Author: Alison Cooper

Black Girl Magic: A Poetry Anthology

In Black Girl Magic, the second volume in the BreakBeats Poets series, the Black girl magic is an undeniable force, igniting the pages and speaking necessary truths. Edited by Mahogany L. Browne, Idrissa Simmonds, and Jamila Woods, the anthology collects poetry from the canon of Black women. The poets write from a range of intersections within the diaspora. But in each poem, there is that special spark of magic. As Simmonds writes in her introduction: “When a Black woman dares to speak her truth, she redefines understandings of womanhood. Her voice echoes out, disrupting and delegitimizing tired stereotypes and tropes. In short, there is magic.”

Exploring themes from self-love and black beauty to white supremacy and the Trump administration, the poems in this anthology offer what Browne describes as “mantras, praters, and promises of our survival.” The voices collected here provide healing and support for other Black women. The collection is also an opportunity for those who aren’t black and/or woman-identified to listen.

You can purchase copies of Black Girl Magic at Philly AIDS Thrift at Giovanni’s Room for $19.95 (plus tax). Drop by the store or order online today!


Five New LGBTQ Graphic Novels

The Latest LGBTQ Graphic Novels and Memoirs

You may be an expert in queer literature. You may have read everything from Sappho to James Baldwin. But how about trying something fresh from an up and coming genre? Over the past years, comics and graphic novels have become more mainstream, and more queer! So why not give one of these new graphic novels a spin. Here’s a list of six new LGBTQ graphic novels for every Giovanni’s Room reader, available online and in store now!

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age: Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride–or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia–the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion! Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances–one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart. Buy now for $16.99 plus tax.


Wuvable Oaf: Blood & Metal by Ed Luce

Proceeding his wildly successful graphic novel, Wuvable Oaf, Ed Luce’s latest segment to the series follows everyone’s favorite cat-loving bear Oaf. Blood & Metal explores Oaf’s wrestling history, including an epic battle with a BDSM, leather-decked foe named Cock Rocker. Luce again brings the vibrant cast of characters and sense of humor readers have come to adore to the pages of his latest book. Cathy Camper on Lambda Literary says, “These comics are funny, silly and touching. But they also highlight Luce’s marvelous talent as a designer and colorist.” Oh, and there’s plenty of chest hair to spare! Buy now for $19.99 plus tax.



Gay Gigante: Una Historia Sobre El Miedo by Gabriel Ebensperger

In his graphic memoir, Gay Gigante illustrates the struggles of a gay boy growing up in Chile during the 1990’s. Ebensperger explores what it is like to grow up feeling different in a world that is cruel to those aren’t “normal.” He’s not like other boys. He’s a boy who belts the songs of his idol, the Mexican diva Yuri. He likes barbies and, secretly, his favorite car is the one that says Frutti Tutti. He’s a boy who is learning that he doesn’t fit in with this world, and feels guilty for it. Above all, he’s afraid that his difference will be discovered. Gay Gigante is the story of an endearing boy becoming an adult, and learning that true acceptance comes from himself. Written in Spanish, Ebensperger’s award-winning memoir is an exciting addition to the queer literary canon. Buy now for $12.95 plus tax.


Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele

Activist-academic Meg John Barker and cartoonist Julia Scheele illuminate the histories of queer thought and LGBTQ+ action in this groundbreaking non-fiction graphic novel. A kaleidoscope of characters from the diverse worlds of pop-culture, film, activism, and academia guide us on a journey through the ideas, people and events that have shaped “queer theory.” From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender, and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged. Buy now for $17.95 plus tax.


My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Nagata Kabi

The heart-rending autobiographical manga that’s taken the internet by storm! My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is an honest and heartfelt look at one young woman’s exploration of her sexuality, mental well-being, and growing up in our modern age. Told using expressive artwork that invokes both laughter and tears, this moving and highly entertaining single-volume depicts not only the artist’s burgeoning sexuality but many other personal aspects of her life that will resonate with readers. Buy now for $13.99 plus tax.



Danez Smith’s Electric Power

Danez Smith’s Electric Power: Don’t Call Us Dead

by Alison Cooper

To experience the poems of Danez Smith is to witness electricity. I had the privilege of seeing Smith perform in 2015 at a small but packed art gallery in Minneapolis. The performance of their poems, the lyricism and urgency, sent the room into a buzz, igniting conversations that rest in the mind for days that roll into months then years. How incredible to witness a poet whose work remains so poignant and salient with time.

Following the success of their stellar [insert boy], award-winning poet Danez Smith returns with their second collection of poems titled Don’t Call Us Dead, which was nominated for the National Book Award for PoetryDanez Smith explores the intersections of their identity as a queer person of color who is also HIV-positive, and how these identities are politicized in the United States. This is an important and necessary collection.

A link follows from poem to poem: the body that houses this multiplicity of identities. The black body is as a body at risk. Whether at risk to be murdered in the street as in the poem “summer, somewhere”, a 26-page elegy for those boys who have died because of police brutality, or to perish from a chronic, exhausting fight to HIV as in the poem “1 of 2” that begins: “On February 23rd, 2016, the CDC released a study estimating 1 in 2 black men who have sex with men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.” Often, the threat is both.

Speaking to the intersection of these identities, the poem “every day is a funeral & a miracle” meditates on Smiths’ race and HIV positive status. In a surprising and effective metaphor, Smith compares the virus in his blood to the police:

hallelujah! today i rode
past five police cars
& i can tell you about it

now, what
to do with my internal
inverse, just how
will i survive the little
cops running inside
my veins, hunting
white blood cells &
bang bang
i’m dead

To be a heightened risk of both police brutality and HIV, Danez Smith articulates that “some of us are killed / in pieces, some of us all at once.” At the intersection of race and sexuality, Smith translates these oppressions into power. To read Danez Smith is to witness this electric power.

Purchase copies of Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith at Philly AIDS Thrift at Giovanni’s Room for $16 (plus tax). Drop by the store or order online today.