An Emotional Demon Hunter Romance: The Fall That Saved Us by Tamara Jerée

The Fall That Saved Us cover

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Tamara Jerée’s The Fall That Saved Us centers around Cassiel, a former demon hunter who has left her abusive family behind in favor of a quiet life in a little bookshop she now runs. When a succubus named Avitue shows up one day, the two fall into a dangerous albeit passionate love affair that threatens both of their places in the world.

Despite such high stakes, this is a deeply personal book. In fact, when I think about this book, the word that jumps to mind is affectionate. This book had so much affection for its characters and their journeys, and it made it so easy for me to share that affection. While this book felt really heavy at the beginning, due to all of the religious trauma Cassiel was working through (and boy does this book do religious trauma really well!), by the end I was left feeling lighter. The relationships certainly helped with that, but even more so was the book’s emphasis on being kind, both to yourself and to others.

As for the relationships, I don’t only mean the romantic relationship between Cassiel and Avitue, though of course that is the main one. Cassiel’s friendship with her neighbor Ana, a witch who runs a nearby cafe and who gently but firmly encourages Cassiel to open up about her past when she’s ready, was a particular light. Likewise, the more complicated relationship with Zuriel, the sister who stayed behind, will likely resonate with many readers who come from difficult family situations.

Something I really appreciated with Cassiel and Avitue’s romance was the honesty. With a setup like this one, I find I expect a lot of secrecy and drama of the “how can I trust you!” variety. To my delight, however, Avitue was clear almost from the beginning about who she was, why she was here, and what each of them was risking by being together. This allowed the focus to remain on the actual building of a relationship, and it also made room for much more interesting conversations about how people deserve to be treated and what kind of future there is for a mostly-mortal and an immortal demon.

The only criticism I had was the pacing felt a bit off at the beginning, almost like things were being skipped over or time was moving weirdly or something I could never quite put my finger on. However, I didn’t notice that as an issue in the second half. While some might say the final conflict wrapped up rather quickly, that’s a feature for me rather than a bug, and honestly, I do think that choice ultimately served the book better as a whole. This is very much a character-driven book, and a drawn-out battle would almost feel like a detraction from a story that should center on Cassiel’s internal journey.

I am certainly planning on checking out Tamara Jerée’s next book, and if they ever wrote another book in this world (maybe about Zuriel and/or Ana), I would read it without hesitation. Though I would suggest  taking care if one struggles with religious themes, I heartily recommend Tamara Jerée’s The Fall That Saved Us.

A Southern Gothic Coming of Age: Something Kindred by Ciera Burch

Something Kindred by Ciera Burch cover

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When I picked this up, I was expecting a horror novel. And that makes sense, because it does have a lot of ghosts in it. But the ghosts are more a part of the setting than the plot; while they’re literally present in the town, their significance in the story is on the metaphorical side. I think “Gothic” is more fitting as a genre categorization.

We’re following Jericka, who has been bouncing from place to place her whole life as her mom kept uprooting the two of them. Now, she’s spending the summer helping to take care of her grandmother as she dies of cancer. What makes this a lot more complicated is that Gram walked out on Jericka’s mother and uncle when they were children — leaving them alone with their abusive father.

One thing I appreciated about Jericka is that she doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations. When she meets her Gram, she asks her directly why she left her kids and why she reached out when she got sick. This is not one of those books where you wish the characters would just talk to each other — if anything, there are times when it would benefit Jericka to stop and think about what she’s going to say for a minute before lashing out.

This is a quick read, and the writing can feel a little… sparse at times. Like Jericka, the author gets directly to the point in a way that can feel abrupt. But the strength of this story is in its characterization and relationships. The three generations of women in that house all have complicated relationships to each other—Jericka soon finds out some secrets about her own childhood that are hard to grapple with. There are no easy answers here. Jericka begins to build a relationship with her grandmother even knowing that there is no way for Gram to make up for the damage she’s done to her children. She also starts to see her father and his wife, who she’s only communicated with through the occasional phone call and birthday card.

Then there’s Jericka’s complicated romantic life. She has a boyfriend back home, James, and their relationship is… comfortable. She loves him, but she doesn’t know if she wants to try to continue their relationship long distance when they go to university. Meanwhile, she’s falling for a girl in Clearwater: Kat. Kat is the only one who talks about the ghosts in town. She’s not popular, but she has a fiercely loyal best friend who will defend her at all costs. She talks a mile a minute and makes a terrible iced hot chocolate. I appreciated that Kat was multifaceted and flawed, not just a perfect love interest. Jericka has been out as bisexual for years, so her struggle choosing between James and Kat has more to do with her fears about the future than any worry about what it means for her identity.

I suppose I should actually talk about the ghosts, but it doesn’t surprise me that it took me this long to get to them. The characters and their complex relationships — especially family relationships — are the stars here. The ghosts, usually called echoes, are the manifestation of a central tension in Jericka’s story: the choice between putting down roots and always being on the run. The people in Coldwater seem unable to leave this town, but Jericka is tired of constantly moving. The echoes are the ghosts of the women who died when the old schoolhouse burned down, and they implore residents to never leave.

Of course, this is also a story about grief and loss. Jericka is building a relationship with her grandmother knowing that soon Gram will be dead. Jericka decides that although this is extremely painful, and although she can’t forgive Gram for what she did, she doesn’t want to continue the family tradition of silence and disconnection. She’d rather reach out even with all of that history between them.

I wouldn’t recommend this for readers looking for a terrifying horror read, but if you are a fan of family sagas and coming of age stories set against a gothic backdrop—with a few creepy scenes—I think you’ll enjoy this one.

A Standing Ovation for Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo cover

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“There is another girl / on this planet / who is my kin. / My father / lied to me / every day of my life. / [ . . . ] I want to put my fingers / against my sister’s cheek. / I want to put my face / in her neck & ask / if she hurts the way I do.”

And so begins Clap When You Land, a gorgeous dual narrative novel in verse about grief, loss, and the healing power of family written by acclaimed Dominican-American poet and writer Elizabeth Acevedo (she/her).

Camino and Yahaira (Yaya) are 16-year-old young women living in the Dominican Republic and New York City, respectively. Neither knows the other exists until the tragic death of their beloved Papi upends each of their lives and reveals that they are sisters. As Camino and Yahaira grieve and desperately try to make sense of a world without Papi, they must also navigate their complex feelings about each other and figure out what it means to be sisters.

Acevedo is a masterful storyteller. Her use of dual narrative and verse made for an enjoyable and accessible reading experience. The alternating perspectives kept me engaged, and there were never too many words on a page, which allowed me to really savor what I was reading. As a Latina, I felt a swell of pride every time I saw Acevedo describe a quintessential visual from our shared experience: curious neighborhood women in batas and chancletas; a mother with rollers stacked high atop her head; a community coming together to solemnly mourn a loved one with a rosario. I also really appreciated how Acevedo highlighted the range of Afro-Latine beauty through not only her descriptions of the different characters, but also the affirmations and terms of endearment Papi used with each of his daughters.

The representation in Clap When You Land goes beyond race and color. Although all the characters have a connection to Papi, it is the strong female relationships that are the novel’s throughline. Camino refers to Tia, the curandera (healer) that raised her, as “the single love of [her] life”. Tia has showed up for Camino in ways her parents could not. Camino’s belief that “curing is in [her] blood” and her aspirations of being a doctor are borne of her deep respect and admiration for Tia. Yahaira “likes girls” and has a girlfriend named Andrea (Dre). Although Yahaira’s sexuality is a core aspect of her identity, it is free-flowing and doesn’t require exposition. Dre is Yaya’s rock. Acevedo paints a beautiful picture of how a healthy and steady love can ground you in your darkest times.

I loved this book. It was my first experience reading Acevedo’s writing, but it definitely will not be my last. If you’re looking for a quick read with lots of great Latine representation that packs an emotional punch, you should pick up this book. Acevedo has also authored Poet X, With the Fire on High, and Family Lore. You can find her on Instagram @AcevedoWrites or on AcevedoWrites.com.

Trigger warnings for descriptions of a plane crash, death, sexual assault, and colorism.

Raquel R. Rivera (she/her/ella) is a Latina lawyer and lady lover from New Jersey. She is in a lifelong love affair with books and earned countless free personal pan pizzas from the Pizza Hut BOOK IT! program as a kid to prove it.

Jamaican Joan of Arc: So Let Them Burn by Kamilah Cole

the cover of So Let Them Burn

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I first saw Kamilah Cole describe her debut, So Let Them Burn, as a Jamaican Joan of Arc, which was enough to grab my attention even before the book had a cover. To be more specific, So Let Them Burn is the first book in a YA fantasy series that follows former chosen one Faron Vincent and her older sister, Elara. Five years after the war for their island’s independence, Elara inadvertently forms a bond with an enemy dragon, while Faron determines she will stop at absolutely nothing to save her sister from the threat of both the bond and the empire itself.  

Like I said, I was sold on the concept the minute I heard about it, but even the coolest concept can turn out to be a let down in the wrong hands. Kamilah Cole is not the wrong hands. It took less than half a page for me to determine that I was going to love this book, and as the story unfolded, I only got more invested. Every time I had to put the book down, I was just a little bit resentful that I couldn’t keep reading.

Something that I thought was really fun is that while I knew this book follows a chosen one after she’s done her duty, Faron is not the only one who fits into a popular fantasy archetype. One dynamic I found particularly fascinating is the one between chosen one Faron and Queen Aveline, who spent the first seventeen years of her life on a farm with no knowledge of her true identity and now resents Faron a little bit for the fact that when the war ended, Faron got to go home and Aveline didn’t.

Literally all of the relationships were wonderful, though. The romantic relationships had me hooked, as did the friendships, but the central relationship between the two sisters just felt so real. They both loved and admired each other so much that, despite the hints of jealousy on each side and the expected annoyances, they were both so determined to keep each other safe, whatever the cost. I loved them both, and I am terrified for what the next book will bring for them.

I also really enjoyed the narrative voice, which was the first thing to win me over. It made me laugh throughout, though it never detracted from the more serious themes. Since this was third-person, I’m much less inclined to be annoying about how distinct the perspectives did or did not feel from each other, but there was at least enough difference that I never forgot which sister’s head I was in, even when they were in a scene together, so I’m quite satisfied on that front.

I already know I’m going to miss these characters when the series is done, but fortunately I’ve got some time until then. (Less fortunately, it also means I have to somehow survive that cliffhanger until then.) Even more fortunately, this series is not the only thing I have to look forward to from Kamilah Cole. Not every book that sounds amazing ends up living up to my expectations, but this one definitely exceeded them. I recommend it with my whole heart.

Making The Future Gay: The Five Things I Checked out From the Queer Liberation Library

Recently, a nonprofit in Massachusetts put out an exclusively queer book collection on Libby called the Queer Liberation Library (also known as QLL). Their mission is simple: by providing queer people with diversity-focused literature and resources, QLL is building a future that is undeniably queer. This collection of e-materials is available to anyone with an email address, and sign-up is very easy. I signed up and had received confirmation and account information within twelve (12) hours. There are so many titles and collections available, with the focus of their homepage collections being on Black queerness right now in celebration of Black History Month. I would highly recommend signing up for a card if you want exclusively queer literature available at your fingertips. 

Of course, I went a little wild and immediately began downloading so many sapphic titles on the QLL. Here are five things that I checked out from the Queer Liberation Library that I think you should too:

Those Who Wait by Haley Cass

the cover of Those Who Wait

Sutton had a simple plan for her life: finish graduate school and fall in love. But life is never that simple, and it doesn’t help that she is useless around other women. On the other hand, Charlotte has every bit of her life planned out and is not willing to compromise it for love. When the two meet through a dating app, Sutton and Charlotte know they aren’t meant to be—or are they? I picked up this audiobook because of the cute cover and stayed for the slow-burn, friends-with-benefits romance. Don’t let the length of the book (21ish hours) intimidate you: Those Who Wait is a fast-paced epic romance sure to make your top ten books of 2024.

Sing Anyways by Anita Kelly

the cover of Sing Anyway

Nonbinary history professor Sam Bell is committed to a new (non)romantic strategy after numerous failed relationships: Thirst Only. However, having no emotional ties to relationships can be hard, especially when they are left by themselves at The Moonlight Café, otherwise known as Moonie’s to its largely queer regulars, and on karaoke night of all nights. But then Sam’s karaoke crush, Lily Fischer, steps up with a mic, and the two work together to weather the outside world and to keep singing through it all. I read this back during the summer and I remember being actively disappointed that there was no audiobook that I could listen to through my library—never again!

Mimosa by Archie Bongiovanni

the cover of Mimosa

Best friends and chosen family Chris, Elise, Jo, and Alex work hard to keep themselves afloat. In an effort to avoid being the oldest gays at the party, the crew decides to put on a new queer event called Grind—specifically for homos in their dirty 30s. Grind is a welcome distraction from their real lives while navigating exes at work, physical and mental exhaustion, and drinking way, way too much on weekdays. This chosen family proves that being messy doesn’t always go away with age. I love Bongiovanni’s art style and can’t wait to sink my teeth into this story about older queer people (which I am swiftly approaching with mild disbelief).

Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought edited by Briona Simone Jones

the cover of Mouths of Rain

Mouths of Rain traces the long history of intellectual thought produced by Black Lesbian writers, spanning the nineteenth century through the twenty-first century.

This anthology features a mix of literature (nonfiction, poetry, and fiction) about a variety of topics from a variety of Black sapphic authors like Audre Lorde and Alice Dunbar-Nelson. 

Mouths of Rain first caught my attention because of the gorgeous cover, but kept me enthralled by the sheer intersectionality of the work. 

Lesbian Love Story by Amelia Possanza

the cover of Lesbian Love Story

This is the story of Possanza’s journey into the archives to recover the stories of lesbians in the 20th Century: who they were, how they loved, why their stories were destroyed, and where their memories echo and live on. Centered around seven love stories for the ages, Possanza’s hunt takes readers from a Drag King show in Bushwick to the home of activists in Harlem and then across the ocean to Hadrian’s Library, where she searches for traces of Sappho in the ruins. Along the way, she discovers her own love—for swimming, for community, for New York City—and adds her own record to the archive. I am not the biggest fan of nonfiction (regardless of how many nonfiction titles are on this list), but loved how Possanza would switch genres and use the histories to discuss questions of gender, love, and self. 

Bonus: Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H

the cover of Hijab Butch Blues

Bonus pick because I got very attached to all of these choices: Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H! When fourteen-year-old Lamya H realizes she has a crush on her teacher—her female teacher—she covers up her attraction, an attraction she can’t yet name, by playing up her roles as overachiever and class clown. However, Lamya eventually begins to make sense of her own life by comparing her experiences to the stories of the Quran, and expands on those thoughts in this searing memoir in essays. This is a title that so many of my friends have been reading lately and I am excited to join them once my audiobook hold comes in!

Happy reading!

Chloe (they/he) is a public librarian in Baltimore, who identifies as Indigenous, autistic, and panromantic demisexual. They enjoy reading queer literature for any age group, as well as fantasy, contemporary, and romance. In his spare time, he acts in his local community theaters and plays role-playing games. You can find them on GoodreadsTwitter, or Instagram.

A Slow-Burn Romance About Rival Cartoonists: Outdrawn by Deanna Grey

the cover of Outdrawn by Deanna Grey

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The dedication at the start of Outdrawn by Deanna Grey reads, “For oldest daughters who have become creatives obsessed with perfection.” This perfectly encapsulates this slow-burn rivals-to-lovers romance about the importance of valuing yourself and finding people who value you. 

Noah Blue is an up-and-coming cartoonist who just got her big break as a head artist for a relaunched classic, Queen Leisah. Unfortunately, she’s sharing that role with Sage Montgomery, her rival since college, who has been at the company for years and does not want to share her own big break with a newbie. Meanwhile, their personal webcomics are competing for readers on the same website, with Noah only recently beginning to threaten Sage’s ranking. While Noah strives to surpass the woman she sees as her primary obstacle, Sage works just as hard to defend her throne.

They bring this competitive dynamic into the workplace, trying to one-up each other for their higher-ups’ approval rather than collaborating. Of course, with this being a romance, as they inspire each other to greater heights and form an undeniable chemistry, it becomes clear that working together will get them further than tearing each other down.

While they’re equals in passion for their art, Noah’s pastel pink cardigans and people-pleasing habits contrast with Sage’s leather jackets, motorcycle, and aloof demeanor. Noah’s webcomic is a mermaid romance that Sage definitely hasn’t comfort binged, and as the story progresses, Sage starts an action-packed sci-fi comic about enemy spaceship captains with a suspicious amount of chemistry.

The development of this dynamic was a highlight of the book for me. Their fierce rivalry transitions gradually and believably into an alliance, and finally, a romance. Throughout, the characters learn to emphasize communication. One challenge with this sort of dynamic is allowing the pair to keep the banter that sells this type of setup, without having it feel mean-spirited within the actual romance. Additionally, even as their personal relationship changes, they’re still in the same competitive field and can’t share every opportunity. Because they talk through these challenges and set up proper boundaries, I fully bought into their happy ending, and the third act manages to have plenty of conflict without a dramatic breakup or misunderstanding.  

I mentioned that this book is ultimately about valuing yourself. Throughout, the characters struggle with giving up their time, health, and emotions to people and companies who don’t value those things. They have experienced creative burnout and physical injury, sometimes with little payoff. It shows the different facets to working in a creative industry, as they’re both passionate about their work, using art as their lifeline in so many ways. However, there becomes a point where they have to step back and take care of themselves. This is where it becomes important to team up rather than pushing themselves even further in the name of competition. Due to working in the same field, they understand each other’s passions as well as setbacks, allowing them to support each other.

In contrast, their families do not always offer that support. As the eldest daughter in her family, Sage stepped up at a young age to care for her younger brothers in the wake of their father’s alcoholism and their mother subsequently shutting down. Almost a decade into Sage’s career, she is still financially supporting her family, who assumes she does not need help in return, and she has become used to shouldering that pressure alone. Meanwhile, Noah’s family claims to be supportive, but they do not understand her work as an artist, often making belittling comments that lower her confidence. As a result, she experiences a lot of anxiety, and part of her drive comes from a need for validation. 

Better support comes from their coworkers, who create a charming office dynamic. Within their relationship, the duo channels their rivalry to inspire each other to greater heights while ultimately giving each other a safe place to land. I also enjoyed the debates the pair have within the office as they pitch their own visions for the Queen Leisah comic. They have opposing storytelling sensibilities and strengths as artists, but neither is presented as right or wrong, and there’s no conclusion drawn on the one ‘right’ type of story to tell or way to tell it. 

This book also touches on the importance of representation. Noah is an out lesbian while Sage is out as bi, and their impact on a younger generation of artists is demonstrated. Some of their struggles are brought up as well. Queen Leisah, a Black woman with goddess powers, is considered a cult classic character, and the company piles the pressure on their team to make her reboot an instant lead title. Their editor points out that they can’t afford to be mediocre the way that the company’s other teams can, as the higher-ups won’t give them that grace. Some of the debates Noah and Sage have center around how to flesh out Queen Leisah’s character. It provides a mirror to Sage and Noah’s own experiences, as they want her to be portrayed as a whole person rather than only being valued for her sacrifices. 

In addition to covering serious topics, this book oozes charm. The romance and friendships are precious, and there are even illustrations after some chapters showing character profiles or samples of the characters’ sketch pages. 

My critiques are on the technical side: I feel that the book could have benefitted from one more editing pass to catch errors, as well as tighter pacing near the end. While I appreciate the emphasis on communication within the relationship, as a reader, I got to a point where I felt the story’s message had already been communicated and would have been happy with some of the later scenes being more concise. These are minor notes, however, and overall I recommend this to anyone who could use some warm, fuzzy feelings.  

The author’s content notes: “This book includes brief discussions of biphobia and lesbophobia, parent struggling with alcoholism, parentification, a brief mention of suicidal ideation, and sexually explicit scenes.”

Witches Under Modern Systems of Oppression: How to Succeed in Witchcraft by Aislinn Brophy

the cover of How to Succeed in Witchcraft

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At the top of the T.K. Anderson Magical Magnet School’s leaderboard is Shay Johnson. One of the most impressive and successful witches among her peers, this almost guarantees her the coveted Brockton Scholarship which would allow her to register to the university of her dreams—an education that her parents otherwise cannot afford. Her main obstacle is her years-long rival: Ana Alvarez. When both girls get recruited by their drama teacher and head of the scholarship committee, Mr. B, Shay wearily accepts the starring role to ensure her scholarship win, all while her professor’s behaviour becomes increasingly inappropriate and her rivalry with Ana slowly turns into something more.

If you’re looking to tap into some great YA fiction, I cannot recommend this book enough. Brophy managed to write a perfect balance of entertaining and witty banter, a narrative voice that is fun and easy to follow, as well as some deep, rich, and complex conversations about abuse, manipulation, racism, classism, and homophobia.

Shay is such an incredibly funny main character, and young readers who feel pressured to overachieve in academics will be able to instantly relate to her. Throughout my own reading experience, I felt as though I was an older sister watching her sibling go through all the same mistakes I made at her age. It was truly endearing, and I loved following her through all the highs and lows of her academic journey and her love story. Brophy wrote an extremely realistic main character and gave her the space she needs to recognize, understand, and learn from her mistakes. They always included a ton of nuance in their characters’ conversations, the conflicts weren’t immediately resolved and brushed over anticlimactically, and they built a very relatable cast with some fascinating dynamics.

The element of the story that I believe was the most successful was the way in which Brophy melded their magic system so seamlessly into our modern-day world. Fantasy authors have a tendency to do a lot of fantastical world-building that is set in some real-world human setting, while simultaneously ignoring the tragedies and realities of our history. This book feels very contemporary, in that the magic bleeds into our societies exactly as they have been built, including the systems of oppression that exist in our modern world. Brophy uses witching and magic not to “escape” humanity as we know it, but specifically to address issues of racism, of class disparity, of homophobia, of abuse of power. Shay’s storyline is, at its core, deeply influenced by the fact that she is a Black lesbian who comes from a lower-class family, and her struggles as an obsessive overachiever are rooted in the expectations that have been laid out for her future by the society in which she grew up. It gave the book some wonderful depth, without necessarily becoming overly complex or inaccessible to its intended young adult audience.

The entire plotline surrounding the play itself was phenomenal, because Brophy managed to weave so many societal critiques together. Their teacher presenting it as an “inclusive” and “diverse” musical, only for him to deeply misunderstand and misrepresent his students’ racial backgrounds and ethnicities during the casting process, was a very accurate portrayal of people co-opting specific terms and ideologies to make themselves seem good and progressive, without actually having to care about the issues at hand. The story as a whole empathizes with teens who don’t know how to stand up for themselves and who realize the system is working against them, but also gives them some specific tools for calling out bigotry and abuse, especially when it comes from people in positions of power.

And, of course, I adored the sapphic romance in this. I was rooting for Shay and Ana the entire time, and it was so entertaining to watch our main character be so foolishly oblivious, in a way that is extremely realistic for a young, teenage lesbian. The rivalry between them makes it very easy for readers to become invested in their relationship and I loved how Brophy developed their love story in a way that felt very messy—i.e.: realistic for their age—as well as absolutely adorable. I also appreciate that Brophy didn’t shy away from using the term “lesbian” multiple times throughout the story, as it still feels very rare for authors in mainstream publishing to allow their young main characters to specifically label themselves as such.

If you’re looking for an easy read that is at times fun and light, but that nonetheless packs a punch when it comes to exploring its themes and the ultimate message, this is the perfect read.

Representation: Black, biracial, lesbian main character; Cuban, bisexual love interest; Filipina side character

Content warnings: grooming and manipulation by a teacher, racism, homophobia

An Underrated Fantasy Western: The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

the cover of The Good Luck Girls

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I am actually going to talk about two books in this review, because while I thought the first book was fantastic, it was not until I finished the sequel that I fully realized exactly how good I thought these books were.

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis follows a pair of sisters, Aster and Clementine, as well as a few of their friends as they escape what is known as a welcome house after Clementine accidentally kills a wealthy patron.  While the first book is a journey story and the second dives much deeper into the nitty-gritty of revolution, both books are very much fantasy Westerns set in a bleak world inspired by the United States, with heavy themes of justice, inequality, and survival in spite of it all.

Oh boy, did I not expect to love this series as much as I did. I almost didn’t read it at all because even though it is YA, I still feared it would be too bleak for me, the themes of sexual trauma too heavy and too real for me to be able to handle. Fortunately, I decided to give it a shot anyway, because this is a perfect example of why I keep reading YA. I loved all of the characters and their relationships, but more than that, I loved how seriously the book took each of them and their struggles, while also holding them accountable for the ways they hurt people because of it. I loved that it let them be flawed and make mistakes and still deserve love—still deserve better than what the world gives them. And I loved that it let them be angry.

I also appreciated that even though it was YA, it never felt like it was talking down to its readers. These books have a very clear perspective (as they should, and as pretty much every book does), but the author uses the story, rather than the narration, to get that perspective across, which, to me, felt more effective.  I don’t want to say too much, but what I will say is of all the YA I’ve read, I think this series engages the most maturely with revolution and oppression, with the hard choices it requires and the ways oppression pits people against each other when they should be on the same side. While it is certainly for and about teenagers, it doesn’t simplify or sugarcoat. It is harsh and it is hard and it is dark, but it is also a fight worth making.  For all of that, though, there is an optimism that remains, sometimes dimmer but always there.

I really wish more people would read these books because they are so damn good. They are exactly the kind of books I deserved to have in high school and am grateful current teenagers have now. I can’t wait to see what Charlotte Nicole Davis does next.

Sapphic Books by Black Authors Out in 2024

a collage of the book covers listed with the text Sapphic Books By Black Authors Out in 2024

It’s Black History Month, so I wanted to highlight some of the sapphic books out this year from Black authors! Quite a few came out in January, so you can buy those now, but this is also the perfect time to preorder the books coming out later this year.

I want to throw some quick disclaimers out there: I tried to double-check each of these for both sapphic content and that they are, in fact, by Black authors, but please let me know if I got anything wrong: reliable information about upcoming releases is always harder to find. If you’re an author of one of these books and would rather it wasn’t included in this list for any reason, let me know and I’ll remove it.

Also, let me know in the comments if I missed any sapphic books by Black authors out this year! I’m always looking for more. At this point, there isn’t a lot of information out there about books coming out in the back half of the year, so this list ends in June.

Scroll down for the publisher descriptions of all of these titles, or you can browse through them on Bookshop.org.

January:

Dead in Long Beach, California by Venita Blackburn (Queer Fiction)

the cover of Dead in Long Beach, California

Coral is the first person to discover her brother Jay’s dead body in the wake of his suicide. There’s no note, only a drably furnished bachelor pad in Long Beach, California, and a cell phone with a handful of numbers in it. Coral pockets the phone. And then she starts responding to texts as her dead brother.

Over the course of one week, Coral, the successful yet lonely author of a hit dystopian novel, Wildfire, becomes increasingly untethered from reality. Blindsided by grief and operating with reckless determination, she doubles –and triples–down on posing as her brother, risking not only her own sanity but her relationship with her precocious niece, Khadijah. As Coral’s swirl of lies slowly closes in on her, the quirky and mysterious alien world of Wildfire becomes enmeshed in her own reality, in the process pushing long-buried memories, traumas, and secrets dangerously into the present.

A form-shifting and soul-crunching chronicle of grief and crisis, Venita Blackburn’s debut novel, Dead in Long Beach, California, is a fleet-footed marvel of self-discovery and storytelling that explores the depths of humankind’s capacity for harm and healing. With the daring, often hilarious imagination that made her an acclaimed short-fiction innovator, Blackburn crafts a layered, page-turning reckoning with what it means to be alive, dead, and somewhere in between.

Broughtupsy by Christina Cooke (Lesbian Fiction)

the cover of Broughtupsy

At once cinematic yet intimate, Broughtupsy is an enthralling debut novel about a young Jamaican woman grappling with grief as she discovers her family, her home, is always just out of reach

Tired of not having a place to land, twenty-year-old Akúa flies from Canada to her native Jamaica to reconnect with her estranged sister Tamika. Their younger brother Bryson has recently passed from sickle cell anemia–the same disease that took their mother ten years prior–and Akúa carries his remains in a small wooden box with the hope of reassembling her family.

Over the span of two fateful weeks, Akúa and Tamika visit significant places from their childhood, but time spent with her sister only clarifies how different they are, and how years of living abroad have distanced Akúa from her home culture. “Am I Jamaican?” she asks herself again and again. Beneath these haunting doubts lie anger and resentment at being abandoned by her own blood. “Why didn’t you stay with me?” she wants to ask Tamika.

Wandering through Kingston with her brother’s ashes in tow, Akúa meets Jayda, a brash stripper who shows her a different side of the city. As the two grow closer, Akúa confronts the difficult reality of being gay in a deeply religious family, and what being a gay woman in Jamaica actually means.

By turns diasporic family saga, bildungsroman, and terse sexual awakening, Broughtupsy is a profoundly moving debut novel that asks: what do we truly owe our family, and what are we willing to do to savor the feeling of home?

Pomegranate by Helen Elaine Lee (Queer Woman Fiction) (Paperback Rerelease)

the cover of Pomegranate by Helen Elaine Lee

Ranita Atwater is “getting short.”

She is almost done with her four-year sentence for opiate possession at Oak Hills Correctional Center. Three years sober, she is determined to stay clean and regain custody of her two children. Ranita is regaining her freedom, but she’s leaving behind her lover Maxine, who has inspired her to imagine herself and the world differently.

My name is Ranita, and I’m an addict, she has said again and again at recovery meetings. But who else is she? Who might she choose to become? Now she must steer clear of the temptations that have pulled her down, while atoning for her missteps and facing old wounds. With a fierce, smart, and sometimes funny voice, Ranita reveals how rocky and winding the path to wellness is for a Black woman, even as she draws on family, memory, faith, and love in order to choose life.

Pomegranate is a complex portrayal of queer Black womanhood and marginalization in America from an author “working at the height of her powers” (Tayari Jones, New York Times bestselling). In lyrical and precise prose, Helen Elaine Lee paints a humane and unflinching portrait of the devastating effects of incarceration and addiction, and of one woman’s determination to tell her story.

Faebound by Saara El-Arifi (Sapphic Fantasy)

the cover of Faebound

Two elven sisters become imprisoned in the intoxicating world of the fae, where danger and love lie in wait. Faebound is the first book in an enchanting new trilogy from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Final Strife.

Yeeran was born on the battlefield, has lived on the battlefield, and one day, she knows, she’ll die on the battlefield.

As a warrior in the elven army, Yeeran has known nothing but violence her whole life. Her sister, Lettle, is trying to make a living as a diviner, seeking prophecies of a better future.

When a fatal mistake leads to Yeeran’s exile from the Elven Lands, both sisters are forced into the terrifying wilderness beyond their borders.There they encounter the impossible: the fae court. The fae haven’t been seen for a millennium. But now Yeeran and Lettle are thrust into their seductive world, torn among their loyalties to each other, their elven homeland, and their hearts.

Escaping Mr. Rochester by L.L. McKinney (Sapphic YA Jane Eyre Retelling)

the cover of Escaping Mr. Rochester

In this fresh reimagining of Charlotte Brontë‘s classic novel by acclaimed author L. L. McKinney, Jane Eyre and Bertha Mason must save each other from the horrifying machinations of Mr. Rochester in this intrigue-filled, empowering young adult romance.

Jane Eyre has no interest in a husband. Eager to make her own way in the world, she accepts the governess position at Thornfield Hall.

Though her new employer, Edward Rochester, has a charming air–not to mention a handsome face–Jane discovers that his smile can sharpen in an instant. Plagued by Edward’s mercurial mood and the strange wails that echo through the corridors, Jane grows suspicious of the secrets hidden within Thornfield Hall–unaware of the true horrors lurking above her very head.

On the topmost floor, Bertha Mason is trapped in more ways than one. After her whirlwind marriage to Edward turned into a nightmare, he locked her away as revenge for withholding her inheritance. Now his patience grows thin in the face of Bertha’s resilience and Jane’s persistent questions, and both young women are in more danger than they realize.

When their only chance at safety–and perhaps something more–is in each other’s arms, can they find and keep one another safe before Edward’s dark machinations close in around them?

So Let Them Burn by Kamilah Cole (Lesbian and Demisexual Fantasy)

the cover of So Let Them Burn

Whip-smart and immersive, this Jamaican-inspired fantasy follows a gods-blessed heroine who’s forced to choose between saving her sister or protecting her homeland–perfect for fans of Iron Widow and The Priory of the Orange Tree.

Faron Vincent can channel the power of the gods. Five years ago, she used her divine magic to liberate her island from its enemies, the dragon-riding Langley Empire. But now, at seventeen, Faron is all powered up with no wars to fight. She’s a legend to her people and a nuisance to her neighbors.

When she’s forced to attend an international peace summit, Faron expects that she will perform tricks like a trained pet and then go home. She doesn’t expect her older sister, Elara, forming an unprecedented bond with an enemy dragon–or the gods claiming the only way to break that bond is to kill her sister.

As Faron’s desperation to find another solution takes her down a dark path, and Elara discovers the shocking secrets at the heart of the Langley Empire, both must make difficult choices that will shape each other’s lives, as well as the fate of their world.

March:

The Poisons We Drink by Bethany Baptiste (Bisexual YA Fantasy) (March 5)

the cover of The Poisons We Drink

Love potions is a dangerous business. Brewing has painful, debilitating side effects, and getting caught means death or a prison sentence. But what Venus is most afraid of is the dark, sentient magic within her.

Then an enemy’s iron bullet kills her mother, Venus’s life implodes. Keeping her reckless little sister Janus safe is now her responsibility. When the powerful Grand Witcher, the ruthless head of her coven, offers Venus the chance to punish her mother’s killer, she has to pay a steep price for revenge. The cost? Brew poisonous potions to enslave D.C.’s most influential politicians.

As Venus crawls deeper into the corrupt underbelly of her city, the line between magic and power blurs, and it’s hard to tell who to trust…Herself included.

The Poisons We Drink is a potent YA debut about a world where love potions are weaponized against hate and prejudice, sisterhood is unbreakable, and self-love is life and death.

These Letters End in Tears by Musih Tedji Xaviere (Sapphic Fiction) (March 12)

the cover of These Letters End In Tears

Set in a country where being gay is punishable by law, These Letters End in Tears is the heart-wrenching forbidden love story of a Christian girl with a rebellious heart and a Muslim girl leading a double life.

Bessem notices Fatima for the first time on the soccer field–muscular and focused, she’s the only woman playing and seems completely at ease. When Fatima chases a rogue ball in her direction, Bessem freezes, mesmerized by the athlete’s charm and beauty. One playful wink from Fatima, and Bessem knows her life will never be the same.

In Cameroon, a country where same-sex relationships are punishable by law, the odds are stacked against Bessem and Fatima from the start. And when Fatima’s older brother, a staunch Muslim, finds out about their affair, he intervenes by physically assaulting them, an incident that precedes a police raid at the only gay bar in town. After spending days in jail, Fatima goes missing without a trace, and Bessem is left with only rumors of her whereabouts. Has Fatima been sentenced to an unknown prison? Has she been banished from her community, or married off, as some have suggested? Or something even more sinister?

Thirteen years later, Bessem is now a university professor leading a relatively quiet life, occasionally and secretly dating other women. However, she has never forgotten Fatima. After spotting a mutual friend for the first time in years–the last person who may have seen Fatima–Bessem embarks on a winding search for her lost love.

Those Beyond the Wall (The Space Between Worlds #2) by Micaiah Johnson (Sapphic Science Fiction) (March 12)

the cover of Those Beyond the Wall

Faced with a coming apocalypse, a woman must reckon with her past to solve a series of sudden and inexplicable deaths in a searing sci-fi thriller from the Compton Crook Award-winning author of The Space Between Worlds.

In Ashtown, a rough-and-tumble desert community, the Emperor rules with poisoned claws and an iron fist. He can’t show any sign of weakness, as the neighboring Wiley City has spent lifetimes beating down the people of Ashtown and would love nothing more than its downfall. There’s only one person in the desert the Emperor can fully trust–and her name is Scales.

Scales is the best at what she does: keeping everyone and everything in line. As a skilled mechanic–and an even more skilled fighter, when she needs to be–Scales is a respected member of the Emperor’s crew, who’s able to keep things running smoothly. But the fragile peace Scales helps to maintain is fractured when a woman is mangled and killed before her eyes. Even more incomprehensible: There doesn’t seem to be a murderer.

When more bodies start to turn up, both in Ashtown and in the wealthier, walled-off Wiley City, Scales is tasked with finding the cause–and putting an end to it by any means necessary. To protect the people she loves, she teams up with a frustratingly by-the-books partner from Ashtown and a brusque-but-brilliant scientist from the City, delving into both worlds to track down an invisible killer.

But the answers Scales finds are bigger than she ever could have imagined, leading her into the brutal heart beneath Wiley City’s pristine façade and dredging up secrets from her own past that she would rather keep hidden. If she wants to save the world from the earth-shattering truths she uncovers, she can no longer remain silent–even if speaking up costs her everything.

Where Sleeping Girls Lie by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (Sapphic YA Horror) (March 19)

the cover of Where Sleeping Girls Lie

In Where Sleeping Girls Lie — a YA contemporary mystery by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, the New York Times-bestselling author of Ace of Spades  a girl new to boarding school discovers dark secrets and coverups after her roommate disappears.

It’s like I keep stumbling into a dark room, searching for the switch to make things bright again…

Sade Hussein is starting her third year of high school, this time at the prestigious Alfred Nobel Academy boarding school after being home-schooled all her life. Misfortune has been a constant companion all her life, but even Sade doesn’t expect her new roommate, Elizabeth, to disappear after Sade’s first night. Or for people to think she had something to do with it.

With rumors swirling around her, Sade catches the attention of the girls collectively known as the ‘Unholy Trinity’ and they bring her into their fold. Between learning more about them–especially Persephone, who Sade is inexplicably drawn to–and playing catchup in class, Sade already has so much on her plate. But when it seems people don’t care enough about what happened to Elizabeth to really investigate, it’s up to she and Elizabeth’s best friend to solve it.

And then a student is found dead.

As they keep trying to figure out what’s going on, Sade realizes there’s more to Alfred Nobel Academy and its students than she thought. Secrets lurk around every corner and beneath every surface…secrets that rival even her own.

Dead Girls Walking by Sami Ellis (Sapphic YA Horror) (March 26)

the cover of Dead Girls Walking

Sami Ellis’s Dead Girls Walking is a shocking, spine-chilling YA horror slasher about a girl searching for her dead mother’s body at the summer camp that was once her serial killer father’s home–perfect for fans of Friday the 13th and White Smoke.

Temple Baker knows that evil runs in her blood. Her father is the North Point Killer, an infamous serial killer known for how he marked each of his victims with a brand. He was convicted for murdering 20 people and was the talk of countless true crime blogs for years. Some say he was possessed by a demon. Some say that they never found all his victims. Some say that even though he’s now behind bars, people are still dying in the woods. Despite everything though, Temple never believed that her dad killed her mom. But when he confesses to that crime while on death row, she has no choice but to return to his old hunting grounds to try see if she can find a body and prove it.

Turns out, the farm that was once her father’s hunting grounds and her home has been turned into an overnight camp for queer, horror-obsessed girls. So Temple poses as a camp counselor to go digging in the woods. While she’s not used to hanging out with girls her own age and feels ambivalent at best about these true crime enthusiasts, she tries her best to fit in and keep her true identity hidden.

But when a girl turns up dead in the woods, she fears that one of her father’s “fans” might be mimicking his crimes. As Temple tries to uncover the truth and keep the campers safe, she comes to realize that there may be something stranger and more sinister at work–and that her father may not have been the only monster in these woods.

April:

Something Kindred by Ciera Burch (Bisexual YA Gothic) (April 2)

the cover of Something Kindred

Welcome to Coldwater. Come for the ghosts, stay for the drama.

Jericka Walker had planned to spend the summer before senior year soaking up the sun with her best friend on the Jersey Shore. Instead she finds herself in Coldwater, Maryland, a small town with a dark and complicated past where her estranged grandmother lives–someone she knows only two things about: her name and the fact that she left Jericka’s mother and uncle when they were children. But now Jericka’s grandmother is dying, and her mother has dragged Jericka along to say goodbye.

As Jericka attempts to form a connection with a woman she’s never known, and adjusts to life in a town where everything closes before dinner, she meets “ghost girl” Kat, a girl eager to leave Coldwater and more exciting than a person has any right to be. But Coldwater has a few unsettling secrets of its own. The more you try to leave, the stronger the town’s hold. As Jericka feels the chilling pull of her family’s past, she begins to question everything she thought she knew about her mother, her childhood, and the lines between the living and the dead.

May:

Thirsty by Jas Hammonds (Sapphic YA Contemporary) (May 14)

the cover of Thirsty by Jas Hammonds

It’s the summer before college and eighteen-year-old Blake Brenner and her girlfriend, Ella, have one goal: join the mysterious and exclusive Serena Society. The sorority promises status and lifelong connections to a network of powerful, trailblazing women of color. Ella’s acceptance is a sure thing–she’s the daughter of a Serena alum. Blake, however, has a lot more to prove.

As a former loner from a working-class background, Blake lacks Ella’s pedigree and confidence. Luckily, she finds courage at the bottom of a liquor bottle. When she drinks, she’s bold, funny, and unstoppable–and the Serenas love it. But as pledging intensifies, so does Blake’s drinking, until it’s seeping into every corner of her life. Ella assures Blake that she’s fine; partying hard is what it takes to make the cut . . .But success has never felt so much like drowning. With her future hanging in the balance and her past dragging her down, Blake must decide how far she’s willing to go to achieve her glittering dreams of success–and how much of herself she’s willing to lose in the process.

The 7-10 Split by Karmen Lee (F/F Romance) (May 21)

the cover of The 7-10 Split

This is how love rolls…

For teacher Ava Williams, some subjects are not up for debate. Like history–specifically, the one she has with Grace Jones, bowling pro and local celeb. Who is now, for no identifiable reason, teaching at the same small-town Georgia high school as Ava. Once upon a time, they were thick as thieves, best friends, rivals who pushed each other, and total bowling nerds. Then they shared a kiss, sweet and confusing…and after that, they split and nothing was ever the same.

Ava is pretty sure she has every reason to hate Grace. Especially when the school’s soggy potato of a principal announces–finally–that the students can have the bowling team Ava has been pushing for, for years…only to hand it to Grace.

Now they’re expected to be partners and lead their new bowling team to victory in six months. And with that, their rivalry is back. Fierce, ultracompetitive…and with an undeniable attraction that pushes, pulls and crashes together. It’s history. It’s chemistry. And it’s just a matter of time before it explodes…one way or the other.

Second Night Stand by Karelia Stetz-Waters and Fay Stetz-Waters (F/F Romance) (May 21)

the cover of Second Night Stand

Prima ballet dancer Lillian Jackson is all about control–on stage and in bed. Which is precisely why she keeps her hook-ups to one night, and one night only. No strings. No phone numbers. No scones in the morning. There’s no room for mistakes, especially now that her dance company’s survival depends entirely on winning a million-dollar cash prize in one of America’s biggest reality competitions. That is, until one night with a certain curvy, blue-haired siren changes everything . . .

As burlesque dancer “Blue Lenox,” Izzy Wells is the queen of on-stage seduction. Almost no one knows that she’s close to losing everything–her theater, her home, and her troupe–unless she wins this competition. Now she’s going toe-to-toe with a gorgeous ballerina in front of the world. The chemistry between them is hot, but even more distracting are the feelings they’re starting to develop. There’s no way Lillian can fit Izzy into her life, and Izzy knows better than to fall for someone who can’t put her first. But if they can make it through the show with their hearts and dreams intact, they just might win the biggest prize of all.

A Little Kissing Between Friends by Chencia C. Higgins (F/F Romance) (May 28)

the cover of A Little Kissing Between Friends

Music producer on the rise Cyn Tha Starr knows what she likes, from her sickening beats in the studio to the flirty femmes she fools around with. Her ever-rotating roster has never been a problem until her latest fling clashes with Jucee, her best friend and the most popular dancer at strip club Sanity.

It makes Cyn see Jucee in a different light. One with far fewer boundaries and a lot more kissing.

Juleesa Jones makes great money dancing the early shift and spends most evenings with her son, her Sanity family or at Cyn’s house. Relationships are not high on the priority list–until she’s forced to admit that maybe friendship isn’t the only thing she wants from her bestie.

But hooking up with your ride-or-die is risky. Jucee isn’t just Cyn’s best friend–Jucee is her muse. When Cyn lays down her beats, it’s Jucee she imagines in the club throwing it back to every note. If they aren’t careful, this could crash and burn…but isn’t real love worth it?

June:

The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye by Briony Cameron (F/F Pirate Historical Fiction) (June 4)

the cover of The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye

This epic, dazzling tale based on true events illuminates a woman of color’s rise to power as one of the few purported female pirate captains to sail the Caribbean, and the forbidden love story that will shape the course of history.

In the tumultuous town of Yáquimo, Santo Domingo, Jacquotte Delahaye is an unknown but up-and-coming shipwright. Her dreams are bold but her ambitions are bound by the confines of her life with her self-seeking French father. When her way of life and the delicate balance of power in the town are threatened, she is forced to flee her home and become a woman on the run along with a motley crew of refugees, including a mysterious young woman named Teresa.

Jacquotte and her band become indentured servants to the infamous Blackhand, a ruthless pirate captain who rules his ship with an iron fist. As they struggle to survive his brutality, Jacquotte finds herself unable to resist Teresa despite their differences. When Blackhand hatches a dangerous scheme to steal a Portuguese shipment of jewels, Jacquotte must rely on her wits, resourcefulness, and friends to survive. But she discovers there is a grander, darker scheme of treachery at play, and she ultimately must decide what price she is willing to pay to secure a better future for them all.

An unforgettable tale told in three parts, The Ballad of Jacquotte Delahaye is a thrilling, buccaneering escapade filled with siege and battle, and is also a tender exploration of friendship, love, and the search for freedom and home.

Sleep Like Death by Kalynn Bayron (Bisexual YA Fantasy) (June 25)

the cover of Sleep Like Death

Cinderella is dead, but Snow White fights on . . .

New York Times bestselling author Kalynn Bayron makes her highly anticipated return to the realm of fairy tales with this thrilling twist on the classic story of Snow White.

Princess Eve was raised with one purpose: to destroy the Knight, an evil sorcerer who terrorizes Queens Bridge with his wicked magic. Her own unique magic–the ability to conjure weapons from nature–makes her a worthy adversary. Far too many of subjects of Queens Bridge have been devastated by the Knight’s trickery.

As she approaches her seventeenth birthday, Eve is ready to battle. But her mother, Queen Regina, has been acting bizarrely, talking to a strange mirror alone every night. Then a young man claiming to be the Knight’s messenger appears and shares a shocking truth about Eve’s past. Unsure of who to trust or what to do next, Eve must find the courage to do what she’s always done: fight. But will it be enough to save her family and her queendom?


You might also be interested in Reading Black Joy: 27 F/F Romances by Black Authors. You can also browse the Black Author tag for Lesbrary reviews of sapphic books by Black authors.

A Memoir of Medical Bias—Bless the Blood: A Cancer Memoir by Walela Nehanda

the cover of Bless the Blood

Buy this from Bookshop.org to support local bookstores and the Lesbrary!

Bless The Blood: A Cancer Memoir is a striking book that gets under your skin and stays there for days afterward. Though billed as a YA book, the writing and story hold a depth of feeling and insight that will engage far older readers, too. Hospitals, homes, intimate relationships and even one’s own skin are explored as sites playing host to complex histories. Framed by references to Cynthia Parker Ohene and Audre Lorde, Walela Nehanda threads a poetics of class, race and gender that shows how those constructs tangibly mediate who has access to certain spaces and their attendant expectations of care.

There is wisdom in Nehanda’s depiction of the ways relationships function as spaces for the people in them. And inversely, how spaces are shaped by the connections people make there. Some books really get to the heart of that old saying “a house is not a home”—this is one of the few that goes further by suggesting that a body isn’t always a home, either.

Teeming with generational trauma and an aching love-hunger that breaks through in paragraphs and poems about sickness, recovery, affection, intimacy, and history, this is a book that refuses to be reducible to inspiration porn. There is a lot of unvarnished pain here: it beats and seeps and leaps out of the page, sinking into the sorest parts of anyone who has ever found themselves at odds with their body, anyone who has ever felt the acute violence of having their bodies treated as alienable. 

But these recollections are accompanied by memories of healing and true connection that remind me of one of my favorite aspects of queer media: the defiance of portraying communal moments of revelry and unapologetic joy. These moments offer a small antidote to the seemingly incessant indignities Nehanda encounters in trying to access care through institutions that diminish compassion into a sort of charity contingent on the seeker’s performance of acceptable respectable acquiescence to unjust norms. It is a keenly relevant story, and only becoming more so as the conversation and activism around medical bias gains momentum.

The book’s archetypal figures and icons are also from a media moment that younger readers (I’m including twenty-somethings in this), will find timely. Close readers might be left wondering why there is more “prestige” in the exploits of long-dead hellenics than Captain American or Black Panther—and how our insistence on pretending that the former are more universal than the latter only goes to show how deeply those stories have been decontextualized in service of modern myths about what is “natural” or just.

I will admit fully that I am very partial to this sort of mythic deconstruction. I appreciate authors who staunchly refuse the opiate of presumed objectivity and instead fiercely reckon with the implicit messages and specificity of our shared stories. There is a passion in these pages that I found refreshing, and which I hope this review does justice to.

Who Will Enjoy This: People who thought The Remedy was poignant, timely and want to read more deeply personal stories about the struggles of accessing care (both medical and otherwise) as a gender-expansive person of color (here, a Black person in America). People who enjoy memoirs in verse, or poetry about the poet’s relationship with their body and others. People who think “formalism” is another word for “limitation”. People who enjoy science fiction metaphors for biomedical ideas.

(Seriously, Nehanda’s description of leukemia and their body as a besieged planet is all I’ve been talking about to anyone who will listen for the past week)

Who Might Think Twice: If you’re currently dealing with healthcare bias and difficulties of your own, this book will either reassure you that you are not alone or leave you emotionally exhausted. Your miles may vary. Nehanda pulls no punches in either their remembrances of or their viscerally unflinching depiction of their pain.