Summer Books Round-Up, Part 2

by Jim Piechota

Bay Area Reporter

Tuesday June 14, 2022

Summer Books Round-Up, Part 2

In our continuing Summer Books series, here are even more queer books coming to both physical and digital bookstores this summer. We list some exciting suspense novels, several books for younger readers, a graphic pictorial story for all ages printed in vibrant pink, and a few select nonfiction and memoir titles to broaden perspectives on the impact of being Queer in the world today. Happy Pride Reading!

Fiction

"God's Children Are Little Broken Things," by Arinze Ifeakandu, $16.95 (A Public Space)

Dazzling debut story collections like this one are a rare occasion and should be applauded. Within each of these nine stories, Ifeakandu deeply and evocatively probes the clandestine, perilous same-sex relationship dynamics and the true nature of being queer in Nigeria.

Among them, readers will find a gay male couple whose partnership is put to the test when one, an aspiring singer, gets his big break into stardom; a "roommate" situation that is much more than it seems, especially when one leaves; and a struggling business owner who begins a sexual affair with a wealthy man as familial suspicions mount and certain disaster awaits. Pain, desire, and secret love intermingle, and the explosive result slams down like an emotional sledgehammer. This is an unforgettable, impeccable glimpse into how queerness is navigated in West Africa.

apublicspace.org

"Rainbow Rainbow," by Lydia Conklin, $26 (Catapult)

Award-winning author Conklin's character driven collection of ten stories revolve around the desire for connection and how that yearning can be hilarious, heartbreaking, and devastating, sometimes all at once. The opener, "Laramie Time," follows a lesbian couple who begin planning to expand their family with a child, but trust and manipulation issues hijack the entire process.

The female sex addict headlining the story "A Fearless Moral Inventory" has been sexually sober for a month, but all that changes once a street fair entices her and a whirlwind of possibilities follows suit. Rainbows are plentiful throughout the collection, and that just adds to the allure of Conklin's majestic command of language and literary form.

Compassionate and truly human, each tale intertwines the nature of queerness and pansexuality with the terrors of anxiety, disappointment, and longing. While these characters all seek the tenderness, emotional validity, and catharsis of true acceptance, their methods of self-preservation trump everything else. Conklin's immense storytelling acumen is on incredible display here within every tale and on every page. Don't miss this one.

books.catapult.co

"Gods of Want," by K-Ming Chang, $27 (One World)

On the heels of her 2020 debut novel, "Bestiary," comes Chang's distinguished volume of 16 short stories balanced precariously between old world and new world themes and how they intersect and influence each other.

The stories, separated into three sections, "Mothers," "Myths," and "Moths," read in a progressive, interwoven format, and feature a chorus of mischievous dead-cousin poltergeists out to disrupt the marital bliss of an unnamed narrator; a grief-stricken woman obsessed with the accumulated belongings of her hoarder grandmother; and a verbally abused woman at the mercy of the aunt who raised her.

As a queer woman of color, Chang, a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and National Book Foundation 5 under 35 honoree, injects her stories with passion, bloody reality, and the linguistic poetry shared by a Taiwanese immigrant community living and loving in America.

www.oneworldlit.com

Young Adult Science Fiction

"Hell Followed with Us," by Andrew Joseph White, $18.99 (Peachtree Teen)
When an ecofascist cult called the Angels wipes out millions on Earth with a weaponized virus, it's up to teenaged trans boy Benji Woodside to save the world in this dystopian thriller.

Though Benji is captured by the Angels and is turned into a living bioweapon, he is rescued by queer rebel Nick and his gang, and together they form a formidable queer consortium ready to take on anything.

This apocalyptic fantasy impressively encompasses themes of gender, queer struggle, equality, and survival amidst a crumbling environment of warring factions, destruction, and totalitarianism. An auspicious debut for an intriguing queer trans YA writer to watch.
www.peachtreebooks.com

Science Fiction

"The Lever," by Mark Salzwedel, $19.95, (Queer Space)
Manhattan author and ad copywriter Salzwedel's futuristic novel follows a female reporter who discovers a nefarious plot to abduct teenagers, change their DNA, and erase their existence entirely. Together with three gay intergalactic pilots, she fights for survival and the safety and preservation of the next generation despite violent counter-efforts to stop them at any cost.

Loaded with space-age detail and plenty of interpersonal melodrama, Salzwedel elevates his hefty 400-page novel to new heights with creative intergalactic accents and characters that pop and sizzle with righteous momentum to restore the greater good. Could a sequel be far behind?
rebelsatori.com

Mystery

"Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love" by Carlos Allende, $25.95 (Red Hen Press)
Allende's take on the mystery novel is a darkly humorous one, and that's a good thing. Dual narrators Charlie and Jignesh each tell their version of how Jignesh's co-worker got murdered and wound up in the freezer Charlie was desperate to sell.

Jignesh has more mischievous intent in mind like a workplace fraud scheme that whips the two men into a frenzy of scenarios and possibilities that work primarily because the two characters are so different, and yet so devilishly quirky and likeable. In the end, it's all good fun provided by two outspoken men with the kind of personality and razor-sharp wit that could carry a novel all on their own.
redhenpress.org

Graphic Memoir

"Gay Giant" by Gabriel Ebensperger, $19.99 (Street Noise)
Translated from the Spanish, Ebensperger's self-drawn debut is a splashy pink portrait chronicling his coming-of-age journey growing up gay in Santiago, Chile.

Valiantly dedicated to "all the people who have felt bizarre, damaged, or strange," the book illuminates the author's struggle from a young age to fit in inside the classroom, on the playing field, at home, or... anywhere, but with time and maturity, he finally achieves self-acceptance and happiness in perceiving his differences as unique and his queerness as something to celebrate loudly and colorfully, and not just on Grindr. Humorous, lighthearted, but with a message every reader can relate to, Ebensperger has produced a magnificently bright fuchsia cheerleader to all of us who "ever had the feeling that even if you wanted to, you'd never blend in".
www.streetnoisebooks.com

Non-Fiction

"Brown Neon: Essays," by Raquel Gutierrez, $16.95 (Coffee House Press)
Tucson, Arizona-based poet and educator Gutierrez artfully assembles these original, introspective essays spotlighting issues of love, death, gender, homeland, and how the creative art produced by her/their talented friends transcends and defies boundaries.

An essay chronicling Gutierrez's relationship with trailblazing second-wave feminist lesbian Jeanne Cordova (1948-2016) "On Making Butch Family: An Intertextual Dialogue" is as moving and defining as others that acutely map the emotional terrain of grief and heartbreak. This debut lays bare the essence of the author, who frankly describes herself using the image of a brown neon sign that reads: "aimless aging homosexual hipster with attachment issues."
coffeehousepress.org

"How You Get Famous: Ten Years of Drag Madness in Brooklyn" by Nicole Pasulka, $27.99 (Simon & Schuster)
According to this debut stunner from New York journalist Pasulka, the drag queen scene in Brooklyn was unmatched in both talent and performance moxie and "is at once amateurish and world-class, and in this way, it serves as a microcosm of the art form."

The borough also spawned talent that would effortlessly soar high enough to transcend future decades, as is the case with numerous "super queens" she spotlights in endearing and scrutinizing profiles.

Among them is Aja, an adopted, nonbinary gendered artist who became a force in the drag, hip hop, and reality television worlds, and Merrie Cherry, who, despite suffering a stroke, went on to capture hearts and stages as drag royalty; and creative visual artist, drag persona, and producer Sasha Velour. With name-dropping and melodrama galore, this immersive drag history lesson is one "Drag Race" fans won't want to miss.
www.simonandschuster.com

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