As Pride Month draws to a close, the Newsroom asked some St. Thomas LGBTQIA+ faculty and staff members for book recommendations to help provide the university community some diverse perspectives. Here are their thoughts on some recommended reading.
All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto by George M. Johnson (2020)
In All Boys Aren’t Blue, award-winning journalist, writer and activist George M. Johnson bravely writes about his own experiences as a Black, queer youth navigating identity from K-12 and into college, as well as about the non-gendered liberation within communities of color. This memoir includes personal essays, deep reflections, and poignant memories that further explore Johnson’s experience with gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent and Black joy. Johnson seeks to lift the veil from the hidden narratives of queer, youth of color and relies on hope and resilience while unweaving trauma.
This book precedes We Are Not Broken, Johnson’s next book, slated for this fall. We Are Not Broken will expand on his time growing up Black in America and the themes of vulnerability, sacrifice and culture. Read more about it here and preorder your copy!
Recommended by Mads Clark, the current interim assistant director of Student Diversity and Inclusion Services.
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (2018)
This beautifully illustrated children’s book tells the story of Julián, a young child who wants nothing more than to be a mermaid. Julián creatively imagines what life would be like as a mermaid, and through daydreaming and role taking, embarks on a magical underwater adventure. Author Jessica Love takes the reader on a watercolor sea adventure with beautifully illustrated pages as Julián and Julián’s abuela journey together as mermaids, forging the way toward self-acceptance and unconditional love. This book is perfect to be read aloud and is for readers of any age. This book will spark so many amazing conversations with children and adults alike. Take my word for it and embark on an adventure with Julián and abuela.
This magical book is the winner of the 2019 Stonewall Book Award and has been listed on many “best of children’s literature” lists.
Recommended by Patricia L. Maddox, an assistant professor of sociology in the Department of Justice and Society Studies.
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus (2019)
Minneapolis-based author Junauda Petrus is probably best known in the Twin Cities for her poem “Give The Police Departments to the Grandmothers.” However, her young adult novel The Stars and the Blackness Between Them is something to behold! This coming-of-age tale is a story about love and life, told from the point of view of two young women: a Minneapolis high school student named Mabel, and Audre, who arrives from Trinidad to stay with the best friend of Mabel’s father and finish her school in Minneapolis. Petrus brilliantly captures the voices of these two young women at the cusp of discovery of what life and love can be.
If you’re hesitant about reading a young adult novel, don’t be: A 2012 study revealed that 55% of YA books are bought by adults, and often to read themselves. Treat yourself this summer to this fantastic book.
Recommended by Hugh Smeltekop, the program manager for the STEM Inclusive Excellence program.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (2020)
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo (sorcerer). With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
Cemetery Boys is Aiden Thomas’ (a trans, Latinx, New York Times-bestselling author) debut novel. It was a fun engaging read, with a compelling cast, a cute romance, and some real interesting world-building. There are a lot of fantasy books that have gender-based magic systems that just entirely ignore the existence of trans folks; Thomas tackled that head on with Yadriel and how Yadriel was denied his opportunity to take his place within his community by others. There is a conversation that I think is really important – that it’s impossible for Yadriel to have been the very first trans brujx in thousands of years. The history may have been lost, or buried, but there was and will be others like Yadriel.
Content notes: This book includes misgendering, deadnaming (Yadriel’s deadname is never provided to the reader), gender dysphoria, violence, and use of both human and animal blood in magic/rituals.
Recommended by Andy Scott, the senior IT specialist for the Minneapolis campus and student tech desk manager.
A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder by Ma-Nee Chacaby (2016)
A Two-Spirit Journey is Ma-Nee Chacaby’s own life’s account as an Ojibwa-Cree lesbian. From their early, often harrowing memories of life and abuse in the remote Ojibwa community of Ombabika ridden with poverty and alcoholism, Chacaby’s story is one of enduring and ultimately overcoming the social, economic, and health legacies of colonialism in Canada.
As a child, Chacaby escaped the Indian residential school system and learned spiritual and cultural traditions from their Cree grandmother, as well as trapping, hunting, and outdoor survival skills from their Ojibwa stepfather. They also suffered physical and sexual abuse by different adults, and by their teen years, was alcoholic themself. At 20, Chacaby moved to Thunder Bay with their children to escape an abusive marriage. Abuse, compounded by racism, continued, but Chacaby found supports for themself and others while later residing in Winnipeg and Manitoba. Over the following decades, they achieved sobriety; trained and worked as an addiction counselor; raised their children and fostered many others; began a career as a painter while later learning to live with visual impairment; and came out as lesbian. In 2013, Chacaby led the first gay pride parade in their adopted city – Thunder Bay, Ontario – and in 2019 was one of the grand marshals for the Montreal Pride Parade.
Ma-Nee’s story is told in first person to and then recounted/co-authored by social scientist Mary Louisa Plummer.
A Two-Spirit Journey has received many acknowledgements. In 2017, it received the U.S. Oral History Association Book Award; was a shortlisted Lambda Literary Award finalist for Lesbian Memoir/Biography at the 29th Lambda Literary Awards; and was also short listed for the Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher at the Manitoba Book Awards. In 2018, it won the Ontario Historical Society’s Alison Prentice Award for Best Book on Women’s History in Ontario.
Recommended by Shari Johnson, a full-time clinical faculty member in the graduate field department for the School of Social Work. She is also the coordinator for DEI efforts and initiatives for the MFCOH.