Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome to my wrap up for June and July! I read 10 books in June, and six of them were completed during the Queer Lit Readathon. One of them was intended for that, but I didn’t finish it in time. And in July, I read only three books. I decided to go ahead and combine them into one video. I’ll also be keeping my reviews brief unless it was an ARC, which I already have a full review for. Let’s get started!
My first book that I finished in June is Men With Their Hands by Raymond Luczak. This is a book written by a deaf author about Michael, a young deaf man from a small town who moves to New York City, struggles to fit in and find his people until he falls in with a chosen family of deaf gay men from various backgrounds. This is set over decades, starting in 1978 and finishing in 2003 (this book was published in 2009). — This book was fine, I gave it three stars. I thought it was a decent concept and story, but I felt the plot was somewhat lacking. There’s an archetype of almost every type of a gay person and they’re all completely different, which is fine! It did feel a little forced, like Luczak was attempting to cover all his bases. There’s naturally going to be some similar people in a group, or some overlaps, so I think it was a little over the top to make all of them completely different people. I didn’t feel there was any real depth or meat to the story. There is sign language used in this, and Luczak chose to go the route of writing in a modified form of ASL gloss. For those who aren’t familiar, ASL gloss is writing out the signs a person uses with English words, but in the order that the person signed. So it can look a little like “broken” English, and it really doesn’t capture the nuance of ASL, because it doesn’t include facial expressions and body language. Luczak modified it to be more of a mix between gloss and English for some more clarity. However, I don’t think it was fully successful. But I personally don’t think I’ll really ever be happy with how sign language is portrayed in written form. Moving on!
The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore. This is a beautiful and very difficult story about Ciela and Lock who both experience being sexually assaulted at the same party. They slowly discover this, and develop a fragile friendship built on her family’s pastelería where she might have a little magic, and his secret, otherworldly forest. — I thought this was heartbreaking and very well-written. McLemore really took care with their characters, and never wrote anything graphic, but gives you enough to understand what’s happened. There’s elements of magic and surreality woven throughout, with Ciela’s ability to know exactly what pan dulce a person needs at the given moment, that gift disappearing after the assault, and things in the world turning into mirrored glass, bringing dangerous magic with it. Also! Ciela is pansexual, and there are other queer characters throughout. I would absolutely recommend this read, if you are able. Obvious content warnings for sexual assault, please check for others to make sure.
Now, we’re on books I read for the Queer Lit Readathon. First up, I read The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston. This is the second book in the Once Upon a Con series, the first being Geekerella. This is the same universe, but following Jessica Stone, one of the stars of Starfield. She plays Princess Amara and wants out, and Amara might be killed off in the show. Amara is Imogen’s favorite character, she doesn’t want that to happen, so she’s doing what she can to stop it from happening. Someone mistakes Imogen for Jess, and they end up being thrown together, they trade places to figure out who leaked the newest script. — This leads to some chaos, because of course. This was a great fluffy summer read that happens at a con, just like Geekerella. I enjoyed it.
The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan. Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana has very conservative Muslim parents, and she does her best to live up to their expectations. However, she’s finding it harder to do as her parents continue to blatantly favor her brother, hiding her makeup and “inappropriate” clothes, along with her girlfriend. She hopes to keep it hidden until she escapes Seattle to go to Caltech, pursuing her dream of being an engineer, but one day her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend. They’re devastated and immediately take her off to Bangladesh, forcing her into the world of arranged marriages and tradition. Rukhsana is floundering but realizes she needs to find the courage to stand against tradition for herself and her love. — This was very frustrating to read, I could really feel Rukhsana’s anger and frustration with her overbearing parents. She also had to deal with her non-Bangladeshi friends not understanding what lengths her people can and will go to, to protect the family name. I thought this was a very touching story as Rukhsana reconnects with her family in Bangladesh, especially her grandmother. I would absolutely recommend it.
She of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya. A love story between a man and his body, who’s exploring his relationship with sexuality, gender, and with other people around him. Woven throughout, re-imaginings of Hindu mythology that also explore the complexity of gender and how damaging the policing of it can be to humans. — I liked this far more than Shraya’s other book, Death Threat, I think because I had better expectations for this one. I also enjoyed both of the stories, especially the Hindu mythology reimagining. I love mythology of all kinds, and don’t often read Hindu stories, so this definitely got me interested in reading more Hindu mythology.
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. Ada is born in Nigeria as a fractured self, growing up as a concern to her family. Her parents had prayed for her to be born, but as Ada gets older, it’s clear that something went awry. Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, and the swirling chaos in Ada’s mind starts coalescing into more distinct selfs. Asụghara comes into being after a very traumatic assault, to protect Ada in any sexual or dangerous situation. Saint Vincent also moves in, and is hedonistic, not caring very much about Ada and what she wants. With these two mostly in charge, Ada starts fading to the back of her mind, her life starts going down a very dangerous and dark path. — This was my second time reading Freshwater, and I absolutely loved it. I appreciated it much more the second time around, because I understood more what it was about. Emezi talks about ọgbanje, which are often thought to be evil spirits in Igbo, these spirits plague families with misfortune. Ada is hosting multiple ọgbanje in one body, as said in this sentence: “The first madness was that we were born, that they stuffed a god into a bag of skin.” I’ll link an article here where Emezi talks about reorienting their thinking about gender, and wondering if they are an ọgbanje themself, and how the Western view of gender so often doesn’t align with how various cultures view gender. This book is just stunning, and I would absolutely recommend this. I have yet to read Emezi’s other work, but I look forward to it!
Me, Myself, They: Life Beyond the Binary by Luna M. Ferguson. A memoir where Ferguson talks about their journey of exploring their gender identity, their traumatic experiences with conversion therapy, sexual and physical assault, depression. Ferguson became a filmmaker, scholar, and advocate for trans rights. They were the first person to receive an X on their birth certificate, making history in the process. Ferguson talks some about the long journey and fight to get this marker changed, how they dealt with that and becoming very visible in the process. — I really enjoyed reading about this bit of queer history from the person who actually went through it. Ferguson also explains any terminology that might not be commonly known, but they never make it seem like they’re speaking down to you, it’s just along with everything else. I liked this, and would recommend it if you’re interested in a piece of queer history.
America, Vol. 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez by Gabby Rivera. America Chavez is a super-powered teenager who was a Young Avenger, she leads the Ultimates. In her own series, she’s going to college, but of course as a super, it’s not that simple. She has to stop interdimensional monsters, an alien cult that worships her, and then she can get started on her first assignment which gets her sent to the front lines of WWII, with Captain America there. — I’d only vaguely heard of America Chavez before reading this, so I feel like this was an alright introduction to this character that’s brash, full of confidence, and fearless. She’s a queer person who took on a Latina identity, she’s from another dimension so to blend in, she picked something that people told her she looked like. Her powers are very interesting! She’s very strong, can fly, and she can punch star-shaped portals between dimensions. The reason why I said alright is because the plot felt all over the place, I had to go back to re-read things sometimes to make sure I was understanding or find something that I missed. The art is fantastic, and I’d love to see more of it! After reading some reviews on Goodreads, it would seem that how America is portrayed in this is not the same as how she was portrayed in Young Avengers, so take that how you will. Overall, I did like this, but wasn’t blown away by it. I might be picking up more in the future.
That’s all I read for the Queer Lit Readathon. Those books cover nearly all of the bingo board, and for the remaining squares, I read more than half of Gilded Wolves, but didn’t finish.
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall. The pirate ship named Dove passes themselves off as a passenger ship until they’re on the high seas, then turn around and sell their rich and privileged passengers into slavery. One of the crew, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian to fit in and earn the respect of the crew. Flora used to be a starving urchin, and as a pirate: no trust, no sticking out, no feelings. But as they prepare this group of passengers, Flora is drawn to Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is being sent away for an arranged marriage. They both unexpectedly find something in each other. Pretty quickly, they plan a wild escape that will also get a mermaid free, involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, a witch, and the Sea itself. — I loved this very queer, very swashbuckling adventure. It starts off intense, and doesn’t really have much downtime. I really enjoyed reading this because it was never what you expected, the story beats weren’t completely predictable and just good. The way magic works in this is fascinating, and I love it. Essentially, it uses stories as a form of power, they’re how you can change the world around you, memories are also stories that we tell. I’m not doing a very good job of describing this book, but just trust me on this one, it’s fantastic and I would absolutely recommend.
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi. Paris, 1889. The Exposition Universelle is in full motion, it’s brought new life to the streets and pulled ancient secrets from the dark. Séverin Montagnet-Alaire, a treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, is a pro at keeping track of dark truths. The powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them find something, offering a treasure he thought he’d never get – his true inheritance. To do this, Séverin pulls together a band of unusual experts: an engineer with a debt to pay, a historian banished, a dancer with a dark past, and a brother in arms. What they find may change the course of history, if they make it out alive. — I’m purposely staying vague. When I read this, that was a bit more than I knew. When I found out that this was set in 1880s Paris, extremely queer, disabled rep, a diverse cast? I didn’t need to know more, sign me up. I absolutely enjoyed every minute of reading this. The details are so rich, and there were several twists that were just delicious. This is the first in a series, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book!
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo. America in 1954, during the Red Scare, we follow seventeen-year-old Lily Hu in Chinatown as she struggles with the question of the possibility of two women falling in love with each other. The moment Lily and Kathleen Miller walked into the Telegraph Club, a lesbian bar, the answer confronted her right there and then. This is a time where it’s not safe for two girls to fall in love, and even more dangerous for Lily, being a Chinese-American. Her father’s been threatened with deportation despite his citizenship, her community is tense, but even with all of that, Lily and Kath risk it for their love. — I absolutely can’t do this book justice, it was just fantastic. The descriptions of the environment, especially in the Telegraph Club when they went and watched the male impersonator, Tommy, was just so good. This is a queer historical fiction, and I think it did an incredible job of telling this story without wallowing in trauma, repression, homophobia. It instead focused on self-discovery, finding a family and belonging, and loving. There are other longer, better reviews than mine so read those if you want, especially if I haven’t convinced you yet!
The Mark of the Bear Clan by David Allen Schlaefer. Ulla, a small green-eyed girl, is tromping along in the forest, looking for mushrooms to bring home when she runs into a bear. She gets badly mauled by it, but is saved by the famous wizard, Väinämöinen. After recovering, it’s discovered that her scar healed into a striking resemblance to a bear claw, the Mark of her clan. This is the start of an ancient prophecy about a child who will come from the North, and bring all the seven Clans together once again to defeat Löhi, the Witch of the North. Ulla lost her family at a young age, and is torn away from her village as Löhi’s forces start moving south, attacking and destroying the Northlands. Väinämöinen is traveling all over the lands, trying to bring tidings of war, warning people to prepare for hard times ahead, and using his magic to help however he can. Miles and miles away, Prince Egan is forced to become king when his father is killed by one of Löhi’s people spreading sickness. He’s burdened with war and all the tough decisions that come with at the age of around fifteen. — I really enjoyed this! It definitely reads as the beginning of an epic, and this is the first book in a series. This takes Finnish mythology and uses the world of the Kalevala (a work of epic poetry that compiles Karelian and Finnish mythology into an epic story) to tell a story that mixes the mythology with completely original characters to give us a new take on fantasy. I don’t really know much about Finnish folklore, but really enjoyed what I learned through this! This book had a very interesting approach to storytelling. It’d often swing between epic, fantastical, big storytelling and detailed descriptions of clothing worn by the different clans, farming methods, how these people live year-round, and so on. I would definitely recommend this to those who enjoy high fantasy, detailed mundanity, and mythology from other countries.
Assassin’s Orbit by John Appel. The planet Ileri is planning to vote on joining the Commonwealth, but a government minister is assassinated, which threatens everything that people have worked for. Private investigator Noo Okereke, spy Meiko Ogawa, and police chief Toiwa are forced to work together on the investigation. They discover a wide-spread political conspiracy, something that was thought to have been left behind in the past civilization, and tensions running through everything. What these three discover could spark a whole interplanetary war if the mystery isn’t solved. — There is SOOOO much that I left out, because I don’t want to spoil anything, and I wouldn’t do it justice. This takes place mostly on a space station, with one brief trip planetside. All of our main characters are women and what we would consider senior citizens, which is great! This definitely changed how the story was told, because each of these characters have decades of experience and knowledge with them. This is basically a space opera, and damn, I loved it! There’s multiple queer characters, neopronouns are used, and all of them are BIPOC from what I can figure. One bit of note, there are a lot of characters, so it can sometimes be hard to keep track of who’s who, especially when the perspective’s changed between chapters. Just be aware of that going into this, but apart from this, I loved this book and would absolutely recommend for those who enjoy sci-fi, mysteries, thrillers, political intrigue.
That’s all of the books I read in both June and July! Let me know if you’ve read any of these or want to in the comments. Thank you for reading if you made it all the way here!
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