Word for word: Fall Arts books, part 1

  • by Jim Piechota
  • Tuesday August 30, 2022
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Word for word: Fall Arts books, part 1

As the seasons change, new books rush in and readers become enthralled at who's writing, what's new, and which trending (or non-trending) subject matter authors are focusing on.

For the Fall and Winter months about to envelope us, we present a series of tantalizing upcoming reading material from writers under the queer literary umbrella. A celebrated Black writer offers a terrific story character-driven collection; a former evangelist writes about how she turned her life around and away from religious leanings; and a Bollywood filmmaker writes about coming out. Read on.

A Minor Chorus, by Billy-Ray Belcourt, $20.95 (Hamish Hamilton)

Queer Indigenous Canadian prize-winning poet and creative writer Belcourt's latest novel chronicles a doctoral student who abandons his studies in favor of penning a heartfelt novel. Reflecting back on his childhood on a Cree reservation and the people in his history who have struggled and continue to wrestle with their identities, the protagonist searches for truth and a way to make peace with his past. This brisk, curious book is highly referential and unconventionally written, often straddling the nuances of meta-fiction while staying true to the same lush emotive prose seen in his previous books.

My Manservant & Me, by Herve Guibert, translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman, $13.95 (Nightboat)
Novelist and AIDS activist Guibert (1955-1991) posthumous publishes this erotically titillating character study between an aging playwright and his younger personal attendant. The caregiver is just 20, so the allure of tending to a rich elderly man may be lost on some readers, but for those who can let their imaginations leap outside the box of the ordinary, there is a kinky colorful story embedded here. Dominant roles are switched and rules are broken as the hierarchal structures of the two men's relationship is tested, stretched, and snapped into new and enticing positions. The French translation is splendidly finessed in a story that is captivating and fascinating.

Kiss the Scars on the Back of my Neck: Stories, by Joe Okonkwo, $16.95 (Amble Press)
Queens author Okonkwo's new collection of nine resonant stories spotlights the queer Black experience through many different facets and characterizations. A web designer for a gay male internet site rejects all the physical perfection he sees splashed across the screen in favor of going out for in-person cruising at the Manhattan bars.

But even he succumbs to doling out rejection when faced with imperfection. Could a stray cat be the salve a lonely gay man desperate craves? Can an unhappy wife give her bisexual husband's fantasies of a three-way credence? Can the opera experience bridge the gap between two seriously mismatched Black men? The answers to these queries and much more can be found in the pages of Okonkwo's masterful collection, which even includes a playlist for the title story.

Hugs and Cuddles, by Joao Gilberto Noll, $14.95 (Two Lines)
Brazilian writer Noll (1946-2017) posthumously publishes this provocative novel about a Brazilian man's urgent desire for queer connection throughout his life. The narrator, also named Joao, is married with a child, however he has never forgotten a sexually charged dalliance with a wrestling buddy back in grade school.

It is this episode that propels him to enjoy extramarital anonymous affairs with male strangers, described with sensual, feverish carnality throughout the novel. Lust and sexual fantasies (not always human-human) abounds everywhere in this steamy tale of hidden passion, written with all the urgency and meticulous detail of the most memorable erotica.

Queer Little Nightmares, edited by David Ly and Daniel Zomparelli, $18.95 (Arsenal Pulp Press)
Queer horror fans of every stripe will want to grab this luminous anthology of spooky fiction and poetry. Monsters are included in many of the entries, but they are not seen as such. Instead, they are merely misunderstood historically demonized entities crawling across dark forgotten landscapes in search of something or someone to relate to. Country lesbians transmogrify into werewolves to strike fear in the hearts of farmers; a minotaur attends a cosplay event in the only costume they'd ever known; even a creature from a black lagoon has needs and gets sick of watching swimmers frolic without them. This is a literary Halloween surprise to enjoy.

Heretic, by Jeanna Kadlec, $26.99 (Harper)

This resonant memoir by a former evangelical Christian is searing and beautiful from cover to cover. Kadlec's midwestern upbringing was steeped in the staunch religious piety of her parents from attending services and following a volatile code of behavioral standards to eventually marrying a local pastor's son. The marriage became abusive but the author writes of toughing it out based on her childhood.

But the trauma eventually overrode the way her life was being led and she divorced her husband to start anew. Kadlec writes candidly about realizing her true self by abandoning the church altogether, finding love with a woman, and living her life by her own rules. While this story may be nothing new, Kadlec's interpretation is particularly refreshing and vividly intensive and will resonate most with readers searching for new beginnings.

I am Onir and I am Gay, by Onir Onir, $19.95 (India Viking)
Penned together with his sister Irene, notable Indian filmmaker Onir chronicles his colorful contemporary life behind the camera (including discussing his 2005 directorial debut, My Brother Nikhil) as well as featured snapshot moments from his childhood in Bhutan. As one of just a few openly gay directors in Bollywood, Onir opens his heart onto the pages of this earnest and candid self-portrait about the emotional pain and shame of life in the closet while at the same time illuminating the freedoms one is afforded upon coming out.

The LGBTQ+ Comics Studies Reader: Critical Openings, Future Directions, Edited by Alison Halsall and Jonathan Warren; $30 (Univ. of Mississippi Press)

Two distinguished York University professors work together in presenting this series of illuminative essays on the resurgence and continued rising popularity of queer comics in marginalized communities. As the book notes, lesbian comics published in the 1980s were demarcated as part of a larger radical movement for queer female equality.

These books included those written by and for the Black lesbian population as a complementary publication to the monthly journal BLK Magazine. The sheer amount of diversified voices and perspectives included in this volume is impressive and duly represents the impact comics and graphic novels had (and continues to have) on queer history.

Look for more books in part 2 next week.

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