Monday, September 30, 2019

The Importance of Queer History in YA - The Lambda LitFest 2019 Panel (recorded at BookSoup on September 27, 2019)

It was a great discussion, captured here on video to share with all of you! Click here (or on the still frame below) to check out the conversation moderated by YA author, Amy Spalding (THE SUMMER OF JORDI PEREZ), with authors James Brandon (ZIGGY, STARDUST AND ME), Abdi Nazemian (LIKE A LOVE STORY), and Lee Wind (QUEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL) for a roundtable discussion about why writing Queer History in Young Adult canon is not only an important aspect to the popular genre, but a necessity in documenting our history for young people today.

Thanks to Amy, Brandon, and Abdi, Mark for recording, and everyone at BookSoup and Lambda LitFest 2019 for making this event possible!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Friday, September 27, 2019

#QueerHistoryIsEverywhere - The Lovers of Modena Were Two GUYS!

CNN is reporting that scientists have just discovered that the pair of ancient skeletons known as the “Lovers of Modena” who were found in 2009 (in Modena, Italy) buried holding hands were both men.

The middle-aged couple died sometime between 1,500 and 1,700 years ago, and like all queer history, the truth had been hidden – everyone just assumed that they had been a man and a woman.

Researchers figured it out by testing proteins in the skeletons’ tooth enamel where they found—in both—a peptide present only in men. They published their findings in the journal Nature.

Queer history really is everywhere!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

P.S.: My thanks to Dr. Don Kilhefner for sharing this in his newsletter, so I can share it will all of you!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

It's Banned Books Week - celebrate by reading something that s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s you

For inspiration, consider the top 11 (there was a tie) most challenged books of 2018, as reported to (and by) the American Library Association. The folks at ALA even put together this handy video:

It's stunning that six out of the eleven books were banned, at least in part, because they included LGBTQAI+ characters and content. That's a lot of fear of us queer people.

So let's fight back, by making books for kids and teens WITH queer characters and themes really successful. Read them. Leave reviews online, wherever you read reviews. Ask your local library, and your school library, to carry them. And talk them up!

Stereotypes and ignorance and feeling isolated are all things that grow in the darkness of censorship - let's turn up the light!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,


Monday, September 23, 2019

I'll be a panelist for the 2019 Lambda LitFest Event at BookSoup This Friday September 27, "The Importance of Queer History in Young Adult Novels"

The information on their website may not be all there, but my enthusiasm is! I'm delighted to be one of the panelists who'll be at the famed BookSoup in West Hollywood, California this Friday September 27 at 7pm to discuss The Importance of Queer History in Young Adult Novels!

As the panel description says,

The 2011 passage of California’s FAIR Education Act mandated that LGBTQ accomplishments be taught in our history and social studies classrooms to show that gay Americans have been an integral part of our society and continue to shape our current world. A few other states have joined in this movement, but still, we have a long way to go before LGBTQ+ history is fully integrated into school curriculum. Join us for a roundtable discussion about why writing Queer History in Young Adult canon is not only an important aspect to the popular genre, but a necessity in documenting our history for young people today.

The more complete panel description:

Moderated by YA author, Amy Spalding (THE SUMMER OF JORDI PEREZ), join authors James Brandon (ZIGGY, STARDUST AND ME), Abdi Nazemian (LIKE A LOVE STORY), and Lee Wind (QUEEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL) for a roundtable discussion about why writing Queer History in Young Adult canon is not only an important aspect to the popular genre, but a necessity in documenting our history for young people today.

James Brandon's ZIGGY, STARDUST AND ME is being released August 6 from Putnam/Penguin Random House. "Set in St. Louis in 1973, months before homosexuality was 'de-classified' as a mental illness, sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins is fighting to overcome his 'illness' when he meets Web, a Lakota Two-Spirit. The two boys fall in love and struggle to retain their identities in a world that continually threatens to tear them apart.

Abdi Nazemian's LIKE A LOVE STORY was released June 6 from Harper Teen/Balzar+Bray. "At the height of the U.S. AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s and early 1990s, three teenagers grapple with love, friendship and family as they become involved in activism under the tutelage of a queer mentor."

Lee Wind's QUEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL was inspired by the real historical letters between Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Fry Speed. In this award-winning novel, Wyatt, a bullied and closeted teen, outs Lincoln to change the world—triggering a conservative backlash and media firestorm. Crowdfunded, the book was Publishers Weekly’s September 2018 “Indie Success Story.”

Amy Spalding grew up in St. Louis, but now lives in the better weather of Los Angeles. She has a B.A. in Advertising & Marketing Communications from Webster University, and an M.A. in Media Studies from The New School. Amy studied longform improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. By day, she manages the digital media team for an indie film advertising agency. By later day and night, Amy writes, performs, and pets as many cats as she can. She is the author of five young adult novels, including her latest, the bestselling THE SUMMER OF JORDI PEREZ (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles).

If you're in the Los Angeles area this Friday, I hope you'll join us for what promises to be a great discussion!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Friday, September 20, 2019

Daughter of the Burning City - A Fantasy Where a Bi Teen Girl Has To Solve A Series of Illusionary Murders

Daughter of the Burning City By Amanda Foody

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival's Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that--illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed...until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn't actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca. Their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina's illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all her loved ones disappear.

What's queer about it? The main character, Sorina, is bi, there's a lesbian secondary character, and Luca is ace-spectrum.

There's a great interview with the author here. Add your review of "Daughter of the Burning City" in comments!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Felipe Neto is My New Hero

He's a Brazilian YouTube star (with 34 million subscribers), but as I don't speak Portuguese, Felipe Neto hasn't been on my radar. But he is now!

As reported in the Advocate and at Pink News and in The Guardian...

At Rio de Janeiro’s international book fair (which just ended on September 10, 2019), the city's mayor "attempted to pull the graphic novel Avengers: The Children’s Crusade because it prominently features a same-sex kiss", saying that it should be "wrapped in black plastic and come with a warning label."

And on Friday, the mayor "ordered city inspectors to seize copies of Avengers." What happened next was amazing...

"In response, Felipe Neto... bought all the copies of major LGBTQ-themed books being sold at the festival, totaling about 14,000, and gave them out Saturday to anyone who wanted one."

What's with the black plastic wrapping? As Pink News explains,
In a mischievous act of compliance with the mayor’s demand that LGBT+ books are sold with content warnings, the books come in black bags with a label that says: “This book is inappropriate for backwards, outdated and bigoted people.”
Go here to watch Felipe's youtube post about his activism, and check out the video starting at 1:50 -- the nearly endless stream of people getting free copies of LGBTQ books is really inspiring.

In this still shot from Felipe's YouTube post, the label in Portuguese explains that 'We are going as fast as possible to distribute everything before the "censorship inspectors" appear'

14,000 LGBTQ books given out for free! It's a homophobia smack down for sure!

“Although we [are] going through the most frightening government in terms of repression since the dictatorship, this time we have a united and engaged people who will not permit that censorship, the imposition of others’ moral values,” Neto told the Guardian.

Bravo, Felipe!

And in another act of LGBTQ solidarity and allyship, Brazil's biggest newspaper printed the illustration of the "two men kissing on its front page to attack an attempt at censorship by the evangelical mayor of Rio de Janeiro."


The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Monday, September 16, 2019

I'll Be On Faculty at the 2019 La Jolla Writers Conference!

Hello community!

I'm excited to be leading three sessions at the upcoming 2019 La Jolla Writers Conference in La Jolla, California, October 25-27, 2019.

So You Want To Crowdfund Your Book?
Workshop Block
A Case Study Breakdown and Brainstorming Workshop.

In January of 2018, Lee Wind launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance both the professional publication of his debut YA novel, Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill, and raise enough money to donate 400 copies of his empowering book to LGBTQ and Allied Teens. The project fully funded in six days, and by the end, he’d raised enough money to donate 910 copies! Lee will walk you through both his Kickstarter project page and all the things he did to set himself up for success. Together, you’ll work through the main points to consider in setting up your own crowdfunded publishing project. From backer rewards to international shipping; from email lists to the financial realities; there are so many elements to consider. There will be worksheets to guide you and time to brainstorm your own book’s crowdfunding campaign!

Friday October 25, 2019 from 2:10 pm - 4:00 pm


The Art and Science of Book Marketing
Workshop Block
A Hands-On Workshop.

Are you ready to create a marketing strategy for your book? Book marketing is both an art and a science, and never a one-size-fits-all endeavor. The answer to “how will I market my book?” must be customized, and during this workshop, Lee Wind will focus you on the specific efforts you can take to achieve your book marketing goals. From his dual perspective as the director of marketing and programming for the Independent Book Publishers Association and the author-publisher of the teen novel Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill, Lee will guide you through a five-part program to craft your personal book marketing strategy. You will learn how to: Target Your Audiences; Get Your Book Vetted; Choose Your Tools; Lean Into Synergy, and Own Your Resilience. In the end, you’ll leave with book marketing insights and an actionable marketing strategy for your book.

Saturday October 26, 2019 from 8:00 am - 9:50 am


How Do You Measure Success: A Networking Game
Lecture Block
Every publisher, every author, wants to hit the best-seller lists and win the major awards. It’s also important to consider additional definitions of success. How about reaching readers? Inspiring social change? Building the author’s professional standing? Sending the book’s creators on tour? Growing a tribe? Shining a light on a subject you’re passionate about? And so many more…Join your fellow conference attendees in this fast-paced meet-and-greet networking event. We’ll challenge and expand our mental models about why we write and publish. We’ll find common ground and explore new territory in small groups that will keep shuffling – all in a game format that comes with bragging rights and new connections! Bring your business cards and a sense of adventure…

Saturday October 26, 2019 from 2:30 pm - 3:20 pm

You can find out all the conference info at, and if you'd like to attend, use this special promo code “25LJWC2019” and get 25% off conference registration (saves you about $100).

Hope to see you there!

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Friday, September 13, 2019

Once & Future - Gender, Power, Revolution: King Arthur is Reborn as a Teenage Girl in a Futuristic, LGBTQ-Inclusive Universe

Once & Future By Cori McCarthy, Amy Rose Capetta

I've been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I've always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.

Now I'm done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure.

What's Queer about it? Reviews (including this one) call out that Ari and her knights' identities span pansexual, asexual, genderfluid, nonbinary, gay, and lesbian.

With Starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal, I can't wait to read this one! Add your review of "Once & Future" in comments!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

My Brother’s Name is Jessica - A YA Novel Where the Main Teen Character's Older Sibling Comes Out as Trans

My Brother’s Name is Jessica by John Boyne

Sam Waver’s life has always been pretty quiet. A bit of a loner, he struggles to make friends, and his busy parents often make him feel invisible. Luckily for Sam, his older brother, Jason, has always been there for him. Sam idolises Jason, who seems to have life sorted – he’s kind, popular, amazing at football, and girls are falling over themselves to date him.

But then one evening Jason calls his family together to tell them that he’s been struggling with a secret for a long time. A secret which quickly threatens to tear them all apart. His parents don’t want to know and Sam simply doesn’t understand.

Because what do you do when your brother says he’s not your brother at all? That he thinks he’s actually . . . your sister?

Add your review of "My Brother’s Name is Jessica" in comments!

Monday, September 9, 2019

The "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" Audiobook Gets a Strong Review from In'D Tale Magazine!

I'm excited about this review by Chelsea Anderson for the audiobook of "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill", in the September 2019 issue of InD'Tale Magazine!

Some highlights:

"a wonderful narrative style"

"an eye-opening experience"

"this is a novel for fans of YA who are looking for an authentic teen experience told with lots of heart!"

and praise for Michael Crouch, who narrates the audiobook:

"Mr. Crouch's narration is one full of emotion and connection to the story. His voice is wonderful to listen to as he takes us through Wyatt's head."

You can read the full review here.

Find out more about Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill here.

Want to listen to the first two chapters for free? Click here.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Friday, September 6, 2019

Las Niñas Pueden Ser Reyes (Girls Can Be Kings) - A Coloring Book I Wish I'd Had When I Was a Little Kid

Las Niñas Pueden Ser Reyes by Jacinta Bunnell, translated into Spanish by Fernanda Siles

This new Spanish translation of Jacinta Bunnell’s feminist coloring book Girls Are Not Chicks features 32 pages of girl power fun, translated by Nicaraguan educator, Fernanda Siles. Every day we hear on the news stories of Latinx folks here in the U.S. and those south of the U.S. border being recipients of brutal hostility and violence. At the same time, we see these same communities courageously risking everything so that they and their children can thrive. We see young Latinx people organize despite this repression, many of them young girls. I am so inspired by their mobilization. I offer this book as a token of love and appreciation that celebrates these brave and powerful activists, educators and communities of care. The title in English of this book is Girls Can Be Kings.

Measures 8 x 11 inches. Black & white line drawings, fun to color with colored pencils or crayons. This is the coloring book you should have had when you were a kid. Color the Rapunzel for a new society. She now has power tools, a roll of duct tape, and a bus pass! Paint outside the lines with Miss Muffet as she tells that spider off and considers a career as an arachnologist!

Girls are thinkers, creators, fighters, healers, superheroes, and kings.

¡Veintisiete páginas de diversión feminista! Este es un libro para colorear para cualquier edad y nunca puede uno ser demasiado grande. Las niñas pueden ser reyes ofrece una manera alegre y subversiva de examinar como los estereotipos de género que están en todos aspectos de nuestras vidas. Este libro ayuda a deconstruir la homogeneidad de la expresión de género en los medios infantiles, presentando imágenes más diversificadas que refuerzan los roles de género positivos para niñas.

Niñas son pensadoras, creadoras, luchadoras, curanderas y superhéroes.
One of the brilliant interiors - The page showing a young girl who traded in her Barbie for "something less destructive"/"algo menos destructivo."

I particularly love Jacinta's explanation of the title:
The title of this book is Las niñas pueden ser reyes: Libro para colorear (Girls Can Be Kings Coloring Book), inspired by Seondeok of Silla, a 7th-century Korean girl who became the first queen of Silla despite a misogynist uprising against her fueled by the motto “girls can’t be kings!” I learned of her from the incredible book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.

It's inspiring to see how powerful knowing real history that includes woman can be -- the story of Seondeok, told in one book, inspiring Jacinta's Spanish version of this book, and reaching out to all the readers (and colorers) to come!

The Spanish version of one of my favorite pages in the original: "Nobody wants to fight the patriarchy alone. Make friends."
I'm very excited about this coloring book—it's absolutely something I wish I'd had back when I was a little kid!

Add your review of "Las Niñas Pueden Ser Reyes" in comments!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Paula Stone Williams' Powerful TEDx Talk to Help Us All Be Better Allies to Trans Women and to ALL Women

I'm happy to share this with you all, "I've lived as a man and a woman -- here's what I've learned" by Paula Stone Williams.

I hope it resonates for you, too.

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Monday, September 2, 2019

Noggin - A Teen (or at least his head) comes back from the dead five years later - he's still 16, but his best friend, and his girlfriend, have changed

Noggin By John Corey Whaley

Listen—Travis Coates was alive once and then he wasn’t.
Now he’s alive again.
Simple as that.

The in between part is still a little fuzzy, but Travis can tell you that, at some point or another, his head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado. Five years later, it was reattached to some other guy’s body, and well, here he is. Despite all logic, he’s still sixteen, but everything and everyone around him has changed. That includes his bedroom, his parents, his best friend, and his girlfriend. Or maybe she’s not his girlfriend anymore? That’s a bit fuzzy too.

Looks like if the new Travis and the old Travis are ever going to find a way to exist together, there are going to be a few more scars.

Oh well, you only live twice.

What's gay about it? There's an LGBTQ coming out subplot.

Add your review of "Noggin" in comments!