In the spirit of keeping things close to home, we would like to (re)acquaint you with seven phenomenal Portland writers whose work explores themes of gender, sexuality, queerness, and community. The works below encompass short stories, novels, poetry, memoir, and humor, and in unique ways expand the reader’s notions of love, selfhood, and family.
Tom Spanbauer is a legendary writing teacher in Portland, and a wonderful novelist whose emotionally rich work explores identity and relationships. I Loved You More is a classic love triangle that centers queer experience. In Doug’s words, “Just when Tom Spanbauer's novel fills you with despair, it picks you up with an absurd, dark humor. Reach for this book if you want a slow, meaty read where you can savor the quirky spoken feeling of the narrator's voice. Read it if you want to hear the lie that tells the truth. If you want to live in the thoughts and pain and discovery and selfishness and generosity of the storyteller.”
Local writer Nastashia Minto’s debut, Naked: The Rhythm and Groove of It. The Depth and Length to It., uses poetry and memoir to explore the ways her identity emerges from a confluence of queerness, sexuality, trauma, love, race, faith, and family history. Minto is as good as her word, crafting pieces that bare both her life’s triumphs and moments of terrible fear with candor and a heart-thumping rhythm, at times veering into the cadence and excitement of slam poetry.
Gigi writes, “It’s tea time for two of the three remaining residents of New Eden. He’s 99, she’s about to turn 100. Heading their way, hoping to break up this tea, is the third human still standing in this strange, isolated town, himself a spry 89 years old and carrying with him the deep secret he’s been holding all his adult life. Robert Hill’s marvelously bizarre tale is full of rollicking weirdness, quirky characters with names like Brisket Whiskerhooven and Remedial Bliss — and some of the best, most brilliant wordsmithing I’ve ever read. But though I could joyfully swallow this book whole for the writing alone, Hill’s voice-magic and humor never get in the way of — and in fact somehow enhance — the deep-down humanness and sadness and beauty of the story. The Remnants is truly a book unlike any I’ve read before.”
Lidia Yuknavitch is a one of the Powell's staff's favorite writers. It’s not just that she's lovely to work with, or that her writing is emotionally gripping; she is adored because her narrative flights into the dark, vulnerable corners of consciousness are powered by a wingspan broad enough to sweep the most marginalized voices into the centers of her stories. In Verge, her latest work, Yuknavitch focuses her attention on adults and children whose bodies and labor have been coopted and corrupted by capitalism, patriarchy, and complacency. It’s a collection that speaks to the present moment, combining a raw mix of the fury and darkness many people are feeling with the creativity and radical kindness we already possess, and can use to lift our communities out of crisis.
Ellis’s chapbook, published by local indie press Future Tense Books, is a powerful memoir about coming into self as a trans man. Being explores transitioning, fatherhood, sexual violence, and authenticity in a quick read that is poetic, candid, and brave.
Nicole Georges is an award-winning graphic memoirist and professor whose latest book, Fetch, is the hilarious and poignant coming-of-age story of the teenage Nicole and her tiny, terrifying Corgi-Shar-Pei mix, Beija. Beija misbehaves (a lot), but as she and Nicole navigate adulting and the Portland punk scene, she provides new levels of comfort and stability for her young owner, bringing her community and a new understanding of home. If you’re into comics, animals, memoir, bildungsroman, or the bygone years of punk Portland, Fetch should be at the top of your summer reading list.
We had to sneak this staff favorite onto the list, even though it meant missing the graphics deadline. Using the language of thermodynamics, Reed College professor Bashir crafts challenging, visually inventive poems that combine scientific vernacular (radiation, probability, blackbody, curves, coronagraphy) with folklore (John Henry) and contemporary issues to examine the ways the Black body is and has been interpreted by American society, and to subvert dominant interpretations. Field Theories is an extraordinary work, whose formal and linguistic complexity invite endless rereadings.