Tag Archives: Koyama Press

8 Books to Read During Pride Month And 3 More to Look Out For Later This Year

Happy Pride Month! Being a part of the LGBTQ community means supporting each other through the good times and the bad, embracing our differences and complexities, and making those unheard voices heard. From a trans teen romance to a queer space opera, we’ve pulled a list of 10 great #OwnVoices LGBTQ reads to last you through Pride Month and the rest of the year.

And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality by Mark Segal (Akashic Books/Open Lens, October 6, 2015)

Speaking of LGBT history, from the Stonewall riots in the 1970s to the very first Gay Pride reception hosted by President Obama in 2008, Mark Segal has seen it all. He made his first appearance on the national stage of the LGBT rights movement on December 11, 1973, when he crashed a live broadcast on CBS and yelled “Gays protest CBS prejudice!” Needless to say, his memoir, And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality, is one of the most fascinating things you’ll read all year. His experiences and achievements are unbelievably impressive, but Segal relates them all without a hint of braggadocio, speaking candidly and simply as he does. (Segal’s memoir also won the 2016 Excellence in Book Writing Award from the Association of LGBTQ Journalists, if you need further proof of the power of his work.)

Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh (Arsenal Pulp Press, September 3, 2013)

Watching the movie Blue is the Warmest Color is an LGBT rite of passage, but have you read the graphic novel that started it all? Like the movie, the book tells the story of Clementine, a shy, in-the-closet teenager who becomes captivated by the confident, blue-haired Emma. This marks the start of a passionate and tragic romance charged with all of the energy, naivety, and hopefulness of youth. Julie Maroh works in stunning watercolor and ink illustrations that bring a soft, dreamy quality to this iconic love story. Her art is even more cinematic and emotive than the movie. Warning: you will cry.

God in Pink by Hasan Namir (Arsenal Pulp Press, November 17, 2015)


Clocking in at just 150 pages, God in Pink proves that novels don’t have to be massive epics to pack a powerful punch. Our protagonist, Ramy, is a university student in war-torn Iraq who finds himself caught in between his desire to explore his sexuality and his desire to please his brother, a conservative (and homophobic) Muslim. After the death of his parents, the pressure mounts for Ramy to find a wife. Desperate for a way out, Ramy seeks advice from a sheikh at the local mosque, and is forced to untangle contradictions between his life, his religion, and his culture. Namir uses simple and beautiful language to dive into the world of dreams and reality, using touches of magic and Islamic canon to give the reader a deeper understanding of Ramy’s struggle. This book is poignant, timely, and will resonate with anyone who has tried to reconcile who they are with who the world wants them to be.

Nochita by Dia Felix (City Lights Publishers, April 8, 2014)

Nochita is a queer coming-of-age novel like you’ve never read before. While lots of LGBT fiction centers around a coming out story, Nochita examines self-discovery of another kind. The novel focuses less on the titular protagonist’s sexual identity, which is never given a bright-line definition, and more on Nochita’s attempts to carve her own place in the gritty underbelly of California’s counter-culture, after the realization that the adults in her life are incapable of raising her themselves. LGBT people old and young will hear notes of themselves in Nochita’s story, which is full of yearning, ferocity, dark humor, and all of the mistakes (and victories) of youth. Straddling the line between poetry and prose, Felix’s writing is medicine for the soul. It’s lyrical without becoming overly sentimental; poignant without becoming didactic. Nochita is a book you’ll want to pass on to every other queer person you meet.

Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High-Heels by Justin Vivian Bond (The Feminist Press at CUNY, August 16, 2011)

An Obie-award winner and Tony nominee, Justin Vivian Bond has been shattering ideas of gender in the performance world for over thirty years. Bond’s memoir, Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High-Heels, zooms in on Bond’s childhood, tuning a keen focus into what it means to grow up queer and trans in a small town. Despite dealing with complex issues like discovering sexuality, power dynamics, and childhood bullying, Bond’s writing maintains a certain kind of levity, a finely executed whistling in the dark. Bond is characteristically candid throughout, and reading Tango feels as though Bond has gathered us the readers around a fireplace to share a story and a laugh. Oh, and in case you needed more convincing, this book was blurbed by Yoko Ono. Yeah. That Yoko Ono.

Shadoweyes by Sophie Campbell (Iron Circus Comics, April 18, 2017)

A teenage superhero story written by a trans woman featuring a crew of misfits battling evil in a futuristic dystopia? Paying attention now? In Scout’s city, there’s only one way to get justice: you have to do it yourself. But Scout’s first foray into vigilante-ism doesn’t end quite the way she imagines, and she gets knocked unconscious. When she wakes, she discovers that she can transform into a powerful superhuman creature: Shadoweyes. Campbell’s art and writing are addictive; it’s impossible to just read one page. Though it’s a dystopia, the world Campbell creates is full of eye-popping colors and characters with personalities as vibrant as their designs. Shadoweyes also has quite the spectrum of individuals: it’s got characters of color, disabled characters, queer characters, and even an intersex character. In short: read this book. You won’t regret it.

100 Crushes by Elisha Lim (Koyama Press, June 10, 2014)

Elisha Lim is an artist who believes that comics shouldn’t be reserved for straight, white, or cisgender experiences. 100 Crushes is a compilation of five years’ worth of queer comics, a mix of memoir, interviews, tributes, and more. Lim alternates between profiles of “gender rebels” they admire and shorter, more intimate personal anecdotes. Along the way, Lim experiments visually with everything from patterns and textures to fonts and story structures. 100 Crushes reads almost like a diary, as if Lim is inviting us to come along on their journey to discover what it means to be butch, femme, binary, non-binary, and, above all, a queer person of color in a world that centers and normalizes whiteness.

Dusty: An Intimate Portrait of a Musical Legend by Karen Bartlett (Lesser Gods, May 16, 2017)

Singer Dusty Springfield was a cultural icon of the 1960s, and not only for her soulful pop sound and flamboyant performances. Springfield was the first female entertainer to publicly come out as bisexual (an admission that was nearly unheard of at the time) and was an anti-racism activist (having been deported from South Africa for refusing to play segregated audiences during apartheid). In Dusty: An Intimate Portrait of a Musical Legend, Karen Bartlett cracks open the shiny persona that Springfield cultivated on stage to take a closer look at Springfield’s inner life, and the struggles she encountered while coming to terms with her sexuality. Dusty: An Intimate Portrait of a Musical Legend combines Bartlett’s meticulous research with new interviews with Dusty’s friends, lovers, employees, and confidants. If you’re looking to brush up on your LGBT history this Pride (or just love a good story), this is the perfect place to start.

Books to Look Forward To Later in 2017:

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (Akashic Books, October 3, 2017)

Aster has known no life other than the HSS Matilda, a ship that has spent generations carrying the last of humanity to a mythical “Promised Land.” Her dark skin marks her as a sharecropper, the lowest of the low. Add in obsessiveness and a reclusive tendency, and Aster is considered a freak at best, inhuman at worst. Is there a way out of this impossible life? The answer, Aster finds, may lie in the past of her mother, who died from suicide over twenty years before. For a science-fiction novel full of starships and faraway planets, An Unkindness of Ghosts is unflinchingly real. Solomon says that the inspiration for An Unkindness of Ghosts was the question, “How do I go on?”, a peek into the ways in which oppressed people survive and thrive against all odds. World-building has been called Solomon’s main strength in An Unkindness of Ghosts, but it’s hard to pick out any one facet of the book as the best. Solomon’s writing is lush and heavy with layered meaning, but the prose never weighs down the plot or keeps it from racing onward. Like Solomon themself, the protagonist, Aster, is a queer, intersex, neurodivergent person of color, giving this book crucial #OwnVoices representation. In addition, the cover for this book should be nominated for “Most Gorgeous Cover of All Time.” All other covers can go home.

Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story by Sonia Patel (Cinco Puntos Press, September 12, 2017)

Sonia Patel made a splash last year with her debut young adult novel, Rani Patel in Full Effect, which hit eight different “Best Books of 2016” lists and was a finalist for an ALA Morris Award. Now, she’s back with Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story, the transgender, Gujarati Indian Romeo and Juliet of your dreams. Jaya, a seventeen-year-old trans boy, comes from a wealthy family who is rich in money, privilege, and secrets. On the opposite side of the tracks, Rasa comes from a poor family, raised by a single mother who cares less about her children than the endless parade of men she uses and loses. When their two worlds collide, Jaya and Rasa find that they just might be the family they were always looking for. No one writes teenagers quite like Sonia Patel. By day, Patel is a practicing child psychologist, and her background shows: in her writing, she deftly navigates both trauma and healing to create a startlingly real portrait of mental health. Preorder this book now, so you have it right away when it publishes in September.

The Collected Neil the Horse by Katherine Collins (Conundrum Press, October 10, 2017)

The Neil the Horse comic ran for nearly thirteen years in Canadian newspapers, making author and illustrator Katherine Collins a bit of a legend. Every issue and comic strip are compiled for the first time in The Collected Neil the Horse. This is comics like you’ve never seen them before; not just memorable characters going on wacky adventures, but a completely innovative mélange of forms reminiscent of the multiplicity of vaudeville, from crossword puzzles to joke pages and more. The characters spontaneously burst into song and dance, and each comic in the collection comes with sheet music, because Collins isn’t just an artist, she’s a composer and a low-key genius. While the comics don’t technically feature any queer characters, they’re campy, fun, and full of musical theater, all written by Collins, a trans woman, which is just another reminder how creative the LGBT community is.

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The FADER Sees the Fearlessness of Koyama Press

KoyamaPressWe’ve written about Annie Koyama before: about the playful and innovative comics she publishes at Koyama Press, about her unusual entrance into the world of publishing, even about her quirky bookshelf. But we just can’t get enough. Her story is so inspiring that notable music magazine the FADER branched out from its usual subject matter to interview Koyama on April 29.

The article opens with the accurate claim that Koyama Press’s origin story “could easily be the plot of one of the poignant autobiographical comics it publishes”: Annie Koyama, whose background is in film production, started the press on a whim after undergoing major brain surgery for a terminal aneurysm in 2007. The life-saving surgery spurred Koyama to delve into something she felt truly passionate about, so she began funding Toronto artists’ comics, publishing them, and taking none of the profits in return. Her generous spirit allowed little-known cartoonists, who were frequently snubbed by larger publishers, the validation and exposure she felt they deserved. As the FADER puts it, “her commitment to taking risks on emerging artists reflected an ongoing paradigm shift affecting the way alternative comics are produced and consumed,” and as a result, Koyama Press has become “one of the most important forces in independent comics” around today.

Even though Koyama is currently living with a second, inoperable brain aneurysm, she continues to push forward with Koyama Press and remains committed to diversity. As she9781927668276 told the FADER, “we live in a multicultural society and we need more artists telling their stories well—from every background.” She laments that finding a vast audience for alternative comics is still “an uphill battle,” but some of the attention Koyamobscenitya Press has gotten lately should help. The A.V. Club provided an exclusive preview of upcoming Koyama titles Gorgeous and What Is Obscenity?. Check out the previews here and here, respectively. Both books come out on May 10, and they’re just a few of the many wonderful things we know are in store for Annie Koyama and her press in the future.


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What is Obscenity? The Story of A Good For Nothing Artist and Her Publisher

KoyamaPressIn their “In Print” section, Rookie Mag (a webzine made by and for teenagers) likes to feature their favorite books, collections, chapbooks, and more. On March 11, blogger Rachel Davies went one step further, and highlighted not just one title but the entire collection of Koyama Press. Davies says she was astounded by “the originality found in the press and the variety of work published—something that I don’t think would be possible with bigger publishers. Koyama Press seems to be founded on a need to foster creativity, whether the authors are newcomers or thoroughly experienced.”

Creativity and originality: that’s certainly the motto of Koyama Press, or, as they put it, “We at Koyama Press are proud of our inability to be easily pinned down.”

Want proof? The first title of Koyama’s 2016 season is What is Obscenityobscenity: The Story of a Good For Nothing Artist and Her Pussy, which publishes May 10. It tells the story of Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi, also known as Rokudenashiko, who was arrested in 2014 in Japan on charges of distributing obscene materials. Rokudenashiko, which roughly translates to “Good For Nothing Woman,” started making dioramas on top of 3D molds of her vagina in the late 2000’s as a joke. Rokudenashiko soon realized that she was one of the only ones laughing: many people took offense to her lighthearted depiction of genitalia. She responded by upping the ante.

Vagina cartoons, plastic models, stuffed toys named Mancho-Chan and Miss Pussy, a full-sized costume—all lead to her magnum opus, which in turn lead to her arrest:  a two-meter long kayak to be 3D-printed from a scan of her labia. As you might expect, vagina-shaped kayaks are expensive, so Rokudenashiko decided to crowd-fund her project. She raised enough money to make her boat (and paddle it around!), but the buzz surrounding it landed her with obscenity charges, a trial in Japan that is still dragging on, and a fine of up to $20,000. Not one to be scared off, Rokudenashiko will be touring North America this year to promote her book and continue producing revolutionary art.

What is Obscenity is the type of title you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else except Koyama Press:one part art book, one part biography, and one part feminist manifesto. We can’t wait for it to be released!

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Annie Koyama Shows Off Her Eclectic Bookshelf for It’s Nice That


Annie Koyama’s bookshelf. Photo credit: It’s Nice That

Have you ever wondered what books authors and publishers keep on their own bookshelves? You can take a peek into the private collection of Annie Koyama, founder and publisher of Koyama Press, thanks to the journal It’s Nice That. Annie Koyama invited Rebecca Fulleylove to take a look at her “illustration laden bookshelf,” and she talked about some of her favorite titles. Each title Annie picked from her shelf gives readers a glimpse into her personality and interests as a publisher. As Fulleylove said in the article, “with alternative comics, art books and a bit of trade fiction all featuring, Annie’s selection is as varied as the titles she publishes.”

The first title Annie pulled was Nog a Dod by Marc Bell, a Canadian anthology that introduced her to a variety of different artists when she just beginning in the world of comics. Annie then moved on to Elvis Road by Xavier Robel and Helge Reumann, one of her favorite books because of how it “feels like a stream of consciousness commentary on the state of the world.” From there, Annie turned to Klaus Biesenbach by Henry Darger, which she was drawn to because of the “combination of the beautiful and creepy [that] Darger’s work encapsulates.” Next, Annie talked about Gary Panter. Though Panter is best known for his character and set designs for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Annie calls his comics and paintings “amazing” and cites him as an inspiration for her and other artists because “he draws you into his worlds to explore at your own pace.” Last, but certainly not least, Annie gushed about her childhood favorite, Little Lulu by Marjorie Henderson Buell. First read on-loan from her sister, Annie talked about her fond memories of the title: “the colors seems bright and muted at the same time and that screen-tone effect was memorable. […] I could look at that cover for a long time.”

Founded in 2007, KoyaKoyamaPressma Press publishes “a diverse and eclectic range of titles,” a mission that is echoed on Annie’s personal bookshelves. The press continues to grow each year, and 2015 will be—according to the article— “their biggest output to date with 12 titles and a handful of mini-comics” in a wide range of styles and genres. Lose #7 by Michael DeForge, Black Rat by Cole Closser, and Wailed by Robin Nishio are just a few of the newest diverse titles from Koyama Press. After perusing Annie’s shelves, it’s obvious publishing innovative and electic titles is a project of passion and love.



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The Lady Collective Interviews the Awesome Annie Koyama, the Mind Behind Koyama Press

Annie Koyama. Photo credit: Robin Nishio

Whether you’ve heard of Annie Koyama yet or not, you’re going to want to be her new best friend. She’s the mastermind behind Koyama Press, a small press from Toronto, Canada that produces comics and graphic novels. The awesome women at Lady Collective “pick the brains” of other fantastic women every Friday, and on August 21, 2015, they chatted with Annie Koyama about her life as a 20-something and how she found a career that fuels her passion.

In the interview, Koyama reflected on how her life changed throughout her twenties. She learned to move forward and not look back in the face of disappointment, become more independent, and pursue her passions to find the job that best suited her. Her life has been circuitous in terms of her careers, shifting from social worker to painter among other pursuits until landing a job at the National Film Board of Canada. It was here that she found a passion for film and started to think that she had found her place in the world. In 2007, she created Koyama Press, which works with artists all across the board in terms of experience to produce graphic novels, zines, and comics. While many individuals in their twenties feel anxiety towards finding the perfect job, relationship, etc., Koyama told the Lady Collective that “I’ve stumbled into virtually every job I’ve had in my KoyamaPresslife. My 20s was the decade where I tried out jobs in different professions allowing me to eliminate the ones that were not for me.” She took the same approach in her personal life, learning from her mistakes and moving forward.

Koyama is approachable and wise- characteristics that shine in the interview. Though there are many inspirational gems in the interview, this sums up her approach to life: “you should surround yourself with people who you believe to be smarter than you in as many disciplines as possible. You can’t help but learn from them.”


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