By Amy Deppe:
Though another Pride month has come and gone, the importance of recognizing and celebrating LGBTQIA+ people and promoting representation remains constant.
As Pride approached and an attempt to ban a book locally came to my attention, I began to think about the impact representation has had on my journey. I did not have access to LGBTQIA+ representation in books in junior high and high school, certainly not in elementary school. Well, now that I think about it, we did read The Picture of Dorian Gray in high school. The moral of that story is that queer life is depraved and will rot your soul. Not exactly positive representation! LGBTQIA+ representation in media would not have made me gay, just like none of the extensive heteronormative representation made me straight. It just doesn’t work that way! (Oops! That got away from me. But for real though!)
Over the years, I've spent time reading older pieces of queer fiction (including The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall from 1923, various books by Rita Mae Brown from the 1970s). Some of that is because, for a time, it was hard to come by contemporary queer fiction. It gave me a view of what it may have been like in the past to be LGBTQIA+. It also opened my eyes to the ways that the power structure uses censorship in order to make the world appear to fit into their view the “goodness” and “badness” binary. Many older books are filled with traumatic and sad endings. People are murdered, beaten, jailed, raped, and institutionalized because of their queerness. There is an element of truth to these endings; homophobia has ravaged the queer community! However, when this is the only way a culture is represented, it has a great impact on the people consuming this type of media, especially the youth. The rise of the internet helped with the access issue, and now, with a few taps and clicks, we can find so much representation. There is a whole world of joyous, happy-ending books out there that we deserve. Go out and enjoy it! I know I will!
Pride Book Report #21
Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
Another author who was important to me is Jeanette Winterson. Her work and our relationship to her work is much more complicated. Jimmie Sue’s favorite novel by Winterson is Written on the Body. It is written sort of stream of consciousness about a love affair. The reader never learns the gender of the narrator, so you get to choose. We read and enjoyed many of Winterson's books, so when I saw a recent one at the store, I was excited to buy it.
Frankssstein: A Love Story is a queer reimagining of Frankenstein. I didn’t finish it. Very quickly I discovered that the story was horribly transphobic and sexist. Yikes! Sometimes, we grow in different ways than our favorite authors.
Pride Book Report #22
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
This book! It is not about coming out so much as coming to understand community. Juliet moves across the country from the Bronx to Portland, OR, to intern and live with a feminist author. She is swirling in the chaos of being newly out and in the queer community for the first time.
Rivera’s story reminded me of that time and place. Finding community and seeing how the LGBTQIA+ community interacts in real life for the first time was overwhelmingly joyous—and a little scary. I learned so much when I was enveloped by my community.
Pride Book Report #23
Becoming Visible by Molly McGarry and Fred Wasserman
A coffee-table book about queer history? Yes, please! When I bought this bright-pink book, I was so excited to SEE the people and artifacts that I had been reading about. I love the idea of leaving this book laying around for people to happen upon it and begin flipping through! More and more books on LGBTQIA+ history are being written. We are truly becoming visible.
Having a sense of place in history makes a person real. So many young people think that they are the only ones to feel this way. When we can know the name of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s wife but not Bayard Rustin’s life partner, it gives legitimacy to one while shrouding the other in shame. An omission as simple as that can plunge a young LGBTQIA+ person into doubt and despair. In reality, we have always been here.
Pride Book Report #24
The Wayfarer Series by Becky Chambers
These books made their way to me, and I became obsessed with the variety of genders and sexuality and relationships present in them! It's also a really great story. In this universe, people have been in space for a very long time. People from different planets and societies on those planets have been learning from one another and living together for a very long time.
These books touch one another at the margins; sometimes characters are shared. They definitely inform one another because they all happen in the same universe. Some of the relationships in these books are about family, cross-cultural love, AI seeking connection, sex work, long-distance love. As I read these, I was mesmerized by Chambers’ universe and characters! I was drawn into each story and longed for more. Such a good read!
Pride Book Report #25
Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby
I bought this book on a whim. (Let's be real, I buy a lot of books on a whim.) The title drew me in, and then I read the back. A Black man and a white man, both formerly incarcerated, team up vigilante style to avenge the death of their gay sons who were married to each other. Who doesn’t want to read that!?!
Cosby tells the story with a good mix of soul searching, mutual education, and violent vengeance. The main characters did not know each other before the death of their boys. Once it is clear that the police will not pursue the killer, the men determine to solve it themselves. Along the way, they learn from each other and come to terms with their complicated feelings about their boys’ homosexuality. It's a bit of a coming out journey told from the parent’s perspective. I really enjoyed the ride of this book!
Pride Book Report #26
Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail by Ashley Herring Blake
A friend had mentioned this author, so when I saw this book on the BOGO table, I picked it up. It made the final cut and came home. I'm glad it did! This book is classic movie material: Girl suffers major relationship drama. Girl comes to save the day for family business. Girl falls in love. And, spoiler(!), girls live happily ever after. 🙂
After watching heteronormative rom-coms and romantic dramas when I was younger, I avoided this genre for many years. There just came a point where it wasn’t worth the mental work. It is so good that people are writing romance stories for queer people that have happy endings! Everyone deserves a happy ending.
Pride Book Report #27
They Both Die at the End and The First to Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Jimmie Sue and I read this as part of the Rochester LGBTQ+ Together Rainbow Reading Club. If you live in the Rochester area and are LGBTQ+, check them out! They have many, many programs and grew out of the pandemic and the implosion of the other LGBTQ+ community center that had lots of problems and was generally very problematic. The leadership at Rochester LGBTQ+ Together is amazing and wonderful and we miss them.
Back to the books. These are a pair; The First to Die at the End is a prequel published second. (I read them in publishing order.) Death Cast is a service that can predict all the people who will die in a day. The service calls the people to notify them that it’s their last day. Each book takes place over the course of a day, beginning with the Death Call, ending with death itself. Each book is a very sweet love story between boys who meet at the beginning of the book.
These books brought up all kinds of questions about whether I would want to know that it was my last day and how I would choose to spend my last day. If I had the chance, how would I say goodbye to my loved ones?
Pride Book Report #28
The Candidate by Tracey Richardson
I read this while Jimmie Sue was starting a call in another state and I was solo parenting while the kiddos finished the school year. It was a quick, take-my-mind-off-the-horribleness-of-separation read. Basically, a lesbian Secret Service agent is assigned to protect a female presidential candidate. They become close on the campaign trail. It was fun to imagine a queer woman successfully running for president.
Pride Book Report #29
Nate Plus One by Kevin van Whye
I found this book after reading Heartstopper. It is so sweet! Nate, a South African–American teenager invites his crush with him on a trip to a family wedding in South Africa. Nate is staying with his grandmother on the family farm and hanging out with family while in South Africa. While he is out to his mom, he has not yet come out to his extended family and is anxious about how it will go. It is a sweet story about crushing on a cute person and then discovering that y’all get along quite well. 🙂 There is the inevitable teen drama that you may see coming from a mile away, but what is a story without a crucial conflict to resolve?!?
Pride Book Report #30
A Million to One by Adiba Jaigirdar
A caper?! On the Titanic?!?! With a lesbian love interest?!?!?! I'm in!
The main character assembles a team of girls to pull off a robbery of the Rubaiyat while on the Titanic. The idea is these poor girls who have barely survived will be able to sell the jewels from the Rubaiyat once in America and be able to live freely.
This was an exciting book that drew me into the plot quickly. Thanks to many hours of watching the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together. The characters are likeable, and I was rooting for them. There is a bit of intrigue, and we learn the back story about each girl. And, of course, there is the drama of the Titanic sinking. The story ends happily.
Thank you for taking this journey with me! Maybe you found a book that piqued your curiosity! Maybe you found a new author that you love! At the very least, you got to see a sampling of LGBTQIA+ book reviews without the trouble of googling them! 🙃
Amy Deppe is an Early Childhood Professional, happily married to the love of her life, with two grown children and one furbaby. She loves the outdoors and spends her free time hiking, biking, exploring in the kitchen, and reading.