2018 Literature Titles

By George Martinez  

2018 Over the Rainbow Literature Titles


The Angel of History. Rabih Alameddine. Atlantic Monthly Press, 2016.
Jacob is hallucinating in the waiting room of a mental health clinic. He looks back on the events of his life and imagines it reviewed by Death and Satan. We are taken on a journey from the Middle East to San Francisco at the height of the AIDs crisis.  Jacob survives while too many of his loved ones succumb to the disease.


Bestiary: Poems. Donika Kelly. Introduction by Nikky Finney. Graywolf Press, 2016.

A bestiary can be either a fighter of beasts in ancient Rome or a medieval book of natural history. Donika Kelly’s fantastical collection fits both definitions. Battles with and descriptions of mythical beasts; minotaurs, griffins, mingle with dogs, hawks, and barrow birds in these intensely personal, tender, and sometimes, violent poems. Kelly’s first collection was the winner of the prestigious Cave Canem Poetry Prize.


Bitter Legacy. Dal Maclean. One Block Empire, 2016.

2017 Finalist Lambda Literary Awards: Mystery. Dal Maclean’s debut is an engaging police procedural set in London’s Metropolitan Police. It involves Detective Sergeant James Henderson, an up-and-coming detective on the fast track to become an inspector, in his first murder investigation of barrister Maria Curzon-Whyte. During the course of the investigation, James comes across a group of men who intrigue and tempt him to join their circle. One man, in particular, photographer Ben Morgan dares him to embrace a carefree, promiscuous lifestyle. In spite of his best efforts, the investigation balloons into a spate of cruelty and wickedness. As the body count rises and disturbing secrets are revealed, James finds his personal and professional lives threatened by a bitter legacy from the past.


Cakewalk. Rita Mae Brown. Bantam, 2016.

Part of a series of novels set in the fictional town of Runnymede this latest story of nostalgic fun is set at the end of World War I.  Celeste prepares for her pregnant lover’s marriage to her brother while her housekeeper Dora’s teenage daughters Louise and Julia adjust to growing up in a small town while fighting expectations and rivalries. This multigenerational tale is filled with eccentric characters and demonstrates the lengths we will go to protect those we consider family.


Christodora. Tim Murphy. Grove, 2017.

An epic tale revolving around residents of the iconic Christodora building in New York’s Lower East Side. Spanning decades, we witness the intertwining stories of these characters as they battle depression, drug abuse, the AIDS crisis, and heartbreak. From ACT UP meetings to the disco to the art scene and all the way to a California halfway home, Murphy’s novel is an instant classic.


Club Arcana: Operation Janus. Jon Wilson.  Bold Strokes, 2017.  

Magic is afoot, and no one is who they seem to be, when librarian Angus McAslan secretly writes a book that echoes a twisted reality.  Creatures of dream and nightmare come to life, relatives turn out to be witches and life-stealers, unexpected romance and peril confront him at every turn… in the end, nothing is as he thought it was, as he fights for his life and his love against the treachery of trusted ones and the summoning of an ancient god.


Death Goes Overboard. David S. Pederson. Bold Stroke Books, 2017.

Death Goes Overboard is the second in a mystery series set in 1947 Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Detective Heath Barrington is getting prepared to go on a “fishing trip” with his partner, police officer Alan Keyes. Alas, duty calls, and Detective Barrington has to go on a lake cruise to tail gangster Gregor Slavinsky. During the course of the cruise, Slavinsky goes missing, presumed murdered. But was he? Pederson takes a lot of the tropes of mysteries and utilizes them to the fullest, giving the story a knowable form. However, the unique characters and accurate portrayal of the struggles of gay relationships in 1940s America make this an enjoyable, thought-provoking read.


Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems.   Danez Smith. Graywolf Press, 2017.

A heartbreaking and beautiful collection of poetry dealing with the intersection of being gay, black, and HIV+.


Don’t Feed the Trolls. Erica Kudisch.  Riptide Pub, 2017.  

Daphne has won a gaming novelization contest that should be a highlight of her life… then the trolls attack, filling her inbox with torrents of hateful abuse.  In real life, she’s ‘too masculine’ for the dance parts she auditions for, and in her online life, other players are attacking because she’s ‘a girl.’ Trying to survive the stress, sie comes to realizations about hir own gender identity, the new girl online sie’s falling hard for, and the convulsions of hatred and revolt in hir gaming life.  Hir friends, from hir drag queen roommate to the knight sie would rather didn’t defend hir, lend hir strength and help hir find hirself.  The happily-ever-after is as satisfying as it is unconventional.


sie sie hir hirs hirself

From http://uwm.edu/lgbtrc/support/gender-pronouns/

Drowned: a Mermaid’s Manifesto. Theresa Davis. Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016.

A poetry collection to savor from an openly queer black woman. Her explorations of race and sexuality, feminism and love, are eloquent and leave a lasting impression. She opens by invoking her muses – Frida, Medusa, and Eve – and closes with the death of her father, with a stunning array of experiences in between.


The End of Eddy.   Édouard Louis. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.

Louis’ novel begins in the late 1990s and is loosely based on his life experience. The story investigates what it is like to grow up in a small working class town in France where Eddy is challenged with conforming to traditional concepts of masculinity and finds hope in an opportunity to attend boarding school.


Enigma Variations.  André Aciman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.

The novel follows Paolo’s desires as a youth in Italy to his relationships as an adult who goes by Paul. Aciman explores the fluid sexuality of his main character and develops a rich interior life for him in a way that does not always fall into sync with the other characters.


Everything is Awful and You’re a Terrible Person.  Daniel Zomparelli. Arsenal Pulp Press, 2017.

A hilarious and tongue-in-cheek collection of highly original stories about gay men searching for love at any cost. From dating a ghost to breaking up on YouTube, the stories are fused with neuroses and humour while shining a light on the shallow and self-centered.


Fever in the Dark. Ellen Hart. Minotaur Books, 2017.

A clever, compelling mystery following a lesbian couple turned media sensations and their friend, Jane Lawless, private investigator and Hart’s serial protagonist. Hart’s writing is rich and heavy on character, lending a delightful humanity to the subjects of her world.Clever, both playful, and riveting, to be enjoyed by fans of Rita Mae Brown and those already immersed in the world of gay mysteries.


Forget Me Not. Kris Bryant. Bold Strokes Books, 2016.
Grace inherits a flower shop in Ireland from a Great Aunt she barely knew.  This contemporary romance finds its protagonist eager to return to her life in Dallas but falling in love with both the Emerald Isle and the woman trying to help her sell the shop.


Hearts in Ireland. J. C. Long. Dreamspinner, 2017.

Long’s latest novella begins with grief but leads to a satisfactory resolution. Ronan Walker’s beloved Irish mother dies and, deeply grieving and depressed and over his loss and the state of his life, he is persuaded to leave America to visit Ireland and his mother’s family. Once there, Ronan stays with his relatives and eventually meets Fergal Walsh, who works at his aunt’s bookstore. Sparks fly. Will Ronan finally be led by his heart rather than his head?  The loving, supportive interactions between Ronan and his family are inspiring. The humor of the book make for an enjoyable read.


Here Comes the Sun.  Nicole Dennis-Benn. Liveright, 2017.

Three strong women in Jamaica deal with life the best way they know how. The mother haggles and bargains her way through, while pinning all hopes and dreams on her youngest daughter, who is obsessed with lightening her skin. The eldest daughter embraces both the sex trade and a lesbian lover, in the hopes of getting out of the Jamaican slums in which they live. A family saga with twists and turns at every corner.


Kill Game. Cordelia Kingsbridge.  Riptide Pub, 2017.  

Detective Levi Abrams is on shaky ground, at work and in his love life.  It just gets worse when a serial killer is loose on the streets of Las Vegas.  On top of that, he has to deal with bounty hunter Dominic Russo, who gets under his skin, professionally and personally. The unlikely duo have sizzling chemistry, the plot is twisty and compelling, and the ending is a cliffhanger that sets up strong expectations for the next book.  It’s a police procedural, a thriller, and a romance… a great beginning to what will be a multi-book series.


Large Animals.  Jess Arndt. Catapult, 2017.

At turns hallucinatory and thoroughly grounded, Arndt’s debut short story collection crackles with dark humor, body horror and astute observations on identity. Equal parts Maggie Nelson and William Burroughs, Arndt’s work is a must-have for fans of short fiction and transgressive literature.


Lay Your Sleeping Head. Michael Nava.  Korima Pr, 2016.  

This is much more than a rewrite of Nava’s The Little Death.  True, the sex is new, but the writing is deeper as well.  Henry Rios is a lawyer burnt by the system, on his way to alcoholism, in love with a white boy with big problems.  When his lover dies of an overdose, Henry finds a new purpose, determined to prove it was murder.  1980s America was a place of racism, homophobia, and the powerful protecting themselves at the cost of everyone else, and Nava brings the reader right into the middle of it. This story is as timely now as when it was originally written decades ago.


Long Black Veil.  Jennifer Finney Boylan. Crown Publishing (Penguin Random House), 2017.

An intriguing mystery that evolves from a fateful night when a group of college friends become locked in an abandoned prison. The event results in a murder that becomes a cold case reopened years later. Judith Carrigan is the key to the main suspect’s innocence, but she must be willing to give up some deeply guarded secrets that could destroy her family in order to serve as an alibi.


Marriage of a Thousand Lies. Sindu, SJ. Soho, 2017.

Hoping to placate their traditional South Asian immigrant parents, two college friends, Lucky (Lakshmi), a lesbian, and Kris, a gay man, enter into a marriage of convenience. Lucky’s family life becomes complicated when she returns home to care for her grandmother. SJ Sindu’s novel is a study of love lost, understanding, and family that is both sensitive and dryly humorous.


My Cat Yugoslavia. Statovci, Pajtim, translated by David Hackston.Pantheon, 2017.

Statovici’s novel is really two stories entwined by family. His protagonist, Bekim, a gay man who immigrated with his family to Helsinki from Kosovo as a child, and the story of Bekim’s mother, Emine, a Muslim woman in an arranged marriage. Bekim inhabits a fantasy world of bigoted talking cats, while his mother’s story of abuse and war is told more conventionally. Both mother and son are outcasts in a difficult family in a changing world.


No One Can Pronounce My Name.  Rakesh Satyal. Picador, 2017.

Three Indian immigrants, Harit, a lonely gay man, Ranjana, a receptionist whose dream is to be an author of vampire fiction, and her son, Prashant, who tries to be anything but the Indian college kid who is good at math are the three intersecting characters in this sensitive novel of outsiders looking for a place to belong in their families and in their new country.


No Other World. Rahul Mehta. Harper, 2017.

Twelve year old, Kiran Shah, born in suburban Massachusetts to Indian immigrant parents finds himself drawn to the typically white American, and incidentally handsome father of a school friend. As he struggles with these nameless feelings, an older sister is betrayed, his parents cope with their arranged marriage, immigrant life, and family at home in India. The novel is lyrical, the characters beautifully drawn so realistic you will miss them when you’ve finished reading the novel.


Notes of a Crocodile. Qiu Miaojin. New York Review Books, 2017.

Beautifully written novel about a lesbian university student, her entertainingly diverse social circle, and her failed loves. Set in the 1990s in Taipei, she imagines herself a crocodile in a human suit as she navigates the relationships that create her story. Recently translated from Chinese.


Rainbow Gap. Lee Lynch. Bold Strokes Books, 2016.
Jaudon and Berry have been together since they were childhood best friends in backcountry Florida swamps. This book follows the two women on their journey through the 1960s as teenagers through the 1970s and how the changing world and its conflicts, including the Vietnam War and feminism, impacts their lives. Their love is illegal and dangerous but their bond is strong.

Rank. Richard Compson Sater. Bold Strokes Books, 2016.
A military romance set just after the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Second Lieutenant Harris Mitchell is out and proud but not everyone is ready to step out of the closet. Though the military’s stance has officially changed, the transition is rocky and there are still barriers to overcome.


The Ruin of a Rake. Cat Sebastian. Avon Impulse, 2017.

A new take in the Regency Romance genre, Sebastian’s third in a series offers readers a fun, fast, erudite read. With a reputation ruined by rumors and salacious talk, Lord Courtenay did not take much stock by his label as a libertine. However, when a new publication comes out, reportedly detailing his amorous pursuits of the past, Courtenay is shunned from all society and he is barred from seeing his beloved nephew. On the other hand, Julian Medlock has spent a lifetime cultivating an image of perfect decorum and taste. When Julian’s sister enlists his help to improve Courtenay’s reputation, Julian is beside himself. Julian has mixed emotions about Courtenay. He loathes him, but longs for him. Cat Sebastian plays with perceptions and the opposites-attract trope in this romance.


Seven Suspects. Renee James. Oceanview Publishing, 2017.

James’ third novel in her Bobbi Logan series, a hard-boiled thriller with an unapologetic yet empathetic trans protagonist in a genre where trans women’s bodies are still all too often used as evidence or plot device. A solidly compelling suspense novel for fans of the genre and a fun, if brutal, read for those who crave trans-centered narratives beyond “coming out”.


Since I Laid My Burden Down. Brontez Purnell. Amethyst Editions, 2017.
Queer zinester Purnell’s hilarious, affectionate punk pseudo-memoir style has been a highlight of rock magazines and basement performances for over a decade. His latest is no different, following unabashedly gay protagonist DeShawn returning to his Alabama hometown for a funeral with both razor wit and poignant reflections on masculinity, blackness and love. This slim little novel is a gem in its own right, and it’s a delight to have his work accessible to a larger audience.


Summer Stock. Vanessa North. Riptide, 2017.

A visiting television star and a local handyman hook up for one drunken night. Vanessa North’s Summer Stock begins with that basic romance story trope and goes forth from there. Driven away by tabloid scandals, Ryan Hertzog, tv star, returns to North Carolina’s Outer Banks to do summer stock for his cousin. One tequila-filled night, he hooks up with local handyman Trey Donovan and while extricating himself from the fling, he ends up being photographed stark naked. The development of the relationship between these two is passionate and heartfelt. Equally important, the discussion about abusive relationships and the complex nature of the friendships make for an interesting read.


Things to Do When You Are Goth in the Country. Chavisa Woods. Seven Stories Press, 2017.

A collection of 8 stories about queer folks, both in the LGBTQIA sense and in the strange and unusual sense. Rural America is made bizarre and hilarious by Woods, her magical realist style, and the well developed characters she has created. Darkly comedic and plausible, even when the plots veer off into the impossible – glowing green gas alien orbs?


This Is How It Always Is. Laurie Frankel. Flatiron Books, 2017.

Detailed exploration of what it means to have a gender non-conforming child sharing a story of a couple deeply in love and with a series of 5 sons, though Claude, their youngest, doesn’t see herself that way. Through loving family relationships and ordinary challenges of growing up, Claude is able to develop into the person they are.


This is How it Begins. Joan Dempsey. She Writes Press, 2017.
A timely novel of a family with secrets.  Ludka hid Jews from Nazis in Poland and is still traumatized by her past. Settled in Massachusetts as an art history teacher with her husband Izaak, she is horrified to find her gay son Tommy accused of discriminating against his Christian high school students.


When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities.  Chen Chen. BOA Editions Ltd., 2017.

Chen’s book of poetry explores his life as a queer Chinese immigrant to the United States. His poems investigate relationships, sexuality, and family using wonderful imagery that invokes various feelings that are sometimes funny, romantic, and sad.


Witches for Hire. Sam Argent. DSP Publications, 2017.

This cross genre book of love, power, and desire takes angst-ridden characters, world-building, and magic and sticks in a pot and lets it brew for awhile. A difficult, but enjoyable read with changing narrators throughout and feeling like one is starting in the middle of a series, this book leaves one hungry for more.  Jeremy Ragsdale, recovering drug addict and witch, wants to get on to the next job without any further debacles. Alas, his temp agency assigns him to work with a motley group of misfits.  Jeremy dodges his co-workers as best as he can, until the crew find a conspiracy to kill the magic superstar Desmond the Great.  Jeremy has lots of secrets. Eventually, everything has to come out into the open, but will Jeremy survive the ramifications of his actions?


Working it: A Ringside Romance. Christine D’Abo. Riptide, 2017.

A contemporary, M/M office romance set in Toronto, Working it is the first in a new series. Nolan Carmichael is trying to start anew after a terrible car accident scarred him mentally and physically. Zack Anderson, his new boss and the CTO at the company, has an ability to run away all four of his previous assistants.  With office politics and personal shortcomings to overcome, both find that they are mutually attracted to each other. The  story that captures the intensity of a forbidden romance and the sensitivity of having to work through one’s personal issues to find a satisfactory resolution.


You’re The Most Beautiful Thing That Happened. Arisa White. Augury Books, 2016.

A gorgeous, intelligent poetry collection from Lambda Literary Award-nominated White. These poems burst with emotion, soaring to ecstatically loving highs and capturing the sorrows of longing and black lesbian life in a vicious world. A beautifully realized and joyful read that deserves a place in poetry collections and the canon of lesbian literature.


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