Hello I’m Rogan and Black Lives Matter. This is the wrap up for the readathon, and I planned to vlog throughout the week but… I didn’t vlog all that much, and what I did do, isn’t something that I want to put out there. It felt kind of wrong to be vlogging with what’s happening in the world right now. I also had a big project planned to start on the first day of June for Pride, but postponed it to tomorrow. I didn’t want to be taking up space with my privileged white self when all of the focus needed to be on the protests and what’s happening. BUT. Just because it’s been a week doesn’t mean it’s time to go back to what we were doing before. White people, we still need to have these hard conversations with our white family and friends. We need to do the work. Donate, protest, have the conversations. Do something. Don’t sit back at this pivotal point in history.
While I was quiet across all of my socials, I was doing a lot of reading this week – for the readathon and about what’s happening in the world. We need joyful black stories more than ever. Ones that are full of grief and trauma are important, but black people need stories where they are full of happiness too. Out of my six books this week, I read two books that had black main characters, and three books written by a black author. Let’s talk about them.
First up, Cyborg Detective by Jillian Weise. I chose this to start with, because I knew it’d be a fairly quick read. I like to knock out a couple quick reads first, then really get into the longer books. I picked this one for poetry, one interpretation of the rainbow cover challenge, and disabled main character. This very short poetry collection is very disabled, very queer. It’s in your face about disability right off the bat, and isn’t vague about the queerness. I normally don’t read poetry, but since this had two major themes that I identify with, I was engaged. There were several times that I went back to read something again because it was just that good.
Next, I went for the second short read which is Bingo Love by Tee Franklin. *happy sigh* Queer black grandmas finding their true love? Yes. This is a graphic novel, a backlist title, and obviously has females over 40. This follows Hazel and Mari, starting in the ‘60s in their teens when Mari moves into town and they meet at church bingo. They become inseparable immediately, falling in love with each other. They get caught and are forced apart by their religious families. Hazel doesn’t hear from Mari until decades later, when they bump into each other in a bingo hall. They’re overjoyed, but have to grapple with what it means for them and their families. I really loved this! We don’t see this type of story enough, love stories about elderly queer people. I read the Jackpot edition, so there were more vignettes after the main graphic novel. There were some things that got glossed over for sake of time, but it wasn’t even an issue for me. I don’t have much more to say apart from saying I *loved* this.
This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow, the group read. It’s also my pick for summer vibes, and as I read it, discovered it also meets a non-coming out story. I thought that it possibly would have a disabled main character, but nope. Yes, there’s a character that struggles with alcoholism, but that alone isn’t considered a disability. This was written by a black author, has two out of three main characters that are black, one of them is a lesbian and the other is a young mother. Dia doesn’t care that the annual band contest has a prize of 15 grand this year, nor does she care that it also comes with a gig opening for one of the greatest bands from this town. She knows that without a band, there’s no chance. And there hasn’t been a band since drinking took over Hanna’s life. Dia had a baby, Jules went through the end of a toxic relationship. It used to be the three of them, messing around, playing music, planning for the future. Dia and Jules have to decide if they’re willing to trust Hanna again, with her having gone through rehab and staying sober. There’s a lot of pain over shared history, but they all have to learn to make peace with their past selves if they’re going to move forward as the girls they’re letting themselves be. This is an *amazing* story of love in all different forms, music, and fighting for what truly matters to you. This book rotates through the three girls’ perspectives, and occasionally throws in a fourth from Elliot, the deceased father of Dia’s baby. I really didn’t think Elliot’s perspective was necessary. I can see it was intended to give us some background and understanding of what happened to make the trio no longer be a trio. But I really think it could have been cut completely, and we’d be fine. We don’t need to know all of the details of what happened in the past. Especially when the girls sometimes think back on what happened themselves. Apart from Elliot, I really enjoyed all of the characters and how Barrow wrote all of the relationships between them. You could clearly see that the trio were best friends, and they were hurting but willing to heal and move past what happened for their future together. I really enjoyed this.
Then I actually started Winning Marriage, took a break and read through Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco. This was a recent acquisition, which was my own category, and I also tentatively chose it for queer friends. Reading it, I’d say it kind of counts? I’ll explain later. This book is told from the perspective of Tala, who has a Scottish father and a Filipino mother. This is a world where every fairytale in ours is real. Along with existing countries, there’s also Neverland, Avalon, and Wonderland. Oh, and it’s the Royal States of America. This makes for some very interesting history and politics. Magic is controlled, because it’s in limited supply and requires exchange that can lead to disaster. Tala’s family has the ability to repel and negate magic, but this is considered criminal by the Royal States, so they’re hiding in an Arizonian town where magic doesn’t really work anyway. They’re charged with protecting Prince Alexei, the sole survivor of the Avalon royal line. When a legendary magical creature appears, the firebird, Alex, Tala, and a ragtag group of kids with varying abilities called the Bandersnatches set out to finally free Avalon from the Snow Queen’s clutches. I did really enjoy this! The whole concept of all the fairytales being combined into one world, and how that works was really fascinating to me. Though, I will warn you, there is a lot of info and there are occasional dumps so it can be a lot to take in. I personally like that kind of thing, but it can be a bit much for some people. Earlier on, I said tentatively to the queer friends challenge because the queer rep in this is surprisingly not mentioned in many of the reviews on GoodReads. Alex, one of the major characters, is gay. One of the squad is nonbinary, and throughout the entire book, they/them pronouns are used to refer to Loki. Sure, it isn’t a major plot point, but I’m just surprised almost nobody has mentioned this. Especially when in this world, being gay in the Royal States is looked down on. Like, that’s kind of major. Now, I will admit that the characters can be a little two-dimensional, the dialogue sometimes felt choppy and disjointed, and the worldbuilding is mostly done in info dumps. Personally, I’m good at filling in gaps or adding more to a character that isn’t really there, so it wasn’t too much of an issue for me. I do wish the worldbuilding was done more organically, rather than in multiple info dumps. But overall, I really enjoyed this read.
Next, I *finally* read Running With Lions by Julian Winters. This is the book that hits the most challenges – bisexual main character, summer vibes (literally, it’s at a summer soccer camp), a host recommendation, five star prediction (yes!), and queer sports. Sebastian is a bi disaster going into his senior year of high school, the star goalie of his soccer team and also the one who holds the whole team together, possibly going to be the team captain. He’s looking forward to the last year of soccer camp with amazing teammates and a coach that is openly accepting of queer athletes, until he finds out that his former best friend Emir Shah will be attending too. For the sake of the Lions, Bastian decides he’ll try to regain Emir’s trust and help him improve. Second chance friendship leads to realizing there’s something more, and a lot of teen angst. Adri of perpetualpages has been yelling about this book for *forever* and I’m just sad that I didn’t read this sooner! I loved this queer summer romance about soccer bros, and it’s very much a celebration of sexuality and found family. There’s a lot said about breaking gender norms, old ideas about beauty, and myths around sexuality. The diversity in this is great! Seb is bi, Emir is gay, Pakistani-American, and Muslim. The team also has at least two other gay boys, one of them is black. I really loved this! A couple things to be aware of, but they weren’t enough of a detriment for me to enjoy this story. There is some repetitive banter that’s really trivial and unnecessary, and a lot of shoulder punching. Like, why? I also really disliked the whole Mason/Grey arc. I *love* Grey, she’s an amazing badass. She deserves better. She’s had a crush on Mason forever, and doesn’t try to hide it that much. Mason was really mean to her for a large part of the book, and no one really seriously called him out on it. Fortunately, Grey finally realized she deserved better and Mason realized his behavior wasn’t acceptable. Overall, this book is fantastic with the found family and beautifully flawed characters.
The final book which I technically didn’t finish on time, but finished the majority of so I’m counting it, is Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits–And Won by Marc Solomon. Whew, that’s a long title! That’s basically it, what the book is about. I chose this for nonfiction, non-coming out, backlist title, and the other way to interpret the rainbow cover. This covers the fight for marriage equality of queer people from around 2003 to 2014. The book was published in 2014, so just before the final US Supreme Court decision in 2015. Solomon was very involved in varying areas across the years, so he was able to write from personal experience. He also reached out to others involved to write about parts that he wasn’t there for. Roughly the first half of the book focuses on the fight to get marriage equality in Massachusetts in 2003. They were the first state to fully pass a law requiring freedom to marry for all. Hawaii came close in the ‘90s, but it was struck down until 2013. Marc Solomon was heavily involved in the Massachusetts fight, so a lot of it was from his experience. The rest of the book focuses on key states, like New York, California, and so on. I thought this was really well written and went into a lot of detail on *how* they did the work to convince people and legislators to vote yes for equality. A lot of it was lobbying, knocking on people’s doors, TV ads, mail pieces, helping lawmakers on our side with their election campaigns, and so much more. I’d definitely recommend this if you want a wide look at the fight for marriage equality. I have another book that I bought at the same time as this one, Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality. It looks like it’s focused on a specific couple who went through this whole process, so it’ll be interesting to get that perspective as well. Before I wrap up this video, I want to quickly mention something that you may have noticed. I never once said same-sex marriage, except when I said same-sex in the title. I have a reason for that. Same-sex implies that the couples will only be woman/woman, man/man, etc. This was really about making sure that anybody that wanted to get married could do so. Saying same-sex ignores those couples that have enbies, trans people, and others who aren’t covered by straight cis man/cis woman marriage. Just wanted to emphasize that.
And that’s the six books I read during this round! Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments, and of course you can leave recommendations for more queer books.
Normally, this is where I promote my revenue and socials. But today, I want you to donate to at least one of the organizations I’ve linked below. I’ve already donated this month’s Patreon payment to several organizations. Thanks for watching, see you soon.
Black Lives Matter – www.blacklivesmatter.com
The Okra Project – www.theokraproject.com
House of GG – www.houseofgg.org
The Transgender District – www.transgenderdistrictsf.com
9 Black LGBTQ+ Organizations – https://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/black-lgbtq-organizations-to-donate-to/
5 ways to donate to end police brutality – https://mashable.com/article/donate-black-lives-matter-end-police-brutality/
And many more, if there are any you think are essential to have listed here, let me know.