Link Round Up: May 11 – 24

Lesbrary Links covers collage

             

Autostraddle posted

BCLA LGBTQ Interested Group posted Five to Follow – LGBTQ Book Blogs You Should be Following.

Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian posted 5 New and Upcoming Queer and Trans Canadian Books and 5 Incredible Two-Spirit and Queer Indigenous Writers to Read Right Now.

            

I Heart Lesfic posted Hot Reads for Summer Sale.

Lambda Literary posted New in May: Édouard Louis, Lisa E. Davis, Barbara Browning, and David Sedaris.

Queership posted

“Vice Versa: America’s First Lesbian Magazine, Made in Los Angeles” was posted at The Pride.

“Once controversial, ‘Heather Has Two Mommies’ is now collectible” was posted at Los Angeles Times.

           

Passage by Gwen Benaway was reviewed by Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian.

Eyes Too Dry by Alice Chipkin and Jessica Tavassoli was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

Not One Day by Anne Garréta was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

Hallowed Murder (A Jane Lawless Mystery) by Ellen Hart was reviewed at Omnivore Bibliosaur.

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi was reviewed at Okazu.

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill was reviewed at Okazu.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country by Chavisa Woods was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

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.

Thank you to the Lesbrary’s Patreon supporters! Special thanks to Jacqui Plummer, Kim Riek, Kitty Rhapsodos, Adelai McNeary, Ann, Chris Coder, Martha HansenChiara Bettini, and Casey StepaniukSupport the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a lesbian/queer women book every month!

Keep up with all the Lesbrary posts and extra content by signing up for the Lesbrary newsletter!

Tierney reviews Turning for Home by Caren J. Werlinger

It’s hard to summarize the plot of Turning for Home, chiefly because it’s kind of a hodgepodge of happenings without much tying them together beyond the fact that they are centered around a single main character – but I will try. *spoilers ahead, throughout this whole review*

Jules returns to the small Ohio town in which she grew up with her grandparents for her grandfather’s funeral. While there, a local lesbian teen writes her a note asking for her help as she comes to terms with her sexuality in this unsympathetic environment. After the funeral, Jules comes home to her partner Kelli, who feels like Jules is pulling away from her, as she did in her past relationships. Meanwhile, Jules engages in an odd flirtation with a fellow educator, while also counseling Ronnie, the teen from her hometown–and simultaneously hiding all of this from Kelli. Also, Kelli’s mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, as if all the rest weren’t enough drama. Throughout it all there are flashbacks to Jules’ childhood–her experiences with her strict grandmother and loving grandfather, who raised her after her mother left her with them, and her friendship with a neighbor boy that ended his tragic death, for which she blames herself, and whose ensuing emotions she has totally repressed well into adulthood. Needless to say, there is a lot going on. All of which is resolved by the end of the novel, in ways that don’t necessarily satisfy–or even make sense (for example, Ronnie is kicked out by her family because of her sexuality and ends up moving in with the mother of Jules’s dead childhood friend… which just seems weird to me).

Unfortunately, I was just not a fan of Turning for Home: the plot was way too busy, and, conversely, most of the characters didn’t really have well-developed personalities, beyond the fact that all manner of things kept happening to them, making it difficult to connect and sympathize with them. There are so many miscellaneous plot points thrown at the reader: drama with Jules’s past and with her present, drama with Kelli’s family, drama with Ronnie, drama with their friend Donna (who is also Jules’s ex) and her relationship–but ultimately I couldn’t bring myself to care about very much of it. The characters felt flat: Kelli doesn’t have much of a personality beyond loving Jules (even though Jules doesn’t seem to do much to deserve it), and Jules doesn’t have much of a personality beyond having a tragic past and being a jerk to Kelli because she is incapable of working through her own emotional issues (despite the fact that she is a school psychologist!). Right up until the end of the book, Jules is making decisions that just plain don’t make sense, and Kelly is hand-holding her through the process of being a mature adult who owns up to their emotions and decisions. It’s convoluted and not particularly engaging for the reader.

Turning for Home just wasn’t for me–but if the plotlines I’ve described sound appealing to you, go ahead and give it a try. I’m going to stick with other works by Caren J. Werlinger, like Cast Me Gently, which I very much enjoyed–it read like Annie on My Mind for grown-ups, thanks to its 1980s aesthetic and gently lovable characters.

Danika reviews Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

There’s a certain kind of book that I find really hard to read. It’s when it has this tone–this disaffected, aimless melancholy. Radio Silence definitely has that underlying sadness, and combined with it being a 400 page book, this wasn’t the quickest read for me, but it was definitely worth it.

Radio Silence is a YA novel about Frances, who has concentrated all of her energy and attention on two things in life: getting into Cambridge, and being a fan of Universe City. Universe City is a podcast with a striking similarity to Welcome To Night Vale. When she finds out that the creator of Universe City is someone she knows, the two immediately bond over their shared interests.

I loved the focus on friendships as important, life-changing relationships. As Frances and Aled grow closer, she makes sure to clarify that “You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl. I just wanted to say—we don’t.” That doesn’t stop them from having an intense relationship, though. They connect in a way that they haven’t with other people, and they can help and hurt each other just as much as if they were in a romantic relationship.

As I said, there is a bleak atmosphere through most of the novel. Frances has built her life around her academic career, and hasn’t stopped to consider whether she actually wants what she’s been working towards. Aled is in a smiliar spot, except that he has been pressured into it by his abusive mother. (Extremely emotionally abusive–trigger warning for abuse and pet death.)

There are a lot of different relationships at play here: Aled’s estranged sister (who yelled at Frances when she tried to kiss her and then disappeared), Aled’s mother, and also his friend Daniel.

I’m not sure how to talk about this book without spoiling it, because the ending is really what made it for me. It was worth pushing through the sadness to that bit of light at the end. It shows that there is an escape from that dread that seems all-consuming. It might not mean stepping out into beams of sunlight, but there are stars in the darkness.

There is, of course, a lot of great representation as well. Frances is biracial and bisexual, and there are also gay and demisexual characters.

If you like Welcome To Night Vale, love/hate tumblr, or have a complicated relationship with universities as institutions, definitely check this one out.

Shira Glassman reviews The Rosebush Murders by Ruth Shidlo

Ruth Shidlo’s The Rosebush Murders is a lesbian thriller/detective mystery set in Israel. A woman is found shot in a park, and the police detective, a lesbian named Helen with a chatty narrative voice, sets to work unraveling whether her wife, psychology/IVF clients, or hospital colleagues could have had anything to do with it. I found it a solid whodunit in which it was easy to imagine the scenes and characters and get invested in the discoveries and solution.

Pluses:

  • Well-constructed thriller plot and I loved that I called some of the most twisted parts before the detective got there
  • Setting is Israel, so unlike a lot of thrillers, it’s sunny and warm so this Florida girl was right at home
  • Setting is Israel, so everything is sort of casually Jewish including in that secular way that America is casually Christian
  • Main character is a lesbian and there are several other gay or lesbian characters
  • Positive depiction of someone’s mom being totally okay with them having a lesbian wife and being cute about it
  • Main character and one of the other characters are classical musicians, so by that point I felt right at home along three or four different axes
  • I did not know German Jews are called “yekke” — being that I’m from that background on one side, I’m going to look into this more!

It does have a “dead lesbian”–the primary murder victim–but:

  • once I got past the initial sting of watching her wife and daughter grieve her it didn’t bug me as much, because the detective narrator is a lesbian, so there’s plenty of “alive lesbian” screen time
  • literally nothing about her death was gay-related.
  • The narrator gets into a relationship by the end of the book (note: this relationship felt relegated to the background and in the next book, set two years later, she’s dating someone else from this book with whom she had more chemistry. I didn’t care for the mystery plot of the other book as much as this one, though.)
  • In nearly every scene the way people interact with the crime shows her being treated the same as a straight victim, her wife being treated as a legitimate wife, etc.

Minuses

  • Casual fatphobia and (mental) ablism on the part of the narrator. None of this was integral to the story because it usually relates to her internal monologue about extremely minor characters
  • Sometimes we get to watch the narrator do mundane things like eat dinner with the kind of detail that doesn’t always contribute to characterization
  • Baffling use of italics for the word “sushi”–although maybe in Israel it hasn’t been adopted into the local speech the way it is here? Don’t know. Also, a German character’s accent is written out, which isn’t my preference but I ordinarily wouldn’t comment on it, but his mispronounced words are then italicized, which creates strange things like “zee” for “the”–if you’re writing out his accent, why italicize it? Especially if italics are for foreign words. Italicizing it makes me think he’s actually saying a word in his own language, so my brain switched over to German, where “zee” (sie) means she and then I just got confused. I realize this is an editorial decision and probably not under the author’s control, but I write these reviews for free so I get to say what I want 😛
  • This is not a minus but sort of a warning sign: there are unflattering comments made about Orthodox control of certain aspects of Israeli life, specifically in regards to how the murder victim’s wife feels about the funeral arrangements. This is an Israeli issue that as an American I have no desire to get involved in, but if you yourself are Orthodox I just wanted to warn you that the line is there.
  • Not a minus but a point of confusion: references to “a kid on Christmas” and someone swearing by saying “Jesus.” Maybe people in Israel do talk like this but I still noticed it. Again, that could be me being wrong.

Trigger warning for some really twisted medical stuff (don’t take this lightly and I’m happy to provide details but I’d rather do it privately since it’s a huge spoiler), and for a brief mention of Nazis.

Megan G reviews Kiss Me Again, Paris by Renate Stendhal

Never has a memoir enraptured me as completely as Kiss Me Again, Paris. Renate Stendhal reached through the pages and took me by the hand, pulling me back into Paris in the 1970’s and into her skin. To read Stendhal’s account of her life in Paris is to live it. Never has reading a book felt so much like watching a movie. Every intricate detail she dives into came alive before my eyes, not just through her masterful prose, but through the gorgeous pictures scattered throughout the memoir.

Although there are two explicit love stories present in Kiss Me Again, Paris, the implicit love stories between Stendhal and her friends, and Stendhal and her city are the most visceral. Paris is Stendhal’s mistress, more so than any of the lovers she describes, and her love for the city and the life she lived there is breathtaking. I myself have only been to Paris once, but after reading Stendhal’s memoir I feel as though that is not the case. I have never yearned for a city as I yearned for Paris while immersed in this book.

During many scenes depicting Stendhal and her friends, I knew I should feel like an outsider, privy to a conversation far too intimate for my perusal, but that was never the case. I will admit, I had a bit of a hard time keeping track of all the women in Stendhal’s life–which backstory corresponded to which name, and with whom had she slept? Still, the closeness of her tight-knit group of “Sinners”, as they called themselves, made it easy to forget my confusion. Regardless of backstory or personal history, the love Stendhal felt for these women shone through. These are friends who can call each other whenever one is in need, and within minutes they are at each other’s doors. They dance together, they drink together, and they love together. The atmosphere of Paris just adds another layer of decadence to their lives.

Stendhal’s feelings toward the two women her heart aches for in her memoir–a fickle actress named Claude and a mysterious red-headed woman who keeps re-appearing in her life–are the strongest throughout the memoir. She lays it all bare for her audience. Every lustful thought, every prickle of jealousy, every irrational moment of hope or despair. I craved more knowledge on the so-called “Woman in Red”, desperate as Stendhal was to know more, to be near her. As the story unfolds, I often found myself looking up Stendhal and her life-partner Kim Chernin on Wikipedia, hoping to gain even the smallest hint that Kim Chernin was the “Woman in Red”. Unfortunately, I found none, and it makes me wonder how such a deep, wonderful, all-consuming love story could have eventually found its end. I was hooked on Stendhal’s every word, and my heart pounded with every emotion she felt. Her frustration with Claude, yet desire to continue seeing her. Her questions about the “Woman in Red”, her obsession with learning more about her. It was as though Stendhal had a hold of my heart, making me feel all the anguish, hope, and love that she herself felt.

The book is not perfect, of course. It is riddled with casual transphobia that would have been common-place in the 1970’s, but feels rather shocking to read in a book published in 2017. There is, as well, at least one racial slur for Romani people within the text, and a prolonged and explicit scene depicting a girl between the ages of twelve and fifteen being photographed entirely nude.  Still, despite these short-comings, Kiss Me Again, Paris brings the author’s experience to life better than any other memoir I’ve read. The specificity in the detail is astounding, and the decadence in the language will leave you begging to read more.

Kiss Me Again, Paris by Renate Stendhal will be available for purchase on June 6, 2017.

Susan reviews Partners by Gerri Hill

Partners is the conclusion to Gerri Hill’s Hunter trilogy (the previous books reviewed here and here.), and it brings the trilogy round full circle. Casey, the detective introduced in In the Name of the Father, has officially joined the homicide department and has been assigned to partner new detective Leslie Turner on a serial murder case, which would go better if they didn’t find each other intensely distracting.

Okay, this book.There are things I genuinely quite like about it, so let’s start there. Sam and Tori, the detectives who started this series have hit a delightful stage of warmth and commitment–they’re buying a house together, Tori has adopted Casey as a sister, everything about the family that they’ve built is lovely. The revelations about Casey’s backstory and family history are very well done, because I was absolutely furious about it; “I don’t have a problem with homosexuality as long as it’s not my daughter” is an awful thing and the book acknowledges that very well. The way that Casey deals with it by building her own family felt very true to me. Plus I feel like the “hurry up and wait” pace of the investigation works quite well for building the character relationships and for representing police work a smidgen more realistically. It’s tense and dramatic when it needs to be!

(I think this nod to realism is why no one’s backstory gets resolved; Tori’s backstory was deemed unsolvable in the first book, and Casey’s officially given up on hers, which I can respect from a writing standpoint but am somewhat frustrated by as a reader.)

But despite the things that I like about it, it has some quite significant flaws that I have to mention. Please bear with me.

First and most obviously: the relationships. I mentioned above that I appreciated the family that is being created, but the beats Casey and Leslie’s relationship hit are remarkably similar to the ones that Tori and Sam hit in Hunter’s Way. Stop me if this sounds familiar: an openly queer detective falls reluctantly in love with a woman who a) is in a relationship with a sexist man that she does not love and b) has to contend with the fact that she is actually a lesbian. (Once again, bisexuality isn’t an option!) The reasoning for the characters is different, but it’s very similar, and I couldn’t honestly tell you if it’s a deliberate contrast of the value of support networks and/or realising that not being straight is an option, or just a retreading of the same story.

Second of all, I have some issues with the representation in this book. There is one (1) person of colour in this book, who does not any lines and is regarded with active hostility from one of the main characters for someone else’s actions in the first book. The depiction of mental illness is not great, with the character in question treated as a childlike innocent by both characters and the narrative (even though he is a peeping tom?) and SPOILERS: he is thrown under a bus for a neurotypical woman. And while we’re still doing SPOILERS: the murderer is assigned male at birth (it’s not clarified how they actually identify) and wears a dress to gain access to women’s apartments so they can commit murder. I know the book was written in 2008 and the author had no way of knowing that would be the core surface-justification of awful transphobic panic in 2016/17, but seriously. I am willing to anti-rec Partners on basis of that alone.

… Also while we’re doing SPOILERS, the ending is full-on “DON’T GO INTO THE BASEMENT THIS IS A HORROR MOVIE!” levels of nonsense, and it’s completely out of character. I was so annoyed.

The long and the short of it is that I don’t think I can recommend this book. There’s nothing wrong with it on a technical level, and the depiction of friendships and romance between the lesbian character’s is fine? But there’s enough going on around those relationships that I’d be uncomfortable recommending it.

Caution warnings: homophobia, transphobia, ableism, sexual assault.

Susan is a library assistant who uses her insider access to keep her shelves and to-read list permanently overflowing. She can usually be found writing for Hugo-nominated media blog Lady Business or bringing the tweets and shouting on twitter.

Megan Casey reviews The Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson Series by Sandra de Helen

The Hounding  (Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson Series Book 1)

Pastiche: “a literary, artistic, musical, or architectural work that imitates the style of previous work.” For decades, the word pastiche was commonly used to refer to stories about Sherlock Holmes that were not written by A. Conan Doyle. Perhaps the most famous is The Seven-Percent Solution, which was a best seller for Nicholas Meyer in 1974. More recently, Laurie R. King (who also writes lesbian mysteries featuring Kate Martinelli) has created the Mary Russell Mystery Series, which features the iconic sleuth. Holmes also appears in Carole Nelson Douglas’ Irene Adler series. In fact, Amazon.com lists over 7000 paperbacks inspired by Holmes.

As far as the lesbian mystery genre goes, characters based on Holmes and Watson appear in Nene Adams’ Gaslight Series, Olivia Stowe’s Charlotte Diamond Series, Debra Hyde’s Charlotte Olmes Series. There is more than a subtle similarity to Holmes and Watson in Iza Moreau’s The XYZ Mysteries, with Xande Calhoun as Holmes and her sister Yolande as Watson. There are stories about Holmes and Watson as lesbians and Holmes and Watson as gay. Now, Sandra de Helen has become one of the latest pasticheurs with her series about Shirley Combs and her friend Dr. Mary Watson. In the first novel, The Hounding, neither character is either gay or lesbian, or even hetero. But we’ll get to that in a paragraph or two.

We don’t hear the word pastiche much any more. Today, it’s called “fan fiction.” I suspect that The Hounding began as fan fiction, and perhaps that’s why it isn’t as strong as it could be. For one thing, the author makes over 15 references to Sherlock Holmes himself. A couple of the characters joke about the Sherlock Holmes/Shirley Combs vocal similarity. And the language sometimes is just too Holmesian (despite the story being set in modern-day Oregon) to be anything but fan fiction. Here are a couple of for instances:

“I have been engaged by Miss Goldenhawk Vandeleur to enquire into the circumstances surrounding the death of her mother, Pricilla Leoin.”

“Only a slight upward movement of Shirley’s left eyebrow would have given away her surprise, and only an observer as keen as Shirley herself would have seen it.”

Now there’s nothing wrong with fan fiction, which may be the newest literary genre. In The Hounding, the writing is strong and the mystery is worthy of the master himself. In short, a woman is mauled by dogs, causing her to have a heart attack and die. But who set the dogs on her and where are they now? Shirley Combs, private investigator and portfolio analyst, takes on the job of finding the answer. But unless an author is actually writing about the real Holmes and Watson, it is not a good idea to stick too close to the original.

There is little backstory about either Shirley or Mary. Both consider themselves asexual and both live alone: Shirley in Portland, Oregon and Mary in nearby Lake Oswego. And neither, unfortunately, seems to have a very interesting personality. Of the two, though, it is Mary—the primary narrator—who has the most promise. It is she who gets an odd feeling when she sees an attractive woman and it is she who continually questions her strange relationship with Shirley. Shirley seems to question nothing.

And I can’t let this review go without discussing point of view. As you will remember, most—but not all—of the original Sherlock Holmes stories are narrated in their entirety by Watson, who sees all and hears all. Holmes includes him in his adventures just so that Watson is in attendance, not only as a friend, but as an observer. De Helen knows this well, but often finds it difficult to insert her Watson into the action, although this action is important to the story. Here’s how Mary Watson explains her ability to do it. Evidently, like Archie Goodwin in Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe detective series, Shirley has a photographic memory and is able to give a thorough account of her outings, as when Mary says, “she dictated her word by word account for me.” Then Mary continues, “I use my creative license to add what I imagine to be the thoughts and emotions of all the players.” She adds later, “It’s easy to imagine what happened next.” This is one of the cleverest point-of-view ploys I’ve ever seen, but it’s still a glitch in the artistry.

But that’s enough skating around. As fan fiction, The Hounding is as good as most–as creative literature, not so much. But despite everything, it is an interesting and well-developed mystery. I recommend it for any Holmes/Watson obsessives.

The Illustrious Client (Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson Series Book 2)

One of the many good things about this, the second novel in the Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson series, is that it stands alone very well. Conversely, perhaps the best way to review this novel is by contrasting it to its predecessor.

Let’s start with the Holmes/Watson comparisons. In the first book, de Helen refers to the original iconic detective no less than 15 times. Well, guess how many comparisons she makes this time? Answer: zero. What this means is that the author has become more confident in her talents and more creative in her thinking. Ditto about her “explanations” about inconsistent point of view. Although her narrative shifts once or twice from Dr. Watson to omniscient, the author genuinely tries to stay within Watson’s experience. Not perfect, but a vast improvement.

The plot is fairly complex, as was the previous book’s. Shirley is hired to dissuade a famous young pop star, Oceane, from her romance with international playgirl Zaro, who was once (while disguised as a male) a soldier in the Afghan army. But when Zaro is attacked with acid, the sleuth’s job becomes one of finding the culprit. Although, as I said, the story is a good one, the main merit of this book is the growth of Mary Watson. Although in the first book there were a couple of exquisitely tiny hints that Mary might not be quite as asexual as she believes, in this book she discovers, quite by surprise, her lesbian identity. Although from puberty, she assumed she was simply asexual, she suddenly found that “something had awakened in me,” when she met real estate agent Beth Adams. The idea of a romance—maybe even a sexual relationship!—causes her to gush, “I was excited to the point of near-hysteria.” This is really good stuff: details that are all-too-rare in lesbian fiction, although we have all been there.

A touch worth noting, Shirley’s new “administrative assistant” has the greatest first name in lesbian literature: Lix. Hopefully in the next book we will learn her last name and some backstory. And maybe some more about Shirley, too. Or maybe Lix and Shirley will get it on. Whoo weee. I can’t wait. And Lix should get her own series. You heard it all here first.

Finally—and I rarely comment on this—the formatting of the e-book for this novel is the most sophisticated I have ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot. It may presage the day when e-books can look identical to print versions.

Negatives? Well the POV thing is still a little glitchy, as is Shirley’s lack of real individuality. And now that Sherlock himself is absent from de Helen’s pages, maybe it is time to stray from rewriting actual or nearly actual Conan Doyle titles.

Bottom line, give this one close to a 4; it is certainly worth a read. With the author continuing to hone her talents, I am looking forward to the next one.

For more than 250 other Lesbian Mystery reviews by Megan Casey, see her website athttp://sites.google.com/site/theartofthelesbianmysterynovel/  or join her Goodreads Lesbian Mystery group at http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/116660-lesbian-mysteries

Guest Post by Victoria Elliott: Why We Need Diverse Book Covers

Someone like you belongs on a book cover, but, depending on who you are, it’s appalling how hard you are to find. My wife and I have launched an Indiegogo campaign, We Need Diverse Book Covers, to change that..

A few years ago, the #weneeddiversebooks campaign launched to advocate for improved diversity in children’s literature. This was followed by #weneeddiverseromance with a similar aim for romance fiction. (Both are great. Check them out.) Our IndieGoGo campaign will start with improving the covers of our books, but we’re hoping it does much more than that and ripples outward. We need diversity in what we read, but we also need diversity in the images that we see.

When we started writing and self-publishing lesbian fiction under the pen name Elizabeth Andre, it was like exhaling after holding our breaths for too long. Finally, after years of writing for somebody else’s markets, we were able to write the diverse stories we always wanted to and publish them for the people that we always knew wanted them. They just weren’t of interest to traditional publishers. Since we started self-publishing in 2014, we’ve written about 65-year old lesbians—one Caucasian, one Asian-American—who have sex and fall in love on a cruise. We’ve written about two thirty-something African-American lesbians who cross class lines to find true love. We’ve written about lesbians with disabilities, and we’ve just started a story about a big beautiful woman who, yes, falls in love. Our novels about lesbian ghost hunters are due out in the fall. We also write diverse gay male fiction under the pen names Kendall Morgan and Danielle Summers.

We can do the writing. We have years of writing experience and a wall full of writing awards. We have a dynamite editor. We can layout and produce the books. It’s the covers that haven’t always done our stories or our characters justice. More often than not, we’ve been stymied in our search through stock photo libraries for the wide range of people we write about. This means that, instead of sexy couples, we have photos of sexy individuals or objects suggestive of the story within but not truly reflective of it, not truly reflective of you.

When you don’t see yourself reflected, it’s like you don’t exist. You know you do, but you can feel invisible. We know how that feels. Or maybe there are images that are like you, but they are so distorted that you feel ugly. We need images that reflect how sexy our characters are, that reflect how sexy you are.

And diversity needs to be defined broadly. It’s not just black and white, literally. The diversity we are working toward includes diversity by race, ethnicity, body type, body size, disability, ability, and gender. I have no doubt that we’ll be adding to this list.

It’s an economic injustice that authors who write about white heterosexual couples can go to just about any photo library and for a modest fee download images that look like their characters. We have to go to greater effort and pay more for images, and we will because everyone involved in this project will be paid fairly.

Consider being a part of our Indiegogo campaign in some way. Share it on social media. Blog about it. Talk about it. Contribute. Perks include signed and advance copies of our books as well as opportunities to be the star of our next romance story. Sign up to be one of our models.

You belong on a book cover, too, and you can help make book covers more diverse.

Queer Women Books Out In May!

Riptide Summer by Lisa Freeman (YA)

The year is 1973, and Nani is firmly established as one of the top girls in the State Beach lineup. She’s looking forward to a long, relaxing summer of days spent in the sun with her surfer boyfriend, and to secret nights with Rox, the lineup’s queen supreme.

But when surf god Nigel breaks her heart, and Rox reveals a secret that tears their friendship—and the lineup—apart, Nani is left to pick up the pieces. If she can’t recruit new Honey Girls to the lineup, the friends will lose their reputation as the beach’s top babes.

With the summer spiraling out of control, Nani starts to question everything she’s always believed about how to rule the beach. Maybe it’s time to leave the rules behind, starting with the most important one:

Girls don’t surf.

What the Mouth Wants: A Memoir of Food, Love and Belonging by Monica Meneghetti (Memoir)

The redefinition of family values as seen from the eyes of a polyamorous, queer Italian Canadian obsessed with food. This mouthwatering, intimate, and sensual memoir traces Monica Meneghetti’s unique life journey through her relationship with food, family and love. As the youngest child of a traditional Italian-Catholic immigrant family, Monica learns the intimacy of the dinner table and the ritual of meals, along with the requirements of conformity both at the table and in life. Monica is thirteen when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoes a mastectomy. When her mother dies three years later, Monica considers the existence of her own breasts and her emerging sexuality in the context of grief and the disintegration of her sense of family. As Monica becomes an adult, she discovers a part of her self that rebels against the rigours of her traditional upbringing. And as the layers of her sexuality are revealed she begins to understand that like herbs infusing a sauce with flavour; her differences add a delicious complexity to her life. But in coming to terms with her place in the margins of the margins, Monica must also face the challenge of coming out while living in a small town, years before same-sex marriage and amendments to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms created safer spaces for queers. Through risk, courage and heartbreak, she ultimately redefines and recreates family and identity according to her own alternative vision.

The Gift by Barbara Browning (Literary Fiction)

In the midst of Occupy, Barbara Andersen begins spamming people indiscriminately with ukulele covers of sentimental songs. A series of inappropriate intimacies ensues, including an erotically charged correspondence and then collaboration with an extraordinarily gifted and troubled musician living in Germany.

Large Animals: Stories by Jess Arndt (Short Stories)

JESS ARNDT’s striking debut collection confronts what it means to have a body. Boldly straddling the line between the imagined and the real, the masculine and the feminine, the knowable and the impossible, these twelve stories are an exhilarating and profoundly original expression of voice. In “Jeff,” Lily Tomlin confuses Jess for Jeff, instigating a dark and hilarious identity crisis. In “Together,” a couple battles a mysterious STD that slowly undoes their relationship, while outside a ferocious weed colonizes their urban garden. And in “Contrails,” a character on the precipice of a seismic change goes on a tour of past lovers, confronting their own reluctance to move on.

Arndt’s subjects are canny observers even while they remain dangerously blind to their own truest impulses. Often unnamed, these narrators challenge the limits of language―collectively, their voices create a transgressive new formal space that makes room for the queer, the nonconforming, the undefined. And yet, while they crave connection, love, and understanding, they are constantly at risk of destroying themselves. Large Animals pitches toward the heart, pushing at all our most tender parts―our sex organs, our geography, our words, and the tendons and nerves of our culture.

Tremontaine (Tremontaine Season One) created by Ellen Kushner (Fantasy)

Welcome to Tremontaine, the prequel to Ellen Kushner’s beloved Riverside series that began with Swordspoint! A Duchess whose beauty is matched only by her cunning; her husband’s dangerous affair with a handsome scholar; a foreigner in a playground of swordplay and secrets; and a mathematical genius on the brink of revolution—when long-buried lies threaten to come to light, betrayal and treachery know no bounds with stakes this high. Mind your manners and enjoy the chocolate in a dance of sparkling wit and political intrigue.

Originally presented serially in 13 episodes by Serial Box, this omnibus collects all installments of Tremontaine Season One into one edition.

Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country: And Other Stories by Chavisa Woods (Short Stories)

Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country paints a vivid image of the bizarre characters that live on the fringes in America’s heartland. They don’t do what you expect them to do. These aren’t typical stories of triumph over adversity, but something completely other. It’s “Murakami meets the meth heads” says National Book Foundation award winner Samantha Hunt. “Reader, you have never before seen anything like this.”

The eight stories in this literary collection present a brilliantly surreal and sardonic landscape and language, and offer a periscope into the heart of the rural poor. Among the singular characters, you’ll meet: a “zombie” who secretly resides in a local cemetery; a queer teen goth who is facing ostracism from her small town evangelical church; a woman who leaves New York City once a year to visit her little brothers in the backwoods Midwest, only to discover they’ve been having trouble with some meth dealers and UFOs that trouble the area. In the backdrop of all the stories are the endless American wars and occupations, overshadowed, for these characters, by the many early deaths of their friends and family, that occur regularly for a whole host of reasons.

Pride & Joy: LGBTQ Artists, Icons and Everyday Heroes by Kathleen Archambeau (Nonfiction)

Stories of success, happiness and hope from the LGBT community

Stories that comprise the best of LGBT historyPride and Joy: LGBTQ Artists, Icons and Everyday Heroes tells the stories of queer citizens of the world living OUT and proud happy, fulfilling, successful lives. Diverse and global. Famous and unsung. There is a story here for everyone in the LGBT community who has ever questioned their sexual orientation or gender identity, or discovered it.
Award-winning writer and longtime LGBTQ activist Kathleen Archambeau tells the untold stories from diverse LGBT community voices around the corner or around the world. Not like the depressing, sinister, shadowy stories of the past, this book highlights queer people living open, happy, fulfilling and successful lives.

The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julie Ember (Fantasy YA)

Having long wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the merfolk’s fortress. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: Say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.
Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from the divine Loki. But such deals are never straightforward, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

[Warning for Seafarer’s Kiss: the villain (the God of Lies) is nonbinary and is the only nonbinary representation in the book.]

How To Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (YA)

    Grace, tough and wise, has nearly given up on wishes, thanks to a childhood spent with her unpredictable, larger-than-life mother. But this summer, Grace meets Eva, a girl who believes in dreams, despite her own difficult circumstances.
One fateful evening, Eva climbs through a window in Grace’s room, setting off a chain of stolen nights on the beach. When Eva tells Grace that she likes girls, Grace’s world opens up and she begins to believe in happiness again.
How to Make a Wish is an emotionally charged portrait of a mother and daughter’s relationship and a heartfelt story about two girls who find each other at the exact right time.

Nico & Tucker by Rachel Gold (Fiction, NA)

The decision can’t be put off any longer.

A medical crisis turns Nico’s body into a battleground, crushing Nico under conflicting family pressures. Having lived genderqueer for years, Nico is used to getting strong reactions (and uninvited opinions!) from everyone, but it is Tucker’s reaction that hurts the most.

Jess Tucker didn’t mean to hurt Nico, but she panicked.

And after the worst year of her life, she’s hanging on by a thread. Forget recovery time and therapy, she needs to put the past behind her and be normal again. But when her relationship with Nico becomes more than she can handle, she cuts and runs.

In this riveting sequel to Just Girls, comes a love story about bodies, healing, and knowing who you really are.

Witches, Princesses, and Women at Arms: Erotic Lesbian Fairy Tales edited by Sacchi Green (Erotica)

In this sexy anthology of fantastical short stories, women are no longer just damsels in distress. Instead, strong, passionate females race to the rescue of their female lovers in this new collection of erotic fantasy.

The stories within Witches, Princesses, and Women at Arms are masterfully crafted to lead your mind down unexpected paths to your favorite fantasy adventure, from the classic fairy-tales of Little Red Riding Hood to Rapunzel to the modern marvel of Game of Thrones. They will wash over you in an epic sea of words meant to entice and embolden your inner princess, heroine, or both.

Enter a time where you may be abducted by bandits or seduced by witches one second and find your heart spellbound by a dryad the next. But be warned, gentle traveler! With this new, provocative collection edited by Sacchi Green, the stories may begin with “Once upon a time”, but they will leave you coming back, time and time again.

Rough Patch by Nicole Markotic (YA)

When fifteen-year-old Keira starts high school, she almost wishes she could write “Hi, my name is Keira, and I’m bisexual!” on her nametag. Needless to say, she’s actually terrified to announce—let alone fully explore—her sexuality. Quirky but shy, loyal yet a bit zany, Keira navigates her growing interest in kissing both girls and boys while not alienating her BFF, boy-crazy Sita. As the two acclimate to their new high school, they manage to find lunch tablemates and make lists of the school’s cutest boys. But Keira is caught “in between”—unable to fully participate, yet too scared to come clean.

She’s also feeling the pressure of family: parents who married too young and have differing parenting styles; a younger sister in a wheelchair from whom adults expect either too little or too much; and her popular older brother who takes pleasure in taunting Keira. She finds solace in preparing for the regional finals of figure skating, a hobby she knows is geeky and “het girl” yet instills her with confidence. But when she meets a girl named Jayne who seems perfect for her, she isn’t so confident she can pull off her charade any longer.

Rough Patch is an honest, heart-wrenching novel about finding your place in the world, and about how to pick yourself up after taking a spill.

Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin (Fiction)

Set in the post-martial-law era of late-1980s Taipei, Notes of a Crocodile is a coming-of-age story of queer misfits discovering love, friendship, and artistic affinity while hardly studying at Taiwan’s most prestigious university. Told through the eyes of an anonymous lesbian narrator nicknamed Lazi, this cult classic is a postmodern pastiche of diaries, vignettes, mash notes, aphorisms, exegesis, and satire by an incisive prose stylist and major countercultural figure.

Afflicted by her fatalistic attraction to Shui Ling, an older woman, Lazi turns for support to a circle of friends that includes a rich kid turned criminal and his troubled, self-destructive gay lover, as well as a bored, mischievous overachiever and her alluring slacker artist girlfriend.

Illustrating a process of liberation from the strictures of gender through radical self-inquiry, Notes of a Crocodile is a poignant masterpiece of social defiance by a singular voice in contemporary Chinese literature.

Birdy Flynn by Helen Donohoe (YA)

Birdy Flynn carries secrets. There is the secret of Birdy’s dead grandmother’s cat. How the boys tortured it and Birdy had to drown it in the river to stop it from suffer-ing. There’s the secret of Mrs. Cope, the teacher who touched Birdy. The secret of the gypsy girl at school who Birdy likes. But she can’t tell anyone about any of these secrets. Because Birdy’s other secret is that while she fights as good as the boys, she is a girl, and she doesn’t always feel like a girl is supposed to. So Birdy holds on to her secrets and tries to become what others want, even it if means losing herself. BIRDY FLYNN is a beautifully nuanced and deeply felt portrayal of a girl growing up amid an imperfect family, and an imperfect world, to become the person she was meant to be.

Not One Day by Anne Garréta (Fiction)

Not One Day begins with a maxim: “Not one day without a woman.” What follows is an intimate, erotic, and sometimes bitter recounting of loves and lovers past, breathtakingly written, exploring the interplay between memory, fantasy, and desire.

“For life is too short to submit to reading poorly written books and sleeping with women one does not love.”

Anne Garréta, author of the groundbreaking novel Sphinx (Deep Vellum, 2015), is a member of the renowned Oulipo literary group. Not One Day won the Prix Médicis in 2002, recognizing Garréta as an author “whose fame does not yet match their talent.”

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman (Romance) (only $1.99!)

Small-batch independent yarn dyer Clara Ziegler is eager to brainstorm new color combinations–if only she could come up with ideas she likes as much as last time! When she sees Danielle Solomon’s paintings of Florida wildlife by chance at a neighborhood gallery, she finds her source of inspiration. Outspoken, passionate, and complicated, Danielle herself soon proves even more captivating than her artwork…

Fluffy Jewish f/f contemporary set in the author’s childhood home of South Florida.

Queer Women Books Out This Month!

See more lesbian and bi women new releases at Women in Words, or more queer new releases at Lambda Literary.

If you liked this post, consider supporting the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month to be entered to win a lesbian/queer women book every month, as well as getting exclusive Lesbian Literature 101 updates!

Or buy us a coffee on ko-fi as a one-time donation!

Danika reviews Tomboy Survival Guide by Ivan Coyote

“I was not ladylike, nor was I manly. I was something else altogether. There were so many different ways to be beautiful.”

– Michael Cunningham, A Home at the Edge of the World, epigraph to Tomboy Survival Guide

I am in love with this book, as I am in love with Ivan Coyote’s writing in general.

First of all, this is a beautiful book just as an object. I love the cover, and there are lots of small details that really add to the design, including the back cover edge being usable as a ruler. Throughout the book, between essays, are diagrams, including a disassembled stand mixer, knot-tying, and pastry-making.

I love Ivan Coyote’s writing because it’s both easy to read and deeply moving. Most of their stories come out of a rural setting, often up north, and they combine that often harsh environment with a kindness and generosity that underlies all their words. In one story, they talk about being one of only two people in a trades class that wasn’t a cis guy, and the harassment they faced. One day, they came in to find that someone had pissed in their toolbox. They cleaned it before class so no one would see them flinch at this.

In this same class, the same day, a guy asks them for relationship advice. They proceed to give possibly the best relationship advice I’ve ever heard, including detailed instructions on both dinner preparation and cunnilingus. The guy came back the next day and gave them the only hug they’d ever seen him participate in. He was beaming. Coyote absorbs this environment’s cruelty and still offers kindness–kindness that pays off, that is multiplied.

This conviction to remain kind even in a cruel world is inspiring to read. It’s not laid out as a philosophy; it’s just apparent behind every story. In one essay, they talk about forgiving their mother for “squeezing” them into things, recognizing that what they read as shame for all those years was actually fear–and wishing that their mother had named it then.

Once I came out, I stayed out. I got a regrettable pink triangle tattoo on my shoulder and plastered Queer Nation stickers on my leather jacket and went to kiss-in protests at the old coffee shop on Commercial Drive. I wanted to fight homophobia everywhere, in everyone. I wanted to Act Up, to act out, to have sit-ins, and not stand for it anymore.

I wish now I has been kinder to my mother about it all.

Ellen moved into a big house in East Vancouver and started to date a guy who played trombone in her jazz quintet. I told her I couldn’t spend too much time with her and all her straight friends anymore lest I by homogenized by their infectious heterosexuality. My politics didn’t leave anyone, including me, a lot of room for nuance, or grey areas.

I wish I had been kinder to a lot of people about it all, come to think of it.

Queer and trans people are often depicted in media as being perpetually teenagers or twenty-somethings. That’s another reason that I appreciate Ivan Coyote’s place in queer lit. They are in their 40s, which means both that they offer a look into a possible queer future for ourselves (it’s hard to imagine your future when none are depicted in media) and that they offer a more nuanced view of queer politics.

One essay that really stood out to me talked about the response they got from their Slate piece about gender neutral bathrooms, and about the harassment they face in public bathrooms. Their piece got shared at the same time on two sites: one, a pray-away-the-gay site, and the other, a “radical feminist” anti-trans site. The odd thing, they said, was how difficult it was to tell from the hateful emails which site the person was from. These are supposed to extreme opposite ends of the political spectrum, and yet the “radical feminists” and ultra right-wing camp sound almost identical. There is an unfortunate amount of TERFs (trans-exclusionary/trans-exterminatory “radical feminists”) on tumblr, and I’m constantly stumbling on their posts and remarking at how conservative their stances are, with minor vocabulary changes.

Of course, as the title would suggest, most of this collection has to do with gender.

But my day-to-day struggles are not so much between me and my body. I am not trapped in the wrong body; I am trapped in a world that makes very little space for bodies like mine. I live in a world where public washrooms are a battle ground, where politicians can stand up and be applauded for putting forth an amendment barring me from choosing which gendered bathroom I belong in. I live in a world where my trans sisters are routinely murdered without consequence or justice. I like in a world where trans youth get kicked out onto the street by their parents who think their God is standing behind them as they close their front doors on their own children. Going to the beach is an act of bravery for me. None of this is a battle between me and my own flesh. For me to be free, it is the world that has to change, not trans people.

I think this would be an excellent book to give both trans/butch/gender-nonconforming people, especially teenagers, but also to give to someone who wants to learn about trans politics and lives, but doesn’t know where to start. Coyote is generous and forgiving in their writing, and despite the almost endless opportunities to respond to a situation with rage, there is very little anger in this book.

Basically, I can’t recommend Ivan Coyote’s writing highly enough, and Tomboy Survival Guide is a superb example of it.