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Volume 3, No. 21: 55 Upcoming Queer Books I Can't Wait to Read
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Greetings, book and treat people! For once I actually took off a Monday holiday and had a glorious long weekend. I took my first river swim of the season, spent a whole day reading, baked a fancy cake for my best friend’s birthday, sat on my porch listening to wood thrushes and hermit thrushes, and ate the first local strawberries. It was a sweet balm in the midst of ongoing stress.
Here’s your reminder that today is the last day to get in on the Spring Sale—50% off paid subscriptions forever!
It’s also time for the May Queer Your Year raffle! This month’s prize is the December box from Boxwalla’s American Fiction Series with Alexander Chee. You can submit your game card and find all the details here. You have until June 4th to submit. The winning prompts this month are: 1, 6, 8, 11, 25, 34, 42, and 46.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of Pride, so today’s newsletter is a special treat for you: 55 upcoming queer books I can’t wait to read!
These are all books that I am personally looking forward to reading (the few I’ve already read are marked with a star). I’ve focused on contemporary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, with some historical and speculative fiction mixed in. There are a few YA titles but most of the list is adult. All of this reflects my own tastes, but it’s also because it’s often much easier to find upcoming queer book lists highlighting romance, SFF, and YA. So this list is another way for me to do what I love most: celebrate under-the-radar and indie press queer books. Enjoy!
*Open Throat by Henry Hoke (June 6): I put this on the list because the marketing copy says it’s about a queer mountain lion. Sign me up! I’ve since read it. It’s a beautiful, haunting, poetic novella about wildness, loneliness, connection, hunger, climate grief. The mountain lion narrator is not queer, though. The author is, so I’m leaving it on the list. The audiobook is wonderful.
The Dos and Donuts of Love by Adiba Jaigirdar (June 6): I enjoyed Jaigirdar’s first book, The Henna Wars, and I cannot resist a pun! This sounds like a sweet and silly YA romance. Plus, there’s a baking competition! Surabhi’s review reminded me it was coming out and got me excited about it.
*Happy Stories, Mostly by Norman Erikson Pasaribu, tr. Tiffany Tsao (June 6): These are sometimes strange, sometimes sad, and sometimes funny stories about queer folks in Indonesia. I wrote a bit about it here.
The Secret Summer Promise by Keah Brown (June 6): A sapphic romance about a girl with cerebral palsy determined not to fall in love with her best friend (any more than she already has). I generally stay away from “summer reads” but this sounds nerdy and gay and great.
*And Then He Sang a Lullaby by Ani Kayode (June 6): This is the first book from Roxane Gay’s new imprint. It’s a beautiful, complicated, layered, and utterly devastating story about two gay university students in Nigeria. I love what it has to say about queer lineage, survival, and the cost queer people often pay to come into themselves. CWs for homophobic violence, suicide, and death of queer characters.
Ponyboy by Eliot Duncan (June 13): A messy AF novel about a trans man named Ponyboy navigating various unraveling queer relationships in Berlin and the Midwest. I approach books about addiction with caution, but I am curious about this one.
Old Enough by Haley Jakobson (June 20): A bisexual college student just coming into queer community is forced to revisit old trauma when her childhood best friend announces she’s getting married. I love a coming-into-self book, and the queerer the better, obviously.
*Lucky Red by Claudia Cravens (June 20): The queer Western of my dreams, set in a Kansas whorehouse in the 1870s. It’s tender, funny, and beautifully written. Be gay do crimes, be gay do drama, be gay fall hard, etc.
Indigiqueerness: A Conversation about Storytelling by Joshua Whitehead & Angie Abdou (June 4): Joshua Whitehead is an auto-read author for me. I loved the way he exploded genre in Making Love With the Land. This sounds like another genre-exploding book about queerness, theory, language, futurity, Indigenous identity and how it all intersects in his work.
Moby Dyke by Krista Burton (June 6): Books that blend memoir with history, politics, and/or culture are my favorite. So obviously I cannot wait to read this travel memoir about the year Krista Burton spent visiting every lesbian bar in the country. Surabhi (yes, she’s one of my favorites on Insta!) recently raved about it (and compared it to Real Queer America, which I also loved).
Leg by Greg Marshall (June 13): I am always, always on the lookout for more queer disability books, so I’m very excited about this memoir, about Marshall’s experiences as a gay man with cerebral palsy. Also it sounds funny, and I love a funny gay memoir!
*Freedom House by KB Brookins (June 6): This is a stunning, inventive, rending, rageful, playful collection about being Black and trans, gender joy, American racism, state violence, freedom, transformation, and more. Em wrote a fantastic review!
Shrines by Sagaree Jain (June 20): I came across this book while researching upcoming poetry for the BuzzFeed Books newsletter (RIP). It’s always exciting when a book leads me to a new indie press—in this case, Game Over Books! The collection itself sounds great, too, and full of queer love.
I Do Everything I’m Told by Megan Fernandes (June 20): This collection sounds wild and beautiful: cities, travel, queer desire and intimacy, loneliness, longing. I love anything that puts a surrealist spin on ordinary life.
The Sea Elephants by Shastri Akella (July 11): “A queer coming-of-age novel set in 1990s India, about a young man who joins a traveling theater troupe.” Well, that’s all you really have to tell me.
All the Yellow Suns by Malavika Kannan (July 11): I love YA books that explore activism because they always bring me back to my baby gay activist days. This one is about a queer Indian American teenager who gets involved in a radical (and secret) activist group in her Florida suburb. It sounds very real, and therefore scary, and also therefore worth a read.
Nonfiction & Poetry
*A Place for Us by Brandon J. Wolf (July 1st): This is a devastating memoir about the queer community in Orlando, the Pulse shooting, the grief of the aftermath, and Brandon Wolf’s work as an LGBTQ+ activist. The Pulse sections are detailed and hard to read, but Wolf’s overflowing love for his queer family is equally detailed and powerful. I reviewed the audiobook here.
Because You Were Mine by Brionne Janae (July 4th): A book of poems about queerness, grief, abuse, and survival. It won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, which I don’t know much about, except that the 2021 winner was Concentrate by Courtney Faye Taylor, which is one of the best collections I’ve read so far this year.
Binded by H. Warren (July 11th): These poems are about being nonbinary in rural Alaska, and honestly, all you have to do to hook me is tell me a book is about rural queerness.
*Bellies by Nicola Dinan (August 1): I love this book with the fire of a thousand suns. It’s about a trans woman and her first love and their messy relationship and all the mistakes and joys and heartbreaks of their twenties.
I Will Greet the Sun Again by Khashayar J. Khabushani (August 1): A queer coming-of-age novel set in California and Iran. Yes, another queer coming-of-age novel. No, it is not possible to have too many.
Lush Lives by J. Vanessa Lyon (August 1): This is the second book from Roxane Gay’s imprint, and it sounds completely unlike And Then He Sang a Lullaby. It’s set in the NYC art scene and it seems like there’s a lot of lesbian drama!
Back in the Land of the Living by Eva Crocker (August 22): I love a “protagonist lands in a new city after seriously messing up their life” story. This one is set in Montreal in 2019 and the early months of the pandemic.
Board to Death by CJ Connor (August 22): This is the debut of my awesome Book Riot colleague CJ Connor! I love the idea of cozy mysteries but I rarely read them because I need them to be queer, please and thank you, and there just aren’t a ton of those. But here’s one! It’s about Ben, the owner of a board game shop in Salt Lake City, and I guess there’s murder but also Ben falls in love with the owner of a flower shop and that is literally all I need to know.
Learned by Heart by Emma Donoghue (August 29): Emma Donoghue definitely knows how to do her research, so I trust her with this novel based on the real life 19th century love story of Anne Lister and Eliza Raine.
Nonfiction & Poetry
Falling Back in Love with Being Human by Kai Cheng Thom (August 1): It’s no secret that Kai Cheng Thom is one of my favorite authors. So I can’t wait to read this collection of letters as essays, about healing, creativity, community, and more
Beachlight by Cyril Wong (August 5): A book-length queer nature poem that begins with a walk along a beach in Singapore and moves into meditations about desire and ecology. Yes please.
Queer Then & Now edited by Debanuj Dasgupta, Joseph Donica, and Margot Weiss (August 15): This anthology collections speeches given as part of the David R. Kessler Lectures between 2002 and 2020. Queer studies! My nerdy queer heart, which sometimes wants to go to grad school even though I didn’t finish college, is rejoicing.
Thin Skin by Jenn Shapland (August 15): 2023 is bringing endless gifts in the form of new books by authors I love. If you haven’t yet read Shapland’s wonderful memoir/biography My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, get on that! I don’t even know what her new collection is about, but I know it’s going to be good.
Loving in the War Years by Cherríe Moraga (August 15): This 40th anniversary edition of Moraga’s classic memoir from Haymarket Books also includes much of her writing from the 1990s. I recently read Haymarket’s reissue of Waiting in the Wings, and I enjoyed the book itself as well as Moraga’s reflections on it. I’m excited about the same contextualizing in this reissue.
The Long Field by Pamela Petro (August 15): A blend of nature writing, travel memoir, and history, deeply steeped in a particular place (Wales) and written from a queer perspective—this is my catnip.
Nobody Needs to Know by Pidgeon Pagonis (August 15): One of my queer reading goals this year is to read more books by intersex authors, so I’m especially excited for this memoir from an intersex activist.
Dandelion Daughter by Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay, tr. Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch (September 1): I love Canadian queer lit, and this novel sounds amazing: yet another (yay, the more the merrier!) coming-into-self book about a trans woman in rural Quebec. Bonus: the translator is a trans author I love!
Wound by Oksana Vasyakina, tr. Elina Alter (September 5): A lesbian poet travels from Moscow to her small hometown in Siberia to scatter her mother’s ashes, meditating on art, memory, and queer identity along the way. Say no more. I need it.
Wild Geese by Soula Emmanual (September 12): 2023 is shaping up to be an incredible year for novels by trans women. This debut is about an Irish trans woman living in Copenhagen who unexpectedly reconnects with her first girlfriend and falls headlong into a confrontation with her past.
People Collide by Isle McElroy (September 26): Weird Queer is currently my favorite genre. This novel is about a man who swaps bodies with his wife, who then goes missing, so now he’s living in her body while he traverses continents trying to find her. Sounds wild. Gender is so weird!
Creep by Myriam Gurba (September 5): I loved Mean, so I am eager for more of Gurba’s brilliant analysis. In these essays, she explores the idea of “creep” in the context of abuse, public discourse, art, and community action.
When My Ghost Sings by Tara Sidhoo Fraser (September 19): A stroke at the age of 31 leaves Tara Sidhoo Fraser with amnesia. As she pieces herself back together, she experiences her returning memoires as though they are someone else’s, an entity she calls Ghost. This memoir sounds haunting and beautiful.
Inverse Cowgirl by Alicia Roth Weigel (September 19): 2023 has blessed us with not one, but two memoirs by intersex activists! Weigel is an intersex activist based in Texas, and I can’t wait to read these essays about her work and life.
Love and Money, Sex and Death by McKenzie Wark (September 26): In this memoir-in-letters, Wark recounts coming out and transitioning later in life. The letters are addressed to her younger self, family members, trans sisters and ancestors, and others. I love memoirs structured like this!
The Out Side edited by Min Christensen and David Daneman (September 26): This is a collection of 18 nonfiction comics by trans and nonbinary artists about their journeys of gender and self-discovery. Need I say more? What’s better than a comics anthology?
In Gorgeous Display by Ugochukwu Damian Okpara (September 5): A debut collection by a queer Nigerian poet that’s both elegy and love letter. I’m in love with the cover.
Pig by Sam Sax (September 19): A thematic collection that uses pigs as lens to explore everything from queerness and religion to ecology and capitalism. Also: poems about pigs, the animal! I’m intrigued.
Sex Augury by C. Bain (September 26): I got lost in all the clauses in the marketing copy for this book, but I picked up trans poetics, and that’s all I need to know. It sounds mystical and gay, I’m in, especially since I’ve been impressed with a lot of poetry from Red Hen Press lately.
The Haunting of Adrian Yates by Markus Harwood-Jones (October 4): This is the first new book from my beloved Metonymy Press since 2021, so yes, I am screaming! It’s a YA novel about a boy whose boyfriend is a ghost. You know I’m down for anything eerie and gay. And Metonymy doesn’t miss.
Mary and the Birth of Frankenstein by Anne Eekhout (October 4): I have a thing for Frankenstein retellings. It’s just such a good story! Mary Shelley was such a badass! I stopped reading the marketing copy for this one at “sapphic reimagining of Mary Shelley’s life” and added it to the must-have list.
Family Meal by Bryan Washington (October 10): So far Bryan Washington is 2 for 2 with me: I liked Lot and I adored Memorial. I love the way he writes about place, so I’m excited that this novel is set in cities he’s written about before: Houston and Osaka. It’s about a man who returns to his hometown (Houston) in the aftermath of grief. I also love coming home stories, and I also love how Washington writes families, so basically I am ready to be wowed.
Blackouts by Justin Torres (October 10): I love it when authors take years and years between releases. It feels like a little fuck you to capitalism, you know? Torres’s debut, We the Animals (gorgeous) came out in 2011. Do we know what his new one is about? Do we care? We do not. I can’t wait to see what he’s been up to.
Nights Too Short to Dance by Marie-Claire Blais, tr. Katia Grubisic (October 17): Marie-Claire Blais, who died in 2021, was a French Canadian writer and queer literary icon who published over 30 books and who I have never heard of? Many of her books have been translated into English but none of them have received much attention in the U.S. You can bet I am going to track them down! This one is about a man in his 90s, who, while recovering from an illness, reminisces about queer history with his friends.
Nonfiction & Poetry
The Feminist Killjoy Handbook by Sara Ahmed (October 3): A must-read book from a feminist icon and scholar. I can’t wait for this one to do all sorts of interesting, rageful things to my brain.
Erin Belieu & Carl Phillips (October 24): This anthology collects 58 poems selected by their authors, paired with essays about why they chose those poems as their very best. I don’t know all the poets featured, but there will obviously be some queer ones. Plus, anything that Carl Phillips touches is obviously gold.
I hope this long list of upcoming queer brilliance has brought you as much joy as making it has brought me. I am beside myself with excitement about queer books! What upcoming releases am I missing? Come tell me about them in the comments.