Bite-sized reviews of the LGBTQ books I’ve read in the past week. All titles are linked to their Goodreads page.
Between August 15th and 21st, I read:
Lumberjanes, Vol. 9: On a Roll by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Brooklyn Allen, et al. (2018)
Genre: fantasy/graphic novel
Audience: all ages
Queer rep: Two of the Lumberjanes are in a same-sex relationship, one is trans, and one is nonbinary (they/them pronouns)
Thoughts: This issue didn’t grab me as much as the previous ones did. I think because this was more of a standalone plot; the Yetis (who I’d forgotten about) had their treehouse taken over by some Sasquatches; the Lumberjanes decide to win back the treehouse by beating the Sasquatches in a roller derby tournament. There wasn’t much about the ongoing backstory of the camp or the Lumberjanes themselves and Barney was barely featured. It’s still a good comic, but this particular volume was a little flat for me.
Fence, Vol. 1 by C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad (2018)
Genre: fiction/sports/graphic novel
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: Quite a few characters are gay or bi and one is gender nonconforming
Thoughts: I’ve heard so much raving about Fence and I was happy to see the first trade paperback was out! I liked it as I was reading it, but it ended very abruptly – it’s not at all a complete story arc. So I read the next four issues as single issues through Hoopla and… I didn’t like those as much. It seemed like a lot of filler. I’ve only read through issue 8 and I believe issue 9 is the one that wraps up the story arc of qualifying for the fencing team, so I’m hoping it will rekindle my enthusiasm for this series. I will say I like the art a lot and I like how casual all the queerness is and that there’s zero homophobia. I’ll keep reading it.
Crossing Lines by Paul Volponi (2011)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: An important secondary character is trans
Thoughts: I was a bit leery of this going in, due to both the premise (MC is a football player, new kid is queer, football team bullies the queer kid, what will the MC do?) and the publication date. 2011 is not that long ago in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a very long time ago in terms of writing respectfully about trans characters. And indeed, there’s a lot of conflation of cross-dressing and being transgender and of being gay and being a cross-dresser and all of that sort of thing. This was a very stereotypical book; the jocks are bullies, the queer kid joins the Fashion Club and becomes the “gay best friend” of the girls, the military dad is a homophobe, etc. There are also a ton of slurs used by a ton of characters. It’s also fairly preachy. It was OK, but not more than that.
Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man by Thomas Page McBee (2018)
Queer rep: McBee is trans
Thoughts: This was short but sweet. McBee writes about training to box in a charity match at Madison Square Garden at the same time that a series of events have made him question the relationship between masculinity and violence. McBee has an engaging voice and I liked how this smoothly went back and forth between memoir and placing everything in a historical or sociocultural context (gender stereotypes, traditional masculinity, what effect testosterone really has on aggression). This is McBee’s second memoir and I plan to pick up the first.
Death by Silver (2013) and A Death at the Dionysus Club (2014) by Melissa Scott & Amy Griswold
Genre: historical fantasy/mystery
Queer rep: The two MCs are gay, as are quite a few secondary and minor characters
Thoughts: I liked this duology a lot and would read more if Scott and Griswold write them. Set in an alternate Victorian London where magic (called metaphysics) thrives, a metaphysician (Ned) and a private detective (Julian) get caught up in a murder case. I enjoyed the world-building a lot and thought the mysteries were compelling and not too obvious (although I figured out the culprit in Death by Silver easily, I didn’t untangle all of the motivations and methods). There is a romantic element as well as Ned and Julian rekindle an old school relationship, but that plot is secondary to the main one. This is mostly magic and mystery with the romance as a subplot and everything is fade-to-black. Very enjoyable.
The Less than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal: Omnibus by E.K. Weaver (2015)
Genre: fiction/graphic novel
Queer rep: Amal is gay; TJ implies that he’s pansexual
Thoughts: I liked this a lot. It’s very character-driven; TJ and Amal are strangers who both need to leave California in a relative hurry; they embark on a cross-country road trip and slowly get to know each other. I liked the art and the little unpolished sketches at the end of each chapter. I wasn’t wild about all the drugs and alcohol, but I guess having them smoke a lot of pot was a good way to lower inhibitions and get them to talk to each other, allowing for more character development. Overall I liked this a lot and the ending made me happy.
The Remaking of Corbin Wale by Roan Parrish (2017)
Genre: magical realism/romance
Queer rep: The two MCs are gay, as is a secondary character
Thoughts: I’ve heard a lot of good things about this and it just about lived up to the hype. The first chapter seems fairly standard contemporary romance fare, but after that it gets interesting. The writing, particularly when in Corbin’s POV, is lyrical and Corbin’s POV in general is absorbing. I went back and forth between thinking the magical realism elements were real and thinking Corbin just has a very good imagination and some odd coping methods. Either way you read it, it’s worth reading.
Nightvine by Felicia Davin (2018)
Queer rep: The MCs are two queer women (one bi, the other unclear if bi or lesbian) and a genderqueer bi man; numerous gay/bi/lesbian/trans secondary & minor characters
Thoughts: This is book two of the Gardener’s Hand trilogy. I read book one a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it and I don’t know why I waited this long to keep reading the series. I liked this installment even more. The stakes are raised, the world-building is strengthened, and we’re introduced to a third main character, Thiyo, who is delightfully snarky. This one ends on a cliffhanger so I immediately started the third book and so far so good!