Celebrating Trans Voices (Literally! Because Audiobooks!)

Happy Thursday, audiobook lovers!

This week is all about celebrating the great works of trans and gender non-conforming authors! See, some folks in positions of power (*rhymes with Dump*) seem to think that trans people aren’t, like actual people? I don’t know. Because it doesn’t make any sense. Instead of trying to rationalize bigotry, let’s celebrate trans voices!

Sponsored by Flatiron Books.

The New York Times bestseller from Stephanie Garber follows two sisters as they take part of a legendary competition, not knowing what is real and what is magic. With adventure, romance, and suspense, you’ll have a hard time not getting caught up in this game…!

One way you can do this is by supporting this campaign: it’s for We’re Still Here a new anthology containing only trans creators and stories is being funded on Kickstarter. You can read more about it here or go straight to the Kickstarter and donate.

Now, back to audiobooks! On this list, we’ve got memoir, science-fiction, YA, and more.

Surpassing Certainty by Janet Mock

Janet Mock might be among the most well-known contemporary trans authors and for good reason: namely both she and her books are awesome. Her first book, Redefining Realness was called “A Fiery Success” by The Atlantic. Surpassing Certainty focuses on Mock’s 20s–-beginning just a few days before her 20th birthday. Kirkus calls Surpassing CertaintyBrimming with liberated self-discovery, Mock’s conversational memoir is smoothly written with plenty of insight and personal perspective….A defining chronicle of strength and spirit particularly remarkable for younger readers, both in transition or questioning.”

Being Jazz: My Life as A Transgender Teen by Jazz Jennings

Jennings rose to fame on the hit TLC show Being Jazz. Her legions of fans follow her YouTube channel, a documentary, a children’s book, and this title for young adults and adults. If Jazz has a “brand,” it’s rooted in tolerance, open-mindedness, and equality. Which is a pretty awesome brand, if you’re gonna have one. It’s no wonder Time named her one of “25 Most Influential Teens.”

Queer and Pleasant Danger: The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology, and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today by Kate Bornstein

I love Kate Bornstein. My first exposure to her was through the book Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws, which I bought for the teen section of my library when I was the Young Adult librarian. Then, realizing that even though I wasn’t a teen, I was, as Bornstein might say, a freak or outlaw. In all of her works, Bornstein is refreshingly honest (and hilarious!) about identity, mental health, and all the bullshit that life throws at us. In Queer and Present Danger, we get to see how Bornstein became the inspiring human being she is. I mean, with a subtitle like “The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology, and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today” how can you NOT want to read it?

Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz

“Fifteen-year-old bender Kivali has had a rough time in a gender-rigid culture. Abandoned as a baby and raised by Sheila, an ardent nonconformist, Kivali has always been surrounded by uncertainty. Where did she come from? Is it true what Sheila says, that she was deposited on Earth by the mysterious saurians? What are you? people ask, and Kivali isn’t sure. Boy/girl? Human/lizard? Both/neither? Now she’s in CropCamp, with all of its schedules and regs, and the first real friends she’s ever had. Strange occurrences and complicated relationships raise questions Kivali has never before had to consider. But she has a gift—the power to enter a trancelike state to harness the “knowings” inside her. She has Lizard Radio. Will it be enough to save her?”

Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Laura Jane Grace

Using material from her journal entries, Tranny recounts the challenges that Laura Jane Grace, the lead singer of the cult punk rock band Against Me!  experienced through her childhood and adolescence. “Grappling with everything from sex, drugs, and failed marriages to the music and soul of a punk rock star, this memoir paints a vivid portrait of one of the most revolutionary transgender icons of our time.”

The Unintentional Time Traveler by Everett Maroon

This book about a 15-year-old with epilepsy is what many consider to be the first YA book about a trans character written by a trans author. When Jack undergoes an experimental treatment for his epilepsy, he finds himself in the body of Jacqueline–-a girl Jack’s age. Mysteries of time travel and gender identity ensue.

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

In 1980, six friends break into an abandoned prison, looking for a little excitement. What results is a terrifying, tragic night with consequences that remain decades into the future. When new evidence of that tragic night appears, the detective in charge of the case renews his pursuit. When one of the friends is charged with murder for what occurred that evening, there’s only one person who can exonerate him: Judith Carrigan. But Judith has secrets of her own that she’s desperate to keep away from her husband and child. Can she save one life without destroying her own?

Whipping Girl by Julia Serrano

Serrano is a lesbian transgender activist, professional biologist, and prolific writer. In this book, she “shares her powerful experiences and observations…to reveal the ways in which fear, suspicion, and dismissiveness toward femininity shape our societal attitudes toward trans women, as well as gender and sexuality as a whole.”

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

“Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.”

George by Alex Gino

I dare you to read the description of this book and not find it so freaking charming (and important!) you could just die. “When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl. George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.”


Highlighting the Trans Authors Nominated for the 2016 Lambda Literary Awards

Rioter Constance takes us through the works by trans authors nominated for the 2016 Lambda Literary awards and discusses the potentially hopefully signs of expanding categories for trans authors.

Finding Trans Writers in Your Favorite Genres

Shockingly (#sarcasm) trans writers write books in all genres, not just memoir or about “trans issues.” This list will help you find books by trans authors in whatever genre strikes your fancy.


While writing this newsletter, I had to look up more terms than I usually do. The subtitle of Whipping Girl, for example, uses the term “transsexual” which I thought was an outdated/not entirely accurate term. Serano has a helpful glossary here in which she explains why she uses the word in relation to herself. In addition to Serano’s site, here are a few other neato resources.

Some basic definitions:

And for writer/media types like myself, both the Daily Dot and Glaad have excellent resources about how to cover transgender issues responsibly.

Did I miss your favorite book written by a trans author? Any other resources I should know about? Let me know,  or just say hello on Twitter @msmacb or just shoot me a note at

Until next week,



Win an Audiobook Prize Pack!


We have an audiobook prize pack to giveaway from our friends at Penguin Random House Audio!

The summer months are a great time for road trips with the whole family, but the car ride can get old…quick. Listen to an audiobook the whole family can enjoy and your destination will arrive in no time! Visit for suggested listens and for a free audiobook download of MY FATHER’s DRAGON!

Go here to enter, or just click the image below. Good luck!

What's Up in YA

080717 Beth Revis on Writing A Star Wars YA Novel: A “Dream Job”

We’ve got something special this week, YA lovers!

This week’s “What’s Up in YA?” is sponsored by Textrovert by Lindsey Summers from KCP Loft

It’s bad enough when high-school senior Keeley mistakenly swaps cell phones with a stranger. It’s even worse when the stranger turns out to be an obnoxious boy named Talon … who’s just left for football camp with her phone. Reluctantly, the two agree to forward messages for a week. As Keeley gets to know Talon through their texts, she finds out he’s more than just an egocentric jock. In fact, the two fall for each other, hard. But Talon has been keeping a secret. One that makes their relationship all but impossible. Will Keeley ever be able to trust him?

I’m really excited to share a guest post for this week’s newsletter. Knowing how wildly popular the recent crop of Star Wars YA novels has been, I had an idea it was something worth talking about with some more depth.

This week’s newsletter is a guest post from author Beth Revis. You might know her from her books Across the Universe (her first trilogy), A World Without You, and the recent Star Wars: Rebel Rising.

Beth Revis is a NY Times bestselling author with books available in more than 20 languages. Her latest title, Star Wars: Rebel Rising, tells the story of Jyn Erso before the movie Rogue One takes place. A World Without You is a semi-autobiographical story blending the supernatural with mental illness. Beth is also the author of the Across the Universe series, The Body Electric, numerous short stories, and the nonfiction Paper Hearts series, which aids aspiring writers. A native of North Carolina, Beth is currently working on a new novel for teens. She lives in rural NC with her boys: one husband, one small son, and two massive dogs.

I was not expecting a call from my agent that day. I was in a bit of a downtime in terms of projects—one thing turned in, another thing too new to turn in—so when her name flashed up on my iPhone, I had no idea what it was about.

It was about Star Wars.

I still remember the way my heart started pounding, a tight thrumming of excitement. Before she could even finish telling me about the project Star Wars was pitching me, I was saying yes. I didn’t care about any of the details: I wanted in.

I honestly had no idea what to expect, but within about a week of initially hearing about the offer, I was on a plane to San Francisco, where I and other authors who were writing works linked to Rogue One would find out details about the movie and start the process of writing. It was incredibly fast timing, but I was so eager to dive in, all I could think about was how grateful I was that I could start immediately.

I was given directions to the offices, nestled in the Presidio National Park of San Francisco, and told to look out for the Yoda Fountain—which, frankly, “turn left at Yoda” is so serendipitously awesome that I still can’t get over how cool even directions to this dream job was. My eyes drank in everything—the lobby with Boba Fett and Darth Vader costumes on display, the halls lined with movie posters from around the world throughout history, the alcoves with shining display cases that highlighted the Holy Grail of Indiana Jones’s fame alongside awards and knickknacks, the windows that all seemed to perfectly frame the Golden Gate Bridge.

The very first thing I and the other authors did was read the script for Rogue One. This project was for Star Wars, so I knew it was going to be special. But I cannot describe the moment when I read the end (that ending!) to the movie. I could picture Scarif so vividly, and as the final moments for the main characters ticked down, I kept thinking, Will they do it? Will that actually happen? It was so beautiful and perfect for that story—and for me. Rogue One is the kind of Star Wars story that I love not just because it’s Star Wars, but because it has everything in a story that I adore. Complex characters who aren’t black-and-white, conflicting goals even among friends, and a jaw-droppingly perfect ending to a story I never saw coming.

My novel—Rebel Rising—gives the background of the main character, Jyn Erso, from the moment she’s orphaned as a child to when the movie starts with her as a young woman in an Imperial prison.  From the moment I read the script, I knew I had to do whatever it took to showcase this character to the best of my abilities. I threw myself into the project, writing quicker than I’d ever written before, but also reading, reading, reading. I was able to get my hands on early copies of other novels coming that dealt with Jyn or her time period. And I scoured the comics and novels that had already been published, looking for details that I could add to my story to make it more real.

Weirdly, in many ways, writing Rebel Rising was similar to writing a historical biography—except it’s fiction and takes place in the future (or at least in a galaxy far, far away). The details I researched are the same sort of details I’d research for history. People are people, across time and space, but how they do things, the tools they use, the histories they react to—that’s what changes, and that’s what I had to research. And, like in a biography, the character’s life was already established. There are books that are set before my own—most notably Catalyst—that already defined some of her past. And the movie itself encompassed what happened to Jyn after. So while I had total freedom to do with her what I wanted, there was a definite Point A where she started and a Point B where I had to get her.

Some people ask me about the work that goes into this sort of novel, but to me, it never felt like work. In the same way I’d research NASA or Russian cosmonaut articles while writing the Across the Universe trilogy, I’d throw myself at Star Wars comics and novels and shows. It was never work because it was always fun and interesting.

For example, I’d seen The Clone Wars cartoon when it was released when I was in high school. But I rewatched it in anticipation of Rebel Rising, paying close attention to Saw Gerrera. While my novel was about Jyn, she spends a significant part of her life with this veteran of the Clone Wars. He had such a lasting impact in the show, but relatively few episodes focused on him. When I watched it the first time as a kid, I didn’t spend hours scrutinizing his face, parsing out everything he said, considering what happened to him after. His appearance in that show and the way he became in Rogue One forced me to be a detective, following the tiny breadcrumb trails to figure out not just who he was, but why he was.

This is exactly the kind of thing I love about writing—any writing, not just in Star Wars. Digging deep into the characters, discovering their stories that shaped their lives…that’s the kind of thing I love to write about and read about and watch in the theater.

As I said before, this was definitely a dream job. Star Wars was one of the major constants of my childhood, a rare movie that my brother and I could agree on, and a story that, to this day, fills me with wonder. Being able to be a part of that galaxy, even a small one, is an honor I will never forget. I couldn’t have been prouder than if Princess Leia herself had placed a medal around my neck on Yavin 4.

Thanks for hanging out, YA Riot fans, and we’ll see you next Monday.

–Kelly Jensen, @veronikellymars

Unusual Suspects

A Parrot Helped Convict A Murderer, and More!

Hello fellow mystery fans! Salvador Dali was exactly where his body was supposed to be and in a delightful twist, his mustache is in tact.

cover of The Dark Net by Benjamin PercySponsored by The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy

The Dark Net is real. An anonymous and often criminal arena that exists in the secret far reaches of the Web. And now an ancient darkness is gathering there as well. This force is threatening to spread virally into the real world unless it can be stopped by members of a ragtag crew. Set in present-day Portland, The Dark Net is a cracked-mirror version of the digital nightmare we already live in, a timely and wildly imaginative techno-thriller about the evil that lurks in real and virtual spaces, and the power of a united few to fight back.

What If Everyone’s Short-Term Memory Only Lasted a Day or Two?

Yesterday by Felicia Yap: There has been a new surge of mystery/thrillers written by women that I like to say, “that book has a bite.” I would place Yesterday in that category BUT it also is unique in that Yap has managed to create a slightly different world within our current society. In Yesterday people are either Mono or Duo: Monos only retain short-term memory for 24 hours; Duos only retain short-term memory for 48 hours. It creates hierarchy within society: Monos are considered less than, laws etc. have existed based on it. Now imagine if that’s how short-term memory worked and try being a detective solving a murder! Not only is DCI Richardson trying to solve the case of the body dumped in England’s River Cam, but it turns out the victim was having an affair with a Duo married to a Mono. It feels like everyone in this story is struggling with their memory and has secrets to keep. Told from the point of view of the victim’s iDiary (how everyone keeps track of their memory), DCI Richardson, and Mark and Claire (the Mono/Duo couple at the center of it all).

Over on Book Riot Amanda Nelson put together a great list of mystery/thriller audiobooks.

A Conversation With Walter Mosley. (If you haven’t yet read any of Mosley’s work–you really should–here’s a reading pathways.)

Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache author) video interview.

In stranger than fiction news: A parrot helped convict a woman of murdering her husband.

Watch the trailer for My Friend Dahmer based on Derf Backderf’s graphic novel depicting serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer as a teenager.

Michelle Richmond’s The Marriage Pact sold its film rights to 20th Century Fox.

Watch the trailer for Netflix’ Mindhunter based on the same titled book by Mark Olshaker and John E. Douglas. (Premieres October 13.)

Fictional Female Serial Killer? Yes, Please!

Heartsick (Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell, #1) by Chelsea Cain: I’ve been meaning to read this series for-ev-er. The cancellation of Cain’s Mockingbird left me so bummed that I finally reached for my Heartsick copy and shame on me for not having gotten to this series sooner! If you like dark, fckd-up serial killers who play some seriously wicked games, you’ll love Gretchen Lowell–from afar. Stay very far away from this evil woman. Archie Sheridan lives with a scar on his chest and a mind full of damage after barely having survived being kidnapped and tortured by serial killer Lowell. He had been the detective on her case and had spent 10 years trying to catch her. Ultimately he did, but considering his life is in shambles and he can’t stop visiting her in jail, who really caught whom? With a new killer snatching victims, Archie is asked to help catch the killer while also giving a young reporter access into his life for a series of feature articles. This felt like a mental cat-and-mouse where everyone seems to think they’re the cat, but that’s just not possible. A fantastic, dark read I stayed up way past my bedtime reading. And now I need to read all the Chelsea Cain.

Literary Mystery With a Unique PI Who I Love!

Celine by Peter Heller: Celine is no longer a spring chicken and has emphysema, but that doesn’t stop her from being a great PI who takes on mostly pro bono cases. Her new case comes via Gabriela, a woman with quite a story of her upbringing who needs Celine to help her find out what happened to her father years ago. Celine takes on the case and brings her partner Peter along for the adventure to Yellowstone National Park. While Celine is focused on Gabriela’s case, Celine’s son is focused on unraveling a mystery about Celine which gives a great look into Celine’s life. A good mystery that doesn’t go the way you’d think, filled with great characters, and a fabulous, dry-witted, unique PI. I hope to someday get to spend time with Celine again. And I really enjoyed the narrator, Kimberly Farr, on the audiobook.

Watch Now: If you’ve been looking forward to watching the adaptation of Petra Hammesfahr’s novel The Sinner–the USA Network mini-series starring Jessica Biel–it premiers tonight.

Browse all the books recommended in Unusual Suspects previous newsletters on this shelf. And if you like to put a pin in things here’s an Unusual Suspects board.

Until next time, keep investigating! And in the meantime come talk books with me on Twitter and Litsy–you can find me under Jamie Canaves.

The Goods

Badass Broads of SFF

If you can’t get enough mad scientists, faraway worlds, and magical realms, this one’s for you. Celebrate four of the most badass broads of sci-fi/fantasy, past and present. 

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Aug 4

Greetings, Earthlings and visitors from other realms. This week we’re talking Want and Labyrinth Lost, plus adaptation news, a bunch of themed reading lists, and more.

cover of The Dark Net by Benjamin PercyThis newsletter is sponsored by The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy.

The Dark Net is real. An anonymous and often criminal arena that exists in the secret far reaches of the Web. And now an ancient darkness is gathering there as well. This force is threatening to spread virally into the real world unless it can be stopped by members of a ragtag crew. Set in present-day Portland, The Dark Net is a cracked-mirror version of the digital nightmare we already live in, a timely and wildly imaginative techno-thriller about the evil that lurks in real and virtual spaces, and the power of a united few to fight back.

Important adaptation news: The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle is in development! It also just won Best Novella in the Shirley Jackson Awards, so there is no time like the present to read it.

What can corporations learn from sci-fi? There’s a whole company dedicated to the answer, “A lot actually.”  (I’ll be over here cackling about the kangaroo thing.)

Do you love Jane Austen and also love magic? Here are four fantasy novels that might be just what you’re looking for. Definitely read the comments (SHOCKING, I know) as there are lots of great additional sections there!

It turns out author Martha Wells loves a good magic/science combo as much as I do, and has written a list of eight books that do it well (and ditch most of the tropes!). Hardest of cosigns on JY Yang’s Tensorate books, GO PREORDER NOW.

Got a short attention span, a limited amount of reading time, or just really love short stories? Here are an actual hundred SF/F short story collections, including both single-author and multi-author collections.

I am generally restrained in the face of enamel pins, but these Harry Potter ones are VERY TEMPTING. (Luna’s glasses! Felix felicis!)

And now, on to our reviews: a quest in the future, and a quest that is out of this world.

Want by Cindy Pon

cover of Want by Cindy PonIn the Taiwan of Want‘s future, air pollution has gotten so bad that the wealthiest members of society go outside only in suits that filter their air, connect them to the network, regulate their temperature, and any other bells and whistles they can think up. For the rest of society, life expectancy is down to 40 and disease is rampant, and blue skies are just a story from the past. There are people trying to change things, but they’re up against corporate money — and corporate violence.

When his best friend’s mother is murdered for working to get environmental legislation passed, Zhou and his friends hatch a plan to take down Jin Corp, the sole maker of suits and the force behind her death. To take them down, someone will have to go undercover. From life as a mei (or have-not), Zhou will have to learn how to walk, talk, and act like a rich boy to infiltrate high society and get the access they need to execute their plan. If only he wasn’t falling for their primary target, Daiyu, daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO…

I was prepared to love this book, having read Cindy Pon before. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much! From simple, classic premises — star-crossed lovers, a grim ecological future — Pon creates a vibrant story with depth and heart. Zhou and his friends feel more mature than their years, having grown up too quickly in trying circumstances. The rich kids Zhou befriends as he goes undercover are more than just cardboard cut-outs of privilege (although some of them are as bad as you’d expect). And Daiyu is far from just another pretty girl. By taking the tropes of near-future YA and tweaking them in her own way, Pon has delivered a book I would recommend to every and any person looking for a good story, a realistic future scenario, and a touch of hope.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

paperback edition of Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida CordovaThis is the underworld quest I didn’t know I was craving, and it’s newly out in paperback. Let the reading and rejoicing begin!

Labyrinth Lost follows the adventures of Alex, for whom magic is both everyday and hugely unwanted. Her family, who live in Brooklyn, are part of a magical community and her Deathday Celebration, when she is supposed to come fully into her magic, is approaching. But magic has brought her nothing but pain and terror, and all she wants is to get rid of it. So she decides to do her own spell — a spell to take away her magic.

Of course it backfires, and instead sends her entire family into Los Lagos, an in-between world full of supernatural creatures and terrors. Now she has to use her largely untested magic to try to defeat an enemy who has been plotting for generations. And while she finds some help along the way, nothing is what it seems.

Córdova has created a fully realized magical system and realm in this first installation of the Brooklyn Brujas series. Reminding me at various moments of The Princess Bride, The Odyssey, Alice in Wonderland, and other portal fantasies, it is ultimately all her own. If you’re ready to visit a new world and cheer on a heroine who has a lot to learn, but isn’t afraid to try, then you’re ready for Labyrinth Lost. Join me in waiting for the next installment! (Not out until April 2018, WOE IS US.)


That’s a wrap: Happy reading! If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the new SFF Yeah! podcast.

Riot Rundown


Today’s Riot Rundown is sponsored by IMPOSSIBLE VIEWS OF THE WORLD by Lucy Ives, published by Penguin Press.

Stella Krakus, a curator at Manhattan’s renowned Central Museum of Art, is having the roughest week in approximately ever. Her soon-to-be ex-husband (the perfectly awful Whit Ghiscolmbe) is stalking her, a workplace romance with “a fascinating, hyper-rational narcissist” is in freefall, and a beloved colleague, Paul, has gone missing. Pulsing with neurotic humor and dagger-sharp prose, Impossible Views of the World is a dazzling debut novel about how to make it through your early thirties with your brain and heart intact.

The Stack


Today’s The Stack is sponsored by Book Pop! from Quirk Books.

From July 31-August 11, Quirk Books is hosting Book Pop!, an online comic-con. Quirk’s authors will be taking over it’s socials, visiting sites across the web, sharing original content on And like any great con Quirk is giving away awesome SWAG, hosting a digital cosplay contest, and has partnered up with geeky companies for an amazing grand prize. Find out more at


Win $100 to Spend at Powell’s Books!


I have the great good fortune of calling Powell’s my local bookstore, but you don’t have to live in Portland to enjoy what Powell’s is: quite simply the best independent bookstore in the U.S (and possibly the world).

You can sample, well more than sample, Powell’s offerings by winning our giveaway for a $200 Powell’s gift card, provided courtesy of our friends at Harper Voyager. It’s good both in person and on their very excellent website.

Go here to enter for a chance to win, or just click the image from the flagship store below. Good luck!