Project Bookshelf: Fox Auslander

Psycho Nymph Exile by Porpentine Heartscape, Darryl by Jackie Ess, and Heat Wake by Jason Zuzga are spread against a hardwood floor.

When I finally moved out of my parents’ house in 2018, my childhood bookshelf contained over 100 volumes of manga. It was a formidable sight to behold. Beast Master. Dengeki Daisy. Full Moon wo Sagashite. Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne. For years, I had poured blood and substantial funds into filling unintelligible gaps in my collection. Overwhelmed by its enormity on the eve of my move, I decided to abandon them all.

Now, six apartments later, my former horde remains a malnourished handful. Too modest to warrant their own shelf, Satoshi Kon and Mamoru Oshii’s Seraphim: 266613336 Wings and Milk Morgina’s Girl Friends sit alongside Michelle Perez and Remy Boydell’s The Pervert, flanked by several children’s books.

This isn’t to say my current bookshelf is empty. Instead, my mid-college purge allowed me to rebuild my shelves with greater intention—to replace my favorite bug-eyed, slow-burn romances with something a little less heterosexual.

My first new addition to my skeleton set was Jason Zuzga’s debut poetry collection, Heat Wake. “All rocks are queer,” Zuzga opens. “By this, I mean / I’m gay.” First assigned to me during my freshman year Creative Writing course, Zuzga’s writing still exemplifies the rich creative potential of queer speculative poetry. Of course, we’re two homosexuals nestled in the body of an extinct marine animal. Tell me more about being a teenage mermaid.

As I became more intimately involved with assorted queer communities, trans cult classics also wormed their way into my bedroom. Never Angeline Nørth’s mythos-manifesto, Sea-Witch, was passed to me by another trans person to commemorate our lackluster date. Jackie Ess’s Darryl, lovingly referred to as “the cuck book,” was first met with rave reviews by a few of my Twitter mutuals. One of my favorite novellas, Porpentine Heartscape’s Psycho Nymph Exile, has never formally appeared in brick-and-mortar stores. In place of structural support, queer and trans readers circulate these small press titles like warm bundles of secrets. 

My own bundle has a long way to go before it can rival my previous bookshelf. Still, I love my tiny pile of queer and trans literature. More often than before, I look for opportunities to loan out books to friends and strangers—to slip into the belly of a Steller’s sea cow, to fall in love again with old favorites through fresh eyes.

Fox Auslander is a nonbinary poet and editor based in West Philadelphia. They serve as the editor-in-chief of Delicate Friend, an intimate arts and literature magazine, and one of three lead poetry editors at Alien Magazine, a literary hub for outsiders. Their work appears or is forthcoming in beestungVoicemail PoemsEunoia Review, and beyond. They believe trans love will save the world. 


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