Swimming Upstream is the title of my literary novel, and an apt metaphor for my disabled, trans, queer life.
Jacob Anderson-Minshall is a disabled journalist, author of the literary novel Swimming Upstream, and creator of the graphic novel in-progress/ webcomic Ripple Fx. With his coconspirator Diane Anderson-Minshall, he runs the award-winning editorial services agency, Retrograde Communications.
Jacob and Diane and are pioneers in LGBTQ media, having been in queer publishing since the early 1990s when the couple cofounded the lesbian magazine Girlfriends. At Retrograde, they currently run the editorial for the print edition of Pride Media’s The Advocate (the nation’s oldest LGBTQ news publication) and Plus (the largest magazine for those affected by HIV).
The couple coauthored the Blind Eye Detectives Mystery trilogy (revolving around a blind Japanese-American lesbian P.I.) and the award-winning memoir, Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders, which chronicles their transition (midway through their nearly 30-year relationship) from lesbian couple to husband and wife. The Anderson-Minshalls have been featured in The New York Times, Psychology Today, and numerous other publications.
Jacob's freelance writing (including travel coverage and his formerly syndicated column, TransNation) has appeared in numerous publications and sites including Chill magazine, Windy City Times, and OutTraveler.com.
Jacob grew up on the banks of Idaho’s Portnuef River in the ancestral land of the Shoshoni Indians, where much of Swimming Upstream is set. Photo by Luke Fontana
Swimming Upstream tells the story of complexly interwoven genealogies of family, tradition, war and nature shrouded in decades of secrecy, lies and betrayal until a private investigator shows up on Flint Douglas's doorstep one day looking for Flint's father Ki to donate a kidney to save a sister Flint never knew existed. But Brooke Redfish is only one secret of Ki's past discovered by Flint that sends him reeling down a rabbit hole of unraveling mysteries and explosive secrets about his family and identity. As Flint uncovers the truth, his once dependable borders of gender, geography and kinship dissolve into the unpredictable and arbitrary waters of fate, free will and consequence, to which he must adapt like a shape-shifting salmon or risk drowning in a lineage of trauma.
Swimming Upstream will quickly sweep you into an intense world of emotion and revelation as the characters grapple with the strength and immutability of family bonds, both chosen and biological, and the ambiguity of gender roles and even—biological sex. Hidden layers unravel as secrets uncoil in the lives of characters connected by choice, discovery, and always—stubborn, steadfast love. This story travels from San Francisco and Marin, to Iraq, to Germany and to Idaho. It narrates complexity from environmental activism, pow wows, and the Iraq war, to the wiley cunning of trickster Coyote and the persistence of salmon. A truly new, honest and—adventurous voice in emerging trans fiction.
Max Wolf Valerio—author of the trans memoir The Testosterone Files and book of poetry The Criminal: The Invisibility of Parallel Forces.
Swimming Upstream is hard to put down. I felt like I was watching someone weave an intricate blanket. In the Indigenous communities of this country, Two Spirit people have been largely erased. One of the contributing factors has been the indoctrination of Christian ideology into Indigenous communities. Today, those Two Spirit people are demanding to be seen. This story tells of how the effects of generations of people have had their lives affected and yet survived to continue their roles within their communities. Heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. As a Two Spirit womon, it wretched my heart to hear of the secrets kept by Brooke’s adoptive parents because of fear and mistaken ideas of who Ki was. Traditionally, in many tribes our roles in the community were to take in those children who had no one to care for them. Jacob wove that role skillfully into the story. It is a must read.
Beverly Little Thunder—Two-Spirit Native American activist, Standing Rock Lakota Elder, and author of One Bead at a Time.
In this sweeping saga about family, secrets, and the many versions of truth, Jacob Anderson-Minshall delicately traces the scars left by trauma and the stories that alternately come between and heal the survivors.
Thea Hillman, author of Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word) and Depending on the Light.
Swimming Upstream presents refreshingly multidimensional trans and intersex characters who offer fresh perspectives on human connection and the legacy of trauma through multiple generations. A welcome addition to the transgender fiction canon.
T Cooper, author of Real Man Adventures and Changers.
Swimming Upstream "Sounds like a very important book."
Nisa Donnelly award-winning author of Bar Stories.
Anderson-Minshall manages to juggle several major political topics, including war, green living, and even video game violence. Some of the plotline involving gender identity brings to mind Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and the Iraq-set war scenes are reminiscent of the Afghanistan-set 2007 book Lone Survivor.
Swimming Upstream is a grand and stirring look at culture, gender and the human condition. It’s also a magnificent work of nature and environmental fiction, and it’s most highly recommended.
JACK MAGNUS, READERS' FAVORITE
5 Star Review
I’m completely biased, but if you have interest in trans or intersex issues, our place in the natural world, or how families are built — and sometimes torn apart — I recommend checking it out.