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Here Are The Best Fiction Books Of 2017

Culture

At least there was good stuff to read

It has been an interesting year for fiction. I mean this, of course, in the very specific sense that it has been a wonderful year to be a reader of novels and stories (though when is it not?), but then also in the sense that we are living in a time of alternative facts, of subjective truth, of constructed (however shoddily) reality. It has thus become increasingly difficult to find within our existing world many places of beauty or hope; it feels like it has fallen on us to create those moments, create a new way of being.

This has started to happen, I think. It can be seen in the waves of protests that have swept over this country in the last 12 months. It can be seen in the voices of the women and men who have spoken about enduring countless incidences of sexual abuse and harassment. It can be seen in the downfalls of dozens of powerful men. It feels like we have the power to build a new truth right now, a better reality. This is a dangerous thing, of course. It would be easy to fuck up entirely. But it is also a time full of wild potential, of possibility.

And then also we can just read about such things. Each of the following books is notable this year precisely because of the ways in which they created their own realities, their own truths. Each of these books reflects the world with varying degrees of distortion, all the better in which to reflect the person peering into them. Within these pages, you will find ghosts, magical doorways, and an amputee ukelele virtuoso. You will also find love, grace, humor, despair, and rage. You will find no capital "T" truth, which is a relief, of sorts, because it makes it all the easier to find your own truth in these imagined worlds.

Here, then, are the best fiction books of 2017.

The Gift by Barbara Browning (available here)
In trying, recently, to explain The Gift to a friend, I found myself resorting again and again to the word "exuberant." In part this is because Browning's writing is joyful, even radiant, at so many points; this work of autofiction is overflowing with sexuality, sensuality, intellectual and artistic curiosity, and wonder. This is not to say that it's glib. There is a sharp edge of melancholy throughout and one of the most devastating, beautiful breakup scenes I've ever read. But the exuberance extends to how Browning handles the concept of truth within The Gift, in that the idea of truth is ever-expanding; its meaning grows and shifts. The question of whether or not truth is a game is posed; the answer relies on whether or not everyone who is playing is following the rules. That is the crux of everything, really, this focus on the power of collaboration and how, when done right, we can only then work together toward making everything from art to love to a better reality. 

(Read my profile of Browning here.)

She considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth"

Dani Okon, NYLON's associate creative director of video, sat down with her great-aunt, May Okon, to talk about their shared experiences—despite vastly different time frames—living as queer women in New York City. Prior to retirement, May was a journalist for the New York Daily News, having first entered the male-dominated workforce when "the boys were all at war." And, of course, she absolutely killed it. Her only regret? "Retiring at 55," she tells Dani, joking, "Who the hell knew I was gonna live to 100?"

Upon retiring, she moved out to the Hamptons with her partner and bought a home. If she had to do it all over, May says "there are a lot of things I wouldn't do," but she still considers herself "one of the luckiest kids on the face of the earth." Get to know May in the video, above.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Marlene Colburn and Naima Green
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by: Alexandra Hsie
Camera: Gretta Wilson + Katie Sadler
Edited by: Madeline Stedman

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Here's how they're making sure it doesn't happen

Lauren Morelli, the showrunner and executive producer for the new Netflix show Tales of the City, is fostering a space where multiple queer realities can be shown on-screen. She spoke with one of the cast members, trans actor Garcia (who plays Jake Rodriguez on the show), and, in the video above, they explore why it's wrong to treat queer stories as representative of the entire community. Tokenization is something that they both want to avoid at all costs, and they're on the right track.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Naima Green and Marlene Colburn
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Gretta Wilson + Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson

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"Nothing is truly a binary"

We put non-binary activist Eddie Jarrel Jones and The Phluid Project founder Rob Smith in conversation with each other, and the two spoke some powerful truths about the continued gendering of products like makeup and clothing. Smith recalls that 30 years ago, the only way that he was able to experience the joys of playing with makeup was to work at a beauty counter. Even today, Jones notes that it's hard for non-binary femmes like them, or even trans women, to get that experience in stores.

In the video above, get a sense of why Smith created a genderless store, and see how important it is for people like Jones to have a space where they don't feel criticized for dressing like they want.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Naima Green and Marlene Colburn
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Charlotte Prager + Dani Okon
Edited by Gretta Wilson

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We put the two activists in conversation

Marlene Colburn, one of the founders of the Dyke March, and Naima Green, an artist currently working on a project and archive called Pur·suit, which will document queer people of all identities, agree that it's really hard to find lesbian spaces that aren't bars. Just as hard, it seems, is to find lesbian representation that isn't white. In the video above, the two talk about how they are creating space for queer people and what that looks like within two different generations.

Check out the other videos in our series where we placed queer people from different generations in conversation with one another:

Dani and May Okon
Rob Smith and Eddie Jarrel Jones
Lauren Morelli and Garcia
Ashlee Marie Preston and Devan Diaz

Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Directed by Charlotte Prager
Shot by Dani Okon + Charlotte Prager
Edited by Charlotte Prager

Illustrated by Sarah Lutkenhaus

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