An unevenly written anti-war, gender-fluid, and environmentally conscious tale.



In this novel, Anderson-Minshall (co-author: Queerly Beloved, 2014, etc.) tells the stories of a transgender man, the son he adopts, and the daughter he gave up.

Flint Douglas, an intersex teenager, counts himself blessed to have found Coyote “Ki” Douglas, who adopts him after he experiences years of abuse from foster parents. Ki’s compassionate act gets Flint off the streets and into a protective environment, where he’s allowed to grow into his body and emotions. This comfortable hideaway begins to crumble, however, when Ki is informed that his biological daughter, Brooke, has become ill while serving in Iraq and needs a kidney transplant. While reconnecting with his daughter and traveling with his adopted son, Ki’s past is revealed. Flint learns about his father’s origins, the abuse he suffered as a child, and the salvation he eventually found from “a well-dressed middle-aged gay man.” The more Ki tells Flint about his life, the more the teen relates to him. In the end, Ki passes on his wisdom and knowledge to the young man, who believes the key to keeping Ki’s lessons alive is sharing a fable of the Salmon People, which Ki used to tell to schoolchildren. Anderson-Minshall manages to juggle several major political topics, including war, green living, and even video game violence. Some of the plotline involving gender identity brings to mind Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and the Iraq-set war scenes are reminiscent of the Afghanistan-set 2007 book Lone Survivor. There’s a particularly significant anti-war theme; at one point, Flint thinks that American combat soldiers fighting had no guilt about their actions, which “made them far from innocent, and he kind of thought they deserved to get hurt or at least become shell-shocked.” Anderson-Minshall’s descriptions, however, can be overly thorough and misplaced: An early chapter is spent distinguishing Sunni from Shi‘ite Muslims and the treatment of Iraqi Muslims versus Native Americans, with Brooke as an incidental detail in the background, thinking that she’s dying. And despite all the political dialogue in this book, there’s little real conversation for the first 40 pages or so. 

An unevenly written anti-war, gender-fluid, and environmentally conscious tale.

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9982521-7-9

Page Count: 382

Publisher: Transgress Press

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2018

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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