Tag: diversity

Bi Pride

10 Incredible YA Novels with Bisexual Protagonists

Pride Month may be drawing to a close, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t celebrating now and year-round! Pride, after all, is about more than the plastic whistles thrown off parade floats slapped with the labels of various corporations. It’s not [insert alcohol company here] that we love; it’s both the celebration and the space to celebrate.

Before we dive into this list, let’s cover all the bases of bisexuality. (No, I don’t mean the same ‘base system’ you probably learned at a middle school sleepover.) First, bisexuality does not necessarily mean attraction to ONLY men and women. Instead, it means attraction to more than one sex or gender—and it doesn’t exclude non-binary people. Second, while bisexuality and other non-monosexual identities, like pansexuality and omnisexuality, may overlap, it’s still insensitive to tell someone that they’re ‘basically pan’ if that isn’t how they identify. Some people see these terms as essentially interchangeable; others feel the distinction is valuable.

Lastly, “bisexual” is a catch-all term to incorporate a wide range of identities. While many bi+ people are both bisexual and biromantic, others may fall on the asexual & aromantic spectrum. Since “bisexual” is the most common and widely-understood term for the bi+ experience, it’s a convenient term for discussing people who experience attraction to multiple genders—but it doesn’t exclude other experiences under the bi+ umbrella.

Ready? Let’s check out these UN-BI-LIEVABLE reads!

 

 

 

 

I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST

 

'I Wish You All the Best' by Mason Deaver

 

Remember what we were just saying about bisexuality being inclusive of non-binary genders? I Wish You All the Best follows Ben (who is both non-binary and bisexual) and Nathan (their bisexual love interest). When Ben tells their family that they’re non-binary, they’re forced to move in with their estranged sister or face homelessness. Dealing with anxiety and an unsupportive family, Ben is able to find love and acceptance in its most important form—the kind you give yourself. While many authors now prefer to shy away from coming-out narratives to focus on queer stories that DON’T revolve around gender & sexuality, the non-binary coming out story is almost entirely unprecedented in books and pop-culture… as is the reminder that bisexuals can be non-binary and love non-binary people!

 

Let’s talk about love

 

'Let's Talk About Love' by Claire Kann

 

 

It’s rare to see any media that makes a distinction between romantic and sexual orientation. Since many people have the same romantic and sexual orientation, they may never realize that there can be a difference. Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk About Love is the absolutely adorable story of Alice, a biromantic asexual girl struggling with her college major… and her feelings for Takumi, her cutest coworker at the library. The novel depicts Alice reeling from a breakup with an ex-girlfriend and struggling to cope with her feelings for a male coworker, proving that she isn’t, as the rhetoric commonly goes, ‘choosing sides.’

 

tHE GENTLEMAN’S gUIDE TO viCE & vIRTUE

 

'The Gentleman's Guide to Vice & Virtue' by Mackenzi Lee

 

Anyone who’s ever made the mistake of deep-diving into a YouTube or Facebook comments section has seen a lot of the same negative rhetoric: largely, false accusations that all this ‘gay stuff’ is a development of the past ten years, something done from a desire to gain social media followers rather than, you know, live. This hilarious-yet-poignant historical fiction follows Henry Montague, a bisexual British lord; his aro-ace little sister, Felicity; and his gay best friend, Percy on a caper-filled romp across Europe featuring piracy and a lot of alcohol. Of course, Percy might ALSO be the love of his life… which would be the biggest complication if there weren’t a deranged duke desperately trying to kill them. The novel inserts LGBT+ characters into a historical setting from which they’ve often been erased, and it brings a lot of laughs and heartfelt moments along the way.

 

lOVE IN THE TIME OF glOBAL warming

 

'Love in the Time of Global Warming'

 

Here’s another fact about bisexuals: a bisexual girl dating a man is just as bisexual as she would be dating another woman. This gorgeous, Odyssey-inspired epic follows Pen (bisexual) and Hex (a bisexual trans man) as they approach the outer limits of the romantic relationship they’re clearly hurtling towards. Both feel the need to come out to the other but are afraid to broach the topic of sexuality and gender for fear of driving the other away. Pen’s assertions that her sexuality is real despite not being currently involved with a girl are powerful for any bi reader—and her dreamlike journey through flooded Los Angeles to save her friends from flesh-devouring giants is sure to wow just about anyone, bi or otherwise.

 

Belly Up

 

'Belly Up' Eva Darrows

 

It would be easy to assume that teen pregnancy drama is all played out, but this isn’t an after-school special. Most pregnancy storylines are overwhelmingly heteronormative, and many coming-out moments on TV come with a parental sigh of relief. At least I don’t have to worry about you getting pregnant. But many LGBT+ people can and will become pregnant—and that doesn’t mean their identity is less valid. Belly Up follows bisexual Latinx teen Sara, whose pregnancy is more Juno than Degrassi. With her support system, her demisexual love interest, and her Ivy League dreams, she handles being the new girl in school—the pregnant new girl—with humor and grace.

 

Radio Silence

 

'Radio Silence' Alice Oseman

 

You might think that demisexual Aled Last and bisexual Frances Janvier are going to fall in love. He’s the anonymous mind behind Radio Silence, Frances’ favorite science-fiction podcast. She’s his biggest fan—and soon, she’ll become his co-contributor. But their relationship is more complicated than that: Aled is also brother to Carys Last, Frances’ best friend who ran away from home when they were younger. Frances has never forgotten Carys… and she’s never forgotten the way that Carys made her feel. If this is a love story, it’s a story of deep love between friends as they struggle to navigate academic and personal pressure. The novel may deal with issues of sexuality and depression, but it still crackles with the raw joy of caring for another person, like a sparkler waved in a dark summertime field.

 

They Both Die At The End

 

They Both Die At The End Cover

 

In case you’ve somehow missed out, Adam Silvera is one of the most popular LGBT+ authors in YA fiction today. If you’ve never checked him out, here’s the sign you’ve been looking for. This inventive dystopian novel follows two queer boys of color, one gay and one bisexual, as they open up and fall in love over the course of a day. What could go wrong? Well, they both die at the end. Death-Cast is an organization that lets people know when they’re going to die so that they can live their last day accordingly. With the help of an app called Last Friend, Rufus and Mateo connect for their last chance to imbue their lives with meaning. The novel is a powerful exploration of the role of vulnerability and openness in our lives—and that we need both to live fully.

 

Autoboyography

 

'Autoboyography' Christina Lauren

 

The reality is that coming out can be dangerous—but staying out can be dangerous, too. When out bisexual Tanner moves to Utah, he feels the need to re-closet himself to stay safe in the predominantly-Mormon community. When his last semester of high school ends, he’ll be able to leave Utah and this will all be. Except it’s not over yet: just months from graduation, Tanner meets a boy in his creative writing class. A prodigy with a novel already sold for publication. A devout Mormon. The novel explores the distinction between being comfortable with your identity and feeling safe in the world… and every reader loves a book about books.

 

Lady Midnight

 

Most people already know about Magnus Bane, bisexual warlock, fan-favorite, and early example of LGBT+ representation in YA. But fewer people know about Cassandra Clare’s bisexual representation throughout the canon. In her third trilogy, The Dark Artifices, Clare gives us the bisexual drama we’ve been craving since we read Twilight and realized that a TRUE love triangle needs at least one bisexual in it. Clare gives us more than one: there’s Mark, an odd Shadowhunter boy who’s been living with the Fair Folk; Kieran, a noble fey (also Mark’s ex-boyfriend); and Christina, a strong and empathetic Shadowhunter warrior. It starts off simply enough: Mark falls for Christina. Then Kieran comes back and complicates Mark’s feelings. Then Kieran and Christina get close. Then you go out and buy the book.

 

Honorable mentions:

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

The Last 8 by Laura Pohl

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

The Disasters by M.K. England

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Why are such incredible books in the honorable mentions? Well, because I talk about them too much in other articles! For more LGBT+ book recommendations, check out my list of recent LGBT+ releases, YA LGBT+ genre fiction, and banned LGBT+ classics. You can also check out my feature of LGBT+ YA writers from the Read With Pride panel at BookCon 2019.

 

 

 

 

All In-Text Images Via Amazon.
Featured Image Via Adagio.com.

'Trans Mission,' 'Little Sister,' & 'Knockout'

Bookstr’s Three to Read This Week 6/13/19

Sometimes, the most incredible stories are true. Yes, that includes the anecdotes of party fouls and beach meet-cutes you’re surely hearing from your friends as summer rolls in. But it mostly refers to true stories on a much grander scale: tales of overcoming adversity and accomplishing incredible things. This week, Bookstr is bringing you three life-changing works of nonfiction, from a trans man’s memoir-slash-guide to pursuing the life you want, to a financier raised in a cult, to the legacy of an enduring cultural icon. All three of our authors have faced difficult circumstances, whether it’s coming out and undergoing surgery; being isolated from TV, music, and the outside world through adolescence; or growing up under segregation. Keep reading to get a look at three stories as powerful as their narrators.

Check out Bookstr’s Three to Read, the three books we’ve picked for you to read this week!

 

OUR HOT PICK

Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard 

 

'Trans Mission' by Alex Bertie

 

Synopsis:

Being a teenager is difficult enough, but having to go through puberty whilst realising you’re in the wrong body means dealing with a whole new set of problems: bullying, self-doubt and in some cases facing a physical and medical transition.

Alex is an ordinary teenager: he likes pugs, donuts, retro video games and he sleeps with his socks on. He’s also transgender, and was born female. He’s been living as a male for the past few years and he has recently started his physical transition.

Throughout this book, Alex will share what it means to be in his shoes, as well as his personal advice to other trans teens. Above all, he will show you that every step in his transition is another step towards happiness. This is an important and positive book, a heart-warming coming-of-age memoir with a broad appeal.

 

Why?

Twenty-three-year-old Alex Bertie is a popular YouTuber who has been profiled for both BBC and The Times—and, more importantly, he’s chronicled his gender transition online for the last six years. With 300,000+ subscribers, he’s made his platform count with educational videos on binding safely, preparing for top surgery, and avoiding offensive language to describe trans people. While trans issues have recently moved into the public consciousness, activists like Alex who have bravely publicized their experiences for years. In addition to these educational videos, Alex also shares his opinions and experiences having sex as a trans person, attending pride, online dating, and coping with mental health issues. For young people who may not have found a LGBT+ community of their own, Alex’s open discussion of gender & sexual identities provides support and advice that some may not otherwise have access to. Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard is a profoundly honest and potentially lifesaving resource for anyone questioning their gender identity: Bertie discusses self-harm, dysphoria, and how he gradually came out and began his path to emotional healing. Perfect for LGBT+ pride month!

 

OUR BEACH READ

 Little Sister: A Memoir 

 

'Little Sister A Memoir' by Patricia Chadwick

 

Synopsis:

They promised her heaven, but there was no savior.

Imagine an eighteen-year-old American girl who has never read a newspaper, watched television, or made a phone call. An eighteen-year-old-girl who has never danced—and this in the 1960s.

It is in Cambridge, Massachusetts where Leonard Feeney, a controversial (soon to be excommunicated) Catholic priest, has founded a religious community called the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Center’s members—many of them educated at Harvard and Radcliffe—surrender all earthly possessions and aspects of their life, including their children, to him. Patricia Chadwick was one of those children, and Little Sister is her account of growing up in the Feeney sect.

Separated from her parents and forbidden to speak to them, Patricia bristles against the community’s draconian rules, yearning for another life. When, at seventeen, she is banished from the Center, her home, she faces the world alone, without skills, family, or money but empowered with faith and a fierce determination to succeed on her own, which she does, rising eventually to the upper echelons of the world of finance and investing.

A tale of resilience and grace, Little Sister chronicles, in riveting prose, a surreal childhood and does so without rancor or self-pity.

 

Why?

In the tradition of Tara Westover’s Educated: A Memoir, Patricia Walsh Chadwick’s Little Sister: A Memoir tells a story of success despite harrowing odds. Featured in the New York Post, the gripping memoir depicts a childhood as impossible to imagine as it must have been to inhabit. As a child, Chadwick had never watched TV or read a newspaper. After being indoctrinated into a sequestered religious life since birth, a series of natural teenage crushes led to the cult community determining she was not fit to serve God. They allowed her to finish her senior year of high school, and then—not even an hour after her graduation—she was exiled from everything she had ever known. Despite all this, Chadwick became an incredible success with an accomplished thirty-year financial career and a CEO position in theLGBT+ health organization she founded herself. Powerful and moving, this is a memoir you’re unlikely to forget—a memoir unlike any other you’ve ever read before.

 

OUR DARK HORSE:

Knockout: The Art of Boxing 

 

'Knockout: The Art of Boxing' by Ken Regan

 

 

Synopsis:

Ken Regan was a young photographer in 1964 when he covered Muhammad Ali’s first fight: his historic victory over Sonny Liston in Miami Beach. Afterward, the young photographer embarked on a life-long love affair with the sport of boxing.

For the next four decades, Regan would go on to chronicle the greatest fights and the greatest fighters of the age. His extraordinary photographs include many of the most enduring images ever created in the annals of boxing, as well as portraits of notable trainers, managers, promoters, writers, and the whole panoply of celebrities associated with the sport. Featuring some of the greatest ring action in boxing history, Knockout takes us from sparring sessions and press conferences to weigh-ins and post-fight sessions.

Knockout also features Regan’s compelling stories and firsthand accounts of his amazing photographic journey into the heart of boxing. Beginning with his early magazine work shooting prizefights and throughout the following decades, Regan developed close personal friendships with some of the greatest fighters. Regan captures intimate moments showing fighters with their families at home and on the road. With numerous black-and-white and color images, many of them seen here for the first time, Knockout is destined to be one of the most celebrated books ever published on the subject of boxing.

 

Why?

Although it’s been three years since Muhammad Ali’s passing, the legendary boxer remains a cultural icon. Just last month, HBO released What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali, a powerful documentary depicting not only his athletic career but also his legacy as an activist. Knockout: The Art of Boxing contains an introduction from actor Liam Neeson and never-before-seen photos from Ken Regan, a world-renowned photographer who has profiled the likes of Bob Dylan and Madonna, among others. Regan’s photography expertly juxtaposes the brutality inherent in the sport with the grace and strength of Ali’s character. If you’re short a gift for Father’s Day, why not check out this beautiful release from Insight Editions? It’s sure to be a winner.

 

 

 

All In-Text Images Via Amazon.
Featured Image Made With PhotoCollage.

Annie E. Casey photos at Dunbar Elementary School, The Center For Working Families, Inc., and the Early Learning and Literacy Resource Center in Atlanta, GA Wednesday, October 10, 2012. Photos by JASON E. MICZEK - www.miczekphoto.com

The ‘Picture Book Bias:’ In Children’s Books, Girls & Minorities Aren’t Speaking

If picture books are meant to give voice to the experiences of young children, then why aren’t girls and racial minorities speaking? Using data from the top 100 bestselling children’s picture books, researchers have noted a growing gender and racial disparity in terms of which characters speak in children’s books.

Over half of children’s books feature a predominantly male cast; comparably, less than a fifth such books feature a predominantly female cast. It’s evident that male characters are literally dominating the conversation: not only does the gender gap exist in picture books, but it’s also growing. The Guardian reports that “speaking roles for male characters rose by 19%,” and at the same time, “one in five bestsellers did not feature any females at all.”

Only five of the top 100 books feature a BAME (Black, Asian, & Minority Ethnic) character in a prominent role. Of those five, three titles’ spots rely on the same character: Lanky Len, a mixed-race “nasty burglar” who hardly represents the sort of relatable character that nonwhite children can connect to. Statistics regarding BAME characters in less central roles are just as grim: 70% of such characters never speak at all. Across all 100 titles, only eleven BAME characters have speaking roles. And among these eleven, only seven have names. Of course, we’re discussing the umbrella of ethnic minority identities—on this list, there’s only one black male protagonist. Off the list, the disparity isn’t any better. Of all the 9,000+ children’s books published in 2017, only 1% featured a BAME protagonist… while 96% featured no BAME characters, speaking or silent.

 

 

(Right) Lanky Len, one of the few BAME children's characters of 2018
(Right) Lanky Len, one of the few BAME children’s characters of 2018 | Image Via What The Ladybird Heard

 

 

When it comes to picture books featuring LGBT+ families and disabled characters, it’s the same story. None of the 100 bestsellers featured same-sex parents. Only one title included a disabled character—but that character doesn’t speak or play any major role in the plot. We may be talking about fiction, but these statistics are unrealistic. Predominantly white, male stories for children deny the experiences of many readers, but they also don’t reflect the mathematic facts concerning the gender and racial breakdown of English children. Around 33% of English schoolchildren are from minority backgrounds; 48% are female. Our stories should reflect the varied experiences of the children they aim to depict.

What causes this disparity? Among the 100 books studied, not one author or illustrator is BAME. This lack of diversity extends beyond the list: only 2% of all children’s book illustrators in the UK, not just the bestsellers, are people of color. The lack of diversity in publishing is a capitalistic Ouroboros: because few children’s picture books feature diverse characters, publishers come to believe these books won’t earn large sums of money. At the same time, these books rarely earn money for their publishers because they are rarely published. But while the exact cause of this phenomenon may be unclear, the results aren’t—girls, minorities, and disabled children don’t see themselves in stories that are supposed to be for them. It’s also possible that these sorts of disparities in children’s media could reinforce disparity and bias as the children grow into adulthood.

 

 

 

Featured Image Via Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Rainbow world map

East Meets West: Amazing Reads From Asia & Africa

Read every book in your local library? Try out these books from the other side of the world! You could learn a lot from reading about another culture.

Africa gave us the origins of civilization, while Asian cultures have a rich history of poetry and art that extends much further back than 1776. Yet generally, we as a country read books by American authors. Even abroad (for example, in the UK) American novels dominate the market, often to the detriment of writers from that country.

These books listed below range from true historical tales of politics and war to fictional pieces fueled by imagination and philosophical thought.

1. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of A Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (Sierra Leone)

 

 

In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.

 

This gripping true story of a young boy, forced to grow up fast and take part in a bloodthirsty war reveals the horrifying experiences that some children have endured and offers this survivor his chance to have a voice that reaches the whole world.

 

2. Half of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

 

 

Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.

 

Based loosely on Nigeria in the 1960s, this heartbreaking tale is about the victorious end of Colonialism in Nigeria and the struggle to maintain unity and independence, both throughout the nation and even between families.

 

3. The Scriptwriter by Adeerus Ghayan (Pakistan)

 

The Scriptwriter by [Ghayan, Adeerus]

 

The Scriptwriter is a politico-military thriller set in Pakistan amidst political turmoil in the second half of 2014. Novel’s theme is based on the international espionage net that covers South Asian and Middle Eastern region. Caught in this net is the elected Government of Pakistan which is accused by the opposition of having come in power via fraudulent elections. The plot is centered upon the US preparations for attack on the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant/Syria and its involvement in Pakistani politics.

 

This enthralling book of espionage and the tipping scale between war and peace is a look at more recent history within Pakistani political relations, a subject many Westerners don’t know as much about as they perhaps ought to. While we may be somewhat aware of our own roles in global politics, we may not be aware of other nations’ perspectives.

 

4. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (India)

 

 

 

The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers–a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village–will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

 

Follow the budding relationship of these four strangers who must overcome the dire political climate they are stranded in. Rather than losing hope and turning on each other, they persevere, and their inspiring tale teaches us to have hope in life and one another no matter the bleak circumstance.

 

5. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami (Japan)

 

 

Koushun Takami’s notorious high-octane thriller is based on an irresistible premise: a class of junior high school students is taken to a deserted island where, as part of a ruthless authoritarian program, they are provided arms and forced to kill one another until only one survivor is left standing. Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan – where it then proceeded to become a runaway bestseller – Battle Royale is a Lord of the Flies for the 21st century, a potent allegory of what it means to be young and (barely) alive in a dog-eat-dog world. Made into a controversial hit movie of the same name, Battle Royale is already a contemporary Japanese pulp classic

 

If hardcore, brutal action is more your thing, then this is the novel for you! It looks like an especially fantastic reading experience for any Manga fans out there.

 

6. When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park (Korea)

 

 

 

Sun-hee and her older brother, Tae-yul, live in Korea with their parents. Because Korea is under Japanese occupation, the children study Japanese and speak it at school. Their own language, their flag, the folktales Uncle tells them—even their names—are all part of the Korean culture that is now forbidden. When World War II comes to Korea, Sun-hee is surprised that the Japanese expect their Korean subjects to fight on their side. But the greatest shock of all comes when Tae-yul enlists in the Japanese army in an attempt to protect Uncle, who is suspected of aiding the Korean resistance. Sun-hee stays behind, entrusted with the life-and-death secrets of a family at war.

 

Based on the historical events of Japan’s occupation of Korea, Park’s work illustrates the struggle and heartbreak of having your identity and culture stripped away from you… and have your family gradually tearing apart as a result. Addressing life-and-death issues of courage and collaboration, injustice, and death-defying determination, this proud Korean family fights to survive in the face of totalitarian oppression.

 

7. The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine by Somaly Mam (Cambodia, China)

 

 

 

Born in a village deep in the Cambodian forest, Somaly Mam was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she was twelve years old. For the next decade she was shuttled through the brothels that make up the sprawling sex trade of Southeast Asia. She suffered unspeakable acts of brutality and witnessed horrors that would haunt her for the rest of her life–until, in her early twenties, she managed to escape. Unable to forget the girls she left behind, Mam became a tenacious and brave leader in the fight against human trafficking, rescuing sex workers–some as young as five and six–offering them shelter, rehabilitation, healing, and love and leading them into new life.

 

Somaly Mam tells us the harrowing experiences of her past and how she found the strength to turn it all around and save others who are going through the same perils.

 

8. The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (Russia)

 

 

Nothing in the whole of literature compares with The Master and Margarita. One spring afternoon, the Devil, trailing fire and chaos in his wake, weaves himself out of the shadows and into Moscow. Mikhail Bulgakov’s fantastical, funny, and devastating satire of Soviet life combines two distinct yet interwoven parts, one set in contemporary Moscow, the other in ancient Jerusalem, each brimming with historical, imaginary, frightful, and wonderful characters. Written during the darkest days of Stalin’s reign, and finally published in 1966 and 1967, The Master and Margarita became a literary phenomenon, signaling artistic and spiritual freedom for Russians everywhere.

 

In an era where artists were restricted and limited in their imagination and artistry, Bulgakov dared to write out his own way. With some aspects of the everyday life of what was back then the Soviet Union, Bulgakov reveals a part of history while he fights against the oppressive system of the time. (Yes, Moscow is technically in Europe. But since Russia as an entire country is in Asia as well as Europe, we figured we’d include this beloved classic!)

 

 

All In-text Images via Amazon.

Featured Image via Pinterest.