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The Challenge That Dare Not Speak Its Name (and why I love my library)

June 19, 2009

First, I love my library because Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s new book, The Thing Around Your Neck came out on June 16, or Tuesday. I had already put it on hold while it was still in the ‘to be acquired stage.’ It was available for me to pick up on June 18, or Thursday. How amazing is that for turn-around time?! I’m off today to pick it up (along with, um, a few other books). Now on to the challenge…

glbt1Isn’t that the best name for a challenge ever? :) Amanda of Zen Leaf is challenging us to read six books that have either Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered (GLBT) themes or are written by GLBT authors. We have from July 1st to December 31st. Y’all know I can never resist the temptation to make a long book list, so I’ll be reading at least six from the following pool: (mainly fiction, but a few nonfiction, and quite a lot of YA)

  • Maurice by E.M. Forster: Matt of A Guy’s Moleskin Notebook recommends this classic as a great example of gay lit. I happen to have it on my shelves, in an omnibus with A Room with a View and Howard’s End. I loved the first two, so I’m betting I’ll love this one too.
  • The Claudine Novels by Colette : I love Colette! And Claudine has both women and men as lovers, so it fits perfectly with this challenge. :)
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: you didn’t really think I could make a list without Wilde?! I adore him, but I’ve never gotten around to reading his seminal novel. Time to fix that!
  • Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren: anotherMatt recommendation, this focuses on an Olympic athlete and coach. I don’t think I’ve ever read a sports book (lol), so this would be a definite change for me.
  • Landing by Emma Donoghue: this sounds kind of like lesbian chick lit. I don’t read a lot of chick lit, but the premise (a flight attendant and airline passenger falling in love) is too cool to ignore. And the cover is just precious!
  • Affinity by Sarah Waters: I adored Waters’ debut novel Tipping the Velvet when I read it earlier this year, so I’m happy she’s a lesbian author and I can include her second novel on this list!
  • Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin: someone recommended this series of vignettes set in San Francisco to me, although I can’t remember who. Anyway, it centers around the residents of one apartment house.
  • The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff: a novel based on the real-life relationship of transgendered Danish painter and his artist wife.
  • The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson: I just read my first Woodson earlier this year (on the recommendation of Black-Eyed Susan who also recommended this and the next three titles) and loved it. In this YA novel, isolated Staggerlee finds a friend in her adopted cousin, who’s been sent to live with them in order to stop liking girls.
  • From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson: another Woodson YA novel, in which Melanin must deal with his mother’s announcement that she’s in love with a woman.
  • Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole: in this YA novel, a Cuban teen must deal with the consequences of coming out as a lesbian, including being kicked out of Catholic school and her home.
  • Am I Blue? ed. by Marion Dane Bauer: a collection of YA short stories dealing with gay and lesbian themes.
  • Luna by Julie Anne Peters: this YA novel has a beautiful cover! It’s told from the perspective of a teenage girl whose brother is becoming more and more open about his transgendered state.
  • My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr: a YA novel about a freshman girl who accidently ruins the relationship between her older brother and his best friend by asking if they’re a couple.
  • Lucky by Eddie De Oliveira: Memory kindly recommended this YA novel is about a British teen who, his first summer in college, realises he’s bisexual.
  • Normal by Amy Bloom: a nonfiction book summed up by its subtitle “Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude.”
  • I’m Looking Through You by Jennifer Finney Boylan: at first I was going to put her first memoir, She’s Not There, about being raised a boy and becoming a woman on this list. But her second memoir is not only about feeling transgendered as a child, but living in a haunted house!!! I have a *thing* for ghosts (and time travel) so this one immediately became top choice.
  • Whipping Girl by Jila Serano: another book summed up by its subtitle “A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity.” I read a lot of feminist books back in March and April, and I loved them, so I couldn’t resist putting this on the list. :D

For those keeping count, that’s five books each on gay, lesbian, and transgendered themes (I swear I didn’t plan that!), one book that covers everything, and only one (two now! Thanks Memory!) on bisexual themes. I’m very new to this genre, so if anyone has any recommendations (especially for bisexual books), please share! Oh, and if you’re looking for suggestions, I’ve read two great memoirs this year: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (lesbian) and Swish by Joel Derfner (gay man).

(P.S.: Have you asked a question to help me write a review yet? I’ll love you forever if you do! And today’s your last chance.)

22 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2009 6:41 am

    I love your selections! I’m trying to take note of everyone’s choices, because I want to hold this challenge every year and I’m not always the most knowledgeable about modern books. :)

  2. June 19, 2009 6:59 am

    That’s great, Eva. I’m doing the challenge too – it looks so interesting. You have some great choices – I haven’t picked out mine yet so I may be temped to look up a few of yours ;-)

  3. June 19, 2009 7:00 am

    I’m very, very jealous of your library’s turn around time! Mine usually takes 4-6 months to process new books. YA stuff takes way longer, while bestsellers are sometimes a little quicker.

    You’ve got some great books on your challenge list, too. THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY is wonderful. If your library has it, I’d also recommend LUCKY by Eddie… Alvaro? Alverez? Something like that. It’s a YA novel about a guy who realizes he’s bisexual.

  4. June 19, 2009 7:24 am

    What a great idea for a challenge and such a good selection you have come up with. If you love wilde you have to read Dorian Gray. It’s fantastic! And I am really impressed with how quickly your library processed the new book. Your library has a good staff!

  5. June 19, 2009 8:33 am

    I agree. That’s a great name for a challenge. Great list. Can’t wait to hear all about those books!

  6. June 19, 2009 10:12 am

    Eva! I absolutely ADORE Dorian Gray, even though I admit it took a college class for me to finally get around to reading it! It’s a masterpiece and one of my favorite “classics”.

    And seriously, I love your list. They’re like mixed CD’s for the bookies of the world. *grin*

    I’m super stoked about this challenge as well.

  7. June 19, 2009 11:46 am


    Thank you so much for leaving me a question in this week’s Weekly Geek post.

    I have posted my answers here:

  8. June 19, 2009 11:47 am

    Where have I been? I had no clue she had a new book out! Oh, must look for it…

    Have fun with your challenge. Sadly, I’ve only read one of your book choices, Affinity, but it was wonderful so hope you’ll love it.

  9. June 19, 2009 2:54 pm

    Great reading list. I think I’ll sign up to do this challenge, too. Though I probably would have met the goal on my own anyway.

    Is that cheating?

  10. June 19, 2009 3:15 pm

    Oh my. I already made a loooong list of my own for this challenge, but now you’ve got me wanting to add significantly to it. Oh well…no harm in that, is there? :)

  11. June 19, 2009 4:38 pm

    I only learnt this morning that Adichie has a new book out. I have put in my request at the library where it is still on order, but I am number 1. I love getting a brand new book from the library – new book smell but no new book price!

  12. June 19, 2009 7:32 pm

    Amanda, I had to do some digging to come up with the list! :)

    Cezzie, steal away. :D

    Memory, wow: that makes me appreciate my library more! But it doesn’t have the Lucky book you recommended, although it has another by him.

    Stefanie, it has great staff! :)

    Christina, it seems I’ll be reading Dorian Gray first after everyone loves it! And what a great thing to call my reading lists!!!

    Bookwormans, thanks for leacing a link!

    Iliana, it’s a short story collection. :)

    CB, I don’t think it’s cheating! I joined the ‘support your library’ challenge, lmao.

    Debi, definitely no harm in that! And I love seeing you back!

    Marg, I’m totally with you on that!

  13. June 20, 2009 1:49 am

    I second your recommendation of Swish–it is quite possibly the best book ever written.

  14. June 20, 2009 1:53 am

    (I would have used an emoticon to show that I was joking but I loathe emoticons so I have to leave this follow-up comment. If I were more in possession of my faculties I would have thought to say this in the first comment but obviously I am so old now that dementia is setting in.)

  15. June 20, 2009 4:40 pm

    May I suggest Self-Made Man by Nora Vincent. I thought it was pretty good. Not that you need another book to add!

  16. June 20, 2009 6:27 pm

    While I haven’t read it yet, I know quite a few bloggers loved James St. James’ Freak Show about young, gay Billy who struggles to fit in at his new school.

  17. June 21, 2009 3:32 pm

    Joel, thanks for visiting! But if you loathe emoticons, I’m sure you’ll be annoyed very quickly; I use them all the time just to help communicate in a non-body language arena.

    Mee, thanks for the suggestion!

    Christina, I read Freak Show a few months ago. It was crazy, but good.

  18. June 23, 2009 8:14 pm

    Thanks for the news on the challenge. I dont think I can sign up for this one, but I would be interested in picking a title or two from your great list. I’ll be watching from the sidelines and reading vicariously through your reviews.

  19. June 26, 2009 4:03 pm

    Tamara, thanks!

  20. June 28, 2009 11:13 am

    Oh Eva–Thank you thank you thank you! I joined this challenge but have no idea what to read other than Fingersmith. I’ve read a number of GLBT books throughout the years, but sexual orientation isn’t something I always pay attention to when reading or picking a book. You’ve given me a great list!!

    And I agree that Fun Home is so great.

  21. August 18, 2009 3:58 pm

    Great list, especially because DG is on there. Are you planning to see the new film?

  22. Danika the Lesbrarian permalink
    April 11, 2010 8:26 pm

    You can’t go wrong with Sarah Waters or Emma Donoghue (though I have only read two of hers). My favorite Sarah Waters novels are Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet, and Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch is a must.

    I also loved Swish and Fun Home!

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