What Fresh Hell Is This? by Heather Corinna Book Review

Author Information

Heather Corinna is an insufferable queer and nonbinary feminist activist, author, educator, artist, organizer, and innovator. They’re the founder, director, designer and editor of the web clearinghouse and organization Scarleteen, the first comprehensive sex, sexuality and relationships education site and resource of its kind. Heather and the team at Scarleteen have provided millions of young people accurate, inclusive information and support for over two decades. They’re often tired.

Heather’s also the author of the inclusive, comprehensive and progressive sex, sexual health and relationships book for young adults, S.E.X: The All-You-Need-To-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties (Hachette, 2006, 2017), now in its second edition; and, with Isabella Rotman and Luke Howard, Wait, What?: A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up (Oni Press/Lion Forge, 2019), for older middle readers and younger teen. They’ve been an early childhood educator, a sexuality, contraception and abortion educator and counselor, a member of the editorial board for the American Journal of Sexuality Education and the Board of Directors for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington; a writer and contributing editor for the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and a plaintiff for the ACLU where they eventually got to stick it to the Bush administration, which was one of their Best Days Ever. By working themselves to a pulp, Heather has won acclaim and several awards in their field, and a lot of places and people say they’re awesome. Some do not.

They’re navigating middle age and all it entails with as much grace as they can muster (spoiler: not much), and currently, and begrudgingly, live and work in their hometown of Chicago after 20 years away. When not locked in a small room feverishly writing a book in a pandemic or otherwise overindulging in labor, Heather hangs out with their dog, partner and friends, goes outside, makes and geeks out about music, cooks, babies houseplants, and tries to enjoy the purportedly existential theater of life. 

Book Description

An informative, blisteringly funny, somewhat cranky and always spot-on guide to perimenopause and menopause by the award-winning sex ed/health educator and author of S.E.X.
If you don’t know award-winning sex educator and all-around badass Heather Corinna, let them introduce themselves and their new book:
“I’m going to do what I’ve done for millions of people of all ages with sex and relationships: to simplify and share solid, explicit information, to provide support and be sensitive, and to help make everyone feel less alone and get us all through hard, thorny, touchy stuff so we can make it to the other side. I’m going to do this in a similar way I’ve done it for sex and relationships in my work over the last couple decades for young people and adults alike: by talking out loud, shamelessly and frankly, about what others are afraid or ashamed to, much in the way your favorite loudmouth aunt might have if she made this kind of stuff her life’s work and if your family also didn’t always apparently forget to invite her to everything.”
Corinna has been on the cutting edge of health for more than twenty years, always talking about what people are most afraid, ashamed, or embarrassed of. What Fresh Hell Is This? is no different. It’s a companion for everyone who’s reached this “what to expect when you’re not expected to expect anything” time of life. It’s a health-forward, feminist, no b.s. (and damn funny) perimenopause guide for the generation that time forgot (aka GenXers), offering straightforward descriptions of our bodies, minds, lives and what’s going on with them during this time of hormonal chaos. Heather Corinna tells you what to expect and what to do, all while busting some myths and offering real self-care tips so you can get through this. With practical, clear information that also includes affected populations who have long been left out of the discussion, like those with disabilities, queer, transgender, nonbinary and other gender-diverse people, the working class and other marginalized folks, What Fresh Hell Is This? an accessible and inclusive guide for anyone who is experiencing the hot fire of perimenopause.

Review

Since this book is non-fiction, there is no need for me to have this separated into characters and writing style. I was quite surprised with how much I enjoyed this book as I was worried it wouldn’t be relevant to me.

I really liked the way that this book was written and how everything is separated into different chapters based on what is being discussed. I liked how this book talked about a lot of the changes that happen with menopause and not just what happens to the reproductive system. I was quite surprised about the many things that people who may go through menopause don’t know about their bodies. I shared a copy of this book with my mom and kept one for myself so I can reference it in the future.

Something else that I really enjoyed about this book was how the language that is used throughout this book is gender neutral. As someone who is non-binary and one day will experience menopause, it was nice to not have this tied to being a woman. There was no point in this book that I felt like they were not including me in the group of people who experience that phenomenon.

I highly recommend this to those of you who may experience menopause, who are currently experiencing menopause, and those of you who want to better understand those of us who go through menopause. There was so much that I learned through reading this book and a lot of things that I was amazed by. I think its very important to be familiar with the changes that happen to your body so you are prepared when they come.

Can’t Take That Away by Steven Salvatore Book Review

Author Information

Steven Salvatore is a queer (gay and genderqueer, using he/him and they/them pronouns — please default to they/them) writer who lives in New York with their husband. Steven has worked in higher education since 2011, teaching composition courses across curriculums. When not writing or teaching, you can find Steven rewatching any and all Star Wars media or listening to Mariah Carey’s extensive and impeccable catalog. Their debut CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY is forthcoming (March 9th, 2021), and AND THEY LIVED… will be their follow-up (March 1st, 2022) from Bloomsbury YA. 

Book Description

An empowering and emotional debut about a genderqueer teen who finds the courage to stand up and speak out for equality when they are discriminated against by their high school administration.

Carey Parker dreams of being a diva, and bringing the house down with song. They can hit every note of all the top pop and Broadway hits. But despite their talent, emotional scars from an incident with a homophobic classmate and their grandmother’s spiraling dementia make it harder and harder for Carey to find their voice.

Then Carey meets Cris, a singer/guitarist who makes Carey feel seen for the first time in their life. With the rush of a promising new romantic relationship, Carey finds the confidence to audition for the role of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, in the school musical, setting off a chain reaction of prejudice by Carey’s tormentor and others in the school. It’s up to Carey, Cris, and their friends to defend their rights–and they refuse to be silenced.

Told in alternating chapters with identifying pronouns, debut author Steven Salvatore’s Can’t Take That Away conducts a powerful, uplifting anthem, a swoony romance, and an affirmation of self-identity that will ignite the activist in all of us.

Review

Thoughts and Themes: It took me a while to get into this book but once I sat down with it, it was hard to put down. There was so much to love about this book, from the characters, to the plot, and more. I had to wait to write this review because there is so much that I want to discuss for this book and if I wrote it once I finished it, it would be more rambling than anything productive.

I really enjoyed how this book focuses o the power that students have to create change and how much impact their voice has. I really like how this is about the students but we also get the adults stepping in to assist the student’s with their movement. I thought it was important to see the difference in how the student’s voices were received and how that changed when the press was involved.

I really enjoyed the setting of this book along with the fact that these were high school students. I liked the message that the book sent across about having a voice and using that voice for what you believe in. I really liked that at no point in the story do these students give in to the pressures trying to silence them.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Carey, and I loved each one of the supportive characters. You get to meet a few supportive people in Carey’s life, such as her mom and grandma, Cris- the love interest, Mr. Kelly- the theatre teacher, Zoey- his best friend, Phobe- new friend from the show, Blanca- friend who helps with protests and Monroe- Zoey’s sister and Carey’s friend. You also get to meet some of the people who make life difficult for Carey, Mr. Jackson- a teacher at school who is homophobic, and transphobic, and Max- who is a bully.

I really loved the relationship that Carey has with their grandmother and it was so hard to read as that relationship shifted and changed. I love how Carey gets a lot of strength from his grandma and how she has always been supportive of who they are. I love that this really shows how someone’s age doesn’t really dictate how they will respond to the LGBTQ+ community. It reminded me how often times we dismiss homophobia and transphobia with the idea of people being older and so they won’t learn but this shows how we don’t have to dismiss this because of that.

I really love how Carey’s mom steps up and tries to help her child as much as she can. I liked how she was there for him no matter what and offered her support even if she didn’t always understand them.

The relationship between Cris and Carey is instant love from the moment that they meet and sometimes this is something that I don’t really like. In this case though, I actually enjoyed their relationship because its not like it didn’t have any obstacles they had to get through.

Writing Style: This book is told in first person through the perspective of Carey. Each chapter heading has the pronouns that Carey is using at that time which is something that I really enjoyed. I thought it was great to have this be a part of the story along with including which bracelet Carey was using in that section of the book. I liked that we got to see how seamless it is for Carey’s friends to switch pronouns for them as it is needed.

Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve Book Review

Author Information

Ray Stoeve is a queer & nonbinary writer. They received a 2016-2017 Made at Hugo House Fellowship for their young adult fiction.

They are a contributor to Take The Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance, an anthology out now from Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic Books. Their first young adult novel, Between Perfect and Real, will be published by Amulet Books in April 2021, with a second standalone novel to follow.

When they’re not writing heartfelt queer stories, they can be found gardening, making art in other mediums, or hiking their beloved Pacific Northwest.

Book Description

Dean Foster knows he’s a trans guy. He’s watched enough YouTube videos and done enough questioning to be sure. But everyone at his high school thinks he’s a lesbian—including his girlfriend Zoe, and his theater director, who just cast him as a “nontraditional” Romeo. He wonders if maybe it would be easier to wait until college to come out. But as he plays Romeo every day in rehearsals, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as he really is now––not just on the stage, but everywhere in his life. Dean knows what he needs to do. Can playing a role help Dean be his true self?

Review

Thank you to the published for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Look for this book coming to your shelves April 27th.

You can pre-order this book at:

Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ IndieBound

Thoughts and Themes: This book I had been putting off reading because the center of the story was focused on Romeo and Juliet and I am not a Shakespeare fan. I really should have started this book sooner though since it was able to take me out of my reading slump. There is just so much to love in this book and you can tell by the amount of tabs I put into it. There is a sticky note that I literally just put if I could I would just highlight this whole page because of how much I related to it and was rooting for Dean.

I really liked the way that this story is told because of how much of myself I saw in it. I really related to some of Dean’s feelings about being Trans and how it affected his dating life. I also just love how there is one token straight friend in the group as that reminded me of my college life. I love that this book just shows how much queer people tend to gravitate towards each other and the safety that they find with one another.

My heart breaks several times in this story as Dean faces transphobia not just from his peers but from his family as well. There are scenes with Dean’s mother that I just had to put the book down because it hurt to read. I can’t say I’ve been there but I feel like what Dean’s mom is willing to voice is what is inside of my parent’s heads that they are not willing to put into words.

I really like how wholesome this book is, yes there are some conflicts and troubles that arise but overall its a heartwarming book. I really like the message that Dean learns in the end and how he learns that he is whole just by being himself.

I could go on and on about this book but I would rather leave it at this so you all can go read it.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to several characters and I found them all loveable, well minus the bully you know. I even warmed up to the mom at some point even if she was hard to read at times. You get to meet each of these characters through Dean’s point of view and the interactions that they have with him.

I really liked the relationship that Dean has with his best friend Ronnie, and like the conversation that they have about their identities. I like how Ronnie points out to Dean that he doesn’t always understand him because he’s white for Dean to understand that he might want to talk about Trans things with other Trans people. I like how this conversation was brought up and how real it felt.

I also really liked the way that Dean and Zoe’s relationship is handled throughout this whole story. I liked the complexity that is included through this and how we get to see Zoe’s feelings but in the end it really isn’t about her. I thought that was the most important part to include when discussing their relationship, Dean’s transition was not about Zoe no matter how hurt she was.

Writing Style: This story is told through the perspective of Dean and is in first person. I think this is a great choice because it centers Dean and while we see other people’s feelings, we never center them. I love that in order to know how anyone is feeling they need to put it out there so there is no hiding. I thought that was a great choice because Dean now knows where everyone stands with him.

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore Book Review

Author Information

Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and taught by their family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. They are the author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a finalist for the 2016 William C. Morris Debut Award; 2017 Stonewall Honor Book WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature; WILD BEAUTY, a Kirkus Best Book of 2017; and BLANCA & ROJA, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. DARK AND DEEPEST RED, a reimagining of The Red Shoes based on true medieval events, is forthcoming in January 2020.

Book Description

When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly-magical pastelera, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season

Graciela Cristales’ whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.

But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened. 

Review

Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Children’s publishing group for an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review.

Thoughts and Themes: I had to give myself a few days to sit with this one before I wrote my review on it. This book is a heavy one, let me start with that, it deals with sexual assault and the aftermath of being sexually assaulted. It’s hard for me to put into words my feelings about this book and all the feelings that I had while reading it. There are so many moments in this book that I just highlighted and put an exclamation mark on because there was no words for how I felt.

I would say that my favorite part and the most heartbreaking part of this book was the author’s note that is at the end of the book. The author’s note reveals that this story is based on experiences of McLemore and a friend who were both assaulted by the same person. I briefly know the story of the Snow Queen so I liked how the Author explains the story in the end and how no one asked how the Snow Queen got to be so cold and have a frozen heart.

I really loved that this book touches on not just the sexual assault that occurs but the trauma and the healing that can take place afterwards. I really liked the aspects of magical realism that were included throughout the story and how this book was a retelling of the Snow Queen. I liked that this book gave an explanation for how someone could have their warmth taken away from them but also how they could work at taking it back.

Something else that I loved about this book was all the pan dulce that was talked about. I was debating on if I should mention this because I didn’t want to take away from the important talk about sexual assault but the pan dulce adds to the story for me. It didn’t just make me hungry but I loved that Ciela is able to figure out what type of pan dulce everyone needs but can’t figure Lock out and also is unable to use this magic for herself.

When I first finished it I felt like I wanted more to this story but after thinking about it, I like that it is left unfinished. I think leaving this story unfinished shows how there’s still work to do, and that their healing continues beyond this story. I think that leaving us without an answer honors the truths that McLemore wanted to share with us readers.

Characters: These characters are really what make the whole story work, I really enjoyed getting to know each of the characters that we get to meet in this book. I think that even our bad guys are important to this story and thought it was good they were included.

Ciela and Lock are assaulted at the same party by the same set of people who go to their high school. I thought the way that Ciela and Lock’s interactions throughout the whole story go were very well done. I liked how much emotion was put into each scene between them, whether it be one filled with love, confusion, hurt, or pain. Ciela and Lock’s relationship really stood out to me in this story because it was them ultimately deciding that they get to tell their story. I liked how this relationship changes throughout the book as it grows, destroys itself, and goes through the process with them.

I really liked getting a chance to not only see how Ciela was processing her feelings about the situation but also get to see Lock’s reaction as he figures out more about that night. As the reader, there are things that you can guess from the start and even when you figure it out, I don’t think you are prepared for the thoughts that Lock has about it all and what Ciela realizes. I think it was great to see both of their feelings on the page but also how they reconcile what others did to them, and the fact that this was done to them.

Writing Style: The story is told in first person through the perspective of our main character Ciela. I really liked that we got to see the story through her view because we get to see her process her feelings about that night. I think it was important that it was Ciela who got to share her story with us, and that we got to see other perspectives through interactions they had with her.

I thought it was great that while we get to know some of Lock’s feelings from what he tells Ciela, and what he doesn’t say, we don’t really get to see his perspective of things. I think that not including his feelings and having Ciela have to think about how he might feel, allows her to give him space as well as giving herself space. I think that Ciela thinking about Lock’s feelings on that night finally allows her the space to have feelings about that night as she tells her parents, and best friend, Jess.

The Past and Present Pain of the Queer Community- Guest Post by C.M McGuire

Author Information

When C.M. McGuire, author of Ironspark, was a child, she drove her family crazy with her nonstop stories. Lucky for them, she eventually learned to write and gave their ears a rest. This love of stories led her to college where she pursued history (semi-nonfictional storytelling), anthropology (where stories come from) and theater (attention-seeking storytelling). When she isn’t writing, she’s painting, crocheting, gardening, baking, and teaching the next generation to love stories as much as she does.

Author Links:

Website: http://seeemmcguire.weebly.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/seeemmcguire

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/seeemmcguire/?hl=en

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18849889.C_M_McGuire

The Past and Present Pain of the Queer Community

Coming to terms with one’s queerness is, in so many ways liberating. In other ways, it brings with it a cultural weight with which we were not born. Though increasing waves of tolerance and diversity have perhaps made it easier than ever to be queer in America, that was not always the case. Conversion therapy remains an ongoing debate, as is the very validity of  being transgender, asexual, or any identity more complex than “straight” or “gay.” There will remain, for the foreseeable future, the frightening “what if” for this community. “What if history swings back the other way?” The effect of this history in conjunction with the present reality results in an obviously higher risk for mental health issues in the LGBTQ+ community.

Though the immediate affects of queerness in today’s society can be seen and felt, coming to terms with one’s queerness brings with it the shadow of the past. The pink triangle marked homosexuals as the lowest caste of those incarcerated during he Holocaust, and libraration did not come for them at the end of the war. Many remained imprisoned for decades after the war, and the same laws that allowed this to occur led to such horrors as the chemical castration of Alan Turing. Until 1973, the US still considered homosexuality and any and all subsets to be a form of mental illness, and more than a few lesbians were lobotomized in an attempt to cure this. Even as the US began ponderously removing its sodomy laws, the AIDS crisis left a tangible scar on the community. One that echoes through the modern culture, affecting even those who did not themselves suffer. 

It is difficult to be a queer person and not feel the weight of all of those who came before, who suffered so much more. There is relief to be in a world which is more accepting, grief for those who were not accepted, and fear. Will my rights be taken away? Will the suffering of my predecessors come to haunt me? However, it is also not a grief that can be readily discussed with one’s family, because in so many cases, it won’t be understood. To accept one’s own queerness is to shoulder the weight of this history, with the threat of its resurgence looming over a promising future. 

The communal grief of the queer culture is unique in that it is not automatically shared with the family. It is a grief into which an individual can come of age. I remember a ten-year-old me knew nothing about the history of queer people. It isn’t taught in schools. It isn’t deemed appropriate for  most audiences. Therefore, it was only when I came out myself that I began to learn and, quite without intending to, shouldered this very weight. One which my parents did not wish to know. Unlike many cultural traumas, this is not one which an individual can process with the safety of family. 

In fact, for many queer teens, the family is a greater source of anxiety than not. “Coming out” is still a difficult experience because it comes with the implication that one might not be accepted. The family might deny or disown a previously loved or at least tolerated child for this perceived abnormality. Bullying and social rejection are still the norm in many schools. For these teens, the haunting history of being queer in America is a present and lasting horror. 

For many, the support of a queer community is vital. Online forums and Pride events can provide much-needed support for those who are fortunate enough to access these. However, even within the community, the othering isms of racism, ableism, body shaming, and transphobia serve to further alienate those to whom the community should be a respite. Around half of transgender individuals will have attempted suicide, and well over half the community struggles with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Homelessness and substance abuse are a greater risk when a teen could be disowned without a lifeline or individuals are forced to wrestle with their trauma alone. 

Perhaps the biggest threat to the mental health of the community is the threat of stigma. There is still a stigma against mental health care today, discouraging people from seeking help for fear of being labeled “crazy” or “broken.” Many members of the community avoid the potentially lifesaving resource of therapy, knowing full and well that therapy can be a gamble if it cannot be confirmed that the therapist is an ally before the first session. 

I wish I could state an easy solution to this issue, but the factors threatening the mental health of queer individuals are many and varied. It is, perhaps, the greatest hope that the fight goes on. With greater representation and education, the isolation and rejection of the community’s past and present may turn to tolerance and understanding. The community may become more welcoming even unto itself, and the current pains of rejection from the medical community may turn to competent and compassionate care as the standard. For the moment, it is important that queer individuals not simply accept the rejection, but fight to secure the care they need. They owe it to themselves and to the next generation, to whom we will be but another chapter of an inherited history. 

YOU CAN FIND her BOOK AT:

Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Indigo

The Gravity of Us

Goodreads Summary: As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

Thoughts: I’ll admit I wasn’t too sure if I’d like this for so many reasons. One being the reality TV scenes thrown in, especially since those scenes feel choppy and confusing to me. Another was that this book was something I knew nothing about, NASA and a connection to a time that happened before I was born. I gave it a try though because I love LGBTQ+ stories told by own voices and I’m glad I read this.

Overrall it’s a cute story of two boys in love at a complicated time for everyone involved with so much more embedded in the story than the space exploration mission. The complexity of the characters, their relationships, and emotions throughout is really what drew me in.

I loved how this book addresses both anxiety and depression through two different characters. I thought if was good to see mental health being addressed by both the mom and Leon. I also liked how Cal jr. wants to fix everyone but struggles with how and learning that it cant be fixed.

I really enjoy how Cal acts like hes a rock and the idea that he can lift everyone up. I enjoy the complexity of him needing others as things fall apart for him but how he struggles with asking for help. It reminds me a lot if myself throughout my life so it resonates with me and makes me feel bad for Cal.

You can get this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library coming February 4th.

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Summary: (Borrowed from Barnes and Noble) Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Thoughts: This one I’ve had on my shelf for quite some time now and have seen the movie so I had to read it. The audiobook was available so I decided why not listen to it. I was sadly disappointed in this book and for once found a movie better than the book.

I thought that the main characters were cute and I really liked how valuable Simon’s friends were to him. I did feel that they were one dimensional though and I wanted to know more about them. I felt that they weren’t developed throughout the story. While Simon was the main character of this story I felt that all we knew about him was the he is gay and is in a play.

My main issue with this book though is that it feels like this plot kind of overdone and the LGBTQ+ available now are so much more complex. I kept having to remind myself that when this was written we were glad to just have a gay protagonist. Even then I feel like it doesn’t excuse how this feels half done, like here I gave you a gay character, everyone fawn over him, which is what everyone seemed to do.

Something else that I wasn’t a fan of was just how unrealistic the whole story was. It was just too coincidental and too always happy. Like even when bad things are happening, they just seem to work out in too good of a manner. I felt that this really took away from the plot of the book.

If you’re looking for a light read then I think you may like this book. You can get it at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library.

National Coming Out Day Book Recs

Happy National Coming Out Day to all of you whether you are already out, decided to come out today, or haven’t come out yet for whatever reason. Just as a reminder you are no less valid if you aren’t out and you owe no one an explanation for any of your identities.

I thought a lot about if I wanted to post today and what I planned on posting. I just didn’t feel the need to come out on the web because it wasn’t as if I was in the closet about my sexual orientation or gender identity. I also didn’t feel the need because I’m not sure if I have selected the terms to define both of those for myself just yet. I knew that I needed to say something though, if not for myself but to make others feel heard and less alone.

It was a long journey to get to the point I am now which is un-apologetically trans, non-binary, and some kind of gay. I didn’t get to this point on my own though, it was with the help of so many of my friends and I’d be lying if I said books had nothing to do with my journey. So many books this year have really helped me feel power in being myself and living authentically. I found beauty in being out at my workplace and finding a place in which I am embraced for who I am.

I thought I would share with you some of the books that made all the difference for me this past year. Many of these books were the first time I read about any character that resembled me at all and it was so nice to be able to process my identities through these books. It was nice to be able to come to terms with who I am because of reading who all these LGBTQ+ characters were, regardless of if they were the protagonist or not. These books show the importance of representation in media sources for people of all ages.

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber’s, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as “an illegal”, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border.

But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.

The Grief Keeper is a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal.

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

What If It‘s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

Freeing Finch by Ginny Rorby

When her father leaves and her mother passes away soon afterward, Finch can’t help feeling abandoned. Now she’s stuck living with her stepfather and his new wife. They’re mostly nice, but they don’t believe the one true thing Finch knows about herself: that she’s a girl, even though she was born in a boy’s body.

Thankfully, she has Maddy, a neighbor and animal rescuer who accepts her for who she is. Finch helps Maddy care for a menagerie of lost and lonely creatures, including a scared, stray dog who needs a family and home as much as she does. As she earns the dog’s trust, Finch realizes she must also learn to trust the people in her life–even if they are the last people she expected to love her and help her to be true to herself.

There are so many books out there and I’m so glad that more keep coming out. I’m even happier that a lot of the ones coming out more recently are for young adults and middle grade. It’s hard to list them all and I can’t wait to read them all. LGBTQ+ reads is one of those topics that even if it’s a minor character I will pick that book up and read it.