ARC Review: And The Stars Were Burning Brightly

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BLURB

 

An emotionally rich and current story of suicide, mental health, bullying, grief and growing up around social media.

When fifteen-year-old Nathan discovers that his older brother Al has taken his own life, his whole world is torn apart.
Al was special.
Al was talented.
Al was full of passion and light…so why did he do it?
Convinced that his brother was in trouble, Nathan begins to retrace his footsteps. And along the way, he meets Megan. Al’s former classmate, who burns with the same fire and hope, who is determined to keep Al’s memory alive. But when Nathan learns the horrifying truth behind his brother’s suicide, one question remains – how do you survive, when you’re growing up in the age of social media?

CW: Bullying, depression, suicide, loss of a loved one, racism, homophobia, grief

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Black mc, gay side character

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⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

5 stars 

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A brilliant book about grief, mental health and bullying, And The Stars Were Burning Brightly is one of the best books I’ve ever read

I read this book on the last day of March and didn’t review back then because I knew if I thought too deeply and tried to analyse this book I’ll be bawling at 1am. That is how good this book is.

And The Stars Were Burning Were Burning Brightly is a story told in dual POVs, following Al’s brother and best friend, Nate and Megan has they deal with their grief after he dies by suicide.

So I know there’s no way I’ll write this review without crying. This book has one of best representations of grief and how odd it truly is. How you think you’re over the loss of someone and something happens or you lose someone else, and you don’t how to separate your pain and grief and you don’t know whether you’re mourning for now or then. The depression and bullying rep too is perfect, so because of how brilliant this book is I’ll put myself through pain.

Nate and Megan had different ways of handling their grief. For Nate, he wanted to know what happened to his brother, because the Al he knew was brilliant as the stars he loved and it didn’t make sense to him. And Megan wanted Al to be remembered for what he really was, a brilliant artist and a wonderful person. Reading from both their perspectives and seeing tiny snippets of who Al was made this book even more beautiful and heartbreaking.

ATSWBB does a brilliant job exploring the duality social media and cyberbullying. Al’s bullies used social media to torment so bad he gave up and his best friend, Megan uses this same vast network to ensure he’s remembered for the star he was.

ATSWBB was an amazing book also because of the writing. Danielle Jawando’s writing is honest and poignant, and her style of writing is simply amazing. I love when Black authors write not following the rules of standard English, but how the language styles of their communities. I was a little shocked when I came into the book, but the writing style helped me connect with the book even more.

Characters like the stars…

The characters of And The Stars Were Burning Brightly were amazing. I found them really relatable and so dear to me.

They were as messy, angry and vulnerable as teenagers can be. I love them so much and I could say something more constructive, but I don’t quite have the words.

An always recommend…

And The Stars Were Burning Bright is a book I’ll recommend to anyone and everyone. It’s a beautiful book about grief, depression, escape and life in the age of social media.

1000% recommend and don’t forget the tissues.

 

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ARC Review: You Should See Me In A Crown

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BLURB

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

|CW: Homophobia, Panic attacks, racial microaggressions, parental death, chronic pain, forced public outing|

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Black, queer, chronic illness, sickle cell anaemia, anxiety disorder

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⭐⭐⭐⭐★

4.5 stars 

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A cute and amazing book…

You Should See Me In A Crown is a fun and lighthearted romcom which follows the story of Liz Lighty, one of the few Black students of her high school as she enters for prom queen and finds love.

Prom in Campbell County, Indiana is a huge deal and for Liz Lighty who just lost a scholarship to attend the university of her dreams, it’s the perfect opportunity if she can step up and step out.

You Should See Me In A Crown talks about taking chances, being true to yourself and challenging the status quo. In Campbell, there’s never been a Black prom queen, queer prom queen or a leading prom contestant as unexpected as Liz, but she does it.

Another thing I loved about You Should See Me In A Crown, are themes on friendship and family. I love books that explore these themes and this book does this well. YSSIAC talks about friends that just like family, friend fallouts and make ups, friends who will always stick up for you and be there for you, even when they mess up, and the love of a supportive family.

The chronic illness discussion in YSSMIAC was also amazing. I find that not many books talk about sickle cell anaemia and crisis, even though this is a prevalent genetic disease amongst Black people. Perhaps it’s because we didn’t have as many books written by Black as we do now, but seeing sickle cell anaemia as someone who is training to become a nurse in an African country where it’s prevalent and as someone who carries the trait, was really great.

The writing in Crown was amazing. It’s simple and sweet and easy to follow, and the style was simply cute

 

I absolutely adored the characters…

The characters in Crown were as amazing as the book and I think the book is amazing because of the characters.

I absolutely love Liz. She was a great character and easy to connect with. I love her relationship with her friends, her brother and Mack. I understood her, her sense of responsibility and love the people around her, and her anxiety. I loved how her character developed to be more surer, bolder and confident. Liz is the Black queer girl, every Black queer girl should read.

I loved the other characters too. The love interest, Mack, was sweet and absolutely lovely. I loved Liz’s friends and family.

A book with Black queer joy I didn’t know I needed…

Ok, maybe I knew I needed a book like this, but You Should See In A Crown surpassed all my expectations.

200% recommend.

 

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It’s Queer Here: Black Trans & Nonbinary Writers To Support

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Hello and welcome to It’s Queer Here!

It’s Queer Here is a ten days long mini blog series which will hold from June 14 – June 25th (skipping Juneteenth) to commemorate Pride month. The purpose of this blog series is to centre more often forgotten queer voices, especially those which intersect with other marginalisations and affect their experience of queerness. It’s Queer Here can be seen as reminder, that although these identities less are presented, that they’re still here and they’re still queer.

We started this mini blog series with a statement and reminder to support Black trans lives and today, we’re ending it with a list of Black trans writers to support.

This list is a small compilation of Black trans, nonbinary, genderqueer and gender non conforming writers whose works you should read.


 

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Kacen Callender (they/them and sometimes he/him)

Born and raised in St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands, Kacen Callender is the award-winning author of the middle-grade novels Hurricane Child and King and the Dragonflies, the young-adult novels This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story and Felix Ever After, and the adult novel Queen of the Conquered. 

Kacen was previously an Associate Editor of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, where they acquired and edited novels including Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles, the New York Times bestseller Internment by Samira Ahmed, and the Stonewall Honor award-winning novel Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake.

They enjoy playing RPG video games in their free time.

Kacen currently resides in Philadelphia, PA.

Website/Works

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Dane Figueroa Edidi (she/her)

Dubbed “The Ancient Jazz Priestess Of Mother Africa”, Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi is an African,Cuban, Indigenious, American trans performance artist, author (Yemaya’S Daughters,  Brew, Wither Baltimore: A Love Letter, Keeeper, Remains:A Gathering Of Bones, Incarnate, For Black Trans Girls Who Gotta Cuss A Mother Fucker Out When Snatching An Edge Ain’T Enough, Solace), teacher, choreographer, oraclur consultant, educator, healer, advocate, political commentator,  and a founding member of force collision.

Website/Works

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Danez Smith (they/them)

Danez Smith is a Black, Queer, Poz writer & performer from St. Paul, MN. Danez is the author of “Homie” (Graywolf Press, 2020), “Don’t Call Us Dead” (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, and a finalist for the National Book Award, and “[insert] boy” (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. They are the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Montalvo Arts Center, Cave Canem, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Danez’s work has been featured widely including on Buzzfeed, The New York Times, PBS NewsHour, Best American Poetry, Poetry Magazine, and on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Danez has been featured as part of Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 list and is the winner of a Pushcart Prize. They are a member of the Dark Noise Collective and is the co-host of VS with Franny Choi, a podcast sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and Postloudness.

Website/Works

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Venus Selenite (xe/xym)

Venus Selenite is a poet, writer, performance artist, social critic, editor, educator, and technologist based in Washington, D.C. 

The author of a poetry collection, trigger, xe is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where xe began xyr career on the youth slam and spoken word circuits. After working with the National Center for Transgender Equality on the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey, xe became devoted to her art and mission full-time. Venus works as the Trans Voices Columnist for Wear Your Voice Magazine, serves on the leadership team of Trans Women of Color Collective, is an editor for Trans Women Writers Collective, and is the Communications Coordinator for The Future Foundation. Xe has performed and spoken at venues such as the Kennedy Center, Anacostia Playhouse, New York University-DC, American University, the Capturing Fire Queer Poetry Slam, and the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam. Venus will be publishing xyr first novella, Istrouma, and co-editing Nameless Women: An Anthology of Fiction by Trans Women of Color, both eyeing publication in early 2017.

Works

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Cameron Awkward-Rich (he/him)

Cameron Awkward-Rich is the author of Sympathetic Little Monster (Ricochet Editions, 2016), which was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. He is a Cave Canem fellow, a poetry editor for Muzzle Magazine, and his second collection of poetry, Dispatch, is forthcoming from Persea Books in December 2019.

Also a critic, Cameron earned his PhD from Stanford University’s program in Modern Thought & Literature, and he is an assistant professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Currently, he is working on a book about maladjustment in trans literature and theory.

Website/Works

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Cole McCade (he/him)

Author of the Crimina Intentions series. He is tall, bi/queer, introverted author of a brown-ish persuasion made up of various flavors of Black, Asian, and Native American.

Website/Works

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C. Riley Snorton (he/him)

Riley Snorton is associate professor of Africana studies and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies at Cornell University and visiting associate professor of American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. He is author of Nobody Is Supposed to Know: Black Sexuality on the Down Low (Minnesota, 2014).

Works

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Janet Mock (she/her)

Janet Mock is the New York Times bestselling author of two memoirs, Redefining Realness (2014) and Surpassing Certainty (2017), a writer, director and producer on Ryan Murphy’s FX series Pose, for which she made history as the first trans woman of color to write and direct an episode of television with the landmark script, “Love Is the Message.”

Website/Works

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Isaac Fitzsimons (he/him)

Isaac Fitzsimons grew up in the DC suburbs but spent his summers in England and France. When he’s not writing young adult fiction, he enjoys trying out new recipes, supporting his soccer team, Manchester City, and butchering songs on the banjo, piano, and ukulele. His dream vacation would be traveling around Europe via sleeper train to see every top-tier soccer team play a home game. He currently lives outside DC and works for an arts advocacy nonprofit in the city.

Website/Works
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Rivers Solomon (they/them)

Rivers Solomon is a dyke, an anarchist, a she-beast, an exile, a wound, a shiv, a wreck, and a refugee of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. They write a9bout life in the margins, where they are much at home.

In addition to appearing on the Stonewall Honor List and winning a Firecracker Award, Solomon’s debut novel AN UNKINDNESS OF GHOSTS (Akashic Books) was a finalist for a Lambda, a Hurston/Wright, a Tiptree, and a Locus Award, and was included in numerous best-of-the-year lists, including in NPR, Publishers Weekly, and The Guardian (UK).  Their short work appears in or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, the New York Times, Guernica, Best American Short Stories, Tor.com, and elsewhere, and their second book, THE DEEP, is forthcoming November 2019 from Saga (Simon & Schuster).

They grew up between California, Indiana, Texas, and New York but currently reside in the United Kingdom.

(bio as written from author’s website)

Website/Works

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Emery Lee (e/em/eir)

Emery Lee is a kidlit author, artist, and YouTuber hailing from a mixed-racial background. After graduating with a degree in creative writing, e’s gone on to author novels, short stories, and webcomics. When away from reading and writing, you’ll most likely find em engaged in art or snuggling cute dogs.

Website/Works

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Akwaeke Emezi (they/them)

Author of PET, Freshwater and The Death of Vivek Oji (August 4, 2020)

Born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Nigeria, Emezi was awarded a Global Arts Fund grant in 2017 for the video art in their project The Unblinding, and a Sozopol Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction. Their writing has been published by T Magazine, Dazed Magazine, The Cut, Buzzfeed, Granta Online, Vogue.com, and Commonwealth Writers, among others. Their memoir work was included in The Fader’s ‘Best Culture Writing of 2015’ (‘Who Will Claim You?’) and their film UDUDEAGU won the Audience Award for Best Short Experimental at the 2014 BlackStar Film Festival.

Website/Works

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Jayy Dodd (she/her)

a blxk trans womxn from los angeles, california– now based in Portland,OR. she is a artist, writer, & curator. her work has been featured in LitHub, Poetry Foundation, Oprah Magazine, Ms. Magazine, The New York Public Library among others. she is the Executive Director for Dovesong Labs (a development of Winter Tangerine), editor of A Portrait in Blues (Platypus Press 2017), author of Mannish Tongues (Platypus Press 2017), The Black Condition ft. Narcissus & Impressive Woman (Nightboat Books 2019 & 2021). she has been a Pushcart nominee, co-editor of Bettering American Poetry. she is a Lambda Literary Fellow & a PICA Precipice Grant Recipient. she is also known as Lady Tournament, Mutha of Tournament.Haus in the Portland BallroomKiKi / Club Scene. find her talking trash online or taking a selfie.

Website/Works
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Ceyenne Doroshow (she/her)

Ceyenne Doroshow (pronounced Kai-Ann) is a compassionate powerhouse performer, activist, organizer, community-based researcher and public figure in the trans and sex worker rights’ movements. As the Founder and Executive Director of G.L.I.T.S., she works to provide holistic care to LGBTQ sex workers while serving on the following boards: SWOP-USA, Caribbean Equality Project, SOAR Institute and NYTAG. 

As an international public speaker, her presentations include The Desiree Alliance, Creating Change, SisterSong, Harm Reduction Coalition and the International AIDS Conferences. She was a featured emcee for Toronto Pride and MOMA/PS1’s Sex Workers’ Festival of Resistance, lifting her voice as a trans woman of color. 

Ceyenne has been heavily featured in the media, has performed on television in Showtime’s OZ, for the documentaries Red Umbrella Diaries and Miss Major. 

Known for her skills in the kitchen, Ceyenne co-authored the Caribbean cookbook Cooking in Heels, while incarcerated on prostitution charges. She is currently working on her second book, titled Falling Into the Fire.

Works | G.L.I.T.S
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Da’Shaun Harrison (they/them)

Da’Shaun Harrison is a nonbinary abolitionist and community organizer based out of Atlanta, GA. 

Harrison’s writing has appeared in PhiladelphiaPrint, OffThaRecord, Medium, Queer Black Millennial, THEM, Black Youth Project, BET, and other online publications. They have been interviewed by Roland Martin on NewsOne Now, and have also been featured in/interviewed by The Fader, Everyday Feminism, Buzzfeed, Electronic Intifada, and other local and national publications.

Website/Works
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Candice Montgomery (she/her)

Candice “Cam” Montgomery (non-binary she/her/Dad) is an LA transplant now living in the woods of Seattle, where she writes Young Adult novels. Her debut novel, HOME AND AWAY can be found online and in stores now, and her sophomore novel, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY was released October of 2019. 

She’s long been an enthusiast of anthologies and now finds herself the editor of one! ALL SIGNS POINT TO YES (ed  with davis-araux and Adrianne Russel-White) is to be published by Inkyard Press in winter of 2022!

By day, Cam writes about Black teens across all their intersections. By night, she tends bar at a tiny place nestled inside one of Washington’s greenest trees. Cam is an avid Studio Ghibli fan and will make you watch at least one episode of Sailor Moon before she’ll call you “friend.”

Website/Works
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Xandria Phillips (they/them)

Xandria Phillips is a writer, educator, and visual artist from rural ohio. The recipient of the Judith A. Markowitz Award For Emerging Writers, Xandria has received fellowships from Oberlin College, Cave Canem, Callaloo, and the Wisconsin Institute For Creative Writing. Their poetry has been featured in American Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Poets.Org, Virginia Quarterly Review, And Bomb Magazine. Xandria’S poem, “FOR A BURIAL FREE OF SHARKS” won The gigant sequins poetry contest judged by Lucas De Lima. Xandria’s chapbook, REASONS FOR SMOKING WON THE 2016 Seattle Review Chapbook Contest JUDGED BY CLAUDIA RANKINE. Their first book, HULL was published by Nightboat Books in 2019 and is the winner of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for trans poetry, as well as a finalist for The Believer Award. Xandria is currently working on a non-fiction manuscript called PRESENTING AS BLUE / ASPIRING TO GREEN. This book explores color theory, gender, and modes of making. xandria also writes for artificial intelligence app, replika AI.

Website/Works

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Danny Lore (they/them)

Danny Lore (they/them) is a queer black writer/editor raised in Harlem and currently based in the Bronx. They’ve worked in comic and gaming shops since the beginning of time. Most of their writing is contemporary speculative fiction, with the occasional foray into science fiction. They’ve had their short fiction published by FIYAH, Podcastle, Fireside, Nightlight, EFNIKS.com and more.

Their comics work includes  QUEEN OF BAD DREAMS for Vault Comics, QUARTER KILLER for Comixology, and JAMES BOND for Dynamite Comics in December 2019. They have short comics in DEAD BEATS and THE GOOD FIGHT. They edited THE GOOD FIGHT anthology and THE WILDS (Black Mask comics).  They will be included in the YA prose Anthology A PHOENIX FIRST MUST BURN, at Viking Books, in Spring 2020.

Website/Works

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Tamara Jerée (they/them)

Tamara Jerée is a graduate of Purdue University’s Creative Writing MFA Program and the Odyssey Writing Workshop. Much of their fiction is secondary world fantasy where women mother their children after death and magical girls fall in love and heal their communities. They are at work on a novel.

Website/Works
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Vita Ayala (they/them)

Vita Ayala is a queer Afro-Latinx writer out of New York City, where they live with their wife and cat sons. Their work includes THE WILDS (Black Mask Studios), SUPERGIRL (DC), XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS (Dynamite), MORBIUS: THE LIVING VAMPIRE (Marvel), LIVEWIRE (Valiant), and SUBMERGED (Vault), among others.

Patreon

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Shola von Reinhold (they/them)

Shola von Reinhold is a Scottish socialite and writer. Shola has been published in the Cambridge Literary Review, The Stockholm Review, was Cove Park’s Scottish Emerging Writer 2018 and recently won a Dewar Award for Literature. Shola is a recent graduate from the Creative Writing MLitt at Glasgow which was completed through the Jessica Yorke Writing Scholarship and has previously studied Fine Art at Central Saint Martins. Shola has also written for publications including i-D, AnOther Magazine

Works

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Raquel Willis (she/her)

Raquel Willis is a Black transgender activist, writer and media strategist dedicated to elevating the dignity of marginalized people, particularly Black transgender people. She is the former executive editor of Out magazine and a former national organizer for Transgender Law Center (TLC).

Website/Works


And that’s the end of this mini series! Thank you for sticking around till now. Happy Pride and Black Trans Lives Matter.


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It’s Queer Here: How being autistic affected coming into my queer identity

20200623_194757_0000

Hello and welcome to It’s Queer Here!

It’s Queer Here is a ten days long mini blog series which will hold from June 14 – June 25th (skipping Juneteenth) to commemorate Pride month. The purpose of this blog series is to centre more often forgotten queer voices, especially those which intersect with other marginalisations and affect their experience of queerness. It’s Queer Here can be seen as reminder, that although these identities less are presented, that they’re still here and they’re still queer.

Today on It’s Queer Here, Katie (he/they) talks about how being autistic has affected their coming into their identity as a queer person.


Hi, I’m Katie and I’m nonbinary, aroace, and autistic. One of the main ways my autism impacts me is alexithymia, or the inability to pinpoint emotion. I didn’t realize how big of an impact it actually had until relatively recently, which honestly makes sense. I should probably start by introducing myself. 

I have a tendency to look inwards a lot, but it’s not until other people point things out that they actually click. When I was in middle school, I thought I was pan for maybe a month or so. Then, I saw a tumblr post stating something along the lines of “if you haven’t had a crush before *insert age here* then you might be asexual” and it clicked. In elementary school when someone asked who I had a crush on, I would say Frankie Jonas, the little brother to the Jonas Brothers. I don’t think I really understood what a crush was. Or, I thought I was just a late bloomer or something. I knew I had to make up something in order to fit in, so I just chose a famous person my age. 

For that month or so, I thought I was pan because in my head I was like “there’s no gender that I prefer, so I must be into people of all genders.” What I didn’t see at the time was that I never actually had a crush on anyone. I didn’t understand what having a crush on felt like. I still don’t. Yes, I read books about romance all the time, but how do I know what it feels like if I’ve never felt it before? How do I know if I’m feeling it for the first time?

So, basically, I discovered my sexuality through a single tumblr post. As for my gender, it’s a similar journey, but one that’s taken much longer. I’m still not really completely certain on that end. Once again, the issue is “how do I know what I feel if I’ve never felt it before?” How do I know if I’m a girl if I don’t know what it feels like to “be a girl”? 

I still don’t have a solid answer in terms of what my gender is (although if you asked me a year ago, I would have told you I knew). I know I’m not a girl (even though I still don’t know what that means) at least most of the time. Sometimes I am a girl though. Sometimes I’m a boy. Sometimes my gender is so far from reach that I allow myself to float in the void of space. I still call myself nonbinary/genderfluid/genderqueer. Mostly because I don’t care enough so much of the time. Maybe tomorrow I’ll learn that I’m actually just a guy or that I’m pangender. We’ll see. I have no clue at least.

Katie’s Links

Blog

Bookstagram

Twitter

 


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It’s Queer Here: Queer Books with Neurodiverse and Disabled rep

20200623_000509_0000

Hello and welcome to It’s Queer Here!

It’s Queer Here is a ten days long mini blog series which will hold from June 14 – June 25th (skipping Juneteenth) to commemorate Pride month. The purpose of this blog series is to centre more often forgotten queer voices, especially those which intersect with other marginalisations and affect their experience of queerness. It’s Queer Here can be seen as reminder, that although these identities less are presented, that they’re still here and they’re still queer.

Today on It’s Queer Here, Arina (she/they) @PaperbackVoyager and I bring you a list of books with neurodiverse/disabled/chronically ill and queer representation. While Arina’s part of the list (SFF) has a mixture of those three representation, my part of the list (Contemporary) focuses on queer and neurodiverse rep.


SFF

1. Failure to Communicate by Kaia Sønderby 

Rep: Autistic, Ownvoices

Series: Kandri Corelel #1

Synopsis:

As one of the only remaining autistics in the universe, Xandri Corelel has faced a lot of hardship, and she’s earned her place as the head of Xeno-Liaisons aboard the first contact ship Carpathia. But her skill at negotiating with alien species is about to be put to the ultimate test.

The Anmerilli, a notoriously reticent and xenophobic people, have invented a powerful weapon that will irrevocably change the face of space combat. Now the Starsystems Alliance has called in Xandri and the crew of the Carpathia to mediate. The Alliance won’t risk the weapon falling into enemy hands, and if Xandri can’t bring the Anmerilli into the fold, the consequences will be dire.

Amidst sabotage, assassination attempts, and rampant cronyism, Xandri struggles to convince the doubtful and ornery Anmerilli. Worse, she’s beginning to suspect that not everyone on her side is really working to make the alliance a success. As tensions rise and tempers threaten to boil over, Xandri must focus all her energy into understanding the one species that has always been beyond her: her own.

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Book Depository

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2. The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan

Rep: Schizophrenia

Synopsis:

India Morgan Phelps–Imp to her friends–is schizophrenic. She can no longer trust her own mind, because she is convinced that her memories have somehow betrayed her, forcing her to question her very identity.

Struggling with her perception of reality, Imp must uncover the truth about an encounter with a vicious siren, or a helpless wolf that came to her as a feral girl, or neither of these things but something far, far stranger… 

Goodreads| Bookshop | Amazon 

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3. The Labyrinth’s Archivist by Day Al-Mohamed

Rep: Visually impaired

Synopsis:

Walking the Labyrinth and visiting hundreds of other worlds; seeing so many new and wonderful things – that is the provenance of the travelers and traders, the adventurers and heroes. Azulea has never left her home city, let alone the world. Her city, is at the nexus of many worlds with its very own “Hall of Gates” and her family are the Archivists. They are the mapmakers and the tellers of tales. They capture information on all of the byways, passages and secrets of the Labyrinth. Gifted with a perfect memory, Azulea can recall every story she ever heard from the walkers between worlds. She remembers every trick to opening stubborn gates, and the dangers and delights of hundreds of worlds. But Azulea will never be a part of her family’s legacy. She cannot make the fabled maps of the Archivists because she is blind.

The Archivist’s “Residence” is a waystation among worlds. It is safe, comfortable and with all food and amenities provided. In exchange, of course, for stories of their adventures and information about the Labyrinth, which will then be transcribed for posterity and added to the Great Archive. But now, someone has come to the Residence and is killing off Archivists using strange and unusual poisons from unique worlds whose histories are lost in the darkest, dustiest corners of the Great Archive. As Archivists die, one by one, Azulea is in a race to find out who the killer is and why they are killing the Archivists, before they decide she is too big a threat to leave alive.

Goodreads| Amazon 

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4. Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

Rep: amputee, mute

Synopsis:

Amara is never alone. Not when she’s protecting the cursed princess she unwillingly serves. Not when they’re fleeing across dunes and islands and seas to stay alive. Not when she’s punished, ordered around, or neglected.

She can’t be alone, because a boy from another world experiences all that alongside her, looking through her eyes.

Nolan longs for a life uninterrupted. Every time he blinks, he’s yanked from his Arizona town into Amara’s mind, a world away, which makes even simple things like hobbies and homework impossible. He’s spent years as a powerless observer of Amara’s life. Amara has no idea . . . until he learns to control her, and they communicate for the first time. Amara is terrified. Then, she’s furious.

All Amara and Nolan want is to be free of each other. But Nolan’s breakthrough has dangerous consequences. Now, they’ll have to work together to survive–and discover the truth about their connection.

Goodreads| IndieBound | Amazon | Book Depository

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5. Timekeeper by Tara Sim

Rep: PTSD, m/m

Series: Timekeeper #1

Synopsis:

I was in an accident. I got out. I’m safe now.

An alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, where a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

A prodigy mechanic who can repair not only clockwork but time itself, determined to rescue his father from a Stopped town.

A series of mysterious bombings that could jeopardize all of England.

A boy who would give anything to relive his past, and one who would give anything to live at all.

A romance that will shake the very foundations of time.

Goodreads |Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon | Book Depository

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6. Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi

Rep: Chronic illness, sapphic

Series: Tangled Axon #1

Synopsis:

Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he’s a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego . . . and Alana can’t keep her eyes off her. But there’s little time for romance: Nova’s in danger and someone will do anything–even destroying planets–to get their hands on her.

Goodreads  | IndieBound | Amazon | Book Depository

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7. Our Bloody Pearl by D.N. Bryn

Rep: Paralysis, mute, ownvoices

Series: These Treacherous Tides #1

Synopsis:

The ocean is uncontrollable and dangerous. But to the sirens who swim the warm island waters, it’s a home more than worth protecting from the humans and their steam-propelled ships. Between their hypnotic voices and the strength of their powerful tails, sirens have little to fear.

That is, until the ruthless pirate captain, Kian, creates a device to cancel out their songs.

Perle was the first siren captured, and while all since have either been sold or killed, Kian still keeps them prisoner. Though their song is muted and their tail paralyzed, Perle’s hope for escape rekindles as another pirating vessel seizes Kian’s ship. This new captain seems different, with his brilliant smile and his promises that Kian will never again be Perle’s master. But he’s still a human, and a captor in his own way. The compassion he and his rag-tag human family show can’t be sincere… or can it?

Soon it becomes clear that Kian will hunt Perle relentlessly, taking down any siren in her path. As the tides turn, Perle must decide whether to run from Kian forever, or ride the forming wave into battle, hoping their newfound human companions will fight with them. 

Goodreads | Bookshop | IndieBound | Amazon | Book Depository

 

Arina’s Links

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CONTEMPORARY

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1. Untouchable by Talia Hibbert

Rep: Depression, Anxiety, Bisexual mc, Demisexual side character

Synopsis: 

Sleeping with the staff wasn’t part of the plan.

Sensible, capable, and ruthlessly efficient, Hannah Kabbah is the perfect nanny… until a colossal mistake destroys her career and shatters her reputation. These days, no-one in town will hire her—except Nathaniel Davis, a brooding widower with a smile like sin and two kids he can’t handle.

Prim and proper Hannah is supposed to make Nate’s life easier, but the more time he spends around his live-in nanny, the more she makes things… hard. He can’t take advantage of her vulnerable position, but he can’t deny the truth, either: with every look, every smile, every midnight meeting, Nate’s untouchable employee is stealing his heart.

The trouble is, she doesn’t want to keep it. Forbidden love isn’t high on Hannah’s to-do list, and trust isn’t one of her strengths. When dark secrets threaten to destroy their bond, Nate’s forced to start playing dirty. Because this reformed bad boy will break every rule to finally claim his woman.

Please be aware: this book contains depictions of depression and anxiety that could trigger certain audiences.

 

Goodreads | Storygraph | Bookshop.org

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2. You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson

Rep: Anxiety, Queer mc

Synopsis:

 Liz Lighty has always  hi she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

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3. Work For It by Talia Hibbert

Rep: Depression, Anxiety, m/m pairing

Synopsis:

For men like us, trust doesn’t come easy.

In this village, I’m an outcast: Griffin Everett, the scowling giant who prefers plants to people. Then I meet Keynes, a stranger from the city who’s everything I’m not: sharp-tongued, sophisticated, beautiful. Free. For a few precious moments in a dark alleyway, he’s also mine, hot and sweet under the stars… until he crushes me like dirt beneath his designer boot.

When the prettiest man I’ve ever hated shows up at my job the next day, I’m not sure if I want to strangle him or drag him into bed. Actually—I think I want both. But Keynes isn’t here for the likes of me: he makes that painfully clear. With everyone else at work, he’s all gorgeous, glittering charm—but when I get too close, he turns vicious.

And yet, I can’t stay away. Because there’s something about this ice king that sets me on fire, a secret vulnerability that makes my chest ache. I’ll do whatever it takes to sneak past his walls and see the real man again.

The last thing I expect is for that man to ruin me.

Work for It is 80,000 words of hot, angst-filled, M/M romance featuring a cynical city boy, a gruff, soft-hearted farmer, and a guaranteed happy-ever-after. No cheating, no cliff-hangers, just love. (Eventually.)

Goodreads | Storygraph | Bookshop.org (Audiobook available only) 

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4. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Rep: Autistic, Bisexual mc, f/f pairings.

Synopsis: 

Three friends, two love stories, one convention: this fun, feminist love letter to geek culture is all about fandom, friendship, and finding the courage to be yourself.

Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, is an empowering novel for anyone who has ever felt that fandom is family

Goodreads | Storygraph | Bookshop.org

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5. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Rep: Anxiety, Queer, f/f relationship

Synopsis:

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

Goodreads| Storygraph | Bookshop.org

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6. Final Draft by Riley Redgate

Rep: Depression, Pansexual mc and Lesbian love interest, f/f pairing

Synopsis:

The only sort of risk 18-year-old Laila Piedra enjoys is the peril she writes for the characters in her stories: epic sci-fi worlds full of quests, forbidden love, and robots. Her creative writing teacher has always told her she has a special talent. But three months before her graduation, he’s suddenly replaced—by Nadiya Nazarenko, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist who is sadistically critical and perpetually unimpressed.

At first, Nazarenko’s eccentric assignments seem absurd. But before long, Laila grows obsessed with gaining the woman’s approval. Soon Laila is pushing herself far from her comfort zone, discovering the psychedelic highs and perilous lows of nightlife, temporary flings, and instability. Dr. Nazarenko has led Laila to believe that she must choose between perfection and sanity—but rejecting her all-powerful mentor may be the only way for Laila to thrive.

Goodreads | Storygraph |Bookshop.org 

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7. The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

Rep: Depression, Degeneraritive Hallucinatory Disorder, Bisexual mc, m/m pairing

Synopsis:

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

Goodreads | Storygraph | Bookshop.org

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8. History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Rep: OCD, m/m pairing

Synopsis:

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

Goodreads| Storygraph | Bookshop.org

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9. The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Rep: Depression and Anxiety, m/m pairing

Synopsis:

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.

Goodreads| Storygraph | Bookshop.org

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10. Their Troublesome Crush by Xan West

Rep: Autistic, Depression, Demiromantic, Trans, Polyamory, Pansexual, Bisexual

Synopsis:

In this queer polyamorous m/f romance novella, two metamours realize they have crushes on each other while planning their shared partner’s birthday party together.

Ernest, a Jewish autistic demiromantic queer fat trans man submissive, and Nora, a Jewish disabled queer fat femme cis woman switch, have to contend with an age gap, a desire not to mess up their lovely polyamorous dynamic as metamours, the fact that Ernest has never been attracted to a cis person before, and the reality that they are romantically attracted to each other, all while planning their dominant’s birthday party and trying to do a really good job.

Goodreads| Storygraph | Bookshop.org

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11. Eight Kinky Nights by Xan West

Rep: Polyamory, Graysexual, Pansexual, Autistic, PTSD and Depression. Also has disabled and arthritis rep

Synopsis:

Sometimes the perfect Chanukah gift can change everything.

Newly divorced stone butch Jordan moves into her friend Leah’s spare room, ready, at 49, to take on a new job and finally explore kink and polyamory. But moving to NYC during the holidays sends grief crashing through her, and Jordan realizes that when she isn’t solely focused on caring for others, her own feelings are unavoidable. Including her feelings for Leah.

51 year old queer femme Leah, an experienced submissive kink educator who owns a sex shop, has recently come to terms with being gray ace and is trying to rework her life and relationships to honor that.

Leah has a brainstorm to help them both: she offers Jordan eight kink lessons, one for each night of Chanukah, to help Jordan find her feet as a novice dominant, and to create a structured space where Leah can work on more deeply honoring her own consent, now that she knows she’s gray ace.

She’d planned to keep it casual, but instead the experience opens cracks in the armor Leah’s been using to keep people at a distance and keep herself safe. Now she needs to grapple with the trauma that’s been impacting her life for years.

Can these two autistic queers find ways to cope with the changes they are making in their lives and support each other, as they build something new they hadn’t thought was possible?

Goodreads| Storygraph | Bookshop.org

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12. Tenderness by Xan West

Rep: Bisexual, Autistic, Non-binary. Also has chronic pain representation

Synopsis: 

When Judith gets dumped by her girlfriend, she feels like her world has imploded. It will take the love and care of her queer chosen family, and the support of her best friend Shiloh in particular, to help her cope with the havoc that this break up has wreaked on her life. This chosen family love story illuminates the ways we can find hope amidst devastating change, if we are supported by folks who understand and care for us as we really are.

Goodreads| Storygraph | Bookshop.org

 


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It’s Queer Here: The Uncertainty of Questioning

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Hello and welcome to It’s Queer Here!

It’s Queer Here is a ten days long mini blog series which will hold from June 14 – June 25th (skipping Juneteenth) to commemorate Pride month. The purpose of this blog series is to centre more often forgotten queer voices, especially those which intersect with other marginalisations and affect their experience of queerness. It’s Queer Here can be seen as reminder, that although these identities less are presented, that they’re still here and they’re still queer.

Today on It’s Queer Here, Tee (she/her) talks about the uncertainty of questioning, through her own experience questioning and recommends some books with asexual representation that she loves/ is excited for.


Hi, I’m Tee, I’m 23, and I’m asexual! Or at least that’s the umbrella I’m most comfortable snuggling under right now. That’s the first time I’ve stated such publicly, rounding up the tally of people I’ve shared that with to my sister, my best friends, and you, kind reader. Before I get into my thoughts on the uncertainty of questioning, I’d like to warmly thank Zainab, for hosting this series on her blog. I am excited to share my thoughts, and more excited to read the other posts that will pop up here.

An internal conversation I’ve had on repeat for the last 2 years or so has been “Am I ace, or am I scared? Yes, I know asexuality is valid, its part of the acronym in all its glory, and it’s a wide spectrum, so why do I constantly feel like I’m trying to force my way into the community?” To be clear that’s not an observation on how welcoming the community does or doesn’t feel, but more an observation on how I feel something I identify with is valid, yet somehow, I am not.

I was 20 the first time I learned about asexuality, having heard the word a handful of times before then but never really paying attention. I couldn’t quite figure out why the small interview series I had read kept popping into my thoughts for a full year afterwards, until I realised it was because I had found comfort and understanding in the words shared. There was a feeling of calm when I thought about how the words could be used to describe me, and yet sheer panic when a million other thoughts rushed in to invalidate it. 

The thing with labels is that no one label is a one size fits all experience. It’s a spectrum, and it’s incredible and leaves room for growth and exploration and understanding, but it’s also terrifying, because if I don’t fit the very definition of this label then surely I’m not it. Surely, I’m just scared or confused or trying to fit myself in a space I don’t belong to. And so, I’ve found it difficult to believe the label and I are a good match because I don’t tick all the boxes. And if I choose this label, what does it mean about how I go about with future relationships, and conversations. How does my new understanding of romantic attraction change how I view my attraction to others as a whole? To what extent am I allowed to claim the community and call it mine?

I can’t recall having any relationship with sex appeal or sexual attraction outside of finding people nice to look at, and how that only lasted if they were funny and kind. To me, that’s what all added to appeal, not just physicality. I unknowingly made my own criteria for what I believed sexual attraction to be and so when I first found an identity that detailed a lack of sexual attraction, I felt like it couldn’t be me. But, I’m trying to be kinder to myself and my journey. I am constantly learning new words that feel like home, listening to myself on how I want to be loved and perceived, and how I want to love in turn. Always remembering moments where my identity shone through clearly when I was younger but was then played off and trying not to let the action of me playing them off back then be reason for internal invalidation now.

Questioning has always been a seesaw between ‘this is me and I am valid, and lol what if it’s not and now you look dumb’. But that’s what it will always be, isn’t it – there will always be a different take on how you perceive attraction and yourself. You will always understand parts of yourself differently and then express those parts differently. And so, I might find myself elsewhere on the spectrum later in life wanting to use different words to explain it, but I need to give myself the benefit of the doubt that I understand myself and my feelings now, and I always will.

I think labels are important for a sense of belonging, and community, and understanding of self. And they can get messy and confusing, but ultimately, their meaning and how we hold them to ourselves is personal and unique, and no one person can say we have chosen incorrectly. It’s weird, because most days I feel like my identity isn’t one that ultimately changes how I experience my idea of love, so I don’t need to disclose it or share it with anyone, because TMI, right? But then other days I want to be loudly proud about it, and casually bring it up whenever and wherever; then the idea of having to find the words to explain it to others, when I’m not fully sure I have the words to explain it to myself comes up and I’m safely yeeted back into not wanting to share at all. That might be something I struggle with always, given how little I usually want to share about myself in general, and that’s fine. For now, I am trying my best to find peace and pride in my identity as I understand it, I’m trying to not be too hard on myself when I feel confused about it all, I am trying to figure out how loudly I want to express it, and that is fine. I am doing fine.

 

Thank you again to Zainab for hosting this series. This post was a more cathartic experience than I could have ever imagined, so truly, thank you.

I process a lot of my emotions through those of fictional characters, so I thought I could share a few books I have read and loved or am excited to read that have aspec representation.

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman. 

This book is about so much more than being aspec, but the part of it that dealt with it, specifically with being aro/ace, was the first time I’d seen it explicitly in a book, and it warmed my heart completely.

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

Tash explaining her identity to her friends helped me find some extra peace in how I explain it to myself. Her story makes me feel less afraid about mine and I needed that.

The Sound and the Stars by Alechia Dow and Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

I haven’t read these yet, but they are definitely on my list of must reads. Both books feature Black Aspec girls, one a new adult exploring relationships and the other a teen librarian who teams up with an alien to fight the system. They both sound fantastic and I want to read them so I can shout loudly about girls who look and feel like me for eternity.

Tee’s Links

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It’s Queer Here: How disability is affecting my queerness

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Hello and welcome to It’s Queer Here!

It’s Queer Here is a ten days long mini blog series which will hold from June 14 – June 25th (skipping Juneteenth) to commemorate Pride month. The purpose of this blog series is to centre more often forgotten queer voices, especially those which intersect with other marginalisations and affect their experience of queerness. It’s Queer Here can be seen as reminder, that although these identities less are presented, that they’re still here and they’re still queer.

Today on It’s Queer Here, Léa (she/her) @We Have No Apologies, talks about how disability has and is affecting her queerness both as a YA book blogger and an author.


Pride month is all about celebrating LGBTQIA+, right? It’s about celebrating who you are and who you aspire to be. But for some of us, who are at the intersection of different marginalized identities, celebrating one aspect of ourselves without downplaying the other may be difficult.

I am a YA blogger at We Have No Apologies, where I intend to amplify and celebrate marginalized and diverse, especially #Ownvoices literature. So, it means I try to read as many books as possible, right? Hence, as a sapphic and disabled blogger, I love to see these experiences and these emotions I can connect with and relate to be here for me, in a book waiting for me to pick it up.

Then why can I count on my fingers the numbers of book with queer and disabled rep out there? Am I looking in the wrong direction? Are there no disabled queer writers out there? (Once again, wrong. I am one of them and according to Disability World more than one-third of LGBTQIA+ identify as having a disability.)

The only disabled queer rep I ever found was in a truly groundbreaking and breathtaking anthology called Unbroken and edited by Marieke Nijkamp and there it was: a girl in a wheelchair falling in love with another girl, as depicted in the short story written by Kayla Whaley. My brain did not compute at the moment, not realizing it was the first time I’d seen this kind of representation printed out in a legit, real book.

To extract yourself from a heteronormative narrative as a disabled person, moreover as a disabled person that cannot escape to her disability, needing aids on a daily basis, is really difficult. At least, it was for me.

Disability took much from me but not exactly what you expect. It took my authenticity and my honesty. It pushed me in the closet for a long time because in order to be “normal” (aka considered by my able-bodied classmates who I could not care less about, as one of their own) I needed to have a boyfriend. I could not add another marginalization to my already weighted plate.

As a reader, #ownvoices means a safe space, a space where it is the least probable for me to be hurt by the representation, it is a space where I am allowed to be myself and to project my aspiration and my fantasy. But more often than not, is that a read a book with great queer rep and found myself thinking “but my body cannot do that!” or “would character A still loves character B if she was disabled?” and when I read a book that has great disability rep I caught myself thinking “how lucky it would be for a character to find someone who not only accept to date someone who is disabled but also happens to be queer?”

And, let me tell you and my own internalized-ableism that it does exist: From the bisexual love interest, Sasha who has Gaucher Disease, in Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz to the couple formed between a girl and a disabled girl in a world where genetic engineering is the norm while she cannot use mods and hence change her body or her abilities, in the comic Always Human by Ari North. We do exist. And we love to read about how our identities overlaps and affects each other.

The lack of representation, either it being disabled representation or queer representation, always affected me, but the lack of queer and disabled representation made it harder for me to come to terms with my own queerness who represented then a supplementary obstacle.

But I am also a writer, or at least an aspiring writer. And if for a long time I attempted to write and create disabled or queer characters, it is not until recently I had an epiphany: I was both, so my characters could be both as well. I promise you it won’t be too much to handle, I said to myself.

It is there as I attempt to write a main character, still madly in love with her ex-girlfriend, and disabled: She won’t be too much to handle. You won’t be too much to handle. It is there as I begin to draft a rom-com featuring a sapphic makeup artist: She won’t be too much to handle. You won’t be too much to handle.

Seeing yourself and writing yourself as a disabled and sapphic person is allowing you to be vulnerable. It puts you in a place of exposure, of almost nakedness as you try to reinvent you not only as the main character, the hero, the one who can get things done, but also as the love interest. Love confession are twice harder because there is an inherently fear of rejection because you are queer, but also because you are disabled. Queer disabled love and romance is more often than not associated to despair in fiction (and in real life too, if we are honest) but it does not have to. I’m a firm believer you can be queer, disabled and in a fulfilling and reciprocated relationship. Even if I have never been in one, even if I’m constantly swallowed by my self-doubt, I won’t let my own internalized ableism get the best of my characters’ happily ever after.

In the end, the only reason I can make up to answer why the market is not yet drown out by #ownvoice book with disabled and queer rep is (considering obviously the difficulty to access publishing as a disabled person and as a person who belongs to the LGBTQIA+ community) the fact that our journey through queerness or disability often gets in the way of us managing to write ourselves without snatching a part of ourselves in the process to fit in the box of what we think is considered as enough.

So, celebrating Pride for me as a person at the intersection of completely different marginalization, means taking my time to entangle my internalized-ableism from my queerness and the other way around. Celebrating pride for me means beaming at what the future have for me in store as a blogger, because can you even imagine what the publishing market will look like in even five years from now, and as a writer because I can learn from my characters how to take pride in my journey, even if it has been rough, messy, and excitingly unfinished.

 

Léa’s Links

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Léa also has a wonderful pride month series on her blog which you should definitely check out!


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It’s Queer Here: No Coming-of-age Moment — Experiencing my queerness

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Hello and welcome to It’s Queer Here!

It’s Queer Here is a ten days long mini blog series which will hold from June 14 – June 25th (skipping Juneteenth) to commemorate Pride month. The purpose of this blog series is to centre more often forgotten queer voices, especially those which intersect with other marginalisations and affect their experience of queerness. It’s Queer Here can be seen as reminder, that although these identities less are presented, that they’re still here and they’re still queer.

Today on It’s Queer Here, Arina (she/they) writes a very personal and very relatable post about figuring out or working to figure out one’s queer identity, and how for a lot of us, we really don’t have a single coming of age moment but a plethora of such moments


I’ve never been the type of person who could open up easily. I suppose for reasons woven into my upbringing and my mental health I have always had a difficulty talking about myself and exposing issues I haven’t even fully explored on my own. But I feel like if there’s ever a time to allow yourself to be vulnerable it’s when your words can possibly have the power to reach out to someone who is going through the same hardships as you and help them connect to themselves and others, to heal.

So if anyone who reads this finds even a sliver of peace in my experience, I know my reservations can forgive themselves the slip.

Being queer doesn’t amount to one single coming-of-age moments for me. I suspect many of you are the same, but I didn’t have that moment in my life where I can pinpoint was the turning point for me realizing I wasn’t straight. All I know is by the time I went to middle school my attractions (or lack thereof) made me increasingly aware that I couldn’t relate to many of my friends’ experiences. 

Whenever my friends would talk about relationships I would just nod along and tell myself that I just hadn’t had the freedom to get there yet (I come from an extremely strict household). It was natural to me that if I hadn’t had the chance to explore much on the subject then I wouldn’t have yet arrived at those same conclusions. One day I would get there and I could productively contribute to those conversations. Until then, my nod would have to be enough. 

By the time high school rolled around my nod was still in full effect. Then I had the space to reflect on what my nod required of me, to start exploring exactly where my identities lied, and to feel myself bursting at the seams enough to share those experiences with one of my closest friends. That ended up creating a hitch in my understand of myself, as I was forcefully outed. When I think back to the days after that (I believe I was lucky enough my mind tried to bury most of them in a haze), I often wonder if that contributed to my withdrawal from fully conversing on, and exploring with, my queer identity. 

Even now, when someone asks me about my identity, I find there’s always a sense of uneasiness attached to my answer— “queer”. That’s because most times, that answer prompts a secondary “Yes, but what exactly?”, and that’s a question I feel as eternally grateful when it doesn’t come as eternally anxious when it does. Because if I have enough insight to admit I am queer, then certainly I have the same knowledge of myself to specify “what exactly”. Right?

My insecurity when claiming one identity may seem out of place to many, but maybe likewise, it can connect with so many more. If someone asks you to pick up a flag and you choose the generic one, does that show a lesser commitment? And if you feel like you need to pick more than one flag, a whole assortment of them, to make sense of all the parts of yourself that don’t, then is the same thing true?

I’m always afraid that others will think the crossroads my queer identity built could only be a call to attention. Too many roads, too many alleys, too many corners—oh, now you’re pan? Now you’re ace? But you have sex, are you even…? People —even those inside the community (though I dare say they know less about their place in it than myself)— can often make you feel like all those little parts of yourself don’t even make sense individually, much less when jumbled all together into a tangle of emotions you yourself can’t even make sense of. Even the intersectionality of my mental illness and my sexuality worked as a source of unrest. I often found myself wondering if my mental disorders directly affected my queerness — was I aromantic because of my mood disorders, which impacted the very way I could feel (or sometimes, not), or was my aromanticness inherent and completely unrelated to the effect these disorders had on me? Was even asking myself this fair? Was I tainting my identities with unrecognized prejudice directed both at my sexuality and my disabilities? I wondered if that ignorance stemmed from the fact I forcefully distanced myself from immersing myself into the queer community, both online and irl, because I never felt I had the right to sit at the table unless I knew certainly which seat to take, or because I was too distrusting after my experiences in high school.

I still think a lot about what being queer is to me, and specifically, exactly what “type of queer” I am. I’m confident one day when people ask me that I can shout out a clear answer. And I’m hopeful one day I’ll get to sit at the table and have that thirst-sating drink I’ve been craving my entire life.

Even now, at 24, I still don’t have a concrete answer to all those questions. I still see no definite surety to my identities aside from the fact I am here, I am queer, and I am proud—whatever it is I have to be proud of, it’s being myself, even if I don’t know exactly where that lies yet. Even now, at 24, I am still exploring this essential part of myself, my identity. 

And for those of you who are going through the same, I hope this post helps you realize the most important part of your queer experience— you are not alone, and you matter more than you know. But I hope one day you do.

 

Arina’s Links

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It’s Queer Here: Queer Books By Black Authors II

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Hello and welcome to It’s Queer Here!

It’s Queer Here is a ten days long mini blog series which will hold from June 14 – June 25th (skipping Juneteenth) to commemorate Pride month. The purpose of this blog series is to centre more often forgotten queer voices, especially those which intersect with other marginalisations and affect their experience of queerness. It’s Queer Here can be seen as reminder, that although these identities less are presented, that they’re still here and they’re still queer.

It’s Tuesday, meaning its another #BlackoutTuesday and what better way to celebrate queerness than to highlight the work of Black queer authors. In February for The Black Experience, I made a list of queer books by Black authors, today I’ll be expanding that list. 

To support Black owned businesses/indie bookstores and Black people, I’ll be adding Bookshop links in place of Amazon and I’ll also be adding the Storygraph links of the books to but still including the Goodreads links for people who still use the site.


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  1. Under The Udala Tree by Chinelo Okparanta

Inspired by Nigeria’s folktales and its war, Under the Udala Trees is a deeply searching, powerful debut about the dangers of living and loving openly.

Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child and they, star-crossed, fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls.

When their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself. But there is a cost to living inside a lie.

As Edwidge Danticat has made personal the legacy of Haiti’s political coming of age, Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees uses one woman’s lifetime to examine the ways in which Nigerians continue to struggle toward selfhood. Even as their nation contends with and recovers from the effects of war and division, Nigerian lives are also wrecked and lost from taboo and prejudice. This story offers a glimmer of hope — a future where a woman might just be able to shape her life around truth and love.

(lesbian mc)

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

 

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  1. The Death Of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

 

Named one of the year’s most anticipated books by The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, BuzzFeed, and more

What does it mean for a family to lose a child they never really knew?

One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom.

Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations—a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader.

(trans mc)

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

 

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  1. The Summer We Got Free by Mia McKenzie

 

At one time a wild young girl and a brilliant artist, Ava Delaney changes dramatically after a violent event that rocks her entire family. Once loved and respected in their community and in their church, they are ostracized by their neighbors, led by their church leader, and a seventeen-year feud between the Delaneys and the church ensues. Ava and her family are displaced from the community even as they continue to live within it, trapped inside their creaky, shadowy old house.

When a mysterious woman arrives unexpectedly for a visit, her presence stirs up the past and ghosts and other restless things begin to emerge. And something is reignited in Ava: the indifferent woman she has become begins to give way to the wild girl, and the passionate artist, she used to be. But not without a struggle that threatens her well-being and, ultimately, her life.

Mia McKenzie is a winner of the Astraea Foundation’s Writers Fund Award and the Leeway Foundation’s Transformation Award. She describes herself as “a black feminist and a freaking queer.” Her work has been recommended by The Root, Colorlines, Feministing, Angry Asian Man, and Crunk Feminist Collective, among others. She is the creator of the blog BlackGirlDangerous.org

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

 

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  1. You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson

 

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

(queer mc, f/f pairing)

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

 

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  1. Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

(lesbian mc, lesbian li, f/f pairing)

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org (preorder)

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  1. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

From Stonewall and Lambda Award–winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve

(trans and bi mc) 

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

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  1. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

 

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance – and Papi’s secrets – the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Papi’s death uncovers all the painful truths he kept hidden, and the love he divided across an ocean. And now, Camino and Yahaira are both left to grapple with what this new sister means to them, and what it will now take to keep their dreams alive.

In a dual narrative novel in verse that brims with both grief and love, award-winning and bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

(f/f pairing, lesbian mc)

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

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  1. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

 

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.

(an autobiography and the author is queer)

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

 

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  1. Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon 

 

Jordan Collins doesn’t need a man.

What he needs is for his favorite author to release another one of her sexy supernatural novels and more people to sign up for the romance book club that he fears is slowly and steadily losing its steam. He also needs for the new employee at his local bookstore to stop making fun of him for reading things meant for “grandmas.”

The very last thing he needs is for that same employee, Rex Bailey, to waltz into his living room and ask to join Meet Cute Club. Despite his immediate thoughts—like laughing in his face and telling him to kick rocks—Jordan decides that if he wants this club to continue thriving, he can’t turn away any new members. Not even ones like Rex, who somehow manage to be both frustratingly obnoxious and breathtakingly handsome.

As Jordan and Rex team up to bring the club back from the ashes, Jordan soon discovers that Rex might not be the arrogant troll he made himself out to be, and that, like with all things in life, maybe he was wrong to judge a book by its cover.

(m/m relationship)

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

 

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  1. Take A Hint Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Talia Hibbert returns with another charming romantic comedy about a young woman who agrees to fake date her friend after a video of him “rescuing” her from their office building goes viral…

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.

When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs.

Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

(m/f relationship, bi female character)

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org (preorder)

 

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  1. Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

 

Filled with mystery and an intriguingly rich magic system, Tracy Deonn’s YA contemporary fantasy Legendborn offers the dark allure of City of Bones with a modern-day twist on a classic legend and a lot of Southern Black Girl Magic.

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her previous life, family memories, or her childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at a local university seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure reveals Bree’s own, unique magic and unlocks a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that she knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, Bree will do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn by becoming one of their initiates. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur and his knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.

(bisexual mc)

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org (preorder)

 

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  1. Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

 

In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…

(bisexual mc, asexual lesbian sc, bisexual sc, m/m parental pairing)

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

 

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  1. Black Queer Hoe by Britteney Black Rose Kapri

 

 A refreshing, unapologetic intervention into ongoing conversations about the line between sexual freedom and sexual exploitation.

Black Queer Hoe is a refreshing, unapologetic intervention into ongoing conversations about the line between sexual freedom and sexual exploitation.

Women’s sexuality is often used as a weapon against them. In this powerful debut, Britteney Black Rose Kapri lends her unmistakable voice to fraught questions of identity, sexuality, reclamation, and power, in a world that refuses Black Queer women permission to define their own lives and boundaries

 

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

 

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  1. The Stars and the Blackness Between Them

 

Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus’s bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both.

Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.

Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

Junauda Petrus’s debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.

(f/f pairing)

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

 

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  1. Home And Away by Candace Montgomery

 

Tasia Quirk is young, Black, and fabulous. She’s a senior, she’s got great friends, and a supportive and wealthy family. She even plays football as the only girl on her private high school’s team.

But when she catches her mamma trying to stuff a mysterious box in the closet, her identity is suddenly called into question. Now Tasia’s determined to unravel the lies that have overtaken her life. Along the way, she discovers what family and forgiveness really mean, and that her answers don’t come without a fee. An artsy bisexual boy from the Valley could help her find them—but only if she stops fighting who she is, beyond the color of her skin.

(m/f pairing, bisexual love interest)

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

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  1. By Any Means Necessary by Candace Montgomery

 

An honest reflection on cultural identity, class, and gentrification. Fans of Nic Stone and Elizabeth Acevedo will eagerly anticipate Torrey.

On the day Torrey officially becomes a college freshman, he gets a call that might force him to drop out before he’s even made it through orientation: the bee farm his beloved uncle Miles left him after his tragic death is being foreclosed on.

Torrey would love nothing more than to leave behind the family and neighborhood that’s bleeding him dry. But he still feels compelled to care for the project of his uncle’s heart. As the farm heads for auction, Torrey precariously balances choosing a major and texting Gabriel—the first boy he ever kissed—with the fight to stop his uncle’s legacy from being demolished. But as notice letters pile up and lawyers appear at his dorm, dividing himself between family and future becomes impossible unless he sacrifices a part of himself.

(m/m pairing, bi mc)

 

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

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  1. Real Life: A Novel by Brandon Taylor

 

Named one of the most anticipated books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, Harper’s Bazaar, BuzzFeed, and more.

A novel of startling intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, from an electric new voice.

Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends—some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate, conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community.

Real Life is a novel of profound and lacerating power, a story that asks if it’s ever really possible to overcome our private wounds, and at what cost

(queer mc, m/m pairing)

Goodreads | Bookshop.org

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  1. Odd One Out by Nic Stone

 

From the author of Dear Martin comes this exploration of old friendships, new crushes, and the path to self-discovery.

Courtney “Coop” Cooper

Dumped. Again. And normally I wouldn’t mind. But right now, my best friend and source of solace, Jupiter Sanchez, is ignoring me to text some girl.

Rae Evelyn Chin

I assumed “new girl” would be synonymous with “pariah,” but Jupiter and Courtney make me feel like I’m right where I belong. I also want to kiss him. And her. Which is . . . perplexing.

Jupiter Charity-Sanchez

The only thing worse than losing the girl you love to a boy is losing her to your boy. That means losing him, too. I have to make a move. . . .

One story.

Three sides.

No easy answers.

(bisexual mc, questioning rep)

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

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  1. Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon

 

Her sister’s bachelorette party is the highlight of a miserable year for Alexis Chambers, but once her bridesmaid’s dress is packed away, she’s back to coping with her life as a once popular athlete and violinist turned loner and the focus of her parents’ disappointment. She isn’t expecting much from her freshman year of college until she finds herself sharing a class with Treasure, the gorgeous stripper from her sister’s party.

Trisha Hamilton has finally gotten the credits and the money together to transfer to a four-year university. Between classes, studying, and her job as a stripper, she has little time for a social life, until she runs into the adorably shy baby butch from the club. Trisha can’t seem to hide her feelings for Alexis, even when Trisha discovers what she has been through, but will Alexis have the strength to be just as fearless about their new love?

(f/f pairing, lesbian mc)

Goodreads | StoryGraph 

 

Short Stories and Anthologies

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  1. Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson

A new collection of short stories from Hopkinson, including “Greedy Choke Puppy,” which Africana.com called “a cleverly crafted West Indian story featuring the appearance of both the soucouyant (vampire) & lagahoo (werewolf),” “Ganger (Ball Lightning),” praised by the Washington Post Book World as written in “prose [that] is vivid & immediate,” this collection reveals Hopkinson’s breadth & accomplishments as a storyteller

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

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  1. A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance and Hope

 

Sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic.

Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them.

Authors include Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Dhonielle Clayton, Jalissa Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Davis, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justina Ireland, Danny Lore, L.L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi.

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

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  1. Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America

 

Black Enough is a star-studded anthology edited by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi that will delve into the closeted thoughts, hidden experiences, and daily struggles of black teens across the country. From a spectrum of backgrounds—urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more—Black Enough showcases diversity within diversity.

Whether it’s New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds writing about #blackboyjoy or Newbery Honor-winning author Renee Watson talking about black girls at camp in Portland, or emerging author Jay Coles’s story about two cowboys kissing in the south—Black Enough is an essential collection full of captivating coming-of-age stories about what it’s like to be young and black in America. 

 

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

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  1. Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta

 

Here are Nigerian women at home and transplanted to the United States, building lives out of longing and hope, faith and doubt, the struggle to stay and the mandate to leave, the burden and strength of love. Here are characters faced with dangerous decisions, children slick with oil from the river, a woman in love with another despite the penalties. Here is a world marked by electricity outages, lush landscapes, folktales, buses that break down and never start up again. Here is a portrait of Nigerians that is surprising, shocking, heartrending, loving, and across social strata, dealing in every kind of change. Here are stories filled with language to make your eyes pause and your throat catch. Happiness, Like Water introduces a true talent, a young writer with a beautiful heart and a capacious imagination.

 

Goodreads | StoryGraph |Bookshop.org

 


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It’s Queer Here: Asexuality In Literature

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Hello and welcome to It’s Queer Here!

It’s Queer Here is a ten days long mini blog series which will hold from June 14 – June 25th (skipping Juneteenth) to commemorate Pride month. The purpose of this blog series is to centre more often forgotten queer voices, especially those which intersect with other marginalisations and affect their experience of queerness. It’s Queer Here can be seen as reminder, that although these identities less are presented, that they’re still here and they’re still queer.

Today on It’s Queer Here, two other asexual book bloggers, Natalia Martinez and Tee, and I talk in a bloggers chat about asexuality in literature. We talk about what is and what could be better.


Em/Zainab: Hello! I’m Em/Zainab, a nineteen year old aroace book blogger. I’m Black, Muslim, very Nigerian, living with chronic pain and a 4th year nursing student. I love books, which I guess is obvious since I’m running a blog about books, anime, chocolate, music and sunshine. A random fact about me? I hate the rain and my friends think I’m odd for that, lol and I have 10/11 names, which shocks a lot of non-Nigerians.

Natalia: Hi! I am Natalia I’m a 28 year old Queer Ace Latina Book content creator! I’m Puerto Rican and Dominican so it’s like my inner self’s are always at war but here we are:) I suffer from chronic migraines, which in a way has opened a whole new world of books for me which have always been my escape! I also run a blog and channel where I strive to uplift books from marginalized voices:) a random fact about me, I like to build replicas of places and architecture I have visited during my travels! I have a long name which is my ultimate pride, it kind of gives away where I’m from so no matter how many times people mess it up I’m keeping it lol.

Tee: Hi! I’m Tee, a South African reader and occasional blogger. I’m 22 and currently doing my undergrad in biology. Besides reading I really enjoy binging series with my sister, building puzzles and I’m also trying to get better at cross-stitch and embroidery.

In contrast I surprisingly have a very short name (just my first and last) which is actually unusual for most Black South Africans.

Em/Zainab: Natalia and Tee, its so nice to have this chat with you today. Thank you again for joining me. Since, Natalia suggested this topic, I’ve been thinking about how long it finally took me to start actively seeking out and reading books with asexual characters. The first book with an sexual character I read is That Kind of Guy by Talia Hibbert, which I read this year! Although, if I want to really thinking about it, I think I’d say The Black Veins by Ashia Monet, because although the character hasn’t thought much about this sexuality yet, the author has confirmed he’s ace-spec. So I guess first book with a character who has discovered their sexuality is That Kind Of Guy, and with a character that’s on his journey is The Black Veins.

Natalia: I read my first book with an Asexual Character during the summer of 2019, I remember seeing the author market it with bullet points which was becoming a trend at the time and she wrote:

Mistaken Identity

Demisexual MC and Bi-Sexual MC

Late Night texts etc ,

 It was a YA Book titled Technically You Started It (TYSI) for short, by Lana Wood Johnson! And I remember being so excited that I was finally going to be able to see myself in a book for the very first time:) The book is completely written in text message format so it allowed to delve deep into the characters and later allowed space for the discussion of identity between the characters. I will forever be thankful to the book that made me feel validated, and I’ve made an effort to search out others since then and That Kind of Guy by Talia Hibbert is on my list to read too! I’m glad you enjoyed it Em!

Tee: Thank you for inviting me to participate, it means a lot.

I’ve heard so much about The Black Veins and I had no idea it had aspec character 😭 the first book I read with aspec rep was Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman and it was completely by accident – I picked it up last year to see if I could read it for a bookclub I started with my coworkers and only knew it was about grief and healing. The main character is aroace, and though the words themselves aren’t used, the way it was explained and experienced basically punched me in the gut because I was like oh wait same I didn’t really expect to see parts of me in this but it’s great! Oh and before that there was a side-side character in What About Us by Becky Albertali and Adam Silvera who mentions she’s demisexual but that was before I realised I was ace and it was just the one line and she didn’t have much else page time so I don’t have any feelings towards that experience 

I’d previously bought Tash Hearts Tolstoy on sale and I knew that was like the one YA book that was explicitly about being ace but I only started it last month and so far I’ve felt so seen and definitely wish I’d known about it when I was younger

(I’m also casually jotting down the names of the books you both mentioned because there’s no such thing as too much rep)

Em/Zainab: Technically, You Started It and Summer Bird Blue are both on my tbr list. Yes, I’m that aroace clown who hasn’t read Summer Bird Blue yet *insert clown emoji here*. I’ve talked about one thing that came to mind immediately this topic was sugested, another thing that did was the state of representation of asexuality in literature, in terms of quantity. I feel like the state of representation is poor. I’m not going to blame authors for this, but the responsibility should be on publishers. Over the past few years, we’ve had a rise in number of LGBTQ+ books being published, by aspec books that have been published in relation to rest, is really small. Whenever I want to make a list of books with asexual characters finding recommendations is harder than finding for bi or gay characters, and I think that publishers should do better.

Natalia: Yeah this is something I am constantly in talks about with other people in the book community as well. If it wasn’t because of authors these days using that bullet point format to share main points in their stories asexual characters would be so hard to find. Which is why it bothers me that some people in the community get angry when books are marketed as LGBTQIA+, by saying that a book shouldnt sell just because it falls in this category. However I digress from that thought because there aren’t enough queer books out there, if you write a queer book I want to know about it, what identities does it have? Because I want to see me in books, so please scream to the sky that your book has Ace rep, or any kind of rep for others in the community cause we need it. I think asexuality as an identity is something that sadly many people don’t see as valid and I think that reflects in reading lists. I’m so glad that the upcoming generation of authors are people who had these talks at younger ages, and so now books in YA are starting to reflect other identities like asexuality and it makes me so happy, if we could only get some Ace rep into adult books too, I would be forever grateful but in the meantime Ace rep in YA has my heart!

Tee: I do think summer bird blue is one of those books you won’t know is aspec rep until you read it or someone yells it at you so you’re no clown 😅 it is also a heavy read because it’s mostly about grief and it doesn’t shy away from that, so take your time getting round to it if you need to.

I definitely agree on that front, even though I haven’t read a lot of books with aspec rep I do keep tabs on which ones I know are out there – and a lot of the time that comes from OwnVoice authors being like ‘hey I needed me in a book so here it is for all my aspec babies’. A lot of times the fact that characters are aspec isn’t announced like when characters are gay/lesbian/bi etc so it’s easy for those books to not be known as rep and we could be missing out on a lot of them. And even if that weren’t the case the numbers are still incredibly low.. I think it’s easy to get away with, especially in YA, because of the assumptions that being asexual is only about sex and not sexual attraction… So in YA books where usually sex isn’t even mentioned it could be easier to erase our identities. I think a lot of characters can be coded but that might not be the authors intentions and it’s always important to have the words explicitly on the page.

Em/Zainab: Honestly, you both have said all the things that are on my mind. From books being deemed ‘not queer enough’ for one reason or the other (and quite a number of books with asexual characters have been characterised as such) to invalidation of asexuality in adult books, particularly romances. You basically took the words out of my mouth.

It’d be quite impossible for us to talk about asexuality in lit, without talking about the quality of asexual books.

While most of OwnVoices asexual books are really good and representative of part of the asexual experience, let’s talk about how a lot of non OV books literally fail and have like yeah zero quality. I won’t lie, I really wanted to talk about this because when I see asexuality done badly in books, it annoys and hurts me because we have so little books about us out there and to see someone mess it up because they didn’t do their research well hurts. Earlier this year, I read a book  where the author had an asexual character say “I’m an ace” and I can’t think of many other things in books that rubbed me off so wrong, and then the author went on to conflate asexuality with romantic attraction. The whole experience was so invalidating and there are other books like this. This isn’t to say that all books by non OV authors are bad or low quality, Claire Kann writes asexuality really nicely in her book Let’s Talk About Love, and to the best of my knowledge, she hasn’t confirmed whether its OV or not. Talia Hibbert also isn’t demi, but her book has one of the best rep I’ve read.

In essence what I’m saying is that, non OV authors should do their research well before putting out books that misrepresent us.

Natalia: I truly agree with this, thankfully I haven’t had to experience bad Ace rep in a book before, I’m grateful that the ones I have read so far have been OV , but even when I experience bad Ace rep in other media it hurts too. Asexuality is such a complex spectrum and a very fluid one and while great research could make for good rep like Em mentioned, I normally gravitate towards OV Ace books because I find it so hard to explain it myself, I can’t imagine an author who doesn’t live it being able to speak to me the way OV do. However I do respect an author who can do that, so now I’m even more excited to read Talia Hibberts book! Even in my life some people dont take my asexuality seriously, and I feel like as part of the LGBTQIA+ umbrella a lot of queer books dont take it seriously either, it just comes down to Ace people being cold, or unlovable, or sex repulsed and like that’s not it at all.

Tee: Like I said earlier I haven’t read a lot of books with ace rep, so I can’t really comment on harmful rep that I’ve personally experienced luckily but that doesn’t make it any less unacceptable.

There’s so much misunderstanding around what it means to be ace or on the spectrum because so much of what we’re taught of sexual and romantic attraction and sex is all conflated. It took me a really long time to fully understand what the words meant and how they applied to me and I worked through it and gained the knowledge because I was trying to understand myself. If you aren’t doing it for that reason it’s easy to see the definitions of what it means to be ace and then automatically apply your knowledge of what the words mean without taking time to realise how it might not all be the same. Taking it at surface level is enough if you think it’s just a small trait to give to a character and not as important as getting other rep right.

I think non-OV authors can definitely get the nuance right if they take the time to understand what they’re writing about, and to listen – it’s all about how much you care for the community you’re trying to rep, really. But that’s not to say all mistakes or mishandling of rep comes from a lack of care. But it’s still hurtful at the end of the day

Most of the ace books I know about are own voices but I also don’t know if summer bird blue is ownvoice for the aro/ace rep and I thought that was handled with care and respect.

We all read to find solace and peace and no one should have to experience invalidation and hurt from that. I’m sorry you had to Zainab

Em/Zainab: Thank you so much, Tee. And I agree with what you both said. Going of tangent here, but Natalia you have read Talia Hibbert books. They’re so good and mostly queer. 

Back to the topic at hand, this prompt is basically like the previous one and about how properly asexuals are represented in books.

I’m going to reiterate and say OV books are good. I feel they represent asexuals well. Non OV books is a shaky ground because some do and some don’t. And now, in books where asexuality isn’t the main topic or isn’t even a theme, both queer and non queer, but especially queer because it hurts more from them. Like you said Natalia, in some books you have things like ace people are cold, abnormal, unlovable and something is wrong with us. It particularly hurts more from other queer people and books because they’re so rigid in the belief that lack of sexual attraction is abnormal, and from this community that should be ours, in these books that should also do right by us its very hurtful. So I guess in other queer books, asexuals are poorly represented.

Natalia: Going off of your thoughts Em , you are correct, it almost hurts a bit more when the author  is from within the LGBTQIA+ community because you would think that they would like their identity to be represented with care as well and they would share that respect onto others which sadly is not always the case. It’s interesting to see that sometimes Ace coded characters, or other authors write characters that read so Ace that I can’t help but see myself in them, and I give them a pat on the back as well in the community and out that they make an effort to write characters that are more than just one dimensional and varied in the way they portray their emotions and relationships.

Tee: I agree with both of you. I always feel like if you’re not going to bother to make the rep good and handle it with respect then we as a community are better off without your rep at all, especially if you identify as queer because it feels like an even bigger insult.

I’d like to think that it’ll get better soon, especially with the outpouring of love and respect I saw on the TL the other day when a lot of people were posting their aspec flags – these are the people who are going to demand nuanced and respectful (and explicit!) rep

I do think relaying sexual attraction in words is more difficult than romantic attraction so reading a lot of SFF YA growing up where ‘the love story wasn’t always the main plot, it was easy to not feel alienated from those characters, and it was easier to find characters who could be coded as aspec.

Em/Zainab: Whew, the disappointment we experience.

Moving on to more pleasant things, I just want to declare my love for Ashia Monet and Talia Hibbert again because their asexual characters make me so happy. Zach from That Kind Of Guy and Antonio from The Black Veins are my favourite asexual characters. Zach, because I understood everything he felt and he made me feel so seen and Ant because he’s a sweet, smol ball of sunshine. A character I’m anticipating to love is Ellie from Alechia Dow’s The Sound of Stars, because she’s a Black demisexual girl and I really can’t wait to read about her in that book.

Natalia: Ahhh you are going to Love Ellie!! And in case you werent aware the “Alien” is also Demi and it’s two different experiences of it which is just beautiful to watch! I cant wait to hear what you think.

If you cant tell my Ultimate Demisexual book is The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow and I wont stop screaming about it lol because like …. well you will see lol 

I cried and read for 8 hours straight , and the audiobook was magic so that should tell you everything you need to know.

Sadly like Tee I haven’t read many Demisexual on the page books only 2 so far, which makes me sad… because I need more out there.

But I do want to talk about two books that made me feel seen and had different aspects of asexuality coded into them, such as emotional intimacy in relationships that were not grounded in the sexual aspect . 

Something To Talk About by Meryl Wilsner, really pulls a punch with the emotional intimacy, discussions on ageism, and basically rediscovering or completely accepting your queerness later in life, which I know for me I only started really accepting this part of myself two years ago, so this book it really saw me.

The second one is This is How You Lose The Time War by Max Gladstone & Amar El Mohtar, this book is written completely in letter format and it’s literally an enemies to lovers that explores intimacy in so many different ways, emotions, binaries, in the most beautiful way.

I’ve been telling my friends that if you want to know the hopes for love I have as an asexual person, how I see my relationships as ace, and what I mean by emotional intimacy and getting to know me all they have to do is read the three books I have listed💕 my dream is however that one day when someone asks me to list three Ace books I love, I can list 3 books that actually mention Ace rep on the page.

Tee: I’m really excited to get around to those books now because of how highly you speak of them

I’m dying to read The Sound of Stars – the SFF premise alone is right up my alley and to know it has a Black demisexual main character has me feeling all kinds of soft

Another one I’m really anticipating is Tarnished are the Stars by Rosiee Thor. She’s an OV author and she is constantly speaking up about being ace on twitter and calling for better rep and speaking out against aphobia and again it’s SFF so it’s one more book about Aces and Space and I’m excited to support both those authors works

I also really appreciate Tash Hearts Tolstoy for the way it actively explains the MC’s identity as she comes out to her friends – I think it’s a good book especially for new baby aces who are still trying to figure it out

I definitely feel like I need to be more active in picking up ace books – I don’t read a lot compared to most people on book Twitter and I’ve mostly been trying to prioritise supporting womxn authors, especially Black womxn and womxn of colour but luckily a lot of these books also fit into that category so it just makes it better but I can definitely try harder for aspec book and supporting those authors.

Em/Zainab: Natalia, I was already excited for The Sound of Stars and you’re tell me the “Alien” is also demi!! And I had no idea those other two books were ace coded, they were on my tbr before but they just moved higher. Tarnished Are The Stars is also on my tbr and I have no idea why I haven’t read it yet. Like both of you, I also haven’t read many books with asexual characters sadly, but I aiming to change that from now on.

While its been great that we’re having more books with asexual characters and ace coded ones too, I really can’t say what I see in the future for asexuality in literature. The numbers in comparison to books other queer identities is still really low and I hope they get better. Overall, I’m hopeful than anything.

Natalia: I think I agree with that, I just hope the Ace rep increases, but I hope it increases on all ends, give me coming out stories, give me queer platonic romances, give me friendships that are full of love that just stay at friendships, give Ace people in a relationship with a non-ace person where they are  navigating honest and healthy discussions about how their relationship will be moving forward and growing together and respecting each others boundaries. Like Tee said it was so beautiful to see all the Aspec people in the community loving on each other and how many there are of us, all of us have different experiences and are at different parts of our journey, I want to see all of them, and for the love of everything please give me an adult book with OV rep in it lol!!

Tee: YES to the diversity of stories we get Natalia, we deserve it! 

I’m mostly hopeful – I’ve seen a handful of new authors state they have aspec characters, and while I’m looking forward to the day when having the words on the page is as common for other queer rep, I am still excited for whats to come.

I know these authors I’ve noticed are mostly SFF authors and those books don’t usually use queer labels explicitly because different made up worlds with different language so I think for a while we will mostly get coded language or explanations of identity rather than labels

I think the more people we get into championing loud ace rep the more chances authors will get to write it and have their stories out there. Hopefully I can start championing for these books once I read more of them.

If I could mention – The Obsidian Tower by Melisa Caruso is an adult fantasy book that came out nearly two weeks ago with an aspec character and I don’t know if a label is used but I read a review today (well technically yesterday) and it’s definitely more than just coded rep

Em/Zainab: I seems we have a consensus on hopeful and I agree about seeing everyone come out this year and the diversity, we’ll hopefully get. I can’t wait for that time to come.

Well we’re at the end of our chat now, so let’s make wishes. Wishes about what we wish to see more in books about sexuality.

I just want to see more asexuals in general. I want to see Black asexuals and other asexuals who are POC too. I want to see Muslim asexuals, I’ve never read one, but this rep is so important to me because the complexity of being Muslim and ace. I want to see disabled asexuals, oriented asexuals, more aroace characters. I want to see happy asexuals, thriving asexuals, asexuals in healthy relationships, asexuals coming out and basically everything Natalia said and more. I just want all that purple, grey and black.

Natalia: Haha I second this statement wholeheartedly I would also love to see a Latinx Asexual because dreams can come true right? So many things that intersect there that I want to see explored I’m lucky to say that I might have laid my eyes on one, and I very much hope we see it published in the next couple of years! I’m just also here for all of the purple, grey and black as well!! And please give me a questioning queer whose sure their demisexual but arent sure what genders they are attracted to, because I need it!

Tee: 😭😭 how could I follow up with anything after that!

You both have said it so well! I want all of the stories, I want ace characters to be plentiful and commonplace, going on wild adventures and exploring love in their spaces and taking on their own rules of what that means. I want characters who are sure in their identities and characters who are figuring it out

Mostly I want aspec characters to be respected and not invalidated by other characters

We are whole and contain multitudes and I want that plastered across pages for the rest of eternity 

Yes to all the purple grey and black.

Em/Zainab: We’ve finally come to end of this chat session. Thank you both so much for chatting with me today. I had fun and it was nice to see that other people agreed with me and also nice to talk to 2 more asexual bloggers.

Thank you again, Tee and Natalia and Happy Pride! 💜🖤

Natalia: Thank you for inviting me to be part of this interview, it was honestly so nice to speak about being Ace in a space that I knew I would be understood and seen. I hope we get those Acespec book dreams fulfilled soon, thankfully these days I have been seeing WIPs with #asexualrep in them so I am optimistic!

Tee: Thank you again for inviting me to this chat, it really was so lovely 🖤 very happy to have spoken to both of you, and to have expanded my TBR 😉

Happy Pride, friends, I hope all our dreams for ace rep in books are met with a quickness 💜


 

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(sorry the alignment and spacing is messed up!)


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