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In Upright Women Wanted, award-winning author Sarah Gailey reinvents the pulp Western with an explicitly antifascist, near-future story of queer identity.

“That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”

Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her–a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.

The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.

Upright Women Wanted

At this point it might just be safe to assume that everything Gailey has written was written for me to love. I LOVE SARAH GAILEY. I could just end the review there. Seriously. Gailey creates such vivid and queer worlds. I adore everything I have read by them.

This book is about queer librarian spies. I had no idea what it was about when I started reading it, I just knew that Gailey is amazing so I had to read the book (and my favorite librarian had recommended this book which is actually how I got started reading Gailey. I had to wait for this book to hit shelves). Do you really need to know anything beyond “queer librarian spies”?

Imagine a world where all the literature, movies, and music has to be pre-approved by the government. Imagine who could be a super hero in this world. Librarians are already amazing in the real world, but they are super heroes in this world. I just love this idea. I love how librarians are getting to be seen as heroes in books now. I love how so many of these books have made room for queer librarians too. Every book I have read that is truly about how powerful a librarian is has had queer librarians, which makes my queer heart burst with happiness.

I know I have said queer a lot in this review, but trust me it is not being overused. The dedication made me tear up:

“To everyone who though t they’d never live this long”

Never mind me. I just sobbed on the drive home from the library while my partner freaked out at how I could already be crying over a book that I had just picked up. Gailey understands the deep pains and fears of being queer. They had mixed this with a love letter to librarians and the incredibly important work that they do. The last page of the book made me full on cry each time I have read it. I have read it probably a dozen times. This is the book you need to read and the author you need to follow if you ever felt like you wouldn’t get a happy ending because you are queer. If those two points are not enough to cry, I challenge you with this essay that Gailey wrote. Seriously. Gailey sees us. She is one of us. Queer stories can have happy endings.

This book had a happy ending.

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5 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this book.

You can buy the book here.

~Isaiah