This week is Indie Bookshop Week, and as bookshops re-open across the UK we’ve been giving you buying recommendations.
But June also marks the month of Pride, and in absence of the usual celebrations we want to encourage you to buy queer books instead. This year we want to give special attention to trans & non-binary stories and authors, so here’s a list of our favourites for you to check out. And don’t forget to check out our Queer Lit Preview for even more amazing titles.
Don’t know your local indie? You can find it here.
Little Fish by Casey Plett, 9781551527208, Arsenal Pulp Press, p/b, £14.99
From the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning story collection A Safe Girl to Love, Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman in Winnipeg who comes across evidence that her late grandfather – a devout Mennonite farmer – might have been transgender himself. At first she dismisses this revelation, but as she and her friends struggle to cope with the challenges of their increasingly volatile lives – which range from alcoholism, to sex work, to suicide – Wendy is drawn to the lost pieces of her grandfather’s life, becoming determined to unravel the mystery of his truth.
Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) by Hazel Jane Plante, 9780994047199, Metonymy Press, p/b, £12.99
Experimental novel Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) tells the unrequited love story of two transwomen. Using humour, meticulous character sketches, memories, and interludes with others who knew Vivian, our narrator painstakingly reveals the woman she loved, why she loved her, and the depths and details of what she has lost. Little Blue asks, what do we value about those we admire? How do the tastes of those we’ve lost infuse our own? And how do we bend our lives to fit those we love, even as we can never know them completely?
Large Animals by Jess Arndt, 9781916355309, Cipher Press, p/b, £9.99
Daring, witty, and strange, the twelve stories in Large Animals confront what it means to have a body. Jess Arndt’s narrators battle with inhabiting a form that makes them feel deeply uncomfortable and detached, constantly challenging the limits of gender and reality. These are stories that rebel against accepted ideas of human identity and present a new normal that is as ambiguous as it is messy. Soupy, visceral, and often disconcerting, Large Animals sets a new standard for language, challenging our concepts of gender and body in a way that feels radical, insightful, and incredibly relevant.
Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by Jacob Tobia, 9780735218840, Putnam, p/b, £12.99
Through revisiting their childhood and calling out the stereotypes that each of us have faced, Jacob Tobia invites us to rethink what we know about gender and offers a blueprint for a world free from gender-based trauma. Sissy takes you on a gender odyssey you won’t soon forget. Writing with the fierce honesty, wildly irreverent humour, and wrenching vulnerability that have made them a media sensation, Jacob shatters the long-held notion that people are easily sortable into men and women and guarantees that you’ll never think about gender – both other people’s and your own – the same way again.
True Trans Bike Rebel ed. by Lydia Rogue & Trista Vercher, 9781621060017, Microcosm, p/b, £8.99
True Trans Bike Rebel is the fifteenth issue of Taking the Lane feminist bike zine. This issue is dedicated to trans, genderqueer, and agender folks talking about the power of bicycling in their lives. Inside, a woman sets off on a long distance tour across the desert, where she finds the courage she needs to continue back at home; the executive director of a major advocacy organisation walks us through his coming-out process and the precedent it set; a young person survives school to find solace and identity in nature; contemplating the parallels of building a bicycle and crafting one’s own body, and more!
Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve, 9781609809010, Seven Stories Press, h/b, £14.99
Genderqueer fourteen-year-old Z Chilworth has to adjust quickly to their new status as a zombie after waking from death from a car crash that killed their parents and sisters. Faced with rejection from their remaining family members and old friends, Z moves in with Mrs. Dunnigan, an elderly witch and befriends Aysel, a loud would-be-goth classmate who is, like Z, a loner. As Z struggles to find a way to repair the broken magical seal holding their body together, Aysel fears that her classmates will discover her status as an unregistered werewolf. And as the town of Salem, Oregon, becomes even more hostile to ‘monsters,’ Z and Aysel are driven together in an attempt to survive a place where most people wish that neither of them existed.
Girl Boy Girl by Savannah Knoop, 9781609808419, Seven Stories Press, p/b, £12.99
When Savannah Knoop was unmasked as the face of the mysterious author JT LeRoy in 2005, one of the biggest literary hoaxes of the modern era was revealed. Girl Boy Girl tells the story of how a young, queer college drop out came to portray the literary wunderkind JT LeRoy, a persona created by Knoop’s sister-in-law Laura Albert, to help sell her books. For six years, Knoop led a secret double life, traveling through the looking glass of celebrity to find liberation and alienation in equal measures. Knoop’s entanglement with JT and his creator was a game played at the very limits of self-expression, one that changed Knoop’s sense of self forever.
Original Plumbing edited by Amos Mac & Rocco Kayiatos, 9781936932597, Feminist Press, p/b, £30.99
Independently published from 2009 to 2018, Original Plumbing grew from a Bay Area zine to a nationally acclaimed print quarterly dedicated to trans men. For nearly ten years, the magazine was the premier resource focused on their experiences, celebrations, and imaginations, featuring writing on both playful and political topics like selfies, bathrooms, and safer sex; interviews with queer icons such as Janet Mock, Silas Howard, Margaret Cho, and Ian Harvie; and visual art, photography, and short fiction.
Death Threat by Vivek Shraya & Ness Lee, 9781551527505, Arsenal Pulp Press, h/b, £12.99
In the fall of 2017, acclaimed writer and musician Vivek Shraya began receiving vivid and disturbing transphobic hate mail from a stranger. Acclaimed artist Ness Lee brings these letters and Shraya’s responses to them to startling life in Death Threat, a graphic novel that, by its existence, becomes a compelling act of resistance. Using satire and surrealism, Death Threat is an unflinching portrayal of violent harassment from the perspective of both the perpetrator and the target, illustrating the dangers of online accessibility, and the ease with which vitriolic hatred can be spread digitally.
Rebent Sinner by Ivan Coyote, 9781551527734, Arsenal Pulp Press, p/b, £14.99
Ivan Coyote is one of North America’s preeminent storytellers and performers. In their latest, Ivan takes on the patriarchy and the political, as well as the intimate and the personal in these beguiling and revealing stories of what it means to be trans and non-binary today, at a time in their life when they must carry the burden of heartbreaking history with them, while combating those who would misgender them or deny their very existence. Rebent Sinner is the work of an accomplished artist whose plain truths about their experience will astound readers with their utter, breathtaking humanity.
Take Me with You by Andrea Gibson, 9780735219519, Plume, p/b, £13.99
Andrea Gibson explores themes of love, gender, politics, sexuality, family, and forgiveness with stunning imagery and a fierce willingness to delve into the exploration of what it means to heal and to be different in this strange age. Take Me With You, illustrated throughout with evocative line drawings by Sarah J. Coleman, is small enough to fit in your bag, with messages that are big enough to wake even the sleepiest heart. Divided into three sections (love, the world, and becoming) of one liners, couplets, greatest hits phrases, and longer form poems, it has something for everyone, and will be placed in stockings, lockers, and the hands of anyone who could use its wisdom.
The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein, 9781925603897, Text Publishing, p/b, £8.99
Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife… But as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less. A woman who sleeps among garbage she has not put out for forty years. A man who bled quietly to death in his loungeroom. A woman who lives with rats, random debris and terrified delusion. The still life of a home vacated by accidental overdose…
I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girls Notes From the End of the World by Kai Cheng Thom, 9781551527758, Arsenal Pulp Press, p/b, £12.99
What can we hope for at the end of the world? What can we trust in when community has broken our hearts? What would it mean to pursue justice without violence? How can we love in the absence of faith? In a heartbreaking yet hopeful collection of personal essays and prose poems, blending the confessional, political, and literary, Kai Cheng Thom dives deep into the questions that haunt social movements today. With the author’s characteristic eloquence and honesty, I Hope We Choose Love proposes heartfelt solutions on the topics of violence, complicity, family, vengeance, and forgiveness.
I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya, 9780735235939, Penguin Canada, h/b, £12.99
Toxic masculinity takes many insidious forms, from misogyny and sexual harassment to homophobia, transphobia, and bullying. Vivek Shraya has first-hand experience with nearly all of them. As a transwomen she grew up experiencing aggression for displaying femininity, and is haunted by the violence of men. I’m Afraid of Men is a culmination of the years Vivek spent observing men and creating her own version of manhood. Through deeply personal reflection, she offers a rare and multifaceted perspective on gender and a hopeful re-imagining of masculinity at a time when it’s needed more than ever.
Sketchtasy by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, 9781551527291, Arsenal Pulp Press, p/b, £14.99
Sketchtasy takes place in that late-night moment when everything comes together, and everything falls apart: an urgent, glittering, devastating novel about the perils of queer world-making in the mid-’90s. Set in Boston, 1995, Alexa, an incisive twenty-one-year-old queen, faces everyday brutality with determined nonchalance, negotiating past and present traumas with a scathing critique of the world. Drawn to the ecstasy of drugged-out escapades, Alexa searches for nourishment in a gay culture bonded by clubs and conformity, wilful apathy, and the spectre of AIDS.