Bite-sized reviews of the LGBTQ books I’ve read in the past week. All titles are linked to their Goodreads page.
Between June 12th and 18th, I read:
Cucumber Quest, Vol. 4: The Flower Kingdom by Gigi D.G. (2018)
Genre: fantasy/graphic novel
Audience: all ages
Queer rep: A sapphic character and developing f/f romance; I believe one of the secondary characters in this volume is trans
Thoughts: The 4th volume in the ongoing Cucumber Quest series, which follows the misadventures of the unlikely and unwilling Chosen One Cucumber, his sister, and their allies as they try to gather the necessary tools to defeat the Nightmare Knight. I read the first three back in July, and enjoyed them; the storyline in this volume wasn’t quite linear and got a little confusing as there was some memory-erasing going on. The art style is very engaging and I like the way D.G. balances the two threads of the story: the traditional fantasy quest, and the subversive, humorous lampooning of it.
Point of Dreams by Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett (2001) and Fairs’ Point by Melissa Scott (2014)
Queer rep: One MC is gay, the other is bi; multiple secondary/minor queer characters
Thoughts: The third and fourth books in the Astreiant series, and the end of my re-read of said series; I’m now caught up to the newest book, which sparked my desire to go back to the beginning. I enjoyed these a lot and they both held up well to a re-read, which can be tricky with mystery plots – clues that go unnoticed initially can stand out glaringly once you know they’re there. The world-building gets deeper and deeper with each book and the political intrigue takes on new notes, especially in Fairs’ Point, where Rathe’s investigation is hampered by jurisdiction disputes and the potential creation of a new force that may impinge on the points’ authority.
The Bride Was a Boy by Chii (2018)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: Chii is a trans woman
Thoughts: A very interesting manga memoir by a Japanese trans woman. The story follows Chii through her transition until her wedding, and is told very engagingly. Each chapter ends with a little explainer of a particular LGBTQ term, issue, or law, and also has a featured question Chii gets a lot with her response. Aside from the story itself being charming, I liked that I also got a bit of an education about LGBTQ issues in Japan. Something I hadn’t thought about, for instance, is that legal transition is possible, but same-sex marriage is not. The laws surrounding legal transition then state that one cannot be married and transition, because that would result in a same-sex union. So any married trans people, even those whose spouses want to remain with them post-transition, must get divorced in order to legally change their gender. Talk about a rock and a hard place!
Two Boys Kissing by David Leviathan (2013)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: Multiple gay characters, including a trans boy
Thoughts: A YA classic that I’d somehow never read. This was a lot more intense than I was expecting. I was thinking it would be a typically light YA fiction/romance, but it was actually very deep and layered. The book is narrated, Greek Chorus-style, by a collection of men who died of AIDS. They watch the world but cannot interact with it, and they relay the stories of seven gay teenagers over a two-day period: two who are trying to break the Guinness World Record for longest kiss, despite being exes; an established couple; a newly-met pair; and a lonely one who cannot find the love he’s looking for. It’s a short book, right about 200 pages, but it took me several hours to read because the prose is so arresting. I had to stop a few times to write down quotes I particularly liked. The author’s note at the end is definitely worth reading as well.
Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver (2016)
Queer rep: everyone is queer; main characters’ identities include gay, lesbian, asexual, trans, and polyamorous
Thoughts: I have heard so many rave reviews of this book, but it ultimately wasn’t for me. I was interested in the world-building: Parole is cut off from the outside world, patrolled by a paramilitary force, Eyes in the Sky, and is plagued by fires that cannot be extinguished. The story starts with the city in apocalyptic conditions and then rewinds to show how it got there. I was interested at first but I just ran out of steam. There were a lot of characters and they sort of blended together after a while, and the dialog seemed to get repetitive. By the 70% mark I was deeply unsure if I actually cared enough to finish the book, and in the end I only skimmed the final 30%. It doesn’t really reach a satisfying conclusion, either, leaving everything up in the air and setting up the second volume. Unfortunately, I won’t be seeking that one out.
Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity by Micah Rajunov and Scott Duane (eds.) (2019)
Queer rep: all authors are queer with various trans and nonbinary identities
Thoughts: This was a fascinating anthology by people who live outside the gender binary. The essays were grouped into five parts: What Is Gender?; Visibility: Standing Up and Standing Out; Community: Creating a Place for the Rest of Us; Trans Enough: Representation and Differentiation; and Redefining Dualities: Paradoxes and Possibilities of Gender. All were autobiographical, but all also looked to tie personal experiences into a broader framework: society, transition, gender theory, intersectionality, etc. Every single essay was engaging and it was great to see such a wide cross-section of nonbinary and gender non-conforming voices, especially given the dominant narrative that nonbinary = white, AFAB teenagers. Highly recommended and as a bonus there is a good list of additional reading and resources at the end of the anthology.
Seven Tears at High Tide by C.B. Lee (2015)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: The MC is bisexual with a same-sex love interest; multiple gay/bi/lesbian minor/secondary characters
Thoughts: A lovely fantasy novel inspired by selkie mythology. Lee is one of my favorite queer YA authors and while I wait for my hold on her newest – Not Your Backup – to arrive, I picked up her debut novel. It’s about a lonely boy who has his wish for a summer filled with happiness and love fulfilled by the Sea via a curious selkie boy who comes ashore. Morgan is fascinated by the human world, but while he works to fulfill Kevin’s wish the knowledge that at the end of the summer he must return to the Sea hangs over him. The human world holds dangers for selkies, but Morgan is finding it holds wonders as well. This is a very sweet, very well-written story that I enjoyed tremendously.