Rainbow Reading: April 7

Bite-sized reviews of the LGBTQ books I’ve read in the past week. All titles are linked to their Goodreads page.

Between March 31st and April 6th, I read:

cover images of TRANS NEW YORK, A DECEPTIVE ALLIANCE, RED HEIR, LITTLE PEOPLE BIG DREAMS: MEGAN RAPINOE, IN THE PROVINCE OF THE GODS, LADY RUTH CONSTANCE CHAPELSTONE AND THE CLOCKWORK SUITOR, and FROM ARCHIE TO ZACK, arranged in a grid

Trans New York by Peter Bussian (2020)
Genre: nonfiction/photography
Audience: adult
Queer rep: trans and nonbinary people
Thoughts: This book consists of photos and interviews with (if I counted correctly) fifty-one transgender New Yorkers, along with a trio of essays at the start. The essays were interesting; the interviews varied. They all consist of the same template, first providing name, hometown, current neighborhood, current age, age at transition, pronouns, career/job, and relationship status, followed by three open-ended questions: what was your path to transition like? What are interesting things about you / What makes you as a person unique? and What would you like people to know about yourself as a transgender person that might be very different from people’s ideas of trans people? Some of the photography subjects gave lengthy, thoughtful answers, while others were just a sentence or two. Each person is represented with just a single photo and I wanted more! Some of the photos are absolutely stunning. I enjoyed the way this book focused in on a geographical area and explored the diversity that can be found in a single city, but I wish the interviews had been less formulaic.

A Deceptive Alliance by Sydney Blackburn (2018)
Genre: fantasy/romance
Audience: adult
Queer rep: The MC and LI are gay
Thoughts: Kel and his twin sister Isabel often trade places; Kel enjoys the safety to flirt with handsome men while disguised as Isabel, who in turn enjoys the freedom of pretending to be Kel. It’s all in good fun until Isabel disappears before her proxy wedding to Prince Darin of Pervayne. Kel, worried about the treaty between their countries falling through, takes Isabel’s place. Their cousin, the crown prince, is aware of Kel’s deception, and promises to find Isabel and send her to take her rightful place before the Pervayne envoys cross the border with Kel. Kel doesn’t doubt it, but he’s starting to wonder if Isabel will arrive in time to keep him from falling in love with her husband-to-be’s servant…who might also be pretending to be someone else. This is a fun story with some Shakespearean levels of mistaken identity hijinks. There are some nice bits of worldbuilding and overall, it’s a nice light story.

Red Heir by Lisa Henry and Sarah Honey (2020)
Genre: fantasy/romance
Audience: adult
Queer rep: The MC is bi, the LI is gay, multiple queer secondary characters
Thoughts: Ne’er-do-well Loth finds himself in a jail cell after pickpocketing the wrong person (the guard captain’s wife, whoops). Before he can spend too much time reconsidering his choices, an elf, a dwarf, an orc, and a human burst through the cell wall intent on rescuing the lost prince of Aguilon. All they know is the prince has red hair, and Loth is just as happy to take the rescue. Then his cellmate, Grub, claims to be the prince as well. The rescuers grab both and figure they can sort it all out later, when the prince is delivered to the man paying for his rescue – a mysterious Ser Factor. As Loth dodges bandits, swamp monsters, and the truth, all while doing his best impression of royalty, he realizes several things: the rescue is a farce; and pretending to be the prince is a bad idea when they keep running into people who want him dead; and Grub is quite attractive under the grime and the bad attitude. I chuckled my way through this; it’s a fun and funny story with some heart hiding underneath.

Little People, Big Dreams: Megan Rapinoe by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illustrated by Paulina Mordan (2021)
Genre: nonfiction/picture book
Audience: juvenile
Queer rep: Rapinoe is gay
Thoughts: This picture book biography series is a popular one at my library and I am a big soccer fan so when the Megan Rapinoe volume came back I had to peruse it. It’s a quick story, starting with Megan’s childhood and her discovery of soccer, through her coming out and winning an Olympic gold medal and the World Cup with the US Women’s National Team. It includes some extra facts and a timeline with photos at the end. I liked the way this was written and I think it would be a great readaloud for kids. I have Megan’s memoir on my TBR and after reading this picture book I think I’ll bump that up the list!

In the Province of the Gods by Kenny Fries (2017)
Genre: nonfiction/memoir
Audience: adult
Queer rep: Fries is gay
Thoughts: Fries always felt like an outsider in the US, as a gay, disabled, Jewish man. When he gets a grant to travel to Japan and explore Japanese perspectives on disability, he finds his foreignness, the fact of being gaijin, is what draws attention, rather than his disability (Fries was born with missing bones in his lower legs and as a result is of short stature, wears specially-made shoes, and uses a cane). In his explorations of Japan, he meets artists, disability scholars, and A-bomb survivors; he learns about disabled gods, one-eyed samurai, and the old tradition of blind itinerant priests. But his theories, assumptions, and self-discovery are shaken when he’s diagnosed with HIV. This is an interesting memoir and I was quite captivated by it initially, but I felt the language and themes got a bit repetitive as it went on.

Lady Ruth Constance Chapelstone and the Clockwork Suitor by L.C. Mawson (2018)
Genre: steampunk/novella
Audience: adult
Queer rep: The MC is on the ace-spectrum; two secondary characters are bi and one is gay
Thoughts: Lady Ruth is an inventor, constrained by the era’s restrictions on noblewomen. Proper ladies don’t spend all their time immersed in gears and clockwork, but with the aid of her uncle, she’s able to pursue her passion; he markets her inventions as the creations of “The Owl”, so nicknamed for being shy, reclusive, and nocturnal. Everyone is interested in Britain’s Greatest Inventor, though, and the lovely Lady Ruth is also in demand, despite her lack of interest in men or romance in general. Ruth thinks she can solve both problems by building a mechanical man – one who can pose as both the Owl and her suitor – but Mech might just cause as many problems as he solves. This novella had a fun premise and I’m always here for ace-spec rep (Ruth is also autistic) but I thought it fell a little flat. There is a lot of promise, though, and I’m tempted to give the next entry in the series a try.

From Archie to Zack by Vincent X. Kirsch (2020)
Genre: picture book
Audience: juvenile
Queer rep: The titular Archie and Zack are in love
Thoughts: Archie and Zack are best friends, and everyone knows they’re in love, but the boys haven’t admitted their crushes to each other. As they spend their days together – walking to and from school together, sitting together in class, riding bikes, practicing for marching band – Archie thinks about how he feels and what he wants to say. He writes Zack notes, addressing them “to Z. from A.” but gets too shy to deliver them, instead hiding them. Each note is found by a different Z-initialed classmate – but they know who they’re really for. This is a simple, cute story about first crushes.

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