3 months drinking from the firehose of trans literature/art/poetry/music
December 24, 2019 10:18 PM   Subscribe

Towards the beginning of the fall, I found myself—galvanized by the publication of Lou Sullivan's diaries—drawn to read/watch/listen to as much art as I could find by trans people, especially (although not exclusively) by queer trans men.

Most of this is poetry and SFF, most of this is small-press and independent, most of it is available for free in full on the internet. Some of the print books may be available at your local library, or through Interlibrary Loan. I didn't put any visual art on the list, nor did I put any academic works, essays, or criticism. There are still some rather large holes (in particular the majority of these authors are white, and I only read one published work of fiction [as opposed to essays, film crit, etc] by a trans woman this year—also the list is heavily, heavily biased towards what I could find free legal copies of on the internet). The works are listed in the order I first finished them.

"Grandmother-nai-Leylit's Cloth of Winds", R.B. Lemberg
"Night of the Chaser 2: Last Minute Business" & "Love Line", Stephen Ira
"Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time", K.M. Szpara
"Avi Cantor Has Six Months To Live", Sacha Lamb
"Clover", Charlie Jane Anders
"What the Werewolf Told Them", Chely Lima
"1763: a trans homeland, a two-spirit homeland" - ᒣᑲᑌᐱᓀᓯᑴ (Kai Minosh Pyle)
"Life Outside the Circle", H.P. Lehkonen
"Gender Queer" - Maia Kobabe
"By Hook Or By Crook", Silas Howard and Harry Dodge
"Grease Bats", Archie Bongiovanni
"Black Dog Drinking From an Outdoor Pool", Zach Ozma
"A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel", Yoon Ha Lee
"Flamboyant", Dorian Electra
"Architectural Constants", Yoon Ha Lee
"The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar", R.B. Lemberg
Currently in progress:
"We Both Laughed In Pleasure: The Collected Diaries of Lou Sullivan", ed. Ellis Martin & Zach Ozma
"You Are Sad And That Sucks A Lot", Ollie Schminkey

And another pertinent resource: a list of reviews of trans and/or non-binary literature by trans and/or non-binary reviewers.
posted by protondonor (13 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
I am (or was?) in a trans book club (it might have died after meeting three times). But we read a book of short stories called The Collection, which is worth recommending. There was nothing I found mind-blowing, but it was overall worthwhile. We also read Confessions of the Fox, which some people really liked and did nothing for others. (It did feel very much like a book that got such wide acclaim because it was (gasp!) literary fiction by a trans person so cis people were obliged to like it.)

I don't actually remember the name of the third thing we read but I felt like it was actively harmful to transmasculine people, so that got things off to a great start.
posted by hoyland at 12:30 AM on December 25, 2019

Thanks so much for this! I just started transitioning and am trying to read as much trans lit as I can. It’s hard to find stuff that isn’t a “sad trans memoir.” However, this year I read Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor and Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg, both literary novels, both so good. The former is a sort of urban fantasy about a genderfluid shapeshifter by a non-binary writer, the latter is historical fiction that imagines Mack the Knife as trans, by a trans man. The authors also happen to be best friends and housemates, which blows my mind.

Can’t wait to dig into these.
posted by lunasol at 6:06 AM on December 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the recommendations! My local library has a copy of The Collection and it's on my list of things to check out. (I came across a trans lit syllabus that used it as a core text—wish I could/would have taken a class like that when I was in school.) I've also heard mixed reviews of Confessions of the Fox; honestly I was about to skip it until a friend of mine put it on his year-end list, calling it "a piss-take on Pale Fire," which sounds like exactly the kind of thing that I'm into.
posted by protondonor at 7:36 AM on December 25, 2019

Ha, I've met Isaac. I was someone Confessions of the Fox did nothing for. There was... something clever with Brecht going on, I'm pretty sure, but I couldn't quite figure it out and ended up feeling like that meant I wasn't "smart" enough for the book (which is a whole can of worms worth analysing). Also a lot about Jack's love life and I just didn't care. I've also never heard of Pale Fire, though.

I did see a film last year called Mack the Knife which was absolutely brilliant. No trans content though.
posted by hoyland at 8:06 AM on December 25, 2019

Honestly, Confessions of the Fox may well be only ok, but the narrator and main character’s subjective experiences of transness were so resonant in a way that was shocking to read pretty early in my gender exploration. That pretty wiped away any other sins for me.

Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is objectively Good, though. :)
posted by lunasol at 8:46 AM on December 25, 2019

Yeah, the trans experiences it depicts didn't resonate with me at all (but did for some people in the group I read it with). I got the impression (or just assumed) the narrator was not that far from the author's experience and while that's reflecting a common transmasculine experience, it's very much not mine.
posted by hoyland at 8:57 AM on December 25, 2019

I keep on feeling vaguely guilty for not wanting to make work about My Trans Experience but it just feels so boring to me. I’d rather tell stories about more fantastic things and have metaphors for the gender stuff in the corners, or have a few characters who are trans and not make a big deal of it. My transition is my own private affair, I guess.
posted by egypturnash at 9:58 AM on December 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

I am Isaac, and I stand by every word of that review! I've read books that did all the individual things Confessions did, and did them better, but none that did them all at once. There's an extra dimension of propulsive literary urgency, of theoretical rigor, and also of horniness that sets it apart.
posted by thesmallmachine at 10:01 AM on December 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Though I will add that Rosenberg's particular transmasc experience is quite unlike mine (as is, say, Lou Sullivan's) -- generational as well as personal aspects are radically different, and I was quite struck by that.

I was also amused to see a picture of him and to realize in an instant that Dr. Voth is an even more autobiographical character than I'd assumed. There's a description in Confessions of Voth's...highly specific vibe, and Rosenberg shares it.

Coming up next year, I've read ARC's of Lemberg's The Four Profound Weaves, Daniel Ortberg (now Lavery)'s Something That May Shock and Discredit You, and Julian Jarboe's Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel, and so I can say with confidence that 2020 is gonna be a GREAT year for transmasc writing. Szpara's Docile also drops in 2020, and I haven't read that, but I know it is hotly anticipated. (Also, I should probably plug my own The Breath of the Sun here, which may have my old name on it, but certainly was written by a trans man -- I am also told by friends that the narrator is obviously a closeted trans man, though this was not my conscious intention.)

(Also, protondonor, memail me with who you are irl? I'm having trouble putting username to human-name.)
posted by thesmallmachine at 10:16 AM on December 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

This list is great, thank you so much for posting!

I was just given a copy of Confessions of the Fox by my brother, who went to a signing/reading event when Jordy Rosenberg visited his school. I am a terrible sucker for pages and pages of metafictional footnotes so I'm really looking forward to it, whatever else I end up feeling about it.
posted by elsilnora at 8:14 PM on December 25, 2019

This is an excellent list, thank you for posting!

In my current to-read pile are Ivan Coyote's Rebent Sinner and Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity edited by Micah Rajunov and A. Scott Duane.

This year, the books I read by trans/ nonbinary authors include:
Original Plumbing: The Best of Ten Years of Trans Male Culture by by Amos Mac and Rocco Kayiatos
The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
The Year of Blue Water by Yanyi
Don't Call Us Dead by Danez Smith
Amateur and Man Alive by Thomas Page McBee
Written on the Body: Letters from Trans and Non-Binary Survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence edited by Lexie Bean
They Call Me Mix / Me Llaman Maestre by Lourdes Rivas
posted by wicked_sassy at 6:10 AM on December 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Allow me to recommend the poetry of Jamie Hood, described in the following link thusly:
"Jamie Hood is an ex-academic and current poet. Presently, she’s completing a manuscript of poems and personal history concerning sexual assault and rape culture called RAPE GIRL. Recently, she’s begun writing an additional generically-tenuous manuscript on the intersection between trans femininity and ‘The Question’ of motherhood. This is her first publication in nearly 10 years. She lives, writes, and bartends in Brooklyn. twitter: @veryhotmomm"

here's one of her poems

here's another

I found those ones by googling, you can find more that way or by following her on twitter/instagram etc, and also she's got a real cute dog she posts pix of so there you go, something for everyone
posted by emirenic at 7:47 AM on December 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm no authority on trans literature/arts but while we're here lemme just also toss in a recommendation for Casey Plett's amazing novel Little Fish, it fucking rules
available here and i dunno probably other places too

and also anything by Torrey Peters. so good. like... so fuckin good. she offers novellas as pay what you wish (ie free if you want) for digital download and has a full length novel coming soon
Torrey's site
posted by emirenic at 7:55 AM on December 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

« Older The adventures of Monique (chicken) and Guirec...   |   Hail Santa Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments