10 books with LGBTQ+ themes to add to your reading list this Pride month
Just a few gems to add to your reading list.
With Covid going on and with the different world and social media events that are happening at the moment, these past few Prides will be different for a lot of people.
No, it certainly has not been as easy year for equality-seekers.
But, while it's important to keep fighting the bad, it's just as important to let yourself have some positive personal time too. Right now, we're feeling more like escaping from reality than ever and, as we often do, we've turned to books to help us do that.
So if you're in need of a little escapism and you want some book recommendations to whisk you off to another time and place, we've got you. Here are ten terrific books to keep you going and, in keeping with the month that's in it, we're only listing books that include LGBTQ+ themes. Enjoy.
1. All Out: The No Longer Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages by various authors, edited by Saundra Mitchell
From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain; forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene - All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods, and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.
2. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls 'father', she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie, and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker - a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually, Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.
3. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children at Miss West’s Home for Wayward Children understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world. But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. No matter the cost.
4. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
In a 1950s Paris swarming with expatriates and characterised by dangerous liaisons and hidden violence, an American finds himself unable to repress his impulses, despite his determination to live the conventional life he envisions for himself. After meeting and proposing to a young woman, he falls into a lengthy affair with an Italian bartender and is confounded and tortured by his sexual identity as he oscillates between the two.
Examining the mystery of love and passion in an intensely imagined narrative, Baldwin creates a moving and complex story of death and desire that is revelatory in its insight.
5. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Ageing and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds - revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love - Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that there's a dark side to her tale that she's been hiding from Monique.
6. Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity by C. Riley Snorton
The story of Christine Jorgensen, America’s first prominent transsexual, famously narrated trans embodiment in the postwar era. Her celebrity, however, has obscured other mid-century trans narratives - ones lived by African Americans such as Lucy Hicks Anderson and James McHarris. Their erasure from trans history masks the profound ways race has figured prominently in the construction and representation of transgender subjects. In Black on Both Sides, C. Riley Snorton identifies multiple intersections between blackness and transness from the mid-nineteenth century to present-day anti-black and anti-trans legislation and violence.
7. You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
On a hot day in Bethlehem, a 12-year-old Palestinian-American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother’s response only intensifies a sense of shame: “You exist too much,” she tells her daughter.
Told in vignettes that flash between the U.S. and the Middle East - from New York to Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine - Zaina Arafat’s debut novel traces her protagonist’s progress from blushing teen to sought-after DJ and aspiring writer.
8. You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Liz Lighty has always believed she's too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it's okay - Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.
But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz's plans come crashing down. Until she's reminded of her school's scholarship for prom king and queen. There's nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she's willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.
The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She's smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams... or make them come true?
9. Small Beauty by Jia Qing Wilson-Yang
Mei, in coping with the death of her cousin, abandons her life in the city to live in his now empty house in a small town. There she connects with his history as well as her own, learns about her aunt’s long-term secret relationship, and reflects on the trans women she left behind. She also brushes up against some local trans mysteries and gets advice from departed loved ones with a lot to say.
10. Loveless by Alice Oseman
Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush, but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic she’s sure she’ll find her person one day. As she starts university with her best friends, Pip and Jason, in a whole new town far from home, Georgia’s ready to find romance, and with her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her ‘teenage dream’ is in sight.
But when her romance plan wreaks havoc amongst her friends, Georgia ends up in her own comedy of errors, and she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her.