Danika reviews Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson

Rise to the Sun cover

My best friend has always been the first person I run to when it’s time to blow up my life.

I first have to admit that I have not yet read You Should See Me In a Crown, which–I mean–what am I even doing here? How can I call myself a sapphic book reviewer? Preposterous. So I’m not going to be able to compare this one to her mega popular previous title, but what I can say is that Rise to the Sun blew me away in its own right.

We’re going through a heat wave here (and air conditioners are sold out across the city, alas), and when I started the first few pages of this, I realized it was exactly what I needed to be reading: two best friends driving to a summer music festival with the volume cranked, singing at the top of their lungs. And I was right: this is a fantastic summer read, full of music, friendship, and swoon-worthy romance. But it’s also devastating.

Sometimes, in moments when a person I love criticizes my penchant to go heart-first into everything I do, I realize there’s nothing I should want to be less than a teenage girl who feels too much.

Olivia has just come off the most disastrous of a string of romantic failures. She loves to be loved, always flitting from one relationship to the next–but she’s never really herself in them, and that’s what always destroys these temporary pairings. She’s too loud and frenetic to be loved for herself, she believes, so she adapts to whatever she thinks her partner wants from her. The only one who really accepts her is her best friend, Imani, who’s always there to help pick up the pieces. So she convinces Imani to go to a music festival together to get her mind off her last breakup–despite Imani’s safety concerns and general lack of interest. She promises that this will be a best friend outing: just the two of them, no romances.

Toni has been going to this music festival every summer for years–but this is the first one without her father. He died recently from gun violence, and she is still reeling. The truth is, she didn’t see much of her father her whole life. He was always on the road with musicians, leaving Toni and her mom waiting while he kept changing the dates where he would come home. Toni is determined to be different. That’s why she is enrolled in university, starting next week. To get a dependable job and be a reliable adult. Except that the thought of showing up to class fills her with dread. She’s signed up to perform at a festival competition using her father’s logic that live music always brings answers. Maybe then, she’ll know what to do.

I’m a one-woman wrecking crew and eventually I destroy the people closest to me, especially the people I decide to love.

Of course, things don’t go according to plan. Toni and Olivia stumble into each other, and Olivia volunteers herself to be Toni’s needed performance partner–as long as she helps Olivia collect the Golden Apples in a scavenger hunt with a car for the prize. She also tries to pair up Imani with Toni’s best friend, because that’s even better than the best friend getaway she promised, right?

It’s no surprise that Olivia and Toni fall for each other, no matter how much they both try to resist. Toni calls herself an ice queen and Olivia is an irrepressible sunshine-y romantic, which is always a fun dynamic. There’s an “only one bed” trope moment! Meanwhile, there are madcap shenanigans chasing down the golden apples and live music experiences and dances amidst a pulsing crowd of people.

As I mentioned before, though, this isn’t just a summer romance. Gun violence is a running theme throughout the novel: how it is always a looming threat, including at big events like this music festival. For Toni, the idea is debilitating and brings on panic attacks. Olivia is trying to outrun what’s waiting for her at home: a judicial hearing. (Spoiler:) Her then-boyfriend pressured her into sending revealing photos and then posted them publicly. She’s not sure whether it’s worth facing him and the spectators or endangering his potential as a basketball star. (End spoiler.) Olivia struggles with her self esteem, and she also is not a good friend to Imani through most of the story. Both Olivia and Toni get overwhelmed by their insecurities and fears, letting bad habits flare up at the worst possible times.

This is an absorbing read that left my heart aching for Toni and Olivia (and Imani). I love how much depth there is to both characters and everyone’s interactions. This could easily have been a much simpler summer love story, and I would have enjoyed that too, but instead it felt much more messy and realistic. I appreciated Olivia’s journey to recognizing both her faults (and the damage they’ve caused) as well as her self-worth. I know I’m the last one on the Leah Johnson train, but let me just confirm what everyone’s been saying: she’s a star. I can’t wait to go back and read You Should See Me In a Crown now!

Content warnings: gun violence, death, sexual harrassment

That big love you give everyone else—you deserve to save some for yourself. You’re worth that much— worth every good thing.

Lesbrary Links: LGBTQ Bookstores, Neurodiverse Queer Lit, and F/F Superhero Couples

Cover collage with the text Lesbrary Links: Bi & Lesbian Lit News & Reviews

I follow hundreds of queer book blogs to scout out the best sapphic book news and reviews! Many of them get posted on Tumblr and Twitter as I discover them, but my favourites get saved for these link compilations. Here are some of the posts I’ve found interesting in the last few weeks.

We Can Do Better Than This cover
Queer as All Get Out
Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie
That Full Moon Feeling cover
You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat

Here are 56 LGBTQ-Owned Bookstores You Can Be Proud to Support.

Speaking of queer bookstores, Gay’s the Word bookstore has seen a lot of support from its community during the pandemic! Also, they have secret celebrity customers.

Autostraddle crowd-sourced a bookshelf of A+ queer book recommendations! (I contributed a few.)

Read some bisexual books.

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages by Saundra Mitchell cover
Dress Codes for Small Towns cover
Six Goodbyes We Never Said cover
This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron cover
Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi cover

These books help tweens figure out sexual orientation and gender identity.

Reads Rainbow continues with its “in the intersection” series with Latine LGBT Lit, Indigenous LGBT Lit, LGBT Lit and Faith, and Neurodiversity and Disability in LGBT Lit.

Here are some Book Rioters’ favourite new LGBTQ books.

It’s not Pride month anymore, but you should still read these Canadian LGBTQ2S+ books.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
Goldie Vance Volume 1
Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis
Burning Roses by S.L Huang
The Grimrose Girls cover

Read these queer YA comics and these middle grade LGBTQ graphic novels!

Speaking of comics, here are the best F/F superhero couples (and the only F/F superhero movie relationship).

Book Riot continues strong with the Pride posts in this post recommending queer historical fiction.

If you’re a fan of retellings, you’ll want to read these 30+ queer fairy tale retellings.

This is a beautiful reflection on Virginia Woolf’s life.

This post has 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 Twitter! We’re also on FacebookGoodreadsYoutube and Tumblr.

Support the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a queer women book every month! $10 and up patrons get guaranteed books throughout the year!

Danika reviews The Secret To Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

Fun Home is one of my favourite books, which will come as a surprise to absolutely no one. It’s a deeply introspective graphic memoir about books, coming out, and lesbian books. What’s not to like? While Fun Home is suffused with literature references, though, Are You My Mother? is equally concerned with psychoanalysis, which was a lot harder for me to relate to. In Bechdel’s newest graphic novel, she examines her life-long love affair with various exercise phases with references to transcendentalists and Buddhism.

There’s something comforting and familiar to me about reading an Alison Bechdel book. Her thoughtful introspection and constant ruminating about how best to live in this world feels like a mind I can relate to. While her previous graphic memoirs focused on her father and her mother, this one takes a long range look at exercise as a coping mechanism through her whole life, separated into decades. As a child, she saw an ad in a comic book that promised the “secret to superhuman strength.” It turned out to only be an inaccessible Jiu Jitsu pamphlet, but she continues to look for this secret her whole life: through running, karate, skiing, cycling, yoga, and more–always in the hopes of escaping the inevitable conclusion that she is interdependent and mortal.

Alongside this journey of physical transformation–always looking for more strength and inexhaustible endurance–Bechdel also goes on a spiritual exploration of the self. She tries to grapple with this question by looking at artists and writers through history, including Jack Kerouac, William and Dorothy Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Perhaps the appeal of these exercise regiments, though, is that she can track notable changes, while the psychological and spiritual journey feels more like one step forward and two steps back. In one striking panel, Bechdel realizes she only though she’d been dealing well with her father’s death because she hadn’t dealt with it at all; she hadn’t allowed herself to feel anything. She approaches fitness and her work with the same intensity, damaging her body and her relationships in the process.

Aside from following the fitness fads Bechdel has participated in over the years, this is primarily a story about yearning, a striving for transcendence, for finding the secret to living well. It’s about not just physical strength, but also the emotional endurance necessary to be human. It’s about looking for the secret of how to best live–so there’s no real neat conclusion possible. This is a story still in progress.

I didn’t feel the same way about The Secret To Superhuman Strength as Fun Home, but that’s an impossible hurdle to clear. I did connect more to this than Are You My Mother?, despite being as far from a fitness fan as possible. I also appreciated being to able to get a wider scope of Bechdel’s life, including how the publication of her graphic memoirs (especially Fun Home) changed her everyday reality. It’s at times painful to read, because I feel so much sympathy for her, but that just shows how effective it is.

Our Queerest Shelves: My Weekly LGBTQ Newsletter

As you may or may not know, I now work full time at Book Riot, where I have been writing for years. It’s truly a dream come true! One of the things I do there is write Our Queerest Shelves, a weekly newsletter about queer books that just launched in June! It’s kind of a mash-up of things I’ve been doing already, but looking at all kinds of queer rep, not just sapphic books. If you’re interested in LGBTQ lit in general, consider signing up!

Every week, I round up the most interesting queer bookish links from around the internet plus the newest LGBTQ posts on Book Riot, highlight some of the week’s queer new releases, and talk about whatever queer bookish topics that come to mind. This week (the newsletter going out today!), I talked about illustrated LGBTQ primers, like the Pocket Change Collective. Last week, I discussed how all my favorite books as a kid turned out to be queer (looking at you, Baby-Sitters Club!)

I’m really enjoying writing it, so I hope you sign up to another place I talk about queer books all day! (Podcasts, videos, blogs, newsletters–I’m slowly collecting every format possible.)

Crystal’s House of Queers by Brooke Skipstone is 99¢ June 26 – July 2!

This is a sponsored post. See Advertise with the Lesbrary for more details.

Get Crystal’s House of Queers by Brooke Skipstone
for 99¢ June 26 – July 2!

Crystal's House of Queers cover

Three senior girls in rural Alaska escape their abusive pasts by raising their dyke flag for themselves and their community.

Crystal Rose woke up at three in the morning today, drenched in sweat and breathless after another sex dream with Haley Carson. Later at school in the tiny town of Clear, Alaska, Crystal saves Haley from an assault by her abusive boyfriend.

The two girls renew a love started years ago that had to stay hidden until now. But with Crystal’s grandparents in the hospital with Covid and the possibility of her drug addict parents returning from a 14-year absence, Crystal needs Haley as much as she needs Crystal.

They connect with Payton Reed, a gun-toting artist who helps them feel proud to be gay and willing to stand up to anyone. Together they struggle to make Crystal’s house safe for those who are hated for their love.

99¢ promo Crystal's House

My Latest Sapphic Book Riot Posts

As you may or may not know, I work for Book Riot now! I’ve been writing for them for many years, but now I’m an Associate Editor! It’s basically my dream job, and it’s left me a lot of time for writing. And of course, a lot of that time I’m writing about sapphic books. I haven’t done a great job of letting you know about those posts here, though, so I thought I’d start doing semi-regular round ups of my Book Riot writing, and here it is! I’ll be starting with my most recent posts and then working backwards.

A Pinterest pin reading If you say there are no good lesbian books, you're bad at picking books.

I’ve been writing about bi and lesbian books for more than a decade now, and in that time, there’s been a constant refrain that gets under my skin: “There’s no good lesbian books.” This is often said by readers of M/M books who refuse to read any other queer books, but bafflingly, it’s also frequently said by lesbians. This was frustrating to hear when I first began the Lesbrary, but in 2021 I’m left flabbergasted. We are living in a golden age of queer lit, especially YA, and you’re telling me you can’t find ANY good lesbian books?

If You Say There are No Good Lesbian Books, You’re Bad at Picking Books

Tree surrounded by phosphorescent mushrooms

For me, one of the best parts about picking up a queer fantasy book is the possibility of being immersed in a world that doesn’t have heteronormativity or cissexism, because you’re building a whole different world, so you don’t have to pack in all of the prejudices from ours! I know there are a lot of people looking for queer fantasy set in worlds without any prejudice towards queer people — also known as “queernormative” or “queernorm” books! So I wanted to provide a place to start.

Queernorm Worlds: 35 Fantasy Books With No Homophobia or Transphobia

A Pinterest pin reading The Past, Present, and Future of BookTube, According to BookTubers

I interviewed about a dozen BookTubers, including lots of queer BookTubers, about the platform!

For CeCe, BookTube has been a key part of her becoming the person she is today. “When I started my channel I was a closeted incoming college junior who had read two queer books. Now I’m an out and proud lesbian, I make content every day about queer books online, and I make that content about books for a living. I’ve made lasting friendships with other BookTubers, viewers, readers, publishers, authors, and so many other people who love making bookish content.

“Getting good at talking to a camera gave me more confidence to speak in person. It gave me the power to be myself, and gave me the chance to help others. I’ve had the chance to meet several people who watch my channel and I’ve had several encounters with people who have said my videos helped them realize they were queer, or even helped them to come out. The weight of that responsibility isn’t lost on me, but I can’t believe the fact that BookTube has given me the ability to have that kind of impact.

“I have always wanted to create a platform that was about love and kindness and uplifting people. And I absolutely believe that making content that fits these things has made me a happier and more open person. I’ve been able to read hundreds of queer books and explore new worlds and stories I never would have dreamed existed when I was a 15-year-old Mormon kid in Utah.”

The Past, Present, and Future of BookTube, According to BookTubers

A photo of a sign at a protest reading Step 1 of being an ally is showing up

In my dream version of this, we have an organized group of online educators (with shared resources to link to) that can be called on when needed. After all, if 4chan and subreddits can organize hateful miseducation campaigns, why can’t there be a version for good? There are talking points for the alt-right and organized ways to try to lure people into white supremacy — why do we not have clear, step-by-step guides for educating people away from falling into these rabbit holes? (And if we do, why aren’t they more well-known and circulated?)

Reading books to educate yourself as an ally is great, but it should be considered just the first stepping stone. Once you have educated yourself, the next step is to educate others. It may be satisfying to tell someone to “just google it” and be righteous in knowing more than they do — but it doesn’t do much to move the needle. That requires patience and persistence, not smug superiority.

It’s Not Enough To Educate Yourself as an Ally. You Also Have to Teach.

Pinterest pin of a collage of Sappho accessories and decor

Sappho, the original Lesbian poet! She is the namesake of not only lesbians, but sapphics in general. Truly a queer icon. While we know almost nothing about her except that she lived on Lesbos, wrote poetry, and professed love for women, her legacy has lived on for thousands of years — as she predicted: “someone in some future time will think of us.”

These days, Sappho is most well-known for her love of women. In fact, her name is synonymous with it. Wearing a shirt with Sappho on it is more likely to be seen as announcing your sexuality than appreciating an ancient Greek poet. It’s worth remembering why she rose to such levels of fame, though: her poetry resonates even now. If you aren’t already familiar, read some of Sappho’s poetry to see for yourself! Then you can move on to more lesbian poetry.

Whether you love Sappho’s poetry or just want to add some lesbian/Lesbian flair to your wardrobe and decor, these Sappho accessories will be the perfect addition. They range from art to clothing to stickers and pins, letting you bring a bit of Sappho with you everywhere you go.

Suffering Sappho! Sappho of Lesbos Decor and Accessories to Collect

More of my Book Riot posts:

These ones aren’t focused on sapphic books, but maybe you’ll find them interesting anyways.

New Bi and Lesbian Books Out This Week, June 22nd!

Here are the sapphic books out this week! I’m most excited for Sky Falling, because I loved her previous novel, The Summer We Got Free! (Here’s my review.) Last week was mostly romance, but this week is sapphic SFF’s time to shine. For more new sapphic releases, also check out 58 Bi and Lesbian Books Out This Pride Month: June 1st was the big release day this month, so most of those are already out and waiting for you to pick them!

Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie (Queer Woman Fiction)

Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie

When she was twenty-six and broke, Skye didn’t think twice before selling her eggs and happily pocketing the cash. Now approaching forty, Skye still moves through life entirely—and unrepentantly—on her own terms, living out of a suitcase and avoiding all manner of serious relationships. Maybe her junior high classmates weren’t wrong when they voted her “Most Likely to Be Single” instead of “Most Ride-or-Die Homie,” but at least she’s always been free to do as she pleases.

Then a twelve-year-old girl tracks Skye down during one of her brief visits to her hometown of Philadelphia and informs Skye that she’s “her egg.” Skye’s life is thrown into sharp relief and she decides that it might be time to actually try to have a meaningful relationship with another human being. Spoiler alert: It’s not easy.

Things get even more complicated when Skye realizes that the woman she tried and failed to pick up the other day is the girl’s aunt, and now it’s awkward. All the while, her brother is trying to get in touch, her mother is being bewilderingly kind, and the West Philly pool halls and hoagie shops of her youth have been replaced by hipster cafés.

With its endearingly prickly narrator and a cast of characters willing to both challenge her and catch her when she falls, this novel is a clever, moving portrait of a woman and the relationships she thought she could live without.

Star Eater by Kerstin Hall (Bisexual Fantasy)

Star Eater cover

Elfreda Raughn will avoid pregnancy if it kills her, and one way or another, it will kill her. Though she’s able to stomach her gruesome day-to-day duties, the reality of preserving the Sisterhood of Aytrium’s magical bloodline horrifies her. She wants out, whatever the cost.

So when a shadowy faction approaches Elfreda with an offer of escape, she leaps at the opportunity. As their spy, she gains access to the highest reaches of the Sisterhood, and enters a glittering world of opulent parties, subtle deceptions, and unexpected bloodshed.

The Bone Way by Holly J. Underhill (F/F Fantasy)

The Bone Way cover

Teagan’s wife, Cressidae, is missing. She has left for the Shadow Realm, a kingdom of the dead filled with untold nightmares—and the only place that can save Teagan from a lethal poison that’s killing her slowly. It is ruled by a princess said to make powerful deals with those brave enough to find her, and Cressidae has gone to bargain for Teagan’s life. Cressidae has forgotten one very important thing: no one makes it out on their own.

Despite the risks to her own safety, Teagan is determined to save her wife—and perhaps even herself in the process. The princess of the Shadow Realm, however, doesn’t let mortals roam her territories without opposition. In this thrilling tale inspired by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Teagan and Cressidae must face both the horrors of the Shadow Realm as well as their own past.

Catalyst Gate (The Protectorate #3) by Megan O’Keefe (Bisexual Sci Fi)

Catalyst Gate cover

The universe is under threat and an ancient alien intelligence threatens to bring humanity down unless Major Sanda Greeve and her crew can stop it in the final book of this explosive Philip K. Dick award nominated space opera.

The code has been cracked. The secrets of the Casimir gates have been revealed. But humanity still isn’t safe. The alien intelligence known as Rainier and her clones are still out there, hell-bent on its destruction. And only Sanda can stop them.

With the universe’s most powerful ship under her command and some of the most skilled hackers, fighters, and spies on her team, it will still take everything she has to find the key to taking down an immortal enemy with seemingly limitless bodies, resources, and power.

The Papercutter by Cindy Rizzo (Queer YA Dystopia)

Papercutter cover

A deeply polarized and ungovernable United States of America has separated into two nations―the God Fearing States (GFS) and the United Progressive Regions (UPR). 

Judith Braverman, a teenager living in an Orthodox Jewish community in the GFS, is not only a talented artist accomplished in the ancient craft of papercutting, she also has the gift of seeing into peoples’ souls―and can tell instantly if someone is good or evil.

Jeffrey Schwartz has no love for religion or conformity and yearns to escape to the freedom of the UPR. When he’s accepted into an experimental pen pal program and paired with Dani Fine, an openly queer girl in the UPR, he hopes that he can finally find a way out.

As danger mounts and their alarm grows, Judith embeds a secret code in her papercuts so that she and Jeffrey can tell Dani what’s happening to Jews in the GFS without raising suspicions from the government. When the three arrange a quick, clandestine meeting, Jeffrey is finally faced with the choice to flee or to stay and resist. And Judith is reeling from a pull toward Dani that is unlike anything she has ever felt before.

Content note: the book contains one brief memory of sexual assault of a male teen by another male teen.

We Should Meet in Air: A Graphic Memoir on Reading Sylvia Plath by Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg (Graphic Memoir)

We Should Meet In Air cover

Part memoir, part literary biography, the writing of Sylvia Plath teaches one young woman the power of her own feelings.

Sylvia Plath’s writing reaches across decades to teach one young woman the power of her own feelings in this part memoir, part literary biography.

Like so many thoughtful and soul-searching young women, as a teenage girl Lisa was transfixed by the writing of Sylvia Plath. In different times, in different places, and in different ways, each of them struggles because of how they presented themselves to the world. As the author explored her sexuality and discovered her identity as an LGBTQ woman, she found inspiration and solace in the poetry and prose of this famous writer.

If you like what we do here and want to see more of it, support the Lesbrary on Patreon to get queer books in the mail throughout the year!

Meagan Kimberly reviews The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka

The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka cover

Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

Detective Roxane Weary is hired to prove a man’s innocence before his death sentence is completed for a crime he’s been claiming he didn’t commit. As she investigates what seems like an open and shut case, she starts to unravel a web of crimes that have gone undetected for decades. When another young girl goes missing, Roxane knows she has very little time to solve them all and save her client’s brother from a fate he doesn’t deserve.

Overall, this is a fast-paced story that keeps you turning the pages, wondering who is the true culprit of the crimes in question. Somewhere halfway, it goes off-road, but eventually, it leads back to the main mystery at hand. However, while it touches the surface of issues of racism and police brutality, it never delves into them. The man in prison for the murder of a white woman is a black man. Roxane briefly acknowledges the implications of how racism could have played a hand in the investigation and sentencing. But it doesn’t go beyond that, as it gets lost in her obsessive need to unravel the mystery of so many women presumed missing.

Roxane Weary is a messy and complicated character. I kept making the connection to Marvel’s Jessica Jones, a private eye with alcohol addiction who is still very good at her job. Roxane isn’t necessarily a great person, but she’s not necessarily a bad person either. In fact, she’s rather endearing in her imperfections, even if her behavior can sometimes frustrate the reader. She’s depicted as having casual relationships with men and women, but it’s never described as the stereotypical, “All bisexuals are cheaters.” She’s just a trainwreck because she hasn’t coped with the trauma of her difficult childhood and the recent loss of her father.

The Last Place You Look has a compelling mystery with an intriguing character. It’s a fair set up for a different player in the mystery-thriller genre.

Lesbrary Links: 50+ Years of LGBTQ Lit, Asian Queer Reads, and Reparative YA Reading

Lesbrary Links cover collage

I follow hundreds of queer book blogs to scout out the best sapphic book news and reviews! Many of them get posted on Tumblr and Twitter as I discover them, but my favourites get saved for these link compilations. Here are some of the posts I’ve found interesting in the last few weeks.

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
Lady Hotspur cover
The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
Love After the End edited by Joshua Whitehead

This Pride month, take a look back at 50+ years of LGBTQ lit with picks from every decade from 1970 to now!

Here’s a “short, selective, and incomplete” history of queer publishing, from the last 80s to now.

At Bustle, 21 LGBTQ+ authors (including Kristen Arnett, Casey McQuiston, and Sarah Gailey) talk about the books they wish they’d had as teenagers. On a similar note, The New York Times has an article about the reparative power of reading positive queer YA as an adult. (Sadly, it’s behind a paywall.)

The author of the photography book Queer Love In Color talks representation, love, & Pride month.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
Zami by Audre Lorde
Kimiko Does Cancer: A Graphic Memoir by Kimiko Tobimatsu, illustrated by Keet Geniza
The Family Tooth cover
Notes On a Crocodile cover

Your rage read of the day: Hungary has banned teaching about “homosexuality” in schools.

What would your dream queer anthology look like? Laura Sackton at Book Riot discusses the stories she’d select in her own.

Read this essay: How Audre Lorde’s Genre-Blurring Zami Spoke My Truth Into Existence.

Casey discusses 8 books about queer people dealing with cancer over at Autostraddle.

Here are 8 queer books in translation to read now.

She Who Became the Sun cover
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
The All-Consuming World cover
The World That Belongs To Us: An Anthology of Queer Poetry from South Asia by Aditi Angiras and Akhil Katyal
Memory of Light cover

Reads Rainbow has been doing some intersectional queer book lists, including East Asian LGBTQ lit, West Asian LGBTQ lit, Southeast Asian LGBTQ list, and South Asian LGBTQ lit. Relatedly, here are some Indian novels to read this Pride!

Do we need queerphobia for a queer identity? (Nah.) But Tor.com discusses whether there is a place for imagining a queer future in literature that still has prejudice. I do think there’s room for both utopian queer SFF/queernorm worlds as well as SFF stories with characters who fight prejudice, but I don’t think we should base our identities on others’ hatred of us.

OurShelves is a diverse, LGBTQ-inclusive children’s book subscription box.

This post has 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 Twitter! We’re also on FacebookGoodreadsYoutube and Tumblr.

Support the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a queer women book every month! $10 and up patrons get guaranteed books throughout the year!

Maggie reviews The Forever Sea by Joshua Phillip Johnson

The Forever Sea cover

Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

The Forever Sea by Joshua Phillip Johnson is a very interesting new fantasy book that features pirates, the high seas, magical fires, girlfriends, exciting world-building, and pitched battles–over a lack of water. The seas the characters sail over, fight on, and struggle with are grass, not water, and the ships sail over them through the use of magical hearth fires that keep the ships from plunging into the deeps. Kindred, a novice hearth fire tender, is struggling to find her place with her first crew after she departed from her grandmother’s ship to make her own way. But Kindred learned her way around the sea and a hearth fire from her grandmother, and her unorthodox ways and interests clash against the more utilitarian crew she signs up with. Returning from a voyage to learn about her grandmother’s death destabilizes her even more. But back-stabbing politicians, pirates, and conflict with her own crew doesn’t leave her much time to search for answers, and Kindred is torn between the life she should want to protect and the answers calling to her from the hearth fires and the depths of the grass sea.

The real pull of this book is the fascinating conceit–an endless grass sea–and the world built up around it. Personally, at times I would wish for fewer action sequences and more details about how the sea even works. There’s the grasses themselves, flowers, creatures, natural phenomena like fires, and, perhaps, unnatural phenomenon. The hearth fires too are fascinating–they could almost be another set of characters, with how they control the environment on the ships. From dew harvesting to floating cities to the creatures of the deep, the world of The Forever Sea is intriguing and noteworthy. If you like either pirate books or fascinating other worlds, this is a good combination for you. The feel is very nautical but also very uncanny. It’s a rich setting, and I can’t wait to see more of it.

I also appreciated Kindred’s almost schoolgirl-esque crush on a fellow crewmate–Ragged Sarah. Sarah, the crew lookout and bird caller, has a hidden past, but she’s sweet and she likes Kindred. In an otherwise uncanny and action-filled book, the sweetness of their feelings for each other is a nice contrast, and it gives Kindred something good to balance out all the difficult decisions that they face. The romance isn’t the main story of the book, but it’s nonetheless an important part of the events, and I found myself rooting for them to not be torn apart in difficult circumstances.

There’s been a lot of amazing queer science fiction and fantasy come out over the past couple of years, and since the romance isn’t this main focus of the plot, this one didn’t make a lot of the queer SF/F lists, but I think it’s a worthwhile addition to a to-read list. Interesting world-building is something I learned to value even more after my environment narrowed to my apartment last year, and sailing The Forever Sea is a good way to while away a few afternoons.