From Behind the Scenes to the Spotlight: LGBTQ Books 2021

Victoria Villaseñor, who edited the stories for the upcoming fiction anthology In our words (Cours gras, June), stresses the importance of amplifying not only LGBTQ or BIPOC voices, but also the voices of those who straddle the two worlds. “Marginalized communities often go unnoticed and their rich and varied histories remain unknown beyond community borders,” says Villaseñor. “LGBTQ people within these marginalized groups are often silenced to even greater degrees. “

TP spoke to Villaseñor, as well as the writers of new fiction and non-fiction titles, to highlight a wide range of queer experiences.

Recover and tell

When putting together the anthology, Villaseñor and romance novelist Anne Shade, who selected the pieces to be included, sought to highlight writing that “seemed immersed in a culture,” says Villaseñor. In “The Dragon’s Granddaughter”, for example, the Latin author Brey Willows talks about the Catalan mythological figure of the aloja, a benevolent woman who can turn into a blackbird. Briana Lawrence, a black writer, reflects on how love is cooked in family dishes and reinforces identity – especially in a mother’s sweet potato pie and fried chicken – in “Sweet Potato.” The works in the collection, says Villaseñor, bring strong emotion and authenticity to BIPOC’s trans and queer experiences. “Most importantly,” she adds, “they allow us to visit for a moment, a reminder that we have so much to share and that we are not alone. The stories span a range of genres, including light fantasy, romance, and late coming out.

Acclaimed fantasy author Nghi Vo, including two stars TP reviews, for novels 2020 The Empress of Salt and Fortune and When the tiger came down from the mountain, both located in a kingdom inspired by Imperial China. His first novel, The chosen and the beautiful (Tordotcom, June), is an account of Gatsby the magnificent, among the first since the novel entered the public domain this year. “The plot unfolds enticingly slowly”, TPstated the star-studded review of, and the author’s “immersive prose never ceases to captivate.”

In Vo’s version of Gatsby’s tale, Prohibition extends to demon blood, and Jordan Baker, now at the center of the tale, is an enchantress, a Vietnamese adoptee, and a homosexual. The book further makes the novel’s queer subtext explicit by capitalizing on Nick Carraway’s speculated bisexuality. “From the start Jordan was a character that I noticed, maybe because Nick noticed her,” Vo says. “I’ve spoken with a lot of queer people, and we all seem to be focused on Jordan, we are not focused on the Nick and Gatsby relationship.”

Besides having an androgynous name, Jordan did things that were unusual for a woman in the 1920s, like playing golf alongside men. “So Jordan is already a little weird, already an outsider,” Vo says. “I wanted to take this and use lenses that I see the world through, as a queer Vietnamese woman myself.”

A common language

Da’Shaun L. Harrison, a fat black trans journalist and self-described community organizer, wants to change the stories told about people who share their crossed identities. Their beginnings, The belly of the beast (North Atlantic, August), examines the abuses suffered by fat blacks. “I was missing so much in what was explored about Fat Studies and Black Studies, which is primarily about cisgender women,” Harrison says.

The book also discusses how murders and police violence particularly affect fat black people, and how anti-pregnancy informs this violence, examining, for example, what Eric Garner’s height had to do with. the way he was killed – and the false account that he died because he was obese, not because he was placed in an illegal choke hold. Harrison does more than criticize the system, however; they describe “what can be changed now and how you can change things not only for yourself, but also how you can be better for the people around you”. They offer advice to parents of black children in general, and fat black children in particular, and advocate focusing fat blacks on prison abolition work.

Harrison hopes to make Fat Studies and Black Studies more accessible to a wider readership, by layering their book of cultural anecdotes that translate theory into everyday benchmarks. “I want my mom, who has no idea what fat studies are and has no idea what black studies are, to be able to read it and understand it,” they explain, ” just as much as i want a black studies graduate student to be able to read and understand it.

Alice Sparkly Kat, on the other hand, takes a topic that people may think is familiar – astrology – and shows how it intersects with various identities and experiences. In Postcolonial astrology (North Atlantic, May), the author, born in Zhengzhou, China, helps readers understand the field as a magical, political, and intersectional language with a rich history that extends beyond Western ideologies. Like queer theory, they say, astrology is about “creating usable language for people to understand themselves.”

In the book, Sparkly Kat tackles a variety of topics: Mars and masculinity, what the moon and silver have to do with each other, and what they call the “gender evolution” of planet Venus. In doing so, they mirror other modern astrologers such as Chani Nicholas, who brought his message of radical self-acceptance to the 2020s. You were born for this (72,000 printed copies sold, by NPD BookScan). Sparkly Kat takes this book further, encouraging conversations about white supremacy, immigration, and complex identity struggles through a planetary lens.

Cathartic redemption

Paula Stone Williams was a 61-year-old evangelical Christian pastor when she revealed herself to be transgender to her children in 2012. The following year, she came out publicly.

When Williams chose to live openly as a woman, his wife separated from her and she was kicked out of her church, but she never lost her faith. In Like a woman (Atria, June), she examines an atypical subject among trans memories: why she remains active in her religious community, and how she has redefined her spirituality. “The evangelical community has been spectacularly unfavorable to transgender people,” she says. “So I know it’s imperative to do whatever I can to change
The narrator.”

In her book, Williams describes how her mother found her in her grandmother’s clothes, her Bible college experiences, and how things turned out when his wife left her. “Writing my memoir was a raw experience, but it was ultimately cathartic and redemptive,” says Williams, who is now co-pastor at Left Hand Church, an inclusive, non-denominational church in Longmont, Colorado. the emphasis is on trans joy and finding hope when your greatest comfort is leaving you. “If my story can shed a tiny bit of light for someone else to realize that the call to authenticity is sacred, and holy, and for the greater good,” she says, “it does. will have been worth it.

Another memoir that arrives this season, that of Brian Broome Hit me to the gods (HMH, May), does not have its roots in faith but in verse. In a series of autobiographical essays, the first author describes growing up gay and black in Ohio in the late 1970s and early 1980s, titling each chapter with lines from Gwendolyn Brooks’ 1959 poem. “We Real Cool”. Broome sees the poem as “a mini treatise on black masculinity,” he says. “It’s like she’s offering herself to me and asking me to apply the stories I was writing to each line. “

Hit me to the gods details the racial queerphobia experienced by Broome and the physical and emotional abuse he suffered, including from his father. “Some people think my dad might come across as the villain of this book,” he said. “But he himself has been the victim of intergenerational racist trauma, as has his father, and his father, since the days when enslaved Africans were brought here. In my parents, I saw the influences of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, civil rights, etc. My children will see these effects in me.

The author’s compassion for those who came before him means that “there are no easy victims or villains in Broome’s painful and urgent tale.” TPsaid the star-studded review. “Her testimony sounds like a harsh criticism of soul-crushing systems and stereotypes.”

For Broome, the story is not about suffering. “Trauma isn’t the only intergenerational thing in my family,” he says. “The same goes for stubbornness, humor, resilience and a killer sweet potato pie recipe. You could say it’s a memoir about pain, but that would only be half correct. Since the book is about his coming-of-age years, he adds, “the pain is real, but so is the humor.” And there is love, especially self-love. It’s not just sadness. This is not a story of trauma.

Like those of other queer and trans writers, Broome’s story is not about surviving despite his identity, but thriving because of who he is.

Elly Belle is a non-binary writer from Brooklyn.

Below, more information on LGBTQ books.

Drawn this way: LGBTQ 2021 Books
New graphic novels present the specter of sexuality, the complexity of homosexuality, and the story of trans joy and resistance.

A version of this article appeared in the 12/04/2021 issue of Editors Weekly under the title: From the margin to the star


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