Sterling Karat Gold is a hard book to describe. Some people go for 'surreal' and reference Kafka's The Trial, others look at its hopeful message, and still others praise its comedic voice. As I devoured it, I read so many parts aloud to my girlfriend that she had to read it as soon as I was done. When she was finished I said, "Wasn't it hilarious?" and she said yes, if by 'hilarious' I meant 'deeply sad'.
This kaleidoscopic story follows Sterling, a scrappy underdog who finds themselves caught in the web of state violence after being pulled into a bullfight against their will. The sights and sounds will be familiar to many queer people in London, as our band of underdogs tour around Camden and Margate (its 'queer-friendly' reputation traded for the looming presence of a detention centre), participate in a Patreon-funded front-room theatre show and take their degrees from Central Saint Martin as mature students. The familiar moments are lovingly pastiched even as they are interwoven with pop culture moments turned plot points, animals marching off of album covers and monsters climbing out of paintings to advance our action.
And yet, there is nothing loose about the plot; every reference is followed up, every time-travelled moment is reached again as the timelines conclude their loops. You don't need to have read The Trial to follow the plot (I certainly haven't), and Isabel even kindly includes a bibliography of pop culture references made in the book for anyone who wants to follow them up.
It is adventurous without being pretentious, and even as Isabel looks to the reaches of literary form, they leave the door open for anyone to follow behind them.
- Team members Isadore, on why 'Sterling Karat Gold' was their favourite queer work of the last year.
I'm overlooking that this book was released some time ago, because the four parts of Yang's Tensorate Series have been compiled for release in late September. The first novella got a few Hugo nominations. I can recommend picking up the series if you get the chance - Book 28 has it so grab it when we're open for lending.
The book, and the series as a whole, is refreshingly short. I am not intimidated by bulky fantasy books but was glad to be able to slip this in smaller bags and larger pockets. Yang writes twins well. Akeha and Mokoya are distinct from the outset. The dynamic between the two is fleshed out and realistic. The depiction of transitioning while having a twin in the first novella was super.
I don't think I've read any other silkpunk books but I will be reading more. My sister is in Singapore. It was comforting to read a book which drew inspiration from the their and from S/ SE Asia while I can't see her.
- Team members Rebecca, on why 'The Red Threads of Fortune' was their favourite queer work of the last year.
On Sunday 18th of July, Book 28 will be hosting a session reading exerts from the book.
Please find linked.
There’s nothing I love more than ghosts—I’ve been obsessed with what stories of spirits and haunting can do for years now, especially when they revolve around queer characters. And especially when a trans character is involved. From the onset, ‘Cemetery Boys’ ticked all my boxes. I’d been waiting for it for months before its publication. When I finally read it, the book did not disappoint; it only dug itself deeper into my heart.
I could speak of how engaging and fun Aiden Thomas’s writing is; or of how the plot thickened and twisted and kept me on my toes in a way that would have had me reading all night if I was not a tired university student; or of how much heart there is to every character. But I want to speak of the reason I offered ‘Cemetery Boys’ as a choice for our anti-prize: there’s something so deeply satisfying in the way Yadriel’s transness is presented, something that brings forth a feeling of gender euphoria and all the good memories I have surrounding my non-binary identity. I felt so grateful knowing that trans teens have this book at their disposal, and that trans grown-ups like me can enjoy it, too.
'Cemetery Boys’ is essential in many ways—joyful, sweet, funny, all while not shying away from harsher realities and dangers. It’s hopeful in a very real, concrete way, and it’s a product of love for being queer. It made me happy that I’m trans and that I’m queer, and I think it’s incredibly important that books can do that.
- Team member Michael, on why 'Cemetery Boys' was their favourite queer work of the last year
On Thursday 8th of July, Book 28 will be hosting a free, virtual creative session on 'Gender X Magic' to celebrate the themes of Cemetery Boys - details and booking here.
#BookPride21: An Anti-Prize
For this year’s Pride season, we decided to create an ‘anti-prize’ for queer literature.
The idea behind our ‘anti-prize’ is to capture the good parts of prize culture (such as creating ‘buzz’ around particular queer works, having a short-term programme of events, creating shared reading lists/resources for collection development, helping people the positive overload of queer literature that is published, and giving more promotion for queer writers) while mitigating the negative effects of prize culture (such as hierarchies, pitting queer literature against each other, gatekeeping prize-money, institutional bias in awards boards, over-categorising queer authors).
It's always felt a bit weird of us to take the few queer books, especially trans work, that make it to publication each year, and then pit them against each other to declare the best. In recent years, Joshua Whitehead even withdrew his work from consideration for the Lambda Trans Poetry prize, stating 'My gender, sexuality, and my identities supersede Western categorizations of LGBTQ+ because Two-Spirit is a home-calling, it is a home-coming'. Yet we recognise that there are good and also practical things that can be taken from prize culture: the elevation of underrepresented writers and their works, as well as help for people navigating the overwhelming tide of new content. Public libraries, in particular those in the UK, frequently lack resources to research which queer content to add to their collections, even if they want to do so. Buying a shortlist of prize books can be an easy way to boost collections.
Focusing on these positives, we want to celebrate four literary works as chosen by the library’s volunteer staff during the month of July. Each work will receive a week of social media celebration and one virtual event. They each fit our own collection priorities: mostly recent, non-US based books, published by smaller indies, and/or written by underrepresented queer writers. These are the areas we have found most fruitful when looking for new queer writing, and we think they would all make excellent additions to any public library's queer collections. Most importantly, however, they are works that our team have loved over this past year and can't wait to celebrate.
We aim for the model of Book Pride to be used across different grassroots queer libraries and hope each library’s anti-prize will reflect their unique approach to collection development - the Gender Community Lending Library have already started posting their own works for #BookPride21. We invite any other library groups or even individuals to celebrate their #BookPride21 along with us across social media and cyberspace.
You can follow further announcements on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, and the Book28 team is available for questions through this email address email@example.com.