Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, June 28, 2019


Doubleday Books for Young Readers: Bad Dog by Mike Boldt

From My Shelf

DC Black Label: Superman: Year One by Frank Miller, illustrated by John Romita

 Beach Lane Books: Pluto Gets the Call by Adam Rex, illustrated by Laurie Keller

The Big Gay Bang

Fifty years ago today, the Stonewall riots began, launching a concerted effort toward LGBTQ rights in the face of police brutality. Traditionally, we consider this the moment when unequivocally queer lives seized the spotlight for liberation.

In the decades since, we've seen progress and regress, but what continues to buoy me in the continued fight for acceptance is the monumental explosion of stories. To attempt to distill the diversity of fiction, history, memoir, biography and social science on the subject of queerness may be a fool's errand. But I've always been a little foolish.

For today's issue, every book reviewed below is either by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ and was published in the last month or so. Even within that time frame, there was a wealth of titles from which to choose; we're truly living in a golden age of queer literature.

Further reverberations of that explosion on Christopher Street in 1969 can be felt around the world in gorgeous volumes like Dark Tears: LGBTQ Resilience in Latin America ($21) and Out: LGBTQ Poland ($21.95) in an ongoing photo book series from the New Press. In the past year, Iranian novelist Négar Djavadi's Disoriental (Europa, $18) has become highly decorated on an international level, and Akwaeke Emezi's Freshwater (Grove Press, $16), which considers a transgender experience through the lens of Igbo ontology, has become a runaway hit. Moreover, earlier this year, Niviaq Korneliussen's Last Night in Nuuk (Grove Press, $16) introduced anglophones to the underground scene in Greenland's capital.

One thing to keep in mind is that while many of the books in today's newsletter focus on explicitly queer experiences, not all of them do. There is a beauty to how flexible and resilient queer aesthetics can be that way. The traditional gift for a 50th anniversary is gold, and we have a 14-karat issue for you. 

--Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Andrews McMeel Publishing: The Rupi Kaur Boxed Set by Rupi Kaur


Book Candy

Pride Reading Lists and Prize Winners

Quality reading suggestions for summertime... or anytime: this year's Lambda Literary Award winners/finalists and the Stonewall Book Award winners/honor books.

---

PEN America has selected poetry, interviews, readings and more from some of the greatest LGBTQIA+ writers across the globe.

---

"How do you dress a 19th Century lesbian?" BBC's video explored "the look" in HBO's hit series Gentleman Jack. And Mental Floss featured "10 Facts About Anne Lister."

---

"Reading the rainbow: a Pride reading list" was featured in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

---

The Poetry Foundation shared a collection of LGBTQ Pride poems.

---

The New York Public Library recommended "fantastic books with LGBT+ characters," and librarians showcased "meaningful books in their LGBTQ journeys."

---

The story of Australia's oldest LGBT bookstore, The Bookshop, was told by the BBC.

---

Electric Lit shared "new and classic queer literature to read for free online."


International Thriller Writers: Click here to read an exclusive interview with author Alan Furst


Great Reads

Rediscover: Gay New York and The Gay Metropolis

In the early morning of June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village as part of systematic crackdown on the few establishments catering to openly gay customers. The raid sparked a violent backlash and demonstrations that came to be called the Stonewall riots, which marked the beginning of the gay liberation movement of the 1960s-'80s and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the U.S. Within a year of the riots, gay pride marches took place in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

New York City prior to 1969 was not always anti-gay. George Chauncey, history professor at Columbia University, marked the 25th anniversary of Stonewall with Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 (1994), in which he used newspapers, cartoons, court records and other primary sources to show that urban homosexuals were not forced underground until the 1930s. Basic Books published an updated edition of Gay New York earlier this year ($22.99, 9781541699212). The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America by Charles Kaiser (originally published as The Gay Metropolis: 1940-1996 in 1997) has also been updated for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall to include the legalization of gay marriage and LGBT-inclusive attitudes in 21st-Century pop culture. It was republished by Grove Press on June 4 ($18, 9780802147202). --Tobias Mutter


HMH Culinary & Lifestyle: A Gift For Every Cook & Cocktail Lover


The Writer's Life

Meredith Russo and Lisa Bunker: Solidarity Forever

YA author Meredith Russo and middle-grade author Lisa Bunker both have new books featuring transgender protagonists. Shelf Awareness asked the two if they would be interested in having a discussion for our Stonewall anniversary issue. Below is their conversation, in which they talk shop, discuss families of choice and share stories about their lives as trans women.

Lisa Bunker
Meredith Russo

Lisa Bunker has written stories all her life. Before becoming a full-time author, she had a 30-year career in noncommercial broadcasting. She now lives in Exeter, N.H., with her wife and her cat. In 2018 she was elected to represent her town in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. She has two grown children. Her sophomore novel, Zenobia July, was recently published by Viking.

Meredith Russo was born, raised and lives in Chattanooga, Tenn. She is a mother to a wonderful four-year-old, a cat with an attitude problem and a few dozen trans people around the globe. Her most recent YA novel, Birthday, about the friendship between two teens, one of whom makes the choice to live as "her true self," is available now from Flatiron Books.

Lisa Bunker: Hi, Meredith! I loved both your books! I'm glad I read them after writing my own, because our work overlaps, and I get awkward when I feel like I'm copying another writer. But there are some real differences, too. One that struck me is that your stories take place in the cis/het culture of the South. I thought you did a great job of depicting that place and culture and people. 

Meredith Russo: I've got a complicated relationship with the South and I'll probably leave as soon as I can, but the more liberal parts of the country always leave me feeling... off. I want a world where being LGBT is just another piece of incidental trivia, but I have only ever understood my own identity through the lens of pain and oppression. When I travel, it can be more stressful to let my guard down in progressive places than to soldier through here. Maybe this is depressing, but sometimes I just don't know how to articulate my identity without the attendant pain of surviving this place.

Zenobia July was a treat! What I love the most is that Zenobia herself reflects how eccentric we often are, which cis people seem not to know. Zenobia felt like a reflection of myself and so many of the people I know in her technological precociousness, her barely managed anxiety disorder and in the way she's grappling with trauma without knowing that's what she's doing. I love that she reps this lesser-known aspect of our lives.

L.B.: Thank you for getting what I was trying to do with Zen's character. In both of my books, the young protagonists are not only queer, they are also the nerdy introverted outsiders who exist on the fringes of conventional school culture. 

Zen is inspired in part by Leelah Alcorn, a trans girl in the Midwest who killed herself in 2014, leaving behind an eloquent suicide note on Tumblr in which she asked the rest of us to make sure her death would mean something. I took that to heart, and story-brain started working on the question, what did Leelah need that she did not have in order to survive her life? The answer I came up with was a second chance with a queer family of choice. 

M.R.: I remember Leelah. How could I forget? Lebanon, Ohio, is less than six hours from where I live, and the idea I could have helped her somehow haunted me for a while. I'm glad you're honoring her memory. I had a queer found family for a while, but I can't help associating it with trauma now. Trans woman disposability is real.

L.B.: Your reliance on your oppositional stance toward your current culture intrigues me. It suggests a strength in you that not everyone has. I wonder if you found it challenging to set your stories in mainstream culture. In particular, half of Birthday is first-person narration by Eric, a cis/het boy. What was it like to write him? 

M.R.: Most of the love and care I've received in my life have come from thoroughly decent cis/het family and friends, most of them pretty archetypal Appalachians, and by that metric Eric stands out as exemplary. Writing Eric was nice because in a lot of ways he is a representative of all the quietness, gentleness and softness I've found in the good men in my life. He's sort of a love letter to decent straight men all over the world, and I hope that comes off on the page.

L.B.: Humans being humans, families of choice have the same potential for conflict and hurt as families of origin. Same potential for life-saving love, though, so I hope you'll be able to let your guard down again someday. Meanwhile, bless you for depicting cis/het family and friends in such a generous way. 

M.R.: Without spoiling Zenobia, it seems you're at least literate in the way hate groups operate online. What was researching and writing that like?

L.B.: Researching online hate was sadly easy. Shields up, a couple of searches, done. I worked harder at creating what I hope is a fair portrait of my fundamentalist Christian characters. I'm determined not to write Villains with a capital V. All my characters are humans, acting for reasons that make sense to them. 

You wrote something else in Birthday that I'm happy to see in print: Morgan's attempt at going all in on hyper-masculinity. I wonder if you went through a hyper-masculine phase, and how you would describe your relationship with masculinity these days.

M.R.: When I hit my own dysphoria crisis point, I responded sort of like Morgan, by diving into masculinity. I grew a beard, cut my hair, started working out and put together an actual masculine wardrobe. Needless to say, I was miserable and it didn't work.

I would say that I relate to some facets of masculinity better now than I did before. Now that I feel at home in my body I feel safer approaching gender in a utilitarian way: what gendered behaviors will get me what I want? There was definitely a year or two where I was stereotypically gendered, as is the case I think for most nascent binary trans people, but none of that was me--it was to keep me safe and satisfy others, and I'd already let fear amputate too much of my life.

Something that was very interesting to me about Zenobia was the dynamic of our girl deciding to live stealth and how this erected a barrier between her and her out peers. What is your experience with this?

L.B.: I'm too publicly out to ever live in stealth myself, but no doubt it's a life-saving choice for some. I do dream of a world where no one will need to anymore. Zen is in stealth for story craft reasons: I wanted to linger over each phase. If I get to write book two, she'll be outed, and much trouble will follow.

M.R.: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. It's been a delight getting to know you, and I can't wait to evangelize Zenobia July at every opportunity!

L.B.: *over-the-top teen femme voice* Omigod, I mean, right? Girlfriend! It has been So. Much. Fun. talking to you! Seriously, what a pleasure. I hope we can meet in person someday. In the meantime: solidarity forever.


Ingram: Books Make Great Gifts - Take a Look!


Book Review

Fiction

Mostly Dead Things

by Kristen Arnett


The prose of Mostly Dead Things is a bed of roses trapped under barbed wire, beauty beneath a hardened exterior. How appropriate for the narrator Jessa Morton, a taxidermist who has long held back her feelings from her dysfunctional family, even before her father shot himself in the shop that Jessa now runs. It's only when her mother begins making provocative sculptures out of the store's animals that Jessa is forced to open herself up and confront her past in all its heartbreak.

Debut novelist Kristin Arnett writes with keen perception and clarity throughout, not just of grief and old wounds, but of the working-class Florida landscape in which the Mortons live. This is an exquisitely painful and tender story, compassionate and understanding of its characters and their myriad flaws, even Brynn, the woman who Jessa and her brother, Milo, both loved--until she ran from them. Like other Florida writers, Arnett takes grotesquerie as a given and mines a dark humor from her surroundings. But there's no smug mockery here either--only the capturing of a small and strange world.

Mostly Dead Things is a book of body and soul, and one of the best of the year so far. If the narrative sometimes suffers from becoming too obvious, especially in the final 50 pages, that can be easily forgiven when the writing is of such high quality. Arnett is a talented and original writer, and everybody paying attention to her work will be eagerly awaiting whatever else she has in store. --C.M. Crockford, freelance reviewer

Discover: Mostly Dead Things is a weird and devastating novel that shouldn't be missed by any lover of fiction.

Tin House Books, $24.95, hardcover, 354p., 9781947793309

University of Nevada Press: The Color of Rock by Sandra Cavallo Miller


The History of Living Forever

by Jake Wolff


The culture-crossing, time-spanning quest for the elixir of life has always told us more about human nature than about chemistry. Eternal youth and immortality remain as desirable as they are elusive--and the tales of our relentless pursuit of them, whether they're grounded in mythology or scientific inquiry, often turn out to be great conduits for stories about longing, grief and love.

Jake Wolff joins this canon with his debut novel, The History of Living Forever. It contains many stories in one, but at its heart is 16-year-old Conrad Aybinder, a sensitive high school student who has received a terrible shock: his chemistry teacher, Sammy, who was also his lover, has just ended his life. And, confusingly, he seems to have done it as part of a lifelong quest to concoct a mixture that would guarantee immortality.

Conrad inherits Sammy's notebooks, which document his 20 years of research and self-experimentation. They're full of clues that may lead to the definitive recipe for the elixir of life--as well as to the man Sammy truly was.

True to its title, The History of Living Forever sprawls across time and space. Conrad's quest is paired with "case histories" of the many before him who have sought immortality, tenderly demonstrating that Conrad isn't alone in his grief and desperation.

With uncommon perceptiveness and a vivid imagination, Wolff has crafted a story that is both highly unusual and, in its way, universal. The History of Living Forever is not only another entry on the long list of stories about the quest for eternal life, but part of another grand storytelling tradition: the coming-of-age tale. --Hannah Calkins, writer and editor

Discover: A grieving teenage boy sets out on a quest for the elixir of life--and learns some unexpected lessons about what poisons us and what sustains us.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27, hardcover, 384p., 9780374170660

Tra Publishing: Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains by Various


Patsy

by Nicole Dennis-Benn


Nicole Dennis-Benn's sophomore novel, Patsy, offers a searing portrait of a young Jamaican woman and her quest to make a better life for herself--even if that means leaving her young daughter behind when she sets out for the United States. But the U.S. is not what Patsy imagined, and she is faced with an impossible choice: struggle to make ends meet in New York and remain cut off from her daughter, or find a way home and admit defeat in the eyes of her family and neighbors in Jamaica--a land "full of people who have discovered that certain seeds the land will not nurture."

Dennis-Benn (Here Comes the Sun) brings to life the bustling energy and sometimes frenetic hope of two distinct but colorful places: New York City and Jamaica. Set against these vivid backdrops, Patsy and her daughter, Tru, struggle and mourn and grow and change. "But di weirdest t'ing 'bout life is dat it's only understood backward. Yuh neva known what's at di end a dis tunnel waiting fah you, sweetheart," Patsy is reminded by a friend in New York. Though it is but a small line in a large novel, this sentiment lies at the heart of Patsy and Tru's story as they learn to lead the lives they expect for themselves, rather than what others expect of them. In Patsy, Dennis-Benn delivers a novel of love and sexuality, parenthood and childhood, hardship and opportunity whose every page sparkles with complex and imperfect characters fighting to make their way in a harsh world. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A searing portrait of a young mother who leaves her daughter behind in Jamaica as she settles in New York to make a new life for herself.

Liveright, $26.95, hardcover, 432p., 9781631495632

Mystery & Thriller

Magic for Liars

by Sarah Gailey


Sarah Gailey (River of Teeth) riffs lovingly on the magical boarding school trope in a mystery-fantasy hybrid about a lie's power to hurt both its teller and its recipients.

Private investigator Ivy Gamble says, "My job is to pursue the truth." Still, after years of convincing herself she doesn't care that her twin sister, Tabitha, was born with magic while she was not, Ivy has had plenty of practice at lying. So what if Tabitha turned out to be a genius mage who teaches at the prestigious Osthorne Academy for Young Mages while Ivy catches Bay Area adulterers for a living? They don't really talk anyway, which is fine with Ivy. When a teacher is found split perfectly in half in Osthorne's library, though, Ivy finds herself drawn more deeply into the magical world than she ever thought possible.

Magical law enforcement rules the tragedy an accident. The headmaster disagrees, and because Ivy is a qualified outsider who's aware magic exists, she is hired to catch a mystical murderer. Passing herself off as a mage to students and faculty, Ivy learns teenagers with magic still act like teenagers; reconnects with her sister; and kindles a romance with the sexy physical magic professor Rahul. The magical world is luxurious and seductive but, as Ivy investigates, she learns magic cannot cure dark secrets. It can only hide the lies.

Magic for Liars is perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell's Carry On and anyone who ever mourned the Hogwarts letter that never came. Though the ending leaves little room for a direct sequel, Gailey's world deserves further exploration. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: This mystery-fantasy explores the magical boarding school trope through adult eyes.

Tor, $25.99, hardcover, 336p., 9781250174611

Graphic Books

Gender Queer

by Maia Kobabe


Artist Maia Kobabe is genderqueer and uses pronouns e, em and eir. In the gorgeous and candid graphic memoir Gender Queer, e illustrates an aching journey toward reconciliation with being nonbinary and asexual.

Kobabe grew up in a progressive home, with parents who didn't enforce gender roles, but such things are socialized early in places like school and neighborhoods. The dysphoria e experienced became more acute with age; e frequently felt out of step with eir peers. There were awkward Tinder dates and excruciating Pap smears. All the while, Maia searched for an explanation, a language to assign to this internal trauma and confusion.

Midway through the book lies a two-page spread of weighted scales. Each side of holds a gender assigned at birth, as a frantic Maia piles pronouns, clothes, hair style, hormones, etc., on the other. "The end goal wasn't masculinity," e writes, "the goal was balance." Had e been assigned male at birth, e would be playing with makeup and nail polish every day.

Kobabe's drawings, colored by sister Phoebe Kobabe, casts eir life and truths in splendorous, vivid light. And the relationship between the siblings on the page is one of Gender Queer's sweetest elements. Often scared of what lies ahead, Maia confides in Phoebe, a lesbian, about eir queer hopes and fears, and is met each time with the gracious enthusiasm of a sister who has eir back: "I lucked out so hard in the sibling lottery." A challenging yet heartwarming memoir, Gender Queer succeeds on all fronts. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Being nonbinary and asexual hasn't always been easy for Maia Kobabe, but this is a marvelous narrative about reconciling those facets of eir identity.

Lion Forge, $17.99, paperback, 240p., 9781549304002

Biography & Memoir

Naturally Tan

by Tan France


As a gay, Muslim, South Asian boy from South Yorkshire, Tan France grew up with a multitude of conflicting emotions. Sure of himself and "weirdly world wise" from watching mature television dramas, France faced racism and homophobia that left him doubting whether his differences would ever be accepted. He fantasized about "being a white kid," and pretended to "give a sh*t about watching football on TV when I clearly just wanted to watch reruns of Golden Girls and hang on the lanai, eating cheesecake with those broads."

In Naturally Tan, a fun and thoughtful memoir full of attitude, heart and bravado, France shares how he became one of the "Fab Five"--a handful of design, fashion and culture experts who transform everyday "heroes" on the Netflix series Queer Eye. A "very few f*cks given" kind of guy with an affinity for personal style, France forged a path to success at a young age, building several wildly successful fashion brands by his 30s.

France has a knack for straight talk peppered with feistiness and humor, and his conversational style makes for an entertaining read. Naturally Tan is a series of short, contemplative pieces on sexuality, diversity, media, celebrity, marriage and business that deftly mix in anecdotes and tips on fashion, dating and life. One of few South Asians on "such a grand stage," France is constantly referred to as "the gay, British Muslim." Despite the pressures and labels, he has learned how to be visible and shine as his refreshingly and unapologetically authentic self. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: One of the experts from Queer Eye shares his personal history through entertaining, candid essays on fashion and life.

St. Martin's Press, $27.99, hardcover, 288p., 9781250208668

We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir

by Samra Habib


The ideals of liberty and equality clash with cultural and religious oppression in We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib. An accomplished journalist, writer and photographer, Habib is a queer Muslim woman from a persecuted sect of Islam known as the Ahmadiyya faith.

Life as an Ahmadi in Pakistan is dangerous. They are shunned by fellow Muslims and attacked for their beliefs, and they receive no protection from local law enforcement or the government. Habib was raised to shield her religious identity; her parents were adamant on this point--it was literally a matter of life and death. Fearing for their lives, her family was forced to flee Pakistan when Habib was in middle school.

From her early years as a religious minority in Lahore to the dissonance of refugee status in Canada, Habib became an expert at disguising her true self and subjugating her own needs and desires for the sake of others. Her parents commandeered complete control over her life, coercing her into marriage while she was in high school. But Habib was blessed with good friendships in college and beyond. It was through friends that she acquired the strength to envision a life of bold self-determination and the courage to forge her own path. She blossomed as a fearless activist defending the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQIA community, including queer Muslims like herself, all the while strengthening her spiritual commitment to Islam.

Among the most gratifying aspects of Habib's remarkable story is the transformation her parents undertake in an effort to regain their daughter's trust after years of estrangement. Theirs is truly an inspirational example of cultural and generational reconciliation. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer

Discover: Harder than finding acceptance as a queer woman is finding acceptance as a queer Muslim woman who practices her faith.

Viking Canada, $18.95, paperback, 240p., 9780735235007

Social Science

The Stonewall Reader

by The New York Public Library, editor


Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots/uprising, Jason Baumann, coordinator for the New York Public Library's LGBTQ Initiative, has created a spellbinding anthology that collects firsthand accounts from participants in the fight for LGBTQ civil rights. This battle did not begin with the three days of rioting outside the Stonewall Inn gay bar in 1969. But it did represent "an oceanic change in thinking," according to Edmund White's foreword. "People saw homosexuals no longer as criminals or sinners or mentally ill, but as something like members of a minority group."

Divided into three sections (before, during and after Stonewall), the book's selections pulsate with vitality, wisdom and bravery. Setting the stage, John Rechy remembers cruising Greenwich Village in an excerpt from his 1963 autobiographical novel City of Night. Transgender pioneer Christine Jorgensen recalls her headline-making 1952 sex-change surgery. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon recount forming the lesbian organization the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955. And Hugo Award winner Samuel R. Delany writes of coming out to other patients at a mental hospital.

Actress Holly Woodlawn recalls the trans Latinx community at the Stonewall Inn, and activist Marsha P. Johnson relives her part in the actual uprising. Furthermore, activist/journalist Mark Segal and gay historian Jonathan Katz (Gay American History) discuss the activism that bloomed in the wake of the riots.

The Stonewall Reader is a vivid and articulate collection of first-person narratives. This oral history of the early fight for gay civil rights is empowering and unforgettable. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Vibrant and vital, this collection of firsthand accounts of the early days of gay liberation is essential reading.

Penguin, $18, paperback, 336p., 9780143133513

Out in Time: The Public Lives of Gay Men from Stonewall to the Queer Generation

by Perry N. Halkitis


The landscape of LGBTQ rights has shifted dramatically in the 50 years since the Stonewall riots of 1969, but one consistency that spans the decades is the decision to acknowledge publicly a sexual or gender identity that diverges from heterosexuality. Dean of the School of Public Health at Rutgers, Perry N. Halkitis explores the variety of "coming out" experiences apparent in three age groups: the Stonewall generation, the AIDS generation and the Queer generation. While Halkitis limits the scope of Out in Time to cis gay men, the breadth of race and age representation offers plenty of material to discuss.

More than a survey of coming-out stories, this collection of interviews considers the significant crises each generation has faced while coming to terms with their sexual orientation. For the Stonewall generation, it was the criminality of their desires; for the AIDS generation, a virus that still threatens lives today; for the Queer generation, an economy undermined by the 2008 recession. Halkitis also critiques rampant frictions within gay spaces that prevent men from finding community there: racism, toxic masculinity, body shame. "People are always going to hate other people," says 62-year-old drag queen Ryan. "It sucks. Not as well as I do, but it sucks."

Out in Time is a refreshing assessment of progress. However: "The inability of gay men to speak with each other across generations is a missed opportunity," writes Halkitis, "as they fail to take full advantage of each other's knowledge and experience to learn from one another." Here's to more dialogue like this! --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Three generations of men consider what it means to be openly gay in this sharp synthesis of interviews and social psychology.

Oxford University Press, $34.95, hardcover, 192p., 9780190686604

Essays & Criticism

Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder

by John Waters


The Pope of Trash. The Prince of Puke. John Waters, the transgressive filmmaker behind Pink Flamingos, became an unlikely success in the 1970s with several low-budget, warped and filthy films that have earned cult status. But what happens when the man on the margins of moviemaking suddenly becomes respectable? Has John Waters lost his edge?

In Mr. Know-It-All, Waters (Role Models) reveals that there is no cause for alarm. Waters enjoyed mainstream success with Hairspray, which despite its PG rating "had the power to sneak into middle-class homes and espouse gay marriage and teenage race mixing without anybody noticing." This was followed by Cry-Baby with Johnny Depp, Iggy Pop and Joey Heatherton, which was "like a dinner party in a celebrity mental institution of my choice." By the mid-2000s, Waters was a household name, but reception of his movies had cooled and it became harder for independent movies to be made; the NC-17 rated A Dirty Shame was his last.

But fear not--John Waters is still delightfully profane and weird. In a wide-ranging essay on music, Waters reveals his love for "car-accident teen novelty records," a micro-genre if there ever was one. His roots as a Yippie ("angry left-wing hippies who were tired of giving peace a chance"), sexual exploits in the pre-AIDS era, fondness for drugs (including an LSD trip at the tender age of 70) and his musings on Brutalist architecture and a monkey-artist named Besty prove that John Waters is as irreverent as ever. --Frank Brasile, librarian

Discover: This delightfully mischievous memoir celebrates the twisted mind of John Waters, from the underground to the mainstream and back.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27, hardcover, 384p., 9780374214968

Children's & Young Adult

If It Makes You Happy

by Claire Kann


For 12 years, Winnie has spent the summer in the town of Misty Haven, where her granny owns Goldeen's diner. This summer is no different, and Winnie couldn't be more delighted. Along with her cousin and brother, she takes up residence in Granny's apartment above the diner and gets to work as Goldeen's co-assistant manager. Misty Haven is also where Kara, Winnie's long-distance, queerplatonic "ungirlfriend," lives, and they're ecstatic to see each other and begin planning their college future together.

Then, despite not signing up, Winnie gets chosen for Misty Haven's Summer Royalty, "a sham of a matchmaking system" in which a queen is chosen and other teens compete to be her consort. Kara, of course, volunteers to rule by her side; so does wealthy and attractive Dallas Meyer, "the bane of [Winnie's] romantic existence." Winnie's had a crush on Dallas forever, but "boys like him don't date girls like [her]"--that is, fat black girls. Dallas, however, seems genuine in his interest. As Winnie's feelings for Dallas grow and Kara starts acting weird, Winnie is butting heads with Granny more than ever before, and her perfect summer slowly unravels.

Winnie is an utterly endearing, wholly believable protagonist. She loves her family, her friends and herself but still deals with family problems, confusing friend issues and feeling like she's too much: "I wish I was allowed to tell someone how I felt without having to make it palatable." If It Makes You Happy has just about everything one could want in a contemporary YA novel: romance, competition, honest fat-black-girl talk, sinister geese and a ton of "merry, magical Black-girl business." --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Winnie spends the summer after high school figuring out all different kinds of ways she can love and be loved in return in Claire Kann's sophomore YA novel, If It Makes You Happy.

Swoon Reads/Macmillan, $17.99, hardcover, 352p., ages 13-up, 9781250192677

Like a Love Story

by Abdi Nazemian


It's September of 1989, and Reza is beginning his senior year, having just moved to Manhattan from Toronto "by way of Tehran." His father is dead, and Reza's mother has remarried a wealthy Iran-born businessman. Reza has no intention of stepping out of the closet: he can't forget that he comes from a country that punishes homosexuals.

At school Reza meets the fashion-forward and ample-figured Judy, who finds him dazzling. Judy's best friend, the out-and-proud Art, picks up on her crush. When Reza's stepbrother brings Art, his science-project partner, home to study, Art goes to Reza's room to warn him against leading Judy on. He also gives Reza a Madonna CD. So begins Reza's infatuation with them both, even though he starts dating Judy, not Art. Two months into their relationship, following Judy's botched attempt at seduction, Reza finally comes out to her, admitting his attraction to Art. Reza finds the courage to confront Art about his feelings, which are ultimately reciprocated, but the romance costs them their friendship with Judy. The couple has another problem: although Reza is happily paired with Art, he's terrified at the prospect of intimacy. While Art considers Judy's gay activist Uncle Stephen (who is battling AIDS) his "spiritual father," Reza sees the man as a warning that gay sex can mean a death sentence.

Like a Love Story, Abdi Nazemian's socially real--very real--young adult novel, makes a compelling case that there's a psychic cost to fearing sex. The book has too many comic book homophobes and Islamophobes, and the comic book aspect is reinforced by the frequent use of ALL CAPS, but Like a Love Story is an absorbing drama that doubles as a gay-history primer. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Discover: In this fierce young adult novel set in 1989 and '90 Manhattan, the teenagers in a love triangle are straight, gay and united in their Madonna worship.

Balzer + Bray, $17.99, hardcover, 432p., ages 13-up, 9780062839367

A Queer History of the United States for Young People

by Michael Bronski, Richie Chevat


Richie Chevat's (The Omnivore's Dilemma, Young Readers Edition) adaptation of Michael Bronski's A Queer History of the United States provides biographical sketches of "LGBTQ people" and their achievements throughout history. Bronski grounds individual narratives in a loose chronology of U.S. history, discussing female soldiers who dressed as men to serve in the Revolutionary and U.S. Civil Wars, the beginnings of "modern LGBTQ life" after World War II, and influential gay rights activists amid the feminist, civil rights and women's movements. Other profiles mark critical moments in queer history, including the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the 2015 Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing the right to same-sex marriage. Throughout, Bronski calls out notable firsts, such as Victoria Woodhull, an advocate for sexual freedom and the first woman to run for president.

Among stories of lesser-known achievers, Bronski touches on prominent figures whose connections to the LGBTQ community rarely receive mention, including George Washington, Emily Dickinson and Jane Addams. The author and adapter avoid using labels or pronouns their subjects did not adopt themselves, and they incorporate frank reminders of discriminatory laws or homophobia during the periods recounted. A new prologue about Bronski's emotional and political reaction to Stonewall and a revised introduction titled "What Is Normal?" kick off a people-focused history distilled for a teen audience. Poems, excerpts, letters, song lyrics and illustrations, as well as sidebars detailing tangential events, enhance various chapters. With its focus on individuals who dared to fight for their rights, A Queer History of the United States for Young People will serve as a touchstone for LGBTQ readers seeking proof of the greatness that preceded them and confidence in the success that awaits in their future. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

Discover: This adaptation of Michael Bronski's A Queer History of the United States introduces young readers to GLBTQ role models throughout American history.

Beacon Press, $18.95, paperback, 336p., 9780807056127


Under Occupation
by Alan Furst
isbn: 9780399592300
Random House
November 26, 2019


an exclusive interview with
bestselling author Alan Furst  
 

Although you are now considered America’s preeminent author of historical spy fiction, you came to the genre almost by accident while living in France in the ‘80s. Would you please expand on this?

“I had written books before—not very good books, to tell you the honest truth. They say novelists don’t come in until their 40s, and that was certainly true of me. I was able to write and publish books earlier than that, but really, they’re not very good. And the other thing is, I didn’t have what I call traction. That’s a big word for me in writing. That’s when you really know what you’re doing and where you’re going and how it all works. So there I was in Paris wanting to write a panoramic spy novel, and I wrote Night Soldiers, which is, I think, a very good book.”

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

ALSO FEATURED ON THE the big THRILL…

BREAK THE SILENCE by D. K. HOOD: D. K. Hood’s seventh book in the Kane and Alton thriller series, BREAK THE SILENCE, is hard to put down. Once you’re caught in the web of Black Rock Falls, you won’t want to extricate yourself until the perpetrator is revealed. Find out more here.

BLUE MOON by LEE CHILD: Once in a blue moon, things turn out just right. Unfortunately for Jack Reacher, this isn't one of those times. In the latest from New York Times bestselling author Lee Child, Reacher is in a heap of trouble. Read more at The Big Thrill.

EVERY STOLEN BREATH by KIMBERLY GABRIEL: Kimberly Gabriel was living in Chicago when in 2011, a series of “flash mob” attacks swept through a proclaimed safe part of the city—a little too close to home. So she did what every aspiring author would do—she wrote a young adult thriller about them. Find out more here.

RED SPECTER by ANDREWS AND WILSON: In the world of military thrillers, authenticity is key. And you won’t find a book better tuned in to today’s geopolitical reality than the latest Tier One novel from Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, RED SPECTERVisit The Big Thrill for more.

BLIND SEARCH by PAULA MUNIER: After the success of A Borrowing of Bones, USA Today bestselling author Paula Munier returns with her second book in the Mercy and Elvis Mystery series, BLIND SEARCH—which happens to be inspired by a true story. Read more here.

Powered by: Xtenit