Shelf-ish Intentions

Hello dear readers, and today I wanted to introduce a new topic that might become its own series: Shelf-ish Intentions. Essentially, I’ll be talking about the books on my bookshelf (aka glorified children’s cubby) that I haven’t read. How fun is that?

Now, we’ve all been there. You’re in a bookstore, or shopping online when a novel catches your eye. Maybe it’s the bold and unique cover, or a clever title, or maybe it’s a book recommended by a friend who just insists you would love it. So you add it to your cart, make the purchase, and go on your merry way with your new books.

Did you need new books? Absolutely not. But you bought them and now your shelf is taking on the wait of yet another pile of novels despite the lovely reads you haven’t managed to get to. Does this sound familiar or is this just a “me” problem?

Regardless, while you can find my to-read list on goodreads, I think the physical books in my possession deserve a shout out every once in a while. So let’s get our organization on and see if we can our shelf together, yeah? Also, now that you all know I have these books you can hold me accountable to read and review them. All images are taken from goodreads and you can click the title to view the novel on their site.

Cover of Black Wings Beating by Alex London featuring an illustration made up of small black silhouettes of birds and humans forming the shape of a wing.

Black Wings Beating (Alex London)

While, technically, I am in the process of reading this novel, it has been waiting patiently on the shelf for quite some time. London is an author I have long admired (ever since his Proxy series), and I am looking forward to being introduced to another fantastic and creative world.

Cover of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman featuring a fantasy style illustration with a green dragon and medieval buildings.

Seraphina (Rachel Hartman)

This series was recommended to me by a friend with the promise of LGBT characters in a fantasy setting. I have yet to read a fantasy series inclusive of queer identities, so my fingers are crossed that this will be a good one.

Cover of More Than This by Patrick Ness featuring an illustration of a yellow door opening in a complicated gridlike black and white pattern.

More Than This (Patrick Ness)

The blurb for this book is very intriguing—mystery and uncertainty make for a must-read by Nyla standards. On top of that, Patrick Ness is a notable MLM author who lends his voice to a MLM main character, and I am all for supporting LGBTQ+ writers!

Cover of Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy featuring an illustration of a blue toned girl sitting at the bottom of a swimming pool.

Ramona Blue (Julie Murphy)

I first became aware of this novel through reading through some responses to Bionic Bookworm’s Top 5 Tuesday prompt: Top 5 LGBTQ. So many bloggers recommended this book, and I added it to my to-read immediately! Within a few weeks I discovered that my roommate had bought the book already and was willing to let me borrow it. Woo-hoo!

Phew. Facing these lovely books that I’ve been snubbing for the last couple months was difficult. But now you all know the deep dark secrets of my shelf…or have we just scratched the surface? There’s a lot of books on my shelf right now that could probably use some updating. I’ll let y’all know if I find anything with another “Shelf-ish Intentions” post.

Until then, what books are sitting on your shelf that you’ve been “meaning to get around to” for the past weeks, months, or even years? Let me know in the comments below! And let us all make it a goal to get through these books before buying more. Or is that just wishful thinking?

Thank you for reading! I’ll see you all in the next one.

Sincerely yours,

Nyla Linn (She/Her)

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Miseducation of Cameron Post Film (2018)

Hello dear readers, and before I get into this review, I wanted to get some housekeeping out of the way. I apologize for my extended and unannounced absence, and I’m hoping y’all could forgive me. I’m officially back and ready to bless your reader boards with some great queer content! I’m developing a posting schedule at the moment, and ask for your patience as I figure out what days and times are going to work best. Thank you!

Additionally, some of you might be asking “Hey Nyla, isn’t this a BOOK blog? Why would you post a review of a movie?!” and my answer to that would be: Follow me on Twitter!

Haha, jokes aside, my Twitter account is a great way to be more involved in what I post here on the blog. I posted a poll a while back asking if my followers would be interested in movie reviews, given the movies were adapted from queer novels, and the response was a resounding yes! You can find my account by either clicking on the lovely Twitter bird icon in the sidebar, or clicking this link. Or you could try the old fashioned way of searching by typing linn_nyla in the search bar.

Now, without further ado, the review!

Warnings (spoilers ahead):

  • Sexual Content: Three semi-graphic sexual encounters between underage (~16 years) girls, typically around a minute in length of time. There is no genital nudity but one character does have her top removed during one scene, exposing her breasts. These encounters are consensual. One scene involving an imaginary fantasy (dream sequence) between an underage girl (~16 years) and her teacher that does not go further than kissing. Some light jokes of implied sexual nature between teens (~16-17 years).
  • Drugs and Alcohol: Semi-frequent recreational marijuana use by teens (~16-17 years) throughout the film, though it is not a major highlight nor very explicit in nature.
  • Homophobia: Because the premise of the film is set in a conversion camp/school setting, there are frequent depictions of homophobia both internalized and from outside forces, primarily in a religious (Christian) context; while many characters support this belief system, the main character and her allies question and speak against this treatment.
  • Depiction of Mental Health: Homosexuality or fluid gender identity are treated as a mental illness by some characters in the film and queer characters receive therapy to correct this perceived illness; a character who is not the protagonist self-harms in a graphic but off-screen manner and is hospitalized as a result which is discussed in-depth by characters on-screen

Review:

As readers of this blog will know, The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2012) is my favorite book and when I tell you I was excited to learn there was a movie in the works, it’s a huge understatement. I love Chloë Grace Moretz and I think she makes the perfect Cameron.

The film, directed by Desiree Akhavan, was stunning with heartfelt performances from the cast and a gorgeously relevant soundtrack. It hit me hard in “the feels” and I felt just as connected to Cameron as ever. As someone who grew up in the Christian faith, a lot of the struggles Cameron faces and the rhetoric used by those in power is very relatable—too relatable at times. There were times during both viewings that I questioned myself and my identity, falling back into old habits and views of the “sin” that I live in.

Luckily, though, the film brought these feelings full circle and put them in their place. By the end of the movie I felt more confident in my queer identity, and remember that there are people in the world I can trust.

So was the movie good? Absolutely. But this is a literature blog, so let’s return to our roots. How does the movie compare to the book?

I’ll say that, for what the movie depicts, it did a very close job. From Cameron’s arrival to the “God’s Promise” facility, to the end, it’s almost a page to screen comparison. The tone is there, the characters match, and some of the lines are pulled directly from the book.

However, one gripe I do have is that the entire first half of the book is cut. I understand the need to make adjustments for time when switching genres, but some of the integral parts to Cameron’s queer identity got left in the dust. She becomes a flatter version of herself, and while it still works great for the film as a film, when viewed next to book!Cameron, it’s obvious which one has more substance.

Additionally, some of my favorite character relationships didn’t make it into the movie. Cameron’s grandmother is completely cut out of the story, and her friendship with Jamie is reduced to “the boyfriend who I cheated on with a girl” and he’s more of an antagonist than the ally he was in the book. Not to mention her past romantic relationships or complicated feelings about her parents. Obviously some changes needed to be made to work as a film, but as a reader of the book, there were some parts that I really missed.

All in all, though, I think Akhavan did an amazing job and I’m so happy to see queer women in the film industry shining brightly. I would absolutely recommend this movie to anyone, readers and non-readers, lesbians and non-lesbians, anyone, really. It’s an emotional watch but a sincere one, and I enjoyed it.

You can buy it on Amazon here and here is a trailer if you’re interested!

Also, if you haven’t read the book yet (or even if you have) you can read my review here.

Sincerely Yours,

Nyla Linn (She/Her)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars) 

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden (1982)

Warnings: 

  • Homophobia: Written in the late 70’s, this book contains an expected level of homophobia from peers and teachers in a private, religious school system; there are allies in the novel seen in a few teachers, outside forces who influence the school, and in the protagonists family; an older couple faces employment discrimination and are fired for their relationship and described by other characters as “wrong” for that relationship
  • Sexual Content: very mild, non-explicitly detailed off screen scene that is referenced a few times after the fact in a negative light by characters trying to prove the protagonist is gay
  • Alcohol and Drugs: very few scenes of underage characters drinking alcohol in a relatively responsible manner; no mention of drug usage by any persons

Review:

Annie on My Mind is a story of young love in an unwelcoming society, often described as a landmark for LGBTQ literature. The protagonist, Liza, meets a girl in a museum and feels an instant connection to her. They spend more time together, eventually developing a relationship, all while Liza is attempting to keep her image clean as the student body president. The school is facing a tough time financially, and as one of the fundraising campaign leaders, she is implored to represent her school in the best possible light.

Because this novel was written and set in the late 1970’s/early 80’s, Liza does face some discrimination for her sexuality once she is found out. Despite this, the book ends with a happy ending, one of the first of its kind to do so.

I had the fortunate luck to receive a copy including an interview with the author, Nancy Garden. In this interview, she discusses the climate at the time she wrote the novel and the reception to it after it was released. The book is in the top 50 of the Top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books, since a lot of schools took issue with the same-sex relationship within it. I think the interview may have been my favorite part of the book, and I would urge any young queer people who want a firsthand account of growing up gay in the 50’s and onwards to look for it.

Overall, I think this book is a must-read for young LGBTQ individuals who want to connect more with their community history, or don’t know much about it at all. Despite the homophobia, it’s a relatively light and easy read with plenty of wholesome moments and love to combat the less accepting characters in the novel.

My favorite part of the novel was the (somewhat reluctant) acceptance of Liza’s sexuality by her family. Although her parents are hesitant and afraid of the societal backlash she may receive, they both stand up for Liza and offer her their unconditional love and support. Her younger brother, even more abundantly so, is the first person Liza comes out to outside of her girlfriend. He takes it with grace and is the first person to show her real support, in a string of heartwarming moments that give her the confidence necessary to begin to accept herself.

While I did love the book, and especially the impact it had historically as one of the first to show a lesbian relationship that did not end in tragedy or a heterosexual romance, from a solely literary standpoint, it was pretty average. The writing didn’t stand out much, and it traded a full plot for a syrupy sweet romance-focused novel that didn’t really go anywhere. I would have liked to see more of Liza’s character outside of her relationship with Annie and her struggle with being gay. Still, though, it was a sweet book, so I’d recommend.

Sincerely yours,

Nyla Linn (She/Her)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)

Top 5 Tuesday: Top 5 Books on My Christmas List

Hello, dear readers, and today I’m trying something a bit different. Shanah, aka Bionic Book Worm has a series on her blog where she discusses her “Top 5 ___” with a bookish theme, and encourages other bloggers to do so as well. I thought I’d give it a try, so here are the Top 5 Books on My Christmas List: 

[Book Cover image of white woman looking over shoulder at viewer. Overtop is the title of the novel and three award stickers, including the Stonewall Book Award]

If I was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

[Book cover illustration of two women back to back and holding hands in a blue-scale background. One has a bow and sheath of arrows and the other is dressed as a princess and looking at a castle in the distance. The pair are small and located low on the cover whereas the title takes up most of the page in gold, intricate lettering]

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

[Book cover illustration of the back of a woman's head. She has tan/medium skin and an undercut with the title of the book shaved into her head with the rest of her curly hair piled atop her head in a neat bun]

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera 

[Book cover image of a white woman in a bright green dress laying against a green background. Her eyes are not in frame and her lips and nails are a bright red. The title is centered over the cover]

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

[Book cover illustration of a young woman floating at the bottom of a pool. She has blue skin and dark hair and the water cuts off the title halfway, so that the first word is a light red and the second a light blue in the darker water, implying depth]

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Obviously all of the novels here are LGBTQ+ themed and/or have queer protagonists. Also, here are the December Themes for Shanah’s Top 5 prompts, if you would like to try this for yourself. What books are you looking forward to this Holiday Season? 

 

Sincerely yours, 

Nyla Linn (She/Her) 

Terrible Tropes: Bury Your Gays

**Warning for queer character death mentions**

“Good morning, sweetheart. What can I do for you today?”

Well, ma’am, I’m a lesbian you see and-

“Sorry to hear it, dear. Let me see what we have for that… oh!”

Is everything okay?

“It seems as there’s no hope for you, pumpkin. You see, in this world, people like you don’t seem to last very long. Have you written your will yet?”

Okay, pause.

Hello, dear reader, and today we’re talking about the topic of Dead Lesbian Syndrome, also known as Bury Your Gays. This is going to be the first post in a series revolving around tropes in popular media that treat LGBTQ+ individuals a little unfairly. In the future, you can expect these posts to be categorized under the “Terrible Tropes” tag. 

Now, Dead Lesbian Syndrome may not be as dramatic as I made it out to be in the situation above, but it is a problem that should be addressed. If you aren’t familiar with the term, here are a few examples to get us started in the right direction: 

Image of Denise from The Walking Dead that reads "Dead Lesbian Syndrome" in blog letters next to a satirical symptom list of characteristics related to her death and sexuality, similar to the other dead women
Denise, The Walking Dead
Image of Lexa from The 100 that reads "Dead Lesbian Syndrome" in blog letters next to a satirical symptom list of characteristics related to her death and sexuality, similar to the other dead women
Lexa, The 100
Image of Poussey from Orange is the New Black that reads "Dead Lesbian Syndrome" in blog letters next to a satirical symptom list of characteristics related to her death and sexuality, similar to the other dead women
Poussey, Orange is the New Black

Starting to get the idea, yet? Three characters from three wildly different shows were killed off in situations that seem unrelated but with a closer look, the patterns come into play. Both Denise and Lexa were “accidentally” shot by projectiles meant for other characters. All three of the women above had recently entered relationships and had some semblance of happiness that was immediately taken from them with a graphic murder. 

Why is it that any time a gay woman in media seems to finally be in a good place in her life, that the writers want to end it?

Excuses for this behavior include the genre of the show. “Well, it’s the apocalypse. What do you expect?” Fair point, but have these defenders considered that there aren’t many queer characters to begin with? Maybe if there were more queer women in the show, it would easier to believe she wasn’t a target. 

Additionally, these deaths were largely devices used to move the plot forward rather than well-written emotionally satisfying send-offs to the characters. Using the death of a “poor innocent cinnamon roll” to incite a war, introduce a big bad, or start a rebellion is not only patronizing, but also just lazy writing. If they have to be written off, why not at least make the end of their lives meaningful for something other than making other characters upset enough to fight for something? 

Admittedly, there are quite a few queer women depicted on Orange is the New Black, and to say the unfairness of Poussey’s death was more related to her blackness rather than her queerness is a very valid point. It was a racially charged move in an attempt to seem “woke” about the topic of police brutality in an arch that went nowhere good. That said, Poussey is still a lesbian, and the fact that she had just found love after seasons of struggling only to be killed off was gross and needless. 

This trope is stale. It’s demeaning and overused, and there’s no reason for it to be a viable option for writers. If you can’t keep lesbians out of the grave, then keep them out of your stories. 

That’s my opinion, anyway. I’m happy to hear what y’all think, though, so whether you agree or disagree, leave your thoughts in the comment section below. 

Sincerely yours, 

Nyla Linn (She/Her)

LGBT Fiction by LGBT Folks for LGBT Folks

Hello, dear readers, and today I bring to you a list I have compiled of books written by queer authors about queer individuals or relationships that mirror their own life experience. In order to most accurately and honestly represent LGBTQ+ content in literature, I believe that the work being written by an author who identifies on a personal level with the experience is important. I might do a longer post on my thoughts later, but for now, enjoy this compilation of books I have personally read and enjoyed. As an added bonus and/or requirement for this list, none of the queer characters die. 

Titles that are hyperlinked have a full review on my blog. Check ’em out!

*May be updated as I find more books.

Gay/Bi/MLM

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: ★★★★★ 

Super sweet story of two Mexican-American boys finding friendship in each other. Told in the POV of a boy named Ari and set in the 1980s. Both boys have amazing, supportive parents and the writing of this novel is absolutely beautiful. A must-read in my opinion.

See it on Goodreads!

Proxy and Guardian by Alex London: ★★★★★ 

Dystopian/Sci-fi novel with a black, gay protagonist set sometime in the distant future. In this world, poorer people are essentially “whipping boys” for their wealthy counterparts in order to avoid being in debt for their entire life. Syd, an orphan, is sentenced to death when his “Patron” (read: rich kid who doesn’t care for others) is responsible for a car crash that killed a girl, only 2 years before he would’ve been free from the debt he accumulated for being an orphan. With the help of his patron, Knox, and a strong-willed, defender-of-the-oppressed, wealthy teen, Marie, Syd flees the city he was raised in and discovers he is the key to dismantling the corrupt system that divides the classes. 

See it on Goodreads!

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson: ★★★★

Gay protagonist, Henry, has been regularly abducted by aliens since the age of 13 which has earned himself the nickname “Space Boy” and results in horrific bullying. His boyfriend, Jesse, committed suicide a year previously, his grandmother is slowly succumbing to Alzheimer’s, his mother’s job is killing her, and his older brother is expecting a child he can’t take care of. Henry doesn’t see much of a world worth saving and when the aliens offer him a choice– press a red button to save the world, or witness the mass destruction of every living being in 144 days– he takes some time to think about it. New kid, Diego, is dedicated to convincing Henry that good still exists. 

See it on Goodreads!

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan: ★★★

Set in what may be the most liberal town in the world, this novel showcases way more queer characters than straight ones, and is a light story and a quick read. It reads like a general stereotypical YA romance novel with the bonus of all the main characters being gay. As a story it is admittedly a little weak and didn’t make much of an impression; however, I would recommend the novel for folks tired of reading about gays being tortured by their sexuality, facing homophobia, or getting killed off. In addition to this novel, Levithan has written a plethora of light-hearted gay-centric books, so I would recommend checking him out if you haven’t already. 

See it on Goodreads!

Lesbian/Bi/WLW

Annie on my Mind by Nancy Gardner: ★★★★ 

Published in 1982, this novel changed the world of queer fiction. The protagonist, Liza, is the student body president of her senior class and charged with leading the fundraising campaign to save her school. Meanwhile, she’s falling in love with a girl from public school and struggling to maintain her image. Very sweet book about two lovers finding their place in the world, and suitable for readers of all ages. It’s a great read to connect with older members of the queer community and understand from a historical perspective what obstacles they faced.

See it on Goodreads!

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour:★★★★ 

This story revolves around Emi, a biracial lesbian teen whose dream is to design sets for major productions. At the beginning of the novel, Emi and her best friend Charlotte discover a real life mystery that leads them to the unknown granddaughter of a now-dead famous western actor. It is a cute and sweet story. Emi’s reactions to her crush on Ava are super gay and at the time I read it, I related so much to her character. Great read for young wlw, but there isn’t a lot of depth so more advanced readers might look for something different. It holds a special place in my heart, though, for being the first wlw novel I ever read. 

See it on Goodreads!

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King*: ★★★½

This novel focuses on a young girl struggling with her attraction to girls, and the expectations on her from society and her own family. While dealing with the troubles of high school in a small town, tension with her mom and sister, she stumbles into a secret relationship with another girl and tries to navigate it while living in freedom from labels and judgement. Some people critique it for not discussing bisexuality explicitly, but I think the protagonist’s arch of finding herself makes up for it. Cute and well done!

See it on Goodreads!

Far from You by Tess Sharpe*: ★★★★

Murder mystery that I just live for. The protagonist is bi but closeted and trying to solve the murder of her girlfriend with the help of her girlfriend’s brother in an attempt to clear her own name as well as find the truth. The story jumps a lot in timelines but it works well and shows the relationship between Sophie and Mina as well as Sophie’s struggle with drug addiction and recovery. Probably fine for teenage readers but it does deal with murder, violence, and drugs, so a warning is needed for more sensitive audiences. 

See it on Goodreads!

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan: 
★★★

Basic YA high school drama with the added excitement of the protagonist being a lesbian of color. I personally didn’t get that interested in it, but it does have characters of color and a happy ending between the protagonist and another girl. Sweet and dramatic, plus a pretty quick read. 

See it on Goodreads!

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth:  ★★★★★ 

Recently turned into a movie, this novel is about a lesbian protagonist growing up in the late 80s/90s and although it focuses on her struggles being closeted and religious pressure, and her eventual sending off to a conversion camp, the writing is so unique and relatable that it’s not nearly as sad as one would think. Cameron has such a tired teen voice and it pulls the story through so well. This book is an absolute gem and I would recommend it to anyone. Story-wise it’s rough at points but beautifully written and kind of comedic. I’m definitely biased because this book is my favorite of all time. 

See it on Goodreads! 

Marriage of a Thousand Lies by S.J. Sindu: ★★★★★

In this novel, the protagonist is a Sri-Lankan lesbian married to a gay men to appease their more conservative parents. She has to face her fears of being found out and also the possibility of living freely when she returns home to visit her parents and finds out her ex girlfriend is getting married. The book is more focused on her relationship with her mother and her balance of her sexuality and  culture rather than on a wlw relationship and it’s just so gorgeous and beautiful.  Because of the age of the protagonist and the situations she deals with, this book is more suited for older audiences, but there is no content too explicit or “mature” for younger audiences, just a potential difference of interests. 

See it on Goodreads!

Multiple Groups: 

You Know Me Well, a collaboration between Nina LaCour and David Levithan ★★★★ 

LaCour’s chapters revolve around her lesbian character, Kate, and Kate’s relationships with a girl she’s falling for, and her long time best friend. Levithan’s character, Mark, is a gay boy who is trapped in the unfortunate situation of unrequited love for his best friend. This story is set during Pride and display really lovely non-sexualized queer relationships and many, many wlw and mlm characters. The writing is so lovely and the strong friendship Mark and Kate have is very sweet and refreshing. It’s a novel everyone should pick up!

See it on Goodreads!

*Note: Authors with an asterisk do not have their sexuality/identity available for public viewing. I include them in this list because they identify as the gender as the protagonist, which limits the possible issue of fetishizing or misrepresenting a queer individual. I don’t want to make any assumptions, so it is entirely possible that these authors are on the queer spectrum but have decided not to mention it explicitly. 

We now have a Twitter!

Hello, dear readers, and I have some exciting news for y’all today! Over the weekend I created a Twitter account for myself in the context of the blog. You can look forward to blog update notifications, polls about what books I should read and/or review next, and little glimpses into my life as a writer, reader, and blogger. 

It will also be a community for you wonderful people to tell me what I could do to improve the blog, or content you want to see. Comments on here are great, but Twitter as a platform is great for on-the-go use so I can reply quickly and we can grow in our conversations more naturally. 

Additionally you may find tweets from authors I admire, discussion starters around queer representation, and quick thoughts on books I’m reading before the full review is published here. And I’d be happy to follow back anyone who is contributing to the LGBTQ+ literature space! You can either click the link here to find me, or search for my handle: linn_nyla. 

Thank you for this opportunity to share with you more deeply my love and thoughts on queer books and their contribution to seeing and normalizing LGBTQ+ individuals and relationships. Please continue to be considerate and thoughtful in your discussion and feel free to reach out to me through this new platform. 

Sincerely yours, 

Nyla Linn (She/Her)