jokes like “Asher could tell a Red Durkin from an Imogen Binnie, no problem.” You can now find that story in a science fiction anthology. I also LOVE Page’s podcast on trans history called One From the Vaults. It’s one of the only podcasts whose new episodes I eagerly wait for.

Bridget Liang  

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Bridget Liang / image via bridgetliang.wordpress.com / drawing by Laura Lake

I only recently came across Bridget Liang’s name for the first time when I heard ta was one of the Canadian contributors to Topside Press’s upcoming science fiction and fantasy anthology due out later this year. (I just got my ARC in the mail and it looks amazing!) I then realized Liang had a rad blog (linked above) and promptly spent a bunch of time reading about stuff like culturally specific pronouns—Liang uses they/them and ta/tade, which are gender-neutral Chinese pronouns—, fan fiction, and their identity journey in a piece called “Going From Fag to Hag: My Transition From Gay Boy to Trans Girl”. Originally from Hamilton, ON, Liang now lives and is a student in critical disability studies in Toronto. Ta is also involved with all sorts of other things, like community research, fan fic culture, workshop and group facilitation, and performance art, in addition to fiction and non-fiction writing. I can’t wait to read Liang’s story “Delicate Bodies” in the Topside Press anthology, and to see what else they get up to next!

Viviane Namaste

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Viviane Namaste / image via ledevoir.com

Like Trish Salah, Viviane Namaste is an academic whose work deserves a readership outside of the university context. In fact, her two most well-known books, Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People and Sex Change, Social Change: Reflections on Identity, Institutions, and Imperialism are both written in language that seems intentionally accessible for non-academic readers. Invisible Lives, in fact, is an antidote to people steeped in academic queer theory, with a focus on the material realities of trans people’s lives. Sex Change, Social Change is a fantastic introduction to trans politics in a Canadian/Québecois context, touching on health care, sex work, feminism, human rights, and more. As a professor at Concordia University in Montreal, Namaste’s work also often focuses on Francophone and Québecois perspectives. If you can read French, Namaste’s C’était du Spectacle!: L’histoire des Artistes Transsexuelles à Montréal, 1955-1985 is an intriguing historical study of trans Cabaret performers in Montreal.

Antonette Rea

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Antonette Rea / image via westender.com

How could I forget Antonette Rea, a Vancouver-based writer and performer whose work I was introduced to the 2012 queer issue of Poetry is Dead? In the essay “my tongue’s memory,” she talks about poetry as therapy and her writing as one of her most valuable possessions. You can also find her stuff in Geist, Megaphone, and V6A (an Arsenal Pulp Press anthology). Rea is also no stranger to the stage, having performed her work at the Vancouver Writer’s Festival, the V125 Poetry Conference, and most recently at Push Festival, where her show “Miss Understood” ran last year. She’s also a seasoned slam poet, experience you can taste in her incredible, funny poetry performances, like this video of a piece called “Laid to Rest.” Tackling topics like sex work, drug use, homelessness, disability, living in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, and being trans, one of her strategies is always humour. One of my favourite parts in “Laid to Rest” is when she says “the sex is free, it’s my charming personality and company that’s expensive.”

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Posted in Asian, Canadian, Fiction, Montreal, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Science Fiction, Sex Work, Short Stories, Trans, Trans Feminine, Transgender | 3 Comments