Upright Women Wanted

Sarah Gailey (Magic for Liars, American Hippo) packs a lot of punch and personal journey into this short, atmospheric western novella, full of remarkable characters taking control of their own destinies. In Upright Women Wanted, gunslinging librarians are here to fight for freedom.

Esther Augustus has grown up hearing stories of the brave and honorable Librarians, women given the assignment of delivering Approved Materials across the country. When Esther's best friend and secret lover, Beatriz, is hanged for crimes against the State, Esther stows away in a book wagon to escape her "deviant" feelings and an arranged marriage, hoping to become as righteous and law-abiding as the Librarians. But the Librarians who discover her are not at all what Esther expects, and as they journey across the American Southwest, Esther finds herself riding in a posse of no-nonsense, road-hardened women who, far from patriotic, secretly lead the rebellion to take down the totalitarian state. As she watches them deliver banned books, insurgent ideologies and runaways in forbidden relationships (like Esther herself), her sense of justice is turned on its head, and she begins to understand that perhaps she--and others like her--aren't the ones who are wrong.

Lesbian, nonbinary and queer characters feature prominently in Gailey's novella, survivalists fighting to bring hope to others who feel alone in a dangerous and unaccepting world. This dystopian western, set in the near future, is a grand adventure and an impressive mix of classic genre tropes, revolution and queer romance. Juxtaposed against the confident Librarians who "liked themselves, not in spite of who they were but because of who they were," Esther's journey from self-loathing to self-love is hard won as she battles not only her inner demons but also bandits, the hostile desert and a society that would kill her just for being herself. --Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor

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