Tag: books

September LGBTQ Book Haul

I recently spent an afternoon in the amazing Gay’s The Word and came home with a fantastic selection of 8 books to recommend you all. There were a few I went in deliberately to buy, but most gathered from browsing. I think I walked backwards and forwards around the shop a hundred times trying to decide what to leave behind, it was such a hard decision. Eventually we came home with a shoulder-aching haul that are my picks for September:

 

 

Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England by Neil McKenna
Non-Fiction/Biography

28th April 1870. The flamboyantly dressed Miss Fanny Park and Miss Stella Boulton are causing a stir in the Strand Theatre. All eyes are riveted upon their lascivious oglings of the gentlemen in the stalls. Moments later they are led away by the police. 
What followed was a scandal that shocked and titillated Victorian England in equal measure. It turned out that the alluring Miss Fanny Park and Miss Stella Boulton were no ordinary young women. Far from it. In fact, they were young men who liked to dress as women. 
When the Metropolitan Police launched a secret campaign to bring about their downfall, they were arrested and subjected to a sensational show trial in Westminster Hall. As the trial of ‘the Young Men in Women’s Clothes’ unfolded, Fanny and Stella’s extraordinary lives as wives and daughters, actresses and whores were revealed to an incredulous public. 
With a cast of peers, politicians and prostitutes, drag queens, doctors and detectives, “Fanny and Stella” is a Victorian peepshow, exposing the startling underbelly of nineteenth-century London. By turns tragic and comic, meticulously researched and dazzlingly written, “Fanny and Stella” is an enthralling tour-de-force.

 

Hild by Nicola Griffith
Historical Fiction

Britain in the seventh century – and the world is changing. Small kingdoms are merging, frequently and violently. Edwin, King of Northumbria, plots his rise to overking of all the Angles. Ruthless and unforgiving, he is prepared to use every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief. Into this brutal, vibrant court steps Hild – Edwin’s youngest niece.

With her glittering mind and powerful curiosity, Hild has a unique way of reading the world. By studying nature, observing human behavior and matching cause with effect, she has developed the ability to make startlingly accurate predictions. It is a gift that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her.

It is also a valuable weapon. Hild is indispensable to Edwin – unless she should ever lead him astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, for her family, for her loved ones, and for the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can see the future and lead men like a warrior.

 

The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai
Fiction

In Sri Lankan myth, a person who dies may be reborn a “hungry ghost”–a ghost with a large stomach that can never be filled through its tiny mouth–if he has desired too much during his life. It is the duty of the living to free the dead who are doomed to this fate by transferring karma from their own good deeds. In Shyam Selvadurai’s masterful new novel, Shivan, a troubled young man of mixed Tamil and Sinhalese ancestry, is preparing to travel from Toronto, Canada, to the land of his childhood, Sri Lanka, to rescue his ailing grandmother and bring her back to die. But on the eve of his departure–as Shivan meditates on his turbulent past, recalls his gradual discovery of his homosexuality, and wrestles with his complicated relationship with the wily old woman–he discovers just how much his own heart’s desires are entwined with the volatile political, racial, and sexual mix of Sri Lanka’s past and present. In the end, Shivan must decide: will he rescue his grandmother, or join her?  The Hungry Ghosts is an unconventional exploration of the immigrant experience; a tale of family ties and the long reach of the past; and a heart-wrenching look at how racial, political, and sexual differences can tear apart a country, a family, and a human being.

 

Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin
YA Historical Fiction

In the summer of 1926, sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson is sent to a lake resort to escape the polio epidemic in the city. She dreams of indulging her passion for ornithology and visiting the famous new amusement park–a summer of fun before she returns for her final year of high school, after which she’s expected to marry a nice boy and settle into middle-class homemaking. But in the country, Garnet finds herself under the supervision of equally oppressive guardians–her father’s wealthy cousin and the matron’s stuck-up daughter. Only a liberating job in a hat shop, an intense, secret relationship with a daring and beautiful flapper, and a deep faith in her own fierce heart can save her from the suffocating boredom of traditional femininity.

 

 

The Charioteer by Mary Renault
Fiction

Injured at Dunkirk, Laurie Odell, a young corporal, is recovering at a rural veterans’ hospital. There he meets Andrew, a conscientious objector serving as an orderly. The men find solace in each other’s friendship, which slowly develops into a covert, chaste romance. Then Ralph Lanyon appears, a mentor from Laurie’s school days, and now a naval officer. Through him, Laurie is drawn into a tight-knit circle of gay men with few illusions about life, and for whom liaisons are fleeting. He is forced to choose between the ideals of a perfect friendship and the pleasures of experience. 

First published in 1953, The Charioteer is a a tender, intelligent coming-of-age novel and a bold, unapologetic portrayal of homosexuality

 

Fighting Proud: The Untold Story of the Gay Men Who Served in Two World Wars by Stephen Bourne
Non-Fiction/History

Unearthing the stories of the gay men who served in the armed forces and at home, and bringing to light the great unheralded contribution they made to the war effort. Fighting Proud weaves together the remarkable lives of these men, from RAF hero Ian Gleed – a Flying Ace twice honoured for bravery by King George VI – to the infantry officers serving in the trenches on the Western Front in WWI – many of whom led the charges into machine-gun fire only to find themselves court-marshalled after the war for indecent behaviour. Behind the lines, Alan Turing’s work on breaking the -enigma machine- and subsequent persecution contrasts with the many stories of love and courage in Blitzed-out London, with new wartime diaries and letters unearthed for the first time. Bourne tells the bitterly sad story of Ivor Novello, who wrote the WWI anthem -Keep the Home Fires Burning, – and the crucial work of Noel Coward – who was hated by Hitler for his work entertaining the troops. Fighting Proud also includes a wealth of long-suppressed wartime photography.

 

Moonstruck, Volume One: Magic to Brew by Grace Ellis & Shae Beagle
Fantasy/Graphic Novel

Werewolf barista Julie and her new girlfriend go on a date to a close-up magic show, but all heck breaks loose when the magician casts a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late.

 

 

 

 

The Flower Beneath The Foot by Ronald Firbank
Fiction/Satire

At the fantastical court of King Willie and Her Dreaminess the Queen of Pisuerga, maid of honour Laura de Nazianzi and His Weariness Prince Yousef whisper promises to each other in the palace gardens. But Laura is destined for disappointment. The King and Queen have plans for a royal wedding for their Prince, and the young woman in their sights is none other than Princess Elsie of England. The court is all aflutter.

First published in 1923, Ronald Firbank’s The Flower Beneath the Foot is a flamboyant court satire and lyrical tour de force of innuendo and eccentricity. Read by many as a subversive celebration of homosexuality, this is a classic of modernist literature from a stylist like no other.

 

All these books are available from Gay’s The Word. I’m starting with some novel research and reading Fighting Proud – if you’ve read any of these let me know what you thought.

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Summer LGBTQ+ Book Round-up

I managed to write a post of what I read in July…and then forgot to make it live! So here’s a bumper issue of LGBTQ+ books you can get stuck into as we enter autumn and all stop melting into a sweaty puddle! If you want to receive these updates straight to your inbox, just subscribe here.

 

The Madonna of Bolton by Matt Cain
Fiction/Contemporary

I finally got hold of the much anticipated THE MADONNA OF BOLTON, a crowdfunded novel from Unbound that became the fastest funded in their history. It tells the story of Charlie, whose life changes when he gets his first Madonna record on his 9th birthday. The novel follows Charlie’s life from childhood in the 1980s to the present day, with Madonna’s music the ever present back-drop guiding him through life’s difficult moments. A poignant, funny, and ultimately heart-warming of a boy growing up gay in Britain from the 1970s to now. 

 

 

I also read: I Am Nobody’s N***** by Dean Atta, a collection of poems that I can’t stop thinking about weeks after reading. My Heart Goes Bang by Keris Stainton, yet another brilliant novel from the ever marvellous Keris, funny, uplifting, full of hope and sex – I adored this book a lot. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera – I don’t know why I continue ready Adam’s books when all I do is end up an emotional wreck – this book destroyed me in it’s subject matter and how brilliantly Adam dealt with memory, grief, and coming to terms with your sexuality.

 

Catch-Up Read

So, what great reads might you have missed that weren’t released this summer? Check out these recommendations below for suggestions you can still get hold of in your book store or library.

 

Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron
YA/Contemporary

Set in Edinburgh during the festival, OUT OF THE BLUE tells the story of Jaya, whose father has, since the death of her mother, become obsessed with angels. His obsession started when angels started falling from the sky. But when an angel falls right in front of Jaya, she must decide how she’s going to keep this secret and protect the angel from the people who would harm the being. This was a completely unexpected story that took me to places I wasn’t prepared for. It is a beautiful story that explores grief and how it’s possible to move on and still find happiness.

 

 

Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton
YA Contemporary

Everyone kept telling me to read this book, and they weren’t wrong. STARRING KITTY is the story of 14-year-old Kitty who falls in love with Dylan, a 15-year old girl who lives next door to her gran. Kitty is not coping well with her mum’s illness, and hasn’t yet told her friends that she likes girls. This absolutely adorably cute novel is just perfect, it explores first love and friendship, taking us on a journey as Kitty struggles to bring together all the parts of her life, let Dylan into her world, and open up to her friends about her relationship. 

 

The Backstagers Volume 1 cover

The Backstagers by James Tynion IV & Rian Sygh
Graphic Novel

I’m looking forward to getting started on volume 2 of this adorable, funny, beautifully illustrated graphic novel.

When Jory transfers to an all-boys private high school, he’s taken in by the only ones who don’t treat him like a new kid, the lowly stage crew known as the Backstagers. Not only does he gain great, lifetime friends, Jory is also introduced to an entire magical world that lives beyond the curtain. With the unpredictable twists and turns of the underground world, the Backstagers venture into the unknown, determined to put together the best play their high school has ever seen. 

 

Buy or Borrow now

I’ve bought some books recently that have been added to the top of my to-read pile, and I’m really looking forward to getting around to reading them:

Mussolini’s Island by Sarah Day
Fiction/Historical

Recently nominated for the Polari Prize, this novel is based on the true story of the arrest and interment of gay men in Sicily 1939. 

Francesco has a memory of his father from early childhood, a night when life for his family changed. From that night, he has vowed to protect his mother and to follow the words of his father: Non mollare. Never give up. As Francesco is herded into a camp on the island of San Domino, he realises that someone must have handed a list of names to the fascist police. Locked in spartan dormitories, resentment and bitterness between the men grows each day.

 


Wonders of the Invisible World by Christopher Barzak
YA, Contemporary, Magical Realism

A story about coming of age in rural America, family, love, mystery, and magic. I can’t wait to read this very soon.

Seventeen-year-old Aidan Lockwood lives in the sleepy farming community of Temperance, Ohio?known for its cattle ranches and not much else. That is, until Jarrod, a friend he hasn’t seen in five years, moves back to town and opens Aidan’s eyes in startling ways: to Aidan’s ability to see the spirit world; to the red-bearded specter of Death; to a family curse that has claimed the lives of the Lockwood men one by one . . . and to the new feelings he has developed for Jarrod. 

 

Coming Soon

I’m taking a trip to Gay’s The Word next week to purchase more great LGBTQ+ books, so if you have any recommendations let me know. Below are the books I’m looking forward to getting hold of in the next month of so:

Darius The Great Is Not Okay cover

Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram is out very soon, and I’ve been looking forward to this for a while. Being described as hilarious and heartbreaking means it’s obviously right up my street!

 

 

 

Proud anthology

Okay, so it’s not out until next year, but get Proud added to your to-read pile (and your Goodreads, and your pre-orders) now. This illustrated anthology from Stripes will be hitting shelves in March, and I know I’m not the only one excited to read all the stories.

 

 

 

And even more to add to your pre-orders: A funny contemporary YA – Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) by L. C. Rosen; For all your rom-com needs theres, This Is Kind Of An Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender.

Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green

33961524With his debut novel Simon James Green has written one of the funniest books I have ever read. I wouldn’t recommend reading whilst eating (I nearly choked) or whilst drinking (I nearly spat my tea all over the pages and ruined them) or whilst…sitting (I nearly fell off my chair laughing). I may be being too cautious, but the danger is real!

Noah Grimes is painfully awkward, socially uncomfortable, and has an amazing knack for getting himself (or talking himself) into the most ridiculous situations.

Noah’s life is already difficult enough, trying to stop everyone finding out his mum does a Beyonce tribute act, and trying to get Sophie to like him, but his world is turned upside down when his best friend Harry kisses him at a party. What follows is a turbulent journey through Noah’s path of self-discovery.

Noah is an incredibly likable character and is written with a distinctive voice unlike anything I’ve read recently. Funny, charming, emotional, and an outstanding exploration of a young man trying to understand his sexuality whilst also trying to just be as normal as everyone else. I love this book so much, and I really hope we get to read more of Noah’s adventures in future.

Publisher:  Scholastic
Genres: LGBTQ+, Contemporary, Young Adult
Published:  May 4th 2017
I bought my copy of Noah Can’t Even from Wordery

How to talk about a plague

It was 1987 and my mum told me a story about her day at work. She’s a nurse and that day she was working in A&E, attending to patients waiting to go up to a ward. She tells me how she started her shift being told by another nurse “that patient has been asking for water, I’m not taking it to him, you do it.” Baffled, she asked why that nurse, and others, were refusing to take water to a patient. “He’s got AIDS”, my mum was told, as if this was answer enough for why a nurse would refuse to go near a patient. Mum thought, ‘well, I have no idea what that is, but I’m a nurse, so I’m going to help a patient’. She spent all night trying to get hold of the patients partner, a married man who was unaware his partner was possibly hours away from death.

I was 7 years old when my mum told me this story. It’s hard to imagine, for anyone who was born after the first cases of HIV were diagnosed, what it was like at the start. The lack of information on what this new disease was, the lies and rumours about how it was spread (even after it was known how, the denials that it was anything other than a gay disease).

There are some great novels and works of non-fiction that can educate and enrich your understanding of what life was like when this disease began to destroy lives, so I’m going to recommend a few you may want to start with.

If you want to learn more about just how horrific a time it was for those infected and their family and friends, you should start with How to Survive a Plague by David France. This book (and there is a documentary of the same name available) tells the story of a group of activists whose tireless campaigning changed forever the availability of drugs to combat HIV.

 

 

Paul Monette’s memoir Borrowed Time (which I reviewed a few years ago) is a devastating first-hand account of AIDS. Published in 1998 it is an intimate account of love and loss which has haunted me since the day I first read it.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt in a novel which brings HIV into the lives of young people through the eyes of a 14 year old who loses her beloved uncle to the disease. She has to confront prejudice and secrets caused by both HIV and homophobia within her family and her community.

The Story of the Night by Colm Tóibín is a novel which doesn’t focus on AIDS as a central theme, but where the disease seeps its way into every aspect of the character’s life. Set in Argentina in the 1980s it tells the story of Richard, his family struggles, and relationship difficulties, set against a backdrop of political turmoil.

I’ve recommended the books above because these are the ones that I’ve read, but there are many more that explore the early days of AIDS and its effect on individuals, communities, and the world. Let me know your recommendations of any you’ve read. I really want to read some contemporary novels that deal with HIV so any recommendations are welcome.

Where to start with…Jeanette Winterson

I first became familiar with Jeanette Winterson due to the dramatisation of her first novel, Orange Are Not The Only Fruit, which aired on the BBC in 1990. This semi-autobiographical novel tells the story of a lesbian growing up in a religious community in England and explores family relationships, sexuality, and religion.

I finally read the book as part of my A’Level English course and loved Winterson’s storytelling so much I tried to read everything she’d written. This was easy given, at that point, she’d only published six novels. Since I first started reading her work, she has published (if I’ve counted correctly) 16 novels, many collections of short stories, screenplays, and a memoir.

If you haven’t read Oranges I’d recommend you start with that, but following on one of my early favourites is Written on the Body.

Written on the Body is a very difficult novel to define. An intimate portrayal of lust and love, the gender of the main character remains undefined throughout, forcing you to read the book not as a response of one gender to another, but as desire for a physical body.

 

 

For a completely different story, try Tanglewreck – a children’s fantasy time-travelling tale. A sci-fi Dickensian exploration of quantum physics that is full of adventure and humour.

Winterson has also contributed to the Hogarth Shakespeare series of re-tellings which have been released since 2015. I’ve not found the time to read The Gap of Time, her re-telling of The Winter’s Tale, but the story sounds fascinating so I’d recommend giving that a try.

 

 

 

 

You Know Me Well by David Levithan & Nina LaCour

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other — and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating view points, You Know Me Well, follows the story of Kate and Mark who become best friends after one moment of bonding in a gay bar. I was skeptical at first that they could become such good friends so quickly, but I remembered the intensity of feeling when I was the same age as the characters, and it made more sense. Here are two people desperately searching for an identity and trying to find their place in the world, which is why they get so quickly attached to someone else who sees able to help them on this journey.

While the characters attempt to navigate the tricky world of relationships, it is their friendships that sit centre stage. This novel explores a number of themes that are rarely touched upon in YA fiction. As well as exploring friendship it, more importantly, shows LGBTQ+ young people comfortable with their sexuality and receiving support from the people around them. We need more novels that explore LGBTQ+ friendships and that explore the importance of having friends (more important than relationships)

This book left me with such a good feeling almost entirely because of the background setting of Pride. I felt so uplifted by the portrayal of celebratory times and optimism. While I preferred Mark’s story, and found it difficult at times to connect with Kate, both parts of the book are written wonderfully and are so engaging I read this in one sitting.

Buy the Book

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

It’s very rare, unheard of in fact, for me to read a book in one sitting but (and I’m aware it’s cliched, sorry) I actually didn’t want to put this book down. Simon is such an interesting and engaging person, I loved being inside his head and feeling everything he did.

The story starts with the first anguish that someone has discovered his secret about his sexuality and the emails he sends to an anonymous student at their school, and takes us on a quick journey through his developing feelings for ‘Blue’ and his relationships with his friends.

I’d been told that this was ‘just a coming out story’ and the person who told me that sold it short by a long shot. This story is so much more, and Simon’s almost forced coming out is a sideline to the deeper look into friendships, how we know ourselves (can we ever), how well we know the people around us, the surprises and secrets that everyone hides.

I loved how deeply we got into Simon’s head, into his private life, and how he displayed his mortification when he realises the assumptions and prejudices he’s been exhibiting.

This is such a brilliantly written and emotional story. I smiled so much, I laughed, I almost cried, and now I’m done I want to read it all over again.

Buy the Book!