AfterEllen.com Book Club: Your Choices for April!

With the announcement of the 25th Annual Lambda Literary Award finalists this month, I thought it only appropriate to explore some of the selections in the Best Lesbian Fiction category besides The Last Nude, which we’ve already covered. Some other books which are also up for awards that we’ve already included either as a selection or option from the last year of the book club include Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (Best Lesbian Memoir), Love: In Theory (Best LGBT Debut Fiction), and from this month, The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard and First Spring Grass Fire (Best Transgender Fiction). There are also several nominees in the Best LGBT Children’s/Young Adult Fiction category that I’ve reviewed in the Your New School Library column, including Ask the Passengers, The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Adaptation.

And speaking of Adaptation, in case you missed it, Malinda Lo recently released a teaser along with the cover from the sequel, Inheritance, which will release in September. While it’s only the tiniest of teasers, it does include (spoiler!) Reese letting Amber hold her hand, soooo.

But back to the business at hand! After researching all of the Best Lesbian Fiction Lambda nominees, it seems interesting to note that almost all of them cover sprawling narratives that span beyond merely one queer protagonist, to include elaborate tales of all sexualities and genders. To put it more simply, they’re not just solely queer stories, but stories that have a few queer people in them, a criticism that some also had for last year’s Best Lesbian Fiction winner, Six Metres of Pavement. Out of this year’s group, The Last Nude undoubtedly seems the most forthrightly lesbian.

Yet many of these books still intrigue me, and I don’t necessarily believe that all queer novels have to be specifically about being queer. It’s interesting to contemplate if this theme is merely a sign of queerness in literature moving beyond the necessity of queerness-as-conflict in every central plot line, or if it’s just the Lambda committee choosing, for whatever reason, not-very-lesbian lesbian novels. I’d be interested in your thoughts!

But enough rambling, here are your books!

Carry the One, Carol Anshaw

This one starts out real cheery, with a horribly tragic car accident that leaves a 10 year old dead after a family wedding in 1983. The rest of the novel deals with the accident fallout among family and friends, principally among siblings Nick, Carmen, and Alice. While Carmen is a staunch women’s rights activist, it’s Alice that plays for our team, and she develops a volatile relationship with Carmen’s husband’s sister, Maude, among other women. While also documenting decades of cultural and political news as the siblings grow older, the novel deals with the different ways in which we carry grief over time. (You can also check out our recent interview with Carol Anshaw, where she talks about the Lammy’s, The L Word, and more.

The Raven’s Heart, Jesse Blackadder

For something completely different, The Raven’s Heart is a tale of history and mystery, taking place in Scotland in the 16th century. Mary, young Queen of the Scots, has finally returned to her country to claim her title after a long exilement in France. Yet there is another woman who has a true claim to Blackadder Castle, Alison, whose family was forced from the royal lineage 25 years ago. Alison has spent most of her young life dressing and passing as a boy to protect the true identity of her shamed family, but is suddenly pushed to be a “lady in waiting” for the recently returned Queen Mary, as a way for her family to wheedle their way back in. Hence begins adventures where both Mary and Alison soon learn the lies, loyalties, passions, and mysteries that come with the throne. Recommended by Lambda for fans of Sarah Waters’ historical fiction.

The World We Found, Thrity Umrigar

This novel explores the lives of four different women who first became friends during college in Bombay during the revolution-churning 1970s. Three decades later, one of the four, Armaiti, is diagnosed with cancer, and longs to reunite with her old friends; she urges them to visit her in the States, where she now lives. The resulting reflections on how far (or not) each woman has come since their youth explore both the modern history of India and the ways we are all disconnected or struggling against varying forces of society and within ourselves. Nishta, for instance, lives in poverty and has converted to Islam after marrying a man who becomes ever more fundamental in his beliefs after Hindu-Muslim riots of the ‘90s. Laleh lives a more privileged life and must deal with the guilt that carries, and Kavita is a lesbian in a happy relationship in Bombay, who must decide whether and how to come out to her friends.

I say honestly that each book sounds fascinating to me, so help us decide: Which book should we read? (For those wondering, all are available as e-books.)

I’ll post the results by the end of the week, along with a discussion post for all of our Leslie Feinberg thoughts and feels from this month — of which I, for one, have a lot. See you then.

More you may like