February diverse books preview, part 1!

There are TEN books in February that I found interesting! You get five now, five later. πŸ™‚

Reminder that $5 and above Patreon backers get these book lists earlier, at the end of the previous month, to take advantage of allll the preorder discounts! Links are Amazon US affiliate links as usual.

I am mostly away right now because of a major issue at Mati’s school, but I had this post premade, so now you can read it while I’m away.

Americanized cover

Feb 06: Americanized by Sara Saedi [YA/MG]

This is a YA memoir (!!!) about the author being a teen and suddenly discovering that she is actually an undocumented immigrant. (Yes, this can totally happen.) There was also a great preorder discount for this one, and yet I saw next to no buzz, can we create some buzz?

American Panda cover

Feb 06: American Panda by Gloria Chao [YA/MG]

There was a lot of buzz about this one by contrast! It’s a Taiwanese-American contemporary story where her parents push a girl to do completely different things than what she wants to do. Sounds relatable πŸ˜‰ The advance reviews seemed to say that this book really shone in the small details and character interactions.

Ambiguity Machines cover

Feb 13: Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories by Vandana Singh [Adult] [SFF]

Ahh yes. I really enjoy her short stories and this is now her second collection! Somebody also preordered it for me, which is great, because I’m between jobs and my book budget is approximately zero. Thank you Anonymous Benefactor MamaDeb, I’ll try to review this fast πŸ™‚

Queerly Loving 2 cover

Feb 15: Queerly Loving 2 antho ed. G. Benson and Astrid Ohletz [Adult] [Some SFF]

I got an ebook ARC from one of the authors in this book, so this might also be reviewed fast! Queerly Loving 2 is a queer romance anthology that has a cool lineup with multiple trans authors whose work I appreciate – fellow reviewers especially seemed to like the Xan West story. (I don’t find preorders for this book? But I was told this was the release date.)

Bingo Love cover

Feb 20: Bingo Love by Tee Franklin & Jenn St-Onge [Comics]

I sadly couldn’t back the fundraiser for this graphic novel even though I really wanted to, but it got picked up by a major press (Image), so now we can all get it!! It’s an F/F romance story with two Black grandmothers and it looks absolutely wonderful. Also has a nice preorder discount, and even at full price it is very reasonably priced.

 

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2017 award recommendations #3: YA SFF novels

These are my Norton and Hugo YA award recommendations! Find the speculative fiction highlights of 2017 with me πŸ™‚ You can also read the other parts:

My apologies that this part is cutting it very close to the Norton nominations deadline. The past week has been quite busy and I just didn’t manage to finish writing the book descriptions, even though I had my list already.

Exo cover

Exo by Fonda Lee, Scholastic

This book brings extraterrestrials and biotechnology with an Octavia Butlerian vibe that I simply love. (I haven’t seen this comparison elsewhere, so maybe it’s just me, but I’ll make it.) This is a science fiction adventure story about colonialism with a lot of maturity and nuance – there is much adult crossover potential here, too. I enjoyed the dynamic that the protagonist is relatively privileged… among humans. Unfortunately this also meant that the book was absent from lists focusing on marginalized characters rather than authors, but this is very much the kind of stuff you will want to read if you generally enjoy my recommendations.

American Street cover

American Street by Ibi Zoboi, Balzer + Bray

This is a contemporary magical-realist novel about a Haitian girl stranded in the US with her mother held back in immigration detention, while she is trying to deal with her American relatives and adapting to life in Detroit. This is the kind of book that can be read entirely as a non-speculative contemporary, too? And I have my own rather convoluted feelings about work branded ‘speculative’ when the speculative elements are primarily religious, as in here (I LOVED THAT, by the way – I come from a very different tradition, but American Street was very relatable to me). But this book was marketed as magical-realist and it is really good, so I want to use all opportunities to promote it.

(The hardcover has an amazing deal on Amazon right now, BTW!)

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo cover

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee, Amulet Books

I am usually hesitant about high-concept YA books that can be described in a sentence, but this one was so good! Here is your sentence: Journey to the West meets American high school. If you enjoyed the Chinese classic, you will probably roll on the floor giggling in some places, but the book is probably a great read even without knowing its literary forebears. πŸ˜€ I am terribly picky about reads with humorous elements, but this hit all the right notes for me. Much grumping is involved.

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I have two more slots here, but I am still reading some books which might make it onto my Hugo ballot, if it will be too late for my Norton one. I do have two honorable mentions, though, that you might also find helpful. πŸ™‚

Honorable mentions:

Juniper Leaves by Jaz Joyner, self-published – Black magical girl adventure, by a Black nonbinary author! I love love loved the character interactions both among teens and between teens and older family members. I thought the fantasy elements were a bit simplistic by comparison. But this is a great debut and I’ll keep an eye on the author. (Longer review coming soon IY”H!)

Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali, translated by Penny Hueston, Roaring Brook Press – This YA historical also doesn’t fit very neatly into SFF because the only speculative element is that the book is initially narrated by a talking fetus. A talking Nazi fetus. The bizarre concept actually gets across the outright creepiness of Nazism that is often eluded in American YA. This book is very grim and explicit, but all the grimness is historically accurate and well-researched. I’m also always looking for more books by Jewish women of color and this is one!

Bonus non-SFF YA recommendation of the year:

I had no idea where to put this, so I might as well put it here. In YA contemporary, I simply loved Piecing Me Together by RenΓ©e Watson. An activism book where the activism does not involve saving the world, but still makes meaningful change. I wrote a review which I forgot to post?? So I’ll try to post it soon, because you might enjoy this book. It resonated really powerfully with me, and I saw some of my experiences in it which I’ve never seen in fiction before (even though I have an entirely different set of marginalizations from the author and the protagonist!).

 

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Hugo & Nebula award recommendations #2: Novellas

Thank you for following along!

This time around I have something else to add to my initial remarks in the previous post. It is really striking for me how many of the novellas I enjoyed were written by trans people: Killjoy, Lemberg, Yang, and also Kiernan in the honorable mentions. I think novellas are increasingly becoming an easier entry point for marginalized writers than novels, in general, so this is probably why? I used to really struggle to fill my novella category year after year, but this time I had no difficulty. This is probably due to Tor.com starting a novella boom, though many of the works I recommend were published in other venues.

I do have a conflict of interest disclosure to start with – I was a beta reader for one of the novellas (A Portrait of the Desert…) and commented on an earlier manuscript of another (The Red Threads of Fortune). I read a lot for a lot of people, so this is kind of inevitable, but I should probably state it upfront.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #229 cover

A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power by Rose Lemberg, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #229

A standalone novella in the Birdverse fantasy continuity, with a gorgeous setting, poetic language and incisive analysis of power relations. There are some heavy themes here, and also someone turning into a giant bird πŸ˜€ This is the only novella on my list this year that’s available for free reading online, and there is also a podcast too. (Yes, unabridged, which means five hours of reading!)

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion cover

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy, Tor.com

Contemporary rural fantasy set in a queer anarchist community! This one also examines themes of power, but focusing more on governance and social organization… and the thorny details of how power grabs happen even in groups of marginalized people. This is also the first novella in a series, so I’m looking forward to reading more. You can also read my slightly longer review.

Tender cover

Fallow by Sofia Samatar, published in her collection Tender, Small Beer Press

Space Mennonites! Another story that looks at how marginalized people are not saints… even when they are religious and pacifist. I feel like this novella got nowhere near enough visibility, this kind of happens to originals in single-author collections. It is written with such great sensitivity and subtlety and it is really embedded in cultural and historical context. (Sofia Samatar is more known for being Somali-American inside SFF, but she is also Mennonite and has Mennonite reception and engagement with her work outside SFF.) Don’t miss this one!

The Red Threads of Fortune cover

The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang, Tor. com

A fast-paced fantasy adventure with warrior monks, unique magic, and the occasional dinosaur. I really liked the worldbuilding in this one, Southeast-Asian-influenced, but also with various bits that seem random but actually hang well together (I especially enjoyed the variations in gravity). It also has a companion novella, The Black Tides of Heaven, which I’m reading right now and likewise enjoying so far – but I generally only recommend one work per person per award list. πŸ™‚

Prime Meridian cover

Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Innsmouth Free Press

I just said in my previous award post that Silvia writes grumpy characters well and this applies here too – at the beginning I thought it would be too much, but by the end I felt it was just right and very appropriate to the themes. In the medium-ish-term future Mexico, people struggle to stay afloat financially. Is moving to Mars a pipe dream? (I want to write something like this about Hungary one day, which would of course make it very different.)

Note that this novella got a backers-only release after its initial fundraiser, and the general release is coming later in 2018, but the initial release makes it eligible for awards this year.

Honorable mentions

Houses of Ravicka by RenΓ©e Gladman, The Dorothy Project – Experimental literary work with speculative elements. Architecture, oppression, confusion all done masterfully. I really appreciated it, but it is best read as part 4 of a whole set of books (which I am planning of reviewing all together, I loved them, get them all and break your brain? πŸ˜€ ).

Agents of Dreamland by CaitlΓ­n Kiernan, Tor.com – Lovecraftiana + Men in Black. The subversion this time is more in what’s not being said than what is, so it is more restrained than many of the other recent Lovecraft deconstructions – but I still enjoyed it.

Next time: YA SFF recommendations! (I think…)

Disclosures: Sources of the books – I got a print copy of the Yang novellas from the author. The rest were all bought with my own money or gotten from the library. Also, R. Lemberg is my spouse πŸ™‚ and I know many people in this roundup, though not everyone. (I know more short fiction writers than novelists, because I also write short fiction. But I also know a lot of novelists… Oh well. It’s inevitable.)

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Hugo & Nebula award recommendations #1: Novels

Hello and welcome to my first award recommendations post of the season!

A few general thoughts before I dive into the list:

I am very, very pleased to see more and more novels by marginalized authors that are really all-stops-out, unapologetic and not pulling their punches.

I am sure these novels have always existed, but now publishers are also increasingly acquiring them. (I know that several recent big releases by marginalized authors were shopped around for many years.)

If there is one word I can say about my 2017 novel recommendations, it is the word INTENSE. It feels like people are finally able to say what they always wanted to say. I have waited for this since the late 2000s-early 2010s when people began talking about “diversity in SFF”. I remember a time when I tried to make a list of all markets that had any reference to diversity in their submissions calls. I did not end up posting the list, because it contained less than five markets. And that was after Racefail’09.

This has very much changed.

But for a long while, a lot of the “diverse content” was also often less risk-taking than it could have been, and not for the lack of authors trying. Marginalization was in itself a risk, and there often could not be other risks in publishing. (And always only one marginalization.) And I knew, and it hurt to watch, people write their risk-taking stories and the stories never seeing the light of day, or being published in very small markets. People writing their hearts out.

The market is changing. It’s not the writers who are changing – it’s publishing. And this change has a long, long, long, long road to go still. There are many stories still circling around, looking for a crack in the ice, for a chance to ascend.

But something is moving. You will see this in all my recommendations.

And with this preamble, on to the first part!

(I also have a small apology: because I moved several times the past two years, I have not managed to keep up with series and sequels. I haven’t read The Stone Sky, Raven Stratagem, and several other books that have a chance at this year’s awards. We are finally settling down and I will probably catch up in time for the voting round, G-d willing.)

Click on the titles for Amazon affiliate links. Some of the books have great sales going on right now πŸ˜€

Hugo / Nebula award recommendations part 1: Novels

An Unkindness of Ghosts cover

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (Akashic Books)

A stunning debut novel of a colony ship traversing space, generation after generation, with the “colony” part played absolutely straight. Plantation slavery collides with a vision of the future, and no, it’s not a stretch at all. The protagonist’s voice also worked really well for me, and I have to emphasize that to my knowledge this is the first SFF book with an #ownvoices intersex main character. I hungered for this and it was done amazingly. Review coming soon! (G-d willing… but I can’t wait for some time to rave about this book.)

Prey of Gods cover

The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden (Harper Voyager)

The most WAITWHAT book of the year, and this is absolutely meant as praise. I have trouble figuring out how to begin to summarize. *takes a deep breath* This is a near-future-ish science fiction book set in South Africa, involving clashes between demigods and sentient robots and mysterious drugs and. I give up. You can read my review, read the book, and be smittenboggled.

The Beautiful Ones cover

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (St. Martin’s Press)

This is a belle Γ©poque romance with telekinesis, if you need a one-sentence soundbite. It is also a book which made me chew my fingers ragged, the last third was so suspenseful (I mean this absolutely literally). Silvia Moreno-Garcia writes the best grumpy magical heroines and this time we get a very different setting from her than her previous work, just because she can. You don’t want to miss this. (I need to finish my half-finished review…)

Amatka cover

Amatka by Karin Tidbeck, translated by the author from the Swedish (Vintage)

In the gloomy and mysterious far future, where someone must assemble a report on the use of personal hygiene items… This novel combines the quotidian with the terrifying, in a world where in order for objects to maintain their shape, their identity must be continuously affirmed. This is a very unique book that will resonate with you if you enjoy questioning the foundations or reality. If not, it will still resonate with you, but probably in a more nightmarish fashion. You can read my review here!

Under the Pendulum Sun cover

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng (Angry Robot)

A gothic novel about the Fae… and also giant theological quandaries, a carnivalesque profusion of shapeshifting, and sheer naked fear. This has the ambience of Alone in the Dark, the old PC game, but with missionaries and subversion. It says “creepy” on the back cover (from Aliette de Bodard) and I would like to second that. If you are fine with creepy and grotesque, this is a must, a novel that doesn’t shy away from situations where a possible truth is terrible, its opposite is also terrible, and the protagonist is not actually sure. Review coming soon, because I have a lot to say.

Also interesting:

The Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio De Maria, translated by Ramon Glazov (Liveright) – An Italian cult classic horror novel from the 1970s, finally available in English. This book presages not only social media, but the phenomenon of creepypasta.

ME by Hoshino Tomoyuki, translated by Charles De Wolf (Akashic Books) – A very revealing take on society that starts from the everyday and descends into the apocalyptic. It got me thinking about the MRA movement…

Peter Darling by Austin Chant – A powerful trans take on the Peter Pan story that examines toxic masculinity. I am not a fan of the original classic, but this drew me in.

Null States (Infomocracy #2) by Malka Older (Tor.com) – I did read ONE sequel. πŸ˜€ A bit less tightly written than its predecessor, but still my favorite near-future science fiction concepts.

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If you’re enjoying these lists, you can support me via Patreon or buy me books on my Amazon wishlist. Thank you!!

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Sources of books: Prey of Gods was an ARC from the author, and Under the Pendulum Sun was a present from TJ Berry. Thank you!! The rest I either borrowed from the library, or bought with my own money.

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January diverse books preview, Part 2!

This is the second part – please see the first part here. If you are a Patreon backer at $5 or above, you can also already read the February highlights!

The Tree cover

Jan 23: The Tree (Wrath and Athenaeum Book 2) by Na’amen Gobert Tilahun [Adult/YAish?] [SFF]

Wonderful and diverse urban fantasy, this is the kind of book that has crossover adult and YA appeal? Second volume of a series – I still need to finish the first book, because it had fallen victim to the “we are moving AGAIN, where did I put it?!?!” but what I’ve read of it was really cool. We are not planning on moving anytime soon, so I can flop on the sofa and catch up with these novels!

Markswoman cover

Jan 23: Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra [SFF]

First book of a fantasy duology! This is claimed to have TELEPATHIC SWORDS, which is basically a giant Yes Please as far as I’m concerned. Also it sounds like it has another cool theme too, jumpgates left over by a mysterious civilization, which… well you know I like that one. πŸ˜€

Frankenstein in Baghdad cover

Jan 23: Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi [SFF] [Adult] [Translation]

This Frankenstein retelling has already won major awards, including the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and now it has been finally translated to English! I love it when I am actively waiting for a translation to happen and then it happens. (This usually seems to occur more often with books I’ve already read in Hungarian translation, especially Russian and Finnish books.)

Brass by Xhenet Aliu

Jan 23: Brass by Xhenet Aliu [Adult]

A story of Albanian immigrants to the US by an Albanian-American author and second-gen immigrant. There are soooo few books about Eastern European migrants around, and they get very little buzz – I really liked My Cat Yugoslavia last year, for example, but I didn’t see much discussion of it. So I’m definitely planning on reading and reviewing this one!

This Narrow Space cover

Jan 30: This Narrow Space by Elisha Waldman [Adult] [Nonfiction]

I really enjoy reading medical memoirs, case collections, etc. but they are very frequently written by people who do not belong to any minority, so they are beyond the purview of my book blog… This looks like somewhat of an exception, the memoir of an American Jewish pediatric oncologist who goes to Jerusalem to work. A hospital is a microcosm of society, so this is either going to be wonderful or terrible. Spouseperson got an ARC of this book for me at a Jewish Studies conference, so I’ll probably review it close to launch.

[Novel] A Country of Ghosts by Margaret Killjoy

A Country of Ghosts coverUrsula K. Le Guin passed away. I have rather complicated feelings, but I figure the best way to honor her legacy is to talk about her work and engage with it – so today I’m reviewing a novel that does exactly that.

I teased it as a #translit book that reflects on a Le Guin novel, so most people are probably kind of expecting a trans take on The Left Hand of Darkness. In fact A Country of Ghosts reflects on The Dispossessed and has very few trans aspects besides the author being trans herself πŸ˜‰ but of course, trans people can write absolutely anything.

Specifically, it is an anarchist novel with very obvious parallels to The Dispossessed – Killjoy mentions Le Guin in the foreword, and has been tweeting and posting about interviewing her and the anarchist aspects of her work -, but also very obvious differences, quite a lot having to do with violence.

In A Country of Ghosts, Dimos, a journalist is sent to cover a war – specifically a war that serves an imperial expansion. Dimos soon finds himself very uncomfortable, even though he considers himself a patriot; part of this is the very blatant anti-queer sentiment in the army, which he finds hard to deal with as a gay man who is not out in this context. Things very abruptly take a different turn, and Dimos ends up with the popular resistance fighting the imperial force. Many things happen that belong to the realms of spoilers, and much violence ensues.

On one hand this is a fast-paced military fantasy with much guerrilla warfare, the kind of gritty one where people who get injured stay injured. (Several characters become disabled throughout the story.) The wintry climate also amps up the tension quite a few notches.

On the other hand, this is a political novel about anarchism – one that explicitly sets out to teach you about anarchism and is upfront about it. And not just anarchism as an abstract concept placed into a fantasy world, but real-life anarchism, from this world. (You get to learn why anarchists use a black flag, for example, if you haven’t known it already.) Sometimes it’s didactic. But I’ll be very, very honest: from what I have seen of similar revolutionary movements and also when they settle down and become more established, this is entirely in character for the characters. They will absolutely go forward and Explain to the stranger.

One thing I really liked is that the people never felt like one specific Earth group – there were elements of the story that reminded me of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Che Guevara’s guerrilla tactics, the liberation struggles of Indigenous peoples of both the Americas and Europe… and since I’m Eastern European, basically everyone in Eastern Europe who the Communists thought was doing left-wing radicalism wrong. That’s a long list! And the characters also came across simultaneously like American queer punks, which was cool.

One bit of a weakness for me was that even though the characters had different skin color, and different ethnicities, the story was very heavily focused on the ethnicity or even more so ‘nationality’ aspect, and sometimes race didn’t come up even when I felt it might have. This is kind of hard to explain… but for example, if we think of the Bible, Biblical-era Jews thought primarily in terms of ethnicity, but still did sometimes comment on skin color and did have a concept of colorism (actually also related to class), and sometimes reflected on the confluence of skin color (what we would consider more related to race) and ethnicity. This is kind of a tangent and I should probably write a separate essay about it πŸ™‚

Something I really liked though was the complexity along a different dimension: namely that neither the Imperial nor the anarchist characters were homogenously portrayed. People had large and sometimes irreconcilable political differences, and this also drove the plot on occasion. I felt this really added to the realism of… punks running around with guns in the snowy mountains? It sounds odd that I am lauding the realism of this concept, but that is how it felt to me. I was totally on board with it.

I also appreciated how the book engaged with the sometimes violent history of anarchism, and how it related environmentalism to anti-militarism, which in turn conflicted with the need of communities to defend themselves… shown strongly in the plot and not just explained. All in all a lot of complexity packed into an under-200-page book!

I should probably have read it before Killjoy’s recent novella The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion from Tor.com, which I reviewed earlier, because the concepts and conflicts in the novella very organically follow from the ones in this book – even though the setting is very different. I am very much looking forward to the upcoming second novella too. In the meanwhile, you can pick up this book from Killjoy’s backlist!

Disclosures: I have met the author twice at cons and we talked at length. That was also when I got this review copy.

Buy the book: (US Amazon affiliate link)

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[Novel] Amatka by Karin Tidbeck

This was one of my favorite SF novels of 2017, so I definitely wanted to review it in time for the award nominations. πŸ™‚

Amatka by Karin Tidbeck. 2017, Vintage Books (Penguin Random House). Translated from the Swedish by the author.

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Briars’ Vanja Essre Two lives on a cold and distant planet populated only (?) by a small number of humans in scattered settlements. She is sent from the settlement of Essre to the settlement of Amatka to produce a report on the use of hygienic products. She sets to her task, and slowly realizes there is more to Amatka than meets the eye.

This is one of those stories that Sandstone called “weird planet” on Twitter and I don’t know of a better expression, so I’ll stick with the name – a planet where something is very different from Earth. In the world of Amatka, the consistency of reality is maintained by people labeling objects and pronouncing the labels. This is revealed on the second page, so it’s not particularly a spoiler – Vanja has to repeat the name of her suitcase to keep it from dissolving.

This is just a part of life. But are there objects which do not dissolve? What if one strays from the proscribed labels? What if one simply forgets about reaffirming the objects’ shapes? The book examines these systematically, but the focus is not simply on the quotidian. There are secrets about the history of the colonies, and Vanja finds out about them. I really appreciated that Vanja does work in her regular job, we can read her reports about hygienic products, and these are actually very revealing about the life of Amatka.

The world of Amatka is both dystopian and has a small-town flavor. The setting has a vague Eastern European ambience; the author is Swedish, but I guess Swedes just associate different concepts with oppressive regimes than Americans. It’s also very much like Swedish socialism taken to its possible-but-remote extremes. People live frugally and equitably… or do they?

The characters have a Swedish origin, but it is nice to see that besides the ethnic Swedish names, some of them do have Arabic or Russian names. Ethnicity or race is not particularly discussed. It just makes the general impression that all sorts of people moved to this planet from Sweden.

The protagonist is also queer (like the author), and through the book she forms a relationship with another woman. It was oddly comforting for me to read that in this very oppressive and weighty setting, the protagonist was not oppressed for being queer at all. The couple also stay together!

The ending is heartwrenching in a different way – I’ll try to discuss it without spoilers. One of the main characters really gets put through the wringer, and it made the ending really hard for me emotionally. It is related to oppression, so I think it is a very valid ending. But it was hard. I am still thinking about it, which is why I’ve taken so long with writing the review, but at this point I might need an entire roundtable where I discuss it with several people!

Also I should warn that throughout the book some of the oppression is similar to the mechanisms of psychiatric oppression. (Which is not necessarily true of psychiatry in general! But it matches the general ambience of Vague Eastern Europe Except With Swedes.) It is not easy emotionally to read and it is not meant to be. If you’ve read Tidbeck’s I Have Placed My Sickness Upon You (free online!), you will have an idea of the general approach. These are very important stories and I am very glad they are out in the world.

Disclosures: Source of the book: Bought with my own money. I have had brief discussions with the author online, but I don’t know her closely.

Buy the book: (US Amazon affiliate link)

 

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[Comics] Generations by Flavia Biondi

I didn’t expect to review this book at this length, but I had a lot of things to say! It’s a translated graphic novel that didn’t get a lot of attention, so I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem that I ended up writing a full-length review of it. πŸ™‚

Generations by Flavia Biondi, Lionforge 2017. Translated by Carla Roncalli Di Montorio.

Generations coverThis is an Italian contemporary graphic novel by a young woman artist. Matteo, a young gay man moves back to his small town after failing to make it in the big city and falling out with his boyfriend. His three aunts find him a job taking care of his elderly, disabled grandmother in exchange for room and board. (They also fire her previous nurse, who is Polish and very angry at first.) Matteo is bumbling along while trying to avoid a confrontation with his father, and he’s getting increasingly enmeshed in the life of his aunts, while his boyfriend is still waiting for him.

Overall I liked this book. I did feel it could have been just a bit longer, with some of the characters – especially the grandmother – a bit more fleshed out. I also felt that the non-gay parts of family life were more poignant and they took over the narrative near the end, despite the focus being initially on Matteo and the whole book being about Matteo. (There was a very moving scene between the grandmother and one of her daughters.)

At first I was frustrated that Matteo was basically the stereotype of the millennial slacker (which is also a very entitled position), and it was annoying that it had to be a gay person and specifically a twinky kind of gay person who’s portrayed like that. But then there was a story reveal about what he had previously wanted to do with his life (spoiler ROT-13: Ur jnagrq gb orpbzr n cevrfg. V’z sebz n Pngubyvp pbhagel gbb, fb V trg gung), and then it made more sense to me why he became so aimless. Also, his boyfriend is shown to be hard-working and also high-earning (and somewhat of a bear), so it’s not “all gay people are slackers, boo hiss.”

(For the record, it is totally OK to not be a high earner, etc. etc. capitalism can be awful. I am talking about the portrayal here that different gay people are shown.)

One thing that gave me a bit of a pause is that this is kind of the gay dynamic women authors like to write, with the twinky bottom and the hairy bearish top. I felt it wasn’t excessively yaoi-ish, but that’s also in part because the focus was often on the other family members. So I had mixed feelings about this part.

I also felt a bit eh on the role of Odina the Polish nurse. She is a minor character, but she loses her job and then has to kind of rise above it. I think it’s realistic but annoying?

Generations is not a Tragic Gays story, but it does need a warning for extended discussion of being elderly and dying, related to the grandmother. So it is sad, and gay, but not sad because it is gay. Those aspects are entirely unrelated. (I can spoil the ending for you: Gur tenaqzbgure qvrf naq Znggrb tbrf onpx gb uvf oblsevraq. Uvf cerivbhfyl ubfgvyr snzvyl zrzoref nyfb pbzr gb npprcg uvz. ROT-13 to decode.) Overall the story ends on a hopeful note for Matteo.

There was one small annoying detail: there is a brief remark – from the protagonist’s PoV – assuming that since he is gay, he won’t have kids. It is totally possible to be queer and have kids, I am raising my stepchild πŸ™‚ Granted, I moved away from my Totally Catholic Country of Origin, but that is a possibility too. I’m pretty sure a present-day gay person in the EU would be aware of that? I don’t know if the author is queer herself, though.

Overall if you come across this book in your library, like I did, it’s probably worth reading. I had some misgivings about it, but I didn’t regret I read it. I don’t know if I’d buy it at full price, though! I would also read more by the author.

Disclosures: Source of the book: Lawrence Public Library. I don’t know the author or translator at all.

Buy this book:

 

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January diverse book highlights! Part 1

I have eight books in my highlights this month, so I split the list down along the middle! Part 2 follows near the end of the month. Patreon backers get these lists much sooner, in time to take advantage of preorder discounts πŸ™‚

Black Panther: The Young Prince cover

Jan 02: Black Panther – The Young Prince by Ronald L. Smith [YA/MG] [SFF]

The origin story of Black Panther! This is a middle grade novel, but I will definitely give it a try as an adult – Marvel is cutting so many of their minority-authored comics lines, but they do seem to be intent on commissioning these middle grade books. Probably a different department…

Mouths Don't Speak cover

Jan 02: Mouths Don’t Speak by Katia D. Ulysse [Adult]

I think this might have gone up on Amazon early, but the official release date is still listed as January. Akashic Books has been putting out some really amazing work lately, so I have my sights set on this one too. It’s a literary novel by a Haitian-born writer about returning to Haiti, and twisty family drama.

Love, Hate and Other Filters cover

Jan 16: Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed [YA/MG]

Contemporary #ownvoices YA novel with a Muslim protagonist and diasporan themes. This one got huge advance buzz from YA Twitter and I’m very curious about it!

Fire Logic cover

Jan 16: Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks [Adult] [SFF] [Rerelease]

I’ve read this one before, and it’s one of my favorite queer fantasy books. Ensemble cast, magic, great worldbuilding. Small Beer Press is rereleasing the out-of-print Elemental Logic series and also bringing out the new fourth volume. I need to catch up, because I never read the third book!

 

 

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Trans book recs video! With more coming :)

I reached $300 / month on Patreon, so now a multi-day unlocks extravaganza ensues. I also just finished making my $275 unlocks, so you’ll get a lot all at once. I’ll have to spread them out throughout the week πŸ˜€

I’m still looking for a job, so all the Patreon support is even more welcome than usual! Thank you very much for all your help so far! πŸ™‚

Part 1:

Yesterday I put up all the 2017 Patreon-exclusive fiction and poetry that hadn’t previously unlocked for free. This was part of the $300 goal!

Part 2:

My $275 goal on Patreon was a book pile video, and I enjoyed making it so much that you will get TWO. πŸ™‚

Patreon backers voted for “Trans fiction” as the recommendations topic. The first part is now online for your free viewing enjoyment – I show you some awesome recent trans novels!

Go here to watch and read more, including a list of the featured books. The video is captioned!

Still coming:

  • The HTMLified and considerably expanded version of the MASSIVE TRANS RECOMMENDATIONS thread on Twitter
  • Part 2 of the trans recommendations video: Recent SFF short story collections!

Future unlocks:

  • $325 ($20 more to go!) – the big trans and intersex fiction / poetry timeline! Focusing on SFF, but with a bit of everything. This will be a resource helping you find those elusive older books πŸ™‚
  • $350 – LONG essay: Intersex representation in the Vorkosigan saga. People ask for this quite frequently, but it requires collating quotes from 16 books, so it will take time πŸ™‚ (I have already read almost all of those books, I think only one of the side novels is missing. But I still need to go through all my ebook copies.)
  • $375 – Another book recommendations video (or two videos, if I get long-winded πŸ˜€ ) Backers vote on the topic!
  • $400 – The long-awaited, long-teased… I will buy and publish a reprint SFF short story for each month for a year! All stories by marginalized authors that I really enjoyed but are not accessible online for free. (Some are available as podcasts but not as text for reading.) The first year this will be invitation-only, but I would like to expand it to open submissions eventually.

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