Queer Books with Julie: Best LGBTQ Books of 2013
“Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!” – Neil Gaiman
When people ask me what I want for Christmas, the answer is always the same…books. My kids look at me as though I have three eyes and a horn on my forehead. They’d rather have a root canal. “You already have too many books,” they assert. But I’m a (queer) book nerd. I will never have enough books.
Chances are, if you’re like me, the realization that Christmas is just a few days away has set in, as has the panic. You need last-minute gift ideas. Luckily, I’ve done a lot of varied reading in queer fiction (and some nonfiction) this year, and have gift ideas for just about everyone on your list.
Here are a few of the standouts. Some old, some new, some borrowed, some….definitely blue (wink, wink):
The Albino Album by Chavisa Woods. Keep your eyes on Ms. Woods. She’s the real deal. This book is for the fierce, adventurous, big-hearted queers in your life who love southern gothic tales with albino animal breeders, and other “contemporary misfits.” Travel the “familiar byways of human desire” with the girl with the unpronounceable name, and invincible spirit.
Come Sunday Morning by Terry E. Hill. The first in a trilogy, this novel is for those who know that when all hell breaks loose, it’s usually in church. Pastor Hezekiah T. Cleaveland and his wife Pastor Samantha run a mega church with a national TV ministry. Falling in love with another man tests his faith and has unforeseen consequences. How will his wife, and his following, respond?
A Fag for Her Fifties by B. MacGregor. For all the straight women in your life who really want that gay best friend. MacGregor (a pseudonym) discards his distaste for the word “fag” in the story of an unlikely friendship between a middle-age woman and the gay author of fairy tales. The fairy godfather helps bring out her inner diva. The book is fag-tabulous.
Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette. For the friends on your list who like to revisit queer classics. The sometimes painfully difficult to read autobiography of a gay man keeping a secret from the rest of the world. It’s an older book, but considered by many to be the “definitive” coming-out story.
Fairytales for Lost Children by Diriye Osman. For the world-travelers and world-curious on your list. Beautiful, haunting stories about young gay and lesbian Somalis navigating their orientations in a country struggling for its freedom.
Gifts Not Yet Given: and Other Tales of the Holidays by Kergan Edwards-Stout. For the sentimentalists on your list. You know, those that actually have fond holiday memories. A collection of short stories centered on different holidays. Edwards-Stout writes beautifully, and the stories are charming and uplifting.
Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of US by Jesse Bering. For the perverts in your life. Basically, for everyone. Bering can’t promise an orgasm, “but I can promise you a better understanding of why you get the ones you do.” Thoroughly researched with personal revelations and anecdotes, this one is ripe for scintillating discussion about commonplace (really, shoes?) and “what-in-the-world?” fetishes.
For those friends who love to shop local, I recommend Ruth Perkinson’s Piper’s Someday along with Breaking Spirit Bridge, Vera’s Still Point, The Mystic Market, and Sterling Road Blues. Beautifully written and thought provoking stories from a true Richmond gem. I also recommend that you visit and/or order from the great folks at Fountain Bookstore in Shockoe Slip. Your local purchases really do make a large impact on the community.
Have some local middle-age kids to shop for? Or a kid-at-heart? Underground by local author Beth Brown is a real standout. An enormous sink hole forms in the middle of a Church Hill street. Emily and her best friend find themselves stuck underground. Read to find out what secrets they uncover “beneath the surface.”
And though it is always hard to pick a favorite, I feel compelled to join in the end-of-the-year list making frenzy. So, I present to you, the best book I read in 2013:
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. For all those on your list who are true connoisseurs of gorgeous writing, and like to read with a box of tissue at their side. When fourteen-year-old June loses her beloved Uncle Finn to AIDS, she forms an unexpected friendship with the lover she never knew Finn had. Better make it two boxes of tissue.
Julie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is working on her first novel - Two Tickets to Freedom - a semi-autobiographical queer coming-of-age tale. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
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