This season's queer-lit highlights should keep you empassioned till spring.
Thu Feb 15 2007
Photograph: Roxana Marroquin
Snuggling up with a loved one is a great way to get through winter—but sometimes the feel of a book in your hands can be just as satisfying. A new crop of LGBT novels, essays and stories has hit the bookstores; here's a fab-five sampling.
Baby Remember My Name: An Anthology of New Queer Girl Writing (Carroll & Graf, $14.95), edited by Michelle Tea
Thumbing through the "About the Contributors" section in this new collection is humbling enough, a parade of overachieving twentysomethings who are curators, editors, poets, activists and scholars. But the writing—both fiction and nonfiction—is where you'll really be impressed. Page McBee kicks off the anthology with a heartbreakingly honest story of suicide and abuse and young love, while Beth Steidle's "Stay" concludes it all with a dreamy take on loss that's a punch to the gut. In between is everything from Katie Fricas's tender "Nobody Will Find Me Here," a graphic-novel excerpt, to Tina Butcher's blow-by-blow tale of travel and sex in "Tail of a Bondage Model." Go, girls!
Behind the Moon (Soho, $13), by Hsu-Ming Teo
Teo's thoroughly untrodden perspective concerns three bonded misfits—a gay Chinese boy, a Vietnamese-African-American girl and a loner Australian boy—who come of age together in an Australian suburb. The writing, while occasionally choppy, does a wonderful job of taking us inside each character's world, from the overbearing germphobic Chinese mom to the snooty, full-Vietnamese sisters snub their "tainted" cousin. The death of Princess Diana plays a fittingly important role.
The IHOP Papers (Carroll & Graf, $14.95), by Ali Liebegott
Liebegott's darkly funny debut novel tells the tale of a young, depressed, virgin, alcoholic, lesbian self-mutilator (are you laughing yet?) who follows her former college philosophy teacher to San Francisco because she's in love with her. In a breezy, fuck-it-all voice, we hear about Francesca's adventures as an IHOP waitress—with spot-on descriptions of everything from her disgusting polyester uniform to sketchy late-night customers that'll make you guffaw out loud. Francesca is also in love with the daytime TV character Hope—a bonus for any longtime Days of Our Lives watchers.
Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity (Seal, $15.95), edited by Mattilda a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore
Providing tons of those increasingly rare moments when you realize you are actually ingesting fresh ideas, Mattilda's collection of essays (with contributors including Dean Spade, Helen Boyd and other members of the gender-bending intelligentsia) deals with notions of passing—as American, able-bodied, gay, straight, man, woman, neither and other identities—and it's a must-read for anyone interested in the ever-growing permutations of "queer." Contributor Nico Dacumos starts the collection off with a fab face slap in "All Mixed Up With No Place to Go," stating: "Nico is a flaming queer radical polysexual two-spirit female-bodied middle-class multiracial bottom who always ends up topping anyway Filipin@/Chicin@ antimisogynist transgender butch fag in a polyamorous committed relationship with kids, extremely bad credit, and chronic illnesses and incurable diseases that seem invisible." Take that, label whores.
Stray (MacAdam/Cage, $25), by Sheri Joseph
Here's a threesome for you: Kent, a mellow musician; Maggie, his Mennonite, public-defender wife; and Paul, Kent's secret young lover. In her debut novel, Joseph weaves all of their worlds together with expert tension after she has Kent lose his grip on his double love life. Paul becomes obsessed with Maggie, forcing his way into the married couple's existence , and the triangle slowly unravels from there. Supporting characters like Paul's controlling sugar daddy and Maggie's wholesome sister add depth to this achingly poignant and believable portrayal of love, deceit, jelousy and heartbreak.