by Hernandez, Catherine

"In this captivating dystopian novel, a larger-than-life drag queen and her allies join forces to rise up when a post-Trump regime rounds those deemed "Other" into concentration camps"-

Catherine Hernandez is a proud queer woman of color, radical mother, theater practitioner, award-winning author, and the artistic director of b current Performing Arts and the Sulong Theatre. She is of Filipino, Spanish, Chinese, and Indian heritage, and she is married into the Navajo Nation. She is the author of the plays Singkil and Kilt Pins, the children&;s book M Is for Mustache: A Pride ABC Book, and the novels Scarborough and Crosshairs.

Hernandez's second novel covers themes similar to those in her first book, Scarborough (2017)-social justice, racism, marginalized communities-but this time she takes readers to an even darker place. In a near-future, dystopian Canada, the Flood has caused food and water shortages and a white supremacist prime minister has seized the opportunity to force people of color, LGTBQ+ folks, and those with disabilities into work camps. Kay, who describes himself as a "Queer Femme Jamaican Filipino man," is one of the Others forced into hiding from the Boots, a military force that rounds up the Others and unleashes violence on any that don't comply. Liv, a white ally and part of the Resistance, has helped Kay and others survive. Now they are all preparing to fight back. Flashbacks illuminate Kay's backstory, including his drag queen days and relationship with Evan, and every character has a moment to tell their story. Hernandez delivers beautiful and heartbreaking scenes in a story that is hard especially because of how close it feels to our present. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

In her second novel for adults, Hernandez imagines a repressive near future that feels like a slight exaggeration of the present. The narrator, Kay Nopuente, describes himself as a "Queer Femme Jamaican Filipino man." Evan is the lover from whom he was separated when the Canadian government launched the final phase of Renovation-a program that relocates anyone who deviates from a White, cisgender, straight norm to labor camps. Kay is lucky in that he has been sheltered by the Resistance. Part of the narrative focuses on Kay‚??s training to join an armed rebellion led by Others like him and allies committed to using their privilege on behalf of Others. Part of the narrative is made up of Kay‚??s comrades telling their stories. And much of the narrative is Kay‚??s own account of escaping abuse at the hands of his mother and her church and finding a community where he could live freely as himself. One chapter offers scenes of an army veteran who has joined the Resistance teaching Kay to shoot a gun interwoven with glimpses of Kay receiving instruction in the finer points from a more experienced performer. The juxtaposition is powerfully affecting. Beyond that, the disparate parts of this novel are uneven in quality and don‚??t create an entirely satisfying whole. One issue is that several key characters end up feeling more like allegorical examples than real people. Another is that, while Kay is an engaging protagonist and the details of his life would be sufficiently compelling if this novel were simply the story of his life, this novel is not simply the story of his life. Every time the story shifts back into the past, the plot loses momentum. In creating the Renovation and the Resistance, Hernandez is borrowing science-fiction conventions without fulfilling their promise. Taken altogether, every aspect of the novel feels underdeveloped and unfinished. Earnest but disappointing. Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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