THE LIT CLUB:
NOVEMBER EDITION



Art by Charis

For this The Lit Club Edition, we're bringing you a whole batch of new books by people of color for people of color. This month, as it's Trans Awareness Month, we've incorporated a few books where trans folk are the protagonists. Enjoy!

RECOMMENDATIONS

George by Alex Gino

BE WHO YOU ARE.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl.

George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy.  


With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all. - Goodreads

Genre: LGBTQ+ Literature

Wandering Son by Takako Shimura

The fifth grade. The threshold to puberty, and the beginning of the end of childhood innocence. Shuichi Nitori and his new friend Yoshino Takatsuki have happy homes, loving families, and are well-liked by their classmates. But they share a secret that further complicates a time of life that is awkward for anyone: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. Written and drawn by one of today’s most critically acclaimed creators of manga, Shimura portrays Shuishi and Yoshino’s very private journey with affection, sensitivity, gentle humor, and unmistakable flair and grace. Volume one introduces our two protagonists and the friends and family whose lives intersect with their own. Yoshino is rudely reminded of her sex by immature boys whose budding interest in girls takes clumsily cruel forms. Shuichi’s secret is discovered by Saori, a perceptive and eccentric classmate. And it is Saori who suggests that the fifth graders put on a production of The Rose of Versailles for the farewell ceremony for the sixth graders with boys playing the roles of women, and girls playing the roles of men.

Wandering Son is a sophisticated work of literary manga translated with rare skill and sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn. - Fantagraphics

Genre: Manga, LGBTQ+ Literature

Like Son by Felicia Luna Lemus

A groundbreaking second novel that recalls both Sandra Cisneros and Andre Breton. Finalist for the 2008 Ferro-Grumley Awards for LGBT Fiction.

Set amidst the outsider worlds of New York, Los Angeles, and Mexico City, Like Son is the not-so-simple story of a father, a son, and the love blindness shared between them.

Meet Frank Cruz: a post-punk thirty-year-old who unwittingly inherits his dead father's legacy. Born a bouncing baby girl named Francisca to parents tangled in a doomed love affair, Frank grows up in both the poorest barrios and poshest hills of Southern California. At the age of eighteen, Frank leaves for the big city, but is pulled back into helping his estranged and blind father navigate an untimely death. Upon his death, Frank's father leaves his only child a mysterious crumbling photograph of a woman with a stunning gaze: Nahui Olin, a captivating member of the early 20th century Mexican avant-garde who once brought tragedy upon the Cruz family.

Punctured to his core by Nahui, Frank takes her portrait and flees to New York City to start anew—this time for real. There he meets fiery and eccentric Nathalie. The two fall in love, but after seven years of happy-go-lucky life together, in September 2001 the New York skyline tumbles, and Frank finds himself smack in the middle of his predestined fate. - Goodreads

Genre: Fiction, LGBTQ+ Fiction

Intolerable by Kamal Al-Solaylee

In the 1960s, Kamal Al-Solaylee' s father was one of the wealthiest property owners in Aden, in the south of Yemen, but when the country shrugged off its colonial roots, his properties were confiscated, and the family was forced to leave. The family moved first to Beirut, which suddenly became one of the most dangerous places in the world, then Cairo. After a few peaceful years, even the safe haven of Cairo struggled under a new wave of Islamic extremism that culminated with the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. The family returned to Yemen, a country that was then culturally isolated from the rest of the world.

As a gay man living in an intolerant country, Al-Solaylee escaped first to England and eventually to Canada, where he became a prominent journalist and academic. While he was enjoying the cultural and personal freedoms of life in the West, his once-liberal family slowly fell into the hard-line interpretations of Islam that were sweeping large parts of the Arab-Muslim world in the 1980s and 1990s. The differences between his life and theirs were brought into sharp relief by the 2011 revolution in Egypt and the civil war in Yemen.

Intolerable is part memoir of an Arab family caught in the turmoil of Middle Eastern politics over six decades, part personal coming-out narrative and part cultural analysis. This is a story of the modern Middle East that we think we know so much about. - Goodreads

Genre: Nonfiction

REVIEWS
George by Alex Gino

“From the very beginning, George is referred to as she and her in the narrative; she's set off as female, despite her male anatomy. George is only in the fourth grade, yet has an understanding of her gender, that despite what her body is saying, she is a female. This might seem like a theme that's too old for a child of George's age, but Alex Gino portrayed the child-like innocence within George’s youth that showed George's age. This was done through the dialogue and language used, and the insult 'some jerk' that was so young and not insulting that it couldn't help but endear you to George even more. For me, it was the simplicity of the language and the innocence that it created that really impacted me.” - Review from Amazon

Like Son by Felicia Luna Lemus

“Frank (formerly Francisca) hadn't seen his father for over 20 years when he gets a call from him announcing that he's dying. Frank decides to take care of him, and because his father is not only dying, but now completely blind, he decides not to correct him when he calls him Francisca. His father left him an unusual legacy, part of which leads him to seek out his insane, estranged mother. She refuses to let him in the door, and thrusts a wad of money at him. Frank decides it's time to really break away, and leaves that night for New York, where he slowly starts a new life.

When he meets Nathalie at a party, he is swept up by her beauty. She comes home with him that night and doesn't leave. Ever mercurial and usually unwilling to talk about things, she keeps Frank happily at her beck and call, until she disappears one day.” - Nancy (Goodreads)

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Shadowshaper, Daniel José Older’s first YA book, stars Sierra Santiago, a Puerto Rican teen living in Brooklyn with a fantasy backdrop inspired by a Caribbean legend. Sierra discovers a secret order called the Shadowshapers, a group that uses magic to bind spirits with works of art, that is dying due to an evil force’s manipulation of their type of magic. This book deals with themes such as police brutality, racism, colorism and more.

This book was a very colorful and diverse book, filled with characters from multiple ethnicities ranging from Puerto Rican to Haitian and also featured a lesbian couple. Throughout the novel, Older sets a realistic view of Brooklyn, featuring AAVE dialect and conversations on topics varying from gentrification to cultural appropriation. Most of these topics are introduced offhandedly, not the focus of the book, but still refreshing to be presented to these realities so many other YA authors glide over. One aspect of Shadowshapers I loved in particular was of the issue of colorism within her family, for the most part pushed by her aunt. Through many comments, Sierra’s aunt made it clear that being lighter was optimal. Finally, once her aunt directs her colorist comments towards her new darker-skinned friend Robbie, Sierra finally stands up for her beliefs - that all shades of brown are beautiful and she's proud of the shade she's got.

Although the book was very strong on diversity and realistic perspectives, I felt as though it lacked in creating depth within its characters and their relationships. Looking at the characters in Shadowshapers, Sierra was a very well written, but all the other characters seemed to fall flat. Her friends, family and antagonist, Dr. Jonathan Wick are very two dimensional, each holding a few traits and not bringing anything more. And since these characters are all pretty two dimensional, Sierra’s relationships feels off, especially the one she shares with Robbie. It feels too stereotypical and staged, nothing feels natural and Robbie offers another diverse character, to the storyline with dreads, tattoos and a Haitian background, but adds nothing else to Sierra or their relationship

Older’s Shadowshapers may have lacked depth in it's characters, apart from Sierra, and their relationship, but provided in the end a colorful and realistic read in out presently eurocentric YA series and novels.

Adele’s rating: 3.6/5 stars

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