micro reviews of queer specfic & nonfiction. diversions into out-of-print annals. occasional digressions.

January reads

Hello, it's been months! I'm hoping to write a few sentences about every book I read this year.


Skid Road: On the Frontier of Health and Homelessness in an American City by Josephine Ensign

A top-notch, highly focused history of homelessness in Seattle. It touches on mental health management, hospital systems, county politics... It's less interested in housing policy, more in health and community elements. Even though it's specific to Seattle, it's a relevant read for anyone in the U.S. seeking to learn more about the public (state and civic) perspectives and policies that developed into our contemporary housing crisis.

Elite Capture: How the Powerful Took Over Identity Politics by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò

A powerful piece of philosophical and political theory, with some historical grounding. I think I was expecting more history out of this one, and I'm still curious in a more detailed history of how conversations around identity politics shifted over time. That said, anyone who's engaging with identity politics, discourse about identity politics, etc, would find this interesting and relevant.

Corrections in Ink by Keri Blakinger

Really interesting memoir from a prison reporter about her own time in prison for drug-related charges. Also deals with disordered eating and high school ballet trauma. Recommend listening to the author-narrated audiobook, if you're into audiobooks.

Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughs

This is a hysterical memoir about alcoholism, love, the publishing industry, and some perhaps ill-advised mixing between all those. Definitely going to listen to more self-read memoirs from this author.

The Deviant's War: The Homosexual vs the USA by Eric Cervini

The actual history here — of early gay rights organizing, including a lot on the Mattachine Society — is very interesting. Unfortunately, the book itself is wanderingly structured, a little dry, and somewhat hard to follow from chapter to chapter. Fairly standard for a big general history, but not my favorite format of historical writing.

My Name's Yours, What's Alaska? by Alaska Thunderfuck 5000

Truly, Alaska reading the entire audiobook in drag voice made this. The memoir itself is on the low end of quality for celebrity memoirs. It also felt a bit like her PR team instructed her to write the whole thing to get ahead of and apologize for the various public controversies she's been involved in. There's a fantastic interview at the end worth checking out.

Queer Data: Using Gender, Sex and Sexuality Data for Action by Kevin Guyan

Great research on existing gender & sexuality data, plus some provocative discussion on what/why/how to collect and use said data. Appreciated the extra attention to questions like, “do we actually need this at all?” and “if we collect this but don't use it, is that in itself a problem?” Essential read for anyone in research, social work, or journalism fields where data like this is relevant.


Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

Felt like reading a lesbian Aldous Huxley novel, for better or for worse. This is one of those “persisting queer classics.” I felt very interested while reading it, but now that I'm several weeks out, I don't remember much of anything about it.

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

To the butch phlebotomist who asked me what this book was about and got a horrendously incoherent answer: sorry, you were very handsome and about to stab me with a needle.

Anyway, lesbian horror novel about a couple dealing with one of the partners' strange transformation after getting trapped in a submarine at the bottom of the ocean. Eerie, claustrophobic, perfectly executed. Loved it. One of the better horror novels I've read.

Leech by Hiron Ennes

One of the more experimental and daring books I've read from Tor, which often feels like its queer books don't take a lot of risks. Body horror, shifting POV, some truly creepy steampunk medical elements, a provocative and disturbing exploration of personhood and self-determination... I really enjoyed this.

novellas / short fic

Empire of the Feast by Bendi Barrett

Neon Hemlock once again with an absolutely rad little book. Trans space opera orgy magic? Ok, let's go. This felt very anime-inspired (in a good way) and exactly the sort of weird horny sci-fi I adore. Definitely checking out more of Barrett's work.

Chouette by Claire Oshetsky

File under “books I absolutely never would have read if not for three of my most trusted book recommenders loving it.” Weird little book about a woman who gives birth to an owl baby after a lesbian affair. The world is apparently mostly full of dog babies, so this is perturbing. Anyway, that's besides the point. It's billed as magical realism, but it feels much more like a horror novel. It depicts a woman trapped inside a horrible relationship, trying to protect herself and her nonconforming (via the metaphor... disabled? autistic? queer?) child from a gaslighting father who wants to bend her into normality.

Helen House by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Okay, this is freaky discomfitting queer horror shot through with incestuous undertones. For anyone who ever watched one of those bad gay “meet the family coming out” romcoms and thought, “this is a horror movie, actually.” Don't want to say too much, but the vibes are creepy and the ending is chilling. Cool art, too.

Leather Blues: A Novel of Leather folk by Jack Fritscher

Pornographic gay coming of age novella about a young man leaving a small town to get connected with the leather scene. Very much a historical artifact, and a fun read.

Monk & Robot 1&2 by Becky Chambers

I found aspects of the worldbuilding extremely charming, but overall, I found the characters' arcs preachy and kindof annoying. It made a lot of sense to learn that the author is Californian, because this feels like an extended ad for some electric vehicle that no one can afford that's still somehow going to change the whole world.

A Tranquil Star by Primo Levi

I'd meant to read his nonfiction, but this collection ended up being interesting. Literary, political, and a bit playful, despite dealing often with fascism.


In general I'm not a poetry reviewer, but.

Your emergency contact has experienced an emergency by chen chen

This is very funny and irreverent and unless I'm mixing it up with something else, contains a poem about farts. It's also dealing with darker topics. Enjoyed it a lot.

Content Warning: Everything by Akwaeke Emezi

There are some real impactful lines in here and this is about as interesting of a collection as you'd expect from Emezi, who seems to release something masterful in a new medium & genre every 3 months.

the t4t project – issue one

A tiny little zine collection packed with poetry and visual art by tpoc creators. Very exciting to see this series happening. I'm excited for the next issue.


Twittering Birds Never Fly vols 6&7 by Kou Yoneda

This gay BDSM series rocks, and it feels like these volumes tip it past the endless back and forth of circular nothing that felt like it was starting to set in throughout the middle volumes. Things are done that can't be undone, the protagonists are separated in a manner that totally upends their power dynamics and connection, and a time skip brings all sorts of consequences.

The Titan's Bride vol 1&2 by ITKZ

This is not good, and idk what I was expecting. I did get vague enjoyment out of it, but it ended up in that manga place of “the character motives make no sense, and instead of just being silly, it got abruptly somewhat political but in a nonsensical and terrible way that makes the improbable character interactions even worse.”

Berserk Deluxe vols 2&3 by Kentaro Miura

Probably everything that can possibly be said about Berserk has already been said, but Gutsca rights etc etc. The 3rd vol contains a particularly good arc.

My Solo Exchange Diary vol1&2 by Nagata Kabi

These memoirs wobble between “excellent” and “maybe too depressing?” for me. This one was more in the middle, dealing with depression, alcoholism and other mental health topics, but not getting so explicitly into eating disorders. The author's troubled relationship with her family continues to be a tough in the series.

#y2023 #roundups #books

I'm a data journalist and media educator based in the Pacific Northwest. Follow what I'm reading live on Storygraph. You can subscribe to this blog via email or via the Fediverse @stetting@write.as. Find me at @petrinkae on Twitter or on Mastodon.