8 Black Voices to Read for Pride Month

To uplift black voices as much as possible in light of George Floyd’s murder, a new hashtag was created for PitMad today: #BVM for Black Voices Matter. As I was trying to think about what I could possibly do to help, I realized books were the answer for me. Racism trains people to not see a certain group of people as fellow human beings, whether in almost unconscious ways or blatant, intentional ways.

As author Matt Haig has eloquently stated,

reading “is how human merge. How minds quietly and deeply connect and expand. Empathy. Understanding. Escape. Reading is love in action.”

Hearing black voices and “merging” with their experiences is so important as we fight to overcome racism (This is an eye-opening thread on the development of racism in a baby’s brain). While I was thinking of doing a list of recommendations for pride month, I tried to think of black voices I’d read in this genre, and I was disappointed in how little there were. So I’ve compiled this exciting list of books to read representing black voices in LGBTQ literature.

1. The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum

I read The Wicker King by Ancrum–another great book for Pride Month–and was blown away by what Ancrum captures in such short, breathless chapters. I don’t read as much f/f as m/m books, and that needs to change. So why not start with a delinquent-meets-loner enemies-to-lovers romance with space themes? And it’s only 2.99 on Amazon right now!

2. Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

I am a sucker for mental health books. This Stonewall Book Award Winner with Suzette returning home from boarding school to be there for her bipolar step brother and—not intentionally—fall in love with his crush had me even before that gorg cover. Nicola Yoon calls it “beautifully insightful, honest, and compassionate. Brandy’s ability to find larger meaning in small moments is nothing short of dazzling.”

3. Real Life by Brandon Taylor

An introvert Southern black queer trying to eke out his post secondary education in biochem has his walls unexpectedly broken down by his community of classmates and friends. Goodreads says Real Life has been “named one of the most anticipated books of the year by Entertainment WeeklyHarper’s BazaarBuzzFeed, and more.” I need this book in my life immediately.

4. By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery

by any means

Stories about kids trying to rise from their rough beginnings will always have a special place with me. Throw into that a late beloved uncle’s bee farm at risk for foreclosure and a boy navigating first love while trying to pin down a college major, and I am THERE.

5. Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Black

Nominated for the Lamda Award, best horror novel for the Locus Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Speculative Fiction (Ray Bradbury Prize), this African history and myth-inspired novel appears to dispense universal messages while providing an engrossing adventure. I can’t believe I haven’t already read this book.

6. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Color Purple

I wish I had explored more novels by authors whose short stories I loved in school. “Everyday Use” had such a powerful effect on me—I haven’t read it in years and my throat just got tight thinking about it. I had no idea this novel had LGBT themes though!

7. Go Tell it On the Mountain by James Baldwin

Go Tell it On the Moutain

Another one of those authors who I wish I had checked out their novels after reading their short fiction. I loved “Sonny’s Blues”, like exactly every single other person who has ever read the story, right? I am eager to read this passionate coming of age classic about a 14 year old stepson to a minister, exploring his identity in 1935 Harlem.

8. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Invisible

I picked up this novel years ago and was absolutely engrossed by Ellison’s prose. I never  got as far as the horrifying sequence of the narrator’s story, however, so I will be changing that and picking this book up again.  In researching, there is some intriguing literary criticism regarding homoerotic undertones depicted in the novel. I look forward to unraveling it all. I think the novel’s difficulty renders it indispensable to this list.


Have you read any of these? Or do you have another favorite LGBTQ novel by a black author? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments! 

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2019 Book Awards

I read 50 books in 2019. I rated many of them 5 stars, which is kind of a rare situation for one who avidly reads. I think it just means that in my advanced years, I am able to gauge what I will like. While I’m sure you’d love to hear me talk about all 50 of them, I will merely forcefully recommend all of the awards winners here with gorgeous cover thumbnails and vague categories that leave you salivating for more, and of course, my favorites at the bottom. A fellow Instagrammer inspired the Oscars-style roundup layout, without which, this would have been a much longer post.

 Longest Book & Best Worldbuilding

Strongest cast & Most Unique

Best Female Lead

Alice Proserpine, The Hazel Wood
or
Cassie Maddox, Into the Woods and The Likeness

Best Male Lead

Sean Kendrick, The Scorpio Races
or
Declan Lynch, Call Down the Hawk

And the winner, for my

Best Read of 2019

is

scorpio races

“It’s the surf in your face, the deadly magic of November on your skin, the Scorpio drums in the place of your heartbeat…it’s life and it’s death or it’s both, and there’s nothing like it.”

 

That’s it. That’s the book.

 

My favorite thing about this stunning fantasy is that you can reach out and feel the November iciness of the break, the steam rising from the horses’ flanks. It’s legend breathed to life. If this wasn’t already featuring as my favorite novel last year, it would be boasting the award for most atmospheric with Stiefvater’s fictional island, Thisby, and all of its traditions and prejudices. In an interview, Stiefvater said she traveled to cliffs all over the world to find the exact ones she saw in her mind:

 

“I went to four sets of cliffs. You didn’t believe me when I said I was obsessed. California, Yorkshire, and Dover, England are the other three. And then last year, I was in Paris with my husband in December, and it was snowing. It was the first time it had snowed in Paris in years and years. I’m with my husband, without the kids, in the City of Love. I have a day off from doing author things and I told him, ‘Rent a car. We’re driving to the cliffs in Normandy.’ “

 

 

That is serious dedication to building atmosphere. Like my favorites of Stiefvater’s novels, if you go into it a little bit blind, you’ll reach the end seeing in technicolor.

 

 

Other 2019 favorites

  • The first four in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad Series
  • Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron
  • Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Less by Andrew Sean Greer

 

What were your favorite reads last year? If you read any of these, what did you think? Any special 2020 reading goals?
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If you want to write, write

I doubt myself as a writer a lot. Despite knowing this is part of the fear-before-leaping process after finishing a project, I doubt myself anew each and every time. After all, who do I think I am to write a novel? To create lives and conversations and homes and tragedies? These questions do not go away; no book gets easier. How could it be easier to splatter yourself on the page for not only others to see but yourself? Even if your work is not about you or your life or anyone in it, your work is still you. Every time you create, you are confronted with the shape of your soul and brain. Whether you’ve done it once, or seven times, or twenty-five times, it does not get easier.

20191215_173642 (1)

So last night, when I was keenly feeling this doubt, I did what I always do. I turned to books. I opened the door on my bookshelf and knelt before my little writer self-help section (see above). The first book I opened was Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I have been reading this on and off for a couple of years, and every time I pick it up, whatever section I open is exactly what I am going through. I opened it to “Doubt is Torture”, and read:

“If you want to write, write…have a tenderness and determination toward your writing, a sense of humor and a deep patience that you are doing the right thing.”

I immediately got a pen and sat back down. As I read, looking for guidance on how to keep pushing through this, on how to write when I absolutely did not want to plot but when I knew I needed a road map, my doubt was soothed. Inspiration would come in time. And it did.

Here is something I’ve learned: I found that I am inspired by nonfiction more than fiction. I have read a ton recently and while my best friend always wants to write after reading beautiful language, I remain a fat, happy voyeur–a reader. To be inspired to write, I need the left side of my brain stimulated. Another writing buddy told me that she loves the way I write about writing, and I think this is because dissecting writing gives me my life-force. During my drought after my last completed novel, I’ve been turning to other means of creativity to try and loosen that muscle, like attempting guitar and piano (ha) and drawing, which I don’t really do anymore, because it’s less of a struggle for me. I can look at something I’ve drawn and see the flaws and how to fix them. With drawing, I can tangibly see that practice makes (an approximation) of perfect. Writing is harder, and unfortunately, more gratifying for that exact reason. I learned last night that while some people like writing because they know they are good at it, I like it because it’s harder for me than most other things. Here is something else I’ve learned: my writing process is not linear or in any way organized. Here is something else I’ve learned: Everyone does this differently. Here is something else I’ve learned: The act of writing itself will not get easier.

What does get easier is understanding your process, which allows you more compassion with yourself. Goldberg assures the writer that “each [book] will get better because you have all the more practice behind you.” But I affirm that the more you write, the more your understand how you work and how you’ve grown with each terrifying leap into a new book.

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Reaffirmation

With the newest publication of a beloved author on the horizon, she’s been live-tweeting as she reads one of my favorite works of hers. Naturally, I am comparing myself to her and finding myself lacking. Yes, folks, you can make negative, unhealthy comparisons to someone for which you hold pure admiration.

As I sit here making my mental comparisons, I  wonder why I even bother. What do I even have to say that’s worthy of anyone’s time? Does my work have any Meaning? (I promise the tone of this post turns around).  But as I cuddle my sick toddler, I open one of my poems on a whim, Nest.

That poem still makes me so proud. My epiphany, however, was noticing the poetic devices I employed, some intentionally like the image of home, but more importantly, some unintentional, like my partial rhymes. And then the end of it, how everything just came together and…happened. How I had written no less than 10 poems before this poem, trying to capture my emotions about being a new mother and having lost my father, and that final stanza expressed everything I felt more clearly than all of those attempts combined.

I think that, that final marriage of meaning, form, feeling, and rightness is a key to this whole “what do I even have to offer anyone” question. That poem almost created itself, using me as a vessel; I didn’t have the option to not create it. Is that enough to give work meaning? To say, I HAVE to write, therefore it has meaning. I don’t think so. What I have to offer is how much I enjoyed creating it, and THAT gives it meaning, because if you did it right, others can feel that coming through.

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Time Consuming

Clock

I’ve been watching YouTube videos reading about manifestation through parallel realities, how envisioning what you want as reality can manifest it. Well, at the risk of sounding like someone who just joined a cult, it worked. Liquid Imagination published my poem, Time Consuming, today! I love this poem and the little monster inside me that whispered these words. You can read it AND listen to it for free (shout out to my husband for all of his EQ-ing and recording program wizardry)! I feel like this poem and the beast at the heart of it exquisitely translates to audio. This publication is extra exciting, because I’ve always wanted to be a voice actor or audiobook narrator. Don’t worry. I’m not one of those weirdos who is immune to hearing my voice on a recording. See tweet below for evidence.

But I do enjoy reading aloud. I’ve always been faster at understanding what I’m hearing than silent reading. I will say though, after twelve takes of this poem, I appreciate how much work goes into audiobooks.

In my last post, I suggested some different mediums to celebrate Women in Horror Month. For more ways to commemorate, check out Annie Neugebauer’s 9 Ways to Celebrate Women in Horror Month on Lit Reactor. In keeping with Annie’s third way to celebrate this month, I have to give a shout out to another woman in horror who gets me to my desk every Sunday morning to dabble in my dark proclivities: Carie Juettner. We met back in 2013, and our history just goes to show that online friendships can be just as strong. We’ve exchanged snail mail, attended a horror conference together, and traded our horror stories, novels, and poetry over these last six years. Check out her poem Night Walk in Dreams & Nightmares and her shudderingly good story Makeup, which you can listen to on Tales To Terrify. The narrator is fantastique!

To close out Women in Horror Month, I also want to share my first ever published work, The Insolubility of Nightmares, published by Hello Horror in 2013. Cutting a path for oneself in writing of any kind is an arduous, time-consuming process. Because of my publication today, three years since my horror flash, “The Wake“, and because I like circles, it seemed befitting to dedicate this post to the friendly person and fierce writer who inspired me to first submit my work, Annie Neugebauer.


If you checked out my first poem, The Insolubility of Nightmares, or read/listen to my new poem, Time Consuming, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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