Stories That Reflect

By Skokie Staff Adult Services

We love fiction because it holds a mirror to humanity, and each mirror reflects something different. The titles spotlighted here are as varied in what and how they reflect as the authors who wrote the books.

  • The Prophets

    2021 by Jones, Robert

    This is a beautiful love story about two young men who are enslaved on a southern plantation. The balance that the author strikes between tenderness and brutality, spirituality and physicality, celebration and grief, is simply breathtaking. Recommended by Megan.

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  • Detransition, Baby

    2020 by Peters, Torrey

    This exploration of unconventional family and trans femininity is “emotionally devastating, culturally specific, endlessly intelligent, and really, really funny” (Autostraddle). Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Milk Fed

    2021 by Broder, Melissa

    Samantha Irby calls this “Deeply hilarious and embarrassingly relatable.” Need a little more? Rachel is a lapsed Jew who has replaced religion with calorie counting when she meets Miriam, a young Orthodox Jewish purveyor of frozen yogurt who is intent on feeding Rachel. Time calls it “A thrilling examination of hunger, desire, faith, family and love.” Recommended by Allyson.

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  • The Guncle

    2021 by Rowley, Steven

    Nerd Daily says it so well: “As hysterically funny as it is profound, The Guncle is the perfect summer read for anyone who’s looking for a good time with amazing characters without forfeiting deep and meaningful discussions that will feel like a balm to the soul for anyone who’s ever lost someone.” Recommended by Allyson.

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  • On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

    2019 by Vuong, Ocean

    A novel steeped in feeling about a Vietnamese American young man, his relationships with his grandmother and sometimes abusive mother, his family trauma from the Vietnam War, and his awakening sexuality. Vuong is a published poet and literature professor, and the beautiful writing and the melancholy, outsider point of view make this a transformative read. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Small Beauty

    2016 by Wilson-Yang, Jia Qing

    Small Beauty tells the story of Mei, who, in coping with the death of her cousin, abandons her life in the city to live in his now empty house in a small town. There she connects with his history as well as her own, learns about her aunt’s long-term secret relationship, and reflects on the trans women she left behind. She also brushes up against some local trans mysteries and gets advice from departed loved ones with a lot to say. When this novel won the Lambda Literary Award, the committee called it, "A quiet, gorgeous meditation on grief, race, and community." Recommended by Becca.

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  • All My Mother's Lovers

    2020 by Masad, Ilana

    It is said that we all become our mothers eventually, but what happens when your mother turns out to have an entire life you were never aware of that contradicts everything you knew of her? That’s the question Maggie Krause must face after her mother Iris—who struggled to accept Maggie’s queerness—suddenly passes away. Maggie discovers five letters that Iris has left to five lovers that Maggie had no awareness of and decides to hand-deliver them in hopes of learning who her mother truly was. Recommended by Becca.

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  • You Exist Too Much

    2020 by Arafat, Zaina

    I couldn't find a better description than what Harper's Bazaar wrote: "Flashing between the protagonist’s childhood in the Middle East and her years as a 20-something DJ in Brooklyn, You Exist Too Much tells the story of a bisexual Palestinian-American girl whose romantic obsessions and self-destructive impulses lead her to an unconventional treatment center called The Ledge, where she must reckon with the traumas that she has inherited from the places and people who raised her." Recommended by Becca.

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  • Under the Udala Trees

    2015 by Okparanta, Chinelo

    Filled with courage and compassion, this forbidden love story shows us another region of the world where there is much fighting to be done for LGBTQIA equality. Okparanta captures this struggle wonderfully, while showing us the power and beauty of love. Recommended by Paul.

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  • Romance in Marseille

    2020 by McKay, Claude

    Buried in the archive for almost 90 years, this book traces the adventures of a rowdy troupe of dockworkers, prostitutes, and political organizers—collectively straight and queer, disabled and able-bodied, African, European, Caribbean, and American. Set largely in the culture-blending Vieux Port of Marseille at the height of the Jazz Age, the novel takes flight along with Lafala, an acutely disabled but abruptly wealthy West African sailor. Recommended by Chris.

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  • Giovanni's Room

    2013 by Baldwin, James

    When David meets the sensual Giovanni in a bohemian bar, he is swept into a passionate love affair. But his girlfriend's return to Paris destroys everything. Unable to admit to the truth, David pretends the liaison never happened—while Giovanni's life descends into tragedy. Recommended by Chris.

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  • Maurice

    2006 by Forster, E. M.

    While a student at Cambridge, Maurice Hall discovers that he is sexually attracted to men rather than women. The New York Times calls this the "work of an exceptional artist working close to the peak of his powers." Recommended by Chris.

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  • This Is How It Always Is

    2017 by Frankel, Laurie

    “Sly and charming…Comes at the perfect time…This Is How It Always Is explores the travails of a modern family, where challenges about a child’s gender are the same as any other struggles of growing up” (Shelf Awareness). Recommended by Mary.

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  • Little Fish

    2020 by Plett, Casey

    The winner of the 2019 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction, this novel follows Wendy, a trans Canadian woman navigating volatile friendships and relationships, who discovers a family secret that leads her to suspect her Mennonite grandfather may also have been trans. Recommended by Mary.

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  • The Bone People

    1985 by Hulme, Keri

    According to Book Riot, "Asexual books are harder to come by in adult and literary fiction. That makes Hulme’s Booker Prize–winning 1984 novel all the more significant. Vocabulary for asexual books didn’t exist at the time, but the representation is laid out on the page. Kerewin Holmes is a reclusive artist, self-exiled in her New Zealand tower, until her solitary life is disrupted by the volatile Joe and his adoptive son Simon. Kerewin is both white and Maori, as well as asexual, all traits mirrored in the author herself." Recommended by Becca.

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