So You Want to be a Robot by A. Merc Rustad

A. Merc Rustad's So You Want to be a Robot is full of heart with its devastatingly beautiful speculative sci-fi/fantasy stories. I wanted to simultaneously laugh with delight and also...just have a good cry. These stories are all unique, so there was no slump due to homogeneity as you sometimes find in short story collections. Starting each story was like opening a gift, because I never knew what I was going to find. But I always had a feeling it was going to be amazing and unlike anything I'd previously read. The #ownvoices rep here (queer, ace/aro, ASD) really shines. It's full of the kind of love, care, and joy (even when the stories are dark) that simply cannot be…

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Shadow Daughter by Harriet Brown

Harriet Brown's Shadow Daughter: A Memoir of Estrangement is more than her own memoir. Brown shares her own story of being estranged from her mother in bits and pieces, surrounded by personal stories from a variety of people (some estranged by choice, others not), as well as research into the psychology and social impact of being estranged from family—why it happens, how it feels, and more. This format works really, really well. This is a tough topic because of intense "family first" social norms and ideas around "forgiveness" that often end up pressuring people into accepting abuse, especially covert abuse. The way Brown has laid out her book makes the presentation of personal stories powerful, while giving just enough distance…

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Invasions by Calvin Gimpelevich

Thanks to Calvin Gimpelevich, I can now say goodbye to a two-month reading slump where I couldn't focus on reading one darn thing. Short stories?! Speculative fiction?! Trans #ownvoices?! Yes, please! The most impressive thing to me about Invasions was how different each story was, in mood, style, premise, everything. So this book never dragged, not even once. It was like opening a bunch of small, delightful presents. What every story did share, though, was a whole lot of heart. These characters are going to stay with me for a while. Fantastic collection. .. Thanks to Instar Books for reaching out to me and offering up a review copy, and to Casey Plett for letting them know this would probably…

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Trans Like Me by CN Lester

THIS, Trans Like Me, is the book I'll be recommending to cis people who aren't ready for something as dense as Julia Serano's Whipping Girl. It's written on a 101 level without speaking down to the reader. I have mixed feelings about its tragic overtone, but overall I feel it's vital: Too many cis people have a tendency to focus on the advances they've seen, and either ignore or just don't get that there continue to be very real, current, everyday struggles that trans and nonbinary people face. Good exploration of critical thinking (they quote Ben Goldacre, so I was thrilled!), checking one's privilege, and listening to and learning from the lived experiences of marginalized people (they refer to and quote…

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The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson

The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is a middle grade novel that follows two girls as they begin to trust each other and develop a friendship. Reema is a Syrian Muslim refugee, and Caylin is a school bully with a difficult family life. They are united by the discovery of an injured mother fox and her newborn kits behind their apartment complex, as well as a shared talent for running. Difficult themes (war, death, bigotry, alcoholism, bullying) are treated honestly, in a manner appropriate for the book's somewhat narrow target age (10-12). It's a moving story told in Reema and Caylin's alternating perspectives, with the mother fox's perspective making periodic appearances in verse. 20% of the author royalties of…

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Mini Reviews: Recent Favorites by Trans & Nonbinary Authors

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders This was an incredible reading experience! I loved the writing, I was fully invested in the characters, and I felt like I was part of its world. The blend of the scientific and the magical, sci-fi and fantasy, was super cool. The plot was exciting, but Anders also took the time to flesh out deeper themes such as loneliness. I know others have complained about the ending, but I felt like everything came full circle in a lovely, very satisfying way. . The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Daniel Mallory Ortberg I read this in one day, pretty much straight through! I couldn't get enough and wish the…

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Little Fish by Casey Plett

After reading Casey Plett's short story collection A Safe Girl to Love, which you can download for free on her website, I knew she'd forever be on my "authors I automatically read" list. I pre-ordered her new novel, Little Fish, so I could read it right away, and it exceeded all my expectations. "Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman who comes across evidence that her late grandfather—a devout Mennonite farmer—might have been transgender himself." This story is perfection. It's honest and raw, with characters (and dialogue!) that are so realistic, I felt like I was right there inside the story. It was like being a silent, unnamed member of this circle of friends. I laughed with these characters, I was angry…

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Nonfiction Mini Reviews

Small Animals by Kim Brooks Sadly, this book didn't live up to its blurb. It seems to speak more to parents who lack confidence in their parenting, who really worry about keeping up with (and how they appear to) others. Although the author acknowledges her own privilege, there's still an icky layer of ableism and classism throughout. Her points felt scattered and unfocused. When a significant point/angle did come up, it wasn't fleshed out before moving on. Overall, not a satisfying read. . Mindfulness in Music by Mark Tanner There's something for everyone here, whether you only listen to music or you perform, amateur or professional. Most of the book is geared toward amateur musicians and avid listeners. (There's plenty…

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A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns by Archie Bongiovanni & Tristan Jimerson

This comic guide with a goofy, gently sarcastic sense of humor is all about gender neutral pronouns - how being misgendered feels, why pronouns matter, grammar, and examples of how to use these pronouns in real life. I was so glad the authors encouraged people to try to make their everyday language more inclusive by dropping words like ma'am, sir, guys, ladies, etc. and defaulting to "person" instead of assuming "man" or "woman" when speaking about someone you don't know. I wish the authors had addressed grammar pedants who get in a tizzy about singular they/them. They kind of allude to it when someone says "that just doesn't sound right to me", but this is such a common occurrence. I…

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Long Macchiatos and Monsters by Alison Evans

Did I just read a romance - that I liked? Apparently I did. At this point, I'm pretty certain Alison Evans can write anything and I'll read it. Their writing is so beautiful and natural and honestly, a true pleasure to read. Long Macchiatos and Monsters is #ownvoices with a sweet storyline and interesting main characters; a trans guy and a genderqueer person, both POC with disabilities, who are in that whirlwind "just fell in love" stage. The story is completely outside of heteronormativity and that's both refreshing and wonderful. I'm off to read Ida next!

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