June Reading Round-up
I want everyone to read Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery by abolitionist Siddharth Kara. There were so many things I didn’t know: how recent the modern sex industry is when we’re constantly told it’s this Biblical, mystical, unavoidable thing; it is on the rise; there are real, concrete ways to fight it. Kara used his male privilege to access brothels, massage parlors, and apartments around the world, exposing the insides of the industry in order to fight it.
My second rec from June is Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston. Decades before white Americans were ready to hear about it, Hurston interviewed Kossula, the last surviving ex-slave to have been trafficked via the Atlantic slave trade. What is striking about Kossula’s story is his unwavering will to make a life for himself against equally unwavering injustice. I want everyone in the world to read Sex Trafficking, and I want everyone in America to read Barracoon.
This month I read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn in preparation for the HBO miniseries coming out in July. It was one of the most harrowing and fucked-up books I've ever read. It's more fucked up than Gone Girl, which is really saying something. Massive trigger warning for self-harm, child abuse/violence towards children, violence towards animals, and parental/family abuse. That said, it was incredible and I recommend it highly.
Siri Hustvedt's essay collection A Woman Looking At Men Looking At Women was one of the best essay-collection experiences of all time for me. Hustvedt raised the bar for my essay work in the future, and I modestly hope the essay I wrote this month about robots and queerness carries some of her influence. What I really love about her writing is how she raises questions without feeling obligated to answer them, letting the tensions she's examining open rather than resolving them.
The Walmart Book of the Dead by Lucy Biederman is a tiny read that will stick with me for a long time. I'm not sure whether to call it poetry or prose, or really whether to label it at all. It's simply one of the coolest works I've encountered in a while.
To kick off the month I read two Ocean Day themed reads — The Art of Moana and Oceans: The Anthology (Frontiers of Speculative Fiction #2). The Art of Moana was full of fascinating behind-the-scenes information about how the movie was put together. Oceans brought together 12 speculative fiction short stories that covered underwater cities, climate change, genetically altered humans, lost civilizations, and more.
I also read two books for the Ramadan Readathon: the classic graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and the other a very funny, honest, and entertaining memoir Laughing All the Way to the Mosque by Zarqa Nawaz.
The rest of my month was packed full of LGBTQIA+ reads: Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh, The Baker Thief by Claudie Arseneault, and Yes, You Are Trans Enough by Mia Violet. It was really nice to read three different types of books (graphic novel, fiction, memoir) that focused on broad queer experiences, as cis m/m books tend to dominate Pride reading lists. Lastly, I am still working my way through an excellent anthology called Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-Violence Movement edited by Jennifer Patterson. It's really refreshing to read such a book that highlights the importance of queering this discourse and bringing LGBTQIA+ people back to the forefront of the discussions.
I started out June with Roan Parrish's Natural Enemies. This novella is lush and beautiful, featuring two male botanists.
Perhaps the book I most recommend this month is Hamilton's Battalion: A Trio of Romances. This collection features stories from Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole, and the romances were M/F, M/M, and F/F respectively. The central plot line is that Eliza Hamilton, wife of the deceased Alexander, is collecting stories from the soldiers who fought in his battalion, gleaning any information about her lost beloved that she can find. Through this process, the stories of the soldiers come to light for us to enjoy. Altogether an excellent collection that features diverse, unique storytelling.
In June I geared up for Camp NaNoWriMo, so I'm reading a bit more nonfiction on writing. How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method is a fun, lightweight guide to outlining fiction novels. What Editors Do is a fantastic (fairly) new book that details the traditional publishing process—given how complicated an industry publishing is, it's a good read for writers, whether they're self-published, traditionally published, or working on one or the other. It's also a darn fun read for anyone who loves books—a glimpse into how different types of manuscripts make it onto the shelf, written by a number of talented writers with years of editing experience. And, in the realm of fiction, I picked up The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves The World Again in StoryBundle's recent 2018 LGBT+ bundle. It's the first of the bundle I've read so far, and it was a good choice—at once a fun, dazzling romp and a badass action compilation, with a lovable, moving batch of characters. I have no idea how good the mixed drink recipes are, but they were a nice touch.