This month’s book recommendations from Librarians Tamsyn and Henry celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month . We’ve got gay penguins in New York City Zoo (true story!), a retelling of Cinderella, local LGBTQ+ legend Alan Turing, and Trans liberation, which according to Shon Faye, offers the possibility of a more just, free and joyful world for all of us. And who couldn’t want a little more joy this dark February.
Check out Libraries in March, we’ve got gender-fluid poetry events, trans liberation and pantomime dames. You can visit in person or Livestream from the comfort of your own home.
Top non-fiction: The Transgender Issue by Shon Faye
Trans people in Britain today have become a culture war ‘issue’. Despite making up less than one per cent of the country’s population, they are the subjects of a toxic and increasingly polarized ‘debate’ which generates reliable controversy for newspapers and talk shows. This media frenzy conceals a simple fact: that we are having the wrong conversation, a conversation in which trans people themselves are reduced to a talking point and denied a meaningful voice.
The Transgender Issue is a landmark work that signals the beginning of a new, healthier conversation about trans life. It is a manifesto for change, and a call for justice and solidarity between all marginalized people and minorities. Trans liberation, as Faye sees it, goes to the root of what our society is and what it could be; it offers the possibility of a more just, free and joyful world for all of us.
Top fiction: Cinderella is Dead by by Kalynn Bayron
“We’ve also rarely heard about people like us and yet here we are. Just because they deny us doesn’t mean we cease to exist.”
200 years after Cinderella, her fairytale romance is still the centre of the Kingdom’s Annual Ball, a dystopian debutante-meets-Bachelorette spectacle where girls are chosen for marriage based on their beauty, grace, and finery… but those left behind are never seen again. Protagonist Sophie hates the ball and everything it stands for – she’d rather marry her childhood friend Erin.
A fun, fresh take on the Cinderella story featuring a queer black protagonist taking on the patriarchy, dismantling a kingdom and falling in love despite the odds. Not your average Disney fairytale! While the tone can be a bit heavy handed at times, it’s balanced by Bayron’s passion and sense of fun.
Top Audiobook: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
“For us, the places we went were home. We didn’t care if they were good or evil or neutral or what. We cared about the fact that for the first time we didn’t have to pretend to be something we weren’t. We just got to be. That made all the difference in the world.”
We all know the stories of the miracle children, the ones who fell through wardrobes, and rabbit holes and hurricanes into other worlds… but what happens to those who make it home? Mostly they end up at Eleanor West’s Home For Wayward Children. Nancy is one of the returned, changed by her experiences, and like her schoolmates, desperately searching for a way back to her world. When residents start turning up dead, Nancy and her friends must find the murderer, before their doorways close for good.
Part murder-mystery and part meditation on the tropes of portal fantasy, McGuire’s worlds (all of them) are compelling and well-constructed. The whole school of outcasts makes a great ensemble, and their diversity is handled with care and love.
Top children’s fiction: And Tango makes three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell ; illustrated by Henry Cole.
Based on a true story!
Roy and Silo are two boy penguins who live in the zoo in New York’s Central Park. They like to spend all their time together, and so just as the boy and girl penguins begin to build nests, so do Roy and Silo.
But then eggs start to appear in all the other nests, and Roy and Silo’s nest remains empty. So the penguin keeper gets the idea to give them an egg that’s not wanted by another couple.
This is a really delightful story and the message behind it is subtle.
Top children’s non-fiction: The extraordinary life of Alan Turing by Michael Lee Richardson ; illustrated by Freda Chiu
War Hero, mathematician, scientist and East Sussex resident Alan Turing is most famous for decoding the secret messages sent between enemy soldiers in the Second World War.
Despite all of his amazing achievements, sadly Alan faced persecution for being gay, as at the time in the UK it was considered a criminal offence. However, in 2009, 30,000 people signed a petition asking the British government to issue a public apology for the way Turing was treated at the end of his life. The Queen then granted Turing a pardon for his conviction, and in 2017 the Alan Turing law was passed so that anyone who was convicted of being gay in the past would be pardoned.
Have you read any of the books featured this month? If so we’d love to hear what you thought! Leave your reviews in the comments below. Missed January’s book reviews? Catch up on them here.
You can find out more about libraries in East Sussex by visiting the East Sussex County Council website.