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Rainbow Reading: A New Entry Into the Growing Body of Powerful Queer Florida Lit

A book in faded colors of the rainbow is open, and the words RAINBOW READING are on top of it.
illustration by A. Andrews

Hey team!

I was lucky enough to get an early manuscript of Lev AC Rosen’s forthcoming mystery The Bell in the Fog, the sequel to my beloved The Lavender House, and it was incredible. What is it with queer historical mysteries and their utter refusal to have a sophomore slump? TBiTF improves and elaborates upon everything I adored about its predecessor, while expanding the world of detective Andy Mills’ 1950s San Francisco in new and exciting ways. Its approach to queer carceral trauma, healing intra-community harm, and other delicate topics was nimble and nuanced, and Rosen has such a gift for the fully realized and lovable side character, too — I was so glad the setting of this sequel allowed me more time with some old favs! Ugh! UGH! What a perfect read. This book made me ugly cry (complimentary) and you should be So Nice To Me About It and also preorder yours now.

Anyway. It’s been a superb week for queer book news (hello, Dykes to Watch Out For audio adaptation???????) and I can’t wait to get into it.

Let’s make like toads and hop to it! This week on Rainbow Reading, we’ve got:

Shelf Care: Reviews, Essays, and other Things of Note

  • Don’t forget to preorder The First Bright Thing — this queer circus fantasy features a time-traveling ringmaster Rin, her acrobat wife, a traveling Circus of Fantasticals that offers a home to magical outcasts, and a sinister shadow-circus stalking Rin’s troupe.
  • If, like me, you are all-in on the Lev Rosen Fangirl Club, then great news — his next book, Lion’s Legacy, is a queer YA Indiana Jones, and it’s the peeerfect thing to send you smiling into the summer. He don’t miss!!!
  • Preorder your copy of Lesbian Love Story now — two weeks till this one drops!
  • Rachel Cochran’s debut novel The Gulf has rearranged my TBR. Set in coastal Texas during the 70s against a backdrop of Women’s Liberation movement and the Vietnam war, this novel is the story of a closeted young woman’s attempt to solve the mystery of her surrogate mother’s murder as she renovates Miss Kate’s crumbling old mansion. Ilana Masad of All My Mother’s Lovers calls Cochran “a master of both prose and plot” and I’ve been hankering for a good literary thriller!
  • Out this week, activist/entrepreneur/philanthropist Rachel Cargle’s memoir about the transformative power of queer joy, metamorphosis, and willingness to think beyond conventional cishet romantic and family structures!
  • Just in time for Juneteenth and Pride Month, Tiya Miles’ The Cherokee Rose: A Novel of Gardens and Ghosts is being reissued with a new intro, an additional author essay, and new/revised chapters! It’s inspired by a true story and combines a ghost story, queer love, and powerful examinations of colorism and colonialism in the South to bring to life the shared histories of Black and indigenous communities.
  • Through the Groves joins a growing body of powerful queer Florida lit. This coming-out and coming-of-age memoir from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anne Hull is a moving portrait of queer adolescence in 1960s Florida.
  • Paging my Alix Harrow fans — this week’s Trashwina Banter Blurb of the Week goes to Starling House, which Tor senior editor Miriam Weinberg describes as “what would happen if Kacey Musgraves and indie rock group Boygenius made a concept album for the ghosts of Shirley Jackson and Daphne DuMaurier” !!!!! YOU HAVE MY ATTENTION.
  • The *unanimous* winner of the Mills & Boon and RNA ‘Romance Includes Everyone’ competition is out this fall. One Night in Hartswood is a sweet medieval gay romance by debut author Emma Denny, and it’s out this November!
  • Jenn Shapland’s latest, Thin Skin, is out on August 15, and it’s even more beautiful and thought-provoking than I’d imagined. I’m savoring this one and underlining like a lunatic, so if you’re looking for your next essay collection to adore, I highly recommend getting your preorders in now.
  • Jobs for Girls with Artistic Flair was such fun when it came out last year, and now it’s out in paperback! Jean Kyoung Frazier, author of Pizza Girl, had this to say: “Bizarre and charming, June Gervais’ debut is beautifully crafted, a coming-of-age story that celebrates the messiness of finding yourself, the pleasure of marching offbeat, the beauty of unknown paths. Gina Mulley is a winning narrator who I both wanted to hug and be tattooed by.”
  • Space thriller of the summer: The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei features a group of women and nonbinary astronauts, trained at a special space mission boarding school for a mission that will save humanity from environmental catastrophe and a race against time after a saboteur targets the ship.
  • The “widely celebrated cultural dive into the backside” is out in paperback — Butts by Heather Radke will be out on June 13th (and bears the coveted Melissa Febos Stamp of Approval)
  • Hey horror gays, this YA debut about the Satanic Panic is a love letter to horror movies! Sixteen-year-old Audre, with her nose ring and ouija board and D&D and other objectively-cool things, is one of those protagonists I immediately adore, and her mission to uncover what happened after the disappearance of her crush Elle is powerful and haunting.
  • Another rad new paperback: Henry Fry’s First Time for Everything was one of last year’s beloved debuts, and it’ll be out in paperback in mid-June! The Washington Post said that “Fry brings a refreshing voice to the queer coming-of-age novel with characters whose stories don’t revolve around trauma. Instead, everyday experiences are portrayed with drama and delight.”
  • If, like me, you’re eagerly awaiting the launch of Homebodies, may I offer you this awesome essay by author Tembe Denton-Hurst in the meantime?
  • Susan Sontag hive, this one’s for you — May 30th marks the reissue of On Women in a gorgeous new edition!
  • Next from Roxane Gay’s publishing imprint, And Then He Sang A Lullaby is the heartrending story of a gay couple in Nigeria against a backdrop of rising anti-LGBTQ sentiment and legislation. The author actually wrote the first draft of the book on his phone, and it arrived un-agented in Roxane Gay’s inbox during the open submission period. We’re really lucky readers to get our mitts on this one.
  • Looking towards this fall, Katharine Beutner’s previous book Alcestis, which won the Publishing Triangle award for debut fiction, is being reissued too — it’s perfect for Madeline Miller fans of reimagined and reinterpreted classics, and it tackles one of my favorite Greek myths about a wife who went to the Underworld in place of her husband with a beautiful sapphic twist.
  • My parting words to you this time around? Don’t forget to preorder Lucky Red. Two words: DYKE WESTERN.

“Teenage love, especially first love (even more so between best friends) is so powerful. St. Jude captures the complexities of how that plays out for them brilliantly. Cass isalwaysvery secure in herself in ways Avery clearly isn’t. Of course that causes friction for them, but it is never more clear than when it comes to their sexuality. Because Avery struggles so much to own her identity as a lesbian, she cannot fully articulate or understand the strong pull she has to Cass in the flashback timeline. We learn that she tried to kiss Cass when she visited her at college in New York, and it only led to them having a massive fight. There are parts of herself that are hard for Avery to share with Cass because of who she is as a person. I do wish Cass could be a little more understanding of those struggles, but I had to remind myself they’re teenagers. The power of their relationship is a strong undercurrent for the whole story.”

— Sa’iyda on If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come

Autocorrect: Books content from the last couple weeks at Autostraddle!

This new DTWOF adaptation is gonna take over my life, and I’m gonna let it. Such great literary news here at Autostraddle!

One for the road ⤵️

Prompt time!
What is your favorite queer book that feels like a quintessentially “summer” read? In the comments, tell me the books that conjure the humidity, the sunshine, the cicadas, and all the other best parts of summertime.

That’s all she wrote, folks! If you’re a queer writer, particularly an early-career queer writer: I’d love to hear about the cool things you’re up to so that I can share links to your published essays, book reviews, short stories, poems, and longform features on LGBTQ+ topics! Please email me links for consideration at [email protected] with the subject line “Rainbow Reading Submission” — I’m an avid browser-tab-collector, and I especially want to hear from you if you’ve just landed your first publication or first major byline.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Yashwina Canter is a reader, writer, and dyke putting down roots in Portland, Oregon. You can find her online at @yashwinacanter.

Yashwina has written 53 articles for us.


  1. HILD!!!! I would die for that book, I got it in hardback when it came out and it’s still so battered that Menewood will be my One Hardback of the Year, I am a paperback bitch but if Menewood is even half as good it’s gotta be hardback or it’ll fall apart!!!

    I was 18 when Hild came out and now I’m 28, this is MY winds of winter

  2. Quintessential summer queer read: The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Whilst it doesn’t all take place during the summer, it so vividly captures the season for much of the book

  3. “Empress of the World” by Sara Ryan. Short YA novel, published 2001.

    A sweet first love story set at an academic AP summer school. This book literally defined “summer crush feels” for me. Ryan does a great job of writing teenagers as smart, funny yet naive individuals in a way that felt very relatable when I first read it at 15 and still rings true over two decades later!

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