Aromantic 101 with Claudie Arsenault

We’re thrilled to welcome author Canadian author Claudie Arseneault to the blog today!

Happy February 19, 2017 everyone–or, as my community as come to know it, the start of this year’s Aromantic Awareness Week!

When I was invited to guest blog here on aromanticism, I wasn’t sure what to talk about. My mind was casting for a specific topic, but in truth, aromanticism is a still fairly unknown part of the QUILTBAG, and how better to start a week meant to raise awareness than with some Important Basics™

So here we go!  Start here, and keep your eyes (and search bars) ready for the rest of week!

Aromanticism 101

The standard definition of aromanticism is that one does not experience romantic attraction. This means aromantic people don’t experience crushes or intense desire to build romantic relationships with specific people. And this definition comes with a ton of caveats! Why? Because, much like asexuality (which is no sexual attraction), aromanticism is a large, complex, and diverse spectrum of experiences. Some aromantics are repulsed by the very association of romance with them while others absolutely do want a romantic partner (or several!)—they just aren’t drawn that way to anyone in particular. Add to these demiromantics (who develop attraction after a deep connection has been established), grey-aromantics (who experience it once in a never) as well as a plethora of other spectrum identities, and you have a wide variety of experiences.

Hard to universalize, isn’t it? Impossible, even. And yet we all face the struggle of erasure and dehumanization, although it can be shaped slightly differently from one aromantic to the next. So let’s look at some common PLEASE DON’T of representation.

The DON’T of Aromanticism Representation

Don’t equate humanity to romance. Some days I can’t believe this needs to be said, but it does because it happens all the time. “Love makes us all human” or “this romantic plotline really added depth/humanity to an otherwise flat character” or any more or less subtle variant. This one shows up a lot in fantasy with the Dark Evil Villain who is Incapable of Love™. Yes, I’m looking straight at Harry Potter right now.

Don’t “teach them to love”. Storylines dedicated to teaching an aromantic character (or anyone, really) to love imply that this is a problem that needs to be fixed. Characters who need to be taught how to love are typically either a) inhuman at the beginning (robots have this a lot), or b) unhappy/evil until the aforementioned teaching happens. This is dehumanizing for aromantic people and it needs to stop.

Don’t hierarchize your love. You know how people often say two lovers are “more than friends”? It’s so common it seems benign, but when aromantic people read that, what they hear is that their relationships will never reach the highest level. They are incapable of what is deemed the most complete, thorough, beautiful, and enjoyable type or relationship there is. And that’s a goddamn lie. We are fully capable of intense, fulfilling, and intimate relationships without romance. All this hierarchy does is reinforce the idea romance is the purest–as if non-romantic love isn’t every bit as valid and important. Upholding friendship and other non-romantic relationships as equal to romance is extremely validating to a lot of aromantic people.

Don’t equate aromanticism to being cold, distant, unloving, broken.  We hear those a lot already, thank you very much. Unless your character is literally freezing, avoid those words. And yes, feeling broken is a huge part of our narratives, but I heartily advise you leave that sensible ground to us.

Don’t imply or state romance is a necessary part of storytelling. Or that it makes a story deeper, more complex, etc. This overlaps a lot with my first point. And also with maintaining a hierarchy of loves. Romance is no more necessary to good storytelling than dragons: it can be super fun, but plenty of good stories exist (or should exist!) without it!

So how do you avoid all of those as a reader? Honestly, you don’t. They’re too common. But one reason I love the fantasy and science-fiction genres is how often it centres small groups–crews on a ship, adventuring parties, magical girl teams, etc. While romance is often a feature in those stories, they still typically feature other types of strong bonds, providing me with all the Good Feels I need. Now if I could get those with canon aromantic characters to boot, I would be in business!


Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very French Québec City. Her long studies in biochemistry and immunology often sneak back into her science-fiction, and her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders. The most recent, City of Strife, comes out on February 22, 2017! Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters in speculative fiction, and her unending love of squids. Find out more on her website!

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Best Bisexual Books of 2016

Casey is taking a look back at 2016, sharing some of her favourite bisexual books in this post, which was original posted on Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian

My Favourite Bi+ Books of 2016

2016 was a great year for diverse books, and in particular I found a bunch of great books by and about bisexual/pansexual people. These book are all either written by bi/pansexual authors and/or have bi/pansexual characters. Tell me about any bi+ books you read last year in the comments!

Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming

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I just finished listening to the audiobook version of this memoir, read by the author. The narrating was just as amazing as I’d expected, given that Cumming is a seasoned actor AND has a Scottish accent. What more could you ask from a narrator, really? It’s a fascinating and sometimes brutal book about Cumming’s relationship with his abusive father and how being asked to appear on a celebrity genealogy show opened up more than one can of worms in his family history. Throughout it’s lovely to hear a bisexual person talk about his life (his ex-wife, his current husband) as if it’s just all normal and no big deal.

All Inclusive by Farzana Doctor

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This is a character-driven novel about Ameera, a woman in her late twenties who’s been living in Mexico and working in the tourist / travel industry for years. Since Ameera arrived, she’s discovered she’s bisexual and enjoys having sex with (mostly man-woman) couples, many of whom identify as swingers. She’s from Hamilton, ON and was raised by a single (white) mother, having had an absent (Indian) father. She is totally lost. It’s such a joy to watch her slowly reconnect with herself and her history as the novel progresses. It’s also remarkable to watch Doctor tackle issues like all-inclusive resorts, bisexuality, swinging and polyamory, spirituality, death, and terrorism, somehow making it all work in the same book.

Corona by Bushra Rehman

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Corona—referencing the neighbourhood in Queens, NY, not the Mexican beer—is a “novel” that to me feels more like a collection of inter-related short stories about Razia, a young bisexual Pakistani-American woman, at different stages in her life. It’s beautifully written, for one thing: “Ravi was sitting in a corner, apart from the crowd. He was going back to India in less than a year, so everything he observed was for the warehouse of his mind. He’d seal the box, label it ‘My Time in America,’ and draw stories from it now and then to entertain the literary crowd in Delhi. That was the night I fell into the box.” There’s a great sense of place, character, and emotion in the book, and damn is it also really funny sometimes, even amidst sadness.

Long Red Hair by Meags Fitzgerald

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A graphic memoir about growing up in Canada in the late 80s and 90s, Long Red Hair should incite lots of nostalgia for queer girls of that generation: it’s full of fun pop culture references of the time, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hocus Pocus, Labyrinth, etc. Meags (like me) is a kid interested in spooky stuff, so there are also reference to sleepover games you may remember like Bloody Mary, séances, and dressing up as witches. Coming out is one focus, and young Meags describes the process in perfect teenage agony: “I just want to be gay or straight. Being bisexual is way too confusing … If I’m bi that means I don’t have a soulmate and I’ll never be satisfied loving just one person for the rest of my life. It’d be like … a curse.” The memoir is also a mediation on relationships and the potentials of celibacy. Bonus!: the sepia-toned art is gorgeous.

History is All You Left Me – A Review of Sorts

Yash Kesanakurthy is a writer, book blogger and publishing studies student with a Masters of Children’s Literature who’s a passionate advocate for diversity and representation in literature. This post is reprinted with permission and thanks.

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life. — [X]

Thoughts

After More Happy Than Not you’d think I’d make the smart choice and read something else, anything else, and definitely not pick History Is All You Left Me as a commute read, but no, turns out I’m just that much of a moron.

  • I could not put it down, though.
  • So I blinked away tears as I read, but I did not stop reading.
  • Let’s talk about the easy things first: the writing and the pacing. I didn’t think the style of the prose in More Happy Than Not was bad per se, but I definitely felt that History Is All You Left Me had writing that flowed like silk. I’ve only read the books Silvera has out, but I can say that this an author whose craft is only getting better.
  • He also has a very distinct style. Something about his sentences are just so gorgeous and so him. I think the only other time I’ve felt like this, like I was reading a signature of sorts, was with Neil Gaiman’s writing.
  • And the pacing was a surprise. I don’t know why I thought the jacket cover had given everything away and this would be a slow walk through a boy’s trauma? But turns out–maybe not to anyone’s surprise–a good author can draw readers deep into a book with just one simple question: will these characters be okay?
  • Now, for the hard stuff: mainly, Griffin. I don’t really know how to talk about Griffin. He makes smile and sob and he’s just my favourite. The summary hints at his OCD and his “destructive choices”, but no matter what he does or says or doesn’t say, no matter how flawed, Griffin is just so easy to love. Which makes History Is All You Left Me all the more heartbreaking to read.
  • As far as I can tell, Griffin’s OCD is realistically explored, how he does/doesn’t deal with it and how the traumatic loss of a first love exacerbated his compulsions. I also really appreciate that the OCD isn’t romanticized–even though Theo used to view them as quirks–and has a real impact on Griffin’s life.
  • I only wish we could have gotten more of a character who wasn’t mentioned in the summary, but plays a rather important role in Griffin’s life. Perhaps that is my one minor complaint.
  • History Is All You Left Me is by no means an easy read, but it is a damn good read and so worth the heartache. So long as you have chocolate/friends to hug/comfort reads close by/all of the above, you’re good to go. ❤

Quotes

“I’m sure there will be some interesting people at the flea market. Like hipsters.”

“Hipsters are characters, not people,” Theo says.

“Don’t hipster-shame. Some of them have real feelings underneath their beanie hats and vintage flannels.”

Look, there are unexpectedly funny bits too, okay?

Of course, there’s also these parts:

I think about alternate universes as we lay you to rest in this one. There are billions, trillions, existing all at once: one where we never broke up, one out of reach from oceans that have it in for you, one where we both moved to California for school … countless more where things are right, maybe with some touches of wrong. But in all of them, you and I are more than history. I have to believe these universes exist; it’s the only way to manage the suffering here.

Just … learn from my mistakes? Skip the kajal if you choose to read it in public. Especially if you’re headed to class and don’t want to show up as that girl from The Ring.

Six Canadian Trans Women Writers You Should Know

This post originally appeared on BCLA LGBTQ Interest Group member Casey‘s blog Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, and is reposted with permission and thanks. 

Six Canadian Trans Women Writers You Should Know

I’m gonna get right to the list in a second here, but I just want to tell you all how excited I am that all these writers are out there creating their amazing art and that publishers like Topside Press, Arsenal Pulp Press, Kegedonce Press, and Metonymy Press are putting it out into the world. I could not have written this list when I first started this blog almost five years ago.

Casey Plett

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Y’all are seriously missing out if you are not reading Casey Plett, who hails from Winnipeg. Her debut collection of short stories A Safe Girl to Love is one of the best books I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot of books). If you’re looking for a writer who really, really, gets people—from twentysomething urban cis, trans, and queer folks to a 7o-year-old cis Mennonite guy to a cat channeling the spirit of an old English dude—Plett is your woman. She’s applied these talents to a book dedicated to relationships between trans women: romantic, friend, and mother-daughter, resulting in a stunning collection that will not disappoint you. If you like Zoe Whittall’s work, especially Holding Still For As Long As Possible, you’ll love Plett. It’s no wonder she won the 2015 Lambda award for trans fiction. This year, you can look forward to an anthology of trans speculative fiction that Plett edited, coming out with Topside Press (who published her first book as well). You should also read this super smart article she wrote for The Walrus about trans novels by cis authors.

jia qing wilson-yang

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I just finished reading wilson-yang’s debut novel Small Beauty and I’m so mad at myself for not reading it sooner! It was so good. Obviously the folks at the Writer’s Trust of Canada, who give out the Dayne Ogilvie Prize, thought so too, as wilson-yang received an honour of distinction last year. Small Beauty is a meditative but engaging novel about Mei, a young trans women dealing with grief and family secrets while taking a break from urban life, staying at the small town house of her aunt and cousin who’ve passed away. What I really loved about this book was it didn’t do any explaining. Mandarin words are presented in pinyin (i.e., romanized letters), characters eat Chinese food—not the beef and broccoli kind, transmisogynist shit happens, people who know and are related to Mei appear, all without any untoward explanation or unnecessary description that would assume any of these things are anything other than totally normal and just life. It felt so real. wilson-yang is a mixed race writer and musician living in Toronto and a new-to-me author I’m very excited about.

Sybill Lamb

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Sybil Lamb—who’s originally from Ottawa—wrote a book called I’ve Got a Time Bomb in 2014 and somehow the rest of the world failed to recognize that a fucking genius had officially entered the literary world. It is truly, truly one of the most unique, weirdest books ever written and it should go down in literary history if there’s any justice in this world. I wasn’t being hyperbolic when I compared it to Tristam Shandy and Joyce’s Ulysses in my review. It follows a character also named Sybil, on a rambling journey in a modified ice cream truck through post-Katrina / post-apocalyptic “Amerika” after surviving a hate crime. The entire novel is a hallucinatory, fever dream, full of Lamb’s stunning, poetic and impressively fresh writing that is not the least bit show-offy. It’s also funny as hell and you will grow to love Sybil the anti-heroine. To top it all off, the book is full of kooky, evocative illustrations that Lamb did herself (see the cover art for an example). Am I ever excited to see what she does next.

Kai Cheng Thom

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Kai Cheng Thom has suddenly appeared on my radar these last few months or so, which probably means she’s been working away for years on her art and I just didn’t notice. Her first novel, Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir, came out in November 2016. The blurb describes it as a “highly sensational, ultra-exciting, sort-of true coming-of-age story of a young Asian trans girl, pathological liar, and kung-fu expert who runs away from her parents’ abusive home”; she finds her true family of trans femmes, who band together to form “a vigilante gang to fight back against the transphobes, violent johns, and cops that stalk” their part of town. This sounds delightfully like Amber Dawn’s Sub Rosa but also like its own brand of trans femme magic. If that isn’t enough, Thom also has her first book of poetry coming out this year, A Place Called No Homeland. It interrogates body, land, and language, pulling from traditions of oral storytelling, spoken word, and queer punk. You should also check out her great book reviews and interviews on Autostraddle.

Gwen Benaway

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I have Kai Cheng Thom to thank, actually, for introducing me to Gwen Benaway’s work. Thom’s thoughtful review of Benaway’s poetry collection Passage and interview with Benaway had me completely sold. In Passage, which just came out last month, two-spirit poet Benaway (Métis and Anishnaabe) writes about survival, violence, colonization, and trans femme gender and desire. It’s a book rooted in Benaway’s ancestral homeland around the Great Lakes and Northern Ontario and one where Benaway “seeks to reconcile herself to the land, the history of her ancestors, and her separation from her partner and family by invoking the beauty and power of her ancestral waterways.” If you know (and thus love) the work of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (Islands of Decolonial Love), you’ll be excited to know she blurbed Benaway’s book, saying “With equal parts warm light and raw bone, this stunning collection burns away the legacy of erasure and upheaval. If the lake could write poetry, this collection would be it.” Benaway writes: “nothing is more beautiful / than a woman who knows / exactly what she wants / and what I want / is myself.”

Vivek Shraya

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In case you missed it, I wrote a review of Vivek Shraya’s debut poetry collection Even This Page is White a few weeks ago. “Spoiler”: I loved it. Beautiful, accessible, smart, and playful, Even This Page is White is the kind of book you want to re-read right after finishing and then go out and buy a copy for a friend. Tackling racism in its many insidious forms, the book is both educational and healing, even while Shraya plays with different poetic forms and visuals on the page. Like so many talented artists, Shraya is at home in many formats, including different kinds of visual art and music. She also published a novel called She of the Mountains in 2014, a lyrical novel of two narratives: a re-imagining of Hindu mythology and a contemporary story about an unnamed feminine protagonist exploring bisexual identity. In addition her first book of poetry, Shraya also published her first children’s book last year, The Boy and the Bindi, about a young boy who’s fascinated by his mother’s bindi. A hard-working, prolific artist as she is, I’m sure we can be excited about whatever new work she’ll be putting out in 2017.

2017 LGBTQ+ YA

2017 is looking like it’s going to be a great year for LGBTQ+ YA books, with at least one being published almost every month! This is by no means all the LGBTQ+ YA books arriving this year. I’ve only included ones that have a concrete release date, so we have even more to look forward to!

Which one are you looking forward to the most? Click “Read More” to see the full list!

Read More »

Books With LGBTQIA Asian Protagonists

Looking to amp up the diversity of your reading in 2017? Struggling to find literature that reflects the reality of your library’s complicated, diverse, colourful and incredible community? Lamenting the lack of representation that still plagues mainstream publishing?

Thank goodness for bloggers like  Nazahet Hernandez, who are using their blogs as online platforms to promote diverse literature and to connect readers (and teachers and library staff!) with just the right books. Hernandez’s blog, Read Diverse Books, is “committed to reviewing, discussing, and promoting books written by and about people of color and other marginalized voices.”

Finding fiction with POC LGBTQ protagonists can be a major challenge, but Read Diverse Books has a list of over FORTY titles with Queer Asian representation to get you started. Each title is linked to its Goodreads page, making it easier for readers to assess and explore each title.

If you work with teen or adult readers, or just want to shake up your own reading life to include more LGBTQ+ and other diverse works, definitely check out Read Diverse Booksand join in the discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #ReadDiverse2017.

Interview with Leigh Matthews

BCLA LGBTQ member Casey Stepaniuk brings us this great interview with Vancouver-based author Leigh Matthews. A big thank you to both Casey and Leigh!

A little while ago I talked with my friend and Vancouver-based author Leigh Matthews about her journey as a queer writer, her contemporary lesbian pulp series set in Vancouver, her must-have LGBTQ+ books, and what an LGBTQ+-friendly library looks like to her. Check out her website if you want to more information about her books and all the other cool stuff she does, including freelance medical writing and website development. I’ve reviewed her (awesome) books on my blog, if you want to check that out too. She had loads of interesting things to say, so here’s the interview!

1

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your career as a writer?

Aside from brief periods when I wanted to be a professional soccer player and a forensic pathologist, I always wanted to be a writer. I used to make up character profiles for the people who populated the childhood games I played with my brother. I would write stories about them, which then progressed into attempts at writing novels, peppered with a little poetry that was praised far too highly!

After being involved in a youth writing initiative in the UK in my late teens, I stopped writing for a little while, for a variety of reasons, including devaluing my creative nature. Then, when I moved to Canada in 2010 and started working as a freelancer, I made a commitment to myself to nurture that creativity and start writing fiction and poetry again. It took a while to clear out the creative pipes, and I found the challenge and boundaries of National Novel Writing Month very helpful in rediscovering the joy of writing with my inner editor turned off.

The novel that emerged from NaNoWriMo 2011 became The Old Arbutus Tree, my first full novel, published in 2012. I’ve tried to do NaNoWriMo every year since, and have also done the 3-Day Novel Challenge. These are such fun ways to just get the words down and get the story out. It’s so much easier to work with existing material than to stare at a blank page every day. And, seeing that word count ticking up every day is incredibly gratifying and has taught me to be less precious and more focused on pacing and plot as a scaffold for my work.

I’ve recently begun writing poetry again, but I mainly focus on novels and short stories, with some creative non-fiction. I am also a medical copywriter and journalist, which helps pay my bills and is a great way to learn new things and meet interesting people.

I’m really interested in people’s motivations – how others’ brains work and how they experience life. It’s such a privilege to work as a writer and have the time to get inside a character’s mind and create a realistic portrayal of someone who might think very differently to me. I think this is one of the reasons why readers have been found to have a higher degree of empathy than those who don’t read regularly. The ability to consider how someone else sees a situation and how they might respond to it is so important and yet we don’t teach it directly to children, we have to rely on literature to do that.

Do you think of yourself a “queer writer,” or as just a writer who happens to be queer?

I’ve identified as bisexual since I was a teenager, but only adopted a queer identity after moving to Canada. I feel like it’s a good fit for me in many ways, given my interest in shaking up standard forms of discourse and not just colouring outside the lines but questioning the very purpose and existence of those lines.

If you’re a queer, polyamory-inclined, vegan, feminist, immigrant, it’s all too easy for your accompanying bio to end up longer than the poem a journal wants to print. My queerness isn’t simply about my sexuality, though; for me, queer is more a verb than a noun, so it definitely influences my work as a writer.

For instance, I made a choice to self-publish my three novels (one of which is YA/NA) and one work of non-fiction. This was partly because I knew it would be difficult to get a contract with a good publisher, but also because I wanted to retain full creative control. I don’t like the idea of writing novel after novel that look exactly the same. Of course, self-publishing means I have to play the unfortunate game of respectability politics and am not eligible for a variety of awards or grants. Given that there are so few publishers willing to take a gamble on a new writer in a market seen as being small and difficult, I gather that this is rather a common source of ire for queer writers.

My queerness also has an impact on my work as a medical writer and journalist. Unless gender is central to the piece I’m writing, I do my utmost to be inclusive or to entirely avoid gendered terms. Instead, I aim to focus on biological facts so as not to exclude people who are trans, genderqueer, and/or intersex, and to avoid heteronormative and cisnormative assumptions.

So, yes, I absolutely think of myself as a queer writer.

2

The second book in your All Out Vancouver series came out earlier this year. Can you tell us about it? And what made you decide to set those books in a very recognizable Vancouver?

The books in the All Out Vancouver series are, in essence, the books that I wanted to read but that just didn’t exist. There’s a dearth of queer fiction that isn’t about coming out, and I wanted to go beyond that and write about people living their lives, be they bisexual, trans, genderqueer, and/or polyamorous. Thanks to increasing awareness and acceptance, many people now in their late twenties and thirties have been comfortably out for a long time and have been able to build chosen family and repair any rifts they might have had with their families of origin.

There’s a large queer community in Vancouver, which offers wonderful benefits but also some interesting politics to explore. I want to write about the community I know and love, with a dash of intersectionality and politics, but mostly just engaging stories about characters who readers can identify with or recognise in their own lives.

Go Deep is the second novel in the AOV series and was released in April 2016, following Don’t Bang the Barista!, which was released in October 2014. I’ll be sitting down to write the third in the series shortly, with plans to explore some of the newer characters more thoroughly while keeping in touch with the core characters who seem to have won over many readers.

3

What advice would you give to libraries looking to create meaningful, inclusive LGBTQ+ library collections? Are there any titles that you would consider must-haves?

There are so many fantastic lists now available online of LGBTQ+ books written by authors who themselves identify as LGBTQ+ (including those written by Casey!). I think Autostraddle, the Lesbrary, Book Riot, and other sites are a good starting point, especially for libraries looking for books by queer people of colour and trans folks whose small publishers may not have a large marketing budget.

I’d be happy to see librarians eschew bestseller lists when building collections as these lists are less an indication of what readers like and more a reflection of what straight, white, cis gender critics and publishers deem worthy of promoting. This is especially true for books written about LGBTQ+ folks by people who are straight and cis. While some of these books have literary merit, it’s important that priority is given to LGBTQ+ authors to tell our own stories.

It’s also nice to see libraries taking steps to highlight books that include diverse representations of bisexual characters and trans characters, as well as queer people of colour. The focus is normally so heavily on m/m romance or lesbian ‘chick-lit’ style narratives that it can be hard for other authors and books to find space on the shelves.

Lambda lists can also be helpful, especially now their award categories have expanded to include trans poetry and bisexual fiction.

As for must-have books, that’s a tricky one! Classics like The Colour Purple, Giovanni’s Room, The Well of Loneliness, The Price of Salt, Howl, and Rubyfruit Jungle might be considered essentials. Lesbian pulp fiction, such as by Ann Bannon, and books and plays like Confessions of a Mask, Dhalgren, Funny Boy, Blood Child, and The Normal Heart would help round out a collection. More recently, books by Shani Mootoo, Zoe Whittall, Michelle Tea, Maggie Nelson, David Levithan, and Vivek Shraya help build diversity. It’s so hard to choose!

What about making sure library spaces are LGBTQ+ friendly? What makes a space LGBTQ+ inclusive for you?

One thing I’ve noticed a lot in bookstores and libraries is how LGBTQ+ collections are typically sorted into ‘lesbian’ and ‘gay’ sections, with everything sort of lumped together as if LGBTQ+ is a genre. Having an LGBTQ+ section can be helpful for readers who are deliberately looking for these books, but I also think it essential to include books by or about LGBTQ+ people in general fiction or in the relevant genre sections of a library. This helps to avoid the ghettoization of these books, meaning that they make their way into the hands of new readers. It also helps out those people who might be nervous about standing in front of a giant ‘LGBTQ+’ sign.

On a more obvious note, having a rainbow decal somewhere visible can be very welcoming, and having all-gender washrooms is a must. Librarians themselves play a big part in making a space feel safe and welcoming, of course; educating staff to overcome any heteronormative and cisnormative assumptions about readers’ habits is essential. And, hiring librarians who have a good knowledge of LGBTQ+ books and who read diversely across genres means that it’s more likely readers will have a wider range of books recommended to them.

Not all writers like to do readings or books signings, but making space available to local authors who are LGBTQ+ and who want to hold an event can help, as can making sure to purchase local LGBTQ+ authors’ books. Hosting a queer book club, movie nights where the movie is based on an LGBTQ+ book, and taking part in Pride celebrations, Trans Visibility Day and Bi Awareness Day are also good ways to build community. Even creating a display of relevant books for such events can help library users feel safe and welcome in the space.