*claps* Let’s get into this.
Hello I’m Rogan and welcome to my wrap up of December books. This month, I read a ridiculous amount, finishing at 17 books. Six of those were for the Queer Lit Readathon. Rather than repeating the summaries here, I’ll tell you the names of them and link the full readathon wrap up.
Gender Queer. Blue is the Warmest Color. Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens. Cantoras. The Hidden Witch. Full Disclosure.
I was still on a kick for queer books, so quite a few more books this month are queer.
Immediately after the readathon finished, I read Stage Dreams. It’s basically a queer western graphic novel. There’s two main characters: Flor, a Latinx outlaw, and Grace, a trans runaway. Originally, Flor takes Grace hostage for ransom, but they end up coming up with a plot to steal some important Confederate papers. Fun times!!
Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard. This is the memoir of a trans teen. There’s a lot of trans 101 facts sprinkled throughout the book. This is about his experience transitioning in the UK, but a lot of focus on advice and such. It’s not really about his personal life. The writing was a little odd, you could clearly tell it was his voice. So this might be better as an audiobook.
Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man. The subtitle on my copy is: A Reckoning with Gender, Identity, and Masculinity. This is the memoir of a trans man on a journey to figure out what masculinity is, what it means. This is all done through training for his first boxing match. He was the first trans man to box at Madison Square Garden. I really enjoyed this, it takes a look at different things that “being a man” can be, it analyzes masculinity and aggression, what society conditions us to do. This is a really great read, I really enjoyed this.
Shades of Magic Volume 1 & 2. These are graphic novels that tie into the novel series, Shades of Magic. This is a prequel of sorts. It focuses on Maxim Maresh, Rhy’s father and Kell’s adoptive father, long before he became king. Steel Prince: Maxim is sent to the violent and unmanageable port city of Verose, by his father to hone his military skill and he encounters soldiers that are lazy, and a pirate queen that has the city cowering in fear. Night of Knives, Vol. 2: Maxim wants to earn the respect of Verose, so he takes on the impossible challenge of the Night of Knives. NO one has ever survived all four challenges, and he intends to survive them all. I really liked the art in this, especially how magic is shown in this. I really enjoyed learning more about this world, and more about Maxim.
Orpheus Girl. This was the group read for the Queer Lit Readathon, and I couldn’t get it before it ended. This is about two girls who are seeing each other, but they’re both in the closet from their families. Something happens, and they’re both outed to their families. They end up being sent to the same conversion therapy camp. They’re trying to survive, and not break under the pressure from others at the camp, from their family. This is a very tough read, definitely trigger warnings for abuse, family rejection, conversion therapy. This is very well written, I’ve never experienced it myself but I think it captures the feeling of being trapped and shamed for who you are really well. I would definitely recommend this, if you’re able to read this.
Toil & Trouble. This is the memoir of Augusten Burroughs, who is a self-identified witch. He talks about how growing up, he knew a lot of things he shouldn’t have, manifested things that were near impossible to happen. The only person he told about this was his mother, and his mother told him that it was perfectly normal, that they came from a long line of witches. His mother left him when he was young, so he was on his own. This book is about his journey to understand himself, the gift that he has, what he can and can’t do. He believes in ghosts, trees can be malevolent, but vampires, God, Bigfoot, life after death, zombies? Nah, not real things. When I picked up this book at the library, I did not see the word “memoir” anywhere, so I went into this thinking that it was fiction. I got to a point and realized wait a minute, the main character in this has the same name as the author, so I looked it up and found out it was a memoir. After that, my perspective completely changed. Augusten is a very interesting person, and he is very transparent about how he’s not the greatest person, and can be very difficult to tolerate. He also talks about his husband who puts up with all of Augusten’s eccentricities, and isn’t completely convinced that he’s a witch. I… don’t know if I would say this is a great book. I mean, it took me a while to figure out that it was actually a memoir, not some surrealist fiction. It’s fine, it was an interesting read, but I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone.
Gods of Jade and Shadow. A Latinx fantasy set in the Jazz Age. Casiopea accidentally releases a Mayan death god and is bound to him. They go on a journey to regather the god’s missing body parts. There’s obstacles of course, other gods, demons, witches?, trying to prevent him from reconstituting his whole body again. I really enjoyed this, it’s a very rich and beautiful story. As always, if I know of someone who has a beautiful review of a book and articulates it much better than I ever could, I will refer to them. And as it often is, it’s Adriana over on perpetualpages. They have a 5 Reasons to Read video for this book.
Seeing Gender: An Illustrated Guide to Identity and Expression. The title says it all. It explores different gender identities, different ways of expressing gender, and some sexualities as well. It starts with the basics then goes deeper into lesser-known identities. There are some profiles on specific people like Prince, Laverne Cox, Frida Kahlo, and so on. There are facts on various things, like gender in animals, schools established for assimilation–in Canada for First Nations–and myths about physical attributes. I really liked this, and it’s definitely a book to read if you want an overview of gender terms, what they mean, facts and different bits of information about gender. It’s very digestible, and it’s mostly written in a way that you don’t have to read in order. You could jump around, select what portions you want to read first if you wanted.
The Bear and the Nightingale. Based on Russian folktales, this is set at the edge of wilderness, near the woods. Vasilisa and her family spend winters huddled around the fire, listening to their nurse’s fairy tales. They honor the spirits of the house, yard, forest that protect their home from evil. When Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and comes home with a new wife who is very devout to her Christian beliefs, and she forbids the family from honoring the household spirits. Vasilisa rebels against that in secret, knowing that it’s more important than anyone thinks. Sure enough, crops start to fail, evil spirits appear, bad luck hits the village. As it gets more and more dangerous, she has to call upon her long-hidden gifts to protect her family and everyone else. I really enjoyed this! This will follow Vasilisa from her birth to the present, where she’s a teenager? I really enjoyed the way the author wrote all of the environments, you really felt like it was winter with the coziness and the warmth, but you also felt the desperation when food and wood became scarce. I didn’t realize this was part of a trilogy, so we’ll see if I pick up the next book in this series.
Out of Salem. The whole family died in a car accident, except for Z, a genderqueer witch. They’re now a zombie, quickly decaying, and can barely do magic. Facing rejection from family and friends, Z moves in with Mrs. Dunnigan, an elderly lesbian witch. Z meets Aysel, who is also a loner and is afraid that her classmates will find out she’s an unregistered werewolf. Z is working on a way to fix the broken magical seal holding their body together. Werewolf attacks happen, and Salem, Oregon becomes even more dangerous for monsters. Let me just list the representation in this book: nonbinary main character, lesbian Muslim main character, several queer and POC side characters. There’s zombies, witches, werewolves. It was written by a nonbinary author. What more do you want? I immensely enjoyed this read, Z is very dry and sarcastic, I love them. I love the casual queerness in this book, the magic, everything. There is bullying, casual deadnaming–though it’s not on purpose, Z is not out to everyone–hate toward monsters that can parallel racism, but that is also in the book. By the way, this is set in the 90s, so internet was still very new. As I mentioned earlier, this is #ownvoices, so I know the author does understand what being nonbinary is. However… There’s a couple times where Z explains what their gender is. It was a little…odd. Aysel’s never heard of nonbinary before, so she asks them, “You mean transsexual?” Z’s response:
“I’m not quite transsexual. Transgender… It’s neurological. I did a test online. I’m almost transsexual, but I’m not.”
Yikes. First, transsexual is a very outdated term. I’m fine with it being there when Aysel used it to ask, because she doesn’t know anything. But how Z responded is just… No. That’s not how it works. As one reviewer said, it’s as if they’re saying that being nonbinary is somehow falling just a little bit short of the “gender finish line.” The way Z explained their gender was a little odd and bothered me a bit, but apart from that, READ THIS! This is fantastic!
That’s all of the books I read in December. Let me know if you’ve read any of these, or want to read any of these. And I’ll see you soon!
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