Inspired many wistful sighs and incredulous exclamations. A breezy (for Emezi) but sharp and utterly human mess of love and lust. Though the ending satisfies, I could easily read five more books of Feyi's escapades in art and romance. Grief, friendship (specifically queer friendship, actually) and consent are articulated in such clarity its like Emezi has refracted them into air and light, mirrors upon mirrors throwing rainbows of emotion and understanding into the world.
Reading Solomon, for me, feels like tugging on a tendril of root only to feel the whole of the earth shift to reveal its connectedness. Their name is the one I say when someone asks me who my “favorite author” is: their first book, Unkindness of Ghosts, has held favorite book status since its release in 2017. That streak is now broken by Sorrowland. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. A tightly woven story that is feral and horrifying, sexy and soul expanding. The books aren’t related in plot, but the line from Aster to Yetu to Vern (the main characters in their three novels) is strong and the connection back to Octavia Butler’s (author of Kindred, Parable of the Sower, etc) protagonists is clear. Vern flees the isolated cult she was raised in, pregnant and without allies. How she survives this is riveting on its own but there are also the many mysteries that her upbringing has left in her mind and in her body. Aside from my dreamy-eyed reflections on Solomon’s deep magic spun from harsh history and queer love, I can also promise a thrilling, page turning, writhing in mud but gem cut in agile prose story about parenthood, cult dynamics, generational trauma, desire, safety, the nature of hardness, and mushrooms.
Vampire neo-noir by genre chameleon of Mexican Gothic fame, Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I couldn’t have fallen harder for these gritty but vulnerable characters. Cinematic pacing makes for the kind of read that moves quickly but you savor ‘cause it’s that good. Don’t miss her note in the beginning, or the drink recipes and “Encyclopedia Vampirica” in the back! The return of the vampires is here, and couldn’t be in better hands.
Not sure if Carr is Midwestern Trash himself, but he’s certainly made me feel seen with this work. The senseless meandering of addicts in the life of a young person who finds work but not enough, and makes a good omelette. The product is much funnier and lovelier than that sounds.
Dorothy “Doll” Kirwan bought her freedom, built a thriving business, had 10 kids, and owned land. She did this as a woman born into slavery who could do math but not read. The political landscape and violent social hierarchy of the time kept Kirwan in crisis for a lot of her life, making her defensive moves admirable and her offensive plans impressive. Broken up into quick chapters the book takes on a diary feeling, the story like a recollection that might naturally veer in and out of her childhood; between her relatively safe periods and more frequent times of peril. A number of men fall for and pledge their love to Doll, if not follow through on it. Everyone around her who is not in love is baffled (and sometimes violently angered) by her success. Readers witness her strength and are there for her weaknesses. It’s no quick read at 592 pages, but once it's underway one can sense the uncertainty of the sea, feel the Caribbean sand shifting underfoot.
Moniz finds truth and sweetness in the grotesquerie that is living. Gracefully morbid stories for your mind and guts.
This book came out in the worst month of the worst year to publish a book: March 2020. So while pretty much everyone missed its release, this book should absolutely not be missed by you, dear Tableshopper. Washburn’s debut is a lyrical modern myth about how land and people connect. It is colored and structured by the dynamic of a struggling indigenous Hawaiian family, and dissects the idea of a “gifted child” and their siblings. Comparable to Song of Solomon and World According to Garp, but reading it is a singular experience.
Once I'd opened A House is a Body, everything but reading the next story was a grave inconvenience. Swamy's observations are specific and divine, her stories consume as they are devoured. Honesty echoes whenever you put this book down, more so than when you're in the trance that is reading it.
Reading this book felt like wearing a garment made with a kiss on every stitch. The fabric can't insulate you from a cruel world but you feel such beauty in the warmth that its maker must be a wizard, powerful and loving in equal measure. Vivek Oji will make you cry and think think think. All of Emezi's revolutionary, imaginative work expands its reader for the better. I love you, go read them.
Science, tennis & gay melancholy. Religious & academic trauma sprinkles. Atmospheric and frank and for me, a deeply lovable debut. Looking forward to anything Brandon Taylor. (You might read his past works on LitHub and around the internets. If you do that sort of thing.)
Reid’s story is propulsive and focused, which it needs to be as it touches on race, class, camera phones, code switching, the social cost of racial ignorance, serendipity, elder/younger millennial relations, and the joy of toddlers. Book club gold.
This is actually a recommendation for Nnedi Okorafor’s Books in general. The Binti trilogy was my introduction to Okorafor, and after reading it all other fiction but hers fell away for a full year. It remains my favorite hero’s journey series. World Fantasy Award winning Who Fears Death was so gripping I finished it in the middle of the street, having got off the train but unable to close the book. Her constellation of Africanfuturist offerings also includes comics both adapted and original, story collections, middle grade books, and in the young adult section, the Nsibidi Scripts Series which features a secret magic school in Nigeria that must be saved by a chosen kid and her friends. Anywhere is a great place to start.
Kelly Barnhill (Newbery Award winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon) wrote us some creepy lullabies. They operate at the tip of the top of your ears, whispering like a voice from another time, a smirk in the voice of a dreadful lady from the past, the future, from right now but far away. Like a kitten resting near a roaring engine, you bask in the warmth of the rage at the center.
For those of us with an interest in pirate stuff, alternative U.S. history, elemental magic, queer airship captains, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, and Haitian history as it connects to African mythology. Written in Creole dialect, The Black God’s Drums is immersive, fast-paced adventure in an alternate Civil War Era New Orleans.
This is my favorite book.
Generations of people have lived and died on the Matilda, sent from a dying planet to find new home for the human race. Strict hierarchy is physically defined by the alphabetized levels of the ship, with a unique culture in each cavern. Resources are divided ruthlessly, attributing all abuses and hypocrisies to The Heavens' will. Solomon touches on everything in this book, but what keeps me rereading are their insightful musings on gender and trauma. In the midst of a twisty, fast-moving plot, they produce compassionate scenes that put (beautiful) words to those unnamable moments of gender dysphoria and euphoria, of living in a sexually violent society, and confronting generational traumas.
Ewing's poetry is addictive and sharp, perched gracefully in the doorway to abrasive. She writes about Chicago as if she was in the dirt when the first settlers came. As if her observations come from the distant past, situated in a corner of the city where you can see past now, far into the hazy future. The essays are constructed with history and deep true love. pg 18 and pg 72
I had too much to say about this book to just do a paragraph, so I have a few bullet points to avoid rambling.
- Wonderful prose, even in the darkest moments of the book.
- El Akkad's research and understanding supports every brushstroke of the story: the Bouazizi Empire and how the war came to be, the disappearance of the coasts, the roll of recruiters in a war torn republic and the misinformation that physical and ideological separation fosters.
- Intimate portrayal of the radicalization of an American into a terrorist, as well as how it's done on a wide scale. Homes and families destroyed by war leads to young anger, which is channeled back into the same war - we see it, but have we really felt it? This book brings home that faraway cycle in a way that sinks into your bones.
- He lays out a family and a character that is beautiful and pure and representative and - most importantly - American. Showing how regardless of race or language or geography the right set of conditions will turn a child into a soldier, killing and dying in the name of a cause they don't understand.
- Firsthand accounts and histories of the war bookend the chapters, providing a small portion of governmental perspective.
Bonus: favorite prologue of the year.
One of the Boys is about the notion of being a man, drugs, mental illness, familial love and loyalty, as well as what abuse does to a young mind. Magariel's debut novel, clocking in at 165 pages, has not a single unnecessary syllable. His deliberate writing has no mercy, so you have no choice but to stare directly into both the insidious nature of addiction and the purity that is a son's love. Despite this roughness, the book has adreamlike quality that leaves the reader just removed enough to take it all in.
Come for the gender discussion, stay for the tense prose and dissection of post WWII masculinity. Koelb doesn't ask or answer questions, instead opting to peel back certain corners of the wallpaper, illustrating that however you came to it, proving oneself to be a man is an endeavor that has left many people emptied out.
A haunting and graceful work of speculative fiction, When the English Fall is the diary of an Amish man called Jacob. A solar storm brings the world grinding to a halt. The effects are slower to reach Jacob’s isolated community, a trickle of information and violence.
I sort of broke the rules with this one and watched the movie before reading the book. Not sure what I expected, but I could never have guessed what I was missing. In dreamy (nightmarey?) prose Heim dazes you into the space between reality and certainty using characters so intent to know truth that they weave their own versions of it. I could go on and on about the narrators and how they mirror all the ways we lie to ourselves, but instead I'll just tell you to read it and try to have someone around to hug you when you finish it.
After this book, I couldn't drive through a peaceful suburb without conspiring to myself about the entanglements and scandals there. Sarah is a perfectly apathetic anti hero representative of what happens when the transition from youth to adulthood takes too much out of a person, leaving a shell filled with static boredom and surrounded by ambient fear. She's so smart though, and funny. Her situation makes you feel for her, but she pulls no punches about the fact that she got herself there. All of his characters are like that, people that on paper should be boring if not outright annoying but end up being so honest, so real that you fall into them. You understand and grow to like them. And most importantly you absolutely have to know what's going to happen to them.
When there are no good guys in a story, are the bad guys really bad? The voices in The Lie weave a complicated web of manipulation and general assholery that sucks you in until you look up to find yourself suspended in the eye of a hurricane of callous deceit. Kultgen presents these characters under an unforgiving bare light bulb of truth. The vulgar playboy, the dinky best friend of said playboy, and the socially ambitious debutante all expose themselves with each turn of the story. The amazing feat in this book is that in the midst of all these acidic personalities the author somehow manages to focus a piercing light on one thing: humanity, in all its treacherous glory.
Doyle is a favorite author of mine, and this is my favorite of his books. Henry Smart starts out as a boy hustling in 1900’s Dublin, charming and starved. He finds himself in the Irish Citizen Army at 14 during a post office occupation, finding the purpose and love and danger that drives his life and this book.
Quentin Coldwater learns that there is a school where magic is taught, a revelation for him after a life of reading about the Chatwins, a family that discovered a magical land a la the Narnia books. As you read you can tell that Lev spent a lot of time sitting back thinking, "Okay, but what would that actually BE like?" The effort put into making magic feel real and plausible is what makes this trilogy special. Be sure to have the second book at hand, the ending of The Magicians
In this installment, things get a little grittier. Quentin is sent off to Brakebills South, that reads like magical basic training/torturous boot camp. Meanwhile, Grossman switches perspectives to a female character that we met in the first book, who has since descended into a frantic and deeply flawed search for the magical world. If the first book's purpose was to dip the reader's toe into the magical world, this book's is to sink you to the depths - and it does so quickly and without mercy.
In the final and third book of the series Quentin has done his coming of age. Having been a king and a professor, he gives magical crime a try and as can be expected he runs into a lot more trouble than he signed on for. When I started this book, I was a bit worried Grossman was stretching the narrative, but it didn't take long for everything to come together in a great show of adventure and humanity.
Fine is a little archive, a snapshot in time of the infinite ways to be Trans. So vital and very accessible, I had no idea I was yearning for this format until it was in my hands. Even if a family is loving and open, its strange to feel like they haven't lived a day in the world that you live in. This book is informative but not instructive. Its successfully representative in its composition because of Ewing's dedication to nuance - they travelled and listened a LOT to create Fine. Pull up a seat, grab a beverage, and absorb some Trans conversation.
Mermaids are in this year, so as a fan I have been happily devouring the deluge of content. This book is the romp at the top of my mermaid list. Kat's illustrations are lush, engaging eye feasts. Her trio of sea creatures and their human guide charm in their dynamic and individually. Shipwreck wine-soaked decisions lead to land based shenanigans and big lessons. Delightfully, wholesomely queer. P.s. if you make games I beg of you to make and play this with me.
The Magic Fish is touching, thoughtfully colored and beautifully illustrated. Layering the stories of Tien’s life at school, his parents’ journey to the U.S. as refugees, and the princess story he reads to his mother. Nguyen’s precious protagonist ruminates on many things but especially language: he speaks mostly English and his family mostly Vietnamese. This is a problem because like most of us, Tien has something very important to say.
This absolute gift of a book covers friendship & family secrets, bullies &creatures, queerness & love, and that very thin line between science & witchcraft. Probably good for kids 10 & up, but truly a great read for all graphic novel geeks.
Kim Hyun Sook tells her story of going to college (against her mother’s wishes) in South Korea in 1983 (a time of strict totalitarian rule) in this memoir for ages 12 & up. Sook just wants to read and stay out of trouble, but it finds her anyway in the form of a radical book club masquerading as a theater club. The story speaks to protest as a way of living, reading as rebellion, and how politics is involved with us whether we want to be involved or not.
SMASHING THE PATRIARCHY – Viking Style!
WOMAN. WARRIOR. VIKING. HEATHEN. OUTCAST.
THE GODS MUST PAY…
Born into a time of warfare, suffering, and subjugation of women, and exiled from her village for kissing another woman, the lesbian Viking warrior, Aydis, sets out to destroy the god-king Odin and end his oppressive reign.
Romance, violence, history, myth! This comic is ideal vampire content.
A non-stop (and I mean non. Stop.) blam-blam party, fabulously drawn and lovingly written.
Fairy tale* for the sapphic goth.
*the German kind with blood and creepiness
Crowded works on every level: it's consistently funny, the art is refined and bonkers, satisfying queer representation, artistic and character depth, expert manipulations of buddy film tropes, accumulation of property damage, and a dog. For folks that have been waiting for a gay Die Hard and appreciators of comic book composition.
Yes, Roya is an erotic graphic novel about a polyamorous relationship between the femdom Roya and her two subs, and the comics industry in 1963. The fashion, the pacing, the (abundance of) sex, the intrigue - Roya is a top shelf comic in every way. This makes sense, since it's written by C. Spike Trotman, founder of Iron Circus Comics and editor of Smut Peddlers erotic comics anthologies.
Alice, Bridget, and Ro took Redlands, Florida in 1977 by fire from a sheriff that would hang them (fool.) Though they have guarded the town as a haven in the decades since, vengeance still juts and writhes through the swamps. Each citizen of Redlands triggers a new hair to stand on the back of your neck because from the first issue we know to ask, "Who else is this person?" Questions are soothed and stoked by artifacts at the end of most chapters - savory if unorthodox breadcrumbs. Much like the coven in their story, the creators of Redlands are powerful and play by rules of their own.
Attn: Fans of Akira/Katsuhiro Otomo, Moebius, DBZ, vintage vengeance flicks, Fifth Element, people who love a good AI character & plan to dance through the apocalypse.
Amanda Parker has been orchestrating anti-fascist operations that have gotten her face on the radar of Peter Freeman, an investigator tasked with hunting “Enemies of the State” who carries that Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds vibe but updated to have a Richard Spencer undercut. As Amanda lays out the next big move with her partner Arvid, Freeman interrogates Huian Xing, her ex-wife.
The Pervert is a collection of stories about a young Trans woman barely staying afloat in Seattle by doing sex work, told in anthropomorphic watercolors. The art insulates but doesn’t shield the reader from the sexually graphic and sometimes brutal scenarios. Boydell’s use of their medium puts the anxiety and exhaustion of the protagonist’s precarious existence in stride with the mundanities that help a reader feel for and with her. The protagonist tells stories of trauma and compassion with the same middle distance stare-off tone illustrating how one can calibrate to trauma with indiscriminate apathy. All that said, Pervert is one of the funniest comics in the store.
Familial and internal homophobia, climate change, centipedes - these are all things that keep me up at night and here they are in Submerged: realized, validated, and scary AF. Dubious creatures follow Elysia on her journey to rescue her brother, angel, through an eerie New York Subway that might also be a version of Hades, psychologically tuned to break elysia. She braves surroundings that look like concrete but shift like the smoke of dreams. Tension stays high with stelladia’s Breathless blues and purples. To people looking for emotional, well-constructed, spooky content from non-binary and femme creators: DESCEND HERE.
Goodfellas meets Freaky Friday in this mind-bending new ongoing series from Fan-favorite creators GAIL SIMONE (Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Deadpool, Secret Six, Birds of Prey) and CAT STAGGS (Adventures of Supergirl, Smallville Season 11, Wonder Woman '77).A slick and ruthless Chicago hitman. A smart but downtrodden Seattle housewife.
A fresh departure from the futuristic dystopia flavor of the day, No Mercy is a story that dwells in the possible, digs its heels in and never stops reminding you of its plausibility. DeCampi avoids the trap of portraying teens as one dimensional quip machines, shaping each intricate character from panel one. That authenticity plants the seed for wild anxiety once things start to go wrong. The characters are truly diverse, and their personal struggles are as twisty and dangerous as the terrain they find themselves stranded in. With references in art and word to manga, teen movie tropes, and millennial stereotypes, No Mercy manages to flow from youthful comedy to the darkest of observations with ease. Easily the most surprising series Image has going right now (Fall 2017.)
- Welcome to Copperhead, a grimy mining town on the edge of a backwater planet. Single mom Clara Bronson is the new sheriff, and on her first day she'll have to contend with a resentful deputy, a shady mining tycoon, and a family of alien hillbillies. And did we mention the massacre? Questions swirl around not only the murder mystery, but around Sheriff Bronson herself.
Gina Wynbrandt uses her medium to proclaim and cope with her world in this half autobiographical caricature, half desperate acid trip action movie. Someone Please Have Sex with Me communicates in big neon pastels what happens when the pop attitudes infiltrate an insecure teen mind and stay there. Every person can relate to the base emotions in it: insecurity, desire and desperation. If you didn't know this girl, you were her. If you aren't the demographic, her plight is one you must familiarize yourself with. This young girl is looking for answers to the emergence of her sexuality and finds (instead of any real information or validation) Justin Bieber, One Direction, and endless sexual images on the internet and elsewhere. Now, I have no issue with sexual images, but a sexual education they do not make. The dreamy illustrations cushioning the raw but silly stories with panels of the same qualities. Whether you're trying to ponder the nature of sexual development in modern culture or laugh at mean talking cats, this is an excellent book.
The Hunting Accident is the true story of Matt Rizzo, born on the West Side of Chicago in 1913. At 18 he found himself blinded and arrested after a botched armed robbery, placed in Statesville prison right next to infamous murderer Nathan Leopold. Told from the perspective of his son Charlie who learns his father’s story only after getting into some similar trouble as a teenager, The Hunting Accident is a moving account of a strange life; one that hooks into the mind, pulling it forward into the unbelievable truth with a stimulating mix of fact, embellishment, poetry, and confession. Blair's illustrations move fluidly between reality and day dream, often conveying not only movement and actions but visual representation of emotion.
Bonus: insight into one of the biggest murder trials in Chicago history.
Imagine a closet-sized room, the walls papered with blurry pictures and newspaper clippings, the metal desk bowing under the pressure of books ranging from the ageless and priceless to bound print-outs of the better researched conspiracy blogs, the drawers lined with unfinished letters starting with, “To whom it may concern,” and there’s you, with a manifestation of this obsession under your arm. A volume of the body of work that the room’s occupant has succumb to, that you can read on the train. Imagine you had that under your arm, bookmarked and worn with the marks of your own growing, nagging obsession. Imagine you’ve waited well over a year for another one. Imagine that day is here. The Black Monday Murders has a dense lore that is revealed in mouthwatering slivers by the detective work of Theo Dumas, a man steeped in noir and sprinkled with voodoo. Volume One, entitled, “All Hail, God Mammon” leaves the reader with just enough on their lips to stay hungry in a world full of meat. While working a murder case in the financial district, Dumas strings together the horrendously staged killings before him with the untold history of mysticism (“mysticism” being a very cute word for the reality of the practices, but one must avoid spoiling the fun vocab) happening in the highest reaches of financial influence around the world. Said world, constructed by Jonathan Hickman, is a terrifying and sexy version of ours where insurmountable power changes hands in violent, archaic traditions. Volume Two, for me, was that very particular kind of satisfaction that comes from resting in that, “I love this, but it could still turn out to be kind of terrible” for a year or so and then getting paper proof that the potential was not false, that the famous writer did not in any way get lazy, and that you are not only vindicated but can now strap in for a skillful disturbance of your mind. Ain’t comics grand?
With crisp kaleidoscope panels that satiate the hungriest of eyes and writing that’ll make your head implode, WicDiv lives up to the hype, surpasses it and leaves it covered in rich orange ink. Cohesive and clear world building - without sacrificing dialogue. I was immediately drawn to the protagonist fangirl, Laura, as well as her partner-in-sleuthing Cassandra and closed the first volume with a ravenous need to open the second. Laura's voice and struggle are crystallized in Vol. 2, and her every line either cuts you to the bone or sends you cheering. Gillen takes every opportunity to deepen character bonds and buttress the mythos throughout, and in Vol. 4 the self-awareness that was subtly steeping throughout the series blossoms serves as the comedic relief for the implosion of every thread of plot since p.1 Vol.1.
Rat Queens boasts an intersectionally badass ensemble, a tasty depth of mythos, and an almost unrivaled balance of ridiculousness and clarity of plot. The band of unruly warriors known as the Rat Queens is made up of an Elf called Hannah, a Necromancer called Dee who is haunted by the nature of her upbringing, a Dwarf who challenges her family's traditional ways, and a Smidgen (halfling, a la hobbits from LOTR) whose efforts mostly include looking for love or magic mushrooms. They rollick around the town of Palisade, both terrorizing and protecting the townsfolk. This series is one that could go on for a decade, easily entertaining its fan base with hilarity and adventures - here's hoping. I'll bring the spellbook, you bring the shrooms.
Tee Franklin and Jenn St Onge have created a Valentine for you, whoever you are. Hazel and Mari’s love is a force of destiny that begins at church bingo in 1963, and remains warm and true through over 50 years of separation due to the their families’ disapproval. Their story is one that feels at once like the first sight of a lighthouse after a long journey and hug from someone who really knows you. Addressing issues of homophobia in the home and church, Bingo Love treats every aspect of this story with compassion and hard-won clarity.
There is no dialogue, and so a lot of heavy lifting is needed in order to move plot and establish character. Lupano and Panaccione do this with meticulous care, while also consistently exploiting opportunities for both slapstick humor and commentary. They commit to the themes of pollution in the ocean and the perils of industrial fishing. The story follows an old couple that is separated when a fishing expedition goes awry. The reader can’t help but wait for their reunion and every shenanigan - both paths involve imprisonment, infamy, cooking, the kindness of unlikely strangers, and pollution - is a painstaking obstacle to that outcome. A gorgeous book of illustrations that also happens to be a Love vs. Nature vs. Pollution & Greed comedy.
Anna is a scientist, and acts as resident psychic for a circus. Her sister Kat is the knife thrower for that same circus, a beloved performer. When the travelling show is immobilized by a broken boiler, times are tough and the ringmaster throws a party to boost morale. Anna returns to her room after begrudgingly participating in the merriment to find her sister murdered, Kat’s own knives in her back. If this wasn’t enough of a shocker, her ghost is there to share in the dismay. As Anna unravels the mystery of her sister’s death, the troupe runs into trouble with a local sheriff and supernatural occurrences pop up around every corner. The array of characters in the circus dazzles with thick lines and spectacular character design as the scope of the story sneakily gets bigger and more twisted. Megan Rose Gedris, also known around town as Roslarian, is a performer themself -much of Spectacle was written on the road - and is based in Chicago.
Originally an interactive app, Daniels worked on this story for 17 years. The characters are all uniquely off - strange in visual and emotional ways that set an uneasy tone for the terrifying hypothetical at the center of Upgrade Soul. Molly and Hank are a married couple, together for 45 years. Hank, as a gift and an attempt at metaphorical and possibly literal immortality, gets them involved in a cutting edge medical study, meant to optimize their bodily health and sharpen their minds. That doesn’t happen. What follows is best left to the page, but if you were a fan of Black Hole by Charles Burns or even Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, this is for you.
Abundant shadows made of splatter and mist hide malicious, contorting entities, drunk on human malice and evoking terror in the tenants of a New York apartment building. Aisha moves into the building to live with her future mother-in-law and fiance. The tenants are suspicious of any newcomers and some react with open hostility to Aisha’s hijab. When she is tragically injured, her radical and stubborn friend Medina is left to unravel the incident and ultimately the mysteries of the building's past, now inseparable from Aisha’s plight. Infidel utilizes the poltergeist story structure to its full potential, cleverly pulling in both societal and philosophical lines of thought through the conversations of the current - and past - tenants.
Twisted Romance is a collection of stories about the occurrence of love, human and otherwise. They range from very sweet vampire smut to realistic, earnest tales of people figuring how and who to love, with breaks for spooky and abstract howls from the abyss.
Lady Killer has everything I want in a comic: jaw dropping art, exactly enough gratuitous violence, and personality. The cathartic release of seeing Josie, the main character, take control of her destiny using some chef's knives, her powerful physique, and brilliance doesn't hurt either. All the caveats of the 50's world are present and the way Josie fits into them is quite unique in comparison to other fiction set in the period. It's her, the perfect wife, who has the secret life kept from an oblivious husband. It's her who premeditates instead of just reacting to dangerous situations, as some of her counter parts do. Her backstory is somewhat of a mystery that I can't wait to unravel in future volumes - how did she get into this bloody business, and where can it take her?
I recommend this book to anybody - it isn't often a book will make one belly laugh - but I recommend it even more so if you're trying to understand what it's like to live with depression and anxiety. Using adorable cartoons Allie Brosh tells of her own journey through depression as well as dog adopting and childhood cake obsession. She throws away the wistful poetic descriptions we often find about the subject of mental illness and replaces them with hilarious stories that are easy to relate to whether you struggle with it or not.
In a society that tends to body shame the way a lot of people look and function, this book can help get ahead of harmful ideas with colorful, read-aloud joy! The words are simple and straightforward but the illustrations hold details that can familiarize kids with ways that bodies can be different from what they may have experienced before Bonus: they might see their or loved ones' unique bodies represented in a book!
This book serves as a Disability Justice primer, featuring a group of mixed-ability kids who navigate their day with creativity & joy. We Move Together invites kids to consider and discuss openly how difference and disability factor into moving into the future, and caring for each other today.
Told by sisters Effie and Tavia in alternating chapters, A Song Below Water is a tale of self-discovery, of fighting to connect to one’s ancestry and self, and of magical creatures (MERMAIDS!) living in the world we know. Morrow’s work gives a moving account of youth, inspiration and protest that is gripping and thoughtful.
The first installment of this series touches on everything from navigating western bias in academia and its consequences in education to the awkwardness of being a person who sneezes a lot. Okorafor conveys Nigerian culture and myth insightfully, propelling the reader to learn more.
This primer on intersectionality is thoughtfully written and brightly illustrated. There is a very helpful breakdown in the back for parents & teachers.
Coming out as gender nonconforming often includes explaining what that is -along with what it means for you- to friends and family that have never encountered GNC people or vernacular. Unfortunately, one who realizes they are trans is not immediately imbued with the knowledge and teaching skills to educate everyone they interact with. Usually, we’re trying to define what it is we need to communicate. The snails and Sproutlings in this book can help. This kind & informative guide is written for: concerned family, queer folk in need of an update, people preparing to come out, allies, and everyone else.
From the co-creator of the beloved Lumberjanes series, Grace Ellis’ Moonstruck is queer magic - but actually. Julie, a barista and werewolf, is living her life, hanging with her best friend - a Minotaur called Chet - and trying to woo the smart and too-cute Sylvia. While out at a magic show, though, things get out of hand and Chet ends up cursed! This mishap and a few other expertly placed hijinks lead the reader through all the friends and frenemies that make up this quirky community. Ages 13 and up.
Art: Comparable in style to Bryan O’Malley, but softer and with a peachier color palette, Shae Beagle’s art is a dream cloud lovingly sculpted into expressive creatures. They represent Ellis’ twisty adventures from lovey dovey to big and scary with impressive artistic agility.
Harleen Quinzel is 15, and just arrived in Gotham. No stranger to the nomadic life, she knows all the tricks and always watches her back. Sent to live with her grandmother, Harley finds Mama at her address instead. Mama runs the best drag show in Gotham, and takes Harley in. They even enroll her in school, where she makes a friend called Ivy and assists in protesting the boogertastic and decidedly not inclusive film club. Breaking Glass is the story of finding a home, only to realize it is under attack. Not from a penguin or cat, but one corporation and a wave of merciless gentrification. Tamaki’s Breaking Glass is both origin and anthem, the one Harley fans have waited for.
A legendary bandit called The Ghost Hawk captures a richly dressed girl from a stagecoach as it passes through the New Mexico Territory. The girl, Grace, admits she won't be any good for ransom: she's not as wealthy as she looks. Grace is running from service in war alongside her father, and running from coming out as trans in a time before the word existed. The Ghost Hawk introduces herself as Flor, and finds a use for Grace's knowledge and voice in her next big scheme. Stage Dreams is a queer western for teens & adults who love adventure and history!
Precocious and curious, Margaret works on the island with Elysian nuns to grow food and in her free time explores with her friend William. Trouble rolls in one day with a storm and mysterious sails on the horizon – a new inhabitant on the island, along with guards and a strict nun from another order. Margaret must adjust to these new variables, while uncovering the mystery of how she came to live with the nuns. Meconis packs Queen of the Sea with historical information using intrigue and compassion, always drawing from to the curious nature of Margaret and her island.
Cassandra Cain is a woefully underrated character and this graphic novel is so so worthy of her origin story. The young assassin escapes to the cavernous Gotham Public Library and is coaxed into the world by a young Barbara Gordon and a wonderfully dressed noodle shop owner. This is one of the most visually fun books I've read this year.
Sweety is a book for the square pegs. She’s for those who express their enthusiasm with gusto, who have peculiar hobbies and a heart brimming with love. There is always a period before one finds their people, and I wish this book existed during mine.
Muffin knows all the animals on his block and all the ins and outs of the bakery he lives in. Then one night he’s startled by a new noise coming from the bakery after closing. There Are No Bears in the Bakery features expressive characters and engaging twists, capturing a self-aware whimsy that is irresistible. (Speaking as a cat enthusiast, the depictions of cat shapes in this book are accurate and delightful)
THIS IS THE HUG YOU NEED, BUT IT'S A BOOK.
The infamous Nancy Drew returns to Bayport after receiving a mysterious letter on the anniversary of her mother’s death. She reunites with her friends Bess and George, and they meet up with none other than The Hardy Boys to find trouble and clues in the caves on the outskirts of town. Classic, right? Yes, but everything about the ensemble and their adventure is modern, inclusive, and snappy. There are lots of big adolescent attitudes, black lipstick, and one-liners, but also realistic friend politics and grief struggles. Perfect for parent-kid pairs and nostalgic grownups, but also appropriate for a teen that has no idea who Nancy Drew is.
Delightfully hectic coming-of-age story with elite cooking schools, underground competitive cooking, a city-wide tournament, an ominous mountain spirit with an appetite, and a very well read dog named Buster. The most charming part of reading Flavor was protagonist Xoo’s autonomy and focus in the kitchen. All of the din falls away, and she is creating. Woo Xin Clark nails that expression in the middle of a visually fantastic and loud world.
Where did Amelia Earhart really go all those years ago? Jay Faerber has some ideas. He has created the land of Korvath, where Amelia materializes in the middle of the daring escape of Cort and Tavel - two rebels, fighting against the evil dictator Lord Kragen. Structurally fast paced, Faeber fleshes out this world with agility and surprising touches of whimsical emotion. For instance, the mode of transport in Amelia and the rebels’ escape is a “steed” - a flying dragon-horse with a lion’s mane - but after Amelia lands one for the first time, she takes what is her first moment of realization while the rebels decide what to do with her. She begins to cry, and the steed cries also, as it is an empathic species. Little surprises like this are everywhere in Elsewhere, rendering Korvath and its inhabitants wildly interesting without ever slowing the pace. I finished this volume engulfed in questions that must be answered, and a dire need to read something about Amelia Earhart.
The ghost of a young girl can't remember her story, and a noble owl decides to help her solve that mystery. Sara Richard's illustration of this tale is magic! Open the book to any page and stare, you deserve it. This is a versatile book in that it is all ages, so it can be read as a picture book with a young person (my guess is 7+, with help) or treated as an art book that happens to be a fable.
Yes, this book is as fun as it looks. August & Charlie zoom around town together in a robotic dog suit saving people from peril and will win you over in no time - especially if you enjoy cat jokes and bickering genius types a la Pinky and the Brain. The real star, however, is their loyal servant and sidekick: a sentient litter box robot. Ian Boothby (Futurama, The Powerpuff Girls, The Simpsons, etc) writes snappy, hilarious dialogue and provides the page-turning how're-they-gonna-make-it-out-of-this-one quality of any good action comic, taking care to weave in lessons on friendship and acceptance along the way.
Stone's debut novel burns through expectations and boundaries, searing into your mind as you think and seethe and ponder with Justyce, a 17 year old who has traveled to a private school everyday to make his way to acceptance to Yale, which he succeeded in doing. Unfortunately that doesn't factor when he encounters police at the opening of the book, or when his classmates condescend, or when his own best friend plays along with tone deaf, racist jokes and thinking. He begins writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in an attempt to understand what is happening to him - and get through his last year of high school without getting arrested, or worse. Timely and perfectly paced, Dear Martin is reluctant readers and bookworms alike.
Elmore is a porcupine, covered with prickly quills that make it a little difficult for him to make friends. Though he enjoys solitude, he does long for some company. While talking with his uncle about the issue, he has a brilliant idea: to make quill pens for all of his forest peers! The critters love their new pens, and write him wonderful notes. Elmore understands that the forest critters are only afraid of the quills because they are new and unfamiliar. His lovely idea introduces his quills to his potential friends in a positive light.
Bonus: Hundred Acre Wood-reminiscent illustrations that make me warm inside.
This book was so heartwarming, I died and then came back twice and my heart was still warm. Pup and Bear touches on the existence and necessity of kindness to and teaching of young ones who may or may not "belong" to us, using soft but rich illustrations as well as, of course, wonderful words.
I LOVE this effort to introduce evolutionary science early. The illustrations are fun and convey a concise summary of the human evolutionary story. In the back is an awesome two page infographic spread with more information to help parents answer questions and satisfy curious minds.
In this book Isabelle and her dog Pickle travel through the seasons. Every page they walk is illustrated beautifully to represent the different times of year. The illustrations are thoughtfully, seamlessly blended with the sounds of Vivaldi's four seasons. Even as an adult it's incredible to go through and hear the different seasons as well as see them - it's also an introduction to (or reminder of!) how music can truly transport us to a different place, time or season.
This colorful, fantastically illustrated book is an effort to introduce kids to the very different ways all the creatures of the world see things; at once celebrating the variety and the continuity of life.
Stories that feature cats always catch my eye, but this one is special. With dreamy illustrations, Kang tells the story of Papillion, a cat that is so fluffy (not fat) that he floats about like a feather. This becomes problematic when he finds himself outside with nothing to keep him from floating high above the treetops. His journey is one that is guaranteed to delight readers big and small.
There is a portion of my heart that is always going to fall for a story about a girl and her cat, but the adorable Mr. Fluffernutter and his human really have a great lesson to teach. Being friends sometimes means compromise, and that's okay.
A Small Blue Whale is the kind of story I wish was around when I was young - but I'll settle for reading it again and again now, to whomever will listen. Friendship is hard won and beautiful and this book is anchored in that fact: the only way to have a friend is to be a friend. (p.s. can Lisa Mundroff illustrate my walls? So pretty!)
A book with this many great puns is too good not to love. Bonaparte and his friends remind us that even when we're falling apart, our loved ones (as well as our own indomitable will!) can always pull us together.
Sachar is already a household name, but this gem deserves some love. Each chapter chronicles some shenanigan in the life of a different character, all set at Wayside School. Instead of 30 or so rooms next to each other as intended, all the rooms are stacked up on each other making it into a strange skyscraper. The 13th floor may not exist, and the teachers tend to disappear. As a kid, I read these Sideways Stories until my copy fell apart.
All of us, young ones especially, walk around with a potential: a future that they work for but cannot currently see. This is the Magical Yet, and it is why we learn, practice and master the things we love to do. This book is a lovely reminder to be patient with ourselves and others as everyone works toward their own Yet.
Effie is sent to live with her aunts in Brooklyn, a development that angers her and surprises her elderly relations: they'd never even met Effie! But she soon softens to the idea of staying when the magical nature of her new home becomes apparent. Hilarious and full of heart, this witch's tale is perfect for any young graphic novel reader in your life.
After the 2016 election, Solnit’s essays seemed to serve as a life raft of resolute, intelligent rage as Oak Parkers found themselves drowning in confusion, gasping at the weight of actually looking at how our society works, and who for. This particular collection is deeply relevant to 2020 and was a bit overlooked in the post-election fracas. Solnit is recommended for when you need someone to pick things out of the hurricane of information and injustice and thread them together to make a real and digestible point about the way the world works. She’s not the only one who can do this, but she is one of the best at it living today.
I try to sit with something in this book at least once a week, mentally if not physically. The help in loving one’s own body is a profound relief, and the invitation to love the bodies of the world, and how, is a vital touchstone.
Khan-Cullors’ story is both fire and balm, sharp edge and clean gauze; the injustice will break you open and the truth she extracts from it will put you back together. Indispensable work.
Butch Heroes is a book of portraits in the style of Catholic holy cards, accompanied by a concise history of the person depicted. Brodell, as they note in the introduction, tells the stories of people who, “were assigned female at birth, had documented relationships with women, and whose gender presentation was more masculine than feminine.” Holy cards have historically served as tangible gateways to past struggles, to remember and rely on humans whose trials both lift them to divinity and ground them in humanity.
Despite every effort to burn the roots of our family tree, queer people exist and we study and make art and love each other. Always have. In Butch Heroes there is proof, in that proof is validation.
ATTN ALL QUEER FAM: BEST GIFT FOR THE BOOKISH BUTCH BABES IN YOUR LIFE
I know it looks like Cooke’s book is about how strange animals are, but humans are the real weirdos in it. Throughout history, the interpretation of animals’ bodies and actions have been so fascinatingly, hilariously wrong. Cooke illuminates these silly concepts, such as Caesar insisting that moose don't have knees, and provides the capital T - Truth of the title in their stead. An Oxford zoologist, she lays out the chapters under simple titles indication the animal discussed, the result being a bestiary that is readable in any order you fancy - I skipped ahead to Bat because that’s my current favorite animal to Google, I was not disappointed and happily devoured the rest of the book.
Conversational, fast read. Answers/dispels dumb questions and asks smart ones. Her perspective as a survivor and activist is invaluable, but her writing feels like sitting with a friend over coffee.
The vestiges left in our society from these days - organizing with open racism - is the motivation for Linda Gordon's book, a dissection of the cult that has encouraged and made space for segregation and terrorism in that and this age.
Instead of focusing on the one case, picking apart all the human lives involved and declaring it the most earth shaking of all the moments, Cashin places Loving v. Virginia in its pivotal position at the center of the entire story of interracial intimacy in America. Thorough but concise, she begins the story in 1607 and finishes it with a chapter on "The Rise of the Culturally Dextrous," her hopeful and well researched vision for the future.
Context matters. Understanding anything regarding Puerto Rico's status as a Commonwealth or its complicated history with Spain and the U.S. is a challenge, but a worthy one. Jorge Duany has compiled a succinct volume, laid out in a question-answer format perfect for reading through or referencing on the fly. He ties in cultural aspects often, noting trends and turning points and personally I found it wonderful for finding subjects and people on which I'd like to do further study.
Over the years, many books and documentaries and t shirts heralding the the wolves of Yellowstone have matriculated through our consciousness. With the benefit of hindsight - and 20 years of meticulous field notes, legal proceedings, and media coverage - Blakeslee blends the narratives of the wolves themselves with the human closest to them, a ranger called Rick that never wrote his own book but spent most of his life observing generations of the packs. The most riveting facet, though, is undoubtedly the story of 0-Six, a female alpha whose rise is a tense saga of primal politics. What I find unique about Blakeslee’s story is that there is a concerted effort to avoid attributing human characteristics to animals, leaving a clear and tense narrative of wolves and not the imaginings of the human observer.
The connection between creativity and "madness" is one that has often been made, but Jamison puts it in black and white by analyzing the works and working patterns of iconic artists and writers throughout history. With just the right balance of data (graphs - yay!) and discussion she walks with these giants - Byron, Woolf, Van Gogh and many others - and posthumously diagnoses them with a fervent curiosity and a deep understanding of mental illness. I carried this book around with me for months. First reading it out of order, skipping to my favorite artists to get the skinny on their inner workings, then reading the others, then just reading the whole thing all the way through. To this day this book is always close by, waiting with an insight into the creative minds of my heroes.
This omnibus edition of political essays serves as a modern history of India and the world from the inquisitive eye and poetic mind of Roy. It also has a pretty spine that might replace those ragged copies of her books from over the years, plus a brilliant introduction and any work you may have missed. Or maybe it's the perfect gift for that furiously inquisitive future journalist you know, maybe that writer is you. Whatever brings one to it, her work is a vital example of how to interrogate the powerful where you live in order to save the people you love.
A hard, fascinating read. It sometimes takes the form of a true crime book, but is very much a modern history of the white power movement that picks up at the Vietnam War, showing how a certain strain of military culture specific to that war branched out to modernize the white power movement. In a few ways, this book serves as a missing link - answering questions about exactly how racist and misogynistic war/violence obsessed attitudes not just lasted but percolated, and renewed for this age.
Segrest’s story behaves like a creek - relays the facts in stream with lots of boulders of emotion and human conflicts to break it into two and three tangents, splashing observations as the tangents converge back to chronicle. Her moral journey is girded by constant self-analyzing as she charts the racist structures and people she emerged from, and reflects on how that history affected her activism. Serves as a cautionary tale of cyclical burnout due to overworking and replicating oppressive structures in your activism.