“Silver in the Wood” by Emily Tesh

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Recommended to me by: Becca

A fantasy story set in 19th century England and harking back further than that, with woods magic and relating with care and ultimately a positive resolution to a haunting past. The story pours swiftly forward with clear, liquid language. The characters could be stereotypical but instead are resolutely, surprisingly themselves.

Recommended!

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Outside the Charmed Circle” by Misha Magdalene

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Subtitle: Exploring Gender & Sexuality in Magical Practice

Recommended to me by: Sam L-G

Misha Magdalene (they/them pronouns) asserts that magic is queer. In writing by turns academic and conversational, they explore viewing magic through the lenses of gender and sexuality.

They describe their experience with growing up queer, as well as their gradual introduction to magical practice, including the whisper networks that say, “Avoid this established teacher, he’s creepy.” Of course Misha went and found out for themselves, fortunately without being harmed.

They talk about consent, and how important it is in matters both sexual and magical, and definitely in the mix of both. As a practitioner of the Feri tradition, they directly address some of the deep issues with consent in that tradition.

They list some gender-queer and non-heterosexual gods and goddesses in various flavors of paganism.

In the end, magic is queer because it is non-mainstream, not the default religion, outside a lot of people’s lived experiences.

The book includes practical writing and magical exercises to explore the covered topics.

Highly recommended as an interesting, eclectic, and principled exploration of gender, sexuality, and magical practice.

Misha Magdalene’s blog at Patheos, Outside the Charmed Circle explores some of the same ideas. There are posts that forthrightly challenge the pagan community to address its problems with racism, homophobia, and lack of consent, sexual predation and abuse.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Catfishing on CatNet” by Naomi Kritzer

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Recommended to me by: Marissa Lingen

This book is based on the short story Cat Pictures Please, which touches on serious issues but is basically lighthearted and positive.

The book, less so. Yes, there’s a benevolent AI (artificial intelligence) who loves cat pictures. There are delightfully depicted internet friendships, and in-person friendships. Some of the characters are non-binary, and (almost) everyone is respectful about pronouns.

There’s also an 11th grader whose mom moves them all the time to keep away from her stalker dad, and some just barely off-screen domestic violence. It all comes right in the end, and I’m glad the book addresses those topics. At the same time, it felt jarring to me to have these deadly serious issues juxtaposed with a lighthearted cat-picture-loving AI who can fix all the problems.

It’s well-written. Recommended if you don’t mind fictionalized, simplified domestic violence. For me it was too realistic to be fun but not realistic enough at the end of the book about how difficult it is to escape.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Uncomfortable Labels” by Laura Kate Dale

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Subtitle: My Life as A Gay Autistic Trans Woman

Recommended to me by: a friend

Laura Kate Dale’s detailed, matter-of-fact autobiography addressing the intersection of being trans and autistic, from early childhood into adulthood. She discusses why early signs of being both autistic and trans obscured each other so that she did not receive accommodations until she was diagnosed and came out in her late teens.

She does not flinch from difficult topics like depression, addiction, and suicidal feelings and actions, both in herself and in close friends. Much of the book is dark and depressing, but she ends on a positive note about her current life at age 26, with a great living situation, stable job, and fiancée.

Recommended for anyone who might be or know someone who is autistic and trans, or anyone who wants to know more about what that’s like.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“My Brother’s Husband Volume 2” by Gengoroh Tagame

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Recommended to me by: Reading Volume 1

This graphic novel is the second half of Mike’s visit to his dead husband’s brother’s family in Japan. It’s a quick read, and at the same time touches on a lot of emotionally powerful themes. The meaning of “family.” Making things right after a family member has died suddenly. Being in the closet, and out of it, as a gay man in Japan. Politeness, and its difference from kindness and courage.

For example, young Kana and her friends openly welcome her gay uncle Mike, in contrast to the more guarded welcome of the adults. Yaichi (Kana’s father) does come around in the end.

Recommended for learning more about Japanese culture, and for seeing how hidden homophobia can change under gentle pressure.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“This Is How It Always Is” by Laurie Frankel

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Subtitle: A Novel

Recommended to me by: a friend

A wonderful multi-layered novel about a doctor, her poet-husband, and their five kids, the youngest of whom insists on wearing dresses. The family brims with love and wackiness as they struggle with the many dilemmas of being themselves. They shelter their youngest member as best they can from society’s dysfunctional responses to someone who does not slot neatly into the gender binary.

Highly recommended.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“My Brother’s Husband” by Gengoroh Tagame

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Translated from the Japanese by Anne Ishii

Recommended to me by: Yatima in the 50 books by POC community

Yatima found this graphic novel via its blurb by Alison Bechdel and recommended it enthusiastically. I loved it too.

Mike Flanagan, Canadian white guy, visits his dead husband’s brother and niece in Japan. They are both traditionally Japanese. Yaichi the brother has a lot of unexamined homophobia and buried emotions, but invites Mike to stay with them anyway. Kana the niece didn’t know that men could marry each other, but responds to Mike warmly.

The book handles relationships and emotions tenderly. Kana is adorable. This book is about the small things in life, meals and sleeping and showers, and the largest things, death and loss and love and relationships and coming out as gay.

The characters are kind to one another. There is something to be said for polite emotional reserve. Some drawings show what Yaichi is yelling inside his head, and the neutral things he says out loud.

As is traditional for Manga, the book reads right to left. I had to be careful to read the panels in the right order on each page. Apparently there are more volumes to come!

Highly recommended.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“When the Moon Was Ours” by Anna-Marie McLemore

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Recommended to me by: 2016 James Tiptree Jr. Award winner

Sensual language about food, aromas, colors, and landscapes that reminds me of “Like Water for Chocolate.” Wise, foolish, loving, cruel, growing, changing young people, sometimes with too much teen angst for my taste. Matter-of-fact bodies and sexuality, both cis and trans, gay and straight, without porn or objectification. The balance between taking action and waiting for the time to be right. Relationships, community, secrets, and revelations. Making art, being kind.

Highly recommended.

Available at Powell’s Books.

“In the Spirit of We’Moon” narrated by Musawa

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Subtitle: Celebrating 30 Years, An Anthology of We’Moon Art and Writing

Recommended to me by: gift from a friend

We’Moon, now in its 35th year, is an feminist astrological datebook that centers the moon cycles rather than the sun cycles. This anthology contains the extraordinary history of this project, as well as sample art and writing from each year’s calendar.

Musawa and others created the first multi-lingual We’Moon calendar in a women’s land collective, Kvindelandet, in Denmark. The first five editions were published from different European countries as Musawa moved around and found other women volunteers willing to help. We’Moon publishing moved to women’s land in Oregon after that, and has resided here ever since.

One woman’s inspiration and dedication has inspired and nourished many others with this ongoing celebration of women’s rhythms. While she generously credits everyone who stepped forward to support and contribute to the project, it is clear that it was her leadership that made it happen.

While I’ve occasionally owned We’Moon calendars, I didn’t realize that each year’s theme is based on the Tarot Major Arcana for that year.

This anthology is fun both to read sequentially, and to open randomly to see what message appears. Recommended!

Available at Powell’s Books.

“Sea Change” by S. M. Wheeler

Recommended to me by: s.e. smith at this ain’t livin’

This wild fantasy felt true to me, true to inner journeys and struggles and transformations. It has violence in it, but not a lot compared to the modern fashion, and deaths are grieved instead of being passed over without comment. Heroes, villains, and monsters alike are complex, whole people. Friendships are important enough to endure loss and hardship for.

Definitely worth spending an afternoon on the porch in the sun with this book!

Available at Powell’s Books.