Queer*Welten 04/2021

Queer*Welten is a queer-feminist fantasy and scifi magazine, edited by Judith Vogt, Kathrin Dodenhoeft and Lena Richter. Issue 4 contains three short stories and an essay.
Finished on: 23.8.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other issues.]

I’m not much of a magazine reader, but Queer*Welten is an absolutely lovely magazine that offers such a wide array of topics that I always find something in it that I love, and find more than a few somethings that I really like. This issue is no exception.

The magazine cover showing an illustration drawn with biro of two circles that seem mirror images at first, but differ when you look closely at them. They show rivers, plants, insects and fish.
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Pizza Girl (Jean Kyoung Frazier)

Pizza Girl is the first novel by Jean Kyoung Frazier.
Finished on: 11.8.2021

Content Note: stalking, alcoholism

Plot:
She is 18 years old, pregnant and works as a pizza delivery girl. Living with her mother and her boyfriend who seem way more excited about the baby than she is, she has no idea where to go from here. She doesn’t even want to think about it. Then she delivers a pizza one day to Jenny and her son. Something about Jenny’s apparently chaotic life and her ponytail draws her in, and Jenny, too, seems to take an interest in the “Pizza Girl”, as she calls her. She starts waiting and hoping for Jenny’s call to the pizza place every week – but soon that isn’t enough anymore.

Pizza Girl should be a heavy book but somehow Frazier manages to keep it light and quick despite the many difficult topics she touches on. While I appreciate that, I would have also liked to feel the heaviness a little more. That being said, it’s certainly a memorable novel and a very good debut that will stay with me.

The book cover showing a graphic of an open, empty pizza box in front of a black and pink background.
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Biskaya (SchwarzRund)

Biskaya is the first novel by SchwarzRund.
Finished on: 30.6.2021

Content Note: suicide, mental illness, eating disorder, (critical treatment of) racism and queermisia

Plot:
Tue is a Black woman in Berlin. She grew up on Biskaya, an island state that is part of the EU, but moved to Germany when she was still pretty young. Now she is the singer in punk band with a pretty good reputation and some success. But Tue struggles with her mental health, with being a Black queer woman in Germany, with her band members and with her flatmates. It is only with her best friend Matth, also queer and Black, that she feels at home.

Biskaya is an ambitious book. In some ways it is rather obvious that is a debut novel and maybe not quite as polished as you’d expect, but it is definitely worth it for the interesting perspectives it provides.

The book cover showing a slightly abstract painting by the author, a human figure in red, around the upper arm what could be a green bracelet with yellow pearls.
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Felix Ever After (Kacen Callender)

Felix Ever After is a novel by Kacen Callender.
Finished on: 25.6.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) transmisia, queermisia

Plot:
Felix is a student at an art school, hoping to get into a good college to pursue his art further. He therefore attends summer school with his best friend Ezra. He is also Black, trans, queer and desperate to fall in love for the first time, but secretly afraid that he has one marginalized identity too many. And maybe he is not all that sure about his identities anyway. Before he figures anything out, though, Felix arrives in school one morning to find pre-transitions photos of himself and his deadname plastered all over the school gallery. Suspecting his classmate and rival Declan, Felix hatches a plan to make him pay. But that plan leads him somewhere else entirely.

Felix Ever After is wonderful. Simply wonderful. It’s the kind of novel that queer people everywhere should grow up with, really. It made my heart swell in the best of ways.

The book cover showing an illustration of a Black guy in a tank top. His arms are covered in small tattoos, he is wearing a flower crown and underneath the tank top, we can just make out scars from top surgery.
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This Brutal House (Niven Govinden)

This Brutal House is a novel by Niven Govinden.
Finished on: 21.6.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, transmisia, queermisia

Plot:
Teddy grew up with the Mothers, gay leaders of a voguing group who also took in the kids that came to walk with them and, more often than not, did not have a (safe) home – like Teddy. By now, Teddy is grown up and works for the city. That’s why he becomes the point person when the Mothers start a silent protest in front of city hall, camping there, holding a vigil, not saying a word – because their children have been going missing and nobody seems to care. Teddy has to navigate his conflicted loyalties, his own past and his childhood love for Sherry, one of the missing.

I will come right out and say it: I struggled with This Brutal House. It has beautiful prose, but I could not get into the style or the story.

The book cover showing a black and white photo of a group of people lying on the pavement in (a) protest.
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Mutterschoß (Elea Brandt)

Mutterschoß (literally: Mother’s Lap) is a novel by Elea Brandt, set in Ghor-el-Chras. It was not (yet) translated into English.
Finished on: 10.6.2021
[I received a copy of this book to review, or, as they say in German, this post is Unbezahlte Werbung.]

Content Note (for this review): ableism, abortion, slavery
[there is a complete list included in the book itself and available at the author’s homepage]

Plot:
Ajeri is a midwife. Since she also performs abortion and is a former slave, her standing is difficult, but she likes her work. One of her clients, Midena, is just about to give birth – hoping it will be finally the heir her husband Bailak, head of the slaver’s guild, has been waiting for. But Midena has been plagued by nightmares recently, and when her labor comes early, everything goes wrong very quickly. Ajeri calls for a doctor to help. To her dismay, it’s Shiran who shows up – arrogant doctor’s apprentice and an old acquaintance of Ajeri. They start fightnig for Midena’s life, but it’s too late for her. The child is alive, but it is not right. Ajeri finds herself on the run, blamed for what happened, while Shiran is tasked by Bailak to figure everything out or risk losing everything himself. Ajeri and Shiran both realize soon that there is a dark force after the pregnant women of the city.

Mutterschoß is a good read with an openly feminist message, which I always appreciate. But I struggled a little with how the book deals with ableism, so I couldn’t love it unreservedly.

(c) Chaos Pony Verlag
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Love Bite (Azure)

Love Bite is a short story by Azure (available here).
Finished on: 10.6.2021

Plot:
Mercy and Brooke have been dating for a while, but recently Brooke has been going through some changes, turning into a vampire due to a genetic condition. Alienated from her own body and unwilling to drink blood, she has been a cause of worry for Mercy. But Mercy has a plan to get her girlfriend back in touch with herself and her needs. All she needs is a bit of creativity and kink.

Love Bite is a kinky short story with a nice sense of humor and really lovely characters. I was a little disappointed that it’s only a short story – I wouldn’t have minded to spend more time with Mercy and Brooke (kinky or otherwise). The two are just a lovely couple and so vividly brought to life in just those few pages. I loved that Mercy is trans and that her body is described so lovingly. I also really enjoyed this take on vampirism and the artful connections that are made between the lore and BDSM. In short, this story is a whole lot of fun. I can only recommend it.

The book cover showing a woman dressed in a blue nightshirt and panties, holding a black tie into which roses are worked. There are bite marks on her inner thigh.

This Is How You Lose the Time War (Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone)

This Is How You Lose the Time War is an epistolary novella by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.
Finished on: 04.6.2021

Plot:
Red is an agent of the Commandant, Blue is an agent of Garden, two sides in a war that spans all times. It is both Red’s and Blue’s job to make sure that certain events happen or don’t happen in the course of time to benefit their respective sides. After one of these missions, Red finds a letter on the battlefield. A letter from Blue. A letter taunting her. Red hesitates at first, but then replies and the ensuing back-and-forth between two enemy agents turns them into something else.

It took me a bit to get into This is How You Lose the Time War, but once I did, I absolutely loved it. It’s a beautifully written and inventive story that takes you somewhere else.

The book cover showing two birds, one red, one blue, standing with their claws to each other. Both birds are cut in several pieces, with the pieces being slightly out of alignment.
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The Black Flamingo (Dean Atta)

The Black Flamingo is the first novel by Dean Atta, with illustrations by Anshika Khullar.
Finished on: 10.5.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, homomisia

Plot:
Michael is a Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican, gay, Black boy in England. Figuring out what that means exactly isn’t easy. Throughout high school, he figures things out together with his best friend Daisy. But it isn’t until university where Michael discovers drag for himself that he really finds answers to the question of who he is.

The Black Flamingo is a novel in verse written for a younger audience about identity, race and sexual orientation. In theory, this sounds like a challenging novel to say the least. In practice, it is a wonderfully easy, touching read that challenges in such a way that you barely notice what it’s doing. It is absolutely fantastic.

The book cover showing the drawing of a young Black man wearing black feathers, cradling a black flamingo. He is surrounded by pink feathers and four pink flamingos.
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Santa Olivia (Jacqueline Carey)

Santa Olivia is the first novel in the Santa Olivia series by Jacqueline Carey.
Finished on: 5.12.2020

Plot:
Santa Olivia is a small town caught in the no man’s land between the USAmerican and the Mexican border wall. Officially, neither the town, nor its people exist – there is just the USAmerican military base next to it. And yet, here they are. Among the people in Santa Olivia is Loup, daughter of an escaped enhanced human out of a military project and one of the poor women of Santa Olivia who fell in love with the fugitive. But her father had to move on and her mother died, so Loup only has her bigger half-brother Tom to take care of her. Growing up in an orphanage, careful not to show the superstrength and -speed that she inherited from her father, Loup soon finds that the town may be in need of a hero. Only, what can a single hero really do?

I remember grabbing Santa Olivia a few years ago from a bargain bin somewhere and having finally read it, I am very glad I did. It is an interesting take on superheros, set in a highly political world and has a queer protagonist. It’s basically everything I could have hoped for.

The book cover showing a woman in a long blue blowing coat, her face in shadows.
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