20gayteen in books

20gayteen was a good year for reading if nothing else. I read 180 books, mostly in the second, more broken-ankley half of the year. Of the 180, 142 were by women, 38 by POC, 24 by queer authors, and 8 by trans folk. I wasn’t consciously trying to diversify what I read, and that lack of effort shows. I read fewer writers of color and fewer queer writers this year than I did in 2017, even though I read more books overall. In 2019 I will reprioritize other voices.

Some standouts from the second half of the year: Lydia Kiesling’s The Golden State, an irresistibly Northern Californian road trip novel for mothers of toddlers and those who love them; Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ Small Fry, also brilliantly evocative of the Bay Area and its terrible hollow men; The Line Becomes a RiverFrancisco Cantú’s haunting memoir about the militarized borders inside us; The Far Away Brothers, Oakland schoolteacher Lauren Markham’s frightening and hopeful book about two of her immigrant students; and Barbara Comyn’s one-of-a-kind cosy post-apocalypse, Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead.

I also hunted down and re-read two extraordinarily good books that I first encountered in my teens or early twenties: Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes and Marge Piercy’s The High Cost of Living. The characters in the Piercy novel seemed unattainably adult to me the first time I read it. Now, it’s like reading Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For, in that I clearly used it to define what adulthood would mean to me. Lolly Willowes, about an elderly English spinster who sells her soul to the devil (she is exactly my age) is even stranger. I didn’t understand it at all the first time around, and I wouldn’t say that I understand it now; only that it touches a deep, sympathetic resonance in my heart.

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