Ten recommended books
There’s this meme going on facebook which is nice. And I’m supposed to be writing papers for the university - what better time to do something else entirely?
Disclaimer: I can’t call this the list of my top 10 books because, honestly, I have loved and been affected by so many books that picking just 10 of them would always and forever be inaccurate. So consider this a list of books that I appreciate at this point in life for what they have given me - in particular as a bi genderqueer person/woman of color, but also just in general.
* Note: You may notice that I like using hyperboles. I get very excited about books.
In order to make this less text heavy, I put all the content warnings in a separate post.
In no particular order (links lead to books’ pages on Amazon):
1. The Sandman // Neil Gaiman
The Sandman is an epic 10-volume graphic novel by Neil Gaiman, spanning many characters and many themes. It was first published in the 90’s, but holds very well today as well, being quite a masterpiece of storytelling and human insight. While I realize today that there are many problems with this book (specified in the content warnings), it still avoids a lot of the outright terribleness that’s so pervasive in the rest of the comic industry (not being exclusively about cishet white men, for example). It is extremely well-written and makes a unique and wonderful blend of mythology, folklore, history, fantasy and reality that still blows my mind. However, the most important thing that this book has taught me is empathy and compassion - recognizing the humanity in everyone and knowing, really knowing, that everyone has worlds inside them.
2. How Loathsome // Tristan Crane and Ted Naifeh
This is the. Best. Thing. Ever. Tristan Crane is a genderqueer writer and photographer, who wrote this wonderful and totally unique text about bi, trans and queer people in San Francisco. The main character, Catherine, seen on the cover above, is bi and genderqueer. Her (unattainable) love interest is a hetero trans woman. Her best friend is a cis gay man, and her hangout friend is a cis straight man. And the book provides us with a slice-of-life look into everyone’s lives and various adventures in the city of San Francisco. The visuals are extremely pleasing (almost everyone is white, thin and beautiful, which is a problem). However I absolutely love Ted Naifeh’s art and the goth touch of magic that he gives to everything he touches. I love Tristan Crane’s storytelling, and I love that this graphic novel exists in the world. If I had to pick a favorite book of all time forever, this would probably have been it.
3. Interview with the Vampire // Anne Rice
Probably my all-time favorite vampire book. I guess in many ways this was my bisexual coming out book. I first read it when I was 13, around the time when the movie came out (which is also, respectively, my all-time favorite vampire movie). I used to read out all the bi-erotic passages to my best friend, and I now realize it must have been one of the first fictional representations of bisexuality that I’d ever been exposed to. Aside from that, of course, with this book Anne Rice truly recreated the vampire genre, telling the story from the vampire’s point of view was no less than revolutionary for the genre and is wonderful in all sorts of ways. Also in many ways this book feels way emotionally and philosophically deeper to me regarding than any of her other books. There’s something painfully honest about it that has always resonated with me.
4. Stone Butch Blues // Leslie Feinberg
How I love Leslie Feinberg! This should be a mandatory book for everyone ever. This is a semi-autobiography based on Feinberg’s experiences of growing up a working class Jewish butch lesbian during the 50’s and the 60’s, then transitioning to trans male in the 70’s and 80’s. This book gives us a raw, gritty, painful and inspiring taste into the history of North American LGBT communities. It is not only important, but also deeply, deeply moving. In all honesty, I don’t think I could read it again today because it can tear you up inside and leave you completely raw in so many ways. Feinberg is a gifted and inspiring writer and I cannot praise zir - or this book - enough. If you’re emotionally able to, read it!
5. The Left Hand of Darkness // Ursula Le Guin
This is a book by the sci-fi and fantasy icon Ursula Le Guin, who is also one of my all-time favorite authors. This book takes place on a planet called Winter/Gethen, where the people are all androgynous and physical sex is malleable and changeable. This is the first Le Guin book that I’ve ever read, I was probably in my late teens, and so was one of the first books I’d ever read that alluded to genderqueerness. I still love this book, I love Le Guin’s use of language, her sensitive and well-thought-out descriptions of different human societies, her constructions of worlds, giving the same amount of attention both to the setting and to characters’ inner world and interactions (something all too often missing from white cishet male sci-fi writings, which is most). To describe the plot of the story, I would say it’s an exploration of the relationship between Genly, a black male Terran explorer, and Estraven, a local Gethenian. It’s really great.
6. Fledgling // Octavia Butler
The first thing you need to know is that Octavia Butler rules the world. She was a black feminist sci-fi writer, writing totally rad sci-fi since the 70’s-80’s when the field was entirely white male patriarchal bullshit, and this is why her even her oldest books feel so contemporary - because it’s about black women and oppression, and power and feelings and society and OMG, instead of just idealized images of super-hyper-phallocentric patriarchy like the rest of it. This book in particular is neither very old, nor very sci-fi, and it rules. It’s pretty much the most original take on the vampire genre that I’ve ever seen, and it has a black bi poly woman as the main character and narrator. I love Butler’s writing, and I’ve never encountered a better novelist in the geekdom. Read it!
7. The Leather Daddy and the Femme // Carol Queen
Okay, so this is a queer BDSM erotic novel about a polyamorous genderqueer bi woman and her relationship with a gay cis male leather daddy. Inasmuch as a book with only two characters of color can be, it’s pretty much perfection for erotic fiction. It has characters of so many genders and sexualities, it’s feminist, poly and so very very bi. Extra points for including trans women and transfeminine people and not being one bit transmisogynist, and for celebrating bi and trans women’s sexuality in totally awesome and hot ways. It even has a chapter that’s about calling out sapphobia and transmisogyny (hell yeah)! It was written by the very excellent Carol Queen, who is herself a sort of a bifeminist sex goddess and whose writings I highly recommend in general.
8. The Handmaid’s Tale // Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood has been one of my favorite authors for many years. The Handmaid’s Tale is the first book of hers I’ve ever read, and for that reason it will always have a warm place in my heart (or perhaps a cold, petrified place in my heart). This book is a dystopia, described from the point of view of a nameless woman who’s been assigned to a certain Commander and his wife for the purpose of bearing children. I love Atwood’s use of language, her writing style and her use of the stream of consciousness form. She gives psychological and social depth to the story in a way that sheds light on contemporary women’s oppression, the treatment of women in Western societies, and the way that social oppression works. It’s also about quiet resistance, courage and survival. Unfortunately, it’s hopelessly white and cishet (traits that always come together with Atwood’s writing). But that aside, it’s wonderful and highly insightful.
9. The End of San Francisco // Mattilda Berstein Sycamore
I love Mattilda! She’s been such an inspiration to me, both in terms of politics and in terms of writing. This book is her (disjunct, messy, beautiful) memoir of being a chronically ill, Jewish, genderqueer, gay, incest survivor and a radical queer activist. This book has left a deep mark on me, especially as being ill with fibromyaglia (as Mattilda is), and as far as it goes for experience around communities falling apart and ultimately failing. This is a book about survival, and the painful, messy, wonderful existence of being a queer person inside - and despite of - all sorts of difficult circumstances. It resonated very deeply with me, and I’m thankful to Mattilda for bringing it to the world.
10. Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution // Shiri Eisner
Okay, so I had to save a spot for my own book. Because I wrote the book that I’d been wanting to read every single time I opened a book about bisexuality. I wanted to give a book to all the bi people who couldn’t find themselves in mainstream, assimilationist, liberal, white, cis bi dialogues. To all of us who are “bad bis”, to the ill-fitting, the non-representational, the ones who are too bisexual, perhaps too big, too expanse and unpalatable for mainstream bisexual politics. I wanted hope - for myself, for other bi people, and for queer movements as a whole. I wanted a bi theory that would include us - where we could be whole people, have multifaceted, intersecting identities and struggles that couldn’t be summarized by just one word or by a single issue theory. I wanted to give us the language and the tools to talk about our experiences, our oppression, our courage, our resistance and our power. This book is a love letter to bisexuality, to bi people and to all the huge messy confusing wonderfulness that we are and that we can be.