2020 Reads: July

1. Not that I’d Kiss a Girl by Lil O’Brien

This one grabs you from the very first page. It's a coming of age/coming out story set in good ole Aotearoa! At the age of nineteen, Lil unintentionally outed herself when her mother overheard her talking about her sexuality to a friend on the phone. Lil is not met with the love and support every queer person hopes they receive from their parents. Instead, she is thrown out. She is told that she may return to pick up her belongings the following day, but that she is no longer welcome in her own home. This is every queer person’s deepest fear. But what follows is an inspiring story about a brave young woman learning to embrace her sexuality and find her place in the world. It’s one of those stories that break your heart and then put it back together. There aren’t enough queer kiwi voices in the literary world, and there aren’t enough queer female voices in literature in general. So, I was here for this book! This heart-wrenching memoir is infused with wonderful kiwi humour. This is such a refreshing combo. I had the pleasure of celebrating the launch of this book, and Lil is the real deal. She’s funny, honest, and brave, and I really hope this book receives all the love and success it deserves.

2. Wonder Woman Rebirth, Vol.3: The Truth by

Greg Rucka

In Volume 1 (The Lies) Diana Prince found out that she’d been deceived. She discovered that her memory had been tampered with and that she’s never actually returned to Themyscira since she first left. In Volume 3 (The Truth) we see how this mind-shattering revelation has affected her. Diana is devastated to the point of insanity. Her entire identity has unraveled before her. She is defenseless and for her own protection, she is institutionalized in a mental health facility. This leaves everyone she holds dear in danger. Veronica Cale will do whatever it takes to find Themyscira and help her daughter, even if she must kill everyone Wonder Woman loves to do it. With the support of her friends, Diana reassembles the shards of her broken mind and finds the answers she needs to keep fighting the good fight. In this jam-packed volume, we finally learn the truth about Diana’s past, but as always, it comes with a price. I really enjoyed this volume. Although, I did have to reread a few parts because the plot got a little convoluted. There were so many villains and plot threads to keep up with! Thankfully, it all paid off and made sense in the end. But I’m hoping going forward, it slows things down and paces itself better, particularly character introductions.

3. Rising Strong by Brené Brown

Is it excessive that right after I finish reading Brené Brown’s books, I immediately listen to them on audible? Probably. But does it make me feel ten times better about my life? Absolutely. Rising Strong is a book for anyone that’s ever fallen, i.e., everyone. It is a practical guide to overcoming fear and failure. It teaches powerful processes to help you rise strong after a tough fall of any kind. I can’t get enough of this amazing woman! “We're wired for story. In a culture of scarcity and perfectionism, there's a surprisingly simple reason we want to own, integrate, and share our stories of struggle. We do this because we feel the most alive when we're connecting with others and being brave with our stories - it's in our biology.” ― Brené Brown

4. Wonder Woman Rebirth, Vol.4: Godwatch by Greg Rucka

The past catches up to the present in this eventful fourth volume. In Godwatch, Greg Rucka joins the dots between Year One and present day. In-between, Diana faces many threats; the wrath of Veronica Cale, a devious witch named Circe, and tragically, her former friend, Barbara Ann Minerva, aka Cheetah. I love how emotionally driven this story has been, particularly the complex dynamic between Diana and Barbara. The whole thing has played out like a Greek tragedy, which I’m assuming was the intent. This marked the end of Rucka’s run on the Rebirth series. It was very satisfying when the numerous storylines all finally aligned. It’s been an interesting ride jumping back and forth between past and present, but I’m really looking forward to a more linear structure. I can’t wait to see what comes next, and what other writers have to offer this ambitious revamp.

*Sidenote* I’d advise reading issues #1-24 in the order they were released, and not how they were compiled into volumes. I found the story much more coherent and enjoyable this way.

5. Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

This book blew me away! I love a verse novel, and this is the form at its finest. Dean Atta is an incredible human. He was named one of the UK’s most influential LGBTQIA people, and his debut poetry collection, I Am Nobody’s Nigger, is not to be missed. The Black Flamingo is a treasure of a novel. It not only celebrates queerness but difference in all its beautiful forms. It follows sweetheart, Michael Angeli, from the age of six, right through to college and young adulthood. His inspiring coming-of-age story deals with all the complexities of life and identity. Atta fiercely tackles themes of race, sexuality, and gender in the most eloquent and moving manner. It’s one of those books you’ll find yourself returning to again and again, scrambling to find your favourite passages, of which there shall be many. It’s also the first novel I’ve read featuring a young person entering the wonderful world of drag. Exciting. Insightful. Lyrical. Important. Powerful. *Insert positive adjectives here* Because this one has everything!

“Being both black and queer, affirming that I exist, I am here and I have been here long before this moment, the first people were black and queerness predates its modern meaning. Queerness predates its derogatory meaning. Queerness predates colonialism and Christianity. Queerness predates any hate attached to it.” – Dean Atta

6. Wonder Woman Rebirth, Vol.5: Heart of the Amazon by Shea Fontana

Even Heroes need a break sometimes, and after everything Diana has faced recently, no one has earned it more than her. With some gentle prodding, she agrees to take time off to attend a wedding with bestie, Etta Candy. Queue deadly assassins, mad doctors, and lethal bounty hunters. Can’t a Goddess have a second to herself? When a bounty is put on the Amazon’s precious DNA, all guns come a blazing! But who is behind the hit, and why do they want Wonder Woman’s blood? Do they intend to use it to rid the world of sickness and disease or to weaponize it? Find out all this and more in this explosive volume. Also, can we get some love for Etta Candy? What a fierce, black, queer, queen! Loved it. Next, please. This volume also featured Steve Trevor #1 and stories from Wonder Woman Annual #1

“Ever since I came to the world of humanity, my flesh has been the subject of intense speculation. They Dissect my body with their gaze. The comments sections rage about the circumference of my waist, the curl of my biceps, the curve of my thighs. Many have long talked as if my body were theirs to own, a prize to be won, a golden fleece to be captured, expended, and discarded. But this is the first time a prize has been put on my flesh. The theft has gone beyond eyes and minds to a deed of their hands.” – Shea Fontana

Pick of the Month: Not that I’d Kiss a Girl by Lil O’Brien