Summer Reading: Pride Edition

Happy Pride! The entire month of June is a recognition, celebration, and honoring of LGBTQIA individuals. While there are many ways to celebrate, I plan to spend part of June reading books by LGBTQIA authors.

One of my 2019 resolutions was to read at least one book per month that someone recommended to me. I put out a request on Twitter for recommended reads by queer authors. One user recommended White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, which is on its way to my front door as we speak. I look forward to reading that one!

As far as my own recommendations, here are some books I’ve enjoyed that were written by LGBTQIA authors. I recommend them for Pride month and, of course, for any month.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado — a fascinating collection of feminist horror. My favorite story was “Inventories.”

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay — another great collection of short fiction. My favorite story was “Water, All Its Weight.”

Dry by Augusten Burroughs — Burroughs is one of my favorite authors, and you really can’t go wrong with any of his books.

Letters for Lucardo, Vol. 1 by Otava Heikkilä — a tender, erotic comic about a May-December romance between a human and a vampire.

F4 by Larissa Glaser — a wild, crazy, sexy creature tale that’s perfect for summer.

The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag — a graphic novel about a young boy who yearns to be a witch.

I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé by Michael Arcenaux — a wonderful, funny collection of essays.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby — I laughed now just remembering this book. The essays within are a scream.

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Allison Bechdel — a “best of” treasury of Bechdel’s amazing comic.

Do you have any recommended reads for Pride? Leave them in the comments below!

My Favorite Books of 2017

It’s been a year. Some parts were good, others not so good. But the year has come and gone, and I am looking forward to seeing what 2018 brings.

I am an avid reader, but noticed the voraciousness ebbed a little as I worked on Please Give, and readied both that and The Crow’s Gift for publication. Still, I read; and close to 30 books this year. I liked most of what I read, and wanted to highlight my favorites that I read this year (even if they weren’t written this year). Here are my favorite books of 2017, in alphabetical order.

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman — I had never heard of this book until I saw the preview for the movie earlier this summer. Once I realized the movie was an adaptation, I got a copy from the library and sped through it in less than a week. It tells the story of Elio, a young man who falls in lust (and perhaps love) with his father’s research assistant over the course of the summer. The book is told from Elio’s perspective, and his scattered thinking — scattered by the sudden onslaught of lust and love at once — is perfectly captured in Aciman’s prose. I recommend both the book and the film.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay — Roxane Gay released two books this year, Difficult Women and Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. I loved Hunger, but was struck by Gay’s beautiful short stories in Difficult Women. Months later, I still hear passages and see scenes in my head. My favorite stories were “Water, All Its Weight” and “La Negra Blanca.”

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas — Thomas’ story of Starr, a teenage girl who witnesses her friend being killed by a cop, is a haunting, timely story. It does a deft job of exploring both the personal toll on Starr and the far-reaching ramifications on her family, her friends, her school, and her neighborhood. I highly recommend it.

Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977 – 2002) by David Sedaris — this is as-advertised: a collection of Sedaris’ diary entries from 1977 up until 2002. Other than the introduction, they’re presented as-is. I really liked this, as the reader is able to fill in context of current events of the time, where Sedaris was in his career, and other items not necessarily told in each entry. I also read this book during a stressful time in my personal life, and found the picaresque mundane of daily diary entries very comforting to read. Make no mistake, though — Sedaris’ wit and talent as a writer are still present in each entry.

Honorable mention: “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian — like seemingly most everyone in the second week of December, I read and enjoyed “Cat Person.” It was a good story — it didn’t bowl me over or beg for a reread, but it was a good story with some great passages. I give it an honorable mention because I was so struck by how it took off online, especially on Twitter. It speaks to Roupenian’s talent that so many people thought it was an essay or a true, personal story. I recommend giving it a read (the full story is available in the linked title) if you haven’t read it already.

What were some of your favorite books of 2017? Let me know in the comments!

Happy New Year, everyone.

When Writing Precludes Reading

One of my favorite movies is Quills, the 2000 film about the Marquis de Sade. I first watched it when I was fifteen, and it’s been one of my favorites ever since.

A line that always stuck with me was uttered during one of Abbé de Coulmier’s many arguments with the Marquis. He notes the irony of the Marquis himself barely reading, and classifies him with disdain as “a writer who writes more than he reads.”

That quote stuck with me as excellent writing advice, and over the past 16 years since I saw the film ( … damn …), I’ve read and written in a ratio of roughly 5:1. I am a voracious reader. I move in ebbs and flows in terms of how much I read, but on average, I can read a book a week when I’m otherwise unoccupied. I read on the metro, at the gym, and before I go to bed. I check out 4-5 books at a time from the library, because otherwise I run out of reading material too quickly.

This was the case until roughly September 2016, when I started Please Give.

Since then, it has taken me weeks to finish a book I would’ve finished in less than a week. The last book I finished, Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, would’ve taken me 2-3 weeks, and it took me three months. It’s an odd feeling, as one of the reasons I read so quickly is because the urge to read just comes to me. I love to read. I feel incomplete without a book in my hands.

I suppose one fixation supplanted another, as now I feel incomplete if I go a day without writing. I daydream about my stories while I ride the elliptical at the gym. I type up passages on the metro on my way to work. I write, revise, and read my stories before going to bed. I’ve replaced the stories I read with the stories I’m creating.

However, there’s a part of me that know the stories I’m creating wouldn’t be there without the stories I’ve read. As such, I am trying my damndest to still read, even when I have to turn off the story I’m writing in order to focus on the story I’m reading. I fully believe it’s important to have both in your life at once, even as one competes for the attention of the other.

Right now, I’m reading Stephen King’s On Writing, which my parents gave me for my birthday. It’s admittedly easier to focus on memoirs and nonfiction while I write my fiction pieces. I also hope to read Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women once my library gets me a copy (I’m currently 14th in line on a hold list). Sometimes, taking a break from my own words helps those words flow more freely when I return to my drafts. As such, I try very hard to take the Abbe’s advice and try not to write more than I read.

If you have any book recommendations, let me know — I’ll respond with a book recommendation in kind!