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Book recommendations: Reads to take Pride in

As Pride month for 2022 draws to a close, here’s a list of some brilliant LGBTQ+ books and voices from Scottish authors and publishers for you to dive into, or indeed look forward to this year.

★ Denotes a book published by a Publishing Scotland member.

Duck Feet by Ely Percy
★ Monstrous Regiment

Duck Feet is a coming-of-age novel, set in the mid-noughties in Renfrew and Paisley, Scotland. It’s also the indie sensation that went onto scoop the top prize at the Scottish National Book Awards.

Following the lives of 12-year-old Kirsty Campbell and her friends as they navigate life from first to sixth year at Renfrew Grammar school, the book is a celebration of youth in an ever-changing world. It uses humour to tackle hard-hitting subjects such as drugs, bullying, sexuality, and teenage pregnancy. But moreover, it is a relatable and accessible portrait of figuring out who you are, plunging into the currents of life, and most of all, finding hope.

Gears for Queers by Abigail Melton and Lilith Cooper
Sandstone Press

Partners Abi and Lily got on their bikes one day and started peddling, keen to see some of Europe. Bringing together Lili’s childhood of cycling around their hometown of Cambridge, and Abigail’s desire to travel the world, the book captures their journey along flat fens and up the Alps, meeting new friends and exorcising their demons as they push themselves to undertake these brilliant and varied journeys.

Deep Wheel Orcadia by Harry Josephine Giles

Journey into a science fiction world through the Orkney dialect. Deep Wheel Orcadia brings together a rich and varied cast in the original Orcadian alongside an English translation, allowing readers to fully breathe in the magic of the original. Exploring a range of topics through the lens of the space station Deep Wheel Orcadia, it blends Giles’ prowess for poetic language with an ambitious, engrossing tale.

At Least This I Know by Andrés N. Ordorica
404 Ink

Ordorica’s collection starts neither here nor there, a liminal space between two states of being. Exploring his own story of ancestry, nationhood, activism and queerness, to tales of love and loss and more, it’s a vivid portrait of the poet on his own journey, exploring a sense of belonging of immigrant bodies in new countries, or that of the queer self within found families and safe spaces.

Re·creation: A Queer Poetry Anthology edited by Éadaoín Lynch & Alycia Pirmohamed
Stewed Rhubarb

Inspired in name by Audre Lorde’s poem of the same name, the anthology contains new work from many writers from the LGBTQ+ community including a few featuring in this very list – Dean Atta, Harry Josephine Giles, Andrés Ordorica, and more brilliance beyond, such as Jack Bigglestone, Mae Diansangu, Kira Scott, Patience Agbabi, Jay Gao and Andrew McMillan.

Polaris by Marcas Mac an Tuiarneir
★ Leamington Books

Named for the North Star, the collection builds on the intersecting notions of ‘northness’ and linguistic and cultural identities, which includes reimaginings and reworkings of the original works in many of the minoritised language of these islands: Scots, Irish, Manx, Welsh and more, contributed by brilliant translators and poets.

A collection indebted to feminist and post-colonial thought, while navigating folk narratives, historical accounts and current affairs of islands, there’s a lot to dive into within its pages.

Tamlin by Aven Wildsmith
Knight Errant Press

Aven Wildsmith’s Tamlin is a beautiful retelling of the classic Scottish folk ballad written in verse and with accompanying illustrations to bring it to life. A magically atmospheric tale is told through a queer lens, creating new room for queer love and heroes within the folklore. A really lovely reshaping of a classic.

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

The highly anticipated follow-up to the Booker-winner Shuggie Bain, Young Mungo follows two young men on opposite sides of the Protestant-Catholic divide, living in a hyper-masculine and violent world. Though they should be sworn enemies, they become friends and find love against a backdrop that says it cannot be. For fans of his debut, this is another lyrical book following characters whose lives you fall wholeheartedly into.

The Bi-ble: New Testimonials
Monstrous Regiment

The second book in Monstrous Regiment’s Bi-ble anthology series brings together a range of people to discuss and engage with bisexuality through a range of lenses, whether coming out in Southeast Asian Culture (Vaneet Mehta), considering Janelle Monáe’s Black queer femme representation through the lens of Audre Lorde (Jessica Brough), bi students’ experiences of invisibility, marginalisation and more (Jayna Tavarez), or pansexual awakenings (Robert J. Holmes), there’s many brilliant essays to dive into.

Bessie Smith by Jackie Kay
Faber & Faber

Born in 1894 in Tennessee, Bessie Smith sang on street corners before making a name for herself, recording for the then-start-up Columbia Records in 1923. Hundreds of thousands of copies later, she was a star. The blues great’s life is punctuated with many stories of highs and lows: stardom, fist fights, passionate love affairs with men and women, spent huge amounts of money. As a young black girl growing up in Glasgow, former Makar Jackie Kay found in Bessie someone to idolise, and it feels there’s no more fitting a person to document such a tremendous life through a mix of biography, fiction, poetry and prose. A perfect pairing and extraordinary life documented..

None of the Above by Travis Alabanza
★ Canongate

Travis Alabanza explores seven phrases people have directed at them regarding their gender identity which have stayed with them over the years. Whether deceptively innocuous, deliberately loaded or offensive, or celebratory – words have power and these sentences speak to the broad issues raised by a world insisting that gender must be a binary.

From some of their most transformative experiences as a Black, mixed race, non binary person, Travis turns a mirror back to the reader and society, asking us to question the frameworks in which we live, and how we treat each other.

Only on the Weekends by Dean Atta
Hodder Children’s Books

Fifteen year old Mack is a hopeless romantic – hooked, like many of us to the films he’s grown up on. He is ecstatic when Karim, who he has like forever, becomes his boyfriend, but when his dad gets a job in Scotland and they have to move, he finds their love moving to only on the weekends, as the distance isn’t all that’s keeping them apart. When he meets actor Finlay on a film set, he experiences something powerful and new – but who will he choose? And will it last forever?

Unspeakable and Unthinkable: A Queer Gothic Anthology edited by Celine Frohn
Haunt Publishing

Unthinkable collects nineteen original Gothic tales primed to unsettle and entertain. From a Southern Gothic tale of destruction and revenge, to haunted houses and cursed lovers, to an eco-Gothic saga, Unthinkable’s tales present undying themes of love and tragedy, life and death, all suffused with queerness. Following on from the success of its predecessor Unspeakable: A Queer Gothic Anthology, Unthinkable features stories from a fresh batch of authors, showcasing the depth and breadth of queer Gothic literature. Another great addition to the brilliant Gothic output of Haunt.

Carrie Kills A Man by Carrie Marshall
404 Ink

Carrie Kills A Man* is about growing up in a world that doesn’t want you, and about how it feels to throw a hand grenade into a perfect life. It’s the story of how a tattooed transgender rock singer killed a depressed suburban dad, and of the lessons you learn when you renounce all your privilege and power. When more people think they’ve seen a ghost than met a trans person, it’s easy for bad actors to exploit that – and they do, as you can see from the headlines and online. But here’s the reality, from someone who’s living it. From coming out and navigating trans parenthood to the thrills of gender-bending pop stars, fashion disasters and looking like Velma Dinkley, this is a tale of ripping it up and starting again: Carrie’s story in all its fearless, frank and funny glory.

*“Spoiler: That man was me.” – Carrie

HellSans by Ever Dundas
Angry Robot Books

The ultimate control device: a typeface. HellSans is ubiquitous, enforced by the government; most experience bliss when they see the typeface, but those who don’t are persecuted, forced onto the outskirts of the city. Jane Ward is a CEO with fame and fortune, she has everything, until one day she falls ill with the allergy and is thrown into the government’s internal power struggles, losing everything in the process. A story of corruption and power through a fascinating new lens – one to savour.

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