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Addie Tsai’s debut novel is queer AF, and it’s YA, to boot. At the heart of the book is Poppy, a smart, flawed Asian teen with a penchant for pop culture. By writing a series of letters, she tries to unpack childhood trauma and untangle thorny relationships with her domineering father and her mirror twin Lola, who recently vanished. Meanwhile, Poppy is (happily) entangled in a tender relationship with her supportive soft butch girlfriend, Juniper. When one of the teens suggests experimenting with a strap on, I might have squeed aloud and startled my sleepy cat. (Sorry, little Zelda. My heart swells for young queers in love.)
Arielle Twist’s debut book of poetry was a finalist for the Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature, and it’s easy to understand why. Twist, a Nehiyaw, Two-Spirit, trans femme, has written a volatile, combustible, and incandescent collection. Really, it’s a string of linguistic firecrackers, each poem crackling and sparking with anger and intelligence, loss and longing. In the blistering poem “The Girls,” she writes, “I am the kind of girl you found love with in those dark holes / love that you abandoned for being too much / too trans? too brown? too fat? too femme? too tall? / I am the kind of girl who knows I am too much.”
Ali Blythe’s second poetry book, a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, is filled with crisp, sinewy poems about transitioning, healing, gender, sobriety, animals, and love. Blythe is a clear-eyed, whip-smart trans poet whose poems stopper time and telegraph halting everyday revelations, as when he describes “the wonderful softness / of our own gendery animalia” (in “Waking in the Preceding”). This quietly astonishing book might break your heart. Take, for example, these lines from “My Animal Family”: “I don’t have any / love for you anymore, / we say to each other / in this order: / she goes first / and I never say a thing.”
Kai Cheng Thom is a whirlwind of creativity. She’s a writer, performer, and community healer, but I’m starting to wonder if she might also be a legit witch. I Hope We Choose Love, which was recently awarded the Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature, is the exact book we need right fucking now. (Indeed, the book’s subtitle is A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World. Kinda uncanny, kinda witchy, right?!) Its potent, nuanced essays and poems cover everything from love and justice to family and forgiveness. In recent months, I have repeatedly recommended this hopeful, helpful, and healing book to friends, lovers, queer and trans kin, and strangers. Like any good book of spells, it packs a punch.
Ben Ladouceur’s second book of poetry is funny, sad, dreamy, and sexy. I seldom tilt towards masculinity, but I’d probably let this profoundly gay book seduce me. Plus, it has a good brain. (As a line in the book’s dedication page informs us, “A book is a tree a brain gives a brain to.” So, it would probably even be fun to chat with when we cuddle and share a post-coital snack.) The opening lines of the book’s first poem (“Vulgaris”) give a tantalizing taste of the charming, clever poems ahead: “I was on my bicycle the week of the lilacs. / The blossoms were descending and the birds were down to fuck.”
Trans artist of colour Vivek Shraya is a wonder. In the last 10 years, she has created brilliant works in every genre imaginable, including a recent one-woman play. Her latest novel is a smart, tender page-turner about two brown musicians whose friendship is frayed via social media. It’s funny and incisive about everything from allyship and racism to collaboration and communication. One of the musicians is trans, but this fact is conveyed so concisely and perfectly (i.e., via an Instagram hashtag) that I literally said aloud, “oh, wow, fuck, yes.” (And, omg, I almost forgot to attach a batch of apt emojis: fire, two glittering microphones, femme friends hugging, a cellphone, a tornado, two hurt hearts, bandages.)
Hazel Jane Plante is a queer trans librarian, cat photographer, and writer. Her debut novel Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) is a finalist for a Lambda Literary award, a Publishing Triangle award, and a BC and Yukon Book Prize. She currently lives in Vancouver on the unceded ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and sə̓lílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.