Bite-sized reviews of the LGBTQ books I’ve read in the past week. All titles are linked to their Goodreads page.
Between April 7th and 13th, I read:
Stray by Nancy J. Hedin (2019)
Audience: new adult
Queer rep: The MC is lesbian, a few secondary gay and lesbian characters
Thoughts: This is the sequel to Bend, which I read back in 2018 and found to be uneven – starting off as the coming-of-age story of a lonely queer girl in a small religious Southern town, but then turning into a very extreme family drama. This second book in the series has the same odd blend of slice-of-life mixed with drama turned up to 11. On the slice-of-life side, we have Lorraine, who is now in her early twenties, putting off vet school to care for her young nephew, a decision that is driving a wedge between her and her girlfriend, Charity; on the drama-turned-up-to-11 side, we have Lorraine’s new friend, Ricky, beaten into a coma in a hate crime, a pregnant teenage foster child, a mysterious hate-mongering political group, and a shooting. So yes, there is a lot going on. Parts of it left me exasperated but overall it was an entertaining read. The third book in the series, Rise, came out recently and I’ll admit I’m curious to see how Lorraine’s story wraps up.
Summer of the Cicadas by Chelsea Catherine (2020)
Queer rep: The MC is lesbian
Thoughts: This is a strange, horror-esque story about disgraced former cop Jessica, who is still reeling from the deaths of her parents and sister in a car crash two years earlier, being deputized back to the force as the town enters a state of emergency. A seventeen-year cicada brood has emerged, but these cicadas are uncanny: much larger than normal, prone to swarming and biting the townspeople, and leaving dead and rotting crops and trees in their wake. As Jessica battles to keep the town safe, she also has to confront the two-year anniversary of the crash and her feelings for her sister’s best friend, Natasha, a town council member. I am generally quite sanguine about insects, but this book still managed to creep me out. It’s very atmospheric. It wasn’t my usual type of read and I was left feeling like I was not the right audience for it, but I can appreciate the craft of it.
Singled Out: The True Story of Glenn Burke by Andrew Maraniss (2021)
Audience: young adult/adult
Queer rep: Burke was gay
Thoughts: After reading the middle grade novel A High Five for Glenn Burke over the summer and learning about the first openly gay Major League Baseball player (and inventor of the high five), how could I resist picking up this new biography about Burke? His career was cut short by homophobia, and his life was cut short by addiction and AIDS, but despite enduring disappointments and tragedies, Burke was a resilient man always looking to make others laugh. I really liked the writing style; Maraniss does a great job conveying the highs and lows of Burke’s life, as well as seamlessly weaving in all the necessary context. It’s also packed with black-and-white photos that help bring Burke’s story to life. I highly recommend this to any sports fan, as well as anyone interested in learning about a lesser-known LGBTQ trailblazer.
Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction by Joshua Whitehead (ed.) (2020)
Genre: sci-fi/fantasy/short stories
Queer rep: Varies by story but most of the LGBTQ+ spectrum is represented
Thoughts: This anthology contains nine speculative fiction stories by and about queer Indigenous people, and I greatly enjoyed all nine of them. This book is a continuation of the project started with Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi Anthology, which was another anthology I enjoyed tremendously. This volume had some repeating themes, such as climate change and caring for versus fleeing a dying Earth, and memory, both individual and cultural, and how it entwines with storytelling, but each story had a unique take and a unique voice. Sometimes in anthologies the stories blend together after a while, but all nine of these remained clear and distinct.
Super Late Bloomer (2018) and My Life in Transition (2021) by Julia Kaye
Genre: autobiographical comics
Queer rep: Kaye is transgender
Thoughts: I’d read Super Late Bloomer previously and really enjoyed the relatable, slice-of-life look at Kaye’s early days in transition, after confronting her gender identity in her twenties. I enjoyed them just as much on the second reading; I like the art style and the short, to-the-point three panel layout. A lot of them are slice-of-life rather than necessarily having a punchline, although some of them are quite funny. I reread this in anticipation of My Life in Transition, which contains six months of daily diary-style comics chronicling what happens after the early days of transition: after HRT has had its major effects, after social circles have adjusted, after dysphoria has eased and life becomes less focused on gender and more on everything else. I liked it, but not quite as much as Super Late Bloomer, mainly because there was a much bigger cast in this volume and I had a bit of trouble keeping track of who was who.