Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome to my wrap up for August. I know, I know, it’s very late and definitely not at all related to Deaf Awareness, but I have to get this out at some point so might as well now. I’ll just get right into it.
First up is No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America by Darnell L. Moore. This is a very eloquent memoir about his upbringing in Camden, NJ as a Black boy in the 70’s to his life today as a Black queer man. Moore talks about his journey of discovering his sexuality while being bullied for seeming gay, living in a home that had domestic violence, parents who had him at a very young age. Moore is so open and honest about his life, it’s very impactful. While he tells us about his personal history, he also tells us about the history of Camden, how it’s been downtrodden but continues to survive, much like himself. He hid his sexuality behind a mask of religiosity at the same time yearning for love and affection from another man. He was unable to accept himself for a long time because of repressing his sexuality and because of society telling him he should hate his black skin. He tells us how he worked through all this internalized hate and came to accept and love himself. Nowadays, he works as an activist, most recently in Black Lives Matter. This memoir was amazing, and I easily gave it five stars. It’s incredibly open and vulnerable, and the prose can be a little wordy at times, but that didn’t bother me too much.
Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee. Gyen Jebi is an artist at their core, and they just want to do their art in peace, which is difficult with the country being occupied by colonizers. They audition for a job, and don’t get it, but they get drafted by the Ministry of Armor to do a specific job. Jebi is tasked with painting the mystical glyphs that activate the automata army of the colonizers. They get sucked into political complexity after discovering how the mystical pigments are created. Jebi has never had any interest, knows absolutely nothing about politics, but decides to do something with the military’s biggest automaton which happens to be a dragon. Adri of perpetualpages (YouTube) puts it this way – “this story has a soft enby protagonist who’s basically a magical coder. And that’s badass.” I couldn’t agree more! I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Yoon Ha Lee is an incredible author, and I will always read their work. Now about the book. I did get annoyed with Jebi for their complete cluelessness about everything going on in their country, but it’s realistic. There *are* people who know absolutely nothing beyond their little bubble, which Jebi had because of their sister enabling it. Jebi is ordinary, they’re not a prodigy or especially competent. Jebi just is, which is rare to see in fantasy, so it was very interesting to see here. There’s so many great things I could talk about for this, but I’ll keep it to two main things: Arazi, the dragon, and the queer rep. I really enjoyed Lee’s portrayal of the dragon, because Arazi is just coming into consciousness, so it’s discovering all these new things, and Jebi is experiencing that all over again. I absolutely loved how Lee casually includes all of the queer rep, without making a big deal out of it. The “worst” it got was the opinion of the colonizers, which is it’s odd, but who cares. There’s same-gender love, genderfluidity, polyam families, and more. I appreciated that Lee made a point of not using gender if it wasn’t known. Lee would instead use descriptors of their appearance or the sound of their voice, not taking the easy way by assigning man/woman. Even the sex scene was carefully written with gender in mind. Overall, I would absolutely recommend this read.
Next is a book I buddy read with Kathy, You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson. In one sentence: a queer prom rom-com that’s just perfect. Liz Lighty lives in a small midwestern town that’s completely obsessed with prom. So obsessed to the point where it’s treated like a sport in this town. The people who win the crown also win a scholarship, which Liz needs because her financial aid to her dream school fell through. Liz has always felt like she was too Black, poor, and awkward for this town but she has to change that if she has any hope of winning prom and that money. She tries to conform to what’s expected of her, but realizes that the game is rigged against her anyway, so she might as well play on her own terms. I loved this. That’s it. This is a wonderful story about a Black bisexual girl navigating her life and learning how much she deserves, finding her confidence in who she is, and realizing that she really isn’t alone. I don’t want to say too much because this was just wonderful and what I just said was pretty much all I knew going into it. I definitely think that’s the best way to read this. I will warn you though, there is some homophobia, racism, bullying, being outed, and depictions of panic attacks. I really enjoyed this story, and would definitely recommend.
After that, I read a library book, Sword in the Stars by Amy Rose Capetta. This is the second book in the Once & Future duology, so I can’t tell you too much. This duology is basically an inclusive, genderbent Arthurian retelling set far, far in the future where Arthur is a queer girl fighting against a big corporation that’s basically taken over the universe. The second book takes us into the past to the original Arthur story, and explores how twisty and wibbly wobbly time travel can be. If you enjoyed the first book, you’ll likely enjoy this too!
Next was a very quick and cute graphic novel, A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer and Trans Identities by Mady G. And JR Zuckerberg. This is a guide through the basics of queer terms and identities, coming out, navigating relationships, and the whole spectrum of experiences. It might sound odd, but this book uses snails and these imaginary creatures called Sproutlings to tell the story and help explain the identities, so this can be a great way to work with kids and help them figure out how to explain things. This has a companion of sorts, A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, which I also recommend!
I read another graphic novel, but this is definitely the opposite of the previous one! Midnighter and Apollo by Steve Orlando and Fernando Blanco. If you don’t like blood and gore, this is definitely *not* for you. Midnighter and Apollo are heroes who founded a super group, and have been linked together for a long time both professionally and romantically. In this, they’re torn apart by a villain and Apollo is sent to the underworld. Midnighter fights his way to hell and back—literally—for his lover. These two characters have their own roles in other novels, and I haven’t read those, so I think that you can safely read this as a standalone. I enjoyed their relationship and their banter when they were together, and I really enjoyed getting to see queer supers on the page, we need more of that. Just a FYI for anyone who’s interested, there’s a fairly new subreddit for this – r/lgbt_superheroes.
Then to end this month, I binge-read the rest of The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and a *lot* of illustrators. I read from from Volume 3 all the way to the end. My library had ebooks of the deluxe editions, so it made it easy for me to binge read a lot! Obviously, I can’t say too much, but hoo boy! It gets very interesting! The basic premise is that there are twelve gods reborn every ninety years, live for only two years, are loved and hated, and they’re all dead by the end of those two years. There is so much more happening behind that premise, but I really enjoyed being surprised by all of the twists and turns that this story took, so I won’t say more than that.
And that’s it for August! My September wrap up will be up soon, so there’ll be more books, like always. Let me know what you’ve been enjoying lately, whether that’s books, movies, TV shows, or anything else!
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