After weeks of working on this post between other jobs, the unpaid time-consuming commitments of living, and preparing for my academic year to start, I feel as though I’m drowning in a sea of trans writers. My brain has an ever present ticker feed of publications, dates, names, titles, websites, thinkpieces, tweets, essays, poems, chapbooks, ISBNs, gossip, and hot-takes that continues to scroll through my thoughts as I get groceries, go for runs, do my laundry, even when I entertained a new friend I met on Grindr. This is not a problem that I was expecting when I first brought up the idea of doing a news roundup on trans authors. I thought I would be struggling to find enough tidbits to justify putting up a post on Book Riot. Now I’m struggling to stay on top of everything that trans writers are up to.
At a point in the deluge I had a single, bitter thought, “What are people talking about when they say they can’t find work by trans writers?” From my vantage point it was impossible for me to imagine someone being able to NOT find something by a trans person. Hell, I was getting physically exhausted just trying to keep track of all the new and upcoming publications. It wasn’t until I took a step back (and probably drank a bourbon for my nerves) that everything started to make sense. It wasn’t that I was drowning in a sea of new projects from writers, I was drowning in the amount of effort required to just find them.
The process that I’ve developed over the last year of actively being interested in what trans writers are doing is one that involves sorting through a variety of sources including (but not limited to) hashtags, twitter lists, tumblrs, small press’ websites, lists of upcoming publications, blogs that were started in 2015 but somehow look like they were designed in the late ‘90s, Google alerts, alternative lit reviews, Goodreads lists, and word of mouth from the networks of friends that I’ve cultivated. With the exception of the “10 Books by Trans Authors” lists (Which are almost always nine white authors and then Janet Mock, who is beloved by me but is apparently also the only trans writer of color, let alone Black trans writer, that anyone knows) that come up when you Google “trans authors,” there are few places where you can find collected info on what trans writers are putting out. While I still raise an eyebrow to cis readers who just simply can’t find anything written by actual trans people, I am reminded that it’s fucking hard as hell to find writing from trans authors.
I’m lucky that I can write-off hours of internet sleuthing as part of a part-time writing gig but even then I’m very aware that there is so much out there that I’ve missed. At a certain point even my type-A personality has to step back and admit that I will only be able to capture a small section of what various writers are up to. There are definitely books and authors that I’ve wanted to put into this post but have had to let slip through my fingers because I simply didn’t have the time or energy. In an effort to pushback against the glaring whiteness of most conversations about trans authors, I tried to prioritize my limited energy on including work by authors of color and spent less energy on remembering work by white authors.
Please recommend anything that I’ve had to leave out of this post. If you have any favorite reviewers, groups, zines, websites, whatever, talking about writing by other trans people, please share them as well. I don’t like the idea of a single publication/group dominating the conversation but would love for people to find connections to communities of trans writers that they didn’t know existed.
bits and pieces from the web
+ “The Trans Women Writer’s Collective exists, above all, to improve conditions for the most marginalized writers in our community: black trans women, Indigenous trans women, disabled trans women, incarcerated and detained and undocumented trans women.” Ellyn Peña (An Anthology of Fiction By Trans Women of Color), Jamie Berrout (An Anthology of Fiction By Trans Women of Color, Incomplete Short Stories And Essays, and more), Venus Selenite (trigger), and Celeste, have come together to form a new publishing organization exclusively for the writing of trans women. The organization’s mission statement and the founders’ previous work has me all excited to see what will come out of this. They’re currently accepting submission for an expanded print edition of An Anthology of Fiction By Trans Women of Color.
+ Throughout the summer EOAGH, a site/publication/group focused on publishing contemporary literature involved with trans, female, feminist, and queer identities and themes, has been publishing poems by trans poets up on their site. The last few months they’ve published Phoenix Nastasha Russell, Eero Talo, Audrey Zee Whitesides, Colette Arrand, Kenyatta JP Garcia, Rose Sanchez, C. Russell Price, Kay Ulanday Barrett, Jai Arun Ravine, and Luis Lopez-Maldonado, among others. EOAGH is the publisher of kari edwards’ succubus in my pocket, 2016 Lambda Award Winner for Transgender Poetry, and will be putting out a special online issue of their arts journal entitled “Trans Women Across Genres,” edited by Trace Peterson.
+ “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.” – Leslie Feinberg’s last words Shortly before hir death in November of 2014, writer and activist Leslie Feinberg was able to regain rights to hir classic novel Stone Butch Blues and put out a special 20th anniversary edition that is available for free from hir website. The edition is dedicated to Cece McDonald, a Black trans woman who was serving a jail sentence for defending herself from a neo-Nazi during the time Feinberg was working this anniversary edition.
+ “[W]e do get a lot of submissions about folks’ childhoods which is—I guess what I would describe as a trope of trans writing, but not necessarily a bad one or whatever. But I think that the pieces that really stood out to us from that were ones that really twisted that narrative and turned it on its head, or presented it in a new way.” – Kay Gabriel The four editors of VETCH: A magazine of trans poetry and poetics (Kay Gabriel, Stephen Ira, Liam O’Brien and Rylee Lyman) talked with Avren Keating, host of the trans poetry podcast Waves Breaking, about their experiences starting an independent poetry magazine.
+ “As far as publishing articles and reviews—I get some work, I get a lot of rejection. The bind, of course, is that sometimes it’s not entirely clear whether the rejections come because all writers face rejection or because they don’t like who you are or what you want to write about.” – Casey Plett Shawn Syms of the Winnipeg Review sat down with a group of LGBTQ writers to talk about their experiences in Canadian Lit scene. Two trans women, Casey Plett (A Safe Girl To Love) and Vivek Shraya (God Loves Hair, She of the Mountains), were among those interviewed.
+ Dr. Colt Keo-Meier, a child psychologist, is fundraising on Indiegogo to produce and market a picture book about a trans child. Written by Dr. Keo-Meier and two other trans men, the book aims to open conversations about the gender binary with kids through the story of Stacey, a character who doesn’t feel comfortable in male or female identities.
+ “Small Beauty plays with, subverts, and inverts literary and pop-culture expectations of Asian women; for example, by making Mei not a paper cut-out victim of oppression (unlike, say, the transgender Chinese narrator of Kim Fu’s novel For Today I Am A Boy) but rather a gutsy, down-to-earth heroine who kneecaps a would-be street harasser with a brick hidden in her purse.” At Autostraddle Kai Cheng wrote a deeply personal and powerful review of Jia Wilson-Yang’s Small Beauty that drew from her own experiences as an Asian-Canadian trans woman reading a novel by an Asian-Canadian trans woman. The review is intertwined with Wilson-Yang’s own words from an interview with Autostraddle. (Casey Plett also wrote a glowing review of Small Beauty for The Winnipeg Review.)
+ Back at the end of May Oliver Baez Bendorf and Gabrielle Bellot organized a Twitter discussion around the hashtag “translit.” For those of us who missed out on this conversation Bendorf put a collection of tweets together on Storify.
+ “One time, I think the first time I went to this library, I was going through the stacks looking for ‘my friends’ (i.e., books written by my friends) when a teenage trans girl came up to me. She asked me if I was ‘a t—“; I said yes; she asked me if I had any advice on stuffing bras, because tissue paper wasn’t cutting it for her. I didn’t have good advice on this immediately, and she got nervous about something and walked away giggling, and I still don’t know what it was, and I still have never seen her there again.” Author Jeanne Thornton (The Dream of Doctor Bantam and The Black Emerald) wrote the July edition of “The Banal and the Profane”, a monthly column from Lambda Literary where a person in the book industry chronicles a week in their life.
+ “The problem at hand is thus one of canonization: my concern isn’t with Nevada but rather its contemporary reception three years down the road from its pub date. It’s been burdened with a mythos it can’t sustain, no book can: the novel that kicked off the trans literary ‘renaissance’ of the 2010’s, the novel that articulated and brought into being a broad-scale sophistication of trans literature by invoking trans readers as its audience.” A lot of interesting work came out of The Workshop, a recent writing workshop exclusively for trans women, but I’d like to highlight Kay Gabriel’s essay which takes a critical look at contemporary (and arguably dominate) narratives of “trans lit” and the impact of canonizing texts. Besides being an interesting analysis, this essay stands out to me in the way Gabriel offers a historical context to her look at modern “trans lit.” [Gabriel is also the author of an examination of Canadian poet Trish Salah’s Lyric Sexology Vol. 1 which is forthcoming from the Trans Studies Quarterly: “Untranslating Gender in Trish Salah’s Lyric Sexology Vol. 1“]
+ “I wanted to get into the headspace of a trans woman who wasn’t defined by being trans the way I still feel defined by being trans. Because like, the point with Kim Q’s transness is that it’s just a part of her.” For Autostraddle’s “Drawn to Comics” Mey Rude interviewed Magdelene Visaggio about KIM & KIM, her new comic book with a trans woman as half of the titular duo.
+ The literary focused Matrix Magazine just put out an issue built around the work of trans writers edited by Lucas Crawford.
+ “I work with a lot of devalued pop cultural texts. These texts have often been devalued because they’re associated with girls and/or women—as audiences and as protagonists. When I work with these kinds of texts, I not only ‘queer’ my work, but I think that I ‘trans’ it too, drawing on my own feminised history.” Christopher Evans interviewed writer Tom Cho (Look Who’s Morphing) about his previous work, his upcoming novel, and becoming a Canadian citizen.
+ INCOMPLETE SHORT STORIES ZINE by Jamie Berrout (self-published): Combining fiction previously published in Berrout’s Incomplete Short Stories and Essays with never before seen stories with a focus on speculative fiction. This purchase includes a hand bound copy and a PDF copy, and discounts are available for trans women.
+ REACQUAINTED WITH LIFE by KOKUMỌ (Heliotrope): This magnificent, boiling text is the first time KOKUMỌ’s poetry has been published on its own. I staggered my way through reading it, finding myself bound by her masterful storytelling as the waves of her words broke against me, leaving me breathless and in awe. This is the first of three books upcoming from Topside Press’ poetry imprint and it is a forceful opening salvo.
+ TO STAY HUMAN ONCE MORE by Esdras Parra (trans. By Jamie Berrout) (self-published): Parra’s book of poetry, originally published in 1995 and never before translated into English, is just one piece of her larger body of literature that spans genres and forms. Berrout’s translation brings the life of this influential Venezuelan activist to an audience whose interest in trans writers is dominated by white European and North American voices. A physical chapbook is also available. Trans women and amab nonbinary people are able to get the ebook for free and the chapbook at a discounted rate.
+ AN ALPHABET OF EMBERS: AN ANTHOLOGY OF UNCLASSIFIABLES edited by Rose Lemberg (Marginalia to Stone Bird) and Nin Harris (Stone Bird Press): An anthology of pieces whose nature renders them unclassifiable by comfortable labels of poetry or prose.
+ THERE SHOULD BE FLOWERS by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza (I’m Alive / It Hurts / I Love it) (Civil Coping Mechanisms): Espinoza’s second collection of her poems is beautiful, deadly, and deceptive in its quiet structure.
+ WHEN THE CHANT COMES: Poems 2003-2016 by Kay Ulanday Barrett (Heliotrope): Barrett has established himself as a respected and popular poet whose spoken word performances meet art and activism. Now his words are published in a collection full of familiar poems and poetry new to the world.
+ … #1 by Thel Seraphim (self-published): Abstract and naming and certainty share space in this zine that collects the wide ranging work of Seraphim.
+ PRIMA FACIE by Nicole Field (self-published): A romance story of a trans lawyer who makes the mistake of mixing business and pleasure.
+ INFECT YOUR FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES by Torrey Peters (self-published): Continuing in the unsettlingly creepy vein of her first novella, The Masker, this story takes a deep dive into speculative fiction with classic elements of post-apocalyptic tales. IFYFALO is available as a limited edition paperback and as a pay-what-you-will ebook.
+ The final of Heliotrope’s three poetry books of 2016 is their own Cat Fitzpatrick’s Glamourpuss. These autobiographical poems are explorations not just of her past mistakes but of traditional forms of English poetry. Her measured lines come together with reckless memories of wild dancing and sobbing phone calls. (expected publication October 4, 2016, Topside Press)
+ Following fellow Big Fancy Schmancy Publishing Houses Scholastic and MacMillon’s Flatiron Books’ successes with George (Alex Gino) and If I Was Your Girl (Meredith Russo), respectively, Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books will be publishing a trans book that’s written by a, you know, actual trans person. Bad Boy by Elliot Wake (Black Iris, Unteachable, Cam Girl) introduces us to Renard Grant, a vlogger by day and a vigilante by night. (expected publication December 6, 2016)
+ “It was only when I began reading works by poets of colour that this anxiety began to lift. I realized that poetry itself wasn’t the barrier, but rather the whiteness of it: most of the poetry I had been exposed to was by white authors.” – Vivek Shraya writing at Quill and Quiz about her experience writing her debut book of poetry: even this page is white. I mentioned her new book in the last “news and new releases from trans authors” but honestly I don’t feel bad reminding you that it’s coming out so soon. (expected publication September 13, 2016, Arsenal Press)