Shira Glassman: Diverse Reads 2016

Hi bookworms, this is Mishma! :)

In case you didn't know, I run a challenge called Diverse Reads 2016 over at my blog Chasing Faerytales. I co host it with Shelly and since June is Pride Month, we're featuring more exclusive LGBT lit content on our blogs to celebrate LGBT novels!

Today, I am extending the celebration to APCB as well, and let me introduce you all to Shira Glassman, whose the author of many LGBT and ethnically diverse novels including the Mangoverse series.


Mish : Tell me 5 random facts about yourself.

Shira :
  • I live in a townhouse with a purple staircase and an orange kitchen
  • When my mom was in a fender-bender when I was six, the police asked me if I was hurt and I said my feelings were hurt
  • I knit myself a replica of Angel’s sweater from the La Vie Boheme scene in RENT because I liked it so much
  • I tried to make myself a slinky strapless gown from one of my grandma’s pant legs when I was eight and she was getting rid of some old clothes, and was ABSOLUTELY DEVASTATED when she wouldn’t let me out of the house in my elegant new dress
  • My #1 go-to flavor for desserts is salted caramel. Unless we’re talking Passover fruit snack gummies, in which case, cherry.

Mish : What does in diversity in books mean to you?

Shira : Our reading material should reflect differences between people in the real world, and no group of people should overpopulate fiction in general because then everyone else’s stories aren’t being told. In terms of race, the majority of the people in the world are not white, yet the default fictional character for many people is automatically white.

Books that have thirty to forty named characters (including minor walk-ons) who are all straight have created a statistically unlikely collection, artificially straighter than the real world. People with all sorts of disabilities live in the world, yet for many folks, disability in fiction often has to “mean something” in order to be present at all. And when Christianity is treated as the default religion even when all characters are atheists or the story has nothing to do with religion, think how that makes those of us in marginalized religions feel.

Mish : Can you tell us your top 5 diverse reads?

Shira : Daughter of Mystery and its sequel The Mystic Marriage are the first two books in a great series by Heather Rose Jones. They’re 19th century costume drama/political intrigue in an invented Central European setting, with lesbian main characters in enduring relationships. As the series progresses, the author added a trans character as well as the ethnic minorities (Jews, Ethiopians, people from the Islands) who would have been present at the time.

Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor is a great piece of young adult fantasy set in a world where technology is made of plants, such as a computer being grown lovingly from seed. A young girl must cross a forbidden enchanted forest in order to save her friend. (This one isn’t LGBT.)

The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz is a sweet, slightly mournful piece of science fiction that on one level is a f/f romance between an android and a repair tech, but on the other hand is really about letting go and opening yourself up. Don’t be fooled by “slightly mournful”—it’s got a happy ending.

Fierce Family is a terrific anthology of sci-fi and fantasy based around the theme of “queer families” in positive narratives. It features everything from ice dragons to dystopian Australia to space pirates, and has plenty of bi and nonbinary characters and f/f relationships.

I want to give a shout as my fifth choice to the short story “TruNorth” by Alexis Hall, in the How We Began anthology, a sweet trans romance set in a slightly futuristic version of the pop music industry. Worth the price of admission of the whole book for just this story, although I liked some of the other stories, too (especially the m/m dragon story that immediately followed it.)

Mish : What's your favourite part of being a writer?

Shira : Getting to make my hummus and cucumber BLT.

Let me explain—I like BLT’s a lot more when they have cucumbers and hummus added. So when I go to cafes that serve wraps, I often end up ordering something custom so I can eat the exact delicious yumminess that suits my preferences.

What that means in terms of writing is that creating my own stories and characters gives me the freedom to put cucumbers in my BLT, in other words, giving myself a strong Jewish woman superhero, or a man who fits my ideal (which isn’t typical for male love interests in fiction—SFF isn’t exactly swarming with older, chunky disabled Jewish wizards with facial hair), or a queer princess narrative to fill the void I felt as an adolescent when there weren’t any.

Writing means I get to put exactly what I want into the wrap, in other words.

Mish : Does you being a part of the LGBT community play a role or help in your creation of LGBT characters?

Shira : Yes, because in a lot of ways my writing almost literally reflects my life and my loved ones. I’m a bi woman married to a trans person, and many of our friends and family are also bi-trans couples, such as my cousins-in-law or the parents of our godchildren. That sense of queer family is extremely important to my books—the idea that what sets us apart from the larger population also brings us together, not just as romantic couples, but as larger family units. In other words, LGBT fiction is not just about falling in love but falling into belonging. This is throughout my writing but especially in the short story “The Generous Princess”, at the end of my new short story collection Tales from Perach.

Mish : What is the inspiration behind your novels?

Shira : My Jewish heritage and upbringing and life; my need and hunger for positive and affirming queer fiction; love of the palm trees and tropical setting of my childhood; love of dragons; love of sparkly things and fancy dresses (that’s why I write about queens!) I also love puzzles, so watching smart little Shulamit untangle conspiracies and mysteries is fun for me – I grew up reading so much Agatha Christie that I have bits of it memorized.

Mish : Who's your favourite character out of your creations?

Shira : My selfish answer is Isaac, since in a world determined to pair Jewish women characters with Nazi men (in multiple romance novels) he represents my double middle finger to that trope, an affirmation that the myth of our men being emasculated, unsexy, and nebbishy by default is made of air. I also love him because he can turn into a dragon.

But my more serious answer is Rivka. She’s a bold yet nurturing hero with my nose and the accent of my ancestors. As a female, Jewish answer to all the kickass warriors I saw in fiction growing up, thanks to her I finally understand what many people feel when they watch Superman or any other tropey fictional hero do their thing. She’s mine and so she’s ours. Also, despite not being very girly herself she’s the literal opposite of the “not like other girls” trope, as she’d rather stand there and defend those “other girls”, and empower them and encourage them to be themselves and pursue their stereotypically feminine interests, than decide that her lack thereof makes her superior.

BUT: for anyone who has ever had to see those propaganda cartoons… our nose. On a hero.

Mish : What's your advice to aspiring writers?

Shira : Write something you truly care about because your writing will automatically be higher quality when you’re writing from zeal as opposed to “well, that might sell.” And if you find yourself writing about people radically different from you – whether that means racially or something non-oppression-related like “professional violinist”, do your research first so that you don’t write something embarrassingly inaccurate (my favorite research tip being, read fiction or blogs by people in the group before writing your own thing.)

Mish : What would you give as advice to teens who are coming to terms with their sexuality or struggling with the discovery?

Shira : Hang on tight. Do what you have to do to keep yourself safe – sometimes this means not coming out and that is okay. If you do come out, best of luck, and don’t listen to anyone who paints you as “outside of good.” The religious ones who try to shut you out of religion are wrong; they are either lying or mistaken and misled. If you’re not religious and still face bigotry, do what you can to surround yourself with light and love and positive energy. And keep yourself safe. Whatever your identity turns out to be, there are others like you.

Mish : What are your working on right now? Any exciting future projects you're allowed to share??? :)

Shira : The Olive Conspiracy comes out on July 20 in eBook and by September in paperback. It’s the story of queer women and a dragon working together to save their country from economic sabotage. What’s killing the olive crop, and could Shulamit’s straight crush from when she was a teenager be behind it? Preorder it here.

There are also five short stories, Tales from Perach, which come with The Olive Conspiracy free when you buy the eBook from the publisher’s site or with the paperback from anywhere. It’ll be available for purchase on third-party digital retailers like Kindle and Smashwords.

Thanks for the interview Shira! :) I hope you enjoyed answering the questions!
And I hope you guys enjoyed the interview as well! Don't forget to check out Shira's books! Her books are fun, cute and gloriously queer!

About the Author:

Shira Glassman is a bisexual Jewish violinist passionately inspired by German and French opera and Agatha Christie novels.

She and her agender same-sex spouse live in north central Florida, where the alligators are mostly harmless because they're too lazy to be bothered.

Find her at : Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Also, don't forget to join my Diverse Reads 2016 challenge!!! :) And check out our special posts for Pride Month!

Mishma is a 17 year old teenager from Sri Lanka who's always loved books and talking about them. She often comes off as a loud, outgoing, funny, hyperactive and happy go lucky girl! Her addictions include books, Twitter and Buzzfeed and she has an unapologetic love for classic old movies with uncensored violence and villains with a vulnerable side.

You can find her at her own blogTwitterInstagram. She loves making friends, so stop by to say a hi!

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