Summer is finally here! Time to get on your bike, open a window, go to a farmer’s market… or put those things off til tomorrow, and read a book in the air conditioning today. Whether your thing is memoir, fiction, new poetry or YA, there’s definitely something coming out this summer by and/or about queer people that you’re going to want to throw in your bag for the beach, get points for in your library’s summer reading program, or share with that new babe you just started seeing who loves your poetry recs. What are you most excited about reading this summer?
Mostly Dead Things, Kristen Arnett
One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the failing business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Her mother starts sneaking into the shop to make aggressively lewd art with the taxidermied animals. Her brother Milo withdraws, struggling to function. And Brynn, Milo’s wife―and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with―walks out without a word. As Jessa seeks out less-than-legal ways of generating income, her mother’s art escalates―picture a figure of her dead husband and a stuffed buffalo in an uncomfortably sexual pose―and the Mortons reach a tipping point. For the first time, Jessa has no choice but to learn who these people truly are, and ultimately how she fits alongside them.
(Check out Molly’s interview with Kristen about the book!)
Patsy, Nicole Dennis Benn
When Patsy gets her long-coveted visa to America, it comes after years of yearning to leave Pennyfield, the beautiful but impoverished Jamaican town where she was raised. More than anything, Patsy wishes to be reunited with her oldest friend, Cicely, whose letters arrive from New York steeped in the promise of a happier life and the possible rekindling of their young love. But Patsy’s plans don’t include her overzealous, evangelical mother―or even her five-year-old daughter, Tru.
Paris, 7 am, Liza Wieland
Paris, 7 A.M. imagines 1937—the only year Elizabeth [Bishop], a meticulous keeper of journals, didn’t fully chronicle—in vivid detail and brings us from Paris to Normandy where Elizabeth becomes involved with a group rescuing Jewish “orphans” and delivering them to convents where they will be baptized as Catholics and saved from the impending horror their parents will face.
(Learn more about Elizabeth Bishop and her gay life and poetry from Natalie!)
In at the Deep End, Kate Davies
Julia has had enough. Enough of the sex noises her roommate makes. Enough of her dead-end government job. Enough of the one-night stand who accused her of breaking his penis. The only thing she hasn’t had enough of is orgasms; she hasn’t had proper sex in three years. So when Julia gets invited to a warehouse party in a part of town where trendy people who have lots of sex go on a Friday night, she readily accepts. And that night she meets someone: a conceptual artist, who also happens to be a woman.Julia’s sexual awakening begins; her new lesbian life is exhilarating. She finds her tribe at queer swing dancing classes, and guided by her new lover Sam, she soon discovers London’s gay bars and BDSM clubs . . . and the complexities of polyamory. Soon it becomes clear that Sam needs to call the shots, and Julia’s newfound liberation comes to bear a suspicious resemblance to entrapment .
(Casey recommended In at the Deep End along with seven other titles in this month’s Lesbrarian column!)
Black Light: Stories, Kimberly King Parsons
With raw, poetic ferocity, Kimberly King Parsons exposes desire’s darkest hollows—those hidden places where most of us are afraid to look. In this debut collection of enormously perceptive and brutally unsentimental short stories, Parsons illuminates the ache of first love, the banality of self-loathing, the scourge of addiction, the myth of marriage, and the magic and inevitable disillusionment of childhood. Taking us from hot Texas highways to cold family kitchens, from the freedom of pay-by-the-hour motels to the claustrophobia of private school dorms, these stories erupt off the page with a primal howl—sharp-voiced, acerbic, and wise.
The Grief Keeper, Alexandra Villasante
Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as “an illegal”, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border. But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.
All Eyes On Us, Kit Frick
The daughter of small town social climbers, Amanda Kelly is deeply invested in her boyfriend, real estate heir Carter Shaw. He’s kind, ambitious, the town golden boy—but he’s far from perfect. Because behind Amanda’s back, Carter is also dating Rosalie. Rosalie Bell is fighting to remain true to herself and her girlfriend—while concealing her identity from her Christian fundamentalist parents. After years spent in and out of conversion “therapy,” her own safety is her top priority. But maintaining a fake, straight relationship is killing her from the inside. When an anonymous texter ropes Amanda and Rosalie into a bid to take Carter down, the girls become collateral damage—and unlikely allies in a fight to unmask their stalker before Private uproots their lives.
Tell Me How You Really Feel, Aminah Mae Safi
The first time Sana Khan asked out a girl–Rachel Recht–it went so badly that she never did it again. Rachel is a film buff and aspiring director, and she’s seen Carrie enough times to learn you can never trust cheerleaders (and beautiful people). Rachel was furious that Sana tried to prank her by asking her on a date. But when it comes time for Rachel to cast her senior project, she realizes that there’s no more perfect lead than Sana–the girl she’s sneered at in the halls for the past three years. And poor Sana–she says yes. She never did really get over that first crush, even if Rachel can barely stand to be in the same room as her. Told in alternative viewpoints and set against the backdrop of Los Angeles in the springtime, when the rainy season rolls in and the Santa Ana’s can still blow–these two girls are about to learn that in the city of dreams, anything is possible–even love.
Wilder Girls, Rory Power
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything. But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
Please Send Help, Gaby Dunn & Alison Raskin
Ava and Gen are best friends. Ava has always been there for Gen and Gen for Ava. But then they graduated high school. Now, they’re in the same time zone (although over a thousand miles apart), and in the real world, and it’s the worst, but they still have each other’s support. For relationships. Questionable roommates. Internships. And whether or not it’s a good idea to take in a feral cat. Through their hilarious, sometimes emotional, conversations, Ava and Gen help each other navigate. But as the two of them start to change, will their friendship survive the distance?
Turn This World Inside Out, Nora Samaran
When communities identify and interrupt systemic violence, prioritize the needs of those harmed, and hold a circle of belonging that humanizes everyone, they create a foundation that can begin to resist and repair the harms inflicted by patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism. Emerging from insights in gender studies, race theory, and psychology, and influenced by contemporary social movements, Turn This World Inside Out engages today’s crucial questions, helping move us beyond seemingly intractable barriers to collective change. Includes the essays “The Opposite of Rape Culture Is Nurturance Culture,” “On Gaslighting,” and “Own, Apologize, Repair,” as well as conversations with Serena Bhandar, Ruby Smith Díaz, Aravinda Ananda, Natalie Knight, and Alix Johnson.
We Have Always Been Here, Samra Habib
Samra Habib has spent most of her life searching for the safety to be herself. As an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, she faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed the small, dynamic sect to be blasphemous. From her parents, she internalized the lesson that revealing her identity could put her in grave danger. So begins an exploration of faith, art, love, and queer sexuality, a journey that takes her to the far reaches of the globe to uncover a truth that was within her all along. A triumphant memoir of forgiveness and family, both chosen and not, We Have Always Been Here is a rallying cry for anyone who has ever felt out of place and a testament to the power of fearlessly inhabiting one’s truest self.
Time Is the Thing a Body Moves Through, T Fleischmann
How do the bodies we inhabit affect our relationship with art? How does art affect our relationship to our bodies? T Fleischmann uses Felix Gonzáles-Torres’s artworks―piles of candy, stacks of paper, puzzles―as a path through questions of love and loss, violence and rejuvenation, gender and sexuality. From the back porches of Buffalo, to the galleries of New York and L.A., to farmhouses of rural Tennessee, the artworks act as still points, sites for reflection situated in lived experience. Fleischmann combines serious engagement with warmth and clarity of prose, reveling in the experiences and pleasures of art and the body, identity and community.
Be Recorder, Carmen Giménez Smith
Be Recorder offers readers a blazing way forward into an as yet unmade world. The many times and tongues in these poems investigate the precariousness of personhood in lines that excoriate and sanctify. Carmen Giménez Smith turns the increasingly pressing urge to cry out into a dream of rebellion―against compromise, against inertia, against self-delusion, and against the ways the media dream up our complacency in an America that depends on it. This reckoning with self and nation demonstrates that who and where we are is as conditional as the fact of our compliance: “Miss America from sea to shining sea / the huddled masses have a question / there is one of you and all of us.” Be Recorder is unrepentant and unstoppable, and affirms Giménez Smith as one of the most vital and vivacious poets of our time.
Life of the Party, Olivia Gatwood
Lauded for the power of her writing and having attracted an online fan base of millions for her extraordinary spoken-word performances, Olivia Gatwood now weaves together her own coming-of-age with an investigation into our culture’s romanticization of violence against women. At times blistering and riotous, at times soulful and exuberant, Life of the Party explores the boundary between what is real and what is imagined in a life saturated with fear. Gatwood asks, How does a girl grow into a woman in a world racked by violence? Where is the line between perpetrator and victim? In precise, searing language, she illustrates how what happens to our bodies can make us who we are.