Our staff members share newer fiction and nonfiction ideas from authors who explore love, identity, family, bodies, history, magic, and more. You could also check out the announced 2018 Lambda Literary Award or Stonewall Book Award winners, including Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties, Emil Ferris’ My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective.
Children’s Services Staff Picks: Picture Books
Emily C’s Staff Pick
Jessica Love’s Julián is a Mermaid is lushly illustrated story of a young boy and his abuela riding home from the swimming pool. Julián sees some mermaids on the subway and knows, on the spot, that he is a mermaid, too. So many of the stories out now about boys dressing in non-gender-conforming ways feature conflict, bullying, and shame — this one stands out as a having only acceptance (and mild annoyance at some defaced greenery). My children love this story of affirmation and pride, and they especially love the parade at the end with a dizzying number of sea creatures proudly marching together, reminiscent of Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade. The story is especially sweet to read to my two-and-a-half-year-old son, who has recently discovered the joys of wearing dresses and some of the pushback from others that entails.
Teen Services Staff Picks: Fiction
Rarely does a book surprise me, and even more rarely does the surprise cause me to feel relief, joy, and sadness simultaneously. Far From the Tree by Robin Benway is my pick for June not only because it is an expertly woven tale of love and loss that will be sure to touch your heart, but also because it portrays ever expanding families that embrace and support their children without question.
Books that portray LGBTQ youth in the same light as their counterparts were like rainbow unicorns when I was growing up: fervently sought but never seen. Far From the Tree is a book that I would have coveted in my youth and that I will share with teens for years to come.
“Just when you think you’re having a scene without Simon, he drops in to remind you that everyone else is a supporting character in his catastrophe.”
My choice is a little older title, from 2015, Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell. It reads much like a fanfiction of the Harry Potter series, and is equally fun. This love/hate romantic LGBTQ++ novel takes us from castles and magic to vampires and the Insidious Humdrum, the threat to the entire magical world in Simon Snow and Tyrannus Basilton “Baz” Grimm-Pitch live and breathe.
You will not be able to put this book down, and if you do manage to, you will be compelled to think about it every waking moment until you come to the last wonderful pages.
The two most recent LGBTQ+ titles I’ve read and really enjoyed are People Like Us by Dana Mele and We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. People Like Us has everything I need in a book — boarding school, unreliable narrator, and tons of murder. It is not an issues book and was never classified as LGBTQ+; as my favorite YA blog stated in their review: “In People Like Us, Mele creates this magical world in which just about everyone is a little gay. This wasn’t a coming out story, or a story about teens who are bullied for being LGTBQ+, it was just a world in which bisexuality was totally normalized, and that was refreshing” (Forever Young Adult, April 2018).
“I could say the night felt magical, but that would be embellishment.
That would be romanticization.
What it actually felt like was life.” -Nina LaCour
We Are Okay is a slim, heartbreaking novel about a young California woman’s lonely first year in college in Upstate New York. While the present tense chapters move the narration forward, the past tense chapters tell a story in reverse, revealing the reasons behind Marin’s self-chosen isolation on the East Coast. Spare but loaded with beautiful human detail, I would recommend this book to anyone who is heading off the college for the first time, anyone who’s been there, and anyone dealing with the aftermath of either first love or profound loss. Yes, LaCour accomplishes that much in 234 pages.
Adult Services Staff Picks: Nonfiction, Film, and Fiction
Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation is a new nonfiction title that chronicles the Up Stairs Lounge Fire in New Orleans in 1973 and its aftermath. This devastating fire snuffed out the lives of 32 souls, the largest mass murder of gays in the United States until the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016. Many of the victims were not even claimed by their families, and gay communities across the States, including Maine’s, raised funds for burial services.
Tinderbox is getting fantastic reviews and the author, Robert W. Fieseler, is one of the Auditorium Speakers at this year’s American Library Association Annual Conference. I cannot wait to get my hands on this important work of gay history.
For more nonfiction ideas from our adult collection, check out our library booklist LGBTQ+ Nonfiction.
Xavier Dolan’s third feature film, Laurence Anyways, focuses attentively on the relationship between two individuals, Fred and Laurence, as Laurence becomes open about her female gender identity and begins her transition. It’s an epic story that takes place over the course of a decade in 90’s Montreal. How Laurence’s transition is experienced and dealt with both individually and collectively with Fred, her girlfriend, provides the powerful, nuanced, and deeply-felt heart of this film. Dolan presents a view of the prejudices and injustices experienced by transgender people within a highly relatable story about the way challenges are handled and confronted between people in romantic relationships. Beyond the appeal of Fred and Laurence’s story, I would recommend this movie because of the setting. Montreal, especially in the summer, is a dream and I love the way the city is highlighted in many of Dolan’s longer takes.
Journalist and activist Darnell L. Moore shares his story in the new memoir No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America. As Moore observes in the introduction: “Black queer, transgender, and gender nonconforming people in America are bearers of narratives of struggle and triumph…our stories, like our lives, are complex, bountiful, profound, disappointing, hopeful, varied, and often disregarded. We have always been here…And we birth freedom, but many of us are still denied our rightful place in the master narratives of Black history and American life. Even in these progressive, Afro-futuristic-oriented times, our life stories and contributions are still refused. And that is why we must tell as many of our stories as we can. No Ashes in the Fire is mine.”
Body Music by Julie Maroh is a recent graphic novel in our adult collection that explores the stories of lows and highs of love and passion through different characters and their relationships. With vivid, moving illustrations.
One of many highlights of fantasy author JY Yang’s Tensorate series is the memorable new silkpunk world they’ve built for readers. In Ea, immense dragon-like naga are born in fields of low gravity, characters practice slackcraft (manipulation of a magical field called the Slack) and ride velociraptors, and as children and young adults they choose gender identities if, when, and as they wish. In Yang’s first two novellas we follow the hardships and adventures of twins, Akeha and Mokoyo, who are born to a ruthless leader. While The Black Tides of Heaven builds a world and gives us characters to root for, The Red Threads of Fortune shades in the dimensions of that world and its characters, showing us what deep changes might come out of loss. I’m looking forward to the next volume in their series, The Descent of Monsters, out in July 2018.
For more newer fiction ideas from our adult collection, check out the library booklist Recent Fiction: LGBTQ+ Pride.
Eileen M’s Pick
I picked up the novel This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel not because of its plot, because I didn’t bother to see what it was about. Nor did a friend suggest it. No, the author’s name wasn’t familiar either. Call me shallow; I picked it up because of the promotional quote on the cover: “It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think.” I do all three of those things all the time, I thought. This book is for me.
And in I fell.
The characters are appealing; I enjoyed time spent mired in their confusing lives. I loved their sprawling doubt and their heart-anchored goodness. The story is told in the exact opposite of a vacuum; it is told in the midst of myriad competing reactions, viewpoints and contexts. It is a story of many parts, just like life. By the last pages of Frankel’s surprising story of transgender child Poppy and her loud, loving family, every character is still transitioning in their own way, works in progress all.
In real life we can’t see from every direction, so maybe fiction is the best vehicle for whatever truth is out there, our best chance to understand and to be understood. Perhaps it is unfair to wonder, as I often do, if a novel—by definition fiction— has its facts straight. Does this story ring true? Can I trust how it makes me feel? Is it honest? Can it be counted on?
Laurie Frankel’s novel felt trustworthy even before I read the Author’s Note:
“It’s true that my child used to be a little boy and is now a little girl. But this isn’t her story; I can only tell my own story and those of the people I made up.”
Frankel closes her Note with two lines that speak achingly of how things are and how they could be: “I know this book will be controversial, but honestly? I keep forgetting why.”
As always, thanks for reading! If you’re looking for more reading (or watching or listening) ideas, contact our trusty library staff at firstname.lastname@example.org: , by Elizabeth Hartsig