Bite-sized reviews of the LGBTQ books I’ve read in the past week. All titles are linked to their Goodreads page.
Between January 6th and 12th, I read:
In Full Velvet by Jenny Johnson (2017)
Queer rep: LGBTQ themes
Thoughts: This is a very slim volume, measuring only 68 pages, but it took me a while to get through it. I still haven’t developed a vocabulary for talking about poetry, but this felt more technical than the poetry I usually read, more focused on form and style. There is some beautiful, evocative language in places, but I didn’t really click with the book overall. It’s very well reviewed, though, especially by people who know more about poetry than I do!
Handsome by Holly Lorka (2020)
Queer rep: Lorka variously describes herself as lesbian and trans-y
Thoughts: This memoir-in-essays is subtitled “stories of an awkward girl boy human” which right away shows Lorka’s sense of humor and also foreshadows the gender themes throughout. With the exception of one or two serious stories about Lorka’s nursing career, this is funny from start to finish, with Lorka not shying away from putting a humorous spin on her misunderstandings and misadventures growing up in the 70s as a “horny little kid [with] no idea why God had put her in the wrong body and made her want to kiss girls”. I enjoyed this memoir a lot and immediately checked to see if Lorka has written anything else, but alas – this is her only published work so far.
The Longest Night by EE Ottoman (2020)
Genre: historical fiction/romance/novella
Queer rep: The MC and LI are both gay trans men
Thoughts: This is a sweet, short novella that unfortunately was desperately in need of some more copyediting. As the child of a proofreader, I’m cursed to find missing punctuation, duplicated words, and homophone errors unbearably distracting; your mileage may vary. The story is set in 1904 New York, where Richard and Tobias have enjoyed an intimate correspondence for six years after Richard replied to Tobias’s newspaper ad seeking a penpal. The two have become close friends, but they’ve never met in person. Richard has been too busy with his job as the maitre d’ of an upscale New York City hotel to travel upstate, and he’s also afraid that meeting in person will damage the magic of their easy friendship. But when Richard is abruptly left jobless just before Christmas, Tobias offers to put him up over the holidays (and perhaps longer…) It’s a sweet, cozy winter story, and I really wish I could have enjoyed it more! If it’s re-edited I would read it again for sure.
Queer Folk Tales by Kevin Walker (2020)
Genre: fantasy/short stories
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: Varies by story; mostly gay and lesbian; one trans woman; some gender nonconformity
Thoughts: This is a collection of stories, mostly (but not entirely) retellings and re-imaginings of traditional folk and fairy tales with various LGBTQ twists: Mr Wolf is dating one of the three little pigs, Prince Charming ends up wearing the gown made by the fairy godmother, etc. Each story includes a brief introduction including if it’s adapted or an original story and sometimes a connection to Walker’s life or what inspired him. What I thought was especially interesting is that Walker is a storyteller and this collection grew out of one of his storytelling shows. So some of the stories were first developed for an oral/performance medium and then were transferred into a written medium. Seeing how they made the transition to the page was interesting, and I’m going to have to check and see if I can find a recording of a performance because I’d love to see the differences.
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