In honor of National Coming Out Day, here are four beautifully candid coming-out stories that were all inspired by readers' literary experiences. Please read them either for inspiration, to learn, or to simply see how important the arts can be in shaping who we are.
Krisdee here with this week’s Three to Read: the three books we’ve picked for you to read this week. For more info, click the link.
The weather’s not the only thing getting hotter! This week, we’ve got some highly-acclaimed summer crime novels that simmer with drama and tension—unreliable narrators, creative play with chronology, paranoia, and rich character development that’s guaranteed to knock you off your feet (that is, if the beach waves don’t get you first). Just because YOU’RE relaxing doesn’t mean your beach read has to be, and these heart-pounding thrillers will leave you at a loss for words… unless the words, of course, are “more please!”
And let’s not forget, it’s still LGBT+ Pride Month: this week, we’re bringing you one of the first #ownvoices non-binary coming out stories to hit the shelves. While Bookstr aspires to celebrate diverse voices every month, we’re especially excited to use this time to draw particular attention to identities that may remain misunderstood even within the LGBT+ community. So whether you’re reading on an airplane, beach, or even your commute home, we’ve got three stories that are guaranteed to captivate.
Check out Bookstr’s Three to Read, the three books we’ve picked for you to read this week!
OUR HOT PICK
The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda
Littleport, Maine is like two separate towns: a vacation paradise for wealthy holidaymakers and a simple harbour community for the residents who serve them. Friendships between locals and visitors are unheard of – but that’s just what happened with Avery Greer and Sadie Loman.
Each summer for a decade the girls are inseparable – until Sadie is found dead. When the police rule the death a suicide, Avery can’t help but feel there are those in the community, including a local detective and Sadie’s brother Parker, who blame her. Someone knows more than they’re saying, and Avery is intent on clearing her name before the facts get twisted against her.
Megan Miranda’s All the Missing Girls dazzled critics: a New York Times Book Review “Editor’s Choice,” the smash-hit bestseller gleaned favorable reviews from The Wall Street Journal, Refinery29, Cosmopolitan, Publisher’s Weekly, and Booklist. Now, Miranda is back at it with her next searing summer thriller: a Publisher’s Weekly starred review admires Miranda’s “clever, stylish mystery that will seize readers like a riptide.” Like her debut, this novel plays with time in a creative and compelling way, switching back and forth between 2017 and 2018 to keep up the palpable narrative tension. Unlike many thrillers, this one packs some serious commentary—the novel deftly explores the class tensions that complicate both the criminal investigation and the nature of Sadie & Avery’s friendship. This thriller is sure to thrill you with its character development and richly-realized web of secrets!
OUR BEACH READ
Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker
Beware the Man of the Year. You may praise him, resent him, even want to be him: but beneath the elegant trappings that define him, danger looms. Caroline Louise Walker’s stunning debut novel, for fans of Herman Koch’s The Dinner and Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door, delves into the increasingly paranoid mind of a man whose life as the most upstanding of citizens hides a relentlessly dark heart.
Dr. Robert Hart, Sag Harbor’s just-named Man of the Year, is the envy of his friends and neighbors. His medical practice is thriving. He has a beautiful old house and a beautiful new wife and a beautiful boat docked in the village marina. Even his wayward son, Jonah, is back on track, doing well at school, finally worthy of his father’s attentions. So when Jonah’s troubled college roommate, Nick, needs a place to stay for the summer, Hart and his wife generously offer him their guest house. A win-win: Jonah will have someone to hang with, and his father can bask in the warm glow of his own generosity.
But when he begins to notice his new houseguest getting a little too close to his wife, the good doctor’s veneer begins to crack. All the little lies Robert tells—harmless falsehoods meant to protect everything he holds dear—begin to mount. Before long, he’s embroiled in a desperate downward spiral, destroying the lives that stand in his way. It’s only the women in his life—his devoted office manager, his friends, his wife—who can clearly see the truth.
Biting and timely, Man of the Year races along at an electric pace, with a wicked twist that you won’t see coming.
This acclaimed summer thriller boldly flaunts its credentials: Booklist, Refinery29, and Publisher’s Weekly features and favorable reviews. Coming from a debut author, the novel Kirkus Reviews calls “a darkly beguiling summer mystery that exposes the shaky foundations of a complicated family” is all the more impressive. While some thrillers focus solely on the plot, Walker’s debut is deeply-character driven, offering the reader a tantalizingly voyeuristic look into the mental unraveling of a man who seems, superficially, to have (and be) it all. Until he doesn’t seem that way at all. Rife with plot twists, the novel follows an awful protagonist whose awfulness, frighteningly, is secret to most of the characters in the story. This leaves readers with an intense and delicious sense of dramatic irony, both wondering (and dreading!) when these malignant qualities will show themselves unambiguously. With a relentless plot and masterful analysis of character, this book is the perfect vacation read. But be careful—your beach umbrella won’t be the only thing blown away.
OUR DARK HORSE
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.
It’s LGBT+ Pride Month and, while rainbows may be visible tacked up in a few shop windows, even many well-meaning allies remain unaware of the nuance in LGBT+ identities. While all such identities are underrepresented in the media, non-binary identities are especially absent from many LGBT+ narratives. As readers, we’re fortunate enough to have had a selection of coming-out stories; however, most of these titles pertain to sexual orientation rather than gender identity. Mason Deaver’s thoughtful #ownvoices debut offers us one of the first non-binary coming out stories available today, in the process challenging many stereotypes about non-binary and LGBT+ people in general. NB protagonist Ben’s bisexuality reaffirms that bisexuality is not trans-exclusionary, a nagging (and false!) misconception of the bi identity. And although Ben’s parents are not supportive, the novel is largely optimistic, focusing on Ben’s coming-of-age rather than their suffering. As Deaver said on BookCon’s Read With Pride panel, “queer joy is revolution.” (Click the link for my article profiling Deaver and other hot new LGBT+ authors!)
All In-Text Images Via Amazon.
Featured Image Via PhotoCollage.
This past weekend, we attended NYC’s BookCon 2019 to snag you all the bonus content with none of the shoulder cramps that accompany wielding 20 paperback novels in a comparably small tote bag. (And none of the $19 convention center lunches.) Looking for queer YA releases? We were too, and we headed to the “Read With Pride” panel, hosted by prolific author and editor David Levithan. There, we heard from three incredible LGBT+ novelists and got a preview of some new and upcoming releases that are turning a new page in YA literature.
ImageS vIA aMAZON
If you’re searching for your perfect pride read, search no further! (Unless, that is, you’ve finished a few perfect LGBT+ titles already, and you’re looking to supplement your list with just a few more.)
Images Via Twitter & Wikipedia
Kacen Callender spent this years’ Lambda Awards competing against himself.
Up for two separate Lambda Awards, Callender (who uses pronouns they / them or he / him) writes about the queer experience from a PoC perspective, illustrating how cultural homophobia influences the lives of his characters. Growing up on St. Thomas, Callender experienced a “cultural homophobia” that influenced his story and his storytelling. His upcoming release is a powerful depiction of prejudice and of love, which too often exist in the same story. At this year’s BookCon, Callender gave audiences a preview of the new novel:
My next book is called King of the Dragonflies, coming February 2020. Twelve-year-old King believes his brother became a dragonfly after he passed away. But before he passed away, King’s brother told him he could no longer be friends with another boy because that boy, Sandy, had come out as gay.
“Black people aren’t gay,” Callender said, recalling the internalized narratives of his childhood in the Virgin Islands, “and if black people are gay, it’s because they know a white person. In the black community, we’re told we’re not allowed to be gay.” His middle grade novel, Hurricane Child, recounts the story of being queer and from the Caribbean, two identities that aren’t mutual exclusive and should hardly demand that clarification. But black people can be gay—and queer stories can be happy.
“Our stories,” Callender said, referring to queer people of color, “have historically been tragedies. We don’t have our own happy endings. My entire life isn’t about how I’m treated by racists and homophobes. My life has joy.”
Image Via Allevents.in
I Wish You All the Best is at the forefront of trans YA fiction in its depiction of a non-binary protagonist, an underrepresented demographic in fiction and a seriously misunderstood demographic in society at large. After non-binary teen Ben is kicked out of his house, surviving high school becomes an uncomfortably literal task. In order to protect themself, Ben returns to the closet—and, while it’s the safest place for them, it’s also NOT the place for Nathan Allan, the one reason Ben’s life might just be turning around.
Mason Deaver is a non-binary southern librarian with a penchant for gardening and dropping ‘y’all’ into casual conversation. Their debut novel, according to Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda author Becky Albertalli, “will save lives.”
No one is asking that we scale back the LGBT+ YA renaissance (okay, maybe just a naissance). At least, no one who’s not a relative homophobe or a mustache-twirling censorship supervillain who loves plucking books from the hands of curious children. But some of us are asking for fewer coming out stories and more coming-out-of-my-cage-and-I’ve-been-doing-just-fine-stories: the sweet love story, the heartfelt coming of age. Deaver has combined the two. This isn’t a coming out of the closet story; it’s a “going back into the closet to stay safe, to keep themself alive for however long they can story.” Fortunately, the sweetness and love finds its way. Although we’ve seen some such stories play out with the G in LGBT+, non-binary protagonists are far rarer. “I was very confused as a teenager,” Deaver said of their own nonbinary identity. “There’s no way for me to go back in time and give this book to myself,” they said, “but if I can do that for teenagers today, I will have done my job.”
And does the book have a happy ending? Yes, Deaver would tell you, “queer joy is revolution.”
Images Via Amazon
Bill Konigsberg is an openly gay man working in sports, a proud owner of some extremely adorable dogs, and the author of five novels. Some believe that gay men and sports ARE mutually exclusive. These usually tend to be the people who think gay men and existence in general are mutually exclusive, making these the sorts of people we try not to take too seriously. That said, they’re out there—and the cultural of toxic masculinity is right there with them.
Toxic masculinity isn’t misandry or man-hating. Instead, it’s the way in which society’s rigid conception of masculinity is harmful to men: believe it or not, asking men to emotionally stunt themselves leaves them emotionally stunted. Konigsberg is working to deconstruct this ideology through art, which is in and of itself basically an emotional fist in the face of the toxically masculine. “I’ve written a coming out story, and it’s completely absent from this novel. What’s special about it is that this is a book about masculinity,” Konigsberg clarified. The Music of What Happens tackles heavy topics as it delves into the memory of its protagonists’ sexual assault. As he reflects on the experience, he realizes what happened wasn’t consensual—and, therefore, wasn’t okay.
The novel is about “the messages about masculinity that we all take in in this very toxic society,” Konigsberg said, “and especially how these messages land on gay boys.” Men aren’t invulnerable—and no one should expect them to be. It’s a good thing that vulnerability has never been the opposite of strength.
It’s June 2019, and these books are groundbreaking. Chances are, they’ll stay that way. But imagine how many other books will be joining them on the shelves in the next few years.
Featured Image Via Out.