Cover Image: Upright Women Wanted

Upright Women Wanted

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Member Reviews

This whole novella embodies my librarian career goals. Loved every page - highly recommend for anyone looking for a book packed with badass female librarians.
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An absolute blast of a book. Full of adventure, and as always, excellent (and effortless) queer representation. I would definitely recommend this book.
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I've been intrigued by Sarah Gailey's writing ever since I read River of Teeth (American hippos!) and this title was equally engrossing. I am a librarian and it's always fun to see positive rep in literature as well.
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This dystopian Western is set in a future where diesel is in short supply, queerness is punishable by death, and resistance is smothered. After her best friend and lover is executed for distributing unapproved materials, Esther sneaks into a traveling group of librarians to escape the marriage her father is arranging for her. She discovers that librarians are a lot tougher than they appear—and sometimes a tool for resistance. 

I love how much this story packs into under 200 pages. Gailey creates a dystopian future that is frightening but familiar, weaving together classic Western and speculative elements. I do wish we'd gotten to see a little more of some of the secondary characters, but as it is, it's a unique and satisfying story.
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Delightful pseudo-western. Plot was a little hard to follow, but the characters and world were very interesting.
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DNF - did not finish. I checked this one out and did not connect with the writing style/plot. Thank you, NetGalley and publisher for the early copy.
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2020; Macmillan-Tor/Forge

Upright Woman Wanted is a futuristic western with lesbian and trans librarians at the helm. I enjoyed the characters and writing, but felt it was too short. I knew going in this was a novella, but it reads more like an abridged novel. As I read there seemed to be many backstories lingering unsaid. I wish they would have been a full-length novel. I am looking forward to more by Gailey even though science fiction is not really my genre. Gailey voice is fresh and one I enjoy reading even if the books are not among my favourites.

***I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.***
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A hilarious and fun romp through the wild west with lesbian and trans librarians working to subvert the authorities and spread forbidden knowledge.  It's fairly short and a quick read, but well worth your time.
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This was a thoroughly entertaining read. A great romp on the surface and a more nuanced dystopian satire underneath. My primary complaint is that it was too short. I have to wonder about the choice to publish this as a novella, as opposed to continuing to develop the story into a full-length novel.
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There was much to enjoy here, but I found I couldn't connect with it. I'd read more from this author in the future though.
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A refreshingly diverse, futuristic western. Story centers on a dynamic group of queer Librarian spies operating against a fascistic government (gee, wonder why that part hit home....). Simple, pared down style but well executed. Wish it had been expanded to full length.
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The heroes of the near future, of worlds starved for knowledge and restricted by authoritarian regimes, are genetically-engineered soldiers and six-shooter-toting horseback riders. They know how to cross unforgiving deserts teeming with poisonous snakes and vicious bandits, how to calculate the most brutally efficient combination of moves to neatly dispatch their enemies before they’ve even landed the first blow. And they’ll do it all with their most treasured tool in their hands or on their backs: a book.

Because they’re librarians. Every single one of them. Because the only people who are going to save our future are the ones who still know what the truth is, and who are willing to bring it to the people who need it most.

In an intriguing bit of synergy, 2020 is shaping up to be the year of the librarian. Sarah Gailey’s Upright Women Wanted stows away with the Librarians, a cabal of female and nonbinary folks who cross through a future that has reverted to its Wild West roots, on a mission to deliver the State’s Approved Materials to those in need of knowledge and entertainment. In a similarly dystopian reality, but with a more explicitly science fiction bent, Kit Rocha’s Mercenary Librarians make a Deal with the Devil in order to recover a time capsule filled with lost files from the Rogue Library of Congress.

Despite their different settings, both futures are extrapolations of our present, in which some national or global event cuts off the common person’s connections to the outside world, narrowing their scope and creating conditions under which ideals and empathy are sacrificed for the sake of self-preservation. Chafing beneath the State’s sinister simplification, or TechCorps’ economic stranglehold, survivors can see no further than making it to the next day. The existence of people who don’t conform to the idea of mainstream (cisgender, heterosexual, binary) identity are written out of reality, excised from the narrative. The truth—the fact that these are real, flesh-and-blood figures with voices of their own—is no longer regarded as an objective reality. The truth becomes a luxury that people can no longer afford to uphold or seek out. It is in danger of being erased entirely, a lost relic of the past.

Except for those who know how to read between the lines.

Like Esther, who tries to lie her way into the Honorable Brigade of Morally Upright Women, doing Rewarding Work Supporting a Bright Future for the Nation’s Children. Initially it’s because she thinks she can hide all of the parts of herself that make her a danger to the State, believing that she can pluck out every impulse that makes her special, like tearing pages from a censored book. But instead of losing herself in some form of State-approved sisterhood, some literary nunnery, Esther discovers the real reasons behind why the Librarians put themselves through danger, and the significance of what they deliver via their mobile library. Her Wild West apprenticeship uncovers a truth that is greater even than the temptation of safety.

Like Nina, who recreates the “third place” that libraries have always occupied between the home and the office: a community space, where children can delight in weekly movie nights and adults can trade freeze-dried foods for other resources. Even in the shadow of an omnipotent corporation that sets the lower classes fighting amongst themselves for scraps, Nina and her fellow Mercenary Librarians enact the most radical form of protest: They give away knowledge freely, printing books and sharing digital files instead of hoarding or demanding money that people don’t have. They re-expand people’s worlds.

In some ways, Nina and Esther are simply the latest members of a long-running club, their stories new entries into an established canon. After all, SFF has long loved and revered a good librarian: a champion of the written word, an ersatz historian or archivist bringing order to Hellmouths and doomed planets. Whether they’re traveling through L-space or sorting through every potential manuscript ever dreamt of, a librarian embodies the best of the genre’s readers: delightfully bookish, and not only fiercely protective of intellectual freedom, but passionate about preserving access to information and ideas. More than once, the fate of humanity has hinged on a librarian’s vast and wise perspective of whether people have learned all they can, or if they have more learning left to do.

However, the timing of these particular librarians’ arrival is no accident. Like any good librarian, the universe has delivered these books to us when we need them the most…

…When more people visited the local library than the movie theater in 2019, yet there are still ongoing debates over whether these spaces are relevant enough to deserve continued funding.

…When book banning bills would imprison librarians for handing out queer stories or books about sexual assault.

…When librarians in high-traffic drug-use communities act as first responders in the opioid crisis, saving the lives of those who overdose inside their walls.

…When young, queer, people of color are challenging outdated stereotypes of what makes a “real” librarian and arguing that librarians can no longer be neutral figures—not when objective facts and knowledge are being overshadowed by hateful and damaging biases.

In 2014, photographer Kyle Cassidy took portraits of attendees at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in order to show that the stewards of books are as unique as the texts that they protect and pass on. In the same vein, Rocha and Gailey’s books will hopefully usher in even more SFF librarians, each operating within their own singular context: near-future sci-fi romance where the librarians get to tangle with hot bioengineered Silver Devils, or Wild West adventure brimming with queer love and community on the horizon—or perhaps an entirely different subgenre for librarians to inhabit.

Filling so many vital roles is asking a hell of a lot—especially for librarians-turned-first-responders like Chera Kowalski from the McPherson Square branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. When the Philadelphia Inquirer published its 2017 piece about librarians like Kowalski being trained to administer Narcan to people overdosing in or near their library, she became the face of this growing movement. Named one of Library Journal’s 2018 Movers & Shakers, Kowalski maintains that despite this particularly extreme mission creep, she is still doing her job:

“Public libraries respond to the needs of their communities,” she said in a 2017 TEDMED talk, “and not knowing how to utilize Narcan was a disservice to the needs of our community.” Emphasizing that the opioid epidemic impacts the entire community, she went on to say that “we will continue to do what we can with the resources we have and we will continue to provide whatever help we can in hopes of keeping our community safe and healthy, because public libraries have always been more than just books. We are physical shelter, a classroom, a safe haven, a lunch room, a resource hub, and, yes, even a lifeline.”

Badass librarians aren’t just our future—they’re the unsung heroes of our present.
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A brilliant, diverse future Western examining the freedom of information through librarians who smuggle restricted publications by horse and cart around the South American deserts. The details about the authoritarian regime are lightly given - this is very character and fight focussed - and this was a fun and exciting read. Also huge amounts of LGBT representation of all shades, including a non-binary character.
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I described this book to my husband as a "post-apocalyptic queer librarian Western", which I think captures Bailey's unique and enjoyable book! This was a quick read - I read it in one sitting - I wonder if it's the start of a series that will focus on the Librarians?
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Sarah Gailey can do no wrong.

I wish I had something like this when I was 18. I'd be a helluva lot more gay.

But, I guess at 37, i can still be a librarian.

I gotta learn how to possibly ride a horse. And learn how to shoot. Are these electives in my MLIS program? I don't think San Jose State University offers this. Is there an ALA accredited school that does?
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I enjoyed Gailey's Magic for Liars and was intrigued by this Western meets future story.   A quick read, but it packs a punch.
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This wasn't for me, though I did love the description. I didn't find it as engaging as I thought I would.
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I really enjoyed the characters and atmosphere of the book but I'd have preferred for the story to be longer, to have more time to develop the worldbuilding and backstory. Full review available on booktube, 3.5 stars.
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Thank you NetGalley and publishers for an ARC. All opinions are my own.

I love the combination of librarians and the rugged West! It is a thrill to read about that juxtaposition of our current image of timid librarians to the strong rebels they are in this book. This story was interesting and kept my attention. It shows how important community can be when you don't fit in with society's expectations.
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***I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a free review. Thank you NetGalley and Tor!***

This was a fun little novella and certainly a lot better than the one I reviewed from Sarah Gailey last month, River of Teeth. The biggest issue is that it was just so short. The hardcover is 176 pages and it came out to 99 pages on my Nook. There was almost no world or character building as a result. I liked the characters and I liked the premise but it had zero depth.

This dystopian world is one that is intolerant of lesbian or non-binary women. Some of these women choose to work as “Librarians” and deliver “approved” media materials for the masses. And they occasionally lead insurgencies and smuggle people to safer areas. But because of the lack of world building I have no idea why the world is this way. Is it just non-straight women that society objects to? What about gay men? What about transgender individuals? Are there racial issues there too? Usually intolerance is not limited to just one thing. Because we don’t touch on anything except that one aspect at all and since they haven’t explained the world to me then I can’t even make an educated guess.

Esther was a good character and I found her to be very sympathetic. Though it was a bit undermining to my sympathies that within a few months of watching her first love hang for the crime of having unapproved materials Esther is making starry eyes at the Assistant Librarian Cye. I felt a lot of deep emotion for Esther and her story initially. But then we immediately start mooning over Cye and I felt that sympathy fading because apparently she had gotten over it, so why shouldn’t I?

This was a good little story but I really wish it had been given more time and more pages. It would have been less tropey and been able to explore this world in a lot more depth. That would have only improved it for me.
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