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A BLOG FOR QUEER LITERATURE
Let's level for a second: things are ultimately getting better for the queer community.
Queer used to be nothing but a word to mark people who lived outside of the social norms. In the 1900s, it was mostly used for anyone that was genuinely perceived to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community before it was even called that, before they had most of the terms we do now (or before they were widely spread), mainly for people who didn't conform to the typical gender structure. The funny part is that this was also back when gay was commonly used to mean happy, which makes The Great Gatsby particularly hilarious to read in the modern era. Activist Henry Gerber (from Chicago! But not the musical.) forms The Society for Human Rights, a gay rights group in the U.S., and the first documented back in 1924. By 1950, there's The Mattachine Society, formed by Harry Hay with a focus on social acceptance for homosexual people. 1961 comes with Illinois being the first U.S. state to repeal their laws on sodomy, and later that same year, there's a U.S.-televised documentary on homosexuality all the way in California.
June 28, 1969 comes the police-raiding of the Stonewall Inn, kickstarting the Stonewall riots that were largely lead by transwomen of color, brave folks who wanted to be themselves and fought for what we have now. By the end of the '70s, the vast majority of states had decriminalized homosexuality, and it was completely decriminalized by 2003. The Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in all U.S. states in 2013
There's a lot more to the history, but at it's bare-bones, this is what it is. The briefest history I can give, with dates, and essentially what a lot of people in the U.S. will tell you about queer history, but there is a few things of note.
Firstly, marriage never ends any problems already present, even if it's queer. Queerphobia still is very, very much present.
Another thing, though, one probably a bit more pressing: not everybody lives in the U.S.
Okay, yeah, I live in the U.S., and I have for all my life, but obviously, the queer-experience isn't confined to the states. I can't exactly present you a queer-history on other countries, as I only know about the U.S.--but what I do know is that most people's experience of being queer isn't the same.
This isn't just the U.S. v. Everybody else, but in general, everyone's experience here is different. You know most states went one-by one in decriminalizing homosexuality? That's because they're never on the same page about anything, and within those states, is even more contrast. I live in one of the bluest states possible, but the city I live in is redder than those goddamn stripes on the flag. You thought the About bit was exaggerating about the five shelves? Hundreds of shelves in the local Barnes and Noble, but only five of them are dedicated to anything queer. I'm sure there's books with queer characters scattered about, but honestly, I can't even really blame my boookstore--the Hot Topic at the mall decks itself out in rainbows every June, and the amount of cishets(1) scoffing about how the gays need merch nowadays is too many to count, not including the fact that everything has rainbows, as if those are the only colors associated with the LGBTQ+ community. Being anything other than just gay is a privilege. Occasionally, there is a singular bi pin, and I lose my shit I'm so happy.
But I'll admit--things are better. I'm not getting arrested, no matter who I kiss out in public. Your local high school might have a GSA. I'm lucky to have any rainbows on my books.
A lot of people aren't so lucky--all those jokes white gays make about how they're okay with homosexuality being illegal in some places, because I like being an outlaw in parts of the world!, like these are not real laws affecting real, marginalized people and keeping them in danger, and it's only a witty joke to show how cool being gay is.
Where am I going with this?
I only mean to say that the experience of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is diverse, and portrayals of those experiences should also be diverse, and it was all this that was running through my head when I picked up one book in the local bookstore, assuming that because it was queer, it would be good, and let me tell y'all, it was not. I hated it. At all. Awful. Terrible. Hate it.
But this was what I was thinking of, and for the longest time, I had no idea what to do about any of my very, very (almost unreasonably) strong opinions on this book, and then I decided to write this.
What is this?
It's a blog for queer literature, did you even read the title?
I'm going to assume you've read a book review at some point in your life--you googled a book on the internet, and it was like, a 3.9/5 for Goodreads, and the comments were split between "eh," and "deserves a trophy." That's a review, and those are made by normal people who either liked or disliked the book, and did not pick it apart to see what exactly they did like, and why they liked it.
But I did not get myself a Write Spike account just so I can say, "alright book, 3/5," I got this account so I can write insane criticisms on books you may or may not have heard of, books you may or may not have read. Maybe you're looking for a good book, or maybe you've been stalking the internet looking for a review of a book you absolutely hated to validate your opinion--well, look no further!
Regardless of your reasons, I am here to provide recommendations, entertainment, and more words than any reasonable person should have in their head(2).
Honestly, this has probably been done before--the internet is a large place, and I'm sure there's a thousand in-depth reviews of books that I'm gonna be writing about, but have any of them been written by me?
Why are you writing this?
Things are better for the community, and I'll admit, I am at a privilege to be able to write this, to be safe enough to express my opinion, especially on this matter--but queer literature (and this could easily be a reflection of the more mainstream media it's kinda branched off of and is sorta a part of, because let's be honest, it probably is) tends to lack diversity.
Not all of them, obviously--but a lot of them. Not everybody in the community is white, able-bodied, neurotypical--but going off a lot of of the books out there, you could be fooled. Because so may of us are thirsting for characters that look like us, that love like us, that live like us, we're clawing at the abyss and latching onto any character with even a semblance of what we want. We want to look into the media and be able to see ourselves--so, a lot of the time in media, we're left grasping at straws, and in queer media, we have a tendency to settle.
But much more personally, I'm writing this because I wanna write this. One of the best things you can learn about writing is that you should (and often need to) write for yourself. By that, I mean your chances of finding an audience that loves your writing are much higher if you can love your own writing. And this? This is what I love to do, I love to write. For me, this is a warm up for my own, original fiction, and I am loving every minute of it.
Why are you writing this?
I don't want this to get too autobiographical, but growing up, I liked to read. I remember it was a thing in my elementary school that a lot of kids' parents had to pay them to read. My family couldn't afford to give us an allowance, but sometimes, my mom looked ready to pay us to stop reading. I get entertainment out of the label on a can of soup. I liked reading, and every teacher told us that reading would take you to another world. I projected myself onto every character I had ever read, wanting to reach some untouchable world that I was never, and could never, be a part of. I never saw myself in any of them, and believe me, I tried.
And then I got older--I found the labels that felt like they fit me. Nonbinary, agender, bisexual, queer--it fit. I felt comfortable, y'know? But you know how many novels out there have agender characters? You know how many creators put their bisexual characters in same-sex relationships, because opposite-sex means they're no longer queer? You know how many queer people look at a bisexual in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex and decide that that means they're straight now? How you can only be a part of the community if you're dating someone of the same gender of you? You know how many people in the community dismiss it's own members, claiming they have no part in it? (3)
Needless to say, I got strong feelings on this. So I'm writing this--because I'm queer, I read, I write, and I'm more than willing to scream unintelligibly in the void if it makes me feel better.
Why are you writing this?
Other than the fact that I want to, it's because there's some slim pickings for representation in the media--I straddle the line between white and white-passing, I define my gender as no and my sexuality as yes, and I've grown up in Bigot Central, and even then, I think about how there's someone out there who sees even less of themselves out there. How many characters of color do you see out there in a same-sex relationship? A character with a cane and memories of responding to a completely different name?
Sometimes, I swear to God, every book about being queer has a main character who is white, upper-class, and ultimately has a family that comes to support them.
Queerphobia didn't stop when the gays could get married, the minute you saw Love, Simon in theatres, or when you smacked five bucks into a LGBTQ+ homeless shelter's donation fund.
So, I'm writing this because I feel like someone out there is going to need it, maybe as much or more than I do. Boredom has lead me to worse places.
Okay, your point's been made, this is a blog for queer literature--what criteria are you critiquing these books on? (Fun stuff!)
I got a bunch of categories I'm critiquing! It makes things easier!
An overall summary of the plot and it's arc--basically, this is where my general opinion will be and where I might like, address themes, conflict, used tropes, and general cohesiveness? I'll try and be relatively subjective.
Are they believable? Can the reader root for them? Are they portrayed realistically? Notice characters, as in plural, because not all books only have one main character.
First Five Pages
Said to be the most important part of your novel(4), this is how you get the reader hooked. You want those pages to be interesting and represent the best of the book well, and you should assume that you lose the reader by the end if those fail to capture attention.
Diversity shouldn't be a selling point in your novel, but it makes things more realistic, by a long shot. Diversity exists everywhere. You can't throw in a Black character among your white cast and call it good, you need to develop your characters and their backgrounds. I'm not talking just race or sexual orientations, either--people want disabled characters, and neurodivergent, and, essentially, varied backgrounds that make sense.
In general, is the book written well? There's different ways to write a book, but does the one used in this specific book work for it?
Not exactly a critique, so much as it's just me talking about the creator--I'd claim to give points to queer authors representing themselves, but I'd probably give just as much to cishet authors trying to broaden their horizons and write accurate depictions of queer characters.
Does the ending actually fit the plot? Sometimes, it gets foreshadowed, sometimes authors just look for the quickest way possible to wrap up the plot and bam! Everybody's dead, especially your hopes for a satisfying ending.
Things Counting For
This is just where I'm gonna put tiny little things I noticed and liked. Like, if there's a trope that isn't commonly used, or a small scene I really liked, or a trait in a character that stood up to me.
Things Counting Against
Thse tiny things that bother the reader and drive them crazy! Except it's me, and I'm the reader, and I'm incredibly biased and will probably turn this section into a less-than-serious-section where I try to be funny.(5)
Onto the most important question:
Do I actually expect people to read this?
Definitely not! But honestly, I don't even care! I'm screaming into the void, demanding attention, and I am having a blast. That's the beauty of my work--I create just so I can, I have this to show for it, and because this is more of my sidepiece in comparison to my one true love of my original fiction, getting someone to read this is more of a benefit than a reason to do this. I'm screaming into the void, sure--feel free to scream back!
On the off chance somebody is reading this, thank you. I do appreciate it.
Actual review of a book to come, loves. Stay safe out there.
(1): Cishet is a combination of the shortened-down versions of "cisgender" and "heterosexual", or someone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth, and is attracted to the opposite sex. If you read somewhere that it's a slur: I promise you, it's not. It's just slang. I'll admit it might sound kinda ugly the first few times you hear it, and maybe it's foreign, but it's not a slur. I figured this was a word worth defining, because I was kinda surprised about the amount of people who didn't know what it meant--this will probably be a common occurrence on my blog, and I assure you, there's no shame in "does not know" but there's shame in a self-made "will not know."
(2): I'm going to be going so heavy on the editing here, believe me, I'm gonna be cutting out like, thousands of words. It's gonna suck, but this is what I love. This is love.
(3): This is referring to a lot of things. Lesbians who believe transwomen are men trying to sleep with them; the uptick of gay men who believe the same with transmen; binary-transfolk claiming that nonbinary-transfolk don't have real genders; that aromantic and or asexual people are basically straight and therefore aren't part of the community; people claiming that you have to pass as your gender-identity to be actually trans. There's a thousand more examples, but off the top of my head, this is what I mean. Gatekeeping is a serious issue in the community, and honestly, I'll probably write a post on it at some point.
(4):This advice varies--I've heard it be the first chapter, the first ten pages, the first paragraph, the first page, the first sentence. I'm opting for five pages, because that feels like a reasonable amount to me--also, regardless of how the first five pages go, I'm probably going to keep reading. I wasn't entirely exaggerating about that soup can thing.
(5):You probably don't know this, but I'm hilarious. I crack myself up all the time.
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