Real Queer America by Samantha Allen

Samantha Allen's book Real Queer America is an inspiring, optimistic, heartfelt letter to fellow queer folks living in red states in the United States. But it's also incredibly informative (and gently corrective) to cishet liberals living in blue states. You know, the people who tend to look down from their high horse, putting us on their personal "no travel" lists, making assumptions about what life is like in conservative areas of the country. Allen's book offers a more realistic perspective on queer life in Red State America than the media prefers to show (and for that matter, a more honest perspective on life in blue and swing states, too). She shows us how these places and the people in them are…

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Just Sit by Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz

I wanted to love this book. I'm a believer in the power of meditation, and the fun, colorful, magazine-like layout of Just Sit is pleasing to the eye, easy to navigate, and motivating. After the first two chapters, though, I was already frustrated. Exaggerated health claims came across infomercial-like at best, ableist at worst. There are no notes/citations to back up any of the claims in this book. If you're going to make huge claims with phrases like "studies show", you need to cite that and give readers a way to look into those studies further, to find out how they were conducted, what the sample size was, etc. Because there are plenty of junk "studies" out there. (See Ben…

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The Curiosities by Susan Gloss

It took me a while to warm up to Susan Gloss's The Curiosities. There are five alternating perspectives in this novel, and I needed to get my bearings. Once I got to know each character, though, I had trouble putting the book down. I think it's tricky to manage so many different voices, but it's handled well here. I did feel like I got to know some of them better than others, but I wasn't left feeling like anyone had been left behind. That said, Nell, Annie, and Betsy really stood out the most for me. Annie is a second-wave feminist, and her cissexism does come through a couple times—most notably in a "every eligible citizen with a vagina needs to vote"…

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Parkland by Dave Cullen

Obviously Parkland has its tough reading moments. But the focus is much less on the actual shooting itself, and more on the surviving kids finding hope and resilience, working through their grief, and most of all, organizing to effect change. Readers are with these kids as they experience how dirty (and partisan) politics is and how frustrating media spin can be. But we're also with them as they connect with, learn from, and try to help boost the voices of groups like the Peace Warriors and BRAVE (Bold Resistance Against Violence Everywhere) of Chicago. In his engaging narrative style, Cullen shows us teens with a deep sense of injustice who are capable of so much more than many adults give…

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