Tag Archives: Nonbinary

Author Interview: Hsinju Chen

Welcome to the eighth and final interview in the 2023 run of my Taiwanese American Heritage Week series dedicated to featuring Taiwanese authors and their work. Taiwanese American Heritage Week occurs every year during the week that begins with Mother’s Day in May, which is also Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. You can find the past interviews and posts in this series via the Taiwanese American Heritage Week tag or through my Post Index.

About the Books

  • Title: A Milky Way Home
  • Author: Hsinju Chen
  • Cover Design: Laura Skye Kilaen and Candace Harper
  • Release Date: March 21st, 2023
  • Genre/Format: Adult Romance Novella


Yen-Chen Chang is tired of the big corporate world. After quitting his high-paying software engineer job in Seattle, he’s desperate to move back to Taipei to figure out the next stage of his career. When his best friend invites him to visit Clover Hill as the last stop before going home, he gladly welcomes the opportunity to see the town they love.

Florence Hong-Lam Ho is passionate about her shih tzu mix Milk Puff, music composition, and teaching children piano. She is not trusting of strangers, especially those from outside of Clover Hill. When a tourist reaches for the last piece of fènghuáng sū at Wong’s Corner Store at the same time as she does, she hopes to never see this person again, even if her dog loves him already.

But when Yen-Chen and Florence keep running into each other—once, literally—they strike up a reluctant friendship. Is their growing connection written in the stars, or will Yen-Chen still leave Clover Hill for good?

A contemporary asexual romance featuring a transmasc MC.

Interview with Hsinju Chen

Q: What is your favorite Taiwanese food/what food reminds you of home?

A: This first question already leads me miles and miles away from Illinois and back home. I can talk about food for hours.

It’s funny, because while boba has such a big presence in A Milky Way Home, if not across the Clover Hill series because of Kaz’s shop, it’s not something I often get when I’m in Taiwan. But when I’m in the States, I get it every now and then because it reminds me of home. Sometimes, I even make it from scratch, using the same recipe as Yen-Chen’s.

I love the whole spectrum of Taiwanese food, from savory dishes to sweet pastries, but if I must choose, it’s breakfast food—which is not necessarily consumed in the morning—especially steamed muscovado mántóu! Perhaps part of it is the memories attached to such places, the dòujiāng diàn (“soymilk shop”), where my family occasionally gets breakfast from on weekends and where my friends and I frequent for late-night snacks.

Sometimes, when dining out, it isn’t the food that grips me but the ambient sounds of a restaurant or eatery—the whirring of range hoods in the kitchen or the clinking of porcelain from neighboring tables. I find comfort in these places, too.

Q: How did you get into writing fiction?

A: In a way, I’ve always been writing fiction. Before I knew how to spell, my dad transcribed the stories I told orally—basically fanfics of children’s books. I illustrated and bound my own flimsy little books when I was a kid. I wrote wuxia stories in Chinese as a preteen, a fantasy novella in English when I was in middle school, and many flash fiction pieces in Chinese when I was older.

When I started my current engineering doctoral program in 2020, I decided to sign up for a fiction class. Several semesters later, I’ve participated in three semester-long fiction workshops in the creative writing department and drafted multiple short stories. These workshops re-ignited my love for storytelling and made me believe that my stories are worth telling. Even now, when I’m no longer taking fiction workshop classes at my institution, I continue to write regularly.

I’m also a big reader, and I’ve kept a running log of every book I’ve read since 2007. Reading widely has certainly helped me with my writing. I would also credit books as one of the best teachers I’ve had in learning English as a foreign language.

Q: What are some of your creative influences and where do you get inspiration from?

A: Oh wow, this is a tough one to answer! Some of my more recent creative influences are queer diasporic writers, like Zen Cho, whose stories made me realize that fantasy stories in English can also feel so close to home, and Carolina De Robertis, whose prose and queer historical fiction I adore. I’m always on the hunt for more writers whose stories I resonate with, be it queer or Taiwanese or of an identity I do not share.

I get inspirations from my own life experiences, people-watching, and the news. I tell stories that I wish already existed but also use them to answer questions I have about the world. Reading fiction and nonfiction of all lengths keep me inspired, too. When I’m lucky, my dreams also provide me with story ideas.

Q: Are you the type who outlines before they start drafting, or do you let the draft take you wherever it goes?

A: I’m a plotter through and through. When I started writing A Milky Way Home, I already had an outline of bullet list, one item for each scene. It wasn’t extremely detailed or a beat sheet, but it was an outline. Did the final draft stray away from it? Yes, but not by a lot! I’m impressed that some writers can write a full draft without an outline; I don’t think I can ever do that for long works when I’m juggling the main story, side plots, and multiple character arcs all at the same time. Even for shorter works—flash fiction, short story, novelette—I rarely start writing without already knowing the breakdown of each scene and how the story ends.

Q: My understanding is that A Milky Way Home is part of a fictional universe that serves as the setting for a series of queer novellas spanning multiple books written by different authors. How and why did you get into writing for this series? What did you enjoy about the experience?

A: That is correct! A Milky Way Home is the sixth book of the ongoing Clover Hill Romance series, where all novellas are standalones and set in the fictional North American small town Clover Hill.

I’m incredibly lucky to be part of this series, and everyone I’ve gotten to know throughout this journey is wonderful. Since one of the founding members of the Clover Hill series is a friend whose writing I trust, I was immediately intrigued when I learned that they were looking for more authors to join for their 2023 lineup. Queer contemporary romance in a shared universe? The skeletal version of Yen-Chen and Florence’s story came to me within days, and I was committed to the project very soon after.

A Milky Way Home is about 38,000 words, and it is my longest work to date. The most valuable part for me was having the support of fellow Clover Hill authors and my writing friends outside of the series while going through the whole process of pitching, outlining, drafting, multiple rounds of editing, and publishing. As an indie series, we had to handle our own cover design, typesetting, scheduling, etc., and in our team, there are experienced writers willing to spend the extra time to help make the production seamless and we all contribute however we can. It was also a unique experience to work with everyone else on not only publishing logistics but also designing Clover Hill as a town and community.

Q: I love Yen-Chen’s name in Chinese, 延辰. How did you come up with this name, and how do you approach the character naming process in general?

A: I’m glad you loved his name! Naming is something I take very seriously, and I can write a whole essay on all the details. The first thing I often take into consideration is to have their name reflect their age or the period of the story if historical. I also think about the tones of each character. Since certain characters are more common as the first or second character in a two-character given name, I often look at the names of people I know for reference but avoid using the exact same combinations. After settling on a decision, I sometimes run it through a search engine in case I accidentally named them after some famous people I didn’t know of.

Yen-Chen is about my age, so his name is something I can see my school friends having. I had the pronunciation before selecting the characters that made sense to me as a name. The fact that 延辰 could mean “prolonging the morning” was not intentional, though I do love that it has the meaning.

When naming in Chinese characters and romanized names, it’s important to me to love both versions of their names phonetically and visually. This is very subjective. For a Taiwanese person around my age or older, I tend to use the Wade–Giles romanization system for their name in Mandarin. Occasionally, I name my fictional Taiwanese people in Taiwanese, too, and use Tâi-lô for their names.

Q: What are some of the goals and dreams you hope to achieve with your writing? (This can be anything from publishing X number of books to co-writing a novel with someone to getting your writing quoted on a queer lit bot account.)

A: I almost never talk about this publicly, but my short-term goal is to sell my spec fic works to SFF magazines. I’ve only started submitting short stories to SFF magazines and literary journals last year, so I’m still a baby in the submission world. My long-term goal is to continue writing—independent of whether or not I have a completely separate day job—and steadily publish short stories and novels alike.

I enjoy writing both spec fic and stories with no speculative elements. Previously, I’ve published a novelette “Islands Burnt by History” in Awakenings: A Cute Mutants Anthology (ed. SJ Whitby) that is a superhero story about a group of queer graduate students in Taiwan saving their advisor and others from a government-sponsored superhuman experiment. Now, there is A Milky Way Home, a small-town, contemporary, low-heat asexual romance featuring a transmasc Taiwanese main character. I hope that each of my stories reaches the audience that needs it the most.

Book Links

Add A Milky Way Home on Goodreads.

Purchase A Milky Way Home:

About the Author

Hsinju Chen grew up in New Taipei City and currently resides in Illinois, where they are pursuing a PhD in electrical and computer engineering. She writes prose with fragments of Taiwanese experiences and loves languages in all shapes and forms. When they are not dreaming up stories or reading queer literature, they are busy studying the workings of the universe.

Author Links:

Thanks for reading this interview! If you’re enjoying my Taiwanese American Heritage Week posts and would like to show your appreciation by tossing a coin to your blogger, please consider donating that coin to Ren Kanoelani, a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian), Taiwanese, and Japanese friend who needs help with rent payments during this Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Thanks!

[Blog Tour] Favorite Quotes from Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore

Hello again! This is part 2 of my tour stop for the Lakelore book tour hosted by Colored Pages. You can find all the info about the book and my review in the first part.

Today, I’m presenting some of my favorite quotes from Lakelore that I found resonated with my experiences and/or were just beautiful to behold. These are spoiler-free, so don’t worry!

Quote #1

I planned to help them hide out behind the rocks. Then I saw the first flicker of iridescent blue lift off the water. It fluttered through the air, a slice of lake-silver wafting like a leaf. Then another followed it. Then a few more, then a dozen. Then a hundred, each of them like a butterfly with its wings made of water. Then a whole flock of blue-green and silver-blue wings, their backs shining like the surface of the lake. They spooled away like they always did, showing me the dark underneath the water.


Quote #2

I look up, and track that rush of blue. First I take in what it is as it crosses the sky, a spotted fish with a feathered tail that looks blade sharp . Then I take in that the sky is no longer daylight-gray, but purple, dark as the rind of an eggplant. The fish swims through that sky like it’s water. Ocean plants twist up toward that sky. A starfish with blue swallowtail wings rustles the stalks. The sky ripples with threads of light like sun bowing on the bottom of a pool. The memory of what this boy once showed me brushes against my neck.


Quote #3

Lore’s glance catches on my wrist. They give my watch a weird look. No one our age wears watches, and I know that. But I’ve also noticed that wearing a man’s watch signals something to people looking at me that they don’t even register. It makes it more likely that they’ll call me him instead of her, and while him might not be quite right, it’s a whole sky closer to right than her. That’s worth my friends telling me that an analog watch makes me look about a thousand years old.


Quote #4

What I don’t say , what I want to say: All my friends liked me. And most of them even stuck with me when I came out (and those who didn’t, I chose to forget their names). I was the one they asked what shirts to wear on first dates, what were the best grocery stores to buy flowers to bring their mothers after they stayed out too late. But I don’t hear from most of them. I’m the kind of friend that’s fun when I’m there and forgettable when I’m not.


Quote #5

ADHD medication helps give me more of a buffer against changes in my brain weather . I used to get startled by a noise and be thrown off for hours. Someone would give me a look that could have meant nothing, and the ground of my thoughts would dry out and crack. That still happens, but it happens less often , and it happens slower.

This morning I missed the time I usually take my meds. I woke up groggy, tired from dreams of the lake flooding onto the shore, the water pulling into the shape of flames and licking across the hills. So I’m back to setting alarms. If I’m not on top of my meds, the weather in my brain dries out faster, like lightning might catch in the sky.


Quote #6

“It was a lot like that ,” Lore says. “Sometimes I kind of wish I could give the people around me a daily report on my gender. Just so they’d know what to expect. So no one would give me that confused look whether I was wearing a binder or makeup or whatever.”

When I don’t say anything, Lore looks up. “I’m not making any sense, am I?”

“No,” I say. “You’re making a lot of sense. The world could use daily gender forecasts.”

The minute I hear myself say it, I know how stupid it sounds. Yes, I sometimes imagine that state of my brain in terms of weather. That doesn’t mean I tell anyone about it. It must sound even weirder about gender.

But Lore’s face lights up. “Yes,” they say. “Sunny, forty-two percent expected femininity.”

“Tonight,” I say, “cloudy with likely masculinity.”

“Exactly,” Lore says.


Quote #7

I want to ask. Of course I want to ask. But it’s none of my business. And even if it was, how would I ask? Hey, random question, but did you grow up thinking there was maybe something weird about your own brain? Or that your brain was doing things the wrong way? That you were doing things the wrong way?

Even in my head, it sounds like a bad infomercial. It comes with a flourish of harp sounds. There’s an Amanda the Learning Specialist for that.


Quote #8

“Your turn.” Bastián looks at me. “Gender forecast.”

“For right now?” I ask. “Yeah.”

“Right now?” I shake the glitter jar. “I think it might be this.”

“Okay.” Bastián’s smile is shy, and they don’t quite look at me, like I’ve given them some kind of compliment they want but don’t know what to do with . “What about yesterday?”

“I guess”— I think about it, how I felt, how to put it in terms other than masculine and feminine, boy or girl, neither or both or somewhere in the space between—“ really strong coffee. Or maybe that popping sound soda makes.”

“A gender fizz.” Bastián nods. “Sounds like the next big drink.”


Quote #9

I can feel Bastián’s wince so clearly it presses into my chest plate. I know that feeling of not asking because you don’t want to admit that you didn’t understand something, that after several more repetitions you still might not understand it, the worry that the other person’s patience will thin and fray before you can.


Quote #10

I want to tell them that sometimes it’s okay, and sometimes it’s exhausting. Sometimes it means trying to change the weather in my own brain and finding it as impossible as moving the clouds in a storm. The weather in my brain may or may not match up with what’s going on, but an atmosphere of something being wrong can permeate everything even if I can’t figure out what it is. Sometimes it means not saying anything when someone misgenders me because I don’t want to be flagged as a problem any more than I already am.


[Blog Tour] Review for Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore

Hello again! Spring is in the air here, and while school is kicking my butt (as always), I am currently on spring break, so I managed to fit in some pleasure reading for this blog tour! I’m excited to present my tour stop for Anna-Marie McLemore’s newest book, Lakelore! Thanks to Colored Pages for hosting the blog tour. You can find the full tour schedule on their website.

Book Information 

Title: Lakelore
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore 
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: March 8th, 2022 
Pages: 304
Genres: Young Adult Fantasy

Book cover for Anna-Marie McLemore's novel, Lakelore. The illustration features two dark-haired brown-skinned youths standing back-to-back, half-immersed in vivid, multi-colored water with a flight of blue-green butterflies perched on their heads. A large yellow sun, partially eclipsed by clouds, looms behind them. In the water, the word LAKELORE is printed in bold white font with a distortion that resembles light reflecting off dapples in water.
Book cover for Anna-Marie McLemore’s novel, Lakelore. The illustration features two dark-haired brown-skinned youths standing back-to-back, half-immersed in vivid, multi-colored water with a flight of blue-green butterflies perched on their heads. A large yellow sun, partially eclipsed by clouds, looms behind them. In the water, the word LAKELORE is printed in bold white font with a distortion that resembles light reflecting off dapples in water.


In this young adult novel by award-winning author Anna-Marie McLemore, two non-binary teens are pulled into a magical world under a lake – but can they keep their worlds above water intact?

Everyone who lives near the lake knows the stories about the world underneath it, an ethereal landscape rumored to be half-air, half-water. But Bastián Silvano and Lore Garcia are the only ones who’ve been there. Bastián grew up both above the lake and in the otherworldly space beneath it. Lore’s only seen the world under the lake once, but that one encounter changed their life and their fate.

Then the lines between air and water begin to blur. The world under the lake drifts above the surface. If Bastián and Lore don’t want it bringing their secrets to the surface with it, they have to stop it and to do that, they have to work together. There’s just one problem: Bastián and Lore haven’t spoken in seven years, and working together means trusting each other with the very things they’re trying to hide.


You know how some books hurt to read because they hit close to home, but then they heal you and tell you it’s okay to exist as you are? Lakelore is one of those books for me. I mean, I love all of Anna-Marie McLemore’s books, but this one really spoke to me on a deeper level than any of their previous books (which again, are all marvelous still in their own right). The intersections of being trans, neurodivergent, and a person of color are explored in this story from dual points of view, and both Bastián and Lore’s experiences really resonated with me in various ways.

At its core, Lakelore is a story about the Terrifying Ordeal of Being KnownTM. Vulnerability is difficult enough to begin with, but being neurodivergent, trans/nonbinary, and brown in an ableist, transmisic, and racist world, both Bastian and Lore have been made to feel like there is no space in the world for them to exist, like the only way to live is to shrink themselves into digestible packages and to make sure nobody ever sees the unacceptable sides of themselves. In each other, they find kindred spirits. They can info-dump on each other about their favorite niche interests, they can joke with each other about gender, they don’t have to explain life as a brown person in a white world. However, the tension between their desperate hunger for intimacy and their all-consuming fear of rejection keeps every interaction between them balanced on a knife’s edge, where one wrong move or word feels like it could ruin everything. The acts of self-sabotage as a defense mechanism to preempt the possibility of being hurt by the other person? Maybe a little too relatable.

Of course, as usual, Anna-Marie McLemore brings their characters and setting to life with gorgeous prose that invites you to linger and bask in every turn of phrase, to let yourself get swept away by each emotionally charged ebb and flow of words. I kept highlighting passages for the favorite quotes portion of this book tour (coming up in my next post) and quickly found myself stressed by the need to narrow the list down.

Conclusion: Just read the book! It is an Experience.

Content/trigger warnings: misgendering, general trans-antagonism, ableist bullying, gendered harassment

Book Links

About the Author

Anna-Marie McLemore (they/them) writes magical realism and fairy tales that are as queer, Latine, and nonbinary as they are. Their books include THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist; 2017 Stonewall Honor Book WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature and was the winner of the James Tiptree Jr. Award; WILD BEAUTY, a Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist best book of 2017; BLANCA & ROJA, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice; MISS METEOR (co-authored with Tehlor Kay Mejia); DARK AND DEEPEST RED, a Winter 2020 Indie Next List selection; and THE MIRROR SEASON, which has recently received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and School Library Journal, and the forthcoming LAKELORE (March 8, 2022) and SELF-MADE BOYS: A GREAT GATSBY REMIX (Fall 2022).

Author Links: 

Review for Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

I’ve been looking forward to reading Felix Ever After for a long time, and I’m super excited to be reviewing it!

Felix Ever After


Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.

My Review:

I’m so emotional right now that it’s hard to articulate my feelings about this book, which is my official favorite of 2020. If it weren’t my duty to write a review with words, I’d just be dumping memes of Kermit emitting hearts everywhere.

I have to say that it’s the first book I’ve read where I’ve felt so seen and represented as a queer, trans, and nonbinary POC. I’ve talked about this before on Twitter, but there’s a huge disconnect for me when I read about white queer characters because race and racism are inextricably intertwined with my experiences of queerness.

In this book, Felix grapples with the feeling that he is “too many” marginalizations because he is Black and trans and queer. He doesn’t feel like he is deserving of love because of the way society has taught us to value cis-ness and whiteness. This struggle is so profoundly relatable to me as a queer Asian person. Even before I realized I was trans, I already had an intuitive understanding that I was less desirable because I was Asian and gender-nonconforming, and after figuring out my nonbinary gender and coming out, I still have insecurities surrounding this.

As a whole, Felix Ever After is full of so many important and salient conversations about race and queerness. I don’t highlight/underline/write in my physical books, but I definitely felt the urge to do so multiple times when I landed upon passages that resonated or spoke truth to power regarding an issue. One such passage lays bare the ways cis gay white men weaponize their privilege against other queer people with less power. Another passage takes on the question of whether labels are necessary or restrictive and whether gender abolition is the end goal of trans liberation. Another issue addressed in the book is how cis women harm trans people, especially trans men and trans masculine people, by accusing us of betraying women and being misogynists in “choosing” a gender that’s not our birth-assigned gender. These are real things that happen, and seeing them explored and interrogated on the page was so validating.

Felix as a character is so lovable, and it was impossible not to see myself in him. His fear of displaying vulnerability and taking risks for love spoke to me on the deepest level. He’s flawed and real. He makes unfair judgments and assumptions, lashes out in anger, and says things that hurt others to protect himself. He also yearns to connect with others, expresses himself through art, and takes responsibility for his actions and growth. His desire to prove himself as an artist and to colleges kind of felt like a personal attack because it held up a mirror to my inner psyche.

This book does an incredible job of balancing the real pain and difficulties of being a queer and trans Black person with hope and empowerment. Watching Felix grow into himself as a demiboy, discover love and intimacy, and receive validation from the people he cares about was immensely cathartic. As the title promises, he gets his happy ever after.

Content Warnings: racism, queer antagonism (deadnaming, misgendering, outing), drugs/alcohol