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Rainbow Reading: Call That an Elliot Page-turner

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 hi hello, y’all!

Going to kick things off with a rare moment of earnestness from class-clown Yours Truly — I am relieved beyond words that Brittney Griner is back home where she belongs. I hope she is surrounded with all the softness imaginable as she heals, and I’m so glad she’ll be with family for the holidays.

I’ve always loved this time of year — the twinkling lights in people’s windows to stave off that 4 p.m. darkness, the cinnamon and peppermint and orange peel smells, the warm beverages and cozy knitwear, the sentimental crooners, all of that. Most of all, I love the slow coil of anticipation as the year winds to a close. It’s nice to have something to look forward to that puts a cherry on top of what has certainly been a relentlessly chaotic year. I’m packing to head back to my family’s house, and I think instead of taking new books, I’m going to bring books from this year that I barreled through and want to go back and savor (like the one I shout out in a very special Small Press Spotlight at the end of this column!). It’s been an excellent reading year — I’m spoiled for choice!

One reminder: the HarperCollins Strike remains in effect, and here at Rainbow Reading we’re proud as fuck to support the HarperCollins Union as they demand livable wages, an equitable workplace, and a secure future for the union. Please sign their letter of solidarity here to show HarperCollins that readers are watching, and please donate to the strike fund if you are able. The union’s linktree has all the resources in one handy place here!

Okiedoke, let’s make like Santa and take off. This week on Rainbow Reading, we’ve got:


Rainbow Reading’s 15 Books of 2023 That Yash Is Going To Be Insufferably Loud About:


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


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

You already know that I’m going to say how great the books coverage is this week and every week.


Small Press Spotlight

A few weeks ago, I shouted out a small book with big punch named Fever, and it turns out I’m not done talking about it. It’s out now from Querencia Press, and despite weighing in at under 200 pages, this fragmentary memoir doesn’t stay little. Fever has expanded in my brain to fill whatever room it can find. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the way that Niziolek refracts queer yearning; it’s something more complicated than simply missing or wanting, it’s about an added contradictory layer of desire that either pulls us away from what we love or pulls us back towards what we tried to leave behind. Not just wanting, but wanting to want. Inhabiting a body at odds with itself, inhabiting her own dreams and fantasies almost vicariously, tangling together violence and betrayal and injury and illness, this book lends itself well to comparisons with In the Dream House or Bluets or 300 Arguments. But more than anything, Fever reminded me of Maile Meloy’s short story collection Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It and of Florence and the Machine’s song “Hiding”. Those are compliments I do not extend lightly!

When writing about sex, illness, or dreams fails to connect with me, it’s usually because it feels to me like an anecdote that ends with “ah, well, you had to have been there” where the “there” is someone else’s embodied consciousness. (Y’know, pretty impossible to be there! You have gone where I cannot follow, and you know that, so why are you giving me directions and descriptions like you expect me to keep up!) But Niziolek knows better; rather than trying to make her reality familiar to the reader, she explores it as it’s become unrecognizable even to herself and allows us to tag along as she charts it anew. Fever is poetic and atmospheric and it speaks so specifically to the charmingly-anticlimactic little ways we love each other around the bigness of unresolvable desires. I haven’t loved something that nailed bittersweetness like this in a long time. I’m gonna flip back to the beginning and reread it right tf now. You can’t have my copy, so go get your own. 😉

Because I can, here are some of my favorite quotes and turns of phrase, presented entirely sans context because I’m a bitch tease from hell and you’ll just have to read the book for yourself:

  • “I wish I had more to say. I wish I had time to say all of it.”
  • “I get to fall in love with everyone who has ever fallen in love”
  • “Sometimes, most times, I make a choice to let the things I love pass me by.”
  • “…the king size bed, so large you do not have to touch each other at night while you dream about touching each other in a way you never touch each other.”
  • “I am using this manuscript to explore the options of having options. … When I am ready to be someone other, I can return to the pen, to the computer, to the idea that I have not made my choices already.”
  • “I can only write stories where people don’t talk to each other and everything has already happened.”
  • “It’s the world of same-gendered relationships I have only almost experienced and have to forfeit to stay in the life I’ve already created.”
  • “Meanwhile, in my sleep, I am a generator of desire, throttling against my own yearnings. Meanwhile, my chosen love collects, and no doubt nurtures, the world’s wild creatures in his sleep.” 🥺!!!
The modified “have yourself a merry little christmas” lyrics have slain me 💀

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 yashwina@autostraddle.com 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.


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Yashwina

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

Yashwina has written 43 articles for us.

2 Comments

  1. Lots of these look great, thanks for sharing all of these recommendations!

    While I will probably read Elliot Page’s book for fun, I get really weirded out by people under 60 writing memoirs. Elliot is 35– not even middle-aged yet! So much of a person’s perspective changes as you age. I wonder if it’s too soon?

    • I’m no expert at all this, but I think a memoir can just capture a moment in time. I’m thinking specifically of ND Stevenson’s memoir that they put out a few years back, before he transitioned. It’s super interesting to see how there’s this transness right there under the surface even if it wasn’t something he was in a place to write about at the time!

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