I remember when I finished A Little Life—it was the first time I felt like a book broke me. I’m not a crier. Like, the only thing that can make me cry when it involves either fake characters or real people I don’t know is usually when the dog dies. But I digress. A Little Life made me sob ugly tears and after I was done, I thought about the book for weeks. I was talking to a friend who is a lesbian who identifies as gender fluid and she told me that was just the tip of the iceberg. They put me on the path of incredible books by Queer authors surrounding LGBTQIA+ stories and I’m so grateful they did. These books are some of the most powerful I’ve ever read, and some of the most funny!
Here are 10 books written about Queer lives that I highly recommend:
Homie: Poems by Danez Smith
Danez Smith is an incredible voice in the Queer community. Their 2018 collection Don’t Call Us Dead was a finalist for the National Book Award and explored themes of queerness, Black love, HIV-positive status, death, life and America. Homie, which actually has two titles (read more from their Twitter) is an incredible collection about friendship, chosen family and love.
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
Are you sick of me talking about this memoir-manifesto yet? Too bad. George M. Johnson weaves a beautiful, heartbreaking and relatable story of growing up as both Queer and Black in their community. They explore everything from “Black puberty” to our relationships with our grandparents. It’s one of my favorite books of 2020, you won’t regret reading it.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
If you haven’t read anything by Ocean Vuong yet you are sorely missing out on an incredible voice in literature. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous was only released in 2019, but it’s already lauded as an LGBTQIA+ masterpiece. It’s a letter from a son to his mother that he knows she’ll never read, and covers topics including race, masculinity, addiction and poverty and how all are seen in our country.
Real Life by Brandon Taylor
Brandon Taylor, a senior editor at Electric Literature and a staff writer at Lit Hub, released his debut novel earlier this year to incredible acclaim. It follows an introverted Ph.D. candidate named Wallace, and the story unfolds in his Midwestern friendship circle, which is predominantly white and shadowed by white supremacy. Add this onto the elements of queer love and queer infatuation and you’ve got a novel that you’ll never want to end.
Sissy: A Coming-Of-Gender Story by Jacob Tobia
We’ve all read coming-of-age stories (Taylor loves them), but have you ever read a coming-of-gender story? If you enjoy the hysterical writing of authors like David Sedaris, You’ll love this memoir by Jacob Tobia. It’s a heart-wrenching, eye-opening and giggle-inducing memoir about what it’s like to grow up not sure if you’re (a) a boy, (b) a girl, (c) something in between or (d) all of the above.
Ruby-Fruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
I devoured this novel in a day! It tells the story of Molly Bolt, the adoptive daughter of a poor Southern couple who boldly forges her own path in America. 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.
The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp
“As soon as I stepped out of my mother’s womb…I realized that I had made a mistake,” Quentin Crisp declares, giving a small hint of the witty and wry approach he takes toward the life he describes with uninhibited exuberance in this classic autobiography, which is both a comic masterpiece and a unique testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Crisp not only came out as a gay man in 1931, when the slightest sign of homosexuality shocked public sensibilities, but he did so with grand and provocative flamboyance, determined to spread the message that homosexuality did not exclude him or anyone else from the human race. This is a must-read memoir by Crisp that is as uncensored and unapologetic as himself.
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
This novel is set in post-war Nigeria and tells the story of two young girls who fall in love. When the protagonist, Ijeoma, realizes she must come to terms with who she is in a society that refuses to accept her, your heart will break and swell. Ijeoma’s coming-of-age story is also the story of a country during a time of great disturbance and is utterly gripping.
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
James Baldwin was one of the two major writers who have dared write about Black gay men from a Black gay perspective. However, his fame as a racial spokesman and his insightful analyses of race relations in America tend to distract attention from the fact that he has been one of the most important Queer writers of the twentieth century. He constructed his identity through his writing, and Giovanni’s Room is a classic LGBTIA+ masterpiece.
The Price of Salt, or Carol by Patricia Highsmith
You can count the number of impactful Lesbian-centric novels in the 1950s on one hand. The Price of Salt was bold for its time in many so many ways. Instead of condemnation, it suggested that queers individuals could find friends, communities and creative work that were fulfilling and sustaining.
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