Spring books 2024 roundup, part 1

  • by Jim Piechota
  • Tuesday February 27, 2024
Share this Post:
Spring books 2024 roundup, part 1

Though the weather is still wet and wintry, spring is finally upon us. For those of you who love to read, the sheer volume of queer books publishing this season is astounding. We'll encapsulate as many exciting new titles as we can here in this new Spring Books Round-Up series.

For this first part, we've got an amazing debut by a Southern writer, a welcome return to the "Tales of the City," a drag icon's life story, and a poetically written memoir by a celebrated Black writer. These queer selections are in stock or coming soon to physical and online bookstores. Start the new season with a new and fantastic book.

Author Phillip B. Williams  

"Ours" by Phillip B. Williams
, $32 (Random House)
Award-winning poet and writer Phillip Williams has crafted a mesmerizing, mythical, multilayered portrait of a unique Black American community formed by an omnipresent witchy woman named Saint. Set in the 1830s near St. Louis, Saint has become an Antebellum South-era legend by casting wicked spells on plantation owners, thereby rescuing and freeing legions of slaves who flock to her all-black community called "Ours" to thrive free from persecution and abuse.

Saint has cloaked the community and its land with a magical protective coat, shielding it from interlopers and outside influences. But a new group of conjurers from New Orleans arrives with plans of their own. Embedded within the fabric of this engrossing Southern saga (it clocks in at 580 pages, but readers won't notice) are daring questions about the nature of liberation. At what cost to the citizens of Ours is Saint's protection granted? Williams' prose is graceful and eloquent in a story that is big and beautiful as it probes the terms and conditions of true freedom. Don't miss it.

"Mona of the Manor" by Armistead Maupin, $28.99 (Harper) March 5
In this witty and effortlessly vibrant new installment in the "Tales of the City" series, readers become reintroduced to Mona Ramsey, who has become widowed after marrying Lord Teddy Roughton to secure his American resident visa. His death has left her the sole heir to his expansive London Easley House estate which is where the action, set in the early 1990s, all happens.

Together with her adopted gay son Wilfred, 26, they become accidental innkeepers where a feuding North Carolina couple decide to stay and stir up trouble. Toss in the enduring epidemic of the era, Mona's artistic girlfriend, and an adorable cameo appearance by Anna Madrigal and Michael Tolliver, and you've got the ultimate Maupin experience with all the queer trimmings.

"The House of Hidden Meanings" by RuPaul Charles
, $29.99 (HarperCollins) March 5
Former books by RuPaul have delivered inspirational if candy-coated advice and philosophies on the pursuit of personal style and personal liberation. But here, he lifts the shimmery sequined veil of his celebrity persona to let us have a glimpse into his past.

His memoir is intimately personal and sticks to RuPaul's roots prior to his pioneering celebrity and household-name fame. Inheriting independence from his beloved mother and grandmother and stage presence from his mostly-absent father, Charles became an outspoken character in New York City studying the personas of Cher and Diana Ross and doing drag just for fun.

When stage performances began to become a serious and creative way to express himself, the "mother" of drag fully embraced it as a lifestyle and a moneymaker. He also reveals how he met and fell in love with his long-term partner Georges LeBar, and the life they mapped out together, despite the expected highs and lows. "Drag Race" fans will be disappointed, however, as the book concludes just short of the show's debut, leaving out all the early creative inspiration and melodrama which made the series the sensation it is today.

RuPaul will be in San Francisco on his global book tour on March 14 at the Curran Theater, 445 Geary Street at 7:30pm. Tickets at www.broadwaysf.com

"Ten Bridges I've Burnt: A Memoir in Verse" by Brontez Purnell, $17 (MCD/FSG)
This inspired and unconventional memoir uses poetic verse to personify queer Black life in America. Outspoken, gritty, and raw as ever, Lambda Literary Award-winning author Purnell displays immense talent as a poet in these expressive verses on his sexuality, his desire, his need for love and attention, and his search to vanquish his outsider perspective and pursue an authentic identity.

Purnell's internal frustration with sex, pleasure, failure, and gelling with others is consistently delivered on his own wry terms: "I'm so fuckin' over me/I can't even make myself hard for me anymore," he writes. Poetry fans will find Purnell's raw, earnest honesty refreshing, provocative, and beautifully unvarnished.

"I Heard Her Call my Name" by Lucy Sante, $27 (Penguin Press)
This moving complex memoir chronicles Sante's later in life gender transition while in her mid-60s. She writes candidly and eloquently about suffering in silence with gender dysphoria in her beloved New York homeland for a good portion of her life until she finally embarked on the transformative journey from male to female. That emotional life-changing decision and the ensuing physical and mental challenges she faced (coming out to others, sartorial choices, etc.) comprise much of the remaining chapters in the book.

When she began taking her transition to the next level, she experimented with the gender-switching features on the mobile photo editor FaceApp in impressive ways; these images are shared in the book. Sante, who is a celebrated Belgian-born American writer and artist, contributes introspective analysis of the conundrums of identity in American society through her intimate unique lens, which only creates a more enticing informative reading experience for readers of both trans and cis identifications.

"Dinner on Monster Island: Essays" by Tania De Rozario
, $17.99 (Harper Perennial)
De Rozario grew up overweight, multiracial, and queer in Singapore, and her experiences are impressively committed to the pages of this immersive, informed, and curiously written essay collection. Her lifelong self-perception as an outcast permeates (and sharpens) the narrative threads running throughout a book comprised primarily of short spurts of digressive experimental text and thin paragraphs of opinion and emotional expression.

Of growing older and maturing, De Rozario laments: "I miss my ability to be vulnerable with unease. I miss my school stage swagger. I miss having no romantic game whatsoever, but still being cocky enough to walk up to a crush and hand her a terribly written poem on a horrendously handmade birthday card, convinced this is a good idea."

She also takes time to academically reflect on women in horror ("Carrie," "The Exorcist") and how these identities reflect her own struggle to exist in a society that had consistently rejected her. This is a book to savor and reflect upon as it touches on emotions and impressions many of us have experienced at one time or another in our queer lives.

Never miss a story! Keep up to date on the latest news, arts, politics, entertainment, and nightlife. Sign up for the Bay Area Reporter's free weekday email newsletter. You'll receive our newsletters and special offers from our community partners.

Support California's largest LGBTQ newsroom. Your one-time, monthly, or annual contribution advocates for LGBTQ communities. Amplify a trusted voice providing news, information, and cultural coverage to all members of our community, regardless of their ability to pay -- Donate today!