If you were young and LGBTQ+ anytime before 1969, there was no world wide web, no “customers who bought this item also bought,” and no friendly librarians steeped in the parlance of broad-mindedness, diversity and human variety. Gay literature was not positively represented. In June, we celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride Month with the commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, which spurred the start of the modern gay rights movement.
Among other things, that movement lead to a shift in the perception of gay literature, and the acceptance of it remains a work in progress, a not-quite-there-yet effort. This annual observance showcases a glorious variety of humans, and it is a reminder that work remains to keep the evolution of LGBTQ+ rights moving in the direction of equality. As the Library of Congress put it, Pride month demonstrates “how LGBTQ Americans have strengthened our country, by using their talent and creativity to help create awareness and goodwill.”
Celebrate Pride with fiction and nonfiction from your library! Links titled Subjects, Genre, and Topics offer even more reading, listening and watching ideas. For a dash of past Pride, check out these blog posts from across the Library of Congress related to LGBTQ history. And now, onto the suggestions!
Who is RuPaul? by Nico Medina.
In this child-level nonfiction biography, learn how this Emmy-winning host, producer, and television personality became the world’s most famous drag queen. Even as a young child, RuPaul Andre Charles loved to dress up and imitate the glamorous women he saw on television. When he turned fifteen, he began studying theater in a performing arts school in Atlanta and never looked back. — from the publisher’s description
Be Amazing: A History of Pride by Desmond Napoles; pictures by Dylan Glynn
A kid-friendly primer to LGBTQ history that covers everything from the Stonewall Riots to RuPaul’s “Drag Race.” “Be Amazing” encourages young readers to embrace their own uniqueness and ignore the haters. Ages 0-8.
|Subjects:||Gays — Juvenile literature. Sexual minorities — Juvenile literature. Sexual orientation — Juvenile literature. Transgender people — Juvenile literature. Picture books for children. Gay liberation movement. Gay Pride Day.|
Patricia Highsmith‘s eerie 1952 romance-as-thriller, The Price of Salt, got the Hollywood treatment in 2015 and emerged as the feature film Carol. The rights to her first novel, Strangers on a Train, published in 1950, were immediately secured by Alfred Hitchcock, who released the classic film of the same name in 1951. She had her own group of underground Manhattan friends, all closeted lesbian “creatives,” including the remarkable photographer Berenice Abbott and the writer Djuna Barnes (doomy, melodramatic Nightwood, 1936).
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Evaristo, winner of the 2019 Booker Prize for this title, is the first black woman to receive this highest literary honor in the English language. She compels the reader to accommodate and adjust, and the rewards for this tiny bit of mental labor are extraordinary. As she creates a space for immigrants and the children of immigrants to tell their stories, Evaristo explores a range of topics both contemporary and timeless. There is room for everyone to find a home in this extraordinary novel. Beautiful and necessary. — Kirkus Reviews. Available to check out as a book club set!
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Cynical August starts to believe in the impossible when he meets Jane on the subway, a mysterious punk rocker she forms a crush on, who is literally displaced in time from the 1970s and is trying to find her way back. McQuiston’s joyful sophomore romp mixes all the elements that made “Red, White & Royal Blue” so outstanding—quirky characters, coming-of-age confusion, laugh-out-loud narration, and hilarious pop-cultural references (“Bella Swan, eat your horny little Mormon heart out”)—into something totally its own.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, this novel about a resilient and courageous woman transformed by the friendship of two remarkable women has become a Broadway show and a cultural phenomenon. Check out the book or the feature film.
Bessie (DVD) starring Queen Latifah. Bessie Smith, known as the “Empress of the Blues,” was a bold, supremely confident artist who sang with breathtaking emotional intensity on songs such as “Down Hearted Blues,” “Empty Bed Blues,” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” — Britannica. While you’re at it, check out other materials featuring this Tennessee native.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Set in El Paso, Texas in the 80s, the novel follows two Mexican-American teenagers, their friendship, and their struggles with racial and ethnic identity, sexuality, and family relationships. A gem of a coming-of-age YA story.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth. In the early 1990s, when gay teenager Cameron Post rebels against her conservative Montana ranch town and her family decides she needs to change her ways, she is sent to a gay conversion therapy center. Check out the book or the feature film.
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Emezi’s debut novel incorporates Igbo cosmology into her semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel about a young woman, Ada, who must contend with a multitude of identities living within her as she navigates the world—first in Nigeria and later as an immigrant in the United States. Exploring the spaces between gender, culture, and existence, Emezi writes of identities that do not fit neatly into a single category.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
A Vietnamese-American poet’s debut mines his extraordinary family story with passion and beauty. The novel also draws on elements of his life, to tell the coming-of-age story of Little Dog, the son of Vietnamese immigrant parents in the US.
When David meets the sensual Giovanni in a bohemian bar, he is swept into a passionate love affair. But his girlfriend’s return to Paris destroys everything. Unable to admit to the truth, David pretends the liaison never happened – while Giovanni’s life descends into tragedy.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Describes the funny, poignant adventures of a young girl’s adolescence. Jeanette is a bright and rebellious orphan who is adopted into an evangelical household in the dour, industrial North of England and finds herself embroidering grim religious mottoes and shaking her little tambourine for Jesus. Jeanette’s insistence on listening to truths of her own heart and mind—and on reporting them with wit and passion—makes for an unforgettable, moving chronicle into adulthood. “Winterson’s voice, with its idiosyncratic wit and sensitivity, is one you’ve never heard before.” — Ms. Magazine
Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
Tired of being labeled white trash, Ruth Anne Boatwright–a bastard who is attached to the indomitable women in her mother’s family–longs to escape from her hometown, and especially from Daddy Glen and his mean-spirited jealousy. Allison’s remarkable country voice emerges in a first novel spiked with pungent characters ranging from the slatternly to the grotesque, and saturated with sense of place — Greenville, S.C.
A landmark coming-of-age novel that launched the career of one of this country’s most distinctive voices, Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown, remains a transformative work more than forty years after its original publication. Born out of wedlock and adopted by a poor, loving family, Molly Bolt finds the South and even bohemian New York a hostile world for a lesbian but manages to thrive and remain confident. With her startling beauty and crackling wit, Molly finds that women are drawn to her wherever she goes–and she refuses to apologize for loving them back. This literary milestone continues to resonate with its message about being true to yourself and, against the odds, living happily ever after.
Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Mrs. Threadgoode’s tale of two high-spirited women of the 1930s, Idgie and Ruth, helps Evelyn, a 1980s woman in a sad slump of middle age, to begin to rejuvenate her own life.
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger. A groundbreaking novel that tells the story of a transgender teen’s search for identity and acceptance.
HERmione by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)
A semi-autobiographical tale of Doolittle’s early 20s. She is driven to a nervous breakdown by conflicting aspects of her personality. After her relationship ends (a thinly veiled portrait of Ezra Pound) and she comes home from Bryn Mawr, Hermione goes through a painful self-reflection with a beautifully transcribed eerie, interior monologue.
Loving Eleanor by Susan Wittig Albert
When AP political reporter Lorena Hickok is assigned to cover Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1932 campaign, the two women become deeply involved. “Loving Eleanor” is a profoundly moving novel that illuminates a relationship we are seldom privileged to see, celebrating the depth and durability of women’s love.
The Magnificent Spinster : a novel by May Sarton
The fifty-year friendship of two remarkable women, Jane and Cam, is relived as Cam, in her seventies, recalls and celebrates the personality, compassion, and fulfilling career of her recently deceased friend.
The Revolution of Little Girls by Blanche McCrary Boyd
Bedeviled by fragments of her childhood dreams, Ellen embarks on a painful odyssey that leads from her Charleston youth to lesbian experiences, spiritual quests, and a reconciliation with her mother.
Crossing by Pajtim Statovci; translated from the Finnish by David Hackston
Originally born in Kosovo to Albanian parents, Statovci’s family fled to Finland to escape the violence that destroyed Yugoslavia. This novel, a finalist for the National Book Award, follows a young Albanian boy, Bujar, and his best friend as they deal with the aftermath of war, eventually leaving to find better lives in Italy. In a foreign country, however, they are forced to confront their identities in more ways than one, exploring the intersections of sexual orientation, gender identity, alienation, and migration. –BUST Magazine
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness (true) story & art by Nagata Kabi; translation, Jocelyne Allen
This gripping graphic novel about a 28-year-old Japanese woman who is struggling with her sexuality and mental health, makes even the lumpiest of her warts-and-all confessions look adorable. Winner of many awards and critical acclaim, the memoir features minimalist drawings that underscore a powerful story of struggle and self-discovery and confronting topics ranging from sex work to depression with dignity and understanding. It will strike a chord with people from anywhere, undergoing any kind of struggle.
Subjects: Lesbians — Comic books, strips, etc.
The Sacred Band: Three Hundred Theban Lovers Fighting to Save Greek Freedom by James Romm. A vivid portrait of ancient Thebes — and the saga of the greatest military corps of the age, the Theban Sacred Band, a unit composed of 150 pairs of male lovers. A spirited, informative classical history from an expert on the subject.
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein. Stein’s other writings include letters between her and Thornton Wilder. The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder Edited by Edward Burns and Ulla E. Dydo, with William Rice.
The friendship between Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder is a surprise. How did two such different writers, of different generations and with such radically opposed cultural backgrounds, become so close? As the editors succinctly explain, and the letters so eloquently prove, Wilder, 37 when he first met Stein in Chicago in 1934, was in dire need of a mentor, and Stein, sanguine at 60, was thrilled to find a new disciple, especially one as gifted and impressionable as Wilder. –Booklist
Queer Intentions: a (Personal) Journey Through LGBTQ+ Culture by Amelia Abraham
Today, the options and freedoms on offer to LGBTQ+ people living in the West are greater than ever before. But is same-sex marriage, improved media visibility and corporate endorsement all it’s cracked up to be? At what cost does this acceptance come? And who is getting left behind, particularly in parts of the world where LGBTQ+ rights aren’t so advanced? Combining intrepid journalism with her own personal experience, in “Queer Intentions,” Abraham searches for the answers to these urgent challenges, as well as the broader question of what it means to be queer right now.
Tabernacles of Clay: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Mormonism by Taylor G. Petrey
Information-packed, with a forceful thesis and jargon-free prose, this is an important contribution to Mormon studies as well as a convincing consideration of the ways religions construct and maintain frameworks. Petrey’s trenchant history takes a landmark step forward in documenting and theorizing about Latter-day Saints (LDS) teachings on gender, sexual difference, and marriage.
Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager
Short and straightforward profiles of queer figures throughout history, ranging from ancient and obscure to modern and well known. For as long as there’s been air, there’s been Queer; in acknowledgment, Prager offers 23 short biographies of individuals who changed their world and ours. Ages 12 and Up.
Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician elected to office in California, fought for civil and human rights. Elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, this charismatic and eloquent public servant was assassinated by a fellow supervisor almost a year after taking office on November 27, 1978, at age 48. Check out the books and documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk.
Art After Stonewall: 1969 – 1989, edited by Jonathan Weinberg. Explores the impact of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights movement on the art world of the period. It focuses on openly LGBTQ artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Catherine Opie, and Andy Warhol, as well as the practices of such artists as Diane Arbus, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Karen Finley in terms of their engagement with queer subcultures. –Adapted from inside front cover.
Outlaw Marriages: the Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples by Rodger Streitmatter
A selective glimpse at prominent same-sex nuptials. For more than a century before gay marriage became a hot-button political issue, same-sex unions flourished in America. In the households of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, both parties were famous. Walt Whitman, the father of free verse, had a 25-year relationship with his muse, the significantly younger railroad worker Peter Doyle. Jane Addams, the most admired woman in America in the 1900s, and who became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, had a 40-year marriage with Mary Rozet Smith, whose financial backing kept Hull House afloat.
In this gorgeous, entertaining narrative of bohemian aristocracy illustrated with lots of photos, Zinovieff gives an account of her grandparents’ unconventional relationship with her grandfather’s gay lover, examining period taboos, family secrets and cultural dynamics that shaped their shared lives. This impressively researched saga, which spans both world wars, is an effervescent account of the British upper class in the first half of the 20th century.
Behind the Mask : the Life of Vita Sackville-West by Matthew Dennison. A lively, vigorously written biography of a singular character that beckons readers urgently back to Sackville-West’s writing. A British novelist and poet known mostly for her ardor for Virginia Woolf and as a gardener at Sissinghurst later in life, she grew up an only child to her overbearing mother. Her adoration for playing dramatic roles, cross-dressing, and wearing masks tied in befittingly with Vita’s extravagant, secretive persona, and her duality of nature, male and female, that she would try to resolve in her writing.
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
A collection of essential essays and speeches written by Lorde, a woman who wrote from the particulars of her identity: Black woman, poet, activist, cancer survivor, mother, and feminist writer. This collection now considered a classic volume, of Lorde’s most influential works of non-fiction prose has had a groundbreaking impact in the development of contemporary feminist theories. –Wikipedia