Blog tour, stage 6: review and guest post at Short Book and Scribes

ASITW blog tour individual 9 May

Today the blog tour takes us to Short Book and Scribes, where you can find both a review of A Spoke in the Wheel and a guest post by me, talking about the difficulty of fitting particular books (particularly mine) into particular genres.

Nicola says,

… there isn’t that much actual cycling going on in this book, but it’s an excellent read about redemption and friendship.

I say,

I’ve never been able to pick a genre and stick with it. Sometimes I think the whole concept of genre is more trouble than it’s worth.

And you can read all of it here.

ASITW blog tour LARGE

Our Witness: the unheard story of LGBT+ Christians

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I’m looking forward to the release of Our Witness: the unheard stories of LGBT+ Christians later this month. As a contributor, I’ve had the chance to glance through the proofs of this collection of personal essays, and I’ve been impressed by the sheer breadth and depth, as well as the honesty, of the content.

Too often, the debate in the Church around gender and sexuality assumes that the question begins and ends with gay men. Lesbians are ignored. The rest of us might as well not exist. Even among allies, there’s a depressing tendency to write ‘LGBT’ in the first line and then revert to ‘gay’ for the remainder of the article/sermon/book, as if that covered everyone’s experience. Terms like ‘gay marriage’ are thrown around with, er, gay abandon. One gets the impression that the middle-aged cis white gay men are the only ones in the Church with any problems.

This book goes a long way to redress that balance. There are stories from gay Christians, yes – but there are stories from lesbian Christians, bisexual Christians, and trans Christians too. I’m in there as The Amazing Invisible Bisexual Christian – the woman who’s been married to a man for getting on for a decade and still stubbornly refuses to forget that she’s queer. There are stories from ordained ministers and from laypeople; from many denominations; there are stories of hurt, and stories of hope.

Some stories are not found in there: how could they be, when there are as many stories as there are LGBT+ Christians? Some will appear in the US version, which is coming next year. Others, of course, won’t. But there are more stories in here than I have ever seen before.

Our Witness: the unheard stories of LGBT+ Christians is published on 29 October by Darton Longman and Todd.

Three links

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Firstly, an interview with crime writer Don Massenzio. You can read my thoughts on ego (and why it’s necessary to have one), the pseudonym I’ll probably never use, and who I’d like to invite for dinner in the name of musicological research. It’s all here: Perfect Ten with Kathleen Jowitt

Secondly, the Society of Authors have put up a link to a recording of the Authors Awards ceremony from June. If you don’t want to listen to the whole thing, the presentation of the Betty Trask Prize and Awards can be heard beginning at 08:14, with specific reference to Speak Its Name at 13:20. But I’m really linking it for Ben Okri’s absolutely stonking speech, which begins at 25:35. Highly recommended for any author who occasionally (or often) finds themself wondering what the point of it all is…

Thirdly, I’ve now set up a Facebook page for me and my works. If you use Facebook for that sort of thing, wander over here and give me a like.

 

Some weekend reading

Happy Saturday! I hope those who are now embarked on summer holidays are enjoying them, and that the weather cooperates with any long-planned activities. Personally, I’m just getting to the end of a week off work, and I’m very slightly less tired than I was when it began, so I’m counting that as a tentative plus.

This week I have a guest post up over at I Heart Lesfic where I talk about the difficulty of finding the book I wanted to read and my consequent decision to write it myself.

There’s also a giveaway of Speak Its Name, which still has a couple of days left to run. You might be lucky!

And I talked to fellow self-published author Helena Fairfax about my favourite places, my least favourite job, and what I’d say to Jenny Lind.

Enjoy!

Section 28: the chip on my shoulder

Earlier this week I was an interviewee over at Louise Walters‘ blog, where I talked about my experience as a self-published author and being shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize. (I really recommend Louise’s blog if you want an insight into the differences between mainstream publishing and self-publishing. She’s done both, and writes about them very eloquently.)

I mentioned in passing my theory that Section 28 had killed off the genre in which my book might have been published conventionally. And I’ve written a longer piece for LGBTQ Reads about that – about my experience as a writer, and about my experience growing up in that context, as someone whose schooling was entirely overshadowed by erasure on a national scale, and who didn’t even know it at the time.

Stationery Love at Jera’s Jamboree

I talked to Shaz over at Jera’s Jamboree about my finicky taste in exercise books, my abiding preference for paper diaries, and my unashamedly fannish choice of ink colour. In short, stationery love.

There’s a picture of a page of the first draft of A Spoke in the Wheel, too, if you’re really desperate to know more about that. Although I should warn you that it’s pretty much illegible, and I deliberately chose a page that doesn’t give away much of the plot.

LGBTQ Christian fiction book recs

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Note: this began as a spontaneous blog post in 2016 and has metamorphosed into an ongoing rec list over the years. I add relevant books to it as I read them, and am always on the lookout for more.

I got chatting on Twitter with the user of the Diverse Church account about books with LGBTQ Christian characters, and how few of these there actually are.

Now, at least part of the reason I wrote one (now two) of my own was that I was frustrated with the lack of representation. However, I’ve found a few over the years, and it only seems fair to share the intel. In this post, I’m only listing books I’ve actually read, but in some cases it was a while ago. I’m adding warnings, but there’s always a possibility that I’ll not have remembered something horrible. Proceed at your own risk!

While not all of these end with hugs and puppies, they do start from, or at least eventually arrive at, the assumption that being Christian and being LGBTQ are not incompatible states, and call, in one way or another, for affirmation.

As for things I haven’t read (yet)… I’ve found Jesus in Love to be a very interesting source of recommendations. There’s also the reliqueer tag on LGBTQ Reads. Do add your own – either for individual books or authors, or for rec sites or round-ups – in comments!

On to the books…

Michael Arditti, The Celibate. The AIDS crisis and the narrator’s own personal crisis meet head-on. Warning for some gory Ripperology and [see spoilers in footnotes]*

Michael Arditti, Easter. Set in a London parish over the course of one Holy Week, with multiple storylines playing out across the congregation, seen from multiple perspectives.

Jaye Robin Brown, Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit. US young adult. The narrator is the daughter of a radio minister, is herself a committed Christian, and is an out lesbian. None of which is a problem in Atlanta, but when her father remarries and the reconfigured family moves to a more conservative part of Georgia, she agrees to go back in the closet, just for the time being. Things only get more complicated when she falls for one of the girls at her new church.

Paula Boock: Dare, Truth or Promise. New Zealand teen fiction of the ‘challenges of high school’ type. One of the main characters is Roman Catholic, and there’s a lovely scene with her priest, which meant a lot to me back in the day.

Catherine Fox: Lindchester chronicles (Acts and Omissions, Unseen Things Above, Realms of Glory). Barchester for the modern day, with outright representation of gay and lesbian characters and engagement with the politics.

Elena Graf: This Is My Body. A romance between an Episcopalian priest and former opera singer and a professor of philosophy, set in a seaside town in Maine. It’s very refreshing to read a romance between two women (two older women, at that) which deals seriously and respectfully with questions of faith.

Aster Glenn Gray: Briarley. M/M Beauty and the Beast retelling, in which one of the main characters is a parson in wartime rural England. I loved this. Full review here.

Radclyffe Hall: The Well of Loneliness. Definitely short in the hugs and puppies department, but I couldn’t leave it off the list, for much the same reasons as those that Kittredge Cherry explains over at Jesus in Love.

Heather Rose Jones: Alpennia series. (Daughter of Mystery, The Mystic Marriage, Mother of Souls). Low fantasy, early nineteenth century, Ruritanian. I ate these books up with a spoon, but I append a health warning as the fantasy element crosses over with the religious element in a way that might not work for everybody. Nevertheless, they do include at least one character who speaks positively and explicitly about the intersection between her faith and her sexual identity, and absolutely deserve their place on this list.

Kathleen Jowitt: Stancester series. (Speak Its Name, The Real World). I wrote these, on the basis that if you can’t find what you’re looking for you might as well create it yourself. Faith, identity, and student politics on a West Country university campus. 

A. M. Leibowitz, Anthem. A worship leader’s confessional song becomes an accidental Christian hit. Particularly entertaining for anyone who’s ever had to stifle a snigger at the unintentional suggestiveness of some worship music.

A. M. Leibowitz, Passing on Faith. The gay son of one homophobic pastor (and brother of another) falls for his affirming Christian neighbour. This is the first in a series; I haven’t read the rest of it yet.

Rachel Mann, The Gospel of Eve. Many fucked up things happen in this book, and it’s hardly a spoiler to say that there isn’t a happy ending, but the relationship between two women ordinands is by far the least fucked up. Or, at least, only in the way that relationships generally are.

J. B. Marsden, Bobbi and Soul. Romance between an Episcopalian priest and a doctor, with nice background details of rural Colorado and both main characters’ workplaces.

ed. Gabriela Martins, Keep Faith. This anthology of short stories includes two featuring queer Christian girls: “Godzilla” (Kate Brauning), a perceptive examination of what it’s like to be the token same-sex couple in a well-meaning affirming church youth group, and “Whatever She Wants” (Kess Costales), whose time-lapse structure works well to show how its narrator comes to understand who she is and how her faith fits with that. (I reviewed the anthology as a whole here.)

Alex Sanchez: The God Box. American teen fiction, also of the ‘challenges of high school’ type; engages the question head on throughout the book.

Caren J. Werlinger: In This Small Spot. A bereaved doctor enters an abbey, only to find herself falling for one of the nuns. I loved most of this and had some reservations about the rest of it. Reviewed here (spoilers, but there’s a warning before you get there).

Sarah L. Young, Plus One. Another American YA book. One of the narrators is bisexual and (presumably) Roman Catholic; there’s quite a lot of discussion about how her faith affects her reaction to an unplanned pregnancy, but she doesn’t seem to experience any conflict between her faith and her sexual orientation. Reviewed here. (Edit: unfortunately the publisher has folded, but you may be able to pick up a second-hand copy.)

 

* child sexual assault, connected with gay identity in a way that I found quite distasteful. But ultimately affirms the holiness of queer sexuality.

Interview with me at Quite Irregular

I’m talking about Speak Its Name with Jem Bloomfield over at his blog today. If you want to know more about my writing process, my decision to self-publish, and where Lydia, Colette and Peter might be going next, go and have a look over there.

Then, if you are at all interested in feminism, Golden Age detective fiction or Shakespeare (not to mention the Church, Taylor Swift or Movember), wander around the rest of Quite Irregular. It’s one of my favourite blogs and I’m delighted to appear there.