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LGBTQIA+ Young Adult Literature

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Call for Submissions: Sexual Violence in LGBTQIAP+ YA

For Sexual Assault Awareness Month we want to shine a light on representation of sexual violence in LGBTQIAP+ Young Adult literature. Or, rather, the lack thereof– there are not very many characters in LGBTQIAP+ YA who are survivors of sexual violence.

I have wanted to do this project for a long time. Sexual violence radically impacted my teenage years and there were so few resources (especially for a queer, trans teen) to turn to. LGBTQIAP+ YA was instrumental to my process of figuring out my queer, trans identity. Unfortunately, it left me stranded with figuring out how to cope with being a queer, trans survivor. Not only did it not represent my experience, it also didn’t show me representations of sex and romance I could relate to. While I loved (and still love!) romantic and/or sexual stories, I couldn’t see myself in the characters. Who were these teens who kissed like it was nothing? Who shared their feelings with each other without shutting down? Who could make out or have sex without any long, awkward conversations about why you might completely freak out if they touched you in a certain way? I had no models for how to approach my own romantic/sexual relationships. I was really scared and confused throughout my teen years, and it would have changed so much see my experience represented in fiction.

Now, I really want to explore different ways of writing experiences of survivors and the importance of having these experiences represented in YA. While this can be an extremely difficult subject, it can also be a fun and funny one to explore, especially in community with other survivors.

So! Are you interested in being a part of this project? If so, awesome! I’m so happy you found your way here. Here are the ways you can contribute to this project:

1: choose your own adventure. For this project, you can send me basically whatever you want that touches somewhat on the subject at hand. This can be in any format. Some suggestions:

  • essay
  • paragraph or two of your thoughts
  • link to a tweet thread/tumblr post/instagram/blog post in which you’ve discussed sexual violence
  • list of things you want to see represented in sex scenes in LGBTQIAP+ YA
  • list of survivors’ experience you want to see in LGBTQIAP+ YA
  • audio recording of your thoughts
  • response to a specific sex scene in YA that you really loved or disliked
  • interview with a friend. (send me the audio, a transcript, or some key takeaways. use our questions or come up with your own!)
2: answer the questions directly! feel free to pick and choose which questions you want to answer.
  • Can you describe your experience in whatever way is comfortable to share?
  • Did you talk to anyone about what happened? Did you worry about what people would think/say/do if you told them? What types of things were you worried about?
  • What was your own internal dialogue about the experience?
  • What impact did this experience have on your relationships (of all sorts)?
  • What was it like negotiating sex and relationships before (if there was a before) and after the sexual violence?
  • If you could go back and tell your kid/teen self one thing, what would it be?
  • What helped you survive?
  • Did you see sexual violence represented in the media as a teen? If so, how was it represented?
  • What was the first time you saw a reflection of your experience? How did it change things? (Or, alternatively, have you ever seen one? and if not, what would it mean to you to see one?)
  • What would it have meant for you to see your experience represented as a teen?
  • What kinds of resources do you hope that kids and teens today are able to have?
  • Some survivors talk about having two stories: one that is polished and easy for people to understand, and another one that is messy and complicated and weird that we keep private. I feel like often, especially in YA, we only get the sanitized versions of sexual violence survival stories. Are there any specific, messier experiences you would like to see represented in YA?
  • As a survivor, what would you like to see in LGBTQIAP+ YA sex scenes? How would you like to see characters talk about sex?

HOW TO SUBMIT:

Please send all submissions to contact@yapride.org. If you would like, please feel free to include some information about yourself, a short bio, and/or social media links. (This is not required!) Submit by April 18th.

DETAILS:

  • Anonymity: You can be anonymous or use a nickname, first name, or full name. If you ever want your answers taken down or your name removed, I am happy to do that. We have removed whole posts and names from posts in the past. If that ever becomes an issue or concern, please get in touch. I am happy to remove whatever is needed.
  • BIPOC Prioritization: We will be centering voices of BIPOC contributors. If you are White, feel free to still submit, but we may not use your submission this time around.
  • Compensation: Unfortunately we are currently not able to offer monetary compensation. We are hoping to change this in the near future. If this is a deal breaker for you, we completely understand! We are more than happy, however, to link to contributors’ Patreons, Ko-Fis, Kickstarters, Paypals, and more. And we will of course link to personal websites, social media accounts, etc, if so desired. Just let us know!
  • 18+: For this project, we are only looking for submissions from people 18 years of age and older.

-Vee

By | April 15th, 2019|Categories: Updates and Announcements|Tags: |Comments Off on Call for Submissions: Sexual Violence in LGBTQIAP+ YA

Women’s History Month Book List

By Kaitlin Mitchell

Happy Women’s History Month, readers! This list is a celebration of the strength of women. Of all women. Women of color. Women of different sexual and romantic orientations. Trans women. Women with mental illnesses and disabilities.

Queer teen girls who are reading this list–this is a celebration of your strength.

Here are 20 LGBTQIAP+ YA books to celebrate Women’s History Month with. Happy reading!

Out now:

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.

On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

 

Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi

Sana Khan is a cheerleader and a straight A student. She’s the classic (somewhat obnoxious) overachiever determined to win.

Rachel Recht is a wannabe director who’s obsesssed with movies and ready to make her own masterpiece. As she’s casting her senior film project, she knows she’s found the perfect lead – Sana.

There’s only one problem. Rachel hates Sana. Rachel was the first girl Sana ever asked out, but Rachel thought it was a cruel prank and has detested Sana ever since.

Told in alternative viewpoints and inspired by classic romantic comedies, this engaging and edgy YA novel follows two strongwilled young women falling for each other despite themselves.

 

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

I was chosen by the Deos. Even gods make mistakes.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo she can’t trust, but who may be Alex’s only chance at saving her family.

 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship–one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self–even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

 

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan 

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?

 

Wild Beauty Anna-Marie McLemore

Love grows such strange things.

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

 

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

A new kind of big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?

 

The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding

Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby has stayed focused on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a prized internship at her favorite local boutique, she’s thrilled to take her first step into her dream career. She doesn’t expect to fall for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Abby knows it’s a big no-no to fall for a colleague. She also knows that Jordi documents her whole life in photographs, while Abby would prefer to stay behind the scenes.

Then again, nothing is going as expected this summer. She’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win a paid job at the boutique. She’s somehow managed to befriend Jax, a lacrosse-playing bro type who needs help in a project that involves eating burgers across L.A.’s eastside. Suddenly, she doesn’t feel like a sidekick. Is it possible Abby’s finally in her own story?

But when Jordi’s photography puts Abby in the spotlight, it feels like a betrayal, rather than a starring role. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image that other people have of her?

Is this just Abby’s summer of fashion? Or will it truly be The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles)?

 

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Mara and Owen are about as close as twins can get. So when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can the brother she loves really be guilty of such a violent crime? Torn between the family she loves and her own sense of right and wrong, Mara is feeling lost, and it doesn’t help that things have been strained with her ex-girlfriend and best friend since childhood, Charlie.

As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie navigate this new terrain, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits in her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

 

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

TW: violence and sexual abuse.

 

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.

He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.

Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.

 

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

 

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.

 

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

 

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz

A beautiful and evocative look at identity and creativity, The Gallery of Unfinished Girls is a stunning debut in magical realism. Perfect for fans of The Walls Around Us and Bone Gap.

Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile in the past year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is in a coma. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she hasn’t ever before. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

 

Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.

That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.

Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer—but can she track them down before they come for her?

 

Upcoming:

THE LAST 8 by Laura Pohl (March 5, 2019)

Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.

When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.

Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.

 

THE WEIGHT OF STARS by K. Ancrum (March 19, 2019)

Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the wrong side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends.

One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.

Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more . . .

 

BIRTHDAY by Meredith Russo (May 21, 2019)

Two kids, Morgan and Eric, are bonded for life after being born on the same day at the same time. We meet them once a year on their shared birthday as they grow and change: as Eric figures out who he is and how he fits into the world, and as Morgan makes the difficult choice to live as her true self. Over the years, they will drift apart, come together, fight, make up, and break up—and ultimately, realize how inextricably they are a part of each other.

 

 

THE GRIEF KEEPER by Alexandra Villasante (June 11, 2019)

Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber’s, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as “an illegal”, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border.

But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.

 

By | March 3rd, 2019|Categories: Archive, Book Lists, Fun Things|Comments Off on Women’s History Month Book List

My Kind of Story

Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week Series

by Laura Pohl

I’ve always loved reading love stories.

There was nothing like opening a book to find a sweeping romance on its pages, love stories like I’d never seen before. Love stories that defied everything, society, family, even death. They were stories that made me fiercely believe in this powerful, unknown force. Stories that were impossible.

I never even stopped to consider that it’s what love always meant for me: something impossible.

It took me a while to understand my place while I was still in high school. Every single person was having high school girlfriend/boyfriend dramas. Everyone wanted someone to fall in love with. I did, too, because that’s what I read about. That’s what I knew.

Every love story I’d ever loved kept coming back to haunt me. I looked around as people fell in and out of love, and at the same time, I looked around me and felt nothing. I thought that people were cute, here and there, but there was nothing beyond that. Nothing of the shaky knees, nothing of that wild heartbeat, nothing of seeing someone and forgetting how to speak. Nothing at all.

After a while, I got used to it. I didn’t have a name for it, just thought it was somehow a part of me that had come out broken or malfunctioning. I didn’t really stop reading romances, but I realized that was something I wasn’t going to have. Maybe I didn’t have the right to one, maybe we were all born to a type of story and mine just wasn’t about romantic love.

The stories I wrote were a little different.

When I started writing them, I didn’t want them to be just about romances. I loved romances a lot, but that was all I got to read—every single YA I picked up there was another love story staring at me from the pages. Girl meets boy, boy meets girl. Sometimes there was the happy variation of girl meets girl, boy meets boy. Those were the exceptions which I devoured because they had something new and fresh about them.

They still weren’t my stories, not exactly.

I first heard the word aromantic while I was in university.

By then I’d figured out a couple more things about myself. I’d gotten used to identifying as bisexual, because I definitely felt some type of attraction to people of all genders. I just couldn’t place that attraction yet. I’d heard of asexual first, but that label didn’t exactly fit me. Aromantic, though, was like opening up a door to my house I knew all along, and finding all those childhood memories that I’d somehow left behind.

It’s not a word that’s used a lot. Half of the time, I don’t think I have it entirely figured out either. But mostly, it fits. It feels right.

When I started writing The Last 8, I knew what I wanted to write. For the first time, I wanted to write about someone like me. Someone who survived the end of the world and wasn’t worried about their significant other. Just someone trying to survive on their own. I wanted to write a story about friendship and family and surviving, and have none of these things be a romantic love story.

Clover, the main character in The Last 8, is aromantic, like me. She’s my type of story.

There were a lot of things that changed in the drafting process while I was still learning how to write and what to keep. I polished and revised this story many times, but one thing never changed—Clover wasn’t interested in a romance. She had a boyfriend, who she broke up with because she just didn’t feel the same way about him as he did. She wasn’t in love with him, never was.

I got questioned about it. I even had an offer from a publisher for the manuscript, with one condition—that I ended up changing the end so Clover “learned to love again”.

Those were their words. Learn to love again, as if there was something wrong if she didn’t love on their terms.

The most fascinating thing to me is that I can’t see The Last 8 as anything but a love story. It’s about one girl learning to love herself, to love her friends. It’s about the love I’ve always experienced—the love of friendship, of people bonding without romance, people willing to go anywhere for each other.  

Clover loves, in her terms. In my own terms.

Love isn’t just romance. We can’t keep reading romance and thinking that’s all there is. Love takes many different forms, and we should be able to read about all of them, to write them freely and without worry. Love shouldn’t be restrained to a bond between two people and being strictly romantic. I don’t want to write books that are just about kissing. I want to write much more than that.

I still love reading love stories.  But I like mine a little different—maybe they’re about a significant other. But maybe they are about family. Maybe they are about friends. Maybe they are more than just romance.

Maybe they are just about being able to love yourself.

In the end, they’re all still love stories.

THE LAST 8

A HIGH-STAKES SURVIVAL STORY ABOUT EIGHT TEENAGERS WHO OUTLIVE AN ALIEN ATTACK—PERFECT FOR FANS OF THE 5TH WAVE

Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.

When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.

Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe… or who to trust.

PRE-ORDER: AMAZON | INDIEBOUND | BARNES&NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY

Don't forget to add The Last 8 on Goodreads!

Laura Pohl is a YA writer and the author of THE LAST 8 (Sourcebooks, 2019). She likes writing messages in caps lock, quoting Hamilton and obsessing about Star Wars. When not taking pictures of her dog, she can be found curled up with a fantasy or science-fiction book. A Brazilian at heart and soul, she makes her home in São Paulo.  

By | February 21st, 2019|Categories: Archive|Comments Off on My Kind of Story

The Aromantic and Asexual Database: A Shield Against Illusions

Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week Series

by Claudie Arseneault

There is no asexual or aromantic representation out there.

Here it is. The greatest illusion of asexual and aromantic representation.

We all know lies often repeated embed themselves in our collective knowledge and pass as truth. This single sentence is what brought about the Aromantic and Asexual Characters Database.

Again and again and again, I would read these words, and they dragged on my soul. I believed in them for so long–believed that googling extensively to find stories with asexual characters would lead me nowhere, that I didn’t exist in fiction (did I even exist at all?) and that no one cared. The situation was even worse for aromantic characters. When I asked about them, I often received only recommendations for books with asexual characters with an undetermined romantic orientation. Worse, some even had alloromantic MCs! Neither really touched upon what it was like to be aromantic, except at times in passing. This knowledge sat heavy with me. It felt like the only books people recommended had been deconstructed by my community as potentially harmful, but that these were all we had, and I should be happy with it.

There is no asexual or aromantic representation out there.

Those words only ring true within a certain context. Once I started moving around indie spaces, I witnessed the effervescent creativity of my fellow ace writers, discovered their work, and it had so much ace representation! It was out there, waiting for me. So I read, and saw my experiences mirrored, over and over, sometimes strikingly different yet always familiar, connective. I did exist, away from mainstream media where the pressure of allonormativity was weaker and writers had more freedom.

There is no asexual or aromantic representation out there.

The words still dragged on my soul. No representation? Didn’t we count–we, the indies writing ownvoices stories in the shadows, baring our experiences in a wide variety of formats and genres? I knew, of course, why we didn’t make the cut: the “out there” really means “within mainstream media and traditional publishing”. Indies often aren’t treated as part of the publishing landscape–we’re never considered ‘the first’, not even when we’ve been around for years. The erasure and disdain hurt, moreso because I knew many who still believed those words, who would be discouraged by them and not search for themselves.

There is no asexual or aromantic representation out there.

It’s a pervasive idea–one that has evolved to “very little representation out there”–but gets perpetuated even today, preluding lists of examples that are too-often all trad publishing. But I’m here to tell you: there are at least 300 different aromantic or asexual characters out there, only counting prose, only counting those I’ve heard of. I have no doubt this number will grow past 400 before the year is over. While only a limited number of those are readily available in print bookstores and libraries, traditional publishing is finally catching up and that number is growing.

There is no asexual or aromantic representation out there.

There is a lot of asexual and aromantic representation out there.

And I’m here to help you find it!

This is why I created the asexual and aromantic characters in prose fiction database (“the AroAce Database”) : as a shield against that lie.

Once I had set myself to the task, I needed to decide what information I wanted recorded in the database. What struck me is that while we were all looking for representation, we’re a community with a wide variety of experiences, and none of us wanted quite the same thing. I would hear people complain about a lack of happy-and-single aroaces who firmly wanted nothing to do with sex and romance while others craved acespec representation and asexual characters in relationships and enjoying sex! Both these groups were convinced the other part of the community had it easy (they were both wrong and right; speculative fiction slants towards aroaces while contemporary and romance has a larger proportion of alloromantic and spectrum rep but few aroaces).

This led me to focus on marking specific experiences within the large communities of asexual and aromantic people. I would search for the specific ace label used, mark down romantic relationships and QPRs, kept a column for gender, etc. This way, if someone wanted an ace f/f romance, they could easily filter out everything else. I also included story length to allow people to discriminate between quick reads and long, more demanding novels. It became very easy to narrow down the search according to your own personal set of criteria.

I decided not to include disability and races–I didn’t know how to label these in categories that would remain easily searchable without lumping things I shouldn’t together and flattening complex topics, and I was feeling terribly out of my depth and lane. This is, by far, the decision I regret the most. They should have been there from the start, and going back to add these on 300 characters is a lot more work than keeping track as I went would have been. I’ve made notes of those I knew in the representation notes, but this is what my next major update is about. I’ve grown a lot over the last years, and I feel better equipped to handle this (and I have a stabler income to pay the disabled aroaces of colour to check my categorization, too).

My database has its faults, but I love it deeply and I’m incredibly proud of the work I’ve achieved with it. While maintaining it takes considerable time, it gives me an overview of the representation out there, puts me more in touch with my community, and lets me discover and promote their work in addition to mine. As time passes, it even allows me track how our stories have evolved over time. It’s an incredible tool bound to become better as time passes and I add more features to it or around it.

Things have picked up quite a lot for asexual representation in the last two years. I’m convinced 2019 will see the database break the threshold of 400 characters, and I hope the next two years will see a flourish of amazing aromantic representation as well. Because here’s the thing: 300 is a lot of characters, but it’s also not enough–not enough to cover the wide variety of aro and ace experiences, not enough to explore the intersections of several marginalizations, not enough to provide these stories and characters across many genres, in many formats, many times over. We can still do better. We must.

For now, however, one thing’s sure: there is plenty aromantic and asexual representation already out there, and I can’t wait to keep reading, recording, and writing more of it!

Do you want more aromantic stories? Along with two other amazing arospec editors, Claudie is currently crowdfunding Common Bonds, an anthology of science fiction and fantasy short stories centering aromantic characters in platonic relationships. Check out their kickstarter!

 

Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic spectrum writer hailing from Quebec City. Her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders centered on aromantic and asexual characters. Her high fantasy series, City of Spires, started in February 2017, and her latest book, Baker Thief, features a bigender aromantic baker and is full of delicious bread, French puns, and magic.

Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters, and her unending love of squids. She was long-listed for the 2018 BSFA Awards for her essay Constructing a Kinder Future in Strange Horizons. Find out more on her website!

 

By | February 20th, 2019|Categories: Archive, Guest Blogs|Tags: |Comments Off on The Aromantic and Asexual Database: A Shield Against Illusions

Working Draft

Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week Series

by Rosiee Thor

Draft 1: I stumble through the motions of a story told poorly. It is flimsy framework, a bare beginning most of which I will tear down and rebuild. But it is written, and it is done.

No one kisses anyone in this draft. I know I’ll have to change that, because everyone tells me teens only read YA for the romance–“If they can’t ship it, they’ll skip it.” Was I not a teen once too? Who will write for the girl I was, who lied about crushes at slumber parties and danced alone in the bathroom at prom? I knew, even then I was different, but still I don’t know exactly how. So I put that girl in a corner along with this draft. This draft is for her. The next one won’t be.

Draft 2: I change everything but the opening line. It is like a funhouse mirror version of draft one, it’s like the loopy text they make you replicate to prove you’re not a robot. It barely resembles a story, with whole pieces carved away and filled with something that does not match the rest. It’s a patchwork of new ideas.

Still, there is no kissing, but there is a sexually aggressive villain who embodies everything I fear. Because that is what the stories I’ve read have taught me must be present in order to show my main character is strong.

Draft 3: Finally, this story resembles a book. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. They match each other well enough, but still I know, given a magnifying glass, a reader will see the places I’ve sloppily glued the pieces together.

They will see how this kiss has no business in chapter seven. They will see I have placed a boy and girl beside each other like dominoes spaced too far apart, expecting Newton’s laws to do my work for me, surprised when they don’t both fall. They will see how I’ve copied and pasted the world onto my characters’ lips because I don’t know how it’s supposed to feel, because the way it feels to me isn’t what I’ve been told people want to read.

Draft 4: Everything is smoother now. Chapters no longer feel jammed together like uncomplimentary pieces of a puzzle. Sometimes I even let myself like a line here or there, as if someone else has written them and I’m allowed to enjoy them.

And still there is this kissing scene where I have thrown a boy at a girl, a mimicry of the world around me. It is unnatural, unearned. I think I know it, but I second guess myself. I erase it and rewrite the same scene over it word for word because I still don’t know what a romance is supposed to read like. I don’t know if I hate it because I’ve done it wrong, or if I hate it because somehow I am wrong.

Draft 5: I think, perhaps, it is the couple. I’ve paired them wrong, I’ve given them a relationship they would never choose for themselves. I reassess, and a girl made of pink lace and stars pours out of my fingers. I try out the word bisexual–first on the page, then out loud. It feels better. It feels closer. My characters begin to thrive under this new label, but I know I haven’t completely found myself yet.

The kissing scene remains untouched. Because it is the only way I know how to show bisexuality, to show her kiss a boy but fall in love with a girl. I hate it because I know that’s bullshit. I hate it because I know I’m bullshitting.

Draft 6: Is it really a draft if I change nothing but grammar? I know it’s not. I finally let someone else read it, someone I don’t know if I trust. I am scared because I worry she’ll see past this pretense of a romance I’ve written. I worry she’ll see me.

Instead, she tells me to rethink my villain. She’s right and I know it. Still, I keep him because I don’t know how to write a romantic happily ever after. I am afraid to write another kiss, even if this one is earned, even if this one is right. I don’t send her the rest.

Draft 7: I can’t ignore the problem with my villain anymore. I’ve been chosen for PitchWars and my mentor isn’t going to let me slide by on excuses. She tells me I have to cut him, and I cry because it feels like the only part of this story that’s part of me. But she’s right. I am too tied up in trauma to be truthful.

I rewrite the book from scratch, unravelling all the places of the narrative he’s touched. I write over the kissing scene, washing away this piece of a story I never wanted to tell, but still the nameless voices echo in my mind, telling me I must write a romance between a boy and a girl. So I become a magician, making romantic tension out of nothing.

Draft 8: My mentor tells me I’ve done it wrong. I am gutted. But I am not surprised. I have to write it all over again, and I have to do it in 16 days. I am exhausted. I do not sleep, I barely eat, I write the climax in a Quiznos on the way home from Seattle at 9pm. I finish the book at 2am and send it to my mentor.

But I like it. For the first time, I feel like even if I’ve failed again, even if this draft isn’t the one, at least it feels like me. Because this time, I ask if I have to write the m/f romance. I tell my mentor it just doesn’t feel natural, that Nathaniel wouldn’t want it even if maybe Anna might. And my mentor gives me permission to try without. She mentions the word asexual, and though I’ve heard the word before, something inside me reaches for it. It is a deep feeling, like it’s buried under a mountain of propaganda society has piled on me. I don’t know if this word belongs to me, but I take joy in erasing every ounce of this contrived romance, making room for the other to blossom, letting the word asexual fill in the spaces left behind.

Draft 9: When my agent signs me for this book, I know she’s seen that I queried it as #ownvoices for bisexuality. I know this isn’t true, but I don’t think it’s exactly a lie either. I know I feel the same for all genders, and that’s what it means, right? But still I waver on it. I wonder if she will pitch it to editors that way. I know she will unless I tell her the truth.

I learn the word aromantic and feel safe for the first time. The word asexual was a piece, but it was not the whole. Now I have them both, one carried in each hand as a type. I write Nathaniel as aromantic and asexual deliberately, this time. I don’t include the words, because I am afraid. I am afraid if I do, I will be told no. I’m afraid if I do, someone will recognize them in me and I’m not ready yet.

Draft 10: One of the first things my editor asks me on our call is what each of my characters’ sexualities are. He wants me to define them more clearly in the text. And because I’ve spent 6 months on sub being anxious and doing anything but write, I know the words, and I’m ready to claim them. I do so on the phone. I tell him Nathaniel is Aro/Ace… like me. He says he wants more of it on the page.

I write Nathaniel’s coming out scene that night. I use the words.

Draft 11: We’re getting close, I’m told. It’s almost done. Just a few more tweaks here and there. It’s time to write a new kissing scene–between different characters, in a different chapter, after an entire book building the foundation for them. I know it will be better this time, but still I am afraid. I write they words, “they kissed,” and leave them there, undeveloped this time instead of unearned. I realize I am not afraid to write this kiss; I am afraid that if I do it and do it well it will mean these words I carry in my fists aren’t mine to hold. I worry if I celebrate this queerness it will make my own less valid. But these fears are of my own making, and no one else can decide who I am.

As I reread this draft a final time, I dread the queasiness I used to feel reading the old kissing scene. I am nervous in a way I haven’t been in a long time, afraid I won’t connect to my own words. But when I read, I don’t cringe. I don’t look at my screen through the slits of my fingers. I read Nathaniel coming out, getting to claim his identity, and I read the new kiss. It makes me smile, because there I am, and there they are, and there we are. Because I did it, I wrote it, and I love it.

I finally see the arc jacket wrap for my book. My editor tells me they made a few changes to the jacket copy because they “want to draw attention to the fact that this is a story about queer characters.” I never in my life thought anyone would want to highlight that about my book. I was told over and over again that queer stories don’t sell, that aromantic stories don’t sell. I thought if my book sold it would be in spite of its queerness, in spite of my own identity, but here my publisher is telling me different. This gives me hope, because it means yes, our stories can sell; yes, our stories are wanted; and yes, our stories matter.

I don’t get another draft, and perhaps that’s okay because finally I am at peace with my own words. I think it’s true that authors will revise forever until publishing forces them to stop, and I wonder just a little bit what my draft 12 might look like or draft 13. What pieces of my identity will I uncover next? How will I learn to understand my aromanticism and how might they change the way I see this story? Sexuality is fluid. Mine will always be a working draft, and though I may not get to change this story anymore, I do get to write the next one.

TARNISHED ARE THE STARS

A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: An illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws.

Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all.

Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart.

When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first.

PRE-ORDER: AMAZON | INDIEBOUND | BOOK DEPOSITORY

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Rosiee Thor is the author of TARNISHED ARE THE STARS (Scholastic, 2019). She lives in Oregon with a dog, two cats, and four complete sets of Harry Potter, which she loves so much, she once moved her mattress into the closet and slept there until she came out as queer. Follow her online at rosieethor.com and on Twitter at @rosieethor.

By | February 20th, 2019|Categories: Archive|Comments Off on Working Draft