Under Consideration for August 2022

What We’re Reading—August

The following titles have been read and have received at least one yes vote for the final list.

Fiction and Poetry

Manywhere by Morgan Thomas

The nine stories in Morgan Thomas’s shimmering debut collection witness Southern queer and genderqueer characters determined to find themselves reflected in the annals of history, whatever the cost. As Thomas’s subjects trace deceit and violence through Southern tall tales and their own pasts, their journeys reveal the porous boundaries of body, land, and history, and the sometimes ruthless awakenings of self-discovery.

Our Colors by Gengoroh Tagame

A mesmerizing coming-of-age and coming-out graphic novel by the genius writer-artist of the Eisner Award–winning breakout hit My Brother’s Husband.

The Sign for Home by Blair Fell

When Arlo Dilly learns the girl he thought was lost forever might still be out there, he takes it as a sign and embarks on a life-changing journey to find his great love—and his freedom.

The Verifiers by Jane Pek

Introducing Claudia Lin: a sharp-witted amateur sleuth for the 21st century. This debut novel follows Claudia as she verifies people’s online lives, and lies, for a dating detective agency in New York City. Until a client with an unusual request goes missing. . . .

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

A story of queer love and working-class families, Young Mungo is the brilliant second novel from the Booker Prize-winning author of Shuggie Bain.

Nonfiction

Asylum by Edafe Okporo

A “moving…dramatic” (David Ebershoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Danish Girl), and urgent call to action for immigration justice by a Nigerian asylee and global gay rights and immigration activist Edafe Okporo.

Bi: Bisexual, Pansexual, Fluid, and Nonbinary Youth by Ritch C. Savin-Willams

Savin-Williams provides an important new understanding of bisexuality as an orientation, behavior, and identity. Bi shows us that bisexuality is seen and embraced as a valid sexual identity more than ever before, giving us timely and much-needed insight into the complex, fascinating experiences of bisexual youth themselves.

Miss Memory Lane by Colton Hayes

A brutally honest and moving memoir of lust, abuse, addiction, stardom, and redemption from Arrow and Teen Wolf actor Colton Haynes.

People Change by Vivek Shraya

The author of I’m Afraid of Men lets readers in on the secrets to a life of reinvention.

Phyllis Frye and the Fight for Transgender Rights by Michael G. Long, Shea Tuttle, Shannon Minter

This gripping account of Frye’s efforts to establish and protect the constitutional rights of transgender individuals not only fills a gap in existing histories of LGBTQ+ activism but will also inform and instruct contemporary trans activists

Queer Silence: On Disability and Rhetorical Absence by J. Logan Smilges

Championing the liberatory potential of silence to address the fraught disability politics of queerness.

Reclaiming Two-Spirits: Sexuality, Spiritual Renewal & Sovereignty in Native America by Gregory D. Smithers

A sweeping history of Indigenous traditions of gender, sexuality, and resistance that reveals how, despite centuries of colonialism, Two-Spirit people are reclaiming their place in Native nations.

Sex is as Sex Does: Governing Transgender Identity by Paisley Currah

What the evolving fight for transgender rights reveals about government power, regulations, and the law.

Ten Steps to Nanette by Hannah Gadsby

Multi-award-winning Hannah Gadsby broke comedy with her show Nanette when she declared that she was quitting stand-up. Now she takes us through the defining moments in her life that led to the creation of Nanette and her powerful decision to tell the truth—no matter the cost.

This Arab is Queer by Elias Jahshan

The ground-breaking anthology features the compelling and courageous memoirs of eighteen queer Arab writers—some internationally bestselling, others using pseudonyms. Here, we find heart-warming connections and moments of celebration alongside essays exploring the challenges of being LGBTQ+ and Arab.

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Under Consideration for July 2022

These books have at least one yes vote by the members of the committee.

Fiction and Poetry

Girl’s Guide to Leaving by Laura Villareal

Tumbleweeds and wandering cacti litter the page, coyotes croon at the prose. In poems haunted by specters of intimate partner violence, Girl’s Guide to Leaving considers what it means to escape the love that trapped you and find a temporary home in the barely cooled ashes of a wildfire.

Just by Looking at Him by Ryan O’Connell

From the star of Peacock’s Queer as Folk and the Netflix series Special comes a darkly witty and touching novel following a gay TV writer with cerebral palsy as he fights addiction and searches for acceptance in an overwhelmingly ableist world.

Our Colors by Gengoroh Tagame

A mesmerizing coming-of-age and coming-out graphic novel by the genius writer-artist of the Eisner Award–winning breakout hit My Brother’s Husband.

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

A story of queer love and working-class families, Young Mungo is the brilliant second novel from the Booker Prize-winning author of Shuggie Bain.

Nonfiction

Fine by Rhea Ewing

A vibrant and informative debut with “great documentary power” (Alison Bechdel), Fine is an elegantly illustrated celebration of the transgender community.

This Arab is Queer by Elias Jahshan

This ground-breaking anthology features the compelling and courageous memoirs of eighteen queer Arab writers—some internationally bestselling, others using pseudonyms. Here we find heart-warming connections and moments of celebration alongside essays exploring the challenges of being LGBTQ+ and Arab.

This Has Always Been A War by Lori Fox

A powerful, personal critique of capitalist patriarchy as seen through the eyes of a queer radical.

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Under Consideration June 2022

The following titles have been read and recommended for inclusion on the final list by at least one juror:

Fiction and Poetry

Chef’s Kiss by TJ Alexander

A high-strung pastry chef’s professional goals are interrupted by an unexpected career transition and the introduction of her wildly attractive nonbinary kitchen manager in this deliciously fresh and witty queer rom-com.

Eleutheria by Allegra Hyde

Allegra Hyde’s seductive first novel tackles the big stuff of climate change and the more intimate matter of heartbreak with grace. Indeed, Eleutheria bravely braids these together, the story of a lost soul moving through the world we’re rapidly losing.

Gods Children are Broken Little Things by Arinze Ifeakandu

A man revisits the university campus where he lost his first love, aware now of what he couldn’t understand then. A young musician rises to fame at the price of pieces of himself, and the man who loves him. Arinze Ifeakandu explores with tenderness and grace the fundamental question of the heart: can deep love and hope be sustained in spite of the dominant expectations of society, and great adversity.

My Volcano by John Elizabeth Stintzi

My Volcano is a kaleidoscopic portrait of a menagerie of characters, as they each undergo personal eruptions, while the Earth itself is constantly shifting. Parable, myth, science-fiction, eco-horror, My Volcano is a radical work of literary art, emerging as a subversive, intoxicating artistic statement by John Elizabeth Stintzi.

Sedating Elaine by Dawn Winter

An exuberant dark comedy about love, grief, sex, guilt, and one woman’s harebrained scheme to tranquilize her voraciously amorous girlfriend for a few days so that she might pay off her drug dealer, make soup, and finally get some peace and quiet.

Vagabonds! by Eloghosa Osunde

In the bustling streets and cloistered homes of Lagos, a cast of vivid characters—some haunted, some defiant—navigate danger, demons, and love in a quest to lead true lives.

Vera Kelly Lost and Found by Rosalie Knecht

Everyone’s favourite sleuth – Vera Kelly – is back and put to the test as she searches for her missing girlfriend.

Nonfiction

Knocking Myself Up: A Memoir of My (In)Fertility By Michelle Tea

From PEN/America Award winner, 2021 Guggenheim fellow, and beloved literary and tarot icon Michelle Tea, the hilarious, powerfully written, taboo-breaking story of her journey to pregnancy and motherhood as a 40 year-old, queer, uninsured woman.

Queer Conception: The Complete Fertility Guide for Queer and Trans Parents-To-Be By Kristin Liam Kali

The only evidence-based, up-to-date fertility guide for queer people from an experienced health care provider, this is also the first to be transgender inclusive and body-positive. 

Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders By Kathryn Miles

 A riveting deep dive into the unsolved murder of two free-spirited young women in the wilderness, a journalists’ obsession—and a new theory of who might have done it.

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Considerations for May 2022

Fiction

Boys Come First by Aaron Foley

This hilarious, touching debut novel by Aaron Foley, author of How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass, follows three Black gay millennial men looking for love, friendship, and professional success in the Motor City. 

The Con Artist by Luke Healy

Luke Healy’s playful, hilarious third graphic novel uses crisp lines and physical comedy to portray an uneasy friendship between two young men on the cusp of adulting. Snippets from Frank’s middling stand-up routines are punctuated by the subtle farce of Healy’s mise-en-scène and the lively, at times scathingly pointed, banter of old friends. The Con Artists is a stylish character study that asks the question of who fools who once everyone is off-camera.

Flung Out of Space by Grace Ellis and Hannah

A fictional and complex portrait of bestselling author Patricia Highsmith caught up in the longing that would inspire her queer classic, The Price of Salt.

Like a House on Fire by Lauren McGrayer

After twelve years of marriage and two kids, Merit has begun to feel like a stranger in her own life. She loves her husband and sons, but she desperately needs something more than sippy cups and monthly sex. So, she returns to her career at Jager + Brandt, where a brilliant and beautiful Danish architect named Jane decides to overlook the “break” in Merit’s résumé and give her a shot.

Love and Other Disasters by Anita Kelly

The first openly nonbinary contestant on America’s favourite cooking show falls for their clumsy competitor in this delicious romantic comedy debut!

Panpocalypse by Carley Moore

During the coronavirus pandemic, a queer disabled woman bikes through a locked-down NYC for the ex-girlfriend who broke her heart.

Siren & Muses by Antonia Angress

Four artists are drawn into a web of rivalry and desire at an elite art school and on the streets of New York in this magnificent debut for fans of Writers & Lovers and The Goldfinch.

Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist

The perfect next read for fans of Mexican GothicTripping Arcadia is a page-turning and shocking tale with an unforgettable protagonist that explores family legacy and inheritance, the sacrifices we must make to get by in today’s world, and the intoxicating, dangerous power of wealth.

The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain

Perfect for fans of Fredrik Backman and TJ Klune, this humorous, life-affirming, and charmingly wise novel tells the story of how the forced retirement of a shy, closeted postman in northern England creates a second chance with his lost love, as he learns to embrace his true self, connect with his community, and finally experience his life’s great adventure…

Nonfiction

In Sensorium: Notes for my People by Tanais

Structured like a perfume—moving from base to heart to head notes—In Sensorium interlaces eons of South Asian perfume history, erotic and religious texts, survivor testimonies, and material culture with memoir. In Sensorium is archive and art, illuminating the great crises of our time with the language of Liberation.

Ma and Me by Putsata Reang

In her startling memoir, Reang explores the long legacy of inherited trauma and the crushing weight of cultural and filial duty. With rare clarity and lyric wisdom, Ma and Me is a stunning, deeply moving memoir about love, debt, and duty.

This Has Always Been a War by Lori Fox

In essays that are both accessible and inspiring, Lori Fox examines their confrontations with the capitalist patriarchy through their experiences as a queer, non-binary, working-class farm hand, labourer, bartender, bush-worker, and road dog, exploring the ugly places where issues of gender, sexuality, class, and the environment intersect.

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Under Consideration April 2022

The following titles have been read and recommended for inclusion on the final list by at least one juror:

Fiction and Poetry

All the White Spaces by Ally Wilkes
In the wake of the First World War, Jonathan Morgan stows away on an Antarctic expedition, determined to find his rightful place in the world of men. Aboard the expeditionary ship of his hero, the world-famous explorer James “Australis” Randall, Jonathan may live as his true self—and true gender—and have the adventures he has always been denied. But not all is smooth sailing: the war casts its long shadow over them all, and grief, guilt, and mistrust skulk among the explorers.

I’m So Not Over You by Kosoko Jackson
A chance to rewrite their ending is worth the risk in this swoony romantic comedy from Kosoko Jackson.

Monarch by Candice Wuehle
After waking up with a strange taste in her mouth and mysterious bruises, former child pageant star Jessica Clink unwittingly begins an investigation into a nefarious deep state underworld. Equipped with the eccentric education of her father, Dr. Clink (a professor of Boredom Studies and the founder of an elite study group known as the Devil’s Workshop), Jessica uncovers a disquieting connection between her former life as a beauty queen and an offshoot of Project MKUltra known as MONARCH

Time is a Mother by Ocean Voung
In this deeply intimate second poetry collection, Ocean Vuong searches for life among the aftershocks of his mother’s death, embodying the paradox of sitting within grief while being determined to survive beyond it. Shifting through memory, and in concert with the themes of his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong contends with personal loss, the meaning of family, and the cost of being the product of an American war in America. At once vivid, brave, and propulsive, Vuong’s poems circle fragmented lives to find both restoration as well as the epicenter of the break.

Walk Me to the Corner by Anneli Furmark
A loving home and husband; two grown sons; a lakeside cabin with a picnic table where their initials are carved; and the chance encounter at a party that destabilizes it all. Elise is in her mid-fifties and is satisfied with life. But the moment she sees Dagmar, she’s entranced. What begins as eye contact transitions to harmless texting, and quickly swells into the type of lust and yearning Elise did not know her life was lacking. Both are happily married and there’s trepidation, but they can’t resist. The two arrange to meet, changing the course of Elise’s stable and consistent life forever.

Nonfiction

All My Friends are Invisible by Jonathan Joly
This extraordinary and beautifully-written childhood memoir is not only an important, thought-provoking and exhilarating read, it provides hope and community for all those who have ever felt ‘other’, and proves how vital it is to provide children with the safe space to be themselves, the absence of which can have dire consequences.

Burning My Roti: Breaking Barriers as a Queer Indian Woman by Sharan Dhaliwal
Part memoir, part guide, Burning My Roti is essential reading for a new generation of South Asian women. With chapters covering sexual and cultural identity, body hair, colourism and mental health, and a particular focus on the suffocating beauty standards South Asian women are expected to adhere to, Sharan Dhaliwal speaks openly about her journey towards loving herself, offering advice, support and comfort to people that are encountering the same issues.

A Quick & Easy Guide to Asexuality by Molly Muldoon & Will Hernandez
Asexuality is often called The Invisible Orientation. You don’t learn about it in school, you don’t hear “ace” on television. So, it’s kinda hard to be ace in a society so steeped in sex that no one knows you exist. Too many young people grow up believing that their lack of sexual desire means they are broken – so writer Molly Muldoon and cartoonist Will Hernandez, both in the ace community, are here to shed light on society’s misconceptions of asexuality and what being ace is really like. This book is for anyone who wants to learn about asexuality, and for Ace people themselves, to validate their experiences. Asexuality is a real identity and it’s time the world recognizes it. Here’s to being invisible no more! 

Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington by James Kirchick
Utilizing thousands of pages of declassified documents, interviews with over one hundred people, and material unearthed from presidential libraries and archives around the country, Secret City is a chronicle of American politics like no other. Beginning with the tragic story of Sumner Welles, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s brilliant diplomatic advisor and the man at the center of “the greatest national scandal since the existence of the United States,” James Kirchick illuminates how homosexuality shaped each successive presidential administration through the end of the twentieth century. Magisterial in scope and intimate in detail, Secret City will forever transform our understanding of American history.

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What We are Reading–March-April 2022

The following titles have been read and have received at least one yes vote for the final list.

Fiction and Poetry

All the Things We Don’t Talk About by Amy Feltman

 A story of betrayal and trauma alongside queer love and resilience, All the Things We Don’t Talk About is a celebration of and a reckoning with the power and unintentional pain of a thoroughly modern family.

Broken Halves of a Milky Sun: Poems by Aaiún Nin

Nin shows the ways in which faith and devotion serve as forms of oppression and interrogates the nature of home by reclaiming the persistent echoes of trauma. A captivating blend of evocative prose and intimate testimony, Nin speaks to the universal vulnerability of existence

Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park

A funny, transporting, surprising, and poignant novel that was one of the highest selling debuts of recent years in Korea, Love in the Big City tells the story of a young gay man searching for happiness in the lonely city of Seoul

Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin

Gretchen Felker-Martin’s Manhunt is an explosive post-apocalyptic novel that follows trans women and trans men on a grotesque journey of survival.

The Memory Librarian: and Other Stories of Dirty Computers by Janelle Monae

Expanding from the mythos in Dirty Librarian, these stories in The Memory Librarian fully explore what it’s like to live in a totalitarian existence…and what it takes to get out of it. 

The Other Mother by Rachel M. Harper

A page-turning generational saga about a young man’s search for a parent he never knew, and a moving portrait of motherhood, race, and the truths we hide in the name of family.

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

Our Wives Under The Sea is the debut novel from the critically acclaimed author of salt slow. It’s a story of falling in love, loss, grief, and what life there is in the deep, deep sea.

Wrath Goddess Sing by Maya Deanne

Drawing on ancient texts and modern archeology to reveal the trans woman’s story hidden underneath the well-known myths of The Iliad, Maya Deane’s Wrath Goddess Sing weaves a compelling, pitilessly beautiful vision of Achilles’ vanished world, perfect for fans of Song of Achilles and the Inheritance trilogy.

Nonfiction

The Third Person by Emma Grove

A boldly drawn, unforgettable memoir about trauma and the barriers to gender affirming health care.

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Under Consideration: February – March 2022

The following titles have been read and recommended for inclusion on the final list by at least one juror:

Fiction and Poetry

The Boy with a Bird in his Chest by Emme Lund
A heartbreaking yet hopeful novel about the things that make us unique and lovable, The Boy with a Bird in His Chest grapples with the fear, depression, and feelings of isolation that come with believing that we will never be loved, let alone accepted, for who we truly are, and learning to live fully and openly regardless.

Can’t Resist Her by Kianna Alexander
Two very determined women – in love, at odds, and risking a lot on a second chance.

Dead Collection by Isaac Fellman
A whirlwind romance between an eccentric archivist and a grieving widow explores what it means to be at home in your own body in this clever, humorous, and heartfelt novel.

Patricia Wants to Cuddle by Samantha Allen
The contestants of a reality television dating show compete for love—and their lives—in this pulse-pounding and viciously funny fiction debut from the GLAAD Award–winning author of Real Queer America.

Siren Queen by Nghi Vo
Siren Queen offers up an enthralling exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.

You Better be Lightning by Andrea Gibson
You Better Be Lightning by Andrea Gibson is a queer, political, and feminist collection guided by self-reflection.

Read Between the Lines by Rachel Lacey
From award-winning author Rachel Lacey comes a playful romance about a Manhattan bookstore owner and a reclusive author who love to hate—and hate to love—each other.

Nonfiction

Burn the Page: A True Story of Torching Doubts, Blazing Trails, and Igniting Change by Danica Roem
An inspirational memoir-meets-manifesto by Danica Roem, the nation’s first openly trans person elected to US state legislature.

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Over the Rainbow Press Release: Top Ten of 2021

CHICAGO – The Over the Rainbow committee of ALA’s Rainbow Roundtable gave careful consideration to 332 books across all genres, including memoir, history, true crime, mystery, romance, fiction, poetry, and more. The final ten selections showcased a wide range of queer stories and experiences, working to dispel, one book at a time, the single narrative.  

The Top 10 selections in fiction and non-fiction were:

  • “Black Boy Out of Time: A Memoir” by Hari Ziyad; Published by Little A
  • “The Natural Mother of the Child” by Krys Malcolm Belc; Published by Counterpoint
  • “Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness and Anti-Blackness” by Da’Shaun Harrison; Published by North Atlantic Books
  • “With Teeth” by Kristen Arnett; Published by Riverhead Books
  • “Milk Fed” by Melissa Broder; Published by Scribner
  • “One Last Stop” by Casey McQuiston; Published by St. Martin’s Griffin, and imprint of St. Martin’s Publishing Group
  • “Detransition Baby: A Novel” by Torrey Peters; Published by One World, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House
  • “Stone Fruit” by Lee Lai; Published by Fantagraphics
  • “Sorrowland” by Rivers Solomon; Published by MCD
  • “Patience & Esther” by SW Searle; Published by Iron Circus Comics

“In a year which saw more book challenges than any other, largely concerning books with queer content, it was heartening to also see publishers continue to feature, promote, and elevate queer narratives across all genres.” The Over the Rainbow Committee noted. “Queer stories can be heartbreaking, exciting, romantic, incredible, challenging, unbearable, exquisite, silly, and anything else you can think of. These selections prove it.”

The charge of the Over the Rainbow Book List Committee is to promote the improved quality and accessibility of LGBTQIA+ literature through the creation of an annual annotated bibliography of books for general adult readership. Committee members select titles that exhibit commendable literary quality and significant, authentic LGBTQIA+ content and are recommended for adults over age 18. The Over the Rainbow Book List Committee (OTR) coordinates with other Rainbow Round Table committees to promote the improved quality and accessibility of LGBTQIA+ literature.

The Rainbow Round Table (RRT) – formerly known as the GLBTRT – of the American Library Association, is the oldest professional association for LGBTQIA+ people in the United States. It is committed to serving the information needs of the LGBTQIA+ professional library community and information and access needs of individuals at large. It is home to Rainbow Book Month, a nationwide celebration every June, and the Stonewall Book Award, the first award honoring LGBTQIA+ books. The Rainbow Round Table is committed to encouraging and supporting the free and necessary access to all information, as reflected by the missions of the American Library Association and democratic institutions. 

For Immediate Release
Tue, 02/15/2022

Contact:
Monica Chapman
Program Coordinator, Coretta Scott King Book Awards and ODLOS Round Tables
ALA-ODLOS
3122804297
mlchapman@ala.org

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Over the Rainbow Long List

The shortlist of titles considered for the Over the Rainbow final bibliography for books published in 2021 are the following:

Fiction and Poetry

And Then The Gray Heaven. R.E. Katz. Dzanc Books, 2021. B, expert museum diorama designer & artist, has had a freak accident at home and ends up in the hospital. Because Jules, their partner, is not any legally recognized form of “family”, they are not allowed in to see B. When B passes away, Jules is permitted to attend the funeral and the family is convinced to give Jules ⅔ of B’s ashes. But what to do with them? What follows is a quietly humorous look back at B’s and Jules’ lives before they met, interspersed with Jules’ journey to bury B…in all the museum exhibits they ever helped curate.

Black Girl, Call Home. Jasmine Mans. Berkley, (Penguin Random House), 2021. Jasmine Mans’ poetry is specific to a Black girl’s experience. From the different ways they do their hair to their complicated feelings about their parents. It is also an homage to Black mothers, to the way they imparted knowledge and wisdom through their actions, their worries, their triumphs, and their mistakes. Mixed in with movements on pop culture, women’s history, and writings about the gentle awe of falling in love with a woman, the poems of this collection are powerful, moving, and timely.

Detransition Baby: A Novel. Torrey Peters. One World (Penguin Randomhouse), 2021. Peters’ debut novel explores womanhood and relationships as it follows Reese, a trans woman longing to become a mother, who is approached by her de-transitioned ex to raise a child with his pregnant, cisgender boss and lover.

Dreaming of You: A Novel in Verse. Melissa Lozada-Oliva. Astra House. 2021. Lozada-Oliva has written something which defies explanation and will prompt many a conversation. The narrator, Melissa, manages to resurrect Selena Quintanilla, and then has to live with her. Part dream, part surrealist nightmare, part existential dread, entirely beautiful, this novel will make you ask yourself the questions you’ve been avoiding about authenticity, celebrity, obsession, and loss. 

A Master of Djinn. P. Djèlí Clark. Tordotcom, 2021. Egypt in 1912 is a world power, but it has some help from djinn, and all manner of fantastical creatures. Fatma el-Sha’arawi, a government agent who investigates mystical goings on (and saved the universe), is called to solve the murder of an entire secret society dedicated to a famous, and famously absent, mystic Al-Jahiz, who may or may not have returned. Clues abound, including references to the great djinn powers still locked away. Fatma must find the person claiming to be Al-Jahiz before they release the most powerful djinn in the universe. This steampunk alternate historical mystery is a wild ride.

Milk Fed. Melissa Broder. Scribner, 2021. Broder explores different types of hunger in this novel about Rachel, a 24-year old woman with a highly restricted diet, a fascination with the Orthodox Jewish woman running her frozen yogurt shop, and a therapist who encourages her to examine her relationships with others and with herself. 

One Last Stop. Casey McQuiston. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2021. August’s move to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist. A few weird roommates and a job at a 24 hour pancake house shouldn’t change that. But then she sees Jane on the subway everyday.  Dazzling, charming, mysterious…her subway crush. Except Jane doesn’t just look like a 1970s punk rocker – she’s actually displaced in time from the 1970s and August will need to use every skill she has to help her.

Patience & Esther: An Edwardian Romance. SW Searles. Iron Circus Comics, 2021. A steamily romantic graphic novel about the love between Patience, a Scottish parlor maid, and Esther, an Indian-born ladies’ maid. Searles’ art portrays lovingly drawn characters of different body types and sizes, and highlights themes of class, race, and orientation in a realistic, yet hopeful, way.

Persephone Station. Stina Leicht. Gallery/Saga Press. 2021. Angel, an ex-soldier turned merc, just wants to get paid and fly under the radar.  She and her crew, a motley assortment of skills and personalities, take on assignments for which no one else has the guts. Under the surface, though, a timeless battle of wills rages for control of space itself. Stina Leicht has crafted an entertaining mercenary space opera that is as grand as it is expansive that puts women and nonbinary queer folk at the forefront.

Sorrowland. Rivers Solomon. Farrar, Strauss & Giroux. A novel about a mother trying hard to survive in a land of fiends. The novel shifts backwards and forwards through time, encompassing the lives of Vern, Howling, and Feral, and the people that circulate around them. Solomon belongs in the tradition of Toni Morrison and Jesmyn Ward.

Stone Fruit. Lee Lai. Fantagraphics, 2021. An emotionally honest graphic novel about three women navigating complex familial and romantic relationships while caring for a six-year-old girl. Lee Lai’s beautiful illustrations evoke the wildness of the liminal spaces where love, duty, and identity intersect.

Under the Whispering Door. T.J. Klune. Tor Books, 2021. Wallace Price is not ready to be dead, and is certainly not ready to move on to whatever mysterious “hereafter” he can expect. Hugo, a ferryman who guides souls to the afterlife, tells Wallace he can stay with him at his tea shop, Charon’s Crossing, until Wallace is ready to go. But as Wallace begins to realize all the beauty, compassion, and love he missed in his life, how will he prepare himself for death?

With Teeth. Kristen Arnett. Riverhead Books, 2021. Kristen Arnett’s dark irreverence and visceral storytelling bring to light the unspoken difficulties of queer relationships, motherhood, self-hood, and the limits of each. It will leave you deeply uncomfortable, as it deals with truths easily ignored and rarely dwelt in, with a main character who will frustrate you to no end, but you will recognize in an instant.

Nonfiction

Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness. Da’Shaun Harrison. North Atlantic Books, 2021. This title is in conversation with Sonya Renee Taylor’s The Body is Not An Apology, but instead looks through a wider lens explaining how anti-fatness is also anti-blackness, using modern examples and drawing from others’ work. An excellent read for understanding anti-fatness as anti-blackness and for beginning to imagine what a more just and loving world could look like.

Black Boy Out of Time. Hari Ziyad. Little a, 2021. Hari Ziyad was raised by their Hare Krishna mother and Muslim father in a blended family, growing up in Cleveland with eighteen siblings. Ziyad, who is the editor in chief of RaceBaitr, writes with tender rage about what it means to live beyond imposed narratives of race and gender.

The Breaks: An Essay. Julietta Singh. Coffee House Press and Daunt Books Originals,, 2021. A “messay” (the newly coined Memoir/Essay) disguised as a letter to the author’s daughter that challenges what a queer family can look like without every defining what it must be. Addressing climate change, race, colonialism, identity, and inheritance, Singh asks us how we can choose to move forward through each of these challenging realities, and offers some guidance on how to do so.  

Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir. Akwaeke Emezi. Riverhead Books, 2021. In a series of letters addressed to the people in their life, Akwaeke reflects on the various journeys they’ve taken: embracing their identity, navigating the world of publishing, encountering heartbreak, and arriving at a spiritual truth, among other difficult and beautiful experiences. It joins, and shines within, a recent spate of publishing non-traditional and genre-defying narratives centering historically oppressed voices. 

Everybody (Else) Is Perfect: How I survived Hypocrisy, Beauty, Clicks, and Likes. Gabrielle Korn. Atria Books, 2021. A collection of essays touching on the author’s own experience with feminism, sexuality, beauty standards, self-esteem, and other women-centered issues, as the editor-in-chief of Nylon. Though narrow in scope and perspective, many of the points in these essays will resonate with women in similar positions. 

A History of Scars. Laura Lee. Atria Books, 2021. This collection of essays delves into the mind of someone who has schizophrenia. The book names and opens discussions around family history, trauma, and healing. Highly lauded by the likes of Roxane Gay, this belongs on the same shelf as other contemporary illness non-fiction narratives. 

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. Mannie Murphy. Fantagraphic Books, 2021. In this work of graphic nonfiction that takes the form of an illustrated diary, a nostalgic reminiscence about River Phoenix becomes the thread that Murphy follows deep into the heart of Portland, Oregon’s history of white supremacy. Murphy traces the connections between White Aryan Resistance founder Tom Metzger, filmmaker Gus Van Sant, and the street kids like Ken Death who appeared in Van Sant’s films.

Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing. Lauren Hough. Vintage, 2021. A collection of contemporary essays telling about the author’s childhood growing up in a cult;  young adulthood in the military; and adulthood working as a bartender and “cable guy” in and around Washington DC as a butch lesbian. Hough’s work will have you both laughing and near tears from her experiences. At times a peer to Tara Westover’s Educated. 

Like a Boy But Not a Boy: Navigating Life, Mental Health, and Parenthood Outside the Gender Binary. Andrea Bennett. Arsenal Pulp Press, 2020. In a series of essays, Bennett explores the experiences of being a non-binary parent, growing up queer in a small town, and balancing creative work with the necessities of survival. Interspersed throughout is “Everyone is Sober and No One Can Drive,” sixteen biographical sketches based on interviews with other queer Millennials who grew up in small towns in Canada.

The Natural Mother of the Child: A Memoir of Nonbinary Parenthood. Krys Malcolm Belc. Counterpoint LLC, 2021. As a nonbinary, transmasculine parent, giving birth to his son Samson clarified Krys Belc’s gender identity. And yet, when his partner, Anna, adopted Samson, the legal documents listed Belc as “the natural mother of the child.” In interlocking essays, illustrated with legal documents and other official paperback, Belc examines his experiences and his ambivalent relationship with tidy “before” and “after” transition stories.

The Queens’ English: The LGBTQIA+ Dictionary of Lingo and Colloquial Phrases. Chloe O. Davis. Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2021. Do you know what a “bear” is? When did “sickening” start to mean “something amazing”? This comprehensive dictionary provides an in-depth look at queer language, from Sappho to “Ru Paul’s Drag Race.” Full color illustrations and photographs throughout, as well as profiles of the people and events that shaped LGBTQIA+ history and culture.

Sapphic Crossings: Cross-Dressing Women in Eighteenth-Century British Literature. Ula Lukszo Klein. University of Virginia Press, 2021. Details cross-dressing women in various genres,  prompting readers to rethink the roots lesbian and transgender identities. Advances the field of gender and sexuality. Well-documented.

Three Dads and a Baby: Adventures in Modern Parenting. Ian Jenkins. Cleis Press, 2021. The story of a polyamorous throuple (three boyfriends) and their efforts to conceive a baby. A heartfelt adventure. Well-documented with sources.

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2021 Over the Rainbow Fiction and Poetry Longlist

After Rubén. Francisco Aragón. Red Hen Press, 2020. Poems and essays inspired by and in conversation with Nicaraguan writer Rubén Darío.

Amora: Stories. Natalia Borges Polesso, translated by Julia Sanches. Amazon Crossing, 2020. The translations in this book are about love between women in various types of relationships. The strength of these stories is in the everyday life writing, the capture of truths in daily moments.

Box Hill: A story of low self-esteem. Mars-Jones, Adam. New Directions, 2020. On his eighteenth birthday, awkward, clueless Colin literally stumbles upon the confident Ray, a motorcycle-riding “daddy,” 10 years his senior, and thus begins a transformative relationship. On the surface, Box Hill is a sexy gay-male romance about a dominant-submissive relationship, but told with a depth and humor that make it a unique and moving coming-of-age tale.

Cut to Bloom. Arhm Choi Wild. Write Bloody Publishing, 2020. This poem collection looks to explore identities, that of a Korean American and of a queer person. This collection dives into the devastation of trauma and the process by which one can recover and bloom from those same wounds.

The Death of Vivek Oji. Akwaeke Emezi. Riverhead Books, 2020. This novel told from multiple perspectives looks back on the events that lead up to the death of Vivek Oji. The book showcases the experiences of characters with various queer identities in modern day Nigeria and illustrates how efforts to protect can sometimes be as damaging as any threat.

Dispatch: Poems. Cameron Awkward-Rich. Persea, 2019. Poems offered through the lens of the poets that came before, to explore bodies and self navigating a world of violence and disruption.

The Foley Artist: Stories. Ricco Villanueva Siasoco. Gaudy Boy, 2020.  Nine short stories that explore the intersectional identities of the Filipino diaspora in America as they interrogate intimacy, foreignness, and silence in an absurd world.

The Gospel of Breaking. Christmas, Jillian. Arsenal Pulp Press, 2020. A deeply-felt, wide-ranging collection of poetry, taking on topics of racism, politics, love, and family history.  Fierce and funny, the book is a celebratory, revelatory word-fest.

Guillotine: Poems. Eduardo C. Corral. Graywolf Press, 2020. Poems exploring gay male life and the experiences of migrants trying to enter America.

Harrow the Ninth. Tamsyn Muir. Tor.com, 2020. Harrowhawk Nonagesimus is the last necromancer of the Ninth House and, as such, has been drafted into an unwinnable war. Now she must become a perfect angel of death even while her health and mind seem to be simultaneously failing her and her own weapon seems to be making her sick. To truly summarize this book in a few words, it is gothic lesbian necromancers in space and all of the drama that comes with such an epic story.

Homesick: Stories. Nino Cipri. Dzanc Books, 2019. An eclectic mix of short stories across genres from romance to horror to science fiction that includes multiple queer identities and characters across the gender spectrum.

Homie: Poems. Danez Smith. Graywolf Press, 2020.  Poetry that explores queerness, friendship, family, illness, race, and death in America.

Indigo. Ellen Bass. Copper Canyon Press, 2020. Indigo’s poems roll off of the tongue and materialize in the mind. Thought-provoking and honest, this work will make you re-evaluate all of your relationships with others and yourself. Clear and precise, Bass poses questions while conjuring eternal themes of life, death, love, and yes, food.

Invisible Kingdom, Volume 1: Walking the Path. G. Willow Wilson with artist Christian Ward. Berger Books, 2019. This sci-fi saga focuses on two very different sects of one society and a small rogue spaceship on the run from both. It also draws the focus on two women from very different backgrounds and how their fates collide and connect with each other — and how the knowledge they unveil could change the very core of their society.

Junebat. John Elizabeth Stintzi. House of Anansi Press, 2020. This collection is a journey through identity exploration, specifically gender, of folding and unfolding, of becoming, of others seeing what you see or feel, and all the emotions and self-doubt that can go along with it. Also featured are a curious junebat, and Hale-Bopp, the queer cactus.

Little Blue Encyclopedia (For Vivian). Plante, Hazel Jane. Metonymy Press, 2019. The narrator, mourning the loss of her beloved friend Vivian, begins a project of writing about Vivian’s favorite TV show, the fictional Little Blue, as a way of remembering and memorializing her friend. Writing about the TV show in encyclopedic form provides a framework for a deep dive into the show, which reveals the life of her friend all the more. Unconventional in form, yet highly readable; playful and with a love of pop culture, the book is a celebration of friendship between trans women.

The Malevolent Volume. Justin Phillip Reed. Coffee House Press, 2020.
Reed’s works are in conversation with other poems, mythology, and effuse emotion and experience.

Plain Bad Heroines. Emily M. Danforth. William Morrow, 2020. A queer, feminist horror-comedy centered on the deaths of five young women at a cursed New England boarding school for girls and the horror film now being shot on the school grounds.

The Prettiest Star. Carter Sickels. Hub City Press, 2020. In the final stages of AIDS, Brian Jackson returns to his small Ohio hometown from New York City in 1986 after a six year absence. The story is told in shifting perspectives from Brian, his mother, and his younger sister. The book showcases the fullness of life in the throes of illness and the potential and limits for growth and forgiveness.

Real Life. Brandon Taylor. Riverhead Books, 2020. Wallace is a young, black man from Alabama attending a Midwestern university to earn his biochem degree. Wallace also happens to be queer. These facts have led to him being understandably distanced even within his circle of friends until the events of one weekend threaten that distance as well as expose very real threats. This book discusses homophobia and racism in a very real way while also delving deeply into the helplessness and trauma that can come along with those experiences.

The Seep. Porter, Chana. Soho Press, 2020. Not your typical alien invaders, The Seep, have brought not destruction, but utopia, to Earth. Trina Goldberg-Oneka, a fifty-year-old trans woman, and her wife Deeba, are living a seemingly nice life under The Seep, with capitalism gone and where anything seems possible, until Deeba decides she wants to be reborn which, yes, is possible. Heartbroken at the loss of Deeba, and questioning utopia, Trina goes on a quest to save a lost boy from The Seep.

Shine Of The Ever. Foster, Claire Rudy. Interlude Press, 2019. Set in Portland in the 1990s, and described as a “literary mixtape,” Shine of the Ever is a collection of witty, bittersweet vignettes about characters young and queer, searching for love and community, making mistakes and sometimes succumbing to insecurities, yet doing it all in style.

The Subtweet. Vivek Shraya. ECW Press, 2020. The story starts with one musician covering the song of another, leading to a friendship that strains when one becomes more famous than the other. The author shows how texts and social media can complicate relationships, and how music can unite and divide.

This Town Sleeps. Dennis E. Staples. Counterpoint, 2020. A romantic mystery, with a supernatural twist, set on an Ojibwe reservation in northern Minnesota, involving Marion, a midtwenties gay Ojibwe man, and his old high school classmate, the closeted, and white, Shannon. Drawn back to his hometown for reasons he can’t explain, Marion enters into a complicated relationship with Shannon, and becomes entangled in the mystery of another classmate who was murdered years earlier.

Thrown in the Throat. Benjamin Garcia. Milkweed Editions, 2020. A fantastic debut of poetry by the son of Mexican immigrants breaks down the walls and boldly questions who belongs—in closets or in countries—and how and why do either exist?

Upright Women Wanted. Sarah Gailey. Tom Doherty Associates/Tor, 2020. An amazingly queer romp into an imagined future American Southwest which follows a stowaway young woman and the antifascist librarians that she runs away with.

Vera Kelly Is Not a Mystery. Rosalie Knecht. Tin House Books, 2020.  After losing her job and having her girlfriend leave her, Vera Kelly sets up a private detective agency and her first case involves a lost foster child, political intrigue and the internal workings of the Dominican community in the US.

You Exist Too Much. Zaina Arafat. Catapult, 2020. A story told in vignettes that goes between the U.S. and the Middle East while following the life of a Palestinian-American woman who when she comes out as queer to her mother is simply told that she exists too much. This book is a powerful look into queerness, trauma, mental, illness, and familial relationships as well as how all of these things affect someone’s search for love.

Honorable mentions

  • Boyfriend Material. Alexis Hall. Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2020.
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea. TJ Klune. Tor Books, 2020.
  • The Kill Club. Wendy Heard. Mira Books, 2019.

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