Bite-sized reviews of the LGBTQ books I’ve read in the past week. All titles are linked to their Goodreads page.
Between September 9th and 15th, I read:
The Shadow of Kyoshi by F.C. Lee (2020)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: The MC is bi, f/f relationship, several secondary queer characters
Thoughts: Set in the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender, this is the second of two novels telling the story of Kyoshi, the longest-lived Avatar in history and one with a conflicting mythology. In this volume, Kyoshi’s identity as the Avatar has been revealed and confirmed, and she’s struggling to live up to the role: how can she be the world’s most respected figure, the mediator between humanity and the spirit world, with her past as a bandit and the repercussions of the way she was named Avatar? I liked how this didn’t only continue to develop Kyoshi’s mythology but also gave us a look at some of her previous incarnations and explored how delicate a balance it is the Avatars are tasked with keeping between the mortal and spirit worlds, and between the Four Nations.
Peacemaker by E.M. Hamill (2020)
Queer rep: The MC is genderfluid and bi/pansexual; a number of secondary characters are genderfluid, intersex, or gay/bi/lesbian
Thoughts: The sequel to Dalí, this continues the adventures of the titular Dalí Tamareia, a third-gender ambassador-turned-spy, who is pulled from the field and returned to their former life as an ambassador when they are specifically requested for a delicate negotiation. The stakes are high, secrets are everywhere, and not everyone wants Dalí to complete the negotiations. I liked the way this continued some major threads from the first book while still managing to be its own complete story, and there is a twist at the end that I did not at all see coming and which really nicely sets up the forthcoming third book.
Snapdragon by Kat Leyh (2020)
Genre: fantasy/graphic novel
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: Trans secondary character, lesbian secondary character, bi secondary character, f/f relationship
Thoughts: Oh my gosh this was the most delightful thing I’ve read in ages. Snapdragon (named after her mother’s favorite flower) is a loner; the other kids think she’d weird. Not at the same level as Jacks, a strange old lady who lives in the woods and collects roadkill, who rumor says is a witch, but still – weird. Snap doesn’t believe in magic and she’s not afraid of Jacks, so when she finds a litter of orphaned opossums, she makes a deal: she’ll help Jacks with her work and Jacks will teach Snap how to care for the opossums. As the two develop a routine and a friendship, Snaps realizes Jacks might have real magic…as well as a connection to Snap’s family. Snap and Jacks are both wonderful characters, as is her new friend Lulu and her mother Vi. They all have their own stories and they all weave together beautifully, the art is lovely, and overall this is a really heartwarming story about all different kinds of friendships and relationships with some great fantasy touches.
The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians by Kate Fagan (2014)
Queer rep: Fagan is lesbian; several secondary bi and lesbian individuals
Thoughts: In this memoir, sports journalist and former ESPN columnist Kate Fagan reflects on coming of age and coming out while playing college basketball at the University of Colorado in the early 2000s. At the time, women’s sports were really trying to portray themselves as bastions of heterosexuality, and having out players or coaches was not common and even a big threat to recruiting prospective student athletes to a particular school. Kate hadn’t yet consciously realized her own sexuality, and doing so in the high-pressure world of college sports wasn’t easy…especially since the core of her basketball team, including her best friend, were committed members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and vocal in their belief that homosexuality is a sin. An engaging memoir about discovering and living one’s truth.
Sword in the Stars by Amy Rose Capetta and Cory McCarthy (2020)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: Pretty much the entire ensemble main cast is queer, including gay, bi, lesbian, ace, trans and nonbinary identities
Thoughts: The conclusion to the Once & Future duology, a super-queer King Arthur retelling in space. Arthur has been reincarnated again and again as Merlin has tried and failed (and failed…and failed) to successfully complete the story and end the cycle. Ari is the 42nd incarnation and she’s Merlin’s last chance to get things right; the wizard is cursed to age backward and pretty soon will be too young to affect anything. Ari, Merlin, and their band of knights have to travel back to the Middle Ages to get the Grail, the key to defeating the Big Bad in their own time. But the past might be more dangerous than the future, as they’ll have to come face-to-face with the original legend without changing its course. Can they keep history on track, get the grail, end the cycle, and save the universe…and themselves? I enjoyed this duology a lot; it’s got a little of everything: great characterization, a fun twist of a retelling, adventure, magic, spaceships, and even a dragon or two.
The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos (2019)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: The LI is trans; secondary lesbian characters and f/f romance
Thoughts: Ruby knows her family’s story: the Chernyavsky women possessed great magic, until they were forced to flee Russia for America to escape the fearful men who wanted to destroy them. Now, the Chernyavsky women have only a slight vestige of power; when they come of age, they have a vision of who they will be when they die, a glimpse into the inevitable and immutable future. Then Ruby’s great-aunt Polina dies, and- for the first time in family history – her death doesn’t match her vision. Can Ruby and her cousin Cece change their futures too? As they dig into the family history, they discover dark secrets and learn that nothing comes without a cost, and this one might be too steep to pay. This is a beautiful book full of family, folklore, power (magical and mundane), and hope. The ending leaves rather a lot up in the air, but the author does have plans for a sequel so I will try to patiently await the further adventures of Ruby and co.