Lez Get Literary | SELF-esteem

While the umbrella term LGBTQ encompasses numerous identities, it only begins to address the diversity among marginalized communities. Fortunately, the rise of self-publishing allows for broader representation, particularly from “own voices.” The three f/f titles reviewed below, available through SELF-e Select, showcase both the hardships and successes faced by lesbian characters. Opposites attract in Cindy Rizzo’s Exception to the Rule; twentysomething Nia Ellis grows up fast in The Dawn of Nia; and black lesbians navigate life, love, and loss in Lez Talk.

Cherelle, Lauren. The Dawn of Nia. Resolute. 2016. 298p. ebk. ISBN 9780997321111. F
Nia Ellis is deeply mourning the death of mentor and close friend Pat Carter, who dies from breast cancer at the age of 48. When a beautiful, mysterious woman shows up at the funeral and is revealed to be Pat’s daughter, Deidra, a Pandora’s box of secrets and scandal bursts open. Nia becomes a reluctant mediator between Pat’s squabbling family, while struggling with nascent feelings for the guarded yet warm Deidra, whose presence has shaken everyone to the core. Cherelle offers a lyrical portrayal of Nia’s grieving process—the rage, frustration, and sheer sadness often drives her to questionable decisions, including going back to the arms of Kayla, her ex-lover and Pat’s manipulative niece. The novel also touches on important issues involving black women’s health and the trauma associated with preternaturally young death. Nia finds her preconceived notions about her much-loved mentor, and herself, being overturned at every corner; however, eventually she finds her happy ending. VERDICT A bildungsroman rife with emotion and intrigue. Recommended for fans of f/f drama and steamy romance.—Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal

Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Short Fiction. BLF. 2016. 222p. ed. by S. Andrea Allen & Lauren Cherelle. ebk. ISBN 9780997243970. F
This much-needed anthology opens with a powerful introduction from its editors, establishing their dedication to curating work that represents the many facets of the black lesbian experience. Stories run the gamut in terms of content and, at times, quality. Some address the historically bittersweet dilemma of blackness and queer identity, including Sheree L. Greer’s somber opener “I Can’t Turn It Off,” wherein the narrator battles an internal litany of social injustices while making love to her partner. Meditations on small-town homophobia, anguish, and intimate partner violence are interspersed with campy melodramas highlighting typical relationship and dating challenges—roommates spar over their cute new neighbor in La Toya Hankins’s “Trim,” while Ashley Sullivan’s “Unfinished Business” features Leah developing a conscience in order to end a long-term affair. Ethereal tales of magical realism round out a solidly varied collection. A married couple finds their lives upended by an otherworldly stranger who crafts sensuous meals in Claudia Moss’s “Erzulie’s Touch,” and editor Cherelle’s afrofuturist dystopia in “Eshrei” begs for a novella. VERDICT A riveting gathering of talented voices in black lesbian fiction.—Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal

Rizzo, Cindy. Exception to the Rule. CreateSpace: Amazon. 2013. 250p. ebk. ISBN N/A. F
Cynical New Yorker Robin Greene feels trapped at Adams University. An out-and-proud lesbian, she is stifled by suburban Boston; it’s nothing compared to the big personalities she left behind on the city piers. Tracy Patterson is similarly unsettled; the chilly industrial northeast feels light-years away from the warm beaches of North Carolina and the many secret lovers she had there. What begins as an apparent rehashing of the “odd couple” trope between Robin and Tracy evolves into much more, as this engrossing tale deftly explores transient youth and chosen family; homophobia, racism, and even the uncomfortable reentry period many college students face upon returning home, where nothing’s changed except themselves. Rizzo has a knack for shaping intriguing characters—both lead and supporting—with hidden depths. There is also a clear presence of crucial queer relationships, first among Robin and her city clique and later between the trio of Robin, Tracy, and mutual friend Angie. Back matter includes a resource guide of organizations serving LGBTQ homeless youth. VERDICT A heartfelt read that pleasantly surprises with its creative deviation from a predictable premise.—Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal




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