Pride Booksapalooza, part 3: photo essays, young adult & rainbow lit

  • by Jim Piechota
  • Sunday June 16, 2024
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Pride Booksapalooza, part 3: photo essays, young adult & rainbow lit

Here's the third and final installment of our Pride 2024 books roundup, where you'll find a colorful selection of picture books, photo essays, and Children's and Young Adult titles. These books make ideal conversation pieces in mixed company on the living room coffee table or on the bedside table.

Have a wonderful and safe Pride month, watch out for each other, and don't forget to patronize your local queer bookseller and pick up a few of these incredibly diverse, meticulously crafted pictorial volumes.

'Unsuitable: A History of Lesbian Fashion' by Eleanor Medhurst, $34.95 (Hurst & Co.)
Spanning centuries and across continents, this fascinating time capsule from queer historian Medhurst projects readers back in time in an insightful, educative history lesson in lesbian fashion.

Though not solely a book of photographs, there are 36 historical illustrations and pictures included and each is appropriately paired with chapters on lesbian life in Japan in the early twentieth century, to feminine tours of Paris, Berlin, and the Harlem Renaissance, and the liberation of lesbian feminist dress codes, cross-dressing, and the advent of the drag king.

Queer historians and folks with even a casual interest in the sartorial legacy of lesbian women over the last few centuries will immensely appreciate this immersive commemoration which will inspire spirited conversation and illuminative discussion.

'Rainbowsaurus' by Steve Antony, $17.95 (Crocodile Books)
This vivid, fanciful, 32-page read-along story by multi award-winning author-illustrator Antony ("Mr. Panda" series) chronicles the journey of a family consisting of two dads and their three children to find the mythical Rainbowsaurus! Along the way, the family meets a kaleidoscopic array of animals who are also on their own adventure to find the creature, which becomes a wonder to behold when eventually found and who is right in front of them!

There's immense and wonderfully inclusive fun to be had amidst these pages as readers of all ages will encounter farm animals who make the sounds of other animals (a gobbling cow?!) and a blended family and newfound friends with flashy clothing that almost outshines the multi-hued coat of the Rainbowsaurus himself! This is terrific family fun.

'A Sense of Shifting: Queer Artists Reshaping Dance' by Coco Romack, Yael Malka, $27.50 (Chronicle Books)
Romack and Malka's spectacular photography collaboration celebrates the artists, dancers, and choreographers who continue to defy outdated notions of what constitutes "dance" and artistically calibrated human motion.

In a series of stunning images, the book captures a night at San Francisco's Sundance Stompede and the Bay Area's country-western, two-stepping, line-dancing, and swing-dancing community, then moves into how companies like Ballez, in response to the ballet industry's "archaic standards," "Feath3r Theory," and "Kinetic Light" (disabled and nondisabled performers dancing together) brings queer and trans bodies into traditional dance canons as a "reparative act."

And those are just a small sampling of the artists, acts, and performance groups Romack places at center stage in an art book that leaps off the page with thrilling movement, human emotion, and artistic physicality. These photographs and accompanying profiles are stunning and electrically capture the intensity of motion, humanity, and queer artistic expression.

'Queer Power Couples: On Love and Possibility,' written by Hannah Murphy Winter and photographed by Billie Winter, $29.95 (Chronicle Books)
In the introduction to this gorgeous and memorable nod to queer relationships, author Hannah Murphy Winter and her photographer wife, Billie, remark on their first inklings of queerness as youngsters connecting on a visceral level with characters from cartoons like "Recess" and "Thundercats." When they both came out at twenty-four, the world opened in a "slow and awkward and fumbling process" and this book intimately showcases LGBTQ+ relationships by asking each interviewee about the first person each of them recognized as queer.

The "power" in these couples stems from three qualities: "they're out, they're coupled, and they're able to influence mainstream culture." Spanning gender, race, ethnicity, background, artistic talent, personal experience, and radical histories, these couples, conjoined by their shared excellence in the arts, the sciences, and beyond, are stylistically unique, stunningly photographed, and attention-drawing.

Singer, songwriter, and musician Mike Hadreas and his partner Alan Wyffels discuss how their provocative music group Perfume Genius emerged. They are joined by Pasadena chemist and biologist duo Barbara Belmont and Rochelle Diamond; academic couple Marilee Lindemann and Martha Nell Smith; dynamic producer, director and writer team Ben and Daniel Barnz; and powerhouse authors Charlie Jane Anders (speculative sci-fi) and Annalee Newitz (sci-fi and science journalism) who intimately share how they worked through the issues of a couple in the same field with the same career anxieties to blossom into a "smitten" romance.

This book celebrating influential queer couples gets its power not only from its striking imagery but from the probing, deeply felt interview material as well. Don't miss these unforgettable portraits.

'Queer Cheer' by Eric Rosswood, $19 (Mango Books)
Queer teenagers need to look no further than this guidebook by award-winning author Rosswood and Anders awash in everything that supports, uplifts, advocates, affirms, and proactively identifies LGBTQ youth today. On its glossy full-color pages are conversations on identity, self-care tips, "rainbow affirmations," motivating, healthy living activities, and a barrage of feel-good habits that will make any teen celebrate who they are and who they will become soon.

Written with humor and honesty, the multimedia artwork and color schematics will never bore a reader and each page screams its message out loud and proud. The importance of navigating spaces and participatory activism for queer freedom and equality movements will not go unnoticed for teen readers who seek community and a way to interact with others in the rainbow networks of art, politics, self-love, and identity. This book is a must-have for any queer teenager seeking a guide to making a difference and having fun while doing so.

'Finding my Rainbow: A Journey of Courage, Acceptance, and Pride' by Josh Coleman, $18.99 (self)
Social justice advocate Coleman has crafted this beautifully colorful 26-page children's and YA autofiction set in rural Alabama where the author as a young boy (named Josh) grows up and seeks guidance and acceptance from a community he fears will not be so welcoming of his alternative feelings and attractions.

Through his perseverance, disappointments, and ultimate liberation, this book follows the path of others in the children's genre, but illustrator Shimanto Das's vibrant graphic artwork is striking throughout and brings each scenario Josh encounters to life with color and big, bold expression. A moving, meaningful story of coming out and coming to terms with oneself, Coleman's own journey is presented with rich, kaleidoscopic color and an easy-to-read tale of a smalltown boy with big bright lights in his future.

'Marley's Pride' by Joelle Retener, Illus. by DeAnn Wiley, $17.99 (Barefoot)
This 32-page wonder features Marley, a Black transgender child who finds the idea and experience of Pride Month anxiety-inducing. When their grandparent, Zaza, is bestowed with an award for transgender awareness and advocacy, Marley promised to attend the ceremony despite having skipped Pride activities for years prior. It's all about inclusivity and positivity in this communication-focused story about boundaries, comfort, and self-discovery in the face of worry.

'A Song for Nolan' by Rushie Ellenwood, Illus. by Sally Chen, $18.99 (Little Bee)
A feather boa and purple suspenders is the outfit of choice for brown-skinned, pink-haired nonbinary Nolan, who arrives at a friend's birthday party at a roller-skating rink. Despite moments of awkwardness that threaten to detail Nolan's fun, a quick music change and some galvanized group cheer put everyone in the mood to celebrate along with their friend. Artist Chen's vibrant color saturation is the perfect match for Ellenwood's story about discovering one's inner prism and telling the world about it one boa at a time.

'Rainbow Allies' by Nancy Churnin, Illus. by Izzy Evans, $18.99 (Beaming)
Based on real events, Churnin's relevant and affecting children's book recounts the story of a newly married Massachusetts queer couple, Cari and Lauri, who return home to sadly discover their rainbow pride flag stolen and their family home covered with eggs.

Coming to their aide are neighbors, specifically a boy named Brendan, who offers encouragement, a replacement flag, and a rallying community spirit event that gathers the township together in solidarity and in the name of celebrating everyone, no matter who they are. This critical message of community, unconditional love, respect, and allyship will resonate particularly during these turbulent times of political and social unrest.

'Bartschland: Tales of New York City Nightlife' by Susanne Bartsch, $40
Bartsch, a veteran fixture and event producer on the Manhattan club scene back in the 1980s and '90s, compiles reflections and photographs into a book that will have readers of a certain age pining for one more spin beneath the giant dance floor mirror ball.

RuPaul provides the foreword section which describes Bartsch as an "amazing connector" of continents, cities, and boroughs, and ideas, energy and people. They'd first met when RuPaul was a gogo dancer at Bartsch's Tuesday night party called Savage.

The book delves into Bartsch's Swiss roots where, as a child, she was always "interested in expressing myself through dressing up." Moving to London as a teenager only encouraged her to capitalize on this desire and once relocated to New York, the dream of holding court in small, unique, quirky nightclubs and cavernous ballrooms, and fashion show production became her lifestyle and brand name.

The author narrates her history in smooth conversational prose which will make readers really want to be there right alongside her. The book's glossy, vibrant, stunning, and utterly spectacular photographs of the nightlife creatures who became celebrities and notable Manhattan luminaries are the kind of images one lingers over and imagines being in that very space with folks like Amanda Lepore, Joey Arias, and everyone who followed their own separate "Warhol dreams" to "fulfill the promise of a David Bowie future."

This disco-era treasury of another world, in another place and time, will resonate with readers who used to dance until dawn, wore eyeliner without remorse or restraint, and, as part of New York City's glittery Bartschland, were, to Suzanne, "the people I am endlessly blessed to call my chosen family." This commemorative photograph essay in words and images is worth its weight in gold lamé.

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