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Hi everyone, another year’s come and gone.   Even though this year was challenging, there were lots of good books to be read.  Here are my favorites from the past year!

Fiction:

The Bear and the Nightingale (Katherine Arden):  This rich tale of a willful, unusual girl was easily one of my favorites this year.  Arden creates a vivid Russian-inspired world with a folkloric plot and a wonderful protagonist–I absolutely adored it, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Passing Strange/Portable Childhoods/ Wicked Wonders (Ellen Klages ): Klages’ work is delightful; I love her settings and characters, many of which are girls and young women trying to navigate their world; her short stories include a young woman who relates to Maleficent and a girl raised by feral librarians.  Passing Strange, her novel, features awesome space and time magic and a queer relationship in 1940s San Francisco.  I like that she tends to present ordinary matters from a slightly different perspective, and her magic and characters are intriguing.  Check out her work–you won’t be disappointed.

Sparrow Hill Road (Seanan McGuire):  This story features Rose Marshall, a young woman who was run off the road for her soul.  Since her death, Rose has helped other individuals on their quests while looking for a way to bring down Bobby Cross, the greedy soul who killed her.  The ghost world McGuire creates is just awesome, and I like that each chapter stands alone but still connects into a narrative.

Nonfiction:

Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray (Rosalind Rosenberg):  I had never heard of Pauli Murray before reading Jane Crow, and man was she awesome!  Murray, a mixed race individual, was a lawyer and activist who fought for equal rights and is the first person to draw the connection between racism and sexism and laid the groundwork for the Fourteenth Amendment.   She fought for equality amid her own struggles with her gender identity, and her journey took her to all sorts of places, including a professorship at Brandeis and the priesthood.  Rosenberg has written an engaging biography about this fascinating individual; if you’re into civil rights history and/or LGBTQ history, pick this one up.

The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return A Literary Inheritance ( Anders Rydell):  In The Book Thieves, Rydell traces the story of the fate of the Jewish libraries and personal collections during the Holocaust: many were separated from their libraries and frequently absorbed into collections in Germany or other parts of the world.  He also tells the story of individuals who have worked to return these books to their rightful homes.  It was both fascinating and disturbing to see how the Nazis’ actions destroyed these collections and the continuing impact of those horrible actions.

Catastrophic Care (David Goldhill):  I read this one fairly early in the year, but it’s stuck with me.  Goldhill agrees that the health care system needs to change, but rather than advocating for single-payer care, he points out rising health care costs and argues for a new way to pay for care that does not rely exclusively on insurance; he also advocates for greater patient participation in the marketplace.  I found his book an interesting read in the healthcare conversation.

Graphic Novels:

One Hundred Nights of Hero (Isabel Greenberg):  When lovers Cherry and Hero get caught in a cruel game between two men, Hero steps in to tell stories from an all-woman storytelling collective to save Cherry and herself.  In addition to a compelling narrative, Greenberg’s unique art adds a kind of old-timey charm that makes One Hundred Nights of Hero a beautiful book and absorbing read.

Pashmina (Nidhi Chanani)-Priyanka, an Indian American teen,  is struggling to find.  She wants to know about her father and the reason her mother left India, but her mother remains tight-lipped   After Priyanka finds a pashmina (a kind of shawl), she begins to see visions of a bright, beautiful India.  Priyanka embarks on a journey to discover her family’s stories and her own strength.  Pashmina is a heartwarming graphic novel: I loved Priyanka’s story arc and the message about the importance of choice is expertly woven in.  Chanani’s expressive art excels at capturing key moments and moods; I enjoyed the book so much that I read it through multiple times!

That’s all for 2017!  Happy 2018, all!

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Hi all, I’m back with another top books post!  This month was pretty busy for me–I was doing Nanowrimo and had some job interviews–but I still found some time to read!  Here is my short list for this month.

Toil and Trouble (Scott): Smertae, Cait, and Riata–also known the Fates or”the weird sisters”– have always protected the island of Scotland.  When Semetae gets into a disagreement with Riata, she helps Macbeth earn a crown that does not rightfully belong to him. This retelling of Macbeth explores the story in fresh new ways and has gorgeous art to boot.

Born on the Edge of Race and Gender (Wilkinson): In this collection of essays and poems, activist and educator Willy Wilkinson shares his experiences as a queer, transgender, and disabled Asian. Among his stories are his experiences with transition, parenthood, and chronic fatigue syndrome.  Wilkins has an approachable writing style, and the vast breadth of subject matter means many people will find something that engages and touches them. This would be a great read for a gender studies class or anyone interested in the intersection between race, health, and gender issues.

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In honor of Pride Month, I thought I would take the time to discuss some of my favorite LGBT stories.  I also will link to some LGBT resources offered by library organizations.  This list is by no means comprehensive.  If you don’t see a LGBT work that you’ve really enjoyed, please share in the comments!

 Books:

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children (Kirstin Cronn-Mills)–This YA novel follows trans teen Gabe as he struggles to find acceptance for his decision to become male.  Gabe starts hosting a radio called “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children” and finds both his voice and acceptance.  This is a great story with relatable characters; the book is a lot less Pollayanish than I’m making it sound.  I think it does a great job of showing Gabe’s search for acceptance without relying on dramatic tactics to explore those issues; Gabe’s music geekery will be sure to appeal to some readers.

The Rifter series (Ginn Hale)-I’ve talked about the Rifter series on this blog before (see this post), and I need to mention it again.  This fantasy LGBT series has great world-building and a compelling story; the romance between the two main characters–John and Kyle– is sweet and well-portrayed.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Benjamin Alire Saenz)–Aristotle (Ari for short) is an angry young teen with a brother in jail; Dante is super inquisitive and cheerful.  After Dante starts teaching Ari how to swim, the two develop a strong friendship that becomes something more.  I really enjoyed these two characters–particularly Ari–and found the story engaging.   The friendship unfolds very nicely, the language is beautiful, and the issues don’t completely overwhelm the story nor is the storytelling overly dramatic.  This book’s a great read.

Wandering Son (Takako Shimura): This manga series follows a grade school boy who wants to be a girl and a grade school girl who wants to be a boy.  I haven’t come across any other stories with younger trans characters, so I wanted to be sure and include it.

Nightrunner series (Lynn Flewelling):  This fantasy series follows Seregil and Alan who spy for the kingdom.   I haven’t read the whole series, but I enjoyed the setting and stories.  Seregil and Alan are really fun characters, and, if you like stories set in an engaging world with a little romance thrown in, you’ll enjoy this.

Webcomics:

I’ve always been impressed by the diversity of the scene both in terms of works and creators.  There are a lot of comics out there that feature LGBT characters, but I decided to focus on the ones I read with LGBT main themes.   I think this category is especially lacking, so if you’ve got favorites, share them!

Rain (Jocelyn Samara)—This comic focuses on a MtoF transexual who is trying to get through her senior year at a conservative Christian school.  The story is equal parts engaging and entertaining as it explores themes of identity and acceptance; the cast features a diverse group of orientations and gender identities.  Also, if you’re into anime/manga and/or video games, there are a lot of fun references!

As the Crow Flies (Melanie Gillman): This comic features Charlie, a queer African-American girl, who is on a hiking trip with a predominately white Christian group. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous (all of it is done in colored pencil!), and, while the story updates slowly, it is an engaging read as it explores the topics of faith and identity.

Resources from the Library World

American College and Research Libraries. Protections for LGBT Americans in the Workplace.  This article offers resources includes historical timelines, reports on LGBT workers, and resources for LGBT workers.

American Library Association’s GLBT Roundtable.  GLBT Book Month.  This is a collection of award lists for LGBT books.  The site includes the Stonewall Award and the Roundtable’s Rainbow Books (for teens and children) and Over the Rainbow(LGBT books for adults) lists.

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So readers might remember when I reviewed the first volume Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son as part of my recent graphic novel binge.   For those just joining us, Wandering Son follows the story of grade-school students Norita Shuichi and Takatsuki Yoshino.  Norita wishes to be a girl, and finds that Takatsuki wants to be a boy.  Drawn by their common identity questions, they set out to explore and support each other.   In these next two volumes, tensions heighten as their classmates began to uncover their secret.

I simply cannot get enough of this series.   Shimura is doing a superb job of exploring this topic.  I admittedly have read very few LGBT books (must change this), but the one I did read was so emotionally intense throughout the whole book that, as a reader, it pushed me from out of the story.   Shimura eases you into Norita and Takatsuki’s lives and problems, and, as a result, the emotional effect is extremely strong once things heat up.   The artwork is simple and well-rendered; I am awed by how much Shimura is able to convey.   I can’t wait for volume 4 to come out in January!

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