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By Common Language Staff
Best-of lists are ultimately personal choices. Part of our bias is for local authors, and we have three on our list for 2014 – the “Year of the Memoir.” We started with about 30 books, and worked to whittle it down to a dozen. At some point we realized that half of the books were memoirs. In the name of diversity, many great books ended on the cutting-room floor. So here are the dozen we settled on at Common Language Bookstore:
Trans Bodies, Trans Selves
edited by Laura Erickson-Schroth, Introduction by Jennifer Finney Boylan University Press ($39.95)
This comprehensive book investigates social history, health, law, politics and more. Inspired by the Women’s Health classic, “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” is as radical and affirming as that earlier tome.
The Days of Anna Madrigal
by Armistead Maupin
Twenty-five years ago we thought Maupin ended the “Tales of the City” series. We thought wrong. This year, the renowned author returned with a trilogy updating us on his story’s central characters. In the book, the final volume in the series, he focuses his gaze on the heart and spirit of “Tales of the City,” Ann Madrigal. For those who have followed the entire series, Anna probably feels real enough that you could be forgiven for counting this work of fiction as another memoir in this list.
Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir
by Alan Cumming
Dey Street Books ($26.99)
The Scottish-born star of stage and screen is also an author of fiction and non-fiction. He takes all that talent and writes a memoir in his unique voice and shares the emotional story of his complicated relationship with his father and the deeply buried family secrets that shaped his life and career.
The Paying Guests
by Sarah Waters
Riverhead Books ($28.95)
Sarah Waters’ control of writing, character development, narrative flow, sense of time and place are all so spot-on. The only problem? Her fans are always reading faster than she can write. “The Paying Guests” is set in post-WWI London. Frances Wray’s father and two brothers do not survive the Great War, and she and her mother must take in lodgers (“paying guests”) to meet the bills. This story of class will satisfy her fans while also making her some new ones.
Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music
by Nadine Hubbs
University of California Press ($34.95)
In “Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music,” music and sexual orientation scribe Nadine Hubbs looks at how class and gender identity play out in one of America’s most culturally and politically charged forms of popular music. A tight, rich and entertaining read, Hubbs confronts the shifting and deeply entangled workings of taste, sexuality and class politics.
I Am Jazz
by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
“I Am Jazz,” simply the best transgender kids book since “10,000 Dresses,” is based on the true story of one of the authors. Illustrations engage, but there’s also an immense takeaway for both kids and families alike.
by Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon
Arsenal Pulp Press ($17.95)
Based on their acclaimed 2012 European and North American tour, “Gender Failure” is a collection of autobiographical essays, lyrics and images documenting authors Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon’s journeys from gender failure to gender enlightenment with humor and thoughfulness.
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More
by Janet Mock
Atria Books ($15)
You’ll be hooked from the start of “Redefining Realness,” the first major memoir by an African-American transgender woman. Journalist / advocate Janet Mock’s book is open and unapologetic, and every page breathes, well, realness.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
by Susan Kuklin
Candlewick Press ($22.99)
Susan Kuklin photographs and interviews transgender and gender-neutral teens and includes portraits of the teens and their families before, during and after their gender acknowledgment. The teens are presented with respect and thoughtfulness. An excellent resource for any teen questioning gender.
The Nearness of Others
by David Caron
University of Minnesota Press ($24.95)
David Caron has written more expressively than anyone else about being HIV-positive within the gay community. Part memoir, part examination of society, this radical, genre-bending narrative tells the story of David’s 2006 HIV diagnosis and its aftermath. “The Nearness of Others” examines popular culture and politics, as well as literary memoirs and film, to ask deeper philosophical questions about our relationships with others. Ultimately, Caron demonstrates a form of disclosure, sharing and contact that stands against the forces working to separate us.
Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival
by Sean Strub
Scribner Book Company ($17)
Sean Strub seems to have lived every major event in recent LGBT history … and then some. He was with ACT UP when the group covered Jesse Helms’ home in a giant condom. He founded and published POZ magazine. He produced “The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me.” Also, oddly and coincidentally, he was the first on the scene at the shooting of John Lennon. A fascinating story of AIDS, politics and survival.
by Laurie Salzler
Blue Feather Books ($16.50)
The lesbian romance genre is a crowded field, but local author Laurie Salzler is a standout. Quickly becoming a force in lesbian lit, the author’s crisp style brings this romance alive. Characters from her earlier book, “A Kiss Before Dawn,” return and discover lightning can indeed strike twice.