Over The Rainbow 2023 Shortlist

By Katelin Deushane  

The shortlist of titles considered for the Over the Rainbow final bibliography for books published in 2023 are the following:

Fiction & Poetry

Any Other City. Hazel Jane Plante. Arsenal Pulp Press, 2023. This musical novel takes readers into the life of a fictional musical artist and depicts how trauma evolves through time. This lyrical book spans both the past and present as a young queer woman grows up and develops her art.

BindedH. WarrenBoreal Books, 2023. A gripping collection of poetry focusing on the experience of living as someone non-binary. These poems eloquently tackle difficult topics and express a deeply personal and meaningful message of sense of self.

The Boy in The Rain. Stephanie Cowell. Regal House Publishing, 2023. Two young men in 1903 England fall in love in this beautiful, atmospheric novel. Cowell weaves together an emotional masterpiece using historical facts, poignant scenes, and lyrical prose.  

The Celebrants. Steven Rowley. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2023. A touching story of lifetime friends as they deal with a coming loss. This book is lighthearted but not without its deeper moments. Highlighting the intersection of queer community and chosen family, The Celebrants is filled with both tears and laughter. Surely, a book for everyone to enjoy!  

Chef’s Choice. T.J. Alexander. Simon & Schuster, 2023. Succeeding in its goal of being a sweet rom-com with a lot of heart, this book is a fun read from start to finish. With both humor and thoughtfulness, this book explores the developing relationship between two trans individuals as they work to navigate love, family, self-worth, and their own trans identities.  

Confidence. Rafael Frumkin. Simon & Schuster, 2023. Following the life of a professional con man as he and his lifelong friend create a fake health empire, this book is a classic caper story mixed with a tale of unrequited love. Leave it to Frumkin to leave you feeling for the villain. It’s a perfect scheme that you’ll want to buy into again and again.  

Endpapers. Jennifer Savran Kelly. Algonquin Books, 2023. Told from a single perspective, this is still a story that spans decades as a New York conservative investigates a series of queer love letters. Even those who do not have a fondness for history can find something to relate to as the characters struggle with their sexuality, gender, love life, and their place in a world that doesn’t seem to understand them.  

Flux. Jinwoo Chong. Melville House, 2023. Reality goes topsy-turvy in this confusing tale of crime, time travel, and family. It’s a much-needed representation for both queer individuals and Asian individuals. Masterful storytelling brings together so many moving parts that for a lesser author would be a confusing mishmash but for Flux comes together in a satisfying conclusion.

Gay Poems for Red States. William Edward Taylor Carver Jr. University Press of Kentucky, 2023. From the heart of the 2022 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, this collection is a heartrending series of poems about what it’s like living as queer in a country that is increasingly anti-LGBTQ. Every piece is dripping with heart, some tragicly so, but even so every single one is a letter of support to queer people who may be struggling. With this collection, they will know fully that they are not alone.  

Girlfriends. Emily Zhou. LittlePuss Press, 2023. This collection of seven short stories focuses on women’s lives. These stories take readers through life, love, and loss through the eyes of queer women.

I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself. Marisa Crane. Catapult, 2023. Set in a dystopian universe where individuals are charged with additional shadow for every perceived crime that they do, this story follows a mother’s grief as she struggles with the loss of her partner. Despite the dystopian setting, this story is an accurate reflection of our reality. In only a handful of chapters, it poetically handles serious issues such as acceptance, discrimination, consent, grief, and parenting with both tact and emotion.

Monstrillo. Gerardo Sámano Córdova. Zando, 2023. Opening with the loss of a child, it’s clear right away that this is going to be a heartwrenching tale, and Monstrillo does not disappoint. The oddness of a child growing from a lung, while central, is overshadowed by the authentic emotion bursting from every scene. No emotion is too deep or dark for this book as it tackles everything from a parent’s grief to the hurt and shame that can stem from not being accepted as who you really are.

More Sure: Poems and Interruptions. A. Light Zachary. Arsenal Pulp Press, 2023. Not often do you have a book that tackles so expertly queerness and neurodivergence in the way that this collection of poetry does. While clearly an act of love and self-acceptance, these poems can help others find the same. It offers support and love while also acknowledging the hurt that comes with struggling to know who you are in a world that is telling you to be somebody, anybody else.

The Salt Grows Heavy. Cassandra Khaw. Tor Nightfire, 2023. A nonbinary plague doctor and a mermaid wander a devastated land in this short story, but this doesn’t need to be a long story for the diverse and authentic characters to really shine. Dark and dystopian, the writing is poetic and sensual showing that there’s joy in being seen as monstrous.

Small Joys. Elvin James Mensah. Ballantine Books, 2023. A novel about chosen family, friendship and love. This book explores how important connection is when dealing with depression, as well as how much of an impact a single person can have in your life.

Something Wild and Wonderful. Anita Kelly. Grand Central Publishing, 2023. In a meet-cute to end all meet-cutes, two very different men meet while traveling on the Appalachian Trail. With humor and tears along the way, this delightful rom-com is a gem of its genre, especially as it tries to keep in the realm of realism to give a wonderfully loud and extravagant ending.  

Stop Lying. Aaron Smith. University of Pittsburg Press, 2023. A deeply personal collection of poetry that really tackles what it means to be gay when your existence is viewed as a sin. The grief and sadness will surely bring a tear to your eye as will the moments of self-acceptance and joy. No poetry collection captures the myriad of emotions that is not only human existence but specifically queer existence so beautifully.

Tell Me I’m Worthless. Alison Rumfitt. Tor Nightfire, 2023. A horror book that mines the hatred that many queer people face both internally and externally. It’s a gruesome and bloody haunted house story that gives queer representation to a genre that has been lacking such viewpoints for far too long, and it gives this representation with the accuracy of a knife sliding home.

The Unfortunates. J. K. Chukwu. Harper, 2023. A student’s message to her university’s thesis committee on death, racism, capitalism, and life. The Unfortunates focuses on those people in society who are often missed or overlooked.


Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World. Christian Cooper. Random House, 2023. Following the life of black birdwatcher Christian Cooper and his time at Marvel as well as the Central Park Birdwatching Incident, this book is a surprise from beginning to end. Told with Cooper’s characteristic calm, it reflects on society regarding both race and queerness with a true birdwatcher’s attention to detail. Reading it feels like being given a Birdseye view into parts of the world you may not have seen or even thought about before.

Black on Black: On Our Resilience and Brilliance in America. Daniel Black. Hanover Square Press, 2023. This series of essays by well-known writer Daniel Black not only cover race in America but also queerness in America and how the two intersect. It’s an honest portrayal looking back on how the past shapes the present and how the present can in turn shape the future. More than anything Black on Black understands that there is no absolute and that there always exists a gray in between.

Boyslut: A Memoir and Manifesto. Zachary Zane. Abrams Image, 2023. Told through a series of essays that express the joy of sex without shame, this is very much a coming-out story. It is a must-read for anyone who has felt shame for their sexual desires, regardless of who you might be desiring.   

Choosing Family: A Memoir of Queer Motherhood and Black Resistance, Francesca Royester. Abrams Press, 2023. Told through the recollections of a mother as she begins the process of adopting a child with her partner in Chicago, this is an honest story that is sure to give any perspective adopting parents hope. It does not shy away from the difficulties that come with such a choice nor does it hide the ugliness that is the foster care system. Even with such darkness, it shows the beauty in both, especially when there’s love to be had.

Fieldwork: A Forager’s Memoir. Iliana Regan.Agate Publishing, 2023. With the same down to earth style yet graceful nature that Iliana Regan gives to her cooking so does she give to this intimate memoir. Flowing seamlessly through her childhood in Indiana, her ancestry, and finally her time as a chef, the reader not only experiences the land in much the same way she does but also gender. This book is a stunning illumination on food, gender, sexuality, and humanity.

Hijab Butch Blues. Lamya H. Dial Press, 2023. Few books tie in religion, mental health, and queerness in the way that this memoir does. With prose that varies from poetic to straightforward, Hijab Butch Blues strikes the perfect tone, shaping religion into a tool for protection for queer people rather than harm. This is a book about a girl who learns to trust herself and no longer fear the answers that asking questions may bring.

Horse Barbie. Geena Rocero. Dial Press, 2023. Full of the same confidence needed to win drag beauty contests and to be a trans model when it was very dangerous to do so, Rocero hides nothing in this tell-all memoir. Tempering confidence with humility, Rocero gives voice to many people’s feelings of danger and powerlessness that comes from both their family and society.  Of course, she does not let that stop her, showing how power can be taken back as long as one has the right support and the right attitude.

How far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures. Sabrina Imbler. Little, Brown and Company, 2022. Taking creatures deemed ordinary and others not so ordinary, Imbler not only expands the reader’s understanding of sea life but also one’s understanding of life itself. This book tackles every subject from race, sex, gender, climate change, and, of course, sea life. It is a masterful queer weaving of how all the world is connected and told in such a way that one can’t help but sink further and further into it.

Leg: The Story of a Limb and the Boy Who Grew from It. Greg Marshall. Abrams Press, 2023. Both deeply humorous and deeply honest, this memoir grapples with family, disability, and queerness. Very much a universal story, Marshall shows how understanding yourself does not often come all at once. Rather it comes through stops and starts, and how sometimes it takes someone pointing out the closet to recognize you’ve been locked inside your whole life.

Liberated: The Radical Art and Life of Claude Cahun. Kaz Rowe. Getty Publications, 2023.

Following the life of artist Claude Cahun as they navigate a world that is filled with hatred in all its tragic forms, this graphic novel is for all readers regardless if they know Cahun’s work or not. The real photographs give only the barest glimpse into Cahun’s mind but leave no doubt that this was an individual who stood up for what they believed in and inspired others to do the same.

Miss Major Speaks: Conversations with a Black Trans Revolutionary. Toshio Meronek, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. Verso, 2023. This book is a profoundly personal interview with renowned trans-advocate, Miss Major. Overcoming oppression, chosen family, and strength are key messages that strike a tone throughout. Miss Major’s words call for community and perseverance as she shares past experiences.

Nobody Needs to Know. Pidgeon Pagonis. Topple Books & Little A, 2023. Many queer tales nowadays focus on trans individuals, but there is not many that discuss intersex people. In this gripping memoir, not only do we have an authentic(and heartbreaking) look of activist Pidgeon Pagonis’s experience being intersex, but also how you can support these individuals to make the world a better place for all regardless of gender.

The Out Side: Trans & Nonbinary Comics. The Kao, David Daneman, Min Christensen. Andrew McMeel Publishing, 2023. In this beautiful anthology series, numerous and diverse authors share their coming out, coming of age, and coming to terms stories. It is beautifully illustrated with each of the creators showcasing their distinct styles. Each stunning story makes for a cohesive sense of community that, no matter the reader, they are welcome to be a part of.

Pageboy. Elliot Page. Macmillan, 2023. An in-depth look into the life of actor Elliot Page and their transition while being in the heart of Hollywood. This memoir not only is beautiful written but gives insight into how closed off Hollywood is to queer people, how while it is making strives to be better it’s still not there. Along with this, Pageboy also gives some clarity and reassurance to trans people who are worried about being the ‘right kind’ of trans.  

A Transman Walks into a Gay Bar. Harry Nicholas. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2023. Following a trans man in his journey of being a “lesbian to straight man to gay may”, this book is amazingly honest and beats back against the narrative of what it means to be trans. Rather, Nicholas stresses the fact that trans people are not broken and that an individual’s path to being their authentic self can take many forms. Inspirational and heartfelt, this is a book that everyone needs to read regardless if they struggle with their gender or not!

We See Each Other: A Black, Trans Journey Through TV and Film. Tre’vell Anderson. Andscape Books, 2023. Often times and unfortunately, Trans individuals are thought of as a new trend, but this groundbreaking book shows us that trans people have been around for a long time. While representation is not as apparent as one would like, this book shows that trans stars were very much there throughout the decades in all kinds of TV shows and movies.

The Yards Between Us: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Football. Ryan Russel. Andscape, 2023. There are not many books that accurately and positively represent bisexuality and of that already limited number there are even fewer that do so in the realm of professional sports. Because of this, Russel’s book is a welcome breath of fresh air. It is an impactful read for anyone who fears how coming out will affect their life, and it makes clear that true strength does not come from how fast you run or how far you can throw a ball but rather from living as your true self and the people you connect with along the way.

You’re That Bitch: & Other Cute Lessons about Being Unapologetically Yourself. Bretman Rock. Harper Publishing, 2023. A laugh-out-loud and inspirational collection of essays by a young internet star. From start to finish, this is a ready that will keep your attention. It gives honest advice for all people struggling, not just those struggling with their sexuality and/or gender. Rather, this is honest advice from someone who has seen it all, done it all, and lived to tell the tale, quite literally!


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