Father Guards the Sheep by Sari Rosenblatt

The Iowa Short Fiction Award consistently gives us wonderful short story collections like Sari Rosenblatt's Father Guards the Sheep. These are strong, character-driven stories focusing on different ways fathers watch over their families, from the perspectives of their children, in different ages and stages of their lives. Each story stands alone, but they're also loosely connected in a way that rounds out and finishes the collection well. Rosenblatt writes interesting, complex, and realistic characters. Pick up this book when you want to cozy up with some good people stories.

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Alpha Bots by Ava Lock

Alpha Bots is a take on The Stepford Wives with a robot-powered feminist uprising front and center. It's fast-paced, funny, satirical, and absurd, with some campy horror thrown in (some parts are downright gruesome). Other readers have said this is Stepford Wives meets Fight Club meets Truman Show, and I think that's pretty spot-on. These AI women represent the desires of bottom-of-the-barrel cishet men, from expectations of submissiveness to racial fetishism, but will they be able to push beyond their programming? The satire gets dark, and this is not going to be everyone's cup of tea. It's not for the faint of heart, for sure. I feel like Alpha Bots caught me when I was in just the right mood…

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Kindred by Octavia Butler

Kindred was my second experience reading Octavia Butler and I'm now convinced I must read everything she's written. Good thing I signed up for the Octavia E. Butler Slow Read! Over the course of two years, we'll be reading Butler's entire body of work. Plus, I need to discuss this incredible book with others. It's a damn shame this wasn't required reading in my high school. Kindred got me thinking more about history, ancestry, racism and colorism, enslavement, and intergenerational trauma. It was terrifying and real; Butler's writing style gets the reader fully absorbed in both the setting and the main character's state of mind. And the way she implemented time travel made it so difficult to put the book down.…

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Ciel by Sophie Labelle

Ciel is a character-driven, slice-of-life, coming-of-age novel featuring a gender nonconforming trans kid named Ciel as they start their first year of high school in Montreal. For my fellow American readers (I had to google this myself), that covers ages 12-17. Ciel and their friends are on the lower end of that age range, so this is solidly a middle grade novel. Kids will relate to the excitement and anxieties that come with being in a new school, making new friends, having crushes, further exploring one's own identity, and having the courage to be themselves. Ciel's inner dialogue will resonate really well with tweens and young teens. Best of all, trans and nonbinary kids get to see themselves in a…

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Raising Them by Kyl Myers

In Raising Them, sociologist Kyl Myers shares how they and their husband Brent are raising their first child, Zoomer, without gender boundaries; with complete freedom to determine their own gender. Zoomer is still quite young, so the book doesn't go beyond the preschool years. And although this is a memoir, not a how-to book, Myers is clear and detailed about the thought processes that led to each decision they made along the way. Myers argues that working toward gender equality must start in childhood, by breaking down assumptions and boundaries when it comes to appearance, toys, activities, etc. This takes a lot of work, because the gender binary is pushed everywhere, even in situations where it shouldn't even be a…

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Tranny by Laura Jane Grace

I wasn't familiar with Against Me!'s music going into this memoir, but I truly enjoyed Laura Jane Grace's memoir Tranny. The narrative was interspersed with journal entries, the writing style held my attention and interest, and I appreciated her openness about her experiences as well as her own shortcomings. It was eye-opening to read about anarchism within punk, how some really tried their best to live out their philosophical beliefs, but others claimed the label for optics without actually subscribing to that philosophy at all. I had assumed that most of punk musicians and fans shared a deep belief in living out anarchist principles, so this surprised me. It was also interesting to read about punk's fraught relationship with major…

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Mini Reviews: Transathon Wrap-Up

All of July was Transathon, hosted by Ocean over on Twitter. This event was about reading and enjoying books by transgender and non-binary authors. I do this year-round, but it was the perfect opportunity to focus solely on my huge list of books by not-cis authors I've been meaning to get to. I ended up reading a total of 9 books for Transathon! I've already posted about Homesick by Nino Cipri (review here) and Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe (review here), but here are mini reviews for the 7 other titles I read during this event: Something That May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel Lavery A memoir rooted in faith, literary classics, pop culture, and the author's experiences being…

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Homesick by Nino Cipri

I love speculative, fabulist fiction, and Nino Cipri's short story collection Homesick delivered. The formats of some of these stories were so creative. "Which Super Little Dead Girl Are You" is written as a quiz. "Dead Air" is an epistolary short story, using recordings, and whoa was it ever creepy! In "Before We Disperse Likestar Stuff," speculative elements served as a backdrop to give us a taste of Cipri's talent for writing character-driven stories. Homesick put me in awe of the breadth of their imagination. I really enjoyed this collection, just as much as I loved their novel Finna.

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Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer is a graphic memoir that follows the author as e questions eir gender and sexual identities (nonbinary and asexual). It's important to remember this is one individual's story, but its greatest strength is how Kobabe differentiates between cis people who resist gender expectations and how a person comes to understand they are nonbinary. There were a couple spots that I recognized as normal parts of this journey, but I wish these moments were fleshed out a bit more. My fear is that cis readers who don't have the knowledge to fill in the blanks might miss the overall point and be tempted to medicalize gender identity. Kobabe is very open about the many questions e had along the…

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The Lightest Object in the Universe by Kimi Eisele

Published by Algonquin Books, The Lightest Object in the Universe by Kimi Eisele is now out in paperback. Check out that stunning cover! I'm a sucker for bokeh against a mostly-monochrome background like this. So pretty. . If you're looking for post-apocalyptic fiction with an optimistic, hopeful take, where there is good within all of the chaos, where the focus is on how we rebuild and the connections we make with others, this just might be the book for you. See what others had to say about this title: . "The Lightest Object in the Universe is a hopeful, heartbreaking post-apocalyptic novel set in a world where half the population has been killed by a widespread flu and electricity and…

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