By Diane Anderson-Minshall
Originally published on Advocate.com May 26 2014 3:09 AM ET
The Nearness of Others by David Caron (University of Minnesota Press): The best two lines from this book help you understand what this autobiographical series of vignettes is all about: “Funny how a gay man’s hand resting heavily on your shoulders used to say let’s fuck but now means let’s not. Funny how ostensible nearness really betrays distance sometimes.” In Nearness, author David Caron borrows from French literature, academia, and American pop culture to craft an easily readable series of entries that recount his 2006 HIV diagnosis and the aftermath, weaving with it broader themes like war and terror, criminalization, and loneliness. It’s easily digestible whether you have 10 minutes or four hours to read. More information here.
Switchblade by Carson Taite (Bold Strokes Books): Dallas’s favorite lesbian bounty hunter, Luca Bennett, is back, with some girl trouble (from her on-again, off-again flame, police officer Jessica Chance), a new case, and some decisions that pit her against the local police force. Fans of romance will be appeased by Taite’s potential “gambling on love” narrative, but the those of us who find many lesfic romances a bit treacly will find enough intrigue and depth in this story that makes Taite, again, a worthy read. More information here.
The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian Hamilton (Picador): One of the most fascinating crime series follows Ava Lee, a badass Chinese-Canadian lesbian forensic accountant, who is the heroine of the Ian Hamilton series that has jumped ship from Canada to the U.S., thanks to publisher Picador. And while it’s often hard to pick up a series midstream, this new release, The Water Rat of Wanchai, is the perfect choice to do so. While it’s the eighth book in the Ava Lee series, it’s actually a prequel to the others. The book goes back to the early days of Lee (a seductive cross between V.I. Warshawski and Lisbeth Salander), working for the mysterious businessman Uncle, tracking down 5 million missing dollars. And unlike a lot of American lesbian mysteries, the story is set around a great global journey that has the heroine visiting the British Virgin Islands, Seattle, Bangkok, Guyana, and Hong Kong in her search, even encountering Thai katoey (third gender) culture along the way. Great fun way to jump into the series. More information here.
Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag by A.K. Summers (Soft Skull Press): Can suspenders be considered legitimate maternity wear? That’s just one of the questions answered (or at least asked) in this funny graphic novel in which the pregnant butch lesbian author grapples with everything from the uber-feminine cult of pregnancy to the intersection of birth and gender. Summers offers a hilarious and rare look at queer pregnancy and, alongside it, a culturally astute questioning of our beliefs around gender and pregnancy. More information here.
Call Me Burroughs: A Life by Barry Miles (Twelve Books & Hachette Audio): This is a whopping 700-plus page, in-depth chronicle of the last decade of bisexual Beat legend William Burroughs’s life. It includes new interviews with other Beats like Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, and the titular man himself. It's also packed with so much profound information about the scandal-ridden subversive that it’s like sifting through microfiche in an archive of one man’s mind. Among the most captivating parts is Miles's exploration of what Burroughs called his “Ugly Spiirt,” the evil force that he’s unable to control or overcome for most of his life. More information here.
The Farm by Tom Rob Smith (Hachette Books): The author is no stranger to captivating stories — his Child 44 series is currently being turned into a film starring Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace — and the pressure is on to deliver a book as worthy. Thankfully The Farm grabs you from that first page when Daniel, a closeted young gay man with a partner his parents have never met, gets a call from his father saying his mother isn’t well, that she’s imagining terrible things, and has been sent to a mental institute. That’s curious enough but when Mom calls saying his father is full of lies and she needs the police, Daniel must unravel the secrets in his family — his and his parents — to understand what’s really happening and who is to blame. More information here.
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock (Atria Books): There are parts of Janet Mock’s book that may surprise some women (how she uses the word “fish” is one), but make no mistake, this is a classic feminist coming-of-age story that’s worthy of your mantel. A transgender journalist and advocate, Mock has become a media fixture in recent months. But her memoir recounts a life that is both hardscrabble and hard-fought, making for a must-read book that is at turns riveting and wonderfully emotionally nuanced. (And it’s a much quicker read than that Burroughs biography.) More information here.
Best Bi Short Stories, edited by Sheela Lambert (Circlet Press):
The first literary anthology that makes visible bisexual characters and lives, Best Bi Short Stories offers up a roster of authors you might identify with other genres, including Katherine Forrest, Jane Rule, and Ann Herendeen. As with all anthologies, the authors range in their literary skills but most pieces stand up to the literary merit and some, like Jan Steckel’s “Alex the Dragon” and “Naked in the World” by Geer Austin, offer unexpected nuance. Is it tongue-in-cheek stereotyping if we say this book offers “something for everyone?” More information here.
Playing by the Book by S. Chris Shirley (Magnus Books):
Jake Powell is a 17-year-old high school newspaper editor and the son of a preacher man at home in Alabama, but when he lands a spot at Columbia University's prestigious summer journalism program, his New York City dreams become real. What New York does for Jake, of course, is to bring all his feelings to the surface, including his burgeoning attraction to a handsome classmate. In his debut novel, Shirley — president of the Lambda Literary Foundation— offers up a optimistic but not overly romanticized look at youth, becoming oneself, and the discomfort and joy that comes from finding out who you want to be in the world, whether your parents like it or not. More information here.
Chopper! Chopper! Poetry From Bordered Lives by Verónica Reyes (Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press):
Written by a self-described Chicana jota (dyke) poet from East Los Angeles, the poems in Chopper! Chopper! takes a wonderful look at the lives and liberties of Mexican-American immigrants, even the queer ones, adding colorful backdrop and lilting, humorous, heartrending words to describe life in the barrio, reinventing prose poetry — or rather inventing what the author calls “marimacha poetry.” More information here.