Hello everyone and welcome to a Winter Reading Challenge special edition of the Queer Lit Review! This brand new reading challenge from the BPL requires you to read a book by an author from each of six geographic regions: Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania between January and February of this year.
In this blog post we have recommended one queer book for each of the six regions and listed books we're hoping to read next, which you may see reviews for in future posts.
These books may be available in other formats or languages. Check our catalog for availability.
Title/Author: She Who Became the Sun by Shelly Parker-Chan
Series/Standalone: First in a duology (book two has not yet been released)
Region: Oceania (New Zealand/Australia)
Genre/Sub-Genre: Historical Fantasy
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Queer and genderqueer (it's complicated!)
Quick Review: In this fantastical revisioning of the rise of the Ming Dynasty, an unwanted girl who refuses to die seizes her dead brother's destiny to rise from orphan to monk to commander of a rebel army. Meanwhile, her nemesis, a general haunted by the dead, must choose between the man who loves him—the son of the lord who murdered his entire family—and revenge. As their fates inextricably intertwine, how far will Zhu Chongba and General Ouyang go to achieve greatness? I adore this complex and gruesome fantasy novel with all my heart and highly recommend it to readers who appreciate a morally gray protagonist.
Queer book I’m planning to read next: I may well be biting off more than I can chew, but the plan is to read all queer books for my WRC! So far I've done The Unbroken by C.L. Clark (Americas), Until I Meet My Husband by Ryousuke Nanasaki with art by Yoshi Tsukizuki (Asia), and In the Vanishers' Palace by Aliette de Bodard (Europe). Next I plan to read The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi (Middle East), Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (Oceania), and You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi (Africa), but we'll see if I can make it through them all in time.
Title/Author: Boys Run the Riot by Keito Gaku
Region: Asia (Japan)
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Trans
Quick Review: Ryo, a closeted trans boy, only feels like himself while wearing street clothes. When he runs into his intimidating classmate Jin while shopping, the two bond over their love for fashion and decide to start their own brand. This lovely coming-of-age tale pulls you right into urban Japan’s surprisingly intense world of clothing design and marketing. Despite his dysphoria, Ryo also has several moments of gender euphoria that had me cheering alongside him – experiences mirrored by author Keito Gaku, a trans man himself. All four volumes have been translated into English, so now is the perfect time to binge the whole series!
Queer book I’m planning to read next: Our Dreams at Dusk, Vol. 1 by Yuhki Kamatani
Title/Author: Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
Region: Europe (Bangladeshi-Irish author)
Genre/Sub-Genre: YA Romance
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Bisexual/Lesbian
Quick Review: When Hani comes out as bisexual, her friends immediately invalidate her identity because she’s never dated a girl... so Hani lies and says she’s dating unpopular overachiever Ishu. Ishu agrees to pretend to be Hani’s girlfriend in exchange for Hani helping boost Ishu’s popularity, but of course real feelings develop along the way. This is a very cute YA romance, and if you like fake dating tropes you absolutely must read it!
Queer book I’m planning to read next: I’m planning to read The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore, a Mexican-American author, for the Americas region.
Title/Author: Covering by Kenji Yoshino
Region: Americas (Japanese-USian author)
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Gay
Quick Review: Kenji Yoshino’s Covering is part memoir, part legal theory. Yoshino introduces the concept of covering, that is, downplaying one’s marginalized identity in order to fit better into a (straight, white, male, able-bodied) norm. He draws both on his experiences as a gay Japanese American and on his legal expertise to draw a throughline in the progression of societal demands on marginalized people, from conversion to passing to covering, and then shows how this phase of the gay rights struggle relates to the struggles of other marginalized groups. I first read this book at a time in my life when the covering demands on me were particularly strong and it helped to contextualize why I was struggling so much. Since it was written in 2006, it doesn’t explicitly touch on gender, but for me it didn’t need to. The parallels are clear. It’s a fantastic book — the message is important, and the language is moving and lyrical. I can’t recommend it enough.
Queer book I’m planning to read next: Subtle Blood by KJ Charles (Europe, UK), the third book in the Will Darling Adventures series, narrated by Cornell Collins.
Title/Author: Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Lesbian
Quick Review: Ijeoma, a young Nigerian girl displaced during the civil war, begins a powerful love affair with another girl from a different ethnic community. When their love is discovered, she learns that she will have to hide this part of herself. It is helpful to know that in 2014 the president of Nigeria, the second most religious country in the world at the time, passed a law criminalizing same-sex relationships. This is the main reason Okparanta wrote the book. It was not an easy read as the extreme homophobia and heavy religious attitude was hard to get through. I struggled with the knowledge that Ijeoma’s mother was okay with her daughter possibly being raped by a man rather than being in a healthy lesbian relationship. Overall, though, the book was well-written and I do highly recommend it. A difficult but hopeful read, I was grateful for the happy ending that I thought we wouldn't get. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was fabulous. She even sang the songs in the book for a truly enjoyable listen.
Queer book I’m planning to read next: For the Americas I really want to read a queer Indigenous book, but since I’ve been in a reading slump for a while now where it takes me FOREVER to read something, I'm going to go with 47,000 Beads, a picture book by Koja Adeyoha. For a queer title from the Africas, I'm planning to read Pet, a middle grade fantasy by Akwaike Emezi.
Title/Author: Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian
Region: Middle East
Genre/Sub-Genre: Young Adult
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Gay
Quick Review: Ever since his family immigrated to North America (first Canada and then the United States), Reza has been confronted with the image of AIDS as something horrible and inevitable for someone like him, someone who likes boys. He buries the feelings down, too scared of what his old-fashioned Iranian mother will think on top of being afraid of dying of AIDS. Then he becomes friends with Art and Judy and his entire life changes. When his real feelings threaten to destroy the most meaningful relationships he’s ever had, he has to find the courage to decide who he wants to be. This book was beautifully heartbreaking. All the drama of coming of age in a time when the global issues feel both far away and right at home. The three characters were messy, believable, and loveable. They were exactly who high school me needed to feel more connected to queer history and queer activism and I’m so glad that today’s kids have this book.