Good morning and welcome to the end of the week! It's officially Pride and, yes, we are doing a curated reading list to kick off the month with a twist! Today we are focusing something near and dear to our hearts, Indie Presses. These releases are often different from more commercially known fiction, where the freedom of indie allows more risk and high reward. Aside from the featured sampling below, I am tossing some links in the Resources and Further Reading for you to keep exploring.
Queer Indie Reads!
Fiebre Tropical by Juliana Delgado Lopera
Lit by the hormonal neon glow of Miami, this heady, multilingual debut novel follows a Colombian teenager’s coming-of-age and coming out as she plunges headfirst into lust and evangelism.
Uprooted from Bogotá into an ant-infested Miami townhouse, fifteen-year-old Francisca is miserable in her strange new city. Her alienation grows when her mother is swept up in an evangelical church, replete with abstinent salsa dancers and baptisms for the dead. But there, Francisca meets the magnetic Carmen: head of the youth group and the pastor’s daughter. As her mother’s mental health deteriorates, Francisca falls for Carmen and is saved to grow closer with her, even as their relationship hurtles toward a shattering conclusion.
And the Category Is... by Ricky Tucker
What is Ballroom? Not a song, a documentary, a catchphrase, a TV show, or an individual pop star. It is an underground subculture founded over a century ago by LGBTQ African American and Latino men and women of Harlem. Arts-based and intersectional, it transcends identity, acting as a fearless response to the systemic marginalization of minority populations.
Ricky Tucker pulls from his years as a close friend of the community to reveal the complex cultural makeup and ongoing relevance of house and Ballroom, a space where trans lives are respected and applauded, and queer youth are able to find family and acceptance. With each chapter framed as a "category" (Vogue, Realness, Body, et al.), And the Category Is . . . offers an impressionistic point of entry into this subculture, its deeply integrated history, and how it's been appropriated for mainstream audiences. Each category features an exclusive interview with fierce LGBTQ/POC Ballroom members--Lee Soulja, Benjamin Ninja, Twiggy Pucci Garçon, and more--whose lives, work, and activism drive home that very category.
At the height of public intrigue and awareness about Ballroom, thanks to TV shows like FX's Pose, Tucker's compelling narratives help us understand its relevance in pop culture, dance, public policy with regard to queer communities, and so much more. Welcome to the norm-defying realness of Ballroom.
Revenge by Dani Hoots
It has been three years since Elvira "Ellie" Ryder was betrayed by her ex-boyfriend Cor, which caused the destruction of her people by invaders from a different Zone. Now she will do anything to find him and make him pay.
Ellie has found someone who knows where Cor is. The price—assassinate a half-human, half-Sirian who is trying to join the Society, a high-class club only for the rich. Ellie takes the job, as it wouldn’t be the first assassination job she has taken, and heads to the Human Zone. However, when she learns more about her target, the more she realizes what is going on behind the curtain, and how her people were really destroyed.
Will Ellie be able to forgive Cor after learning the truth? Or will she forever hold on to that hatred?
A Natural History of Transition by Callum Angus
A Natural History of Transition is a collection of short stories that disrupts the notion that trans people can only have one transformation. Like the landscape studied over eons, change does not have an expiration date for these trans characters, who grow as tall as buildings, turn into mountains, unravel hometown mysteries, and give birth to cocoons.
Take Her Down by Lauren Emily Whalen
In this queer YA retelling of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, stakes at Augustus Magnet School are cutthroat, scheming is creative, and loyalty is ever-changing.
Overnight, Bronwyn St. James goes from junior class queen to daughter of an imprisoned felon, and she lands in the care of her aunt and younger cousin Cass, a competitive cheerleader who Bronwyn barely knows. Life gets worse when her ex-best friend, the always-cool Jude Cuthbert, ostracizes Bronwyn from the queer social elite for dating a boy, Porter Kendrick.
Bronwyn and Jude are both running for student body president, and that means war. But after Bronwyn, Porter, and Cass share a video of Jude in a compromising position, Jude suddenly goes missing. No one has seen her for weeks and it might be all Bronwyn’s fault. Will Jude ever be found? Or will Bronwyn finally have to reckon with what she’s won—and what she’s lost?
Apsara Engine by Bishakh Kumar Som
In turns both fantastical and familiar, this graphic short story collection with South Asian roots is immersed in questions of gender, the body, and existential conformity.
The eight delightfully eerie stories in Apsara Engine are a subtle intervention into everyday reality. A woman drowns herself in a past affair, a tourist chases another guest into an unforeseen past, and a nonbinary academic researches postcolonial cartography. Imagining diverse futures and rewriting old mythologies, these comics delve into strange architectures, fetishism, and heartbreak.
Painted in rich, sepia-toned watercolors, Apsara Engine is trans illustrator Bishakh Som's highly anticipated debut work of fiction. Showcasing a series of fraught, darkly humorous, and seemingly alien worlds—which ring all too familiar—Som captures the weight of twenty-first-century life as we hurl ourselves forward into the unknown.