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:
- The New Life by Tom Crewe, Jan 2023
- I Keep My Exoskeletons To Myself by Marisa Crane, Jan 2023
- Short Film Starring My Beloved’s Red Bronco by K Iver, Jan 2023
- Your Driver Is Waiting by Priya Guns, Feb 2023
- A Manual for How To Love Us by Erin Slaughter, Mar 2023
- A Very Gay Book by Jenson Titus and Nic Scheppard, May 2023
- Lesbian Love Story by Amelia Possanza, May 2023
- The First Bright Thing by J R Dawson, June 2023
- Do Tell by Lindsay Lynch, July 2023 (you might think I’m biased because Lindsay’s a friend of mine but actually I’m biased because it’s about Old Hollywood and you know I’m weak for gay mayhem in Old Hollywood)
- Thin Skin by Jenn Shapland, Aug 2023
- Lush Lives by J. V. Lyon, Aug 2023
- Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go by Cleo Qian, Aug 2023 (this one is edited by my friend Alyssa Ogi, everyone clap for Alyssa!)
- The Bell in the Fog by Lev A. C. Rosen, Fall 2023
- OKPsyche by Anya Johanna DeNiro, Fall 2023
- Dry Land by B. Pladek, Fall 2023 (forthcoming from University of Wisconsin Press, no link yet but mark yer calendars!)
Shelf Care: Reviews, Essays, and other Things of Note
- Happy mcfreakin book birthday to How Far The Light Reaches!
- Sabrina’s conversation with Nicole Chung in I Have Notes was wonderful!
- Don’t miss hearing Sabrina on Gender Reveal (and if there was ever a bonus episode to make you subscribe to Gender Reveal’s Patreon, THIS IS THE ONE.)
- THE OCEAN IS QUEER AND WONDROUS and so is this interview they did at Electric Lit!
- I want to kiss whatever Defector editor writes these headlines on the forehead: Star Essayist Sabrina Imbler TELLS ALL In An EXCLUSIVE In-Depth Interview
- Ilana Masad wrote a great review in the Washington Post!
- Here’s another lovely review from Undark’s Maya Kapoor!
- It’s one of ScienceNews’ Best Science Books of 2022, along with Virology by Joseph Osmundson and Vagina Obscura by Rachel E. Gross!
- You can read some of my favorite excerpts here and here!
- read this goddamn book i stg
- Stay tuned for a review from Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya!
- Nino Strachey, descendant of Lytton Strachey, has written a great new book about the Bloomsbury Group’s second generation and the ways that they built upon their predecessors’ transgression of gender and marriage norms
- The latest entry in the Pentecost and Parker mysteries dropped this week!
- Holy cannoli, y’all, Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail is so dreamy! Delilah Green was a tough act to follow, but whew, does this book ever rise to the occasion.
- God, I love when Autostraddle does queer history content, and the geniuses at my favorite museum on earth have some real gems in this piece!
- Lists like this one of Queer YA Set in the 1930s are why Rainbow Reading has an official crush on Dahlia Adler
- Casey Plett’s collection A Safe Girl to Love is wall-to-wall bangers, and it’s being reissued next spring with a brand-new afterword from Casey and a gorgeous new cover! Once again, Arsenal Pulp press has my whole entire heart.
- I really enjoyed tuning in for this conversation between Lauren John Joseph and Davey Davis for At Certain Points We Touch — Olivia Laing called this book a “stone-cold masterpiece” and I’m inclined to agree 👀
- Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt is a cult classic for a reason, and I’m so stoked that it’s finally getting an audio edition coming this January!
- One for my ace pals! Coming next spring, Ace Notes covers everything from different types of attraction, to marriage, relationships, sex, consent, gatekeeping, religion, ace culture and more.
- Many, many congratulations to Chachi Houser on her intricate debut memoir about New Orleans, gender fluidity, and building her own imaginative life inside her family’s Disney empire
- Take some cozy adorable romances home with you for the holidays:
- There’s a ton of excellent romance coming our way in 2023 too:
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.
- Nico hosted our A+ Book Club discussion with Kayla about Helen House! If you’re not an A+ member yet, then you can sign up here to hang out with us and talk about the best queer books around <3
- Drew reviewed Men I Trust!
- Casey’s here to help you decide which holiday romance to read next! (because i am an overachiever who follows Casey’s recs with fiendish devotion, i will be reading all of them, no further questions)
- Niko reviewed Octopus Pie, a rad webcomic sinking its teeth into the heart of the indie-sleaze era!
- and while we’re here: the HarperCollins Union strike continues with no end in sight, and here is the previous Rainbow Reading where we outlined the strike’s demands and what readers can do to support.
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.” 🥺!!!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.