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  • Queer Book Club's 2024 Playlist

    This list is made up of the recommendations by our Queer Book Club. These compelling reads promise to ignite conversations, broaden perspectives, and inspire a year of literary exploration that resonates with the richness of diverse identities and stories. What titles would you want to add? My Government Means to Kill Me by Rasheed Newson Earl "Trey" Singleton III arrives in New York City with only a few dollars in his pocket. Born into a wealthy Black Indianapolis family, at 17, he is ready to leave his overbearing parents and their expectations behind. In the city, Trey meets up with a cast of characters that changes his life forever. He volunteers at a renegade home hospice for AIDS patients, and after being put to the test by gay rights activists, becomes a member of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). Along the way Trey attempts to navigate past traumas and searches for ways to maintain familial relationships--all while seeking the meaning of life amid so much death. Vibrant, humorous, and fraught with entanglements, Rasheed Newson's My Government Means to Kill Me is an exhilarating, fast-paced coming-of-age story that lends itself to a larger discussion about what it means for a young gay Black man in the mid-1980s to come to terms with his role in the midst of a political and social reckoning. Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn't hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men. Ames isn't happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese--and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames's boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she's pregnant with his baby--and that she's not sure whether she wants to keep it--Ames wonders if this is the chance he's been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family--and raise the baby together? This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can't reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers Rosemary Harper doesn't expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she's never met anyone remotely like the ship's diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain. Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy--exactly what Rosemary wants. It's also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn't part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary's got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs--an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn't necessarily the worst thing in the universe. Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll Masterfully blending elements of psychological suspense and true crime, Jessica Knoll--author of the bestselling novel Luckiest Girl Alive and the writer behind the Netflix adaption starring Mila Kunis--delivers a new and exhilarating thriller in Bright Young Women. The book opens on a Saturday night in 1978, hours before a soon-to-be-infamous murderer descends upon a Florida sorority house with deadly results. The lives of those who survive, including sorority president and key witness, Pamela Schumacher, are forever changed. Across the country, Tina Cannon is convinced her missing friend was targeted by the man papers refer to as the All-American Sex Killer--and that he's struck again. Determined to find justice, the two join forces as their search for answers leads to a final, shocking confrontation. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship--the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family's history that began before he was born -- a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam -- and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one's own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard. With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years. Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson We can't choose what we inherit. But can we choose who we become? In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett's death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage and themselves. Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor's true history, and fulfill her final request to "share the black cake when the time is right"? Will their mother's revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever? Charmaine Wilkerson's debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names can shape relationships and history. Deeply evocative and beautifully written, Black Cake is an extraordinary journey through the life of a family changed forever by the choices of its matriarch.

  • Spicy Romance Book Club Discusses A Merry Little Meet Cute by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone

    A Merry Little Meet Cute by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone Bee Hobbes (aka Bianca Von Honey) has a successful career as a plus-size adult film star. With a huge following and two supportive moms, Bee couldn't ask for more. But when Bee's favorite producer casts her to star in a Christmas movie he's making for the squeaky-clean Hope Channel, Bee's career is about to take a more family-friendly direction. Forced to keep her work as Bianca under wraps, Bee quickly learns this is a task a lot easier said than done. Though it all becomes worthwhile when she discovers her co-star is none other than childhood crush Nolan Shaw, an ex-boy band member in desperate need of career rehab. Nolan's promised his bulldog manager to keep it zipped up on set, and he will if it means he'll be able to provide a more stable living situation for his sister and mom. But things heat up quickly in Christmas Notch, Vermont, when Nolan recognizes his new co-star from her ClosedDoors account (oh yeah, he's a member). Now Bee and Nolan are sneaking off for quickies on set, keeping their new relationship a secret from the Hope Channel's execs. Things only get trickier when the reporter who torpedoed Nolan's singing career comes snooping around--and takes an instant interest in mysterious newcomer Bee. And if Bee and Nolan can't keep their off-camera romance behind the scenes, then this merry little meet cute might end up on the cutting room floor. Discussion Questions How believable was the set up of the plot? Were you able to easily suspend reality and enjoy the story? Was the relationship between Bee and Nolan realistic? How did the pacing impact your reading experience? Were there moments that were too fast or too slow? How did the setting of Christmas Notch, VT contirbute to the atmosphere of the story? How would you rate this on the cheesines scale? Discuss the theme of healing your innter child - what are examples of this theme in the book? Discuss the theme of having a healthy relationship with sex - Bee is a sex worker, and this viewed positively by her moms, peers, and Nolan, talk of consent, Nolan telling Bee not to suck in her stomach during sex, doing things "out of order", the girl finishing twice, things not being perfect but still enjoyable (dry humping to completion) Where did you see lgbtq+ representation? (Bee's moms, Luca and Angel, Bee and Nolan are both bisexual, Gretchen and Pearl) Did anyone else laugh out loud during this book? Drunk Bee was such a fun scene! Are Bee and Nolan endgame? Would you read more of this series? Would you read more from either of the two authors? Who would you want to see pair up in the sequel? Did you notice distinctive writing elements from each of the authors?

  • Queer Book Club Discusses You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat

    You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat On a hot day in Bethlehem, a 12-year-old Palestinian-American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother's response only intensifies a sense of shame: "You exist too much," she tells her daughter. Told in vignettes that flash between the U.S. and the Middle East--from New York to Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine--Zaina Arafat's debut novel traces her protagonist's progress from blushing teen to sought-after DJ and aspiring writer. In Brooklyn, she moves into an apartment with her first serious girlfriend and tries to content herself with their comfortable relationship. But soon her longings, so closely hidden during her teenage years, explode out into reckless romantic encounters and obsessions with other people. Her desire to thwart her own destructive impulses will eventually lead her to The Ledge, an unconventional treatment center that identifies her affliction as "love addiction." In this strange, enclosed society she will start to consider the unnerving similarities between her own internal traumas and divisions and those of the places that have formed her. Opening up the fantasies and desires of one young woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities, You Exist Too Much is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings--for love, and a place to call home. Discussion Questions Why does the main character remain unnamed? What does this add to the story? While the narrator never explicitly states their sexuality, their experiences speak to bisexuality. How do you think the novel works with and against the stereotype that bisexual people are never satisfied? The narrator’s relationship with her mother, Laila. It is implied that Laila has Borderline Personality Disorder, though it’s also apparent that it’s not something she herself has ever acknowledged or tried to deal with. How did the non linear telling of the story affect how you viewed it as a whole? What do you think of the opening quote, “PLEASURE DISAPPOINTS, possibility never.” -Soren Kierkegaard What does the title, You Exist Too Much, mean? What shared experiences do you have with the MC? Can you point out some of the cultural references to Palestine? What is something you learned? Who was your favorite lover? Do you like how the story ended? What questions are left unanswered?

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