Cyclopedia Exotica by Aminder Dhaliwal

Aminder Dhaliwal has created a comic detailing the day-to-day of the minority cyclops community within the two-eye majority in Cyclopedia Exotica. This graphic novel is so relatable and heart-breaking. These comics were originally published on the artist’s Instagram page. Her drawing style is cartoonish, yet realistic, reminding me of some of my favorite comics.

The characters in this book come from the cyclops community and are pictured doing daily life. Some are using dating apps, others have families, some have jobs, and others are trying to figure out their identity. The cyclops are an immigrant community with physical differences from the two-eyes majority. Microaggressions occur in doctor’s offices, public transportation, museums, and every other place they visit. Despite the hardships they face, they are all just trying to live normal lives. Coexisting is hard. Being ‘othered’ is hard. Trying to find yourself is hard.

This comic is witty and full of social and cultural critiques. Even though this graphic novel is fiction, it handles real issues faced by marginalized groups today. It’s full of thought-provoking ideas. Characters face xenophia, highlighting disability, sexuality, race, and gender issues that can easily transfer to real life. Dhaliwal outlines cyclops passing as two-eyes, fetishization of cylops, interracial relationships between cyclops and two-eyes, and representation/misrepresentation of cyclops in the media. Cyclops are used as a metaphor for these issues, but this content is relatable to anyone and everyone. They are dealing with their own unique struggles, but are trying to live their daily lives the best they can while dealing with intense hate. Additionally this graphic novel has a large cast of characters, but the artist makes them all individuals and gives them all their own intriguing storylines. Cyclopedia Exotica is thoroughly engaging and full of social commentary.

Parachute Kids by Betty C. Tang

Betty C. Tang’s latest middle grade graphic novel, Parachute Kids, is a mix of fiction and memoir, combining fiction, her family’s first experiences in America, as well as the stories she was told by fellow immigrants she has met. The Lin family’s story is not meant to represent the story of all parachute kids and their families, but is instead meant to introduce readers to the concept of parachute kids, to show their struggle, and to encourage people to share their own stories.

The Lin family is leaving Taiwan to visit the United States for vacation. They have big plans to travel California, hitting all the sites. Unbeknownst to the three Lin siblings, their parents are planning to leave them in the United States while they return to Taiwan. Their parents will return to Taiwan to work while the kids stay behind for better opportunities and schooling. When the parents announce their plans to the kids, big emotions come out: blame, anger, sadness, and more. Once the parents leave and the siblings are left on their own, they are forced to become resilient. They fight, struggle to maintain the household, and are unsure what to do. All they know is they need to stay under the radar since they are without parental guidance and are living as undocumented immigrants with expired visas.

I really enjoyed this book. The author uses different colors to show the change between languages throughout the book, which I appreciated. This book is written for a middle grade audience, but is accessible for adults as well. Tang explores the relationships between the siblings, allowing for growth and struggle to push through. Readers are also allowed a tiny glimpse into the parents’ lives, but this story predominantly takes place from the siblings’ points of view. Parachute Kids doesn’t end with all questions answered, instead leading towards realism with hope for the future. This isn’t the experience of every parachute kid, but there is something in this story to which everyone can relate.

A Scatter of Light by Malinda Lo

“But here’s the important thing when it comes to art. This is what I’ve learned: The art is greater than you and your feelings. You have to serve it. It is not you…Whatever you’re creating may come from within you and your life, but then…it walks away and affects other people you don’t know and have never met. That’s the beauty of it.”
― Malinda Lo, A Scatter of Light

Discovering who you are can be a messy process. Malinda Lo tackles self-identity in A Scatter of Light. Set against the backdrop of the first major Supreme Court decisions legalizing gay marriage, Lo has created another queer coming-of age story that is bittersweet, romantic, and full of love and loss.

Rural California, 2013. Chinese-American teenager, Aria West, has big summer plans. After high school graduation, she plans on spending her summer with her two best friends in Martha’s Vineyard. After Aria becomes entangled in a scandal at a graduation party, she instead finds herself uninvited to Martha’s Vineyard and exiled to spend the summer with her grandmother, artist Joan West, in California. Aria isn’t sure what to do with herself until she meets her grandmother’s gardener, Steph Nichols. Aria quickly becomes friends with Steph and Steph’s group of friends, all of whom are queer. Aria finds herself second-guessing who she is when she develops a crush on Steph, throwing their friend group into turmoil. That summer in California points Aria down a life path that she didn’t think possible for herself. What she thought was going to be a boring and lost summer ends up becoming a summer of reflection, poetry, and self-discovery that changes her future.

Told from the viewpoint of adult Aria looking back at her eighteen-year-old self, readers relive her transition from leaving her school and childhood behind to her start towards independence. This is a  gloriously messy coming of age story all about how messy self-discovery can be. Lo wrote so beautifully that I felt my own teenage angst echoed through Aria’s actions.

A Scatter of Light is considered the companion novel to Last Night at the Telegraph Club. It’s not necessary for you to read one to understand the other, although A Scatter of Light ties up loose ends and answers questions I had after finishing Last Night at the Telegraph Club.

“…how we were only a small moment in time. In the scale of the universe, we’re just a blip.”
― Malinda Lo, A Scatter of Light

This title is also available in large print as well as an Libby eBook and Libby eAudiobook.

Pride Month Reading Recommendations

LGBTQ+ Pride Month is upon us! Celebrate all June long with these books featuring Queer voices and stories. We will also be posting reading recommendations all month long on our Facebook and Instagram, as well as on our library podcast, Checked In!

Check out some of these titles and log them on Beanstack for our Summer Reading Challenge, too.

Fiction

You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat

“On a hot day in Bethlehem, a twelve-year-old Palestinian-American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother’s response only intensifies a sense of shame: ‘You exist too much,’ she tells her daughter. Told in vignettes that flash between the U.S. and the Middle East–from New York to Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine–Zaina Arafat’s debut novel traces her protagonist’s progress from blushing teen to sought-after DJ and aspiring writer.” – Dust jacket flap

A Minor Chorus by Billy-Ray Belcourt

“A debut novel from a rising literary star that brings the modern queer and Indigenous experience into sharp relief. In Northern Alberta, a queer Indigenous doctoral student steps away from his dissertation to write a novel. He is adrift, caught between his childhood on the reservation and this new life of the urban intelligentsia. Billy-Ray Belcourt’s unnamed narrator chronicles a series of encounters: a heart-to-heart with fellow doctoral student River over the mounting pressure placed on marginalized scholars; a meeting with Michael, a closeted adult from his hometown whose vulnerability and loneliness punctuate the realities of queer life on the fringe. Amid these conversations, the narrator is haunted by memories of Jack, a cousin caught in the cycle of police violence, drugs, and survival. Jack’s life parallels the narrator’s own; the possibilities of escape and imprisonment are left to chance with colonialism stacking the odds. A Minor Chorus introduces the dazzling literary voice of a Lambda Literary Award winner and Canadian #1 national best-selling poet to the United States, shining much-needed light on the realities of Indigenous survival.” – Publisher

Body Grammar by Jules Ohman 

“To her own dismay, Lou is a natural model: tall, thin, captivatingly androgynous, and with a striking look. Out of nowhere, every agent in the Portland area wants to represent her. But Lou doesn’t care for fashion, nor does she wish to be seen. Fresh out of high school, Lou’s plan is to spend the summer taking photographs and hoping to catch the attention of Ivy, her close friend and secret crush. But when an afternoon hiking trip ends in a tragic accident, Lou finds herself lost, ridden with guilt, and unsure how to connect with her friends. Determined to find a purpose, Lou steps into the dizzying world of modeling auditions, commercial shoots, shockingly expensive haute couture, and runways in New York, Paris, and Milan. It’s a whirlwind of learning how to walk, how to command her body and its movements, and how to manage her newfound fame. But in the dazzling flash of the camera and the thrill of seeing her face giant-size on billboards, Lou begins to worry that she’s losing her identity-as a person, as an artist, and as a young woman still in love with the girl she left behind. A sharply observed and intimate story of grief and healing, doubt and self-acceptance set against the intense hyper-image-conscious industry of modeling and high fashion, Body Grammar shines with the anxieties of growing up and the often heartbreaking beauty of pursing love.” – Publisher

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta 

“Inspired by Nigeria’s folktales and its war, Under the Udala Trees is a deeply searching, powerful debut about the dangers of living and loving openly. Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child and they, star-crossed, fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls. When their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself. But there is a cost to living inside a lie. As Edwidge Danticat has made personal the legacy of Haiti’s political coming of age, Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees uses one woman’s lifetime to examine the ways in which Nigerians continue to struggle toward selfhood. Even as their nation contends with and recovers from the effects of war and division, Nigerian lives are also wrecked and lost from taboo and prejudice. This story offers a glimmer of hope — a future where a woman might just be able to shape her life around truth and love.” – Publisher

Nonfiction

Moby Dyke: An Obsessive Quest To Track Down The Last Remaining Lesbian Bars In America by Krista Burton

“Lesbian bars have always been treasured safe spaces for their customers, providing not only a good time but a shelter from societal alienation and outright persecution. In 1987, there were 206 of them in America. Today, only a couple dozen remain. How and why did this happen? What has been lost—or possibly gained—by such a decline? What transpires when marginalized communities become more accepted and mainstream?

In Moby Dyke, Krista Burton attempts to answer these questions firsthand, venturing on an epic cross-country pilgrimage to the last few remaining dyke bars. Her pilgrimage includes taking in her first drag show since the onset of the pandemic at The Back Door in Bloomington, Indiana; competing in dildo races at Houston’s Pearl Bar; and, despite her deep-seated hatred of karaoke, joining a group serenade at Nashville’s Lipstick Lounge and enjoying the dreaded pastime for the first time in her life. While Burton sets out on the excursion to assess the current state of lesbian bars, she also winds up examining her own personal journey, from coming out to her Mormon parents to recently marrying her husband, a trans man whose presence on the trip underscores the important conversation about who precisely is welcome in certain queer spaces—and how they and their occupants continue to evolve.” – Publisher

This Body I Wore: A Memoir by Diana Goetsch

“Long before Laverne Cox appeared on the cover of Time, far removed from drag and ballroom culture, there were countless trans women living and dying as men, most of whom didn’t even know they were trans. Diana Goetsch’s This Body I Wore chronicles one woman’s long journey to coming out, a path that runs parallel to the emergence of the trans community over the past several decades.

‘How can you spend your life face-to-face with an essential truth about yourself and still not see it?’ This is a question often asked of trans people, and a question that Goetsch, an award-winning poet and essayist, addresses with the power and complexity of lived reality. She brings us into her childhood, her time as a dynamic and beloved teacher at Stuyvesant High School, and her plunge into the crossdressing subculture of New York in the 1980s and ’90s. Under cover of night, crossdressers risked their jobs and their safety to give expression to urges they could neither control nor understand. Many of them would become late transitioners, the Cinderellas of the trans community largely ignored by history.” – Publisher

Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H

“When fourteen-year-old Lamya H realizes she has a crush on her teacher–her female teacher–she covers up her attraction, an attraction she can’t yet name, by playing up her roles as overachiever and class clown. Born in South Asia, she moved to the Middle East at a young age and has spent years feeling out of place, like her own desires and dreams don’t matter, and it’s easier to hide in plain sight. To disappear. But one day in Quran class, she reads a passage about Maryam that changes everything: when Maryam learned that she was pregnant, she insisted no man had touched her. Could Maryam, uninterested in men, be . . . like Lamya?

From that moment on, Lamya makes sense of her struggles and triumphs by comparing her experiences with some of the most famous stories in the Quran. She juxtaposes her coming out with Musa liberating his people from the pharoah; asks if Allah, who is neither male nor female, might instead be nonbinary; and, drawing on the faith and hope Nuh needed to construct his ark, begins to build a life of her own–ultimately finding that the answer to her lifelong quest for community and belonging lies in owning her identity as a queer, devout Muslim immigrant.” – Publisher

Horse Barbie by Geena Rocero

“As a young femme in 1990s Manila, Geena Rocero heard, “Bakla, bakla!,” a taunt aimed at her feminine sway, whenever she left the tiny universe of her eskinita. Eventually, she found her place in trans pageants, the Philippines’ informal national sport. When her competitors mocked her as a “horse Barbie” due to her statuesque physique, tumbling hair, long neck, and dark skin, she leaned into the epithet. By seventeen, she was the Philippines’ highest-earning trans pageant queen.

A year later, Geena moved to the United States where she could change her name and gender marker on her documents. But legal recognition didn’t mean safety. In order to survive, Geena went stealth and hid her trans identity, gaining one type of freedom at the expense of another. For a while, it worked. She became an in-demand model. But as her star rose, her sense of self eroded. She craved acceptance as her authentic self yet had to remain vigilant in order to protect her dream career. The high-stakes double life finally forced Geena to decide herself if she wanted to reclaim the power of Horse Barbie once and for radiant, head held high, and unabashedly herself.” – Publisher

Young Adult

Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli

“Imogen Scott may be hopelessly heterosexual, but shes got the Worlds Greatest Ally title locked down. She’s never missed a Pride Alliance meeting. She knows more about queer media discourse than her very queer little sister. She even has two queer best friends. There’s Gretchen, a fellow high school senior, who helps keep Imogen’s biases in check. And then there’s Lili–newly out and newly thriving with a cool new squad of queer college friends. Imogen’s thrilled for Lili. Any ally would be. And now that she’s finally visiting Lili on campus, she’s bringing her ally A game. . . Like when Lili drops a tiny queer bombshell: she’s told all her college friends that Imogen and Lili used to date. And none of them know that Imogen is a raging hetero–not even Lilis best friend, Tessa. Of course, the more time Imogen spends with chaotic, freckle-faced Tessa, the more she starts to wonder if her truth was ever all that straight to begin with…” – Publisher

Bianca Torre is Afraid of Everything by Justine Pucella Winans

“Sixteen-year-old Bianca Torre is an avid birder undergoing a gender identity crisis and grappling with an ever-growing list of fears. Some, like Fear #6: Initiating Conversation, keep them constrained, forcing them to watch birds from the telescope in their bedroom. And, occasionally, their neighbors. When their gaze wanders to one particular window across the street, Bianca witnesses a creepy plague-masked murderer take their neighbor’s life. Worse, the death is ruled a suicide, forcing Bianca to make a choice–succumb to their long list of fears (including #3 Murder and #55 Breaking into a Dead Guy’s Apartment), or investigate what happened.

Bianca enlists the help of their friend Anderson Coleman, but the two have more knowledge of anime than true crime. As Bianca and Anderson dig deeper into the murder with a little help from Bianca’s crush and fellow birding aficionado, Elaine Yee (#13 Beautiful People, #11 Parents Discovering They’re a Raging Lesbian), the trio uncover a conspiracy much larger–and weirder–than imagined. And when the killer catches wind of the investigation, suddenly Bianca’s #1 fear of public speaking doesn’t sound so bad compared to the threat of being silenced for good.” – Publisher

Our Colors by Gengoroh Tagame 

“Set in contemporary suburban Japan, Our Colors is the story of Sora Itoda: a sixteen-year-old aspiring painter who experiences his world in synaesthetic hues of blues and reds, and is governed by the emotional turbulence of being a teenager. He wants to live honestly as a young gay man in high school, but that is still not acceptable in Japanese society. His best friend and childhood confidante Nao, a young woman whom everyone thinks is (or should be) his girlfriend; and it would be the easiest thing to play along-she knows he is gay but knows, too, how difficult it is to live one’s truth in his situation.

Sora’s world changes forever when he meets Mr. Amamiya, a middle-aged gentleman who is the owner and proprietor of a local coffee shop, and who is completely, unapologetically out as a gay man. A mentorship and platonic friendship ensues, as Sora comes out to him and agrees to paint a mural in the shop, and Mr. Amamiya counsels him about how to deal with who he is. But it won’t be easy. Mr. Amamiya paid a high price for his freedom of identity, and when a figure from his past suddenly appears, the situation becomes a vivid example of just how complicated life can be.” – Publisher


Tegan and Sara: Junior High by Tegan Quin, Sara Quin; Illustrated by Tillie Walden

“Before the indie-pop duo Tegan and Sara took the world by storm, Tegan and Sara Quin were identical twins trying to find their place in a new home and new school. Tegan and Sara: Junior High tells their story. From first crushes to the perils of puberty, surviving junior high is something the sisters plan to face side by side, just like they’ve always faced things. But growing up also means growing apart, as Tegan and Sara make different friends and take separate paths to understanding their queerness. For the first time ever, they ask who one sister is without the other.

Set in the present day, this inspiring, lightly fictionalized autobiography offers a glimpse at Tegan and Sara before they became icons, exploring their shifting sisterhood, their own experiences coming out, and the first steps of their musical journey.” – Publisher

Children’s

Bodies Are Cool  by Tyler Feder

“This cheerful love-your-body picture book for preschoolers is an exuberant read-aloud with bright and friendly illustrations to pore over.

From the acclaimed creator of Dancing at the Pity Party and Roaring Softly, this picture book is a pure celebration of all the different human bodies that exist in the world. Highlighting the various skin tones, body shapes, and hair types is just the beginning in this truly inclusive book. With its joyful illustrations and encouraging refrain, it will instill body acceptance and confidence in the youngest of readers. ‘My body, your body, every different kind of body! All of them are good bodies! BODIES ARE COOL!'” – Publisher

A Family Is a Family Is a Family  by Sara O’Leary

“When a teacher asks the children in her class to think about what makes their families special, the answers are all different in many ways — but the same in the one way that matters most of all. One child is worried that her family is just too different to explain, but listens as her classmates talk about what makes their families special. One is raised by a grandmother, and another has two dads. One is full of stepsiblings, and another has a new baby.

As one by one, her classmates describe who they live with and who loves them — family of every shape, size and every kind of relation — the child realizes that as long as her family is full of caring people, her family is special.

A warm and whimsical look at many types of families written by award-winning author Sara O’Leary, A Family is a Family is a Family springs to life with quirky and sweet illustrations by Qin Leng.” – Publisher

The Tea Dragon Society  by Kay O’Neill

“From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.” – Publisher

My Maddy  by Gayle E. Pitman

“A child celebrates her Maddy, who is neither mommy nor daddy but a little bit of both, like so many things in nature. Includes note to parents.” – Publisher

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott; art by Harmony Becker

“That remains part of the problem—that we don’t know the unpleasant aspects of American history…and therefore we don’t learn the lesson those chapters have to teach us. So we repeat them over and over again.”
― George Takei, They Called Us Enemy

They Called Us Enemy  by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott, with art by Harmony Becker, is a gorgeously drawn and written story telling the story of George Takei’s childhood from within the walls of American concentration camps during World War II. As a result of his experiences and after-dinner discussions with his father, Takei’s foundational and life-long commitment to equal rights was born.

In 1942, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was shipped to one of ten relocation centers across the United States. On orders from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, over 127,000 people of Japanese descent were sent hundreds or thousands of miles from home to those relocation centers where they were held under armed guard for years. Four-year-old George Takei and his family were forced from their home in California to live in a total of two different relocation centers.

They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s first-hand account of his years trapped behind barbed wire, growing up under legalized racism. He wrestled with periods of joy and terror. His mother had to make many hard choices, one of which could tear their family apart. His father kept up his faith in democracy, taking leadership rules as a block manager at the camps. Takei uses his experiences in the internment camps to discuss what being an American means and who gets to decide whether you are one or not.

This book is also available in the following format:

“Shame is a cruel thing. It should rest on the perpetrators but they don’t carry it the way the victims do.”
― George Takei, They Called Us Enemy