A Little Life
Author Garth Greenwell has called A Little Life “great gay art” while acknowledging that “queer suffering is at [its] heart”—and this is true. There is plenty here that is difficult, and trauma is viscerally explored on the page, but this in-depth novel about four men’s friendships from college into middle age is about more than just pain—there is also the joy of friendship, of mutual care, of sharing burdens. There are broad questions about the choices we make (out of fear? or desire?), how we value ourselves (through work? or friendship?), and ultimately, how we can and do love.
Boy Erased (Movie Tie-In)
Recently adapted into a GLAAD Media Award-winning film, Garrard Conley’s memoir about his experience with conversion therapy is moving, difficult, and deeply relevant in a time when the LGBTQ+ community is fighting against renewed human rights rollbacks. Raised by a Baptist pastor in a God-fearing community in Arkansas, Conley was uncomfortable with his sexuality even before he was outed to his parents. Given an ultimatum—be shunned or cured—Conley agreed to attend a program that promised to de-gay him, but which, instead, shamed and harmed him. Conley’s journey from scared teenager to confident, forgiving adult is as mesmerizing as it is ultimately triumphant.
Confessions of the Fox
A wonder of ingenuity, deep research, and exciting adventure, Jordy Rosenberg’s debut takes a meta-fictional approach to the legendary Jack Sheppard, a notorious thief who escaped London jails four times before being hanged in 1724. Framed as a found manuscript footnoted by a trans scholar of 18th century England, Confessions of the Fox decolonizes our vision of London as a lily-white and prim city and gives us its reality instead: filth, corruption, vast economic inequality, and a diverse population full of immigrants arriving with the spread of mercantilism and early colonization. Queering the legend, Rosenberg invites us to recognize ourselves in history.
The Stonewall Reader
The Stonewall uprising is remembered as one of the turning points in LGBTQ history: on June 28, 1969, as police raided the Stonewall Inn and began arresting patrons and staff alike, those who fled outside began resisting. In The Stonewall Reader, this moment is contextualized by what came before, during, and after, including other movements, such as the fight for civil rights and anti-war protests, that made it clear change was worth striving for. With diary entries, interviews, and contemporaneous literature and news media accounts, the anthology spotlights the uprising’s activists, memorializing their strength and resistance.
Haddad’s Guapa is titled after the underground gay bar where its narrator, Rasa, experienced good times and bad. The novel takes place in an unnamed country in the Middle East over the course of 24 hours in Rasa’s life, during which he’s caught in bed with another man and his best friend is arrested at a gay cinema. The story arc involves memories of Rasa’s tumultuous life before present day, including his stint at an also-unnamed U.S. college. Haddad’s portrayal of being gay in the modern Middle East—where it’s still far from accepted in many places—is riveting.
Published during the Harlem Renaissance, Nella Larsen’s masterful short novel has only recently become a classic, and for those who haven’t yet discovered it, now’s the perfect time. It’s generally agreed that Larsen was bisexual, or at least sexually ambiguous, and her two novels reflect this—particularly Passing, in which her main characters, Irene and Clare, forge a tense, homoerotic connection despite being on different sides of a social divide. Both women are light-skinned black women; one is married to another black man, while the other is married to a racist white man who doesn’t know her racial identity. An early novel exploring intersectionality, it’s an absolute must.
Boy Meets Boy
David Levithan’s famous novel about teen love takes place in a fairytale high school of sorts: it’s progressive to the point of wishful thinking, which is part of what makes this book wonderful. We wish we’d gone to a high school where cheerleaders date drag queen football players, where the gay-straight alliance basically exists in order to help straight kids become cooler, and where teachers accept kids being gay as early as kindergarten. Within this world of acceptance, a romance between two teenagers takes place. A rom-com of a YA novel, Boy Meets Boy is poignant, quirky, and so much fun.
A Queer History of the United States
Bronski’s Stonewall Award-winning revisionist history covers a huge time frame, from the 15th century to today, and includes history that many of us have never heard of. Did you know that in the 1620s, Merrymount was founded, a place where interracial marriage, same-sex desire, and pantheism were celebrated and accepted? Or that in the 1800s, a person named Jemima Wilkinson fought for equal rights and refused to use pronouns? What about the openly lesbian Shakespearean actress in the mid-19th century? Bronski leads the reader through a history that refuses to let queerness stay invisible, proving that people have long been experiencing same-sex desires, acting on them, and understanding gender as a social construct that can be challenged.
Every June across the U.S., we celebrate Pride Month, in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots of June 1969—a series of protests outside the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village—and the tipping point for the modern LGBTQ Rights movement. June 2013 marked a huge win for LGBTQ equality when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and created a legal way for people of the same sex or gender to gain the same rights as straight couples, which was finally passed in June 2015.
We’re dedicated to celebrating Pride Month. There’s never been a better time to expand your own frame of reference, and one of the best ways to do that is through these excellent books by and/or about queer people. Every voice on this list is telling an important story.