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Volume 3, No. 11: 100 Trans Books I Love + A Long List of Trans Rights Orgs to Support
Greetings, book people! I had a regular newsletter all set to go for today, but I’m putting it on hold because this week is the Trans Rights Readathon! The readathon is a decentralized fundraising effort dreamed up by author Sim Kern—you can read all about it here, and no, it’s not too late to join! From March 20th to 27th, people all over the country (and the world!) are reading trans books and raising money for trans organizations and mutual aid funds.
This readathon isn’t going to stop lawmakers from creating legislation that is designed to literally kill people. But it is going to funnel thousands of dollars to trans people in need of healthcare and housing, and organizations working to protect trans rights. It may not be enough, but it is something.
I cannot imagine my life without trans people, and I cannot imagine being a reader without trans lit. I’m celebrating trans books all week, and I hope you’ll join me! My gift to you is this list of 100 trans books I love—you can start reading today, and let these books carry you through the rest of the year.
I’ve also compiled a massive list of trans organizations you can donate to. You’ll find a bit more about it at the end of this newsletter, along with some other ways to support the readathon with your dollars and your voice.
This list includes books by trans, nonbinary, and genderqueer authors; books featuring trans characters; and books about trans history and politics. It is an expansive list featuring authors of all genders from many countries and backgrounds. Note that some of the books I’ve included by trans authors are not about trans characters. Newsflash: trans people can write about whatever and whoever they want!
I’ve read all of these books, and while I love 95% of them, I’ve also included a few that weren’t for me but that I think are awesome anyway and that you might adore. You’ll notice a few much beloved and well-know books on the list, but for the most part I’ve chosen to highlight under-the-radar indie press books that deserve more attention.
Books are sorted into vague genre/thematic categories. It’s skewed toward what I love and have read recently, which means a lot of contemporary fiction and essays and not a lot of sci-fi, but there’s a little bit of just about everything.
You can browse the whole list on Bookshop. If you buy any books from the list, I’ll donate the commissions I make to trans justice organizations in states currently facing the worst anti-trans legislation: Intransitive in Arkansas, The Transformation Project in South Dakota, and My Sistah’s House in Tennessee.
Essential Reading for Humans
Care Work by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha: A bighearted, fiery, angry, radical, and loving work about disability justice. It will challenge you, open you, and offer you possibilities for new ways of being in the world.
Exile & Pride by Eli Clare: A world-opening book about disability, queerness, healing, home, and rurality. Clare pieces together language about disability, class, place, race, and gender in thousands of new ways.
Graphic Novels & Memoirs
Mimosa by Archie Bongiovanni: This is one of the most viscerally relatable books about being queer in your 30s that I’ve ever read. Parenting, sex, dating, work, friendship, mental health, loneliness, aging. It’s a big, painful, funny mess.
Finding Home by Hari Conner: The most beautiful comic. A slow-burn romance about healing and food and nature magic. Almost unbearably tender.
Aspara Engine by Bishakh Som: Weird and beautiful short fiction full of magic and hauntings and queer mapmakers and trans academics.
My Life in Transition by Julia Kaye: Slice-of-life comics about Kaye’s daily life and transition.
O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti: An incredibly nuanced, thoughtful, and complicated story about trans and queer lives: parenting, coming of age, falling in love, the many things and people that transform us over the course of a life.
Dream Rooms by River Halen: This is my favorite kind of nonfiction—structurally creative, agile, lots of space for the reader to make connections between ideas. It’s about queerness and transness and bodies, about making art, heartbreak, losing and letting go of family, change and desire and living with violence.
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson: A memoir about growing up Black and queer in the South, written with so much tenderness and understanding toward young Black queer people.
Life as a Unicorn by Amrou Al-Kadhi: This is a funny, joyful book about drag and creative expression; a sad, messy book about Al-Kadhi’s complex relationship with their mother; an angry book about racism and homophobia in the UK.
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock: A classic trans memoir. It’s vulnerable and assured.
Uncomfortable Labels by Laura Kate Dale: This is a thoughtful, informative, linear, and somewhat dry memoir about Dale's life as a gay trans autistic woman. Dry isn't a criticism here—I mean it simply as an observation about her writing style: clear and observant, nothing flowery (though there is humor!) It’s very journalistic, almost as if she’s reporting on her own life.
Black Boy Out of Time by Hari Ziyad: An intimate memoir-in-essays about Black childhood, queerness, abolition, living in a carceral state, family. There’s one essay where Ziyad talks about choosing to be queer—times in their life they’ve chosen queerness, and other times they haven’t—that blew my heart right open.
The Natural Mother of the Child by Krys Malcolm Belc: How do I quantify how much I love this book? It’s about queer partnership and trans parenthood, the weirdness of bodies, language and siblings and silence, transformation. Structurally breathtaking.
Fairest by Meredith Talusan: What has stuck with me most about this memoir is Talusan’s willingness to embrace contradictions and how open she's willing to be about all the identities she's held in her life. It's definitely not a trans 101 narrative. It's a very specific story that refuses to adhere to any stereotypical notions about what trajectories queer and trans lives are supposed to take.
Trans & Queer Joy
Essays & Essay Collections
Voice of the Fish by Lars Horn: Writing. Tattoos. Gender. Art. Being trans. Water, water, water. Losing language, being bereft of language. Where language lives, and what it means to live without it. Masculinity. Trauma. Fish. Lots of weird historical stories about fish. Philosophy. Illness. Memory. Bodies.
Nonbinary edited by Micah Rajunov and A. Scott Duane: An anthology of essays by a diverse group of nonbinary writers.
Pass With Care by Cooper Lee Bombardier: Essays about about transness, masculinity, queer communities, work. Bombardier writes about various times in his life, jumping around a lot, and it gives the collection a sense of messiness and movement. Many of these essays are about the messiness of transition, the ability to hold many truths and identities within a body, both the easing into self and the pain of not being at ease in self.
Time is a Thing the Body Moves Through by T. Fleischmann: An interesting and nuanced exploration of art, queerness, transness, labels, sex, desire. Fleischmann is funny, brash, honest, and totally uninterested in explaining or neatening or justifying their experiences for a straight/cis audience.
Belly of the Beast by Da'shaun L. Harrison: Harrison delves into the ways that anti-fatness supports the carceral state; the links between white supremacist beauty standards, desirability politics, and the policing/devaluing of fat bodies; and the racism and transphobia behind so much discourse about health, especially in relation to fatness. It is challenging and scholarly and deeply felt.
Real Queer America by Samantha Allen: A wonderful blend of memoir and journalism that pushes back against one of the most frustrating stereotypes about queer people: that we all live in cities and/or liberal areas.
The Fact of a Body by Alex Marzano-Lesnevich: This is a breathtaking book about the power of stories: the stories we tell ourselves, the stories the world tells us, what happens to the stories we cannot tell. Marzano-Lesnevich masterfully weaves the story of their own childhood trauma with a true crime narrative; the result is a book of nonfiction unlike anything else I've ever read. A vitally important and gorgeously written mediation on trauma, narrative, perspective, and the difference between true stories and truth.
In Sensorium by Tanaïs: An intimate and nuanced history of South Asia told through the lens of scent and perfume. Diaspora, queerness, language, stories and myth-making, colonial violence, survival. A winding, unending journey.
Gender Failure by Ivan Coyote & Rae Spoon: A celebratory collection of notes and musings and meditations on gender.
Nîtisânak by Jas M. Morgan: This book is a fascinating blend of academic and anti-academic, and it’s full of Indigenous and nonwestern explorations of queerness and gender.
Vivek Shraya & Kai Cheng Thom!
People Change by Vivek Shraya: Change! It’s what life is made of! It’s not the enemy! Transformation is magical! Humans are not static! Endings are not failures and past versions of ourselves are not lies! This book is a balm.
I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya: Here Shraya explores the intersections of gender, sexuality, power, fear, shame, race. She brilliantly uses the second person to examine her experiences with men. The book builds on itself in a remarkable way for such a short work.
The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya: A novel about two South Asian women, both musicians, and their complicated friendship. Shraya writes about the internet with astonishing clarity.
Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars by Kai Cheng Thom: A weird, brilliant, exuberant, devastating coming of age story about an Asian Canadian trans girl who runs away from home and finds community in the big city among a group of trans women and femmes.
I Hope We Choose Love by Kai Cheng Thom: A wonderful book of essays about the messy, complicated, far-from-perfect realties of queer communities, especially queer and trans communities focused around art and social justice.
A Place Called No Homeland by Kai Cheng Thom: One of my all-time favorite collections. The language is astonishing.
Gays of Our Lives by Kris Ripper: This is the first in a fun romance series set in the Bay Area, featuring various queer couples, a murder mystery, and found family.
The Companion by E.E. Ottoman: A 1940s love story between two trans women and a trans man and the house they turn into a home. It’s lovely.
The Craft of Love by E.E. Ottoman: The softest historical romance about a trans silversmith and a radical quilt maker. It’s full of details about their respective crafts. The characters are so thoughtful and gentle with each other, even as they struggle with what they each want and whether or not they can fit their lives together.
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner: The slowest of slow burns; thorny and thoughtfully written power dynamics.
For the Love of April French by Penny Aimes: An M/F queer romance that is very hot and kinky and deals with transphobia and racism but is also funny and fluffy and soft. A+.
Rising From Ash by Jax Meyer: Are you looking for a sapphic romance set in Antarctica? Of course you are!
Little Books, Big Hearts
The Letter Formally Known as Q by Nance Musinguzi: A collection of interviews with queer and trans immigrants living in Minnesota.
Continuum by Chella Man: A vibrant pamphlet about identity, full of stories about Man’s life as a deaf, trans, Jewish person of color.
The Deep by Rivers Solomon: An underwater story about generational trauma, the work of memory, community accountability, and self-discovery.
Finna by Nino Cipri: Queer exes searching for a lost customer take a romp through various universes, thanks to the wormholes that open up in the IKEA-like store they work at. You’re welcome.
Short Story Collections
Manywhere by Morgan Thomas: Stories that move between various queer and trans timelines. Histories that bleed into the present.
Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel by Julian K. Jarboe: Weird Queer! Strange, inventive speculative stories. Lots of creepy body stuff. Philosophical and physical.
Las Biuty Queens by Iván Monalisa Ojeda, tr. Hannah Kauders: Slice-of-life stories about a community of Latine trans women, immigrants, and sex workers in NYC. The writing is wonderfully direct, full of beautifully captured moments.
Transmutation by Alex DiFrancesco: There is one story in this about a disappearing professor that I will remember for the rest of my life, but all the others are good, too. Lots of wisps of magic and unexplained happenings and trans ancestry.
Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) by Hazel Jane Plante: An ode to trans friendship that is quietly funny and wonderfully quirky and will make you fall in love with a weird fictional TV show. Is it my favorite book? I’m not saying it’s not.
Weekend by Eaton Hamilton: Two queer couples spend a weekend at their adjoining cottages on a lake in northern Canada. They get into a lot of messes. An emotionally draining and deeply sustaining read. Motherhood, sex, partnership, gender, loneliness, aging.
Nevada by Imogen Binnie: A darkly funny and darkly real novel about a trans woman whose life is spiraling. She’s hilarious and smart and her tone is both bleak and honest.
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi: Queerness and transness are infinite and expansive. There is so much possibility in the world. Western notions of identity and gender are not the be-all-end-all. This book took my breath and my heart
Little Fish by Casey Plett: Casey Plett writes a kind of realism that leaves me in awe. Her scene-building, her dialogue, the way she places characters so deeply inside their lives. This novel about a group of trans women in Winnipeg feels uncannily real.
Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg: I will never forget what it felt like to read this for the first time. It was the first book that made me realize what queer lit could do, how big it could be.
Endpapers by Jennifer Savran Kelly: This is a book about art, gender, friendship, fear, self-expression, and queer history. It’s set in New York City in 2003. It’s a meandering coming-into-self book starring a bookbinder who feels stuck in her gender and relationships. Melancholy.
Fiebre Tropical by Juli Delgado Lopera: No plot, just vibes. Intense queer adolescent vibes. Feverish vibes. Humid Miami nights vibes. The vibes are impeccable.
Sasha Masha by Agnes Borinsky: This is a bighearted book about identity that isn’t about coming out or transition, but a trans teenager’s growing understanding of themself. The parts about queer mentorship and queer spaces are especially poignant.
The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimmons: A sweet love story with lots of soccer talk and almost no transphobia.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender: This is one of the most well-known trans YA books out there, and I really love it, too.
Water I Won’t Touch by Kayleb Rae Candrilli: A love letter to bodies and places and trans joy.
Dispatch by Cameron Awkward-Rich: A stunning collection about transness and self-expression and family and living in an impossible world. It’s also about the history of racist violence in the U.S. and the horror inflicted on Black bodies. Awkward-Rich’s language is precise and musical.
Inheritance by Taylor Johnson: Poems about Blackness, everyday-ness, legacies of inheritance.
The Spectral Wilderness by Oliver Bendorf: In addition to gorgeous queer love notes and poems about being trans, this book is full of astonishing writing about farming. Every line gutted and lifted me.
The Year of Blue Water by Yanyi: This is a beautiful and sparse collection of prose poems that feel linked. The book is a journey, a record of striving and seeking. Yanyi writes about transition and gender and uncertainty. It’s rigorous and playful at the same time.
It Was Never Going to Be Okay by jaye simpson: Fierce, hopeful, loving poems about queer and trans Indigeneity.
ZOM-FAM by Kama La Mackerel: A beautiful, moving, heart-opening memoir-in-poems about queer and trans coming of age on Mauritius.
808s and Otherworlds by Sean Avery Medlin: I didn’t get all the rap and hiphop references, but I love the movement and vibrancy and musicality of this collection.
We Laugh in the Face of Genre
Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body by Megan Milks: The truest, funniest, strangest, smartest, most raw, most vulnerable, most bizarre queer coming-of-age novel ever. What is girlhood? What isn’t girlhood? Bodies are hard places to live.
Lote by Shola von Reinhold: A genre-defying wonder of a novel, full of questions. Mysterious and funny and smart and sharp. An excavation of longing and luxury and excess and what it means to love, write, exist as a Black queer person in the world. Reinhold invents a Black queer archive on the page.
Something That May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel Lavery: What is going on here? What is real? What is myth and what is memoir? I sobbed in a parking lot while listening to this strange and perfect book.
Summer Fun by Jeanne Thornton: Why aren’t more people shouting about this weird and beautiful book? A trans woman is obsessed with a mysterious 1960s pop singer, to whom she writes a series of fascinating letters. Queer lineage, fandom, what it means to be creative, the nature of friendship, emotional time travel.
Knot Body by Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch: This is a series of writings about disability and chronic illness, about pain and friendship and transness, about the ways racial, cultural, and gender identities intersect and define how people experience disability. Bechelany-Lynch uses poetry, letters, and fragmented essays, and all of these pieces work together to create something propulsive and still.
Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Speculative Fiction
The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders: I read this a while ago, but I can still see the tide-locked planet so clearly in my head. It’s a haunting, sneaky book.
Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki: I couldn’t handle the POV jumping, but if that doesn’t bother you, this is a funny, weird, hopeful book about a trans violinist, a family of ailen refugees who run a doughnut shop, and a musician who’s made a pact with the devil.
The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang: A novella about twin siblings tangled up in a revolution. The characterization is fantastic.
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan: This is a gut punch of a book. It will eat you up.
My Volcano by John Elizabeth Stintzi: WTF. The most perfect whirlwind of loss and terror and despair and delight and hope, i.e. this book is what it feels like to live in this impossible world.
Wisps of Magic
Dead Collections by Isaac Fellman: A trans vampire archivist falls in love with the widow of a famous lesbian TV star. A love letter to fandoms, to ghosts, to archival memory. Some of my favorite queer sex scenes.
I’m not running my own fundraiser for the Trans Rights Readathon, but I donated $25 to the Muslim Fund for Bodily Autonomy, organized by Queer Crescent. Here’s what you can do to protect trans rights this week (and always):
Find an organization local to you on the massive list of trans rights organizations I compiled! It includes over 250 orgs in the U.S. and 50 international orgs. I’m adding more every day.
Make a donation, and then tell me about it! Leave a comment with the name of the organization/person/mutual aid fund you’re supporting (and donation amount if you feel comfortable). I’ll include your donations in my final tally at the end of the Readathon.
Many incredible bookstores are participating in the Readathon! It’s a great time to buy books from Black Walnut Books, A Room of One’s Own, and my local Imaginary Bookshop, all of whom are donating 5% of their sales this week to trans justice organizations. Loyalty Bookstores is donating profits from their Trans Readathon List to Whitman-Walker Health and White Whale Books is donating profits from their list to SisTers PGH.
Buy some of the amazing books I’ve mentioned here on my Bookshop list. I’m donating the commissions I make to trans justice organizations in states currently facing the worst anti-trans legislation: Intransitive in Arkansas, The Transformation Project in South Dakota, and My Sistah’s House in Tennessee.
This is, without question, the longest newsletter I’ve ever written. If you’re still here, a little beauty to send you on your way: My bestie and I went to the spring bulb show at Smith last weekend, and it was was the most glorious flower joy.
Catch you next week, bookish friends! I have another special edition planned, and you’re not going to want to miss it.