LGBTQ+ Graphic Novels for Tweens and Younger Tweens

I love graphic novels and I’ll never pass up an opportunity to promote them, because, despite what some snooty parents and teachers have told me at the library, graphic novels are real books, thank you very much, and can make for perfect summer reading fare. Here are just a handful on fantastic graphic novels to put on your reading list this summer.

Princess Princess Ever After

This utterly adorable graphic novel puts a much-needed spin on the traditional fairy tale by having the princess in distress be rescued by, and fall in love with, a fellow princess. Sweet, gentle, and perfect for princess-loving readers everywhere.

Lumberjanes

Friendship to the max! A group of awesome girls at a summer camp are determined to have the best summer ever….even if it means fighting some pretty strange supernatural creatures or embarking on crazy quests! There’s an wonderful range of identities in this series, and the stories are artwork are fantastic. Lumberjanes is a whole lot of fun, and deserves all the hype it’s been getting on the interwebs.

Goldie Vance

I’ve shared my love of lesbian teenage sleuth Goldie Vance before, so her appearance on this list should come as no surprise. Readers who enjoy a good mystery will enjoy this fresh series inspired by classic teen detectives like Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden.

Skim

Being a teenager can be rough, especially when you don’t feel like you can be yourself, or that you even know yourself, for that matter. This period of realization, identity and crisis is explored in beautiful detail in the story of “Skim”, the name taken on by Japanese-Canadian “not slim” Wiccan high schooler Kim, who’s struggling to find herself, a process made even more complicated when she begins to develop feelings for a teacher.

Wandering Son

This manga series looks at the experiences of two children whose gender identities and expression challenge the more conservative cultural and social expectations of their community. Shuichi Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki are two Japanese school children who struggle with their identities – one is a boy who feels like a girl, and the other is a girl who feels like a boy.

Interestingly, manga and anime featuring lesbian or gay romantic stories (百合 or やおい) is extremely common in Japan – as I’ve mentioned before, the first time I ever saw a lesbian couple on TV was in the anime Sailor Moon. While many of these series are targeted towards straight audiences and capitalize on the thrill of the forbidden “love that dare not speak its name”,  they can offer a means for creators and readers to push back against the prevalence of homophobia in society, and can even provide a lifeline for queer and questioning teens in a culture that is reluctant to even accept their existence. Shimura is noted for creating works that eschew the melodrama common in 百合 in favour of real stories – her series Sweet Blue Flowers, for example, was said to be “one of the most realistic portrayals of a young woman in love with another woman”.

Now these are just a few of the many incredible graphic novels for tweens and younger teens that include LGBTQ+ characters and content. What are some of your favourites??

This post was original posted on The Book Wars.

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LGBTQ+ Parents in Kids’ Books

Today I’m going to be sharing a handful of great books featuring children growing up with LGBTQ+ parents/caregivers. In particular, I’m looking for books that aren’t primarily about having two mums or two dads, but that feature same-sex parents as part of a larger story.

Here we go!

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The Popularity Papers – Amy Ignatow

This sweet series is perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and other heavily illustrated books. One of the series’ main characters, Julie Graham-Chang, is the adopted daughter of an incredibly loving and supportive pair of daddies, Papa Dad and Daddy.

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Harriet Gets Carried Away – Jessie Sima

Harriet loves costumes, and she never misses an opportunity to get dressed up. But while dressed as a penguin to help her daddies prepare for a birthday party, Harriet gets swept up by a flock of real penguins! Sweet, silly, and charmingly illustrated.

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The Purim Superhero – Elizabeth Kushner

Purim is coming, and Nate can’t decide on a costume! He really wants to dress up as an alien, but all his friends are going as aliens. Should Nate follow his own path, or fit in with everyone else? With the help of his two dads, Nate finds just the solution, and becomes the Purim superhero! Special note – the author is actually a fellow librarian and Vancouver resident!

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Baby’s First Words – Stella Blackstone, Sunny Scribens

This vocabulary primer follows a sweet baby and her two daddies as they go through their busy day. Great illustrations, lots of early vocabulary, and a loving two-daddy family.

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Freckleface Strawberry series – Julianne Moore

Freckleface Strawberry and her best friend, Windy Pants Patrick, are totally different. She short, he’s tall. She’s a girl, he’s a boy. She has a mom and a dad, he has two moms. They’re just too different to be friends….right? Wrong! These two discover that best friends don’t have to have everything in common to like each other.

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My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer – Jennifer Ganari

June is a master pie maker, and she’s determined to win this year’s Champlain Valley Fair pie competition. But when June’s mother’s girlfriend moves in, and the family starts receiving bullying and backlash that threatens their business, June won’t give up on her dreams, or her loving family.

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The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher – Dana Alison Levy

Two patient daddies, four active, lovable boys, countless crazy adventures! This is a charming family story that fans of Beverly Cleary’s Quimby family will love.

Are there any great books with LGBTQ+ parents that I should check out? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Book Review: The Seafarer’s Kiss

Written by Julia Ember, a self-identified “polyamorous, bisexual writer.”
Published May 4, 2017 by Duet Books
230 pages
Goodreads, Kirkus, School Library Journal
Bisexual female protagonist, genderqueer Loki

Ersel is a mermaid living in an Arctic society ruled by a callous king, and is prized for her breeding capabilities in her low birth rate community. She has a fascination with human objects, often trekking into shipwreck ruins to search for new collectibles. She witnesses a ship going down and is intrigued by the lone survivor, a woman named Ragna with mysterious moving tattoos. Wishing to become human and be with Ragna, Ersel makes a 51d+jc+WPDL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_deal with the shapeshifting and genderqueer Norse God Loki, but deals with the God of Lies often backfire. Now banned from her home and unable to be with the woman she loves, Ersel must find a way to outsmart Loki and save her community.

Marketed as a “Little Mermaid” retelling, The Seafarer’s Kiss definitely has some of the main plot points: mermaids, deals with “villains” involving legs and voices, and wanting to be human, but it manages to be its own story. Ersel reads as bisexual, having feelings for her male childhood best friend and for a human woman. Readers never really get much of an insight to the characters, and the writing (especially the ending) comes across a bit rushed. A lot is packed into the 230 pages, and there is enough happening to keep the story going, but it is easily skimmed.

The romance side also leaves a bit to be desired. There is a brief non-graphic sex scene between Ersel and Ragna, and they both declare their desire for one another, but there is not much beyond that.

I would recommend this book to fantasy lovers who don’t mind occasionally flawed writing, and for anyone looking for a quick and easy read. If you’re looking for more queer merfolk, check out this list on Goodreads.

Book Review: “Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi Anthology”

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Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi Anthology (edited by Hope Nicholson) was suggested to me by a co-worker and I was thrilled when I heard the premise – stories that sit in the middle of a Venn diagram of science fiction, Indigenous, and queer themes. Hitting even two of the three at a time is impressive, but the stories are also mostly Canadian (!) and some are even femme-centric (!!!). There are big names like Richard Van Camp and new voices like Gwen Benaway, and all contributing authors are Indigenous.

Each story varies considerably as to how heavily sci-fi, queer, or Indigenous themed it is and I didn’t feel like any aspects were forced into the stories. I read a lot of science-fiction short stories and I find the genre, like some queer fiction, thrives in short story format because the length means some exposition has to be eradicated. Concepts like interplanetary travel or gender transition are not new things for the narrator, so the story and the characters are able to shine.

Colonization and objectification of bodies are common themes in Indigenous and queer literature, but also in science fiction. Notions of Indigenous nationhood and identity tend to be framed historically rather than in the future tense, and it was refreshing to read such explicit depictions of Indigenous characters outside of stereotypical environments. When you actually read the words of Indigenous or queer (or both!) people, there is both a universality of emotion as well as insights that you will not get with non-Indigenous or non-queer writers. Love is beyond stereotypes as well as body, space, and time.

Stand-outs for me were: Perfectly You, by David A. Robertson, Legends Are Made, Not Born, by Cherie Dimaline Néle, by Darcie Little Badger, Transitions, by Gwen Benaway, and Valediction at the Star View Motel, by Nathan Adler. I would have happily read a full length novel of Néle, and Transitions is a stand-out introduction to Gwen Benaway.

Some similar titles to seek out are: Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature (various contributors), Walking the Clouds: an anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction (edited by Grace L. Dillon) and mitêwâcimowina: Indigenous Science Fiction and Speculative Storytelling (edited by Neal Mcleod)

 

Ginny Landry is Métis and Swedish, and does library work on Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh territories in the Lower Mainland of BC.

Book Review: Goldie Vance

Sixteen-year-old Marigold “Goldie” Vance has an insatiable curiosity. She lives at a Florida resort with her dad, who manages the place, and it’s her dream to one day become the hotel’s in-house detective. When Walter, the current detective, encounters a case he can’t crack, together they utilize her smarts, skills and connections to solve the mystery…even if it means getting into a drag race, solving puzzles or chasing a helicopter to do it!

New York Times bestselling and Eisner Award-winning writer Hope Larson and artist Brittney Williams present the newest gal sleuth on the block with Goldie Vance, an exciting whodunnit adventure that mixes the fun of Eloise with the charm of Lumberjanes.

Clamoring for more female-led graphic novels (that don’t involve superheroes)? Missing Veronica Mars and her crime-solving crew? Longing for some Florida sunshine? Then get your hands on a copy of Goldie Vance, stat! This fun,  colourful, exciting mystery romp has a bit of everything – humour, adventure, danger, friendship, romance, betrayal, and a spunky young heroine with both brains and bravery.

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Goldie is a heroine readers just can’t help falling in love with – she’s smart and sassy, but also down-to-Earth and extremely likeable. Goldie knows what she wants out of life (to be a detective), and she’s willing to put in the hard work to make that happen. She has great relationships with her friends and her divorced parents, and readers will thrill along with Goldie as she grows closer to her beautiful crush, Diane.

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Goldie Vance is such an important book because it presents a lesbian relationship in a refreshingly no-nonsense way. Goldie feels no angst or anguish over her feelings for Diane, and the relationship is handled with the same sweetness as any of the other relationships in the book. It’s so refreshing for young people to be able to see a strong, confident lesbian (or potentially bisexual – Goldie’s sexuality isn’t the primary focus of the text) protagonist being the star of her own show, and having her own sweet, romantic plot-line, completely with adorable blushes.

Goldie is also a biracial character, which adds another welcome layer of diversity.

The retro setting is a lot of fun, with vibrant pops of colour, cute clothes, and gorgeous cars making this feel like a sort of modernized interpretation of Grease, but this time with a clever biracial lesbian girl detective as our lead character!

Lots of fun for tween/teen/adult readers, Goldie Vance is a hero for the modern age, with vintage style but refreshingly modern sensibilities.

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.

My Favourite Bisexual Women’s Literature with Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian

My Favourite Bisexual Women’s Literature

“I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted—romantically and/or sexually—to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.” –Robyn Ochs

Yay! It’s bisexual awareness week! In honour of bisexual women everywhere, here are my personal favourite books featuring and/or by bisexual women.

My Education – Susan Choi

This book won the 2015 Lambda Literary award in the bisexual category, but it’s not why I love it. It’s got juicy, exquisite, wordy writing that kind of sounds like it’s 19th century and it’s a student/professor affair made anew, set in an academic context which is described affectionately yet critically. Choi pays really close attention to what her characters are doing and saying. A lot of this description of both mundane and profound events is strikingly beautiful and wise. Like here:

My youth was the most stubborn, peremptory part of myself. In my most relaxed moments, it governed my being. It pricked up its ears at the banter of eighteen-year-olds on the street. It frankly examined their bodies. It did not know its place: that my youth governed me with such ease didn’t mean I was young. It meant I was divided as if housing a stowaway soul, rife with itches and yens which demanded a stern vigilance. I didn’t live thoughtlessly in my flesh anymore. My body had not, in its flesh, fundamentally changed quite so much as it now could intuit the change that would only be dodged by an untimely death, and to know both those bodies at once, the youthful, and the old, was to me the quintessence of being middle-aged. Now I saw all my selves, even those that did not yet exist, and the task was remembering which I presented to others.

 Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution – Shiri Eisner

It’s hard to summarize my feelings about this book in a short space, and they are definitely complicated, but Notes for a Bisexual Revolution is the best scholarly look at bisexuality I’ve read. I feel like it’s a great first read on feminism as well as a primer on important feminist and queer terms. Eisner clearly and succinctly deals with a ton of stereotypes about bi people, gay/straight-washing of bi people, and the fact that bisexuality is often accused of ‘reinforcing the gender binary’ and otherwise contributing to the dominant social order. What I really loved about Notes for a Bisexual Revolution is that it put into words a lot of things I had felt and thought about bisexuality and biphobia (as a lesbian and then bi-identified woman) but had never taken the time to analyze. For example, she looks at the two myths of “everyone is really bisexual” and “bisexuality doesn’t exist” as two sides of the same coin: monosexist discourse trying to deny the legitimacy and uniqueness of bisexuality. Although I disagreed with a portion of this book, it certainly got me thinking a lot about my experiences with bisexuality and biphobia. It’s a reassuring book in a lot of ways, reassuring in the way Eisner calls Ochs’s definition of bisexuality: that it’s okay to be messy and complicated—in fact, that that’s something to be valued rather than apologized for.

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me – Ellen Forney

Bisexual cartoonist Ellen Forney’s graphic memoir about her bipolar disorder is truly an amazing, beautiful book. Her sexuality doesn’t play a huge part in the narrative, but then again, it’s always refreshing to read about a queer character whose life obstacles are not related to their queerness. I loved the way that Forney looks at the intersections between art and madness and the stereotype of the mad artist that seems to have come to life in her own existence. Can you imagine a psychiatrist telling you that what you thought of as your personality is actually a mental illness? The black-and-white drawings are crisp and clear but emotional and hard-hitting. It’s funny, smart, thought-provoking, and miserable at times, but never devoid of hope. I really loved this book.

The Salt Roads – Nalo Hopkinson

The Salt Roads is historical fiction, but it’s also many other fictional things: spiritual, fantastical, and magical. I love how The Salt Roads takes on the epic task of re-crafting space for historical bisexual/queer black women and takes it even farther than you thought it could be taken. Stretching over three continents and ranging from the 4th century to the 19th, this ambitious novel tells the story of Mer, who is a loving but hard woman and a doctor, midwife, and plantation slave in mid 18th century Saint Domingue (Haiti). Her closest support is another woman, Tipingee, with whom she was “sisters before Tipingee’s blood came; wives to each other after, even when they had had husbands.” The other non-monosexual character is Jeanne Duval, a biracial woman originally from Haiti living in Paris; she was the real life long-term lover and muse of the 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire. Both women are searching for freedom in different ways and their journeys (along with a re-imagined Saint Mary of Egypt) are really a joy to read.

How do I know anything? How is it that my arms stretched out in front of me are so pale? How to I even know that they should be brown like riverbank mud, as they were when I was many goddesses with many worshippers, ruling in lands on the other side of a great, salty ocean? I used to be many, but now we are one, all squeezed together, many necks in one coffle. 

Adaptation – Malinda Lo

I’m pretty sure this book is going to go down in history as the best bi sci-fi (or should that be sci-fi bi?) young adult book ever. It’s a tense, roller-coaster ride kind of book that keeps you up late at night wondering what is going to happen next. Not only are there government conspiracies, aliens, and X-Files type stuff happening, there’s also a bisexual love triangle! What more could you want in a book? Oh, great writing about teenagers kissing? A racially diverse cast of characters? Cliff-hanger endings? Characters openly and explicitly talking about bisexuality? Oh wait, this book has all of that too!

Kissing Amber was like falling into the sea: Her body surrendered to the pull of the tide, buoyed by the saltwater, every breath tasting like the ocean. Reese lost all sense of where the surface was. All there was, was this. Amber’s lips, her tongue, her hands stroking back Reese’s hair, curling around her head and holding her steady.

Dear John, I Love Jane – Edited by Candace Walsh and Laura Andre

This is a vast, encompassing anthology that has every kind of coming out story that you’ve never heard. Dear John was so important for me as someone who’s never identified with the “I’ve always known”, or the “I was a gender non-conforming kid so it figures”, or the “I fell in love with a girl when I was five” stories. It was so validating to read a book where many of the stories really felt like they could actually be about me! There’s a huge range of (white, middle-class) experience in this book. There are women who’ve only really been attracted to one woman. There are women in this book who married men in good faith, and were completely blindsided by their later (sometimes exclusive) attraction to women. There are some women who open up their relationships with men to date women. There are women who identify as bi, lesbian, queer, and some who are uncomfortable labelling or naming their sexualities at all. There is one woman who falls in love with a woman for the first time at age sixty-nine. Sixty-nine!! It was awesome to see women questioning conventional understandings of sexual orientation—that model that’s built for gay men that just doesn’t seem to do a lot of LBQ women justice.

Holding Still for as Long as Possible – Zoe Whittall

This Torontonian novel about two cis bi women and a straight trans guy is just plain old awesome. It’s a love triangle, or more precisely square, eerily involving fictional versions of pretty much everyone I ever knew in my early to mid-twenties (i.e., white, bike-riding, middle-class background, artsy, educated, FAAB queers). It’s a hilarious novel, irreverent and dark and cynical in just the right places, and heartfelt when you need a little bit of that. Whittall knows who and what she is talking about and you won’t read another book about this specific generation of queers that gets them and puts it into wittier words than Whittall. One of my favourite quotations comes from Amy, a spoiled semi-rich filmmaker who spends a lot of money to look broke and artsy, right after her break-up:

I could feel Desperation’s presence in the room, hanging around me like a stifling, wet wool sweater.  I was not going to let that bitch get the better of me.

This, and many other snippets of wisdom, made me laugh out loud, and the fact that both Amy and Billy (the other girl) are bisexual made Holding Still a really gratifying read me. It was awesome to see non-monosexual women who were part of a queer scene and navigating it. Billy thinking to herself “Quick, say something that indicates you also date boys,” after talking about her ex Maria to her current interest Josh, is exactly the kind of everyday being bi stuff that I don’t see enough of in queer fiction!

The Chronology of Water – Lidia Yuknavitch

The synopsis on the inside cover declares, “This is not your mother’s memoir.” I’m not really sure what exactly your mother’s memoir would be like, but it’s true that Yuknavitch’s book is not for the faint of heart, both in terms of content and style. Chronology opens, for example, with this: “The day my daughter was stillborn, after I held the future pink and rose-lipped in my shivering arms, lifeless tender, covering her face in tears and kisses…” Yuknavitch does not hold back, sharing intimate details about, most of all, her body: drug use, child birth, destructive relationships, abuse, swimming, and a lot of sex (with women and men). What I really enjoyed was how Yuknavitch handled such so-called scandalous material: as if it were ordinary. She is adamant that this is a feminist work, that it’s not the ‘right’ kind of book about overcoming addiction or sexual abuse, that it opposes “the tyranny of culture telling women who they should be.” In the same way that Yuknavitch refuses conventions as regards the memoir’s content, she slashes any stylistic and narrative expectations you might have and spins them around, backwards, forwards, and backwards again. While she sometimes writes a scene in a straightforward, beginning-to-end-style, she will then begin the next chapter by telling you that wasn’t exactly how it happened. No matter what style, Yuknavitch is unquestionably an extremely talented wordsmith. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

My first book came out of me in a great gushing return of the repressed.  Like a blood clot had loosened.  My hands frenzied.  Words from my whole body, my entire life, or the lives of women and girls whose stories got stuck in their throats came gushing out.  Nothing could have stopped the stories coming out of me.  Even though my hands and arms and face hurt—bruised and cut from falling from a train—or a marriage—or a self in the night—I wrote story after story.  There was no inside out.  There were words and there was my body, and I could see through my own skin.  I wrote my guts out.  Until it was a book.  Until my very skin made screamsong.

Casey is perhaps better known as Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, the writer, student, librarian and booklover behind the eponymous blog.