Short stories 

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Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

David Sedaris

Little, Brown and Co., $21.99/hardcover

David Sedaris possesses a scathing talent with which he can make readers laugh in one sentence, and cry in the next. He's now translated this skill from his memoir collections into Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, a compendium of animal fables, illustrated by Ian Falconer. In this droll book, Sedaris works with the detached voice of a fairy-tale narrator — only his characters deal not with magic, but banal human situations. "Hello Kitty" follows an acrimonious relationship into an AA meeting, "The Toad, the Turtle and the Duck," a painful encounter in a DMV-like line. But as in traditional fairy tales, the plots darken quickly and harshly; "The Motherless Bear" was shockingly cruel. I was still smarting from that story as I read on, but was assuaged by the unassumingly beautiful and delightful pieces at the end, including the memorable "The Grieving Owl." — Edie Adelstein

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Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation

Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman

Seal Press, $16.95/paperback

A sort-of sequel to Kate Bornstein's Gender Outlaw, this collection includes comics, poems and essays both anthropological and personal about what it's like to live outside gender constructs. It's even more complicated than it might seem; the old line about being "born into the wrong body" doesn't even come close to covering the variation in gender perception, experience and identification. Simply assuming that transpeople will automatically transition to fit into the gender binary is a reinforcement of the gender binary, and a number of these kids don't want to reinforce it; they want to send it flying. So you get a female-to-male or FTM Muslim who wants to make a hajj (Zev Al-Walid's "Pilgrimage"), and a story of Miriam, who offered a room to Jesus, as a transwoman ("Transgressing Gender at Passover With Jesus!" by Peterson Toscano). Yeah, it's that interesting. — Kel Munger

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Koko Be Good

Jen Wang

First Second, $18.99/paperback

Unexpectedly and nearly inexplicably, Koko Be Good, the poignant debut graphic novel by Jen Wang, sticks in your mind. You can't stop thinking about the title character, precocious street urchin-ess Koko, and her quest to become a good person. She, of the midnight interviews with stuffed animals and mysterious drifter lifestyle, meets Jon, a fresh college grad grasping at real life, and is inspired by his altruistic plans to teach English in Peru. Not surprisingly, being a good person in the conventional sense of the term isn't easy, and both Koko and Jon are forced to reconcile who they really are with who they're trying to be. While this coming-of-age plot and mild disdain for the grown-up world sounds clichéd, Wang's incredible drawing skills create characters both realistic and compelling: We acutely feel Koko and Jon's pain when they encounter disappointment and crushing dilemmas of idealism. — Edie Adelstein


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