Two Bios and a Gay Romance

I had a pretty awesome reading week trying to squeeze in a few more queer books before the end of June. I’m still working on one of them so I’ll write about it sometime in the next couple of weeks. For now, here are some thoughts on a collective biography of queer history, a punk rock biography, and a gay romance novel.

Two Bios and a Gay RomanceQueer There and Everywhere: 22 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager. HarperCollins, 2017. ARC: 272 pp.

Genres: Nonfiction, Biography, History

This first-ever LGBTQ history book for young adults will appeal to fans of fun, empowering pop-culture books like Rad American Women A-Z and Notorious RBG.

World history has been made by countless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals—and you’ve never heard of many of them. Queer author and activist Sarah Prager delves deep into the lives of 22 people who fought, created, and loved on their own terms. From high-profile figures like Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt to the trailblazing gender-ambiguous Queen of Sweden and a bisexual blues singer who didn’t make it into your history books, these astonishing true stories uncover a rich queer heritage that encompasses every culture, in every era.

By turns hilarious and inspiring, the beautifully illustrated Queer, There, and Everywhere is for anyone who wants the real story of the queer rights movement. [Goodreads]

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

When I saw that there was a collective biography of queer history coming out, I knew I needed that book. I picked up my ARC at ALA Midwinter. This was before all the house buying, so I didn’t realize how busy I would be. I got around to reading it a bit late, but I’m so glad I picked it up. It made for some nice reading during Pride Month. It’s a lovely collection of biographies on queer people in history. I particularly liked Prager’s honesty that some of it is left up to speculation because people simply didn’t talk about same-sex love and relationships the way we do today. I think it’s worth noting that almost every person represented in this book is from the U.S. or Western cultures. Prager makes a note that she had hoped to include more diversity in that respect, but had little access to the resources she needed to do the research. This is a no-brainer for my library. It’s important that we help people understand that queerness has always been a part of history. It’s just always been hidden. Recommended.

Queer There and Everywhere counts towards my 2017 New Release Challenge.

Two Bios and a Gay RomanceTranny: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Laura Jane Grace. Hachette Audio, 2016. Audiobook: 6 hrs., 54 mins.

Genres: Nonfiction, Biography

The provocative transgender advocate and lead singer of the punk rock band Against Me! provides a searing account of her search for identity and her true self. It began in a bedroom in Naples, Florida, when a misbehaving punk teenager named Tom Gabel, armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar and a headful of anarchist politics, landed on a riff. Gabel formed Against Me! and rocketed the band from its scrappy beginnings-banging on a drum kit made of pickle buckets-to a major-label powerhouse that critics have called this generation's The Clash. Since its inception in 1997, Against Me! has been one of punk's most influential modern bands, but also one of its most divisive. With every notch the four-piece climbed in their career, they gained new fans while infuriating their old ones. They suffered legal woes, a revolving door of drummers, and a horde of angry, militant punks who called them "sellouts" and tried to sabotage their shows at every turn. But underneath the public turmoil, something much greater occupied Gabel-a secret kept for 30 years, only acknowledged in the scrawled-out pages of personal journals and hidden in lyrics. Through a troubled childhood, delinquency, and struggles with drugs, Gabel was on a punishing search for identity. Not until May of 2012 did a Rolling Stone profile finally reveal it: Gabel is a transsexual, and would from then on be living as a woman under the name Laura Jane Grace. Tranny is the intimate story of Against Me!'s enigmatic founder, weaving the narrative of the band's history, as well as Grace's, with dozens of never-before-seen entries from the piles of journals Grace kept. More than a typical music memoir about sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll-although it certainly has plenty of that-Tranny is an inside look at one of the most remarkable stories in the history of rock. [Goodreads]

This book may be uncomfortable for some young readers due to graphic content. I recommend evaluating it personally.

I’ll be honest. I’ve only ever been a marginal fan of Against Me! This book had a bit more material relating to the start of the band, their experiences writing albums, and their tours than I expected. I listened to it while I was working in the library and doing some work on the house, so I’ll admit I spaced out a bit during those parts.

My favorite album by Against Me! is Transgender Dysphoria Blues (thought I haven’t listened to the newest one yet), which I’ve always imagined would get me ridiculed by people I know who like their old stuff because it’s not “the real punk stuff they used to play” or something like that. I’ve never been into the punk scene’s elitism so I ended up liking some of the background on the band more than I expected. Laura Jane Grace calls out all the crap about selling out. It was pretty refreshing. After all, wouldn’t you want the band you loved to be successful and make money?

I’m so glad I listened to this. I was particularly interested in the period in which Grace was writing Transgender Dysphoria Blues. That album clearly came from a truly personal place for her and it makes me enjoy it even more. It also gave me a little more context for some of her previous songs, when she was sneaking in some of her feelings of dysphoria.

A good listen for any fans of Against Me! Fair warning: there’s a lot of language and references to drugs and sex. That shouldn’t be particularly surprising, but I figured it was worth mentioning.

Two Bios and a Gay RomanceThink of England by K.J. Charles. KJC Books, 2017. eBook: 239 pp.

Genres: Fiction, Romance

Lie back and think of England...

England, 1904. Two years ago, Captain Archie Curtis lost his friends, fingers, and future to a terrible military accident. Alone, purposeless and angry, Curtis is determined to discover if he and his comrades were the victims of fate, or of sabotage.

Curtis’s search takes him to an isolated, ultra-modern country house, where he meets and instantly clashes with fellow guest Daniel da Silva. Effete, decadent, foreign, and all-too-obviously queer, the sophisticated poet is everything the straightforward British officer fears and distrusts.

As events unfold, Curtis realizes that Daniel has his own secret intentions. And there’s something else they share—a mounting sexual tension that leaves Curtis reeling.

As the house party’s elegant facade cracks to reveal treachery, blackmail and murder, Curtis finds himself needing clever, dark-eyed Daniel as he has never needed a man before… [Goodreads]

This book may be uncomfortable for some young readers due to graphic content. I recommend evaluating it personally.

This was recommended on an episode of Get Booked and it’s been sitting on my TBR list since then. Since I was devoting June to queer books, I decided to pick this up when it came time to find another romance. I wasn’t sure about it when I started. It seemed a little slow in the beginning, but it totally hooked me after the first couple of chapters and I read until I finished it. There were some cool mystery and spy elements that I think really pushed the plot along. I’ve read some romantic suspense novels before, and the pacing reminded me a bit of those. It was pretty funny. I loved Daniel’s witty humor, so much so that I started highlighting some of my favorite moments (which I almost never do when reading). I might be reading more by this author in the future. I went ahead a put a few of her books on my TBR list to pick up later. If gay, historical romances are niche enough for you, many of her books are gay, historical romances with fantasy elements. I can only hope the rest of her books have the same witty humor as this one.

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