Queer Fiction Blog: October 2019

Welcome to the October edition of our Queer Fiction Blog. This month we welcome our newest reviewer, Allison, to our blog! We have a lot in store for you this month, including a list of some of Allison's favorite titles, a Historical Fantasy novel with a folklore twist, and a science fiction novel that harkens back to the antebellum south.

Allison’s Fast Facts

● I’m currently the Children’s Librarian at the Lower Mills Branch in Dorchester
● I have two cats that I love to spoil
● In my free time, I love to dance! In a studio or out, you can almost always find me tapping my toes to some beat
● I identify as queer or bisexual and my pronouns are she/her/hers

Allison’s Favorite LGBTQ+ Books

Title/Author: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Series/Standalone: Standalone
Genre/Sub-Genre: New Adult/Political Romance
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Gay/Bisexual
One Sentence Review: A funny, lighthearted story about the Millennial/Gen Z First Son of the United States and the Prince of Wales falling in love across an ocean and political lines.

Title/Author: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Series/Standalone: Standalone
Genre/Sub-Genre: Historical Fiction/Fiction
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Bisexual/Lesbian
One Sentence Review: A book with characters so realistic, complex, and beautiful, I had to keep questioning whether they had actually existed.

Title/Author: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Series/Standalone: Standalone (though the author keeps teasing a follow-up…)
Genre/Sub-Genre: Young Adult
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Bisexual/Gay
One Sentence Review: Two Mexican-American boys struggle to fall in love with themselves as they fall in love with each other.

Title/Author: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Series/Standalone: Standalone
Genre/Sub-Genre: Historical Fiction
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Bisexual/Gay
One Sentence Review: A heartbreakingly beautiful interpretation of the love shared between Achilles and Patrocles from boyhood to the time of the Trojan War.

Title/Author: Salt Magic, Skin Magic by Lee Welch

Reviewer: Jordan
Summary: Lord Thornby has been trapped on his father’s isolated Yorkshire estate for a year. There are no bars or chains; he simply can’t leave and his sanity is starting to fray. When industrial magician John Blake arrives to investigate a case of witchcraft, he finds the peculiar, arrogant Thornby as alarming as he is attractive. John soon finds himself caught up in a dark fairytale, where all the rules of magic—and love—are changed.
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Genre/Sub-Genre: Historical Romance/Fantasy
Book Format: eBook
Length: 241 pages
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Gay
Abuse/Rape: No
Violence: Some
Ratio of Sex/Plot: Heavy on the plot with the right amount of sex scenes.
Well-written/Editor Needed: Well-written
Would I Re-Read?: Yes!
Personal Thoughts: I liked that this used a fairytale/folklore element that isn’t seen much in MM, or in fiction in general. Unfortunately, I can’t say what it is, because that would be a major spoiler, so you’ll just have to read the book to find out! I can tell you that it was handled very well, drawing out the truth of the situation and keeping me on the edge of my seat throughout the book. The two main characters play off each other really well. I enjoyed reading about them, and wouldn’t mind reading more with them, if given the chance. The salt, yes, the salt, is almost a character in itself and has good characterization that was surprising, yet fun, to read about. This book sucked me in so hard, I couldn’t put the book down and while I’m not a fan of the cover, I’m seriously looking forward to reading anything else by this author. I will also reread this many times, I’m sure.

Title/Author: An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Reviewer: Veronica
Summary: Life aboard the generation ship HSS Matilda is a disturbing mirror of the antebellum South, where white masters tyrannize and abuse the dark-skinned sharecroppers who live on the lower decks. Aster, raised on deck Q, can travel between the decks thanks to her medical expertise and apprenticeship to the ship’s surgeon, but no matter where on the ship she goes, she is out of place and in terrible danger. An unexpected death among the ship’s elite may be the key to a mystery surrounding the Matilda’s origins and its destination, but only if Aster and her companions can survive their brutal environment long enough to unravel it.
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Genre/sub-genre: Science fiction
Book Format: Paper
Length: 349 pages
LGBTQ+ Orientation: The protagonist is bisexual and intersex; the (eventual) love interest is trans
Violence: There’s a lot of it, both sexual and non, and it’s fairly graphic (including the onscreen death of a child). None of the violence is gratuitous or written to titillate, but if you’re easily triggered, you might want to give this a pass.
Well-written/Editor Needed: Very well-written
Would I Recommend?: Yes, definitely! Genre-wise it wasn’t my usual cup of tea (I borrowed it from a friend who recommended it, and I probably won’t reread it, personally) but I think anyone who is interested in thoughtful science fiction should give An Unkindness of Ghosts a try. It felt to me like a worthy successor to Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis series and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
Personal thoughts: Okay, first of all, this book is harrowing. That’s intentional, and it’s a very well handled portrait of slavery as it existed in the American South transplanted into space, but it can be hard to read at times. It’s also quite a complex plot, and since I normally read very quickly, I found myself having to stop and go back several times to figure out what was actually going on! Although our current terminology for neurodiversity isn’t used, Aster is autistic, which adds another layer of complexity to the narrative: sometimes Aster understands something the reader doesn’t, and vice versa. I can’t comment from a position of experience on either the autistic or intersex representation, but I thought both were well-handled and positively reviewed by own voices reviewers elsewhere. Rivers Solomon, the author, is intersex and uses they/them pronouns.