Winter's tales: new and upcoming LGBTQ books, part 1

  • by Jim Piechota
  • Tuesday January 17, 2023
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Winter's tales: new and upcoming LGBTQ books, part 1

Book lovers have so many reasons to be excited as it is already promising to be another stellar year for queer literature. Presented here are just a few examples of the amazing literary delights at —or coming soon to— a bookstore near you.

'The New Life' by Tom Crewe
, $28 (Scribner)
In this smashing debut, Crewe, an editor at the London Review of Books, crafts the epic tale of two gay Englishmen in 1894 and how they both defy the stiff and strict social standards of the Victorian era. The two men in question are John Addington, closeted yet married with children, and Henry Ellis, a young writer who is bisexual. Both connect via literary circles and through a series of letters, as each discover the bounty of their burgeoning sexuality. The life of British gay men at the turn of the century as portrayed by a writer of immense talent makes for engrossing and irresistible reading.

'The Shards' by Bret Easton Ellis, $30 (Knopf)
Ellis's first novel in over a decade is a work of autofiction, reimagining the author's final year of high school back in the glory days of 1980s Los Angeles. Into the cauldron of coke-fueled characters, he tosses in a lot of unrequited homo love, a serial killer, and a new student who is as sexy as he is suspect. Ellis, as a protagonist, is a 17-year-old closeted guy at an elite prep school with a popular girlfriend and two male side-pieces whom he keeps under wraps. As he sleuths out possible motives and identities of a killer named "The Trawler," there's plenty of time for sex, drugs, innocence lost, and some choice '80s music amidst the palm trees and Santa Ana winds of Hollywood. Be prepared to invest some time and attention, as it's a 600-page doorstopper, so grab yourself a comfortable chair and enjoy Ellis's triumphant return to form.

'Rent Boy' by Gary Indiana, $18 (McNally Editions)
This 112-page novella, first published in 1994 by High Risk/Serpent's Tail Books, has been reissued with vivid new cover art but the same gritty storyline that made it the provocative wonder it was when it was first released. The enigmatic hustler at the book's core, whose name is an interchangeable oddity (Danny, Mark, Billy, etc.), is, at 25, an architecture student, a Manhattan waiter at a hip writers' club, and, most importantly, a hustler with massive bravado who services a variety of clientele with a cornucopia of sexual talents. All of these ventures are smoothly described within a story that eventually grounds itself around a fellow hustler and a john who wants to abduct another businessman for profit. It's a plot that implodes disastrously and isn't entirely necessary. Readers will mostly want more of the jaded, embittered perspective of the young men with the moves and the muscle to make grown men see stars.

'Sorry, Bro' by Taleen Voskuni, $17 (Berkley) Jan. 31
Armenian-American author and Bay Area tech worker Voskuni turns in this enjoyable queer rom-com about Nareh "Nar" Bedrossian, an Armenian-American woman who dumps her tech boyfriend and goes in search of her heart's truest desire. Despite her pushy mother's best efforts to fix her up (she creates a spreadsheet of men on Facebook!), her emerging bisexuality becomes the most important piece of the love puzzle. This is fun, funny, effortless reading from a writer who infuses her fiction with authentic Armenian flare and an infectious sense of humor.

'The Terraformers' by Annalee Newitz, $28.99 (Tor Books) Jan. 31
Award-winning author and journalist Newitz has produced an epic space opera built from three interconnected novellas using science, ecology, and urban renewal as a springboard in its fantastical interplanetary world-building. Populated with a wide array of characters and animate objects, the plot follows members of the Environmental Rescue Team, namely Destry, on Planet Sask-E as they try and discover ecological solutions to a troubled corporate-overlorded planet in dire need of emancipation. If you enjoyed Avatar, you will delight in this new venture from a talented science fiction author.

'Hijab Butch Blues' by Lamya H
, $27 (Dial Books) Feb. 2
This moving memoir charts the life of a queer Muslim writer and how personally acknowledging her sexuality was intimately liberating, but coming out in an Arab country was a much different scenario with drastic consequences. Once in America, the author experienced bias and overt racism at university where white people were socially elevated above others, as much as the "light-skinned Arabs" were in her native land. Eventually in Manhattan, Lamya immersed herself in activism networks, found love, and developed a new relationship with religion, culture, and improving the world at large one person at a time.

'Couplets' by Maggie Millner
, $25 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Feb. 7
This brilliant story in poetry combines the allure of a fictional tale with the delicate nuances of verse to great effect. Millner, a senior editor at the Yale Review, is a pro at drawing the reader in to present this elaborate, sexy, and highly seductive love story that's unafraid of kinky exploration, polyamorous queerness, and obsession. It's also loaded with personality and memorably unique passages, such as when the protagonist quizzically considers if a tiny person lived inside vape pen cartridges "who would sprint to switch the light bulb on and fan the fire when she felt a drag."

'Who Does That Bitch Think She Is? Doris Fish and the Rise of Drag' by Craig Seligman
; $29 (Public Affairs) Feb. 28
This fantastic, immersive history of drag comes courtesy of the life of Philip Clargo Mills from the Australian suburbs, better known as the iconic personality, Doris Fish (1952-1991). The book traces his introverted youth, then moves into his teen years when he came out to his family and discovered the drag scene, which birthed the group Sylvia and the Synthetics in San Francisco. After turning tricks for extra money, Fish moved on to form Sluts-A-Go-Go and evolved her look and her attitude as she ushered in a new era and a fresh public appreciation for the art of drag from the 1980s on through her untimely death in the early '90s. This is mandatory reading for drag fans and queens of a certain age.

'A Guest at the Feast' by Colm Toibin, $28 (Scribner)
This distinctive remarkable essay collection from the celebrated Irish novelist begins with an arduous journey through the pains of a testicular cancer diagnosis and the ordeal of treatment and metastasis. It's not a departure for the fiction writer, who has written works of nonfiction before, but Toibin gets particularly personal here with outspoken religious perspectives, profiles of notable authors, and notes on enjoying Venice, Italy to himself during the pandemic quarantine. Fans and newer readers will be absolutely glued to every word.

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