The holiday season is officially here. So whether you are looking for a good book to gift, or looking for a captivating novel to help you avoid talking to your family, this list is for you.
Below are 12 books that I’ve discovered this year that I would recommend to help with present shopping or planning your own winter reading list. All have sexually and gender diverse authors and/or stories.
Whether you’re looking for fiction or non-fiction, a novel, poetry, memoir, young adult, sci-fi, or an anthology of short stories, this list has you covered.
So here we go, in no particular order:
Crocuses Hatch From Snow – by Jaime Burnet
Be prepared to be transported in to North End Halifax. Crocuses Hatch From Snow tells the stories of two neighbouring homes, each housing three generations, but it’s much more than that. Inside is a story of love and loss, past and present, weaving in the ongoing histories of Africville, residential schools, and now displacement from gentrification in the city.
The author spent 12 years writing this and you can tell. It is wonderfully written and a fantastic read.
The author says it best when describing her book as being “about queer love and all-consuming crushes, death and loss, racism and gentrification, learning and resilience. About the place where I live.”
Guapa – by Saleem Haddad
Dynamic, raw, emotional, compelling and insightful… this debut novel is well worth adding to your reading list.
Guapa covers one day in the life of Rasa, a gay man living under a post-Arab Spring dictatorship, after being caught in bed with his lover by his Grandmother.
We follow Rasa’s political and personal unrest through an intense 24-hour period, interspersed with informative flashbacks to his childhood, and to his college years in America.
I literally couldn’t put this one down until I reached the conclusion, but I won’t say more for fear of ruining the story!
The Melting Queen – by Bruce Cinnamon
Magical, surreal, smart and engaging; I powered through this book in one day. A genderfluid main character in an alternatively imagined Edmonton was exactly the story I needed to get through this cold cool spring.
The Melting Queen is everything Edmonton. While I didn’t grow up in Edmonton (so I’m sure there are many references I missed), his version of the city, its politics, its landmarks and its people, brought the Edmonton I know to life in a whole new way.
I sure hope there’s a second book to come from Bruce Cinnamon!
Paradise Rot: A Novel – by Jenny Hval
Jenny Hval is a Norwegian musician and writer, who’s 2009 novel was translated in to English last year. Set in a fictional town somewhere outside of Melbourne, the story revolves around the relationship between two women living in a shared house, with no walls or privacy.
Paradise Rot creates a surreal world, where reality becomes increasing blurred the further you dive in to this short 148-page book. A story of sexual awakening and desire, it is strange and often grotesque.
This book definitely isn’t for everyone, and it’s probably not one I’d normally seek out, but it did make for a fun psychedelic trip.
Prairie Fairies: A History of Queer Communities and People in Western Canada, 1930-1985 – by Valerie J. Korinek
Valerie Korinek’s well-written book focuses on the long and rich LGBTQ history of the prairie provinces, starting from 1930 up until 1985. Prairie Fairies reads almost like a novel, providing the reader with a rich wealth of information about queer life on the prairies, including how much of the community’s work shifted after Stonewall.
It shows us that the prairies were often a leader in North American LGBTQ movements, while having vibrant queer community histories of their own.
I have no doubt others will look to, and build on, this comprehensive historic look at queer prairie history for years to come.
Outside In: A Political Memoir – by Libby Davies
I have a rule that I won’t read a political memoir unless the politician is retired from office (lest they just become campaign platforms), but reading Outside In quickly made me wish Libby Davies hadn’t retired.
Outside In documents a lifetime of tireless work in politics and activism, both outside and within the system. Libby weaves in her personal story as her political career takes her from dedicated East Vancouver community activist, to city council member, to Parliament, where she becomes the first out woman MP. Throughout all of the ups and downs she remains hopeful for creating change.
Libby shows us that a politician sent to Ottawa can still be rooted in the community and with those living in the margins. In fact, that’s how it should be. This book is a timely reminder that politics is about people. This is a book that many of those recently elected to serve us in Ottawa could learn a heck of a lot from reading.
Soar, Adam, Soar – by Rick Prashaw with Adam Prashaw
As told by Rick Prashaw while incorporating his son Adam’s own words, this book is deeply personal and very well written. Gender identity, living with medical illness (epilepsy), family, life, death and organ donation are important themes in this book.
A touching tribute of a loving father to his son. Reading Soar, Adam, Soar caused both smiles and tears.
The description on the back summarizes it perfectly:
In Soar, Adam, Soar, his father, a former priest, retells Adam’s story alongside his son’s own words. From early childhood, through coming out first as a lesbian and then as a man, and his battles with epilepsy and refusal to give in, it chronicles Adam’s drive to define himself, his joyful spirit, and his love of life, which continues to conquer all.
Rebent Sinner – by Ivan Coyote
Every new Ivan Coyote book I say ‘this is their best book yet!”. I will say it again for Rebent Sinner.
Ivan is a powerful storyteller. With tenderness, patience, humour, and honesty, Ivan brings both the personal and political to life, all through sharing their own stories about everyday life.
Stories have the power to bring us together. They create common bonds and bring people in.
If you’ve never read Ivan’s work this is a good place to start. If you’re looking for a good gift to bring someone else along with you, start here.
Love Beyond Body, Space and Time: An LGBT and two-spirit sci-fi anthology –Edited by Hope Nicholson
Love Beyond Body, Space & Time is a “collection of Indigenous science fiction and urban fantasy focusing on LGBT and two-spirit characters”.
There are 11 stories contained in this anthology, including some by better-known Indigenous authors such as Cherie Dimaline and Richard Van Camp.
I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them.This is a beautiful book. The characters are great. The stories are fun and thoughtful.
If you like sci-fi, Indigenous history and/or LGBTQ2S characters this book is definitely for you.
Fire Song – by Adam Garnet Jones
Set on a fictional Anishinaabe reserve in Northern Ontario, we find the main character Shane surviving the grief of his sister’s suicide, trying to care for his family, secretly in love with his friend David, and desperately seeking hope for his future when there is none to be found.
Fire Song really hits home that the idea of ‘choice’ is a luxury not afforded to everyone. Something especially true for many Indigenous people in Canada.
This is a tough read. It is definitely not your typical coming-of-age story. But it’s a great book. I really wish this had been a young adult book when I was younger.
In an interesting twist, this was first created as a film, then turned in to a book.
Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir – by Kai Cheng Thom
A Trans Memoir that definitely blows apart the genre. There’s truth to be found amongst the beautiful, creative, and fantastical storytelling.
All I can say is this is one of the most unique and fun books I’ve read in a very long time.
I can’t possibly summarize this book better than the publisher did themselves:
“In Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir, a haunted young girl (who happens to be a kung-fu expert and pathological liar) runs away from an oppressive city where the sky is always grey in search of love and sisterhood—and finds herself in a magical place known only as the Street of Miracles.”
NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes from the Field – by Billy-Ray Belcourt
Billy-Ray Belcourt is a master of words.
This second book of poetry is as fantastic as his first Griffin Poetry Prize winning poetry collection.
I have come back to revisit NDN Coping Mechanisms a few times throughout the year.
Billy-Ray’s talented writing definitely has me looking forward to his memoir coming out in the new year!
If poetry is your thing check this book out, and even if it’s not, give this book a chance. You won’t regret it.