The Last Place You Look is by Kristen Lepionka, the editor of Betty Fedora, the semi-annual journal of feminist crime fiction. The mystery features Roxanne, a smart but troubled bisexual private eye in Columbus, Ohio, coming to terms with her cop father’s death while she attempts to exonerate a black man on death row. Roxanne is battling her own demons: depression, grief, a drinking problem, and failing relationships. This is more than a potboiler mystery, though there’s some resemblance to the classic page-turner nail-biters that populated dime stores in the 1940s and ’50s. But here’s where Lepionka, an out bisexual author, veers: Her bi character is straightforward rather than filled with shame, overly sexualized, closeted, or struggling to choose a side (more typical options in fiction). And Lepionka (think Raymond Chandler with a female brain) deals with mental health issues by confronting them rather than writing them away as artistic flourishes, the simple side effect of what a good P.I. (or cop) should be. No, her protagonist is depressed. But Roxanne is fierce and smart, and readers aren’t sure down to the wire whether she’ll save the guy on death row or a new girl who is missing. (St. Martin’s/Minotaur) —Diane Anderson-Minshall
Lou Sullivan: Daring to Be a Man Among Men, by transgender author Brice D. Smith, is the long-awaited biography of one of the country’s first out gay trans men. The thoroughly researched book relies heavily on Sullivan’s own detailed journals, but also pulls from secondary sources to provide a fascinating look at the life of this early trans pioneer who had to fight for the right to transition, because the medical establishment believed one couldn’t be trans and gay. But Daring to Be a Man isn’t simply a portrait of the man who launched FTM International. It’s also a new perspective on the early AIDS epidemic, as Sullivan makes connections between the lived bodily experience of those with HIV, other disabilities, and a “transsexual past.” He wrote about the way these experiences can alienate us from our own embodied selves and interfere with our pursuit of intimacy. Like so many gay men of his generation, Sullivan died of complications from AIDS — an abrupt and brutal end to all his possibilities. Smith’s biography gives new life to Sullivan’s memory and establishes his place in LGBT history. (Transgress Press) —Jacob Anderson-Minshall
The Fact of a Body, by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, is a rarity in literature: a true-crime masterpiece in which the author’s own past is juxtaposed with the “real” victim and criminals, each life unfolding as the pages turn. Part journalism, part memoir, The Fact of a Body follows the lesbian author Marzano-Lesnevich as she begins a summer job at a Louisiana law firm defending men on death row. A longtime opponent of the death penalty, young Alexandria is surprised to discover a man for whom she initially wants to make a concession. The book weaves back and forth between her childhood (the daughter of lawyers, she’s a victim of long-buried secrets and unwanted encounters) and that of Ricky Langley (whose entire life is deeply unsettling). In the literary mix are also love, coming out, family, booze, neglect, and deeply disconcerting questions about truth and justice and forgiveness that stick with you long after you put the book down. (Flatiron Books) —DAM
Big Love: The Power of Living With a Wide-Open Heart, by social media sensation Scott Stabile, is a must-read for anyone wanting to figure out how to authentically show up for your life (for better or worse). Stabile, who is gay and wrote movingly about the Supreme Court marriage decision (he likely won our side a number of mainstream allies that day), has a ton of liabilities. His parents were murdered when he was 14. His brother died of a heroin overdose several years later. Oh, yeah, and he was part of a cult for 13 years. He eventually faced his pain — allowing his grief, anger, and fear to rise to the surface and be worked through. His theory on releasing self-hate so you can stop flinging it at other people seems apropos for our volatile times. It’s something many LGBT folks must learn to do, to move beyond shame and the closet. Stabile has built a cottage industry on personal empowerment (he has 350,000 Facebook followers alone) but it’s never about those treacly, saccharine “just stay positive” admonitions other gurus offer. In fact, the book is funny as hell and doesn’t hold back on sharing boyfriend drama. (New World Library).