> Queer Books Please: April 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013

Episode 15 - Twixt

Review of Sarah Diemer's fantastic new YA novel, TWIXT. Another pulp novel from the 50s and a memoir about the romance between Patricia Highsmith and Marijean Meaker.  Plus I continue to be befuddled by romances with good concepts and a few nice moments, but less than thrilling execution.

Download or stream below the cut!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Episode 14 - Interview with a podcaster

Think of this week as a getting to know you sort of thing. I asked my wife to interview me about why I started the podcast and some of my thoughts on reading, writing--that sort of thing! Listen to the end--Jaci offers a fun challenge for anyone who listens to the end, and whoever gets the closest answer wins a book from my rather extensive library.

Listen or download below the cut. You can always download via itunes too!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The real world turns ugly, but I'm still reading end of the world books ...

I've been reading a lot of End Of The World books in the last couple weeks. Zombies. Plagues. Other various catastrophes. Books about survival. I've always been a fan of the apocalyptic, and it's been fun tracking down relevant titles for the podcast.

After what happened in Boston yesterday, I picked up my e-reader for bedtime reading with some trepidation. Is it okay to read books like this--books full of violence and struggle--after something so terrible happens in the real world? Would I still want to?

I stayed up late reading a sweet and sad story about two women falling for each other in the aftermath of a terrible plague, so I guess the answer is yes.

I'll be talking about these books on the podcast in the coming weeks. This post is just to acknowledge my ambivalence about this kind of reading, and ultimately to admit that I found these books to be weirdly comforting after the terrible, upsetting circumstances of yesterday. Something about love and friendship in the face of a crumbling world makes me feel a little better.

What do you read when the world gets too scary, when the news gets too grim? What makes you feel better?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Episode 13 - Pulp!

This week is all about vintage lesbian pulp fiction! ODD GIRL OUT and SPRING FIRE are the two classics I discuss. Also, did you know that the author of SPRING FIRE went on to write a very good YA novel called DELIVER US FROM EVIE? Download or stream below the cut, or you can always subscribe on iTunes.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

An Informal Guide on Finding More Books to Read (without depending on Amazon or Goodreads)

When the news came out that Goodreads was being acquired by Amazon, I understood but didn’t share in a lot of the outrage expressed over the deal. Goodreads is an undeniably useful site. I used it partially as a catalog system, and for new title discovery. But it certainly wasn’t a perfect system for me. I found the recommendation algorithm somewhat useful, but it rarely found me anything obscure or surprising. The list making and tagging system for categorizing books is also useful, but lacked a decent, comprehensive search function that might have allowed some interesting cross-referencing opportunities.

But, if you're worried about other ways to find books to read, I have good news. .Don’t despair! There’s lots of great ways to find stuff to read—and some of them even work OFFLINE. Yes, even if you don’t have access to the INTERNET, you can still find new books to read! I promise. 

Here's some of my favorite ways to track down new titles for my to-read list. 

1. Queer book blogs! 

There are a lot of great resources specifically aimed at queer folks looking for books and other media that reflects our interests.  

The Lesbrary  is a fantastic resource, posting several reviews a week. They cover a wide variety of lesbian fiction, and if you're interested in finding a review for a specific title, there's a really good chance Danika and company have covered it. If you're just browsing looking for something new, it can be a little daunting, but trying using the search box at the bottom or using the tags and I bet you'll find something real quick. Lots of different people have reviewed books on the site, so even if your taste doesn't align with some of the reviews, you can find someone whose reviews will be useful to you. 

If tumblr is more your speed, I really like the content Queer Book Club has been churning out. Lots of YA titles, and very inclusive of a lot of different queer topics. 

Lambda Literary offers pretty comprehensive coverage of what's going on in the QUILTBAG literary community, including plenty of reviews and up to date information about upcoming releases. PLUS their literary awards do tend to pick out some really fantastic titles. 

2.  Mainstream book blogs!

I think one of the most underutilized resources out there for queer readers looking for queer books might actually be regular book blogs that aren't necessarily targeting our interests. Particularly if you're interested in genre fiction, or books that have lesbian/queer characters but aren't ABOUT it so much. SEARCH IS YOUR FRIEND. I found the fantastic book ENTERPRISE OF DEATH by Jesse Bullington by searching for "lesbian" on the Onion AV Club website. 

The Book Smugglers write reviews about YA and science fiction books. Their tastes seem to line up pretty well with my own.

Want to go with a low-tech approach to finding your next read? Try these next three suggestions.


3. Blurbs, acknowledgments, and dedications

Do you have a book nearby? Maybe the last queer book you read, or your favorite? I just picked up THIS WILD SILENCE by Lucy Jane Bledsoe. Haven’t read it yet, it’s on my list. 

You turn the book over, and there’s a blurb. Rebecca Brown, an author, is giving praise to this book, which has a queer character. Also, PS, the name of Brown’s book is ANNIE OAKLEY’S GIRL. Sounds promising, no? A bit of click through on the internet (although you could also replicate this at the library, or a bookstore) reveals that Brown mostly writes surrealist short stories, including a collection called THE TERRIBLE GIRLS which sounds provocative, queer, and possibly worth a look.

Boom. Another book on my list.

This works with acknowledgements too. Look particularly for who gets thanked for reviewing the manuscript--I'm always surprised at how many of these lesbian authors seem to KNOW each other and are all reading each others' manuscripts before they get published! 

 4. Nonfiction citations

I don’t read a lot of literary criticism or nonfiction, although I’d like to if I can find the time or drag myself away from my beloved fiction. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth picking up a book of queer cultural history or something like that. Even if you aren't interesting in actually learning anything, you'll probably be able to pick up a bunch of authors and titles to check out just by scanning the endnotes!

In episode three of the podcast, I talked about THE SAPPHO COMPANION, a book by Margaret Reynolds which cataloged many many titles that made allusions to Sappho. From that one book, I probably wrote down at least 10 titles that I want to look at in the future. Even a heavily blurbed novel with an expansive acknowledgments page probably won’t offer up that much future reading material. 


I know these are few and far between lately, but nothing beats browsing an actual, physical bookstore. You can see the covers, the print. There may be a gay and lesbian section.

The week I started this podcast, I went to one of my local bookstores. They carry used and new books, and still manage to carry quite a bit of inventory—part of the fun, when you’re browsing. I knew I wanted to find some queer books, and was having a little success, when suddenly I saw this cover on display:


Naked lady? SAPPHO? Dude, I was totally all ready planning to do a little segment on Sappho! Nothing beats that sort of discovery. 

I'm an advocate for buying new books whenever you can, but I also recommend that you check out used bookstores and your local library as well. When you check out a book at the library, the librarians are taking note--if an author is popular, they will probably be buying their books for the collection well into the future. 

Used bookstores remain important avenues for finding older books. If you're only reading stuff from the last three years, you're severely limiting the pool of titles that you are selecting from. And that's a shame. Don't limit yourself! The other nice thing about used bookstores--because they tend to carry a lot more inventory than yourself small, local independent store, it's a lot more likely that they'll have a gay and lesbian section. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

So many books, so little time

My wife went to work today, so I had most of the day to myself. Not much to do beside try and catch up with reading, noting taking, blog-post-drafting, and other podcast related tasks. The read is the most daunting task of all. Take a look at this picture of the top of my bookshelf. Ignore the charming cats.

The black cat is sitting on my "finished/need to talk about/re-shelve/return to library" pile. The middle pile are all the books currently on my "I'll get to it at some point" list. And the pile behind the white kitty are all the books I hope to read ASAP.

Why yes, it does seem completely reasonable to have over ten books in that pile!

And no, that doesn't include several recent downloads on my kindle.

The good news is that even though the amount of titles I want to get to is rather daunting, I read fast, and I love it. Today I finished a historical fiction novel I've been working on for a couple weeks, read a pulp fiction novel in a couple hours, and now I'm debating whether I should read some of the Willa Cather I need to get to before the collection of her letters come out; or mainline some issues of Y the Last Man; or start in on another old pulp title.

Maybe I'll just do a little bit of all three. Jaci is a knitter, and she tells me that many knitters have coined a phrase, "startosis," meaning that you're starting too many things at one time. But I'm not sure that's such a terrible condition. If embracing the bounty and multitasking is what it takes to keep you engaged, do it. It's a far better path than losing interest. And you may find that you're more capable of keeping your plate full than you realized.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Episode 12 - What Not To Read (when you're first coming out)

T his week I talk about THEFT by BK Loren and THE BIG BANG SYMPHONY by Lucy Jane Bledsoe, I also direct you to a lovely reading of Stuart Dybek's story "Paper Latern" read by ZZ Packer on the New Yorker Fiction Podcast--not sure if it counts as queer, but it felt that way to me so I send you that way.

I also talk about the two books my lovely wife read when she first started to realize she might be gay. Very dark, very grim books. Perhaps not the best choice she could have made.

Listen or download below the cut, or download on itunes.