Casey McQuiston owes me a lot of money.
After I read her smash hit, Red, White & Royal Blue, in which the son (a bisexual!) of America's first female president falls in love with the prince of England, I forced every single person I knew to buy a copy. I tweeted about it insistently. I was in two separate book clubs at the time and lead the discussion on it for each. Red, White & Royal Blue was all I could talk about for three blissful months and now I'm downright giddy to start the process all over again with One Last Stop, McQuiston's second novel.
It's just as queer, just as romantic, and just as thrilling of a read. I mean, lesbians and time travel. What's not to love?
One of the most anticipated books of the summer, One Last Stop comes out June 1.
When I think about the greatest queer writers of our time, names like Alexander Chee, Melissa Febos, Roxane Gay, Carmen Maria Machado, and Brandon Taylor immediately come to mind — all of which are featured in this new anthology by R.O. Kwon (The Incendiaries) and Garth Greenwell (What Belongs to You, Cleanness).
For anyone who remembers the second chapter of Cleanness where Greenwell goes to a stranger's apartment in Bulgaria for a night of kinky fun (fun?, I'm blushing right now just thinking about it), you know these stories are in the hands of a master. Covering the wide spectrum of kink, they are filthy and lovely. They will kiss you on the forehead; they will leave you tied to a chair and covered in urine.
Kink comes out on February 9.
What a delight it is to read the new book of a writer you adore and be knocked out all over again. With Girlhood, one of the queer community's favorite writers, Melissa Febos has written her career-best.
It's the grey areas of life and sex that Febos' writing exposes. She details her girlhood, "a darker time for many that we are often willing to acknowledge," and the lessons she's had to spend her entire life trying to unlearn.
In an upcoming episode of the LGBTQ&A podcast, Febos explains, “I wanted to excavate that word [girlhood] and scoop out all of the untrue meanings and associations that it has — to really put on that shelf some very real, very ordinary experiences that are not what people think about when they think about the word girlhood.”
Girlhood comes out on March 20.
Sarah Schulman, novelist, playwright, and author of the absolutely crucial, Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair, is set to release her magnum opus this May. Let the Record Show:A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993 is the most comprehensive political history ever assembled of ACT UP and AIDS activism in the U.S.
Twenty years in the making, Schulman, who along with Jim Hubbard created the ACT Up Oral History Project and produced the documentary, United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, explores how ACT UP came together and forced the world to change.
Let The Record Show comes out on May 18.
Thomas Grattan's written one of my favorite debuts of the year. It's a queer coming-of-age (and beyond) story that manages to avoid all of the usual cliches typically associated with the genre. The family at the heart of the book are remarkably ordinary people with ordinary desires, existing in an extraordinary place: Eastern Germany soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The Recent East is one of those books that I couldn't put down. It comes out on March 9.
Last night, under the flashing neon lights of the Telegraph Club, Lily Hu met Kathleen Miller and sparks immediately flew. Their romance is the heart of this new coming-of-age story from Malinda Lo (A Line in the Dark, Ash, Adaptation).
Set in 1954, seventeen-year-old Lily must navigate her budding queerness and the Red Scare paranoia that threatens to tear apart her Chinese-American family. Last Night at the Telegraph Club doesn't fit into any neat categories, which is part of what makes it such a joy to read. It deals with teenager discovering her queerness through her first romance, while living in a family of immigrants during a very specific time and place in U.S. history.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club comes out on January 19.
No one can write and tell a story like Brontez Purnell. This is a fact. I laughed, I cried, I winced, I gagged. I texted my friends whole pictures of pages while reading 100 Boyfriends, beginning with Purnell's description of his friend, a sex worker, who "dressed like a hooker from outerspace."
His doggy-style game was so on point; his dick and technique were also of note, like, you could tell he fucked for a living. I bottomed like a porno bottom to impress him; I tried to impress him to the point where I was like, "Wait—I'm paying him, shouldn't he be impressing me?"
I came three times.
Every sentence in 100 Boyfriends made me giddy; Brontez Purnell writes about everything that goes on in your head before, during, and after sex with a wit and clarity that has become the hallmark of his work.
100 Boyfriends comes out on February 2.
In between publishing one of The Advocate's favorite novels of 2020 and the upcoming short story collection, Filthy Animals, Brandon Taylor also wrote "All the Time I Wasted Trying to Please Indifferent Men," an essay that I'm still unpacking with my therapist. In it, he writes:
"It made me think about the years I went around pretending to be less than I was so a man would tell me I was worthy. And I worry I’ve traded the best possible version of myself, all that glittering possibility, for vague shadows of affection."
It is this type of quiet, private humiliation, which Taylor is able to reveal better than anyone.
In no particular order, my favorite characters in this debut collection by Sam Cohen are Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, and also Sarah. There's Sarah who loves Buffy and writes fan fiction and Sarah who is polyamorous, trans, and lives in biblical times. Sarahland is weird, wonderful, and unforgettable.
Sarahland comes out on March 9.
A love story about two young enslaved Black men in the antebellum South is a hard premise to pull off, and yet with The Prophets, Robert Jones Jr. wildly succeeds. Told in alternating viewpoints, readers get to know Samuel, Isaiah, and the other members of their community.
The Prophets contains some of the most gorgeous writing I've read. It also serves to correct history, to remind us that queer people have always existed.
The Prophets comes out on January 12.
I've been a fan of Marcos Gonsalez's essays for a while and his debut doesn't disappoint. Pedro's Theory: Reimagining the Promised Land explores the lives of many Pedros, real and imagined. Many are Gonsalez himself, many aren't. They are strangers, lovers, and archetypes that help tell the story of Pedro on Main Street, Pedro in the Promised Land, and Pedro of the Americas. All are on a journey to discover where they fit in the world.
Pedro's Theory, out January 12, is a quietly thrilling read, insightful, and constantly surprising.
Ashley C. Ford, the writer and prolific podcast host (Lovecraft Country Radio, The Chronicles of Now, MasterCard's Fortune Favors The Bold) is set to release her long-awaited meoir, Somebody's Daughter. It's the story of her childhood, which was defined, in part, by the looming absence of her incarcerated father, and learning how to love those you have yet to forgive.
With the publication of their first work of nonfiction this summer, followed by a book of poetry next year, Akwaeke Emezi (Pet, Freshwater, The Death of Vivek Oji) will have released five books in five years. It's impressive, but as Emezi writes in a recent piece in The Paris Review, the rate of output has a cost. “My spirit bends worlds and does things that shouldn’t be possible, not with the way my flesh or this world is set up, but I’m learning that my body is something to be reckoned with as well.”
Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir (out June 8) will explore this ongoing struggle, while also diving into their experience of gender, family, love, and the meaning of home.
Donika Kelly follows up her celebrated full-length poetry collection, The Bestiary (longlisted for the National Book Award for poetry in 2016) with The Renunciations, featuring poems about resilience, transformation, love, and survival.
Here's an excerpt from one of my favorite of Donika Kelly's poems, “A Dead Thing That, In Dying, Feeds The Living.”
What I wanted: a practice that reassured
that what was cracked could be mended
or, at least, suspended so that it could not spread.
But now I wonder: better to be the egg or scaled
mandible? The small hand or the flies, bottle black
and green, spilling their bile onto whatever’s left,
sweeping the interior, drinking it clean?
I think, something might have grown there, though
I know it was always meant to be eaten,
it was always meant to spoil.
The Renunciations is on May 4.
John Paul Brammer brings his trademark heart and wit to essays that reveal how he grew up queer and mixed-race in the American heartland, came out in a Walmart parking lot (he does not recommend it), and became the LGBTQ+ community's favorite advice columnist — the “Picante Carrie Bradshaw” of his generation.
Hola Papi is out on June 8.
From the author of the culture-shifting Fun Home comes a new graphic novel dedicated to Alison Bechdel's lifelong love affair with exercise and ever-changing fitness fads. The secret to superhuman strength, she learns, lies not in a six-pack, but in something much less clearly defined: facing her interdependence with others.
The Secret to Superhuman Strength is out May 4.
Come for the taboo topic of detransitioning, and stay for the most original and engrossing debut of the year. Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters is the story of modern queer family trying to figure out who they as their world falls a part around them.
Detransition, Baby is out January 12.
One of the first things you learn about Sebastian, the main character in Let's Get Back to the Party, is that he's gay, single, and extremely lonely. There's a lot I'm able to relate to. Sebastian is a high school art teacher who envies his queer students, the freedom they have to be out and proud, something that wasn't an option when Sebastian was their age. It's a novel about these generational differences, the "death" of gay culture, and how gay men date and have sex.
Let's Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih is out February 16.
The author of Mostly Dead Things, my favorite book about a lesbian taxidermist, returns with another darkly funny, deeply touching story about a queer family.
With Teeth by Kristen Arnett introduced Sammie, Monika, and their extremely difficult, potentially terrifying son. As he grows up, their lives begin to fall apart and Sammie has to come to terms with her role in it all.
With Teeth comes out on June 1.
While famous for her viral essay about the decade she spent as a cable "guy" in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Lauren Hough has lived many lives, now detailed in the unforgettable essay collection, Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing. Hough grew up in an abusive cult, was an airman in the Air Force, and has worked as a green-aproned barista, bartender, and bouncer.
Now, Hough has created a work of essays that cements her place in the queer canon.
Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing is out April 13.
Best-selling cookbook author Julia Turshen's new book puts a healthy twist on your favorite comfort foods. Now that we're entering year two of qurantine, comfort foods are the only type of food I'm interested in eating, so I found Simply Julia to be particularly exciting.
I've been a fan of Turshen's since I discovered her recipe for Everything Biscuits and appreciate these nutritious takes, broken up into practical chapters like weeknight go-tos, make-ahead mains, and vegan one-pot meals. There are plenty of recipes to choose from for vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike.
Simply Julia is out March 2.
I used to think a tourniquet was a kind of flower. I was sure I heard my mother say she planted rows of them when I was younger: bulbous yellow things, unburdened by petals, slick with dew, shining like sugar in the frost of a March fog. It wasn’t until I’d gone to nursing school in my mid-twenties, one of those fresh starts, that I learned a tourniquet is a compression tool, a vise for flesh, a thing that says, I am holding you together.
That's an excerpt from Peter Kispert's short story collection, I Know You Know Who I Am, one of The Advocate's favorite short story collections of the past year. Each of the stories center around the lies we tell ourselves and others, and how these lies can grow and form their own realities.