There are various diverse reading challenges out there, but I’ve made my own for me. Other people are welcome to take this and adapt if if you want. I intend to read:
Written by an author of colour x 5
Main character of colour
Translated into English
Written by a trans author
Trans main character
Asexual main character
Gay main character
Lesbian main character
Non-binary main character
A classic I’ve never read before x 2
Written by a disabled author
Disabled main character
Non-neurotypical main character
A genre other than SF&F x 5
Mentally ill main character
Book I loved as a child
Based on non-European folk tales
Book from a small press
I expect there will be overlap between these characters. I read a lot of SF&F books, so I’m specifically going to try and read 5 books in other genres to widen my reading, but it’s likely that some or all of those 5 will also meet at least one of the other criteria.
In this interview, I talk to C B Lee, author of Seven Tears at High Tide and the Sidekick Squad series, about her writing, the importance of LGBTQ+ representation in young adult fiction, and her upcoming books.
In 2017, I launched my queer reading list. This is a list of sci-fi and fantasy book recommendations with strong LGBTQ+ representation. You can filter by different representation types to find books that feature characters with specific identities or sexualities.
Each month in 2018, I will be giving away a book of the winner’s choice from the reading list. You can enter the giveaway through the year and at the end of each month, a winner will be chosen at random from that month’s entries and that person will get to choose a book from the list as their prize.
Suggest a new book for the reading list. You can fill out this form to make a recommendation (or this form if you’re an author and want to recommend your own books). The only criteria are that the book is sci-fi or fantasy, there is strong queer representation (i.e. not just a token character in the background), and that you enjoyed reading it.
Each new book recommended counts as a separate entry to the giveaway and you can recommend as many books as you like.
Please check before making a recommendation that the book isn’t already on the list, and please include as much detail as you can about the representation within the book (this makes it easier to correctly categorise them for the filters).
Please also make sure you include a way for me to contact you in the suggestion form – email address or Tumblr username. This contact information will only be used to inform the winner that they’ve won and communicate about their prize.
I have just added a new page to this website, called Queer Reading List. This is an on-going list of sci-fi and fantasy books that I’ve read and enjoyed that feature queer characters in a significant way. I’m using the umbrella term ‘queer’ because so far these books include characters who are agender, intersex, bisexual, gay, asexual, demi-sexual and more. I hope to include more aspects of the LGBT+ identities as time goes on.
I’m only including books on this list if I’ve read and enjoyed them, but I’m always open to recommendations. If you’ve read (or written) a book that you think deserves a place on this list, leave a comment or contact me with that book recommendation. I can’t promise how quickly I’ll get to it, because my to be read pile is constantly growing, but if I enjoy it, I will add it to the list.
Check back periodically because I do intend for this list to grow over time.
Every Day by David Levithan (US link, UK link) is the story of A, who lives each day in a different life. Each morning they wake up with a new body, a new name, and a whole new life. They must bluff their way through the day and then, the next morning, start all over again. They have no control over whose body the inhabit and no way to stop the transfer happening. Normally, they try to leave the people they inhabit exactly the same after the experience, but sometimes they make exceptions to the rule, such as when they spent the day in the body of a girl contemplating suicide.
When A meets Rhiannon, one day is enough to fall in love. A doesn’t want to leave her behind when they move into another body and so they start taking stupid risks for the chance to see her again. And now one of their hosts knows he was possessed and is desperate to find out what happened.
This was an enjoyable book and it was fun to see the different lives A briefly experiences. It gives a real variety of family situations, from an undocumented underage worker to the rich and bitchy queen of a high school. The book is really good for the diversity of people included, with A jumping between bodies of different races, different genders, and different sexualities. I loved that it showed the depressed sufferer as having serious problems with her brain chemistry that impacted A as well, rather than being dismissed as a “bad mood”. A themselves describes themselves as not really having a gender. Because they jump around each day, they don’t really feel either male or female but a bit of both.
Plot wise, most of the book is about A trying to stay with Rhiannon, but there is the threat of Nathan poking around, trying to uncover the truth. It’s more of a romance than an adventure.
I enjoyed this book. There were a couple of things that irritated me, including an event that happens near the end, so I won’t spoil it for anyone, but on the whole it was entertaining and enjoyable and kept me guessing. Four stars.
Viral Nation is a post-apocalyptic book with many of the standard hallmarks of a YA dystopian story. The world was ravaged by a deadly plague and now the few survivors have come together into a small number of cities. They are all reliant on a drug that keeps the virus suppressed. Without regular doses, the virus will return. In the cities, law is kept because a time portal lets the authorities know what crimes will be committed so that they can stop them before they happen.
Clover is an autistic girl who depends on her support dog Mango to help her through loud and crowded situations which are incredibly stressful to her. She is extremely intelligent and is accepted into the prestigious Academy, only to be told that Mango can’t stay with her. When she refuses to be parted from her dog, she is sent instead to be a time mariner – to travel through the portal to bring back information from the future. In her new job, she learns that the system may not be as perfect as she’s been told.
The story is told largely from the perspectives of Clover and her brother West, with occasional sections from their father’s viewpoint. Clover’s character is a real strength for this book. Her experiences and thought processes are clearly described and made understandable to non-autistic readers. The way she behaves feels completely genuine and there is a real emotional connection. That feeling of reality is also reflected in the way she is sometimes treated by other characters in the book because of her autism. There were times when I felt fury and indignation on Clover’s behalf about the unfairness of how she is treated and I wished I could leap into the pages and yell at the other characters.
On the other hand, I didn’t think the plot did justice to the strength of the main character. There were a number of plot elements that seemed really convenient. I don’t want to give spoilers, but in particular the way the time travel is handled seems to lack consistent logic and there are details that are revealed that make no sense and seem to be there only because it furthered the plot.
The book also suffered a bit for being obviously the first one in a series. There are a lot of significant plot points that go unexplained which is frustrating, but I know I do this in my own series, so I can accept this. I trust that these mysteries will be resolved in the second book of this two-part series. The second book is already out, so at least I won’t have to wait to get the answers.
This isn’t going to make it on to my favourites shelf, but it’s an enjoyable read if you like dystopias and especially if you like well-written representations of autistic characters. Three and a half stars.
I’ve talked about my diverse book giveaways in previous posts. October’s giveaway is A Rational Arrangement by L Rowyn. I’ve written a review of this book in an earlier post.
I picked this book because it ticks a lot of diversity boxes. One of the main characters is an autistic woman, the other two are bisexual men. One thing I especially liked about this story is the way it handles mental illness. Nik has the magical ability to heal mental illness, and the way the book handles the subject is very respectful, it also differentiates between the illnesses Nik treats and a condition like autism. At one point, Nik is asked if he plans to heal Wisteria of her autism and Nik’s response is that her condition is part of who she is and not a sickness to be cured with the line, “Personality is not a disease.”
Every month in 2016 I’m giving away a different science fiction or fantasy book that highlights some form of diversity (preferably more than one). September’s book is the charming Every Heart a Doorway which I have reviewed in a previous blog post.
I chose this book for its LGBTQ representation. The protagonist is asexual, and actually uses this word to describe herself which is astonishingly rare. Another major character in the book is trans. There is an incident of transphobic language from one of the other characters but this is clearly addressed by the narrative and the other characters as being unacceptable behaviour.
I’m continuing my series of giveaways on Tumblr with Fourth World by Lyssa Chiavari. I chose this book because as well as having a racially diverse mix of characters, it has a protagonist who is demi-sexual – and who actually uses this term to describe himself. This shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is. The other protagonist appears to be asexual but this isn’t explicitly stated in the text (mostly because she would have no context for the term).
If you want a chance to win this book, go over to Tumblr and reblog the giveaway post.
Over on Tumblr, I’m continuing my series of giveaways of books that showcase diversity. For July, I’m giving away The Defectives which I’ve reviewed in a previous post. This book has a disabled protagonist, multiple disabled and neurodivergent characters, as well as racially diverse characters.