Welcome to the Weekend Binge. Every Friday, we’ll suggest a binge-able title designed to keep you from getting too stir crazy. Check back throughout the weekend for even more gloriously queer entertainment.
The Uplifting: We’re Here
Fans and non-fans of Drag Race take note: though the new HBO series We’re Here features three alumni of the beloved drag competition, do not expect tantrums and epic throwing of shade. We’re Here stars Shangela, Eureka O’Hara and Bob the Drag Queen. Each episode finds the three riding their handbag-shaped RVs to a different conservative city around the country with a singular goal: unite the queer and straight communities by putting on a drag show. For the three queens, that means finding drag protegees to add to the show in each episode. And, as anyone familiar with the work of Bob, Eureka or Shangela will attest: each drag number throbs with energy and joy.
What we didn’t expect, however, was just how poignant and moving We’re Here gets. All three queens experience moments of vulgar homophobia and racism at times, which serves to remind viewers that attitudes towards race and LGBTQ people still vary wildly around the country. Moreover, the stories of family rifts healed through drag performance had us reaching for the tissues. We’re Here reminds us that the great power of the queer community comes from its sense of love and joy, not just fabulousness. The kind of forgiving love on display here is hard to find in any TV series, scripted or reality. That earns a winning recommendation from us. The fabulous handbag RVs are just a bonus.
Streams on HBO Max.
A lesbian fantasy with intrigue, murder, spymasters, and royal obligations? I’m in from the word go.
Helen Corcoran’s Irish fantasy novel, Queen of Coin and Whispers was published in June of 2020 by The Obrien Press after a short delay related to the COVID-19 crisis. But it was sincerely worth the wait. I think fantasy as a genre lends itself well to queerness in all its forms. Worlds that don’t necessarily answer to our own societal prejudices or pressures can be extremely freeing if done correctly. I’m thinking particularly here of something like The Priory of the Orange Tree (2019) by Samantha Shannon, which Corcoran’s novel follows nicely in the same vein.
Queen of Coin and Whispers follows Lia and Xania in a dual POV narrative. Lia is a princess who rather abruptly inherits the throne from her uncle, a ruler who remained distant from his duty and his people, content to let others make decisions for him as long as his goblet remained full. With his death, the kingdom teeters on upheaval, and Lia is determined to wrest power back from the conniving forces than commanded it under the nose of her uncle and to make real change as a ruler. Xania, the eldest daughter of a lower caste family whose mother has married up in order to secure financial safety for Xania and her sister, lives each day dreaming of finding the suspected murderer of her father and exacting vengeance. When she stumbles—literally—upon the queen and her council, a series of events ensue that lead Lia to hire Xania as her Master of Whispers. Now the queen’s eyes and ears everywhere, Xania attempts to protect her majesty while also searching for her father’s killer. However, an already complicated network of power is further entangled when issues of power, duty, and love intersect for both young women in this excellent fantasy.
This book was so, so fun. I found myself deeply intrigued by both the characters and the world around them from the opening of the novel. I found this fantasy to be very character-driven, differing from the usual world-driven novels I often encounter in this genre. Lia and Xania’s personalities and the choices they make are what drive this novel forward, and their distinct character traits really shine through. Lia’s introspective and powerful voice despite her young age are indicative of a queen’s commanding presence, something that Corcoran subtly includes. By contrast, Xania’s fierce and unparalleled passion for her family, her job, and Lia is thrilling to read.
While this novel may focus on character, in my opinion, the plot is not lacking. The intrigue and drama of a royal court provides an excellent backdrop for the violence, espionage, and trickery that constitutes some of the most exciting twists and turns in this novel. Corcoran pulls no punches and hedges no bets—anyone and everyone could be holding a knife to your favourite character’s back at any moment.
There are a number of social, political, and moral quandaries in this court that contribute to Corcoran’s world building. What is not an issue on its face, however, is queerness—it’s lovely to read a fantasy novel where not only are queer people accepted for who they are, but they’re also everywhere in this text, containing the various and rich elements of character that we might expect from any other fantasy novel.
Overall, I loved this book. My only issue would be that the pacing—especially toward the end of the novel—felt a bit off, and that the text could have slowed down just a but in order to convey the urgency of the last few pages at the same time that the world beyond the court could have been explored a bit more. Nevertheless, this was phenomenal, and if you’re looking for a fun and delightfully well-written lesbian fantasy novel, Queen of Coin and Whispers is entirely the perfect choice.
Content Warnings: Physical and psychological torture.
Rachel Friars is a creative writer and academic living in Canada, dividing her time between Ontario and New Brunswick. When she’s not writing short fiction, she’s reading every queer novel she can find. Rachel holds two degrees in English literature and is currently pursuing a PhD in nineteenth-century lesbian literature and history.
Stephen Lim, also known as Nadia Business, had been on the waiting list for a kidney transplant for six years. (nadiabusinessqween/ Instagram)
A drag queen fighting chronic kidney disease has become the first patient post-lockdown to receive a life-saving kidney transplant at a Manchester hospital.
Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) was forced to stop performing transplant surgeries for four months during the coronavirus pandemic, but in July doctors were able to resume the life-saving operations.
According to Manchester Evening News, the first patient to get a call saying they would be undergoing transplant surgery was 27-year-old Stephen Lim, otherwise known as his drag persona Nadia Business.
Lim comperes a karaoke night at a club in Bolton as Nadia, and also takes part in outreach programmes for his local LGBT+ community.
He was born with chronic kidney disease, also known as chronic kidney failure, which causes a gradual loss of kidney function over time.
When he was very young, Lim suffered irreversible scarring to his kidneys because of an infection, and he had been on the waiting list for a kidney transplant for the last six years.
The drag queen said: “My family and I have been speaking about the possibility of getting a transplant for about 20 years… There’s so much that goes in to finding the right match, and a year or so back I’d been called in for a transplant that unfortunately could not go ahead, so I was starting to think it might not happen.”
But on July 7, Lim wrote on Instagram: “Guess who got the kidney transplant call he’s been waiting for for six years, this morning around 4am?”
He was brought in to have the operation on the same day, receiving a transplant from a deceased donor.
Lim said: “I’m so thankful to him and his family for all he’s given me. To lose a loved one is never easy, so I will pay my respects by living well and looking after myself as best I can.
“I can’t say thank you enough to everyone in the transplant team for everything they’ve done.
“The whole team have been professional, welcoming and friendly throughout, and are always very quick to explain stuff so I know what’s going on.”
He added: “I feel especially lucky and grateful to be the first MRI patient to receive an organ since after lockdown.
“I know that COVID-19 precautions will have added another layer of complexity for the team’s work but they were so professional that you couldn’t notice… Due to COVID-19 restrictions my parents unfortunately weren’t able to come with me into the hospital, but the team were great at making me feel comfortable.
“My mum’s a nurse so I’ve had to distance from her in the house which has been interesting, but we understand we need to act responsibly so we’re taking all precautions.
“I now feel really well, even better than I was expecting to after the operation. My surgery wound is healing well and it looks like everything is going in the right direction in terms of my condition improving which is great.”