liliesofthebowery   ifnotwinter   underthelights

AfterEllen posted 5 Lesbian and Bi YA Titles We’re Excited About This Year.

CBC Diversity posted Heather Has Two Mommies: A Pretty Typical Family.

Malinda Lo posted ASH in Korean, and other thoughts on Cinderella and I’m on Sara Zarr’s This Creative Life Podcast (and other news).

Sarah Waters‘s Fingersmith thetrical adaptation was reviewed at Bohemian and Herald and News.

“Girl, Interrupted: Who Was Sappho?” was posted at The New Yorker.

Women and Words posted 2015 Lone Star Lesfic Festival in Austin Texas.

This post, and all posts at the Lesbrary, have the covers linked to their Amazon pages. If you click through and buy something, I might get a small referral fee. For even  more links, check out the Lesbrary’s twitterWe’re also on FacebookGoodreadsYoutube and Tumblr.

When asking a reader why they spend so much time reading, the most common response seem to be some version of “to escape”: to entertain themselves, to distract themselves, and to immerse themselves in a life that isn’t their own. And although that’s not the primary reason that I would give for reading, it seems to be the most popular one, which got me to thinking… If most people read to escape, why do queer readers so desperately seek queer books?

After all, escapism should just require reading about a life that’s unlike your own, so shouldn’t queer people be able to escape into straight/cis literature? Are these queer readers not reading for escapism? That seems unlikely, given the demand for more queer sci fi and fantasy, the genres most identifies with the “escapist” label.

Or is it that escapism requires a protagonist that is relatable? Do we need to be able to mentally trade places with the main character in order to escape fully? I think there is something to that, but I think it goes even deeper than that, and it’s something I’ve heard mentioned before about people of colour representation in speculative fiction. If you’re reading a book that doesn’t include queer characters, it implies that queer people don’t belong in the story. And this is true of any marginalized group: if a story doesn’t include people of colour, people with disabilities, queer people, trans people, a irrepressible question emerges–what happened to them? (Really, if you’re imagining a future without marginalized people, the implication is genocide–how else would you end up with all cis/straight/white/neurotypical/abled people?)

That’s the thing about “diversity”: it’s reality. Shonda Rhimes at The Human Rights Campaign Gala recently spoke about how she dislikes the term “diversity” and instead says that she is “normalizing” TV.

I am making TV look like the world looks. Women, people of color, LGBTQ people equal WAY more than 50% of the population. Which means it ain’t out of the ordinary. I am making the world of television look NORMAL.

I am NORMALIZING television.

You should get to turn on the TV and see your tribe. And your tribe can be any kind of person, any one you identify with, anyone who feels like you, who feels like home, who feels like truth. You should get to turn on the TV and see your tribe, see your people, someone like you out there, existing. So that you know on your darkest day that when you run (metaphorically or physically RUN), there is somewhere, someone, to run TO. Your tribe is waiting for you.

You are not alone.

And the same is true of books. I think that queer readers have trouble escaping into a world that doesn’t include queer characters, because we know that we wouldn’t be welcome there. In fact, SFF that create worlds without queer characters seem to suggest that we wouldn’t even be able to exist there: our existence is not conceivable in the context we are given. When we read a story that doesn’t include queer people, a world that doesn’t include queer characters, it comes with the nagging implication You don’t belong here.

Whether it’s a horrific dystopia or a silly space romp, that implication makes it difficult to “escape”, because the truth is, we’re already all too familiar with that sentiment.

tamingthewolff

In this debut novel by Del Robertson, Taming The Wolff is a story of piracy, adventure, and love. Kris Wolff is a female pirate captain of The Wolfsbane who hides her true gender from most of her crew. She is aloof and reveals little about her past. She abducts a duchess and her two daughters for ransom. Alexis DeVale, one of the daughters, had been bound for an arranged marriage and now is captive on The Wolfsbane. She, like most others, believes Captain Wolff to be male. Kris protects her hostages from prying eyes, and though she and Alexis butt heads at first, an attraction between them is undeniable. Alexis soon discovers Kris’s secret, and wrestles with the idea of loving another woman. Meanwhile, The Wolfsbane is pursued relentlessly by naval officer Captain Jackson, who will stoop to torture and murder to obtain Kris. And during all this, Kris and Alexis must decide if they can have a future together.

Taming The Wolff gives readers insight to how being gay would be perceived in 1703, the year this book takes place. While Kris sees no problem with loving another woman, Alexis does. She was brought up in her family, society, and her church to think homosexuality was a sin. As a result, she has a hard time trying to reconcile her love for Kris. But that was a real factor back then; and still is today.

The characters of Kris and Alexis were complicated. I liked both women, but sometimes I found myself angry with them. I will not spoil the plot, but at one point, Alexis makes a sudden decision that to me seemed tacked in to the story. The explanation she gives for her action was rather unsatisfying, and I was thinking there had to be some better reason than what she was saying. When that turned out to not be the case, I was disappointed with the unexpected shift in the storyline. Also, Kris and Alexis had their arguments, like every couple. But some of the arguments seemed forced and interrupted the plot a bit. But maybe the purpose was to show how the two women were dealing with coming from two vastly different worlds and beliefs.

Those issues aside, the book had some good battle sequences and love scenes. Robertson accurately depicted the dangerous life of a pirate. There were many tense moments that had me wondering what would happen next. There were also enough twists and unexpected events to keep me reading on.

Taming The Wolff is a good book for those looking for adventure and surprises. Though not my absolute favorite, it can still be interesting and suspenseful.

old-deep   honey-girl   goldmountain

AfterEllen posted “The Chanticleer” Brings Lesbian Pulp to Life.

Autostraddle posted Lez Liberty Lit #68: Read While You Still Can.

Canadian Lesfic posted Complacency and the Niche Author – by Anne Azel.

Gay YA posted Sneak Peek: Honey Girl by Lisa Freeman.

Lambda Literary posted Lesbian Mystery Lammy Finalists.

oddgirl   WitchbySarahDiemer   ifnotwinter

Lone Star LesFic Festival is being held April 11, 2015 in Austin, Texas.

Women and Words posted GCLS IS COMING!

Sarah Diemer posted The Princess Sword, a Free YA Short Story — Part of Project Unicorn (A Lesbian YA Extravaganza) and Mightier, a Free YA Short Story — Part of Project Unicorn (A Lesbian YA Extravaganza).

“Hearing Sappho” was posted at the New Yorker.

“Fabulous Covers from Lesbian Pulp Fiction 1950-1970″ was posted at Flashbak.

genderfailure   caphenon   rabbitsoftheapocalypse

Bright Lights of Summer by Lynn Ames was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

The Caphenon (Chronicles of Alsea) by Fletcher DeLancey was reviewed at C-Spot Reviews.

Rabbits of the Apocalypse by Benny Lawrence was reviewed at The Rainbow Hub.

Gender Failure by Rae Spoon and Ivan E. Coyote was reviewed at Fourth & Sycamore.

This post, and all posts at the Lesbrary, have the covers linked to their Amazon pages. If you click through and buy something, I might get a small referral fee. For even  more links, check out the Lesbrary’s twitterWe’re also on FacebookGoodreadsYoutube and Tumblr.

kashimashi

Kashimashi is a yuri manga about Hazumu, a boy who is turned into a girl by aliens. Lesbian hijinks ensue? I’m torn on how to talk about this book, because of course the whole premise is cissexist. The idea that changing your body automatically would change your gender is cissexist, and in fact despite being all about Hazumu adjusting to another gender, there is no acknowledgement in the story that trans people exist. At the same time, however, it was interesting to see how gender is explained and expressed in the narrative. We don’t really get to see into Hazumu’s thoughts of swapping bodies and being expected to live up to a different gender role. When pressed, she* just basically shrugs and says “There’s nothing anyone can do about it.” She seems to roll with it pretty easily, however. She is confused by the rigid expectations of how women should behave, but other than that she doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with it. (Except that it comes with the expectation that she will be attracted to men.) And the first time we see Hazumu pre-transformation, he is told he seems “really feminine”. Hazumu rebuffs the girl’s subsequent apology by smiling awkwardly and saying “It’s okay. I get that a lot. Everybody says I look like a girl.” [mild spoilers, highlight to read] Later, we find out that as a child he wanted to be a bride. [end spoilers] So I wonder if Hazumu ever was 100% comfortable with his gender pre-transformation. [mild spoilers] We even get hints that Hazumu was looking to transform and escape his reality in some way–that the transformation may not have been nonconsensual. [end spoilers]

I can completely understand people not wanting to read Kashimashi because of the cissexism, or not enjoying it because of that. But I admit that I still found it a really fun read. The bulk of the story, apart from everyone trying to teach Hazumu how to be “appropriately” female, is a love triangle between Hazumu, the lesbian he was rejected by pre-transformation who is now interested, and Hazumu’s friend who was interested in him pre-transformation and is now completely confused by her feelings. It’s silly and dramatic even without the alien aspect. (The aliens stick around, observing Hazumu and putting her in awkward situations.)

I have read very few manga stories, so I’m not sure how this compares to the rest of the yuri genre, but I really enjoyed it. It induced quite a bit of eye-rolling around cissexism and heterosexism (“Girls… liking girls???”), but I liked the characters and their unique relationships (oh, except the creepy incestuous dad and… well, most of the male characters), and it was mostly just a fun ride. I would definitely put some caveats in place with a recommendation, but it’s worth picking up if it piques your interest. Personally, I’ll be reading the next omnibus and hoping for more of an insight into Hazumu’s personal gender identity.

*the book uses she pronouns post-transformation and he pre-transformation, which is what I’m using here

Did you know that there are over 1000 lesbian mystery titles? Or that there are over 250 authors of lesbian mysteries, more than 95 percent of whom are still alive and writing? It’s true, but many readers—probably most readers—have never read a single book in the lesbian mystery genre. That’s a shame, because some of them are wonderfully written, exciting, educational, sexy, emotionally satisfying, and yes, important.

Let’s go ahead and define a lesbian mystery. First, of course, the main character must be a lesbian or bisexual woman in a same-sex relationship. Second, the main character must investigate a crime or solve a mystery or puzzle that is central to the story line. That’s just about it, although the best of these offer a glimpse into some interesting aspect of the lesbian lifestyle. Protagonists can be private investigators, law enforcement officers, or amateur detectives of any profession as long as they are not werewolves, vampires, or other superhumans.

For those of you who don’t want to wade through the thousand plus titles, the following list is an introductory guide to some of the best books in the genre. The list is in alphabetical order—there is no first, second, or third. They range from the highly literary to the pure and simple whodunit. And remember that the books on this list are my personal favorites—someone else’s list might be quite different. (Titles are linked to full reviews, covers are linked to Amazon pages.)

beverlymalibu   caseofthenotsonicenurse   deathtakes

The Beverly Malibu, by Katherine V. Forrest. There are many good novels in Forrest’s Kate Delafield series, but this one, with its motif of  Hollywood persecution during the McCarthy era, is probably the most important. It is also the book in which Kate meets the person she will live with for most of the rest of the series.

The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse, by Mabel Maney. Probably not the most literary read on the list, but certainly one of the most enjoyable, with its parody of the Cherry Ames and Nancy Drew girls’ series books of the mid-20th century. Delightful and fun and more than a little silly.

Death Takes a Hike, by Peta Fox. This is the third and (so far) last book in the Jen Madden series. I list it instead of the first two because it takes some time to get to know Jen and figure out what the author is up to. Take note that the series is so filled with rough sex that it borders on BDSM, but Fox is probably the smartest writer in the bunch. Jen is an absolutely wonderful character with a mindset all her own.

goodbadwoman   gravesilence   houstontown

Good Bad Woman, by Elizabeth Woodcraft. A novel about a British barrister who gets involved with a torch singer. This mystery lands firmly in the literary world and includes a very interesting crash course on British law and the way it is handled. Woodcraft’s only other novel, Babyface, is every bit as noir and every bit as good.

Grave Silence, by Rose Beecham. Set near the desert in Colorado, this one is quite a thrilling adventure with characters that sometimes make Erskine Caldwell’s seem tame. The main character, Jude Devine, is an undercover FBI agent sent to the desert posing as a Sheriff’s detective. She essentially answers to no one.

Houston Town, by Deborah Powell. Powell’s superb use of language—and exciting storylines—make this book and its predecessor, Bayou City Secrets, winners on almost every level. A fairly unusual twist in the lesbian mystery genre, this hard-hitting series is set in 1930s.

ileftmyheart   idahocode   keepingsecrets

I Left My Heart, by Jaye Maiman. An honest look at the emotions behind the death of a loved one—and the resolve to find out the reason she died. Its relatively long length (over 300 pages) gives Maiman the opportunity to fully explore the themes of politics, religion, love, guilt, grief, and passion.

Idaho Code, by Joan Opyr. Bouncy story with a young protagonist, quirky characters, a cool girlfriend, and an odd mystery. Delightful, and its 321-page length gives the author room to move about. Beware of the sequel, however, which is a disappointing rehash.

Keeping Secrets, by Penny Mickelbury. This is the first of the excellent Mimi and Gianna series. Although it is a short novel, it introduces the interracial couple of Gianna and Mimi and provides the background for the rest of the series. It is one of the first series with dual protagonists. All four books are excellent.

lavenderhousemurder   lookingforammu   othersideofsilence

The Lavender House Murder, by Nikki Baker. Superior writing, craft, a winning but argumentative best friend, and deep introspection make this a standout. Virginia Kelly is the first African-American lesbian sleuth in fiction and Baker the first African-American Author. All four books in the series are highly recommended.

Looking for Ammu, by Claire Macquet. Not your typical whodunit, as the protagonist starts out simply looking for a friend. She doesn’t even know what a lesbian is until half the book is over, but what writing! A classic noir thriller that should be at the top of many lists, not just lists about lesbian mysteries. Deep and dark, seamy and satisfying.

The News in Small Towns, by Iza Moreau. A very different setting for this series—a redneck town in North Florida where Sue-Ann McKeown and her girlfriend Gina may be the only lesbians. A story with multiple puzzles, this is one of the most literary books on the list, and one of the most enjoyable series.

The Other Side of Silence, by Joan Drury.  The main draws here include the reclusive protagonist, a Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter, and her main interest in life—to expose violence against women wherever and whenever it occurs. It is a powerful feminist mystery with a surprising and unusual ending.

patternedflute   shescoopstoconquer   tellmewhatyoulike

Outside In, by Nansi Barrett D’Arnuk. Compelling, riveting, undercover mystery that takes place mostly within a women’s prison. Honest, real, exciting, and professional. Another mystery where rough sex also has an important part to play.

The Patterned Flute, by Helen Shacklady. Interesting, free-spirited characters, portrayed well in realistic settings and a wild ride that left me on the edge of my seat. I loved the budding romance between the protagonist and her scheming and determined traveling companion.

She Scoops to Conquer, by Robin Brandeis. This is a stand-alone novel about a reporter in Louisville, Kentucky. Its intriguing and educational plot is interspersed with humor as Lane Montgomery and her erstwhile lover and newspaper rival—both serious femmes—duke it out for the story.

Tell Me What You Like, by Kate Allen. Delves into the S/M leather scene in a way that makes you want to know more. Good characters, good puzzle, good everything.

1222   unexpectedsparks   womenwithredhair

1222, by Anne Holt. Exciting, well-drawn, and professionally written and translated from the Norwegian. In this novel, ex-police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen is a wheelchair user and is trapped with other passengers—one of them a murderer—in a train station during a horrible snow storm. The previous books in this series may be even better; but this is the only one I have read.

Unexpected Sparks, by Gina L. Dartt. A darling novel set in Nova Scotia featuring two of the best protagonists in lesbian literature: Kate Shannon, a bookstore owner, and Nikki Harris, a police dispatcher. Their courtship makes this novel—and this 2-novel series—special.

Woman with Red Hair, by Sigrid Brunel. This stand-alone novel is set in France and describes—expertly using the unusual third-person-present point of view—the protagonist’s search for her birth mother. Although maybe not as brilliant or groundbreaking as some of the other books on this list, it is certainly not one you can just read and forget.

There are other writers that came close to making this list: Lindy Cameron, Ellen Hart, Vivien Kelly, Val McDermid, Iona McGregor, and Barbara Wilson, but the titles I read, although very enjoyable, fell just short. See my full-length reviews of over 100 lesbian mystery novels—including the ones listed above—at http://sites.google.com/site/theartofthelesbianmysterynovel

Megan Casey is a small-town librarian whose special interest is reading, studying, and popularizing the lesbian mystery novel. She moderates the Goodreads Lesbian Mystery study group at http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/116660-lesbian-mysteries 

Not this field guide.

This guide is not enough.

I’ve always thought that coming out should be received with, at the least, a gift basket. We’re inundated with straight cis norms, culture, history, and media from birth, but finding the queer equivalents takes some searching, and it can be daunting without a field guide. As anyone who has gone searching for lesbian movies  So this gift basket would provide the basics: a couple choice movies (I vote DEBS, I Can’t Think Straight, and Saving Face, personally), a few key books, some business cards to point you to the right websites, brochures for local queer resources, and a handful of fun paraphernalia. Maybe a t-shirt. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there would need to be different variations depending on the person coming out, even just where the books were concerned. Is this a teenage bibliophile who’s newly out, or one that’s not much of a reader? Or are they in their twenties? Forties or up? Each would require a different set of information. But all the books would have to drive home two crucial points:

  1. Being queer isn’t a sentence to misery. No unhappy endings, at least not at the stage of the game. (The Well of Loneliness is off the table.)
  2. LesBian* books can be just as good as straight ones. Just as literary, just as funny, just as romantic, just as enjoyable.

So here’s my vote for the top five books I would give a newly out teenage lesBian. the-miseducation-of-cameron-post-cover-final

1) The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth. This is my favourite lesBian teen book, and though arguably it may be darker than point #1 would advise (it begins with Cam’s parents’ deaths, and part of the book is set in a “conversion therapy” aka “pray away the gay” camp), it is also complex, beautiful, and honest. It’s one of my favourite books I’ve ever read, so I had to give it a place here.

Rubyfruit2) Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown. This was the book that sent me on my own lesBian literary journey. It was written in the 70s and follows Molly through her adolescence. What I loved about this book was Molly’s strength as a character, her complete unapologetic truth. This is often considered part of the lesBian book “canon,” and it’s nice to have a taste of lesBian literary history.

It has less scandalous covers, too.

3) Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. Sarah Waters is my favourite author, and this is her first work. It’s a “lesbo-Victorian romp” which follows the main character, Nan, on a queer and twisting journey. It reveals all sorts of lesBian lives in the Victorian era, and it’s just so much fun to read. Despite Nan going through a lot of difficult things, Tipping the Velvet has such joy in it (which is why I’m recommending it over Fingersmith, which is also excellent). Lo_Adaptation_HC_600x900

4) Adaptation by Malinda Lo. I’ve raved about how much I love this duology plenty of times on the Lesbrary, but I think this is a great addition because it shows that not only can lesBian books be literary and moving, they can also be exciting! Adaptation is a great pick for dystopian fans, and it has a lot of action, but it also has some great progressive ideas that would have been game-changing for me as a teen.

Kissing the Witch   Ash   StartingFromHere   justgirls

5) And to be honest, the fifth book would depend on the person. Really, I’m desperately looking for the lesBian equivalent of Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, because that book is the kind of cotton candy, rosy vision of queer adolescence that can be so comforting when you first come out. But failing that, I would tailor this last one to their interests. Fairy tale fan? Ash by Malinda Lo or Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue. Vampire lover? The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez. Video game fan? Just Girls by Rachel Gold. Zombie enthusiast? Eat Your Heart Out by Dayna Ingram. Like a tearjerker? Starting From Here by Lisa Jenn Bigelow. There are too many options.

What would your top five books be to give to a newly out teen lesBian? I still haven’t found the perfect fifth book to complement the others. I also see that this list is more white than I would like, so I’d especially like suggestions for PoC lesBian books.

*I’m using lesBian to signify lesbian and bi women.

1

I am currently reading Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson which so far seems great, but I am only mid-way and the action is just starting. The book only has a secondary queer character – who so far has already flirted with the main character- but I get the queer vibe from many of the other characters. There is something about witches and covens and female-bonds that seems very queer!witchesofechopark

I love witches and fantasy stories but unfortunately am always left searching for ones with queer protagonists and there aren’t a lot but I have managed to find some books. I wanted to create a list that other people can use to read about queer witches. There are more than these but probably these are the most famous or one that I especially like! So here we go.

That Witch! by Zoe Lynne

That Witch! is a book that I have been meaning to read for ages, but unfortunately all physical book copies that I find will probably break my bank account. It follows high school students Cassidy and Brynn. It seems somewhat cliché where one is popular while the other one is a social outcast and also has the trope of ‘the-project-which-they-must-work-on-together’ but it sounds sweet and there are parallels drawn between magic and sexuality.

Kissing the WitchKissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins by Emma Donoghue

This is the first book that I read by Emma Donoghue who I now consider my favourite author. Not only is what she writes important from a queer perspective but how she writes it is just magical. Kissing the Witch is a series of famous fairytales retold with a twist. The witch is an integral part of the stories, which although different there is always an element from the previous story integrated in the following one, which brings the book to a full circle. The short stories will retain your attention, I promise!

The Engelsfors Trilogy (The Circle, Fire, The Key) by Mats Strandberg and Sara Elfgrencircle

The Engelsfors trilogy is about a group of young witches that go to the same school and come from different backgrounds that must unite together to fight evil. In the first book there are hints of a same-sex relationship possibly developing, which it does in the second book. There is also a comic based on the series that is unfortunately not translated into English yet, and this February there was a Swedish film made based on the first book by the same name! The books are quite chunky but if you like witches, you’ll probably devour them like I did. It never happened that I read a 500 page book in a few days while on holiday (in Sweden) to boot!

One Solstice Night by Elora Bishop

onesolsticenightSarah Diemer and her wife Jennifer Diemer are renowned for their retellings. One Solstice Night follows Isabella Fox, who isn’t that good at her magic-making. She moves into Benevolence, where she is the resident witch. There is quite a wintery feel to this story, so better read this one now before the weather changes! (at least in my part of the hemisphere). I love Solstice, both Winter and Summer, and the fact that there is a story based on that time of the year with a clumsy witch and romance with a shapeshifter? Bonus points for a super cute and squee-worthy story. Honourable mention also goes to The Witch Sea by the same author, which is a dark, short story that could be read for free from smashwords. It’s not a story for the faint-hearted though!

Promises, Promises by L.J. Bakerpromisespromises

After reading Adijan and Her Genie, I’ve been meaning to read this one! Like Adijan, it contains a female character that is a troublemaker. This story seems to be not only about yet another not good at magic-making witch but also an adventure with a lot of travelling and a band of diverse companions! What’s not to love?

Honourable mention goes to Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who needs no introduction. She had her own focused one-shots which you can read! Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow and Tara (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Comic #25) is something that I bought in 2008, with a red face hoping the cashier did not know what it was. It contains mainly two stories: “WannaBlessedBe” and “Wilderness” and is something that I reread all over again. Willow and Tara are powerful witches and they prove it in these stories. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow is a one-shot from season 8 while Willow: Wonderland is an amazing Willow-centric comic with beautiful art from Buffy season 9 that yet again proves how powerful and determined she is. The series also has some comics that would focus more on Willow as a character such as “Punish Me With Kisses” from Lover’s Walk which could be read for free from the BBC cult website.

I hope that this list gave you some inspiration on what to read. If you have more queer witchy book suggestions, why not leave them in the comments below?

[Editor’s note: Check out this Goodreads list for more lesbian witch books!)

acupofwaterundermybed   memorymambo   bodymap

Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian posted Happy International Women’s Day! Here are Five Queer Women of Colour Authors You Should Read.

Lambda Literary posted The Publishing Triangle Award Finalists Announced.

desireatdawn   PayingGuests   GettingLost

Lez Talk Books Radio posted LTBR Present: Fiona Zedde.

Women and Words posted Coming Attractions, April 2015 and Hot off the Press, March 2015.

Sarah Waters was reviewed at Daily Xtra (extended video).

Kissing the Witch   whisperedwords   aboutagirl

Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue was reviewed at Glowing Clever.

Whispered Words (Volume 3) by Takashi Ikeda was reviewed at Okazu.

The Treasure Seeker by Frankie J. Jones was reviewed at Lesbian Reading Room.

An American Queer: The Amazon Trail by Lee Lynch was reviewed at GLBT Reviews.

About a Girl by Sarah McCarry was reviewed at LGBT YA Reviews.

nototherwisespecified   safegirltolove   allwelack

All We Lack by Sandra Moran was reviewed at Frivolous Reviews.

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz was reviewed at GLBT Reviews.

A Safe Girl To Love by Casey Plett was reviewed at queer book club.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters was reviewed at A Reader of Fictions.

This post, and all posts at the Lesbrary, have the covers linked to their Amazon pages. If you click through and buy something, I might get a small referral fee. For even  more links, check out the Lesbrary’s twitterWe’re also on FacebookGoodreadsYoutube and Tumblr.

desirelines

Desire Lines is a slim little outlier volume from Jack Gantos. He’s known for his Joey Pigza middle-grade novels and his quasi-autobiographical middle-to-teen novels, and even for his early readers starring Rotten Ralph. Desire Lines falls into the Lesser-Known Gantos bucket, which also includes Love Curse of the Rumbaughs, which is to Jack Gantos as Tideland is to Terry Gilliam. Having been unsettled by the Rumbaughs, I was apprehensive about Desire Lines, but it’s a straightforward endeavor. Powerful, but straightforward.

Walker is a high school student in Florida, kind of a loner. His personal sanctuary is a local golf course, and it has been invaded by two of his classmates, who are using the place to carry on an affair. And…they’re two female classmates. So he keeps their secret. And he shows up to watch on a regular basis, convincing himself that doing so is justifiable. He’s being respectful, and all.

Enter the preacher’s kid from the new church in town. Okay: If you have not grown up in Florida, you may not be familiar with the Bible Belt mindset that permeates much of its culture. Florida itself has a sizeable streak of weird that Gantos picks up on, but the worst parts of Florida are concentrated in this character, whose sole purpose is to conduct a witch hunt, and then move on to the next town. And Walker, who is generally a live-and-let-live (especially-if-I-can-watch) kind of guy, is somehow targeted. Do we see where this is going? There are no happy endings, there are no easy outs.

Walker falls in with a group of boys who are just awful humans, and they’re not painted as anything out of the ordinary. The classmates having the affair, Karen and Jennifer, aren’t particularly saintly or kind. They’re just high school kids. They behave thoughtlessly and speak cruelly and act selfishly. And when Walker has to make difficult decisions, under significant peer pressure, he uses the girls’ absolutely normal high school behavior to justify his ultimate choice.

The paperback I have was published in 2006, but this book’s original copyright was 1997. I would not be excited about being an out lesbian in Florida in 2015, never mind 2006, never mind 1997. As a Gantos fan, I was interested to read this book because I had no idea he’d written anything with any gay content. Walker’s clear self-analysis was not a surprise, and neither was the ugly, real and human behavior of the other boys. There really aren’t any female characters other than Karen and Jennifer. They aren’t even particularly well-developed characters. That’s not the point. It’s not about them. The book is a streamlined morality tale, a painful study of human behavior as it cuts across the ages, and it’s well done. Homosexuality is used here as a plot device only to denote Otherness and to set up a moral dilemma which can’t end without tragedy. Recommended for Gantos fans, those teaching middle-grade novels, and anyone interested in reading about how slightly introspective teenage boys navigate the development of morality. So—limited audience. But those who try it will find it a quick read that won’t be quickly forgotten.

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