Online | Fiction | Reading Group

4 Weeks of Reading Queer Books in Translation as Writers

The best way to travel the world—and the cheapest and most sustainable—is through books. And unlike airplanes and hotels, books allow us to look into the most intimate corners of the locals’ lives.

In this seven-week, four-session class, participants will read and discuss a vibrant selection of translated queer and trans literature from various corners of our planet. Optional writing exercises inspired by the works will help us investigate how their authors’ successes (or miscalculations) can benefit our own texts.

Books will include:

1. Trifonia Melibea Obono, La Bastarda, 2016 (Equatorial Guinea)

2. Shani Mootoo, Cereus Blooms at Night, 1992 (Trinidad & Tobago)

3. Niviaq Korneliussen, Last Night in Nuuk, 2014 (Greenland)

4. Mu Cao, In the Face of Death We Are Equal, 2020 (China)

Okomo, known as “La Bastarda,” will lead us into the magical queer forest in Equatorial Guinea, and then we’ll tend to the wild things of all genders in the imaginary Caribbean country of Lantanacamara (think: fictional Trinidad) alongside the mysterious nonverbal old lady in Cereus Blooms at Night. We will party hard with the Indigenous youth of Greenland’s capital in Last Night in Nuuk, while Old He, Ah Qing, and the vast, illustrious choir of characters from In the Face of Death We Are Equal will fight tooth and nail to survive the surreal, harsh landscape of Zhengzhou, PRC.

As we read, we’ll investigate how the choices made by the authors can inform or transform our own writing, ponder how they have succeeded in sharing the familiar in their lives—or the products of their imagination—with a broad audience, and try to figure out what we can learn about ourselves, our world and our narrative queerness from these remote dispatches.

On a journey in world literature, there are no strict borders, so we’ll let our conversations navigate us.

However, we will definitely focus on the following concerns:

- World-building and -populating

- Casting characters, choosing POVs, handling interiority

- Tidying up the plot and weeding out the unimportant

- Structuring—even for the most avant-garde narratives

We will spend each class working with one book. First, we’ll discuss the themes and techniques of the work, afterward, we will do an optional craft exercise inspired by the book that students will be invited to revise on their own, building towards a longer written project.

Students will be expected to have read La Bastarda for the first session.

Note: Any ‘ Writers’ student can opt in to a 45-minute consultation with the instructor for an additional fee of $105, in which you receive one-on-one feedback on any writing that emerged from the course, including ideas for revision and specific line edits. Please email [email protected] after your final group meeting to arrange a consultation.

Our class platform works best on laptop or desktop computers. Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features. The Zoom calls will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility. 

Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.  


- An exciting glance into the many facets of LGBTQ+ literature and the way queer experiences and narratives differ across the globe

- Examinations of four different authors’ writing techniques and what they can teach us about our own writing

- Vibrant discussions of things universally applicable to the writing process and those particular to queer literature

- A supportive environment for experimentation or honing your craft and personal feedback from the instructor on your writing project during optional one-on-one consultations

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


- Participants are expected to be curious about the world’s queer literature and open to broadening the horizons in their own writing

- Participants must have access to the four assigned books

- Each session will focus on one book; participants are expected to have read the book before the session begins

- Students are expected to attempt to do the writing exercises offered at the end of each session


WEEK 1: discuss La Bastarda

WEEK 2: discuss Cereus Blooms at Night

WEEK 3: discuss Last Night in Nuuk 

WEEK 4: discuss In the Face of Death We Are Equal 

Katya Kazbek

Katya Kazbek is a bilingual Russian/English writer, translator, and editor of Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, and Jewish heritage, who lives and works in New York City, NY. She writes about the world’s cultures for and elsewhere. A previous graduate of Oxford’s writing MSt program, Katya got her MFA from Columbia University in 2019 and now teaches there herself. Her first novel Little Foxes Took Up Matches is a coming-of-age story set in Moscow right after the collapse of the Soviet Union.


"Sometimes in the face of perversity, neglect, and growing up in a rundown Moscow flat one-bedroom too small, one needs to do their own myth-making. And in this unflinching, yet achingly humorous look at millennial Russia, Katya Kazbek celebrates a wonderfully heroic self-deification. Proving we can become the gods and goddesses this world truly needs."

Paul Beatty author of THE SELLOUT

"Many have tried and failed to summon the magic Katya Kazbek wields here as matter of factly as a switchblade. A relief, really, to read a debut novel as original as this―as cunning, wild and free."


"Katya Kazbek’s first novel is a book borne out of her experience of living in a world in which nothing is fixed but struggle, humor, and the unreality to be found in the reality of everyday life. Told with precision, empathy, and a non-jaundiced eye for the absurdity inherent in being different in a world that doesn’t necessarily cherish it, Little Foxes Took Up Matches, is an auspicious debut, eminently cherishable."

Hilton Als author of WHITE GIRLS

“I'm so grateful for Katya’s thoughtfulness and time and care with my work, her notes are always excellent and insightful.”

Columbia classmate

“Katya has so much enthusiasm for everyone’s works, whether it’s big name authors, or a fledgling like myself. I am very grateful for the engagement, kindness and generosity she has extended to me and my classmates.”

former student

“Katya’s guidance and edits were incredibly helpful - I am very grateful for that.”

fellow writer

“Katya put a lot of thought in her comments… really excited to incorporate the feedback and can’t thank her enough.”

former student

“Katya’s edits and suggestions were so thoughtful and helpful.”

former student

“Katya gave me such great notes, and tidied up my writing so effectively."

former student