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New in February: Brandon Taylor, R. Eric Thomas, and Lidia Yuknavitch

New in February: Brandon Taylor, R. Eric Thomas, and Lidia Yuknavitch

Author: Lilia Shrayfer

February 5, 2020

February is here, bringing us new LGBTQ releases and 28 days to honor Black History Month. (Don’t forget about queer Black excellence!) This month also gives us 28 days to take in the Academy Awards, World Nutella Day, Shower With A Friend Day, and Jobs in Golf Month. Oh, and awful things like Valentine’s Day and tax season.

Noted as one of the most anticipated books of 2020 by Entertainment Weekly and just about every major literary magazine and journal, Real Life promises to be a real showstopper. Its author, a recipient of a Lambda Literary fellowship, Brandon Taylor, is a contributing writer at Literary Hub, the senior editor at Electric Literature‘s “Recommended Reading,” and…a PhD candidate in Biochemistry.

As a writer who earned exactly a 17% on her first (and only) Chemistry For Idiots exam in college… I am abundantly impressed. Make sure to have a read of his popular 2016 essay, “There is No Secret to Writing About People Who Do Not Look Like You,” for his well argued, and timely, notion of empathy as craft in reducing harmful storytelling across the publishing landscape.

On Real Life, from the publisher:

Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends—some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate, conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community.

Also in fiction, also published by Riverhead Books, is Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch. Acclaimed writer Dorothy Allison has praised Yuknavitch’s passion for the page as astounding.

From the publisher:

Lidia Yuknavitch is a writer of rare insight into the jagged boundaries between pain and survival. Her characters are scarred by the unchecked hungers of others and themselves, yet determined to find salvation within lives that can feel beyond their control. In novels such as The Small Backs of Children and The Book of Joan, she has captivated readers with stories of visceral power. Now, in Verge, she offers a shard-sharp mosaic portrait of human resilience on the margins.

The landscape of Verge is peopled with characters who are innocent and imperfect, wise and endangered: an eight-year-old black-market medical courier, a restless lover haunted by memories of his mother, a teenage girl gazing out her attic window at a nearby prison, all of them wounded but grasping toward transcendence. Clear-eyed yet inspiring, Verge challenges us with moments of uncomfortable truth, even as it urges us to place our faith not in the flimsy guardrails of society but in the memories held—and told—by our own individual bodies.

Word is out that one of the best new books of the season was written 90 years ago. This month sees the posthumous release of Romance in Marseilles, by renowned Harlem Renaissance writer Claude McKay.

From the publisher:

Buried in the archive for almost ninety years, Claude McKay’s Romance in Marseille traces the adventures of a rowdy troupe of dockworkers, prostitutes, and political organizers–collectively straight and queer, disabled and able-bodied, African, European, Caribbean, and American. Set largely in the culture-blending Vieux Port of Marseille at the height of the Jazz Age, the novel takes flight along with Lafala, an acutely disabled but abruptly wealthy West African sailor. While stowing away on a transatlantic freighter, Lafala is discovered and locked in a frigid closet. Badly frostbitten by the time the boat docks, the once-nimble dancer loses both of his lower legs, emerging from life-saving surgery as what he terms “an amputated man.” Thanks to an improbably successful lawsuit against the shipping line, however, Lafala scores big in the litigious United States. Feeling flush after his legal payout, Lafala doubles back to Marseille and resumes his trans-African affair with Aslima, a Moroccan courtesan. With its scenes of black bodies fighting for pleasure and liberty even when stolen, shipped, and sold for parts, McKay’s novel explores the heritage of slavery amid an unforgiving modern economy.

In memoir this February comes a truly joyful look at what it can mean to center your story after being pushed to the margins. Here for It, or How To Save Your Soul in America is a collection of essays from Barrymore-award winning playwright, former Lambda Literary Emerging Writers Retreat fellow, and humor columnist R. Eric Thomas. He’s one of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s favorite writers, and after picking up this book, he might just become one of yours, too.

From the publisher:

From the creator of Elle’s “Eric Reads the News,” a heartfelt and hilarious memoir-in-essays about growing up seeing the world differently, finding unexpected hope, and experiencing every awkward, extraordinary stumble along the way.

He explores the two worlds of his childhood: the barren urban landscape where his parents’ house was an anomalous bright spot, and the verdant school they sent him to in white suburbia. He writes about struggling to reconcile his Christian identity with his sexuality, the exhaustion of code-switching in college, accidentally getting famous on the internet (for the wrong reason), and the surreal experience of covering the 2016 election, and the seismic changes that came thereafter.

“Adam Falkner has heard what hums at the marrow of men who deceive themselves in order to survive America” according to author Saeed Jones. If that doesn’t entice you to pick up a copy of Faulkner’s The WilliesI don’t stand a chance here. A PhD in English from Columbia University, former NYC Public Schools educator, and featured performer at President Obama’s Grassroots Ball at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration, Adam is a highly imaginative artist-scholar who examines privilege in interesting and compassionate ways.

From the publisher:

The Willies, Falkner’s first full-length poetry collection, offers a sharp and vulnerable portrait of the journey into queerhood in America. Departing from a more familiar coming out narrative he centers the stories of dueling selves. Masquerading white boy. Child of an addict. Closeted varsity athlete.

Drifting seamlessly between the scholarly and conversational, Falkner’s poems showcase a versatility of language and a courageous hunger, unafraid of depicting the costumes we use to hide legacies of toxic masculinity. Through snapshots both tragic and humorous, merciless and humane, Falkner offers powerful new ways of understanding the intersectional linkage that binds queer shame to cultural appropriation. At its core, The Willies asks us to consider who we will become if we do not grapple with what scares us most.

In Historical Fiction this February don’t miss The Mercies by award winning children’s book author Kiran Millwood Hargave. This is her first-ever adult novel, but one thing that hasn’t changed is her fascination with myth, magic, and the power of independent women. Hargave has fished out a centuries’ old tale and created a timely, heart pounding piece sure to be a page turner.

From the publisher:

Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Arctic town of Vardø must fend for themselves.

Three years later, a stranger arrives on their shore. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband’s authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God, and flooded with a mighty evil. As Maren and Ursa are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them, with Absalom’s iron rule threatening Vardø’s very existence.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, The Mercies is a story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization.

And as always, if our list of LGBTQ releases missed an author or book, or if you have a book coming out next month, please email us.




LGBT Studies

Young Adult and Children’s Literature


Graphic Novels/Illustrated Books

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror





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