Rainbow reading: Pride books round-up

  • by Jim Piechota
  • Tuesday June 20, 2023
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Rainbow reading: Pride books round-up

To help usher everyone into the Pride spirit, here is a selection of newly-published LGBTQ books for the ultimate rainbow reading audience. Assembled here are memoirs from a trans Filipino-American model, the historical stories of seven epic lesbian relationships, a pictorial book celebrating queerness through the ages from San Francisco to New York City, and a children's book on friendship and loss. Our Pride shelves are brimming with delightfully diverse stories, guidebooks, and personal profiles. Happy 2023 Pride, literarily!

"Boys Weekend" by Mattie Lubchansky, $28 (Pantheon)
This unconventional horror-satire follows trans femme protagonist Sammie who is invited by some friends from their college days to join a group having a bachelor party weekend at El Campo, a remote, isolated floating island. The occasion is former bestie Adam's impending wedding, and though Sammie is thrilled to attend, two dramatic things have changed since graduation. Their friendship with Adam isn't nearly as strong as it used to be and Sammie has transitioned; one situation might even be causative of the other.

Still, Mattie treks off to the floating city to join a gaggle of postured ignorant hetero bros who guffaw and high-five together while ignoring the fact that the island is slowly being infiltrated by a mysterious tech gathering and that there's a monster lurking in the waters surrounding the island. Toxic masculinity meets bold defiant queerness in this hilarious and impressive amalgam of science fiction, horror, and graphic comic book.

"Horse Barbie" by Geena Rocero, $28 (Penguin)
Upbeat and effortlessly suffused with grace and humor, Geena Rocero retraces her life having always identified as a female growing up in the Philippines up into her youth and adulthood in America. Though Manila open celebrates transgender youth, Rocero still yearned to free herself from the confines of life in her hometown.

Moving to San Francisco to be at her mother's side at 17, she worked at Macy's to save money for gender-affirming surgery, then moved to Manhattan to become a model, her life's ambition. Tales of dating mishaps and successes fill in the gaps between her career and her eventual happiness and contentment as a trans model in America. This wonderfully immersive, multi-cultural memoir, detailed across 25 chapters, is sure to please and entertain.

"Lesbian Love Story" by Amelia Possanza, $27 (Catapult Books) May 30
This book by literary publicist Possanza presents an impressive archive of lesbian relationships across decades: information and material that helped her process her life in New York City when she searched for connection and community.

Experiencing great difficulty in finding lesbians to befriend, she became a "collector of lesbians" and her memoir displays the bounty of this research through the details of seven love stories between women.
Beginning in the classical Greek era with a romance between the poet Sappho and her lover Anactoria, the stories run on through tales of the drag kings of Coney Island and Harlem's Black lesbians during the Great Depression. This is both an intelligent documentation of radical lesbian love as well as the author's personal tribute to women who love women across history and how that research fit into and defined her own way of life.

"Bachelor Father" by Bill W. Jones, $29 (self)
Bill Jones signed adoption papers in early 1969 through the San Francisco City and County Social Services Adoption Agency making his process the first single parent adoption in America. His memoir captures this life-changing adventure in vivid detail and gives the reader a full appreciation of the author's life as a gay man prior to the adoption of his son Aaron, of the year-and-a-half struggle to formally adopt him, and the medical challenges that his son faced.

Though Aaron would meet a young and tragically accidental death at age 30, Jones still grieves yet insists that his son be remembered "not as a historical fact, but as the lovable, sweet, funny, and loving person he was."
Written from the heart in a conversational, affable tone, this expansive, comprehensive, and spirited memoir reflects on the life of a single father, the passion and dedication it takes to be a parent, and how the loss of his only son proved essentially formative in his life going forward. Jones's story of love and loss will resonate with readers who are parents or who have ever considered embarking on the adoption process for themselves.

"The Story of the B-52s: Neon Side of Town" by Scott Creney & Brigette Adair Herron, $24.99 (Palgrave MacMillan)
Fans of the iconic New Wave rockers will find much to admire in this immersive biography of the band that surpassed expectations as just another "silly party band" and thrilled and embraced their legions of underdog followers.

Delving deep into the B-52s' music like the smash breakout album "Cosmic Thing" and performer personalities, musicians Creney and Herron trace the band's roots from Athens, Georgia to New York City where the sudden death of guitarist Ricky Wilson from AIDS complications rocked the group.

After that tragedy, it was the hit song "Love Shack" that resurrected them and catapulted them up the pop charts and beyond. Profiles of Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson, Ricky Wilson, and Keith Strickland are all given respectful and immense credit in a book that B-52s fans will consider a must-have addition to their libraries.

"A Very Gay Book" by Jenson Titus, Nic Scheppard, $30 (Andrews McMeel Publishing)
What would the world look like if everything had gay roots? That's the kooky premise behind the hilarious and immensely entertaining new book by joint authors Jenson Titus and Nic Scheppard.

Subtitled "an inaccurate resource for gay scholars," this satirical textbook spotlights aspects of history, culture, and science where "everything is gay" and has that queer eye and edge. Silliness abounds here, but laughter is a requirement when discussing the concept of prehistoric gays, "the drama, the longing, and the desire" of the Oregon Trail, Paul Revere and "the rich history of gay yelling," or how drinking smoothies and walking fast is essentially gay.

The artwork is just as hilarious as the text in this friend-sharing satirical opus of all things queer (or imagined to be). This is funny fluff meant to tickle the funny bone and inspire featherweight giggles at dinner parties.

"Rainbow Parenting" by Lindz Amer, $19 (St. Martins/Griffin)
This immensely important book from nonbinary LGBTQ activist and YouTube host of "Queerkid Stuff" Lindz Amer, who delivers instruction and advice on how parents and teachers can create gender-affirming spaces for children of any age. Pushing past the traditional gender binary, the book offers tips and strategies for treating kids, from toddlers to kindergarteners to school-age kids, with respectful "body kindness," including asking pronoun-friendly questions and raising all children with the physical- and gender-affirming dignity they deserve.

"The Green Witch's Guide to Magical Plants & Flowers: 26 Love Spells from Apples to Zinnias" by Chris Young & Susan Ottaviano, $22.99 (Skyhorse Publishing)
With a gushing introduction from Deborah Harry, this practical magical guide uses only natural organic greenery, flowers, plants, and herbs in spells meant to conjure feelings of love, hope, honor, and desire.
Ottaviano, best known as the lead singer of the 1980s new wave band Book of Love, bewitches readers with an introduction on the essential meaning of Green Witchcraft, and moves on to ingredients, recipes, gardening essentials, advice on how to begin your own personal journey, and Ottaviano's own colorful artistry gracing the front covers and throughout the book's pages.

Fully detailed instructions on creating your own Power of Love Dinner for Two joins a chapter naming plants necessary for crafting "Love Magic," and, conversely, a how-to guide on breaking a love spell. Tapping into the everyday magic of plants and organic energies that surround us, this is a book for queer witches who wish to expand their knowledge and their capacities to conjure goodness through greenery.

"Trans Children in Today's Schools" by Aidan Key, $29.95 (Oxford University Press) June 27
This important resource for teachers and school administrators is for those who might work with trans students on a regular basis. The book instructs and educates on the gender transition process, what it entails, and how adult individuals can affirmatively and proactively assist whenever and wherever possible.

Key's book is written with authority and immense tact and offers limitless advice on handling the challenges brought forth by political and social detractors and offers parents resources and assistance when confronted with challenges and roadblocks regarding their trans children's education. This is essential reading for educators and parents who want to make education available and non-discriminatory for trans children in every school system.

"Castro to Christopher: Gay Streets of America from 1979-1986" by Nicholas Blair, $45 (PowerHouse Books)
This outstanding photographic retrospective features Nicholas Blair's vibrant black and white photography and effectively illustrates those joyous years after the Stonewall age but before the AIDS epidemic raged and decimated our communities.

The images span west coast to east, San Francisco to Manhattan to Fire Island to the tip of Provincetown, and though they are primarily populated by white gay men, the scenes they portray are socially and culturally representative of the time, the places, the attitudes, the burgeoning freedom, and the love.

As noted in his introduction, culture critic Jim Farber writes about the significance of the race and gender of those participating in the events where these images were shot, commenting "should you fast-forward to today's gay pride events, you would often see the opposite. Tens of thousands of people of color —perhaps even more— now take part." He continues to note that the photographs also magnificently capture the general atmosphere and that "the sense of celebration in these photos is real and resounding." This is a wonderfully nostalgic coffee table book that will amaze everyone who opens its covers.

"The Last Gay Man on Earth" by Ype Driessen, $21.99 (Street Noise)
This photo comic-formatted book from Dutch cartoonist Ype Driessen chronicles the fraught and anxiety-inducing relationship between himself and the world around him. Driessen worries about everything from gay shame, acceptance, aging, and general risk-taking, all of which wouldn't be an issue if he lived on a desert island, as imagined in his wildest fantasies. His boyfriend Nicky helps things along by offering an American vacation whereby the author can extract himself out of the bubble he has trapped himself in. This unique autobiographical fotonovela is funny, intelligently crafted, and filled with relatable scenarios.

"My Friend, Loonie" by Nina LaCour, $18.99 (Candlewick Press)
This tenderly written children's story follows a girl's friendship and emotional attachment with a balloon brought home by her queer-presenting parents. She names the yellow orb "Loonie" and integrates it into her life at home. When the balloon becomes detached and floats off into the sky, the girl's sense of sadness and loss are palpably represented, as are the parents' responsibilities in redirecting their daughter's emotions into gardening, where beautiful new life blooms forth. Simply written and encompassing important issues facing young children, this book is an important addition to children's bookshelves.

"Young Queer America: Real Stories and Faces of LGBTQ+ Youth" by Maxwell Poth, $24.95 (Chronicle Books)
Activist and queer portrait photographer and photojournalist Maxwell Poth traversed across the country to promote Project Contrast, a nonprofit initiative that enables queer kids and their families to connect to the resources they need to survive and prosper. There are seventy-three profiles in all, and each detail (in their own words) the life of queer youth, from fifteen different states (and small towns within those states), who have struggled with coming out, fitting in, their mental health challenges, affirming their own identities, and finding love and happiness. Through moving words and images, this book represents queer pride in its most intrinsic form.

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