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9 LGBTQ Writers You Should Read

The curation of this content is at the discretion of the author, and not necessarily reflective of the views of Encyclopaedia Britannica or its editorial staff. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, consult individual encyclopedia entries about the topics.

Rainbow flag. Sign of diversity, inclusiveness, hope, yearning. Gay pride flag popularized by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978. Inspired by Judy Garland singing Over the Rainbow. gay rights, homosexual, gays, LGBT community

Shrewd observers and lavish prose stylists, the writers on this list deserve your readership. Their variously humane and hilarious portraits of same-sex love and lust—and the everyday lives of those who experience it—are illuminating, whether you’re gay, straight, or somewhere in between.

Patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith appears as a guest on the British late night talk and discussion television program After Dark.

Known for her impish depictions of violence and amorality in such novels as Strangers on a Train (1950) and The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955), Highsmith took a [somewhat] lighter touch in The Price of Salt (1952), a lesbian romance.

Jean Genet

Genet turned the anarchic and crude into high art. Drawing on his experiences as a prostitute and drifter, he summoned the pungent dissolution of pre-World War II Paris in Our Lady of the Flowers (1943), a tale of a cross-dresser and his colorfully deviant cohort.

Mary Renault

Renault’s ability to conjure visceral images of Ancient Greece is unparalleled. Meticulously researched and tautly plotted, books such as The Persian Boy (1972) and The Last of the Wine (1956) naturalistically depict gay love against a vivid, beautifully rendered backdrop of war and political upheaval.

James Baldwin

James Baldwin

Baldwin’s seminal novel Giovanni’s Room (1956), about a tragic love affair between a confused American man and his Italian boyfriend in Paris, unflinchingly examines the societal prejudices that kept (and continue to keep) many people from acknowledging their sexual orientations.

Alan Hollinghurst

British writer Alan Hollinghurst, 2011. (2004 Book Prize)

Hollinghurst won the Booker Prize for his 2004 novel The Line of Beauty , a chronicle of the romantic vicissitudes of a young middle-class interloper in 1980s British high society. The story contrasts ruminations on beauty with the harsh realities of Thatcherism and the AIDS crisis.

Michael Chabon

Chabon has long had a gay following due to his 1988 novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh , which features a protagonist who has both homo- and hetero- sexual encounters. Many of his later works feature gay characters, though their sexuality is ambient rather than topical.

Evelyn Waugh

English author Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) at his home in Gloucestershire, England, July 2, 1955.

The relationship between the two main characters in Brideshead Revisited , Waugh’s 1945 novel of religious crisis and upper class strife, has long been the subject of speculation. The closeness of the friendship between the two young men hints at homosexuality. Waugh’s own homosexual relationships lend credence to that interpretation.

Christopher Isherwood

Christopher Isherwood, 1966

Isherwood’s 1964 novel A Single Man follows a gay man grieving for his lover over the course of a day. The book describes with painful clarity the repressive social mores of the time and movingly depicts the complexities of his close friendship with a straight woman.

Armistead Maupin

Maupin’s effervescent novels about gay life in San Francisco, starting with Tales of the City (1978), brought to life a milieu foreign to much of the world.

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46 Must-Read Books by Queer Writers

18 LGBTQIA+ literary luminaries share their summer reading recommendations, featuring everything from ice cream to ice dancing.

novel writer gay

Whenever I see a list of “best” LGBTQ books, I always find the usual suspects: James Baldwin, Patricia Highsmith, E. M. Forster, Audre Lorde, Christopher Isherwood. That is to say, such lists regularly name the late giants, the great and gone. Give them their due respect, of course; they have paved the literary road for so many of us queer writers working today. But what of the living legends who walk among us, or the legends-in-the-making we’re keen to lift up?

To celebrate the brilliance and diversity of contemporary queer literature, here’s a very small sampling of must-read queer books by living queer authors at various stages of their careers. These books cover a range of literary forms, and their authors a breadth of genders and queer identities. They are presented in no particular order.

This is not an exhaustive list. I could go on and on tenfold—and I’m sure the folks mentioned here could, too. As such, this list, much like its authors, is a living one, and will be updated periodically with new entries and recommendations. Some recommendations will come from the listed authors themselves, calling into the space other writers who inspire and move them through their work.

Amethyst Editions Fiebre Tropical, by Julián Delgado Lopera

“You must read Fiebre Tropical by Julián Delgado Lopera!” says Andrew Sean Greer. “Written in energetic language, full of joy and anger, it’s inspiring and unputdownable.” I totally agree: the author gloriously captures the sweat and heat of Miami through their young queer protagonist Francisca, who recently immigrated from Bogotá with her family. The both-and-neither nature of Lopera’s prose, written in both English and Spanish, generates that frisson of bucking a binary familiar to those of us who revel in the liminal space between gender, sexual, racial, and national identities.

Amble Press Doubting Thomas, by Matthew Clark Davison

T Kira Madden recommends Matthew Clark Davison’s debut novel Doubting Thomas , which follows the titular Thomas, who faces the aftermath of being falsely accused of inappropriately touching a male student at the elite private school in Oregon where he teaches. What follows is an incisive critique of class, privilege, and liberal ideals: “[It’s] a phenomenal gift,” Madden says, “a complex and careful layering of the inherent intersectionality of personhood, and a testament to the transcendent possibilities of storytelling.”

Picador What Belongs to You, by Garth Greenwell

I finally picked this book up in early quarantine and was in its custody for three fevered days, unable to turn the page fast enough. Gorgeous, melancholy, and moving, with painterly prose, truly dazzling literary depictions of sexual encounters that felt complex and human and not gratuitous, and a well-earned ache throughout. A favorite, for sure. — Isaac Oliver

Come Clean, by Joshua Nguyen

Joshua Nguyen’s poetry collection Come Clean is a beautiful exploration of Asian American masculinity, family, and the many forms that sexuality can take. These poems experiment with form—Nguyen invents the ‘American lục bát’ after the traditional Vietnamese verse form; another is presented in the form of a Google Calendar—and draw from a wide range of influences, from Marie Kondo and Mitski to the domestic rhythms of laundry and the rituals of making food. Nguyen is a native of Houston currently in a doctorate program at the University of Mississippi, a queer writer on the ace spectrum, and a brilliant voice in Southern poetry. — Angela Chen

Metonymy Press Small Beauty, by Jia Qing Wilson-Yang

“Jia Qing Wilson-Yang’s Small Beauty is thoughtful, intricate, and beautiful in its scope and concerns. I think of it dearly and often,” says Bryan Washington. And as Zeyn Joukhadar describes it: “Narrated by a mixed-race trans woman returning to her cousin’s cabin in Southern Ontario after his death, it’s a luminous and moving exploration of queer and trans lives lived in rural places, the process of piecing one’s life back together in the face of grief, and the human, animal, and otherworldly forces that anchor us to life itself.”

One World Confessions of the Fox, by Jordy Rosenberg

How to describe Jordy Rosenberg’s Confessions of the Fox ? Carmen Maria Machado says, “It’s everything I want from a novel: metafictional, heartbreaking, gorgeously written, funny, sexy, and queer as fuck.” And Garrard Conley says, “It’s a novel which in its early pages offers the word ‘quim’ (eighteenth-century slang for female genitalia) and its cognates—tuzzy-muzzy, boiling Spot, monosyllable, Water-Mill—to ‘signify any loved point of entry on the body, irrespective of gender or sex.’ If that’s your bag, so to speak, then go out and get this book at once.”

Bold Type Books No Ashes in the Fire, by Darnell Moore

Darnell Moore’s No Ashes in the Fire is a thoughtful and gorgeously written memoir highlighting how important it is to love yourself because of your queerness and to see it as a path to one’s liberation. It is the kind of book I wish I had access to growing up when I used to feel alone. And sadly, with our very existence under assault, I can’t think of a better book to recommend to those wondering how to find freedom in the midst of all the cages being built around you. — Michael Arceneaux

NYU Press Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, by Samuel R. Delany

I recently re-read Samuel R. Delany’s Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, and I find it more valuable the more time goes by and the more we take for granted how much of a corporate Disneyland that New York’s 42nd Street is now, compared to the pre-gentrified nineties when queer and queer-adjacent men found casual contact and intimacy in the area’s porn theaters. Delany’s pair of essays, one personal and one theoretical, continue to provoke as much as they arouse. — Meredith Talusan

Cleis Press We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?, by Achy Obejas

In these seven stories, writer and translator Achy Obejas examines the many different ways society displaces people. Her strong-willed characters—mostly, though not exclusively queer people from across the Latinx diaspora—navigate tumultuous relationships, their sense of identity and community, addiction, grief, and living with AIDS in the early nineties. Witty, sad, and full of heart, the collection also simmers with a quiet, steady hum of rage. Perhaps that’s what sticks most with me even now, how Obejas captures the frustration and anger of hitting a stasis in one’s life, how we long for some kind of connection to break everything open, to feel alive. — Chris Gonzalez

Nightboat Books The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions, by Larry Mitchell

I got this book as a gift from a poet I was in love with in my early twenties. Part fairy tale, part manifesto, the book hinges on the titular faggots’ gleeful anti-assimilation and utter undermining of dominant patriarchal society. I read this at twenty-four and never looked back. DELIVER US FROM BABYLON!!!!!!!! — Brontez Purnell

Coffee House Press Time Is the Thing a Body Moves Through, by T Fleischmann

This is a book-long essay about art, ice, lovers, and community—told from the perspective of someone who is changing their own body, their own gender, but not with any particular destination in mind, beyond the pull to experience life fully. To communicate how gorgeous this book is, I would need to write a blurb the same length as the book itself, and probably, I would have to use the exact same words as the book in the exact same order. — Torrey Peters

Bad Girls, by Carmila Sosa Villada (translated by Kit Maude)

I’ve heard this book talked about in Latin America for two years now, where it was a bestseller. Now it’s finally translated into English: a group of travesti Sex Workers in Argentina find a child and adopt him to raise as a family—but that description doesn’t get into the magic, literal and figurative, in Villada’s ability to tell a story. She is a wise, uncommon, and bewitching storyteller. — Torrey Peters

Milk Fed, by Melissa Broder

lesbian desire + frozen yogurt = yum yum. —Samantha Irby

Atria Books Redefining Realness, by Janet Mock

Most people today know Janet Mock through her work on the hit show Pose , but I fell in love with her through her first memoir. The book follows her coming-of-age as a multiracial trans woman growing up in Honolulu, to moving to New York and landing a job at People magazine. With vivid prose that immerses you in her world, Mock offers candid, deeply-felt reflections about her experiences with her family, her friendships, her romantic life, her relationship to gender and class and privilege, and what she had to do to survive. I’m especially inspired by the care and grace with which she renders everyone in her story. There are no one-note characters here. Just as in life, the people we meet in her book are complicated, nuanced, and always beautifully human. —Edgar Gomez

On Top of Glass, by Karina Manta

I love this compassionate, beautiful memoir from ice dancer Karina Manta. It sees her navigating the pressures of her sport while coming to terms with her queer identity. Manta’s prose is at once fluid and hard-hitting, and I found myself impressed time and again with the rawness she was able to convey. I would fall and die immediately on the ice, so it was fun to watch Manta fly both in the rink and here on the page. I’m excited to see what she does next! —JP Brammer

Vintage Written on the Body, by Jeanette Winterson

When I read this book, I was in grad school, dating a man, pining after a woman, my own novel’s first stirrings in my stomach. A professor told me, "You’re someone who will always have longing within you." Winterson would be the salve. I wept as I read—for the gender-neutral narrator’s love and loss, for the realization that I was so queer, for this reflection of self, and for how badly I needed it. —Zaina Arafat

Semiotext(e) Written in Invisible Ink, by Hervé Guibert (translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman)

For the last five years, I’ve become obsessed with the work of French writer and photographer Hervé Guibert, who chronicles, in sharp and striking diary entries, the fantasies and degradations of desire, sex, family, aging, and illness. His work is addictive: hungry for bodies and haunted by death. One excellent new volume, Written in Invisible Ink , gathers short pieces—stories and fragments of fiction—in sparkling translations from Jeffrey Zuckerman, who captures Guibert’s intensity of expression, his quick turns of language, splendid and vulgar. —Richie Hofmann

Gods of Want, by K-Ming Chang

K-Ming Chang’s inspired mix of magic and realism returns in full fabulist force in this new collection of short stories, the follow-up to her critically acclaimed debut novel Bestiary . The stories are eclectic—ghost cousins haunting a living cousin, aunties kissing women at temple, a woman in a cigarette ad coming to life—and united by Chang’s fascination with the queer and quotidian in her characters’ worlds. That the author is so young and her insights so piercing speaks to not only her talents, but the value in drawing from our myths, elders, and histories.

Tin House Books Junk, by Tommy Pico

Junk is more than just poetry. It is a ride . Tommy Pico’s poetics are composed of pure kinetic energy, at once stylish and intimate, cool and warm—the lyrical equivalent of an IcyHot medical patch. Described as a book-length breakup poem in couplets, this masterwork delights in the carnal and gustatory (“Frenching with a mouthful of M&Ms dunno if I feel polluted / or into it”). To the speaker, nothing is unworthy of attention, which is to say: everything is worth something. As the third book in Pico’s Teebs trilogy, Junk is one show-stopping finalé.

Ballantine Books Here for It, by R. Eric Thomas

R. Eric Thomas is known for his comic flair. His regular column on current events in Elle made him an internet darling, and he continues to showcase his wit in his weekly newsletter, in his plays, and in TV writers’ rooms ( Dickinson, Better Things ). But his deep acuity shines bright in this debut book of essays, which cover class, faith, race, sexuality—and the intersections therein—with great deftness. There’s little order in the chaos of living, Thomas writes: “Life, of course, can quickly get complicated and human.” Here for It is queer gospel.

Headshot of Matt Ortile

Matt Ortile is the author of The Groom Will Keep His Name and the executive editor of Catapult magazine. 

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33 must-read books by LGBTQ authors, from stunning memoirs to heartwarming romance novels

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Diverse representation matters in every industry, and LGBTQ authors bring a bright and necessary collection of queer and genderqueer characters and stories to our shelves. From authentically portrayed sapphic romances to memoirs that illuminate challenging coming-of-age journeys, LGBTQ authors write stories that can help readers of any identity better understand anything from the trials faced by queer people to the unparalleled height of queer joy. 

We chose these recommendations based on queer authors we — and readers — love, from groundbreaking authors in the mid-1900s to emerging voices with stunning debuts. With a variety of genres on this list including memoirs, fantasy novels, and young adult books, you're sure to find an LGBTQ author to cherish this Pride month and beyond. 

The 33 best books by LGBTQ authors:

Fiction and poetry.

'The Verifiers' by Jane Pek

novel writer gay

Loved for the main character's unique realness, "The Verifiers" follows Claudia Lin away from her dysfunctional, high-expectations family as she's recruited to work for Veracity, an online-dating detective agency. When a client goes missing and is found dead from an apparent suicide, Claudia breaks protocol to investigate further in this fascinating new mystery read. 

'Giovanni's Room' by James Baldwin

novel writer gay

James Baldwin was an American novelist and activist whose writing proved vital during the Black and gay liberation movements of the 1950s and '60s. "Giovanni's Room" follows an American man named David who is alone in Paris while his fiancé is away on a trip. While David is determined to live a conventional life, he's drawn to an Italian bartender named Giovanni and finds himself spending the night in Giovanni's dark bedroom. Baldwin's novel is a passionate tangle of love, mortality, and sexuality, controversial when it was published and now a queer literature classic. 

'Memorial' by Bryan Washington

novel writer gay

Benson and Mike are two young men who love each other but aren't exactly sure why they're still together. When tragedy pulls them to opposite ends of the world, each sets out on their own journey of self-exploration and transforms outside of the confines of their relationship. This book is about family, vulnerability, and embracing our truest identities, beloved for its sensitive touch and multicultural lens. 

'Birthday' by Meredith Russo

novel writer gay

Meredith Russo is a trans author who shines in exploring gender identity, sexuality, poverty, and trauma in her writing. This novel follows Morgan and Eric once a year on their shared birthday, as the two are forever bonded by coming into the world on the same day, at the same time, in the same hospital. As the years pass, they're sometimes close and sometimes drift apart, the story soaring as we watch Morgan and Eric embrace and slowly become their true selves. Russo's writing captures a brutally honest and ultimately heartwarming story about exploring our identities. 

'On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous' by Ocean Vuong

novel writer gay

Little Dog writes a letter to his mother who cannot read. As he tells the story of his family's history in Vietnam to the present, unearthing factions of his identity previously kept secret, the novel demonstrates the importance of being heard. "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous" is tender and graceful, — when I read it, I felt like I was holding my breath so even an exhale would not interrupt his story. Even the prose when Little Dog expresses anger, rage, and violence is darkly eloquent and desperate to be understood. It's a beautiful novel about healing, surviving, and embracing ourselves.

'History is All You Left Me' by Adam Silvera

novel writer gay

Adam Silvera is a bestselling author who continues to stun readers with his work. This novel follows Griffin, who moved to California for college after his first love, Theo, died in a drowning accident. Though he's started seeing Jackson, Griffin never truly dealt with the traumatic events that are now haunting him. As he continues to spiral downward, Griffin struggles to cope with his secrets, his destructive choices, and his future. Griffin is a profoundly interesting character, a puzzle of a person who is trying to put himself back together. 

'The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi'

novel writer gay

In eastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to find her grown child lying on her front step, wrapped in colorful cloth, dead. The story follows the family as they try to understand someone they never fully knew. While Vivek felt disconnected from his parents, he found friendship with a close few and formed a deep relationship with his cousin, Ostia. With a rising crisis that climaxes with an act of violence, this book is one of those stories where you slowly put together the pieces as you read until suddenly, you realize how intense and emotive the plot truly is.

'Ten Steps to Nanette' by Hannah Gadsby

novel writer gay

Hannah Gadsby is an Australian comedian whose stand-up comedy special, "Nanette," was a worldwide hit. In this memoir, Gadsby reflects with a brutally honest and raw lens upon her coming-of-age journey through her sexuality, late-in-life diagnoses of autism and ADHD, and relationship with comedy through the creation and realization of "Nanette."

'How We Fight for our Lives' by Saeed Jones

novel writer gay

Saeed Jones is most well-known for his poetry collection " Prelude to Bruise " and now his memoir, which won the 2020 Stonewall Book Award/Israel Fishman Nonfiction Award. "How We Fight For Our Lives" is told in a series of vignettes depicting Saeed's personal coming-of-age story as a young, Black, gay man in the South. The stories are a powerful mix of poetry and prose that cumulate into a stunning portrait of how race, sex, queerness, power, and love clash and harmonize as we fight to become ourselves. Saeed's memoir explores the vulnerable avenues of his life and demonstrates the inspiring strength of an individual.

'Fairest' by Meredith Talusan

novel writer gay

Meredith was once a young boy with albinism from a rural village in the Philippines. As a US immigrant passing as white, she went to Harvard on an academic scholarship and discovered communities where she could explore the complexities of sexuality, gender, race, class, and her place within all of it. Talusan's memoir is a reflection of an eventful and thoughtful adolescence and young adulthood, one where she bares her struggles of navigating life in a deeply human way — a fluid construction, changing and evolving as she discovers more about herself and the world. 

'All Boys Aren't Blue' by George M. Johnson

novel writer gay

From navigating bullies to love, George M. Johnson, a prominent journalist and activist, writes about his childhood through young adulthood to paint a searingly honest portrait of the successes and setbacks experienced by Black queer boys. Johnson's memoir is both an exploration and a guide for readers who might be looking for affirmation that their identity is not only valid, but deserves to be celebrated and cherished.

'Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love' by Jonathan Van Ness

novel writer gay

Jonathan Van Ness is perhaps best known for their bubbly, positive personality on "Queer Eye," constantly encouraging self-love. Their memoir tells the story of the dark days that preceded the shining person we see today. Jonathan reveals their more personal side in this book, including years of trauma and countless secrets they've hidden from the public. Despite the hard times they've faced, their passion and positivity still radiate through their writing. If you're able to listen to the audiobook, JVN's narration adds every bit of the fun and flair for which they're loved.

'In the Dream House' by Carmen Maria Machado

novel writer gay

Carmen Maria Machado spent years trying to tell the story of her abusive same-sex relationship, finally finding the voice through chapters told through different narrative horror tropes. Addressing her religious upbringing, she notes the stereotype of physical safety within lesbian relationships while demonstrating the effects of abuse on a person's memory, reality, and voice. Where society has previously failed to acknowledge same-sex domestic and emotional abuse, Machado offers a structure with which readers are familiar and uses it to tell a challenging truth. 

'Gender Queer' by Maia Kobabe

novel writer gay

Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, is both the author and the illustrator of eir optimistic and bright graphic memoir. This is the journey of Maia's identity through eir young crushes, coming out, and navigating gender in a world built for the binary. This graphic novel began as Maia's way to explain what it meant to em to be non-binary and asexual, and evolved into a liberating story of freedom and bravery. 

'Love & Other Disasters' by Anita Kelly

novel writer gay

As a nonbinary author themselves, Anita Kelly wrote "Love & Other Disasters" for queer romance readers to find a hopeful escape. In this book, London Parker is the first openly nonbinary contestant on a popular cooking show who can't help but fall for their newly divorced and incredibly clumsy competitor, Dahlia Woodson. Though they each want to win for their own reasons, London and Dahlia's chemistry reaches far beyond the kitchen in this adorable queer romance. 

'Boy Meets Boy' by David Levithan

novel writer gay

David Levithan's books are gay teen fiction staples, and this romantic novel continues to prove why. It takes place in a world uniquely from Paul's perspective, one spinning with fascinating classmates and entertaining tales. When Paul meets Noah, he feels it's the magical "boy meets boy" scenario of which he's been dreaming — until he blows it. Juggling friendships, family, and past relationships, Paul knows everything might have to fall apart before it can be put back together, and he's ready for the journey if it means winning Noah back. "Boy Meets Boy" a heartwarming rom-com with characters we can't help but want to follow on their journeys. 

'Something to Talk About' by Meryl Wilsner

novel writer gay

When actress Jo is photographed making Emma, her assistant, laugh on the red carpet, rumors of their romance swirl and threaten both of their careers. Despite offering "no comment," the gossip grows from anonymous sources to the relentless paparazzi. Brought together over their situation, Emma and Jo find they find more happiness in each other than they thought — and the rumors might contain a hint of truth. Brought to you by Meryl Wilsner, a non-binary author, this queer romance is a slow burn as the friendship between Emma and Jo gets deeper before it develops into more. 

'Red, White, & Royal Blue' by Casey McQuiston

novel writer gay

Non-binary author Casey McQuinston's debut novel, "Red, White, & Royal Blue," garnered adoration from readers who were drawn to it for the queer and interesting characters and a swoon-worthy enemies-to-lovers romance. Alex and Henry are bitter rivals, one the First Son of the United States and the other a British prince. When photos of their rivalry reach the tabloids, their PR teams' plan to save their image of diplomacy is to stage a fake friendship between the two. But as they begin to spend more time together, their fake friendship begins to blossom into a real one — and perhaps even more. 

Young adult

'all that's left in the world' by erik j. brown.

novel writer gay

In a world left barren after a deadly pathogen wipes out most of the world's population, Andrew and Jamie manage to find and trust each other against all odds. When danger creeps closer to their shelter, they flee south and find secrets between them that could cost them everything on a journey already full of unknowns. 

'Juliet Takes a Breath' by Gabby Rivera

novel writer gay

In an empowering novel that tackles some hard perspectives on racial bias, we follow Juliet — a proud, self-proclaimed "Puerto Rican Baby Dyke" as she leaves the Bronx for an internship in Portland. After coming out to her mother is met with poor reception, Juliet looks forward to interning for her idol, feminist author Harlowe Brisbane. Though Harlowe is a hippy white woman, Juliet is hoping to explore the feminist world and her new identity as a Puerto Rican lesbian. Written by Gabby Rivera, a queer Puerto Rican author, this YA is explorative, driven by a protagonist who is searching for answers.

'You Should See Me In A Crown' by Leah Johnson

novel writer gay

This YA hit is Leah Johnson's debut novel, earning incredible accolades including a Stonewall Book Award Honor. It follows Liz Lighty, a teenage girl who believes she is "too Black and too poor" to shine in her small town, dreaming instead of attending Pennington College, playing in their renowned orchestra, and becoming a doctor. When Liz struggles to secure financial aid, she finds a solution: the scholarship granted to her school's prom king and queen. Her fear of the spotlight is overshadowed by her drive to leave her high school, which is only bearable because of the cute new girl, Mack, who is also gunning for the prom queen spot. 

'Kate in Waiting' by Becky Albertalli

novel writer gay

Becky Albertalli is a bisexual author best known for " Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda " — a popular novel about a teen coming out in high school. "Kate in Waiting" is Albertalli's latest, a totally unique story of Kate and Anderson, inseparable best friends who love theater and pining over the same unattainable boys. When one of their long-distance crushes comes to their school, very real feelings complicate their friendship. While this book is absolutely cute and full of funny banter, it's perfectly balanced with a juicy plot and highly emotional moments. 

'The Henna Wars' by Adiba Jaigirdar

novel writer gay

Adiba Jaigirdar is a queer Bangladeshi and Irish author, whose debut novel is a lovely tale of friendship. When Nishat comes out to her parents, they tell her that Muslim women simply cannot be lesbians. To further complicate her life, Nishat's (very cute) childhood friend, Flávia, is suddenly back in her life — and now her main competition in a school project to create a small business. Though Flávia isn't Muslim, she and Nishat create rival henna businesses, Flávia's quickly flourishing despite appropriating Nishat's culture. As Nishat struggles with her sexuality, running her business, and attempting to shake her crush on Flávia, readers also navigate the complex subjects of race and identity. 

'Like a Love Story' by Abdi Nasemian

novel writer gay

Abdi Nasemian is a gay Iranian-American screenwriter, producer, and author of " Like A Love Story ," a love letter to queer history that received a Stonewall Honor in 2020. It follows three teens in New York City in 1989 during the height of the AIDS crisis. Reha is an Iranian boy who knows he's gay, but is afraid to acknowledge his sexuality. Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who adores her uncle, Stephen — a gay man with AIDS who dedicates his time to AIDS activism. The third teen, Art, is out and proud but struggling to find his place — and sets out to document the AIDS crisis through photography. This is a deeply emotional and honest navigation of sexuality and coming-of-age in the '80s, beloved for each character's unique voice. 

'Light from Uncommon Stars' by Ryka Aoki

novel writer gay

Shizuka Satomi needs only to deliver one final violin prodigy soul to escape damnation when she meets Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway with incredible talent. Yet when Shizuka meets Lan Tran in a donut shop, she begins to redefine the value of a soul in this fantastical tale of fate, magic, and curses. 

'We Set the Dark on Fire' by Tehlor Kay Mejia

novel writer gay

Tehlor Key Mejia is a queer Latinx writer who is passionate about the representation of marginalized communities in literature. In her debut YA fantasy novel, "We Set the Dark on Fire," readers enter the Medio School for Girls, where young women train for one of two jobs in society: Running a man's house or raising his children — either way, protected in a life of comfort away from the uprisings of the lower class. Daniela is the school's top student, quickly approached by rebel spies after graduation, caught in a tapestry of choices with intense consequences. It's the story of former rivals-turned-girlfriends leading a revolution against a corrupt government. 

'All the Birds in the Sky' by Charlie Jane Anders

novel writer gay

In this epic mash-up of fantasy and science fiction, there resides an ancient society of witches and a hipster, tech start-up. With a backdrop of international chaos, a war wages in San Francisco. Patricia and Laurence were once childhood friends who parted ways, only to reunite as the battle between science and magic threatens to either save the world — or end it. This book is a unique amalgamation of genres — a mix of fantasy, dystopian science fiction, and magical realism all woven together by Charlie Jane Anders, a talented trans writer. 

'The House in the Cerulean Sea' by T.J. Klune

novel writer gay

"The House in the Cerulean Sea" follows 40-year-old Linus Baker, a Case Worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, as he's given a top-secret assignment to travel to a remote island where six dangerous children reside with their caretaker, Arthur. As he meets the children — including a green blob, a gnome, a transformable Pomeranian, and the literal Antichrist — he finds that the mystery and fear surrounding both them and their caretaker may be unwarranted, especially as he finds his relationship with Arthur getting closer. T.J. Klune is an asexual author who demonstrates the importance of queer representation in all kinds of stories.

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15 best books by LGBTQ+ authors in 2022, according to Goodreads

We compiled a list of Goodreads’ favorite books by LGBTQ+ authors published in the last year, from Ocean Vuong’s “Time Is a Mother” to Grant Ginder’s “Let’s Not Do That Again.”

Casey McQuiston, whose work is featured in NBC OUT’s Pride 30 , told OUT they write romantic stories with queer people in mind because they grew up in a conservative, evangelical environment — and they want readers, especially queer readers, to feel less alone. McQuiston’s books could be reaching at least 20 million LGBTQ+ adults in the U.S., according to a survey by the U.S. Census Bureau (the Human Rights Campaign wagers that number is even higher). With Pride Month in full swing, now is a great time to browse books that explore the LGBTQ+ experience — or, better yet, are written by LGBTQ+ authors.

To help you narrow down your choices, we tapped into Goodreads data about books written by LGBTQ+ authors and spanning various genres — from political family dramas to southern Gothic fables, from straightforward essays around self actualization to lyrics collections of short stories and poems — and tackling a variety of universal themes, like identity and love. Based on that data, we recommend the following books based on a combination of their reviews, average ratings and how often they landed on Goodreads members’ "want to read" lists.

‘ Young Mungo ’ by Douglas Stuart

Goodreads : 4.45-star average rating from 6,616 reviews

“ Young Mungo ” is a coming-of-age story about a fifteen year-old boy named Mungo in 1980s Glasgow, Scotland, who falls in love with another boy named James. We follow Mungo as he struggles with his identity as a gay person (and hiding it from family). The novel begins when his mother sends him on a fishing trip with two strangers she’s met at her Alcoholics Anonymous group, who promise to teach him to be more masculine. Throughout the rest of the book, we learn more about Mungo’s relationship with James and his home.

Young Mungo

Young Mungo

‘ afterparties: stories ’ by anthony veasna so.

Goodreads : 4.02-star average rating from 7,372 reviews

We highlighted “ Afterparties ” in our guide to the best books from AAPI authors — its author Anthony Veasna So posthumously won the John Leonard Prize for Best First Book. At its simplest, “Afterparties” is a collection of short stories that center on the children of Cambodian-American refugees who move to California, as characters struggle with their status as immigrants and their sexuality, as well as their fraught relationships with their families. Veasna So’s work has been described as “mindfryingly” funny by author Mary Karr, and “deeply empathetic” by his editor at Ecco, Helen Atsma.



‘ one last stop ’ by casey mcquinton.

Goodreads : 4.04-star average rating from 125,601 reviews

McQuiston, whose work was highlighted in NBC OUT’s Pride 30 , has followed up their massively popular “ Red, White & Royal Blue ” with the romantic comedy “ One Last Stop .” It’s a love story about two girls, August and Jane. There’s just one issue: Jane is “literally displaced in time from the 1970s.” (McQuiston said that she was inspired by the TV show “Outlander.”) August, a pseudo detective who just recently moved to New York City, is going to have to use her investigative skills to figure out how to get Jane home.

One Last Stop

One Last Stop

‘ under the whispering door ’ by t.j. klune.

Goodreads : 4.2-star average rating from 75,339 reviews

Like many popular fantasies told recently, T.J. Klune’s “ Under the Whispering Door ” begins with death (think of the workplace/afterlife-combo comedy, “The Good Place”). Wallace has died having not done a whole lot with his life — at least not a whole lot of good. It then becomes the job of Hugo, who helps the dead transition into the afterlife via ferry, to help Wallace come to terms with his situation. In the process, Hugo hopes to teach Wallace about all of the things he missed in life, things like love and beauty. Maybe Wallace will even become a better person because of it.

Under the Whispering Door

Under the Whispering Door

‘ time is a mother ’ by ocean vuong.

Goodreads : 4.18-star average rating from 5,132 reviews

Ocean Vuong follows his 2016 critically acclaimed poetry collection “ Night Sky With Exit Wounds ” and his 2019 bestselling novel “ On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous ” with another bestselling poetry collection called “ Time Is a Mother .” Using poetry as his vehicle, Vuong innovatively explores deep and heavy subjects like grief in response to his mother’s death, as well as the meaning of family and his own identity as a Vietnamese American in 2022.

Time Is a Mother

Time Is a Mother

‘ yerba buena: a novel ’ by nina lacour.

Goodreads : 4.07-star average rating from 2,347 reviews

“ Yerba Buena ” is Nina LaCour’s debut adult novel after writing primarily for young adults. It follows two women’s journeys: Sara, who runs away from home at sixteen to eventually become a sought-after bartender in Los Angeles, and Emilie, who struggles with her longing for the community established by her Creole grandparents against her desire for independence. The two women meet at the titular Yerba Buena, a glamorous restaurant, and the story becomes at once about love as well as finding your purpose — and forging your own path.

Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena

‘ let's not do that again: a novel ’ by grant ginder.

Goodreads : 3.77-star average rating from 1,205 reviews

If your brain has become a cesspool where only news about politics lives, give it a place to rest with this democratic comedy. Grant Ginder’s “ Let’s Not Do That Again ” is about a woman named Nancy who is running for Senate and her grown kids, who might stand in the way of her dreams — especially her daughter, Greta, who went to Paris to partake in an extremist demonstration (throwing champagne bottles through business windows, no less). Nancy and her son, Nick, have to go to Paris and find Greta before it gets worse. (To save her campaign. Or, I guess, her family.)

Let's Not Do That Again

Let's Not Do That Again

‘ you made a fool of death with your beauty: a novel ’ by akwaeke emezi.

Goodreads : 3.97-star average rating from 1,466 reviews

“ You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty ,” by Akwaeke Emezi, is a book that’s title describes its plot well: a young bi woman becomes entranced by a man five years after the love of her life’s death. Of course, it’s not quite that simple — the man that she’s taken with is actually the father of her new boyfriend. Emezi poses difficult questions through their work that should resonate with readers. Questions like, is it possible to embrace your future while honoring your grief? And how far would any of us be willing to go for another shot at true love?

You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty

You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty

‘ summer sons ’ by lee mandelo.

Goodreads : 3.83-star average rating from 4,680 reviews

“ Summer Sons ,” by Lee Mandelo, is a Southern gothic tale with a modern twist. It tells the story of Andrew and Eddie, two best friends, who do everything together — that is, until Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. Andrew then sets out on a quest to learn the truth about Eddie’s death and discovers secrets that he never knew existed, as well as a family history that’s filled with blood and death. Additionally, Andrew has a phantom to contend with, who’s only begun to show up after Eddie’s death — a phantom with bleeding wrists who wants revenge.

Summer Sons

Summer Sons

‘ the chosen and the beautiful ’ by nghi vo.

Goodreads : 3.59-star average rating from 10,253 reviews

Nghi Vo’s “ The Chosen and the Beautiful ,” which was also featured on our list of the best books from AAPI authors , is a retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “ The Great Gatsby ,” but from the point of view of Jordan Baker, who’s recast as a queer, adopted, Vietnamese socialite who’s grown up in the wealthiest and most exclusive circles in the Jazz Age. Unfortunately, privilege does not protect her from discrimination, and Jordan finds herself exoticized by her peers — and possibly discriminated against by Congress.

The Chosen and the Beautiful

The Chosen and the Beautiful

‘ happy-go-lucky ’ by david sedaris.

Goodreads : 4.29-star average rating from 750 reviews

You (should) know David Sedaris. The man wrote some of the most formative essays of my youth, some about his dysfunctional upbringing in North Carolina as a gay kid and other about his obsessive tendencies as an adult man, found in 2000’s “ Me Talk Pretty One Day ” and 2004’s “ Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim .” “ Happy-Go-Lucky ” is another collection of personal essays, this time exploring the pandemic and what he called “battle-scarred America” in the aftermath of our political and societal struggles. That said, he continues to be very funny — vacuuming his apartment twice a day and considering, through the written word, how sex workers and acupuncturists make a living in lockdown.



‘ girls can kiss now: essays ’ by jill gutowitz.

Goodreads : 4.02-star average rating from 1,466 reviews

Jill Gutowitz always brings a smile to my face on the hellsite that is Twitter dot com , and now you can read a collection of her essays — which describe the ways her life has been impacted by popular culture (from Taylor Swift to “Orange Is The New Black”) — to see what I find so charming and remarkable about her perspective. “ Girls Can Kiss Now: Essays ” examines identity, desire, self-worth and how pop culture reflects back to us what’s already there — and shines a light on the path for us to move forward.

Girls Can Kiss Now

Girls Can Kiss Now

‘ high-risk homosexual ’ by edgar gomez.

Goodreads : 4.2-star average rating from 347 reviews

Edgar Gomez’s “ High-Risk Homosexual ” is a very funny memoir that sits on my fireplace mantel with more-pages-than-is-useful earmarked — the universally accepted sign of a great book. Gomez describes his journey towards self-acceptance (the acceptance of both his queer identity, as well as his identity as a Latinx man) from Orlando to Los Angeles, where he was deemed — by a doctor, no less — to be a high-risk homosexual, the book’s title. Though he was taught to keep these important parts of himself stashed away, we watch as Gomez defies his upbringing and learns to love himself.

High-Risk Homosexual

High-Risk Homosexual

‘ conversations with people who hate me: 12 things i learned from talking to internet strangers ’ by dylan marron.

Goodreads : 4.05-star average rating from 371 reviews

Dylan Marron is an actor, writer and activist, whose award-winning podcast, “ Conversations with People Who Hate Me ,” has turned into a book with a similar — but longer — title: “ Conversations with People Who Hate Me: 12 Things I Learned from Talking to Internet Strangers .” The premise is simple: Marron flips back through years of talking with strangers who hate him on the internet for his socially progressive views — and what those conversations revealed. It serves as both a reflection of Marron’s experiences, as well as a guide for anyone hoping to have a difficult conversation with someone who feels distant to them.

Conversations with People Who Hate Me

Conversations with People Who Hate Me

‘ burn the page: a true story of torching doubts, blazing trails, and igniting change ’ by danica roem.

Goodreads : 4.26-star average rating from 73 reviews

In 2017, Danica Roem became America’s first openly trans person to be elected to US State legislature, when she was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates — and, in the process, unseated Virginia’s anti-LGBTQ incumbent Bob Marshall. In this her memoir, “ Burn the Page: A True Story of Torching Doubts, Blazing Trailers, and Igniting Change ,” Roem gets real with her readers and details how to turn the lowest points of your life into your greatest strengths. She describes how to become the author of your own destiny —how to take back the narrative that was given to you and rewrite it in your own words.

Burn the Page

Burn the Page

novel writer gay

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Justin Krajeski was formerly an associate editor for Select on NBC News. 

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For the love of books

20 Queer Authors from History Who You Need to Know

Given the scarcity of satisfactory LGBTQ representation, one might be inclined to think that LGBTQ people haven’t existed for the bulk of human history. Nothing could be further from the truth. Queer folks have been around since the dawn of time, and we aren’t going anywhere. Discrimination, violence, and oppression have contributed to the erasure of queer individuals who have been blazing the trails since before your grandparents’ grandparents were born, and here is just a small drop in the ocean of queer writers throughout history.   1. Walt Whitman (1819-1892) Image Via NPR   Walt Whitman was a American, …

rainbow bookshelf

Given the scarcity of satisfactory LGBTQ representation, one might be inclined to think that LGBTQ people haven’t existed for the bulk of human history. Nothing could be further from the truth. Queer folks have been around since the dawn of time, and we aren’t going anywhere. Discrimination, violence, and oppression have contributed to the erasure of queer individuals who have been blazing the trails since before your grandparents’ grandparents were born, and here is just a small drop in the ocean of queer writers throughout history.

1. Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Image Via NPR

Image Via NPR

Walt Whitman was a American, poet, author, essayist, and journalist. His prolific career is perhaps best remembered for his epic poems Leaves of Grass and Song of Myself. Biographers have continually debated Whitman’s sexual orientation; his poetry, particularly Leaves of Grass , which faced serious censorship after its publication, contains several homoerotic images, however others argue that this was unintentional. Whitman himself was cagey (to say the least) about the queer tones in his work. He often denied that there was any homoerotic subtext in his writing, yet those who knew him claimed that in their relationships, he was rather frank about his sexuality.

Oscar Wilde (who also appears on this list), after meeting Whitman in 1882, was adamant that Whitman was gay, and even told the activist George Cecil Ives, “I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips.” Whitman suffered from poor health later in life, and eventually passed away in 1892 of several lung-related illnesses.

2. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Image Via Telegraph

Image Via Telegraph

You knew this was coming. Oscar Wilde was an Irish novelist and poet, and is often remembered for his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray , and the drama that surrounds its publication. Dorian Gray was originally published in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, and drew such harsh criticism for its depiction of “immorality,” (one character in the novel expresses a potentially romantic infatuation for another male character) that when it was later re-published as a book, Wilde toned down the novel’s homoerotic subtext.

In 1895, Wilde became embroiled in a libel case against the Marquess of Queensberry; this case did not turn out in Wilde’s favor, and led to his arrest and conviction on charges of sodomy and gross indecency. It was during this trial that Wilde was called upon to make his famous “the love that dare not speak its name” speech, during which he said, “It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it…. The world mocks at it, and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.” After his conviction, Wilde spent two years in prison, and his final work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol , was inspired by this imprisonment. After release, Wilde spent the rest of his life in exile and died destitute in Paris in 1900 (possibly due to complications from an injury incurred while in prison).

3. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

Image Via QZ.com

Image Via QZ.com

Virginia Woolf was an English writer and poet, best known as the author of Mrs. Dalloway and A Room of One’s Own . Woolf was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, a group of prominent English literary figures, who, among other things, encouraged a liberal conception of sexuality. This encouragement may have been what allowed Woolf to feel secure enough to have a long-term relationship with poet, writer, and garden designer, Vita Sackville-West. Virginia Woolf’s queer feminist classic Orlando (which you may know from the excellent film adaptation starring Tilda Swinton) is inspired by the events of Sackville-West’s life, and Woolf’s son Nigel Nicolson said of the novel:

The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her.

Woolf struggled with her mental health her entire life, and eventually succumbed to suicide in 1941.

4. Alain Locke (1885-1954)

Image Via YouTube

Image Via YouTube

Alain Locke was an American writer, philosopher, and educator, known as the unofficial “Dean” of the Harlem Renaissance. His influence was so pervasive that Martin Luther King is quoted as saying, “We’re going to let our children know that the only philosophers that lived were not Plato and Aristotle, but W. E. B. Du Bois and Alain Locke came through the universe.”

In 1925, Locke edited The New Negro: An Interpretation , a collection of short fiction, poetry, and essays on African and African-American art and literature; this text was a major landmark in Locke’s expression of his philosophy of “The New Negro,” a belief that African-Americans must reject white standards of behavior and invest in the concept of black advancement and equality. Locke was gay, and acted as a mentor and role model to several other gay members of the Harlem Renaissance, including Countee Cullen, who appears on this list. Locke died due to heart disease in 1954.

5. Frederico García Lorca (1898-1936)

Image Via Art Sheep

Image Via Art Sheep

Frederico García Lorca was a Spanish writer, poet, and dramatist; he, along with Salvador Dalí, was a member of the Generation of ‘27, a group of influential Spanish artists (primarily poets) dedicated to avant-garde forms of expression. Some of his works include Poem of the Deep Song , Gypsy Ballads , and The Butterfly’s Evil Spell . García Lorca was gay, and due to his inclusion of homoromantic themes in his work, he was heavily censored during his lifetime—his work was generally banned in Spain until 1953.

He was a target of Spain’s Franco-era government; official reports describe García Lorca as a “socialist” and participant in “homosexual and abnormal practices.” García Lorca was shot in 1936, likely by members of a Nationalist militia. The precise identity of García Lorca’s assailants is unknown, and his body was never found.

6. Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

Image Via Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Image Via Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Langston Hughes was an American writer and poet, best known for being a leader of the Harlem Renaissance and a pioneer of jazz poetry. As a child, Hughes had a difficult relationship with his father, a relationship that inspired his story “Blessed Assurance,” which describes a young man struggling to get along with his father due to the son’s perceived effeminacy. Biographers are unsettled on the issue of Hughes’ sexuality.

Like Whitman, it is believed that he worked homoromantic subtext into many of his works, but some biographers argue that Hughes may have been asexual. However, others point out that in order to secure the support of certain churches for his activism, Hughes would have had to be very careful not to disclose his sexuality if it had been anything other than heterosexual. Hughes never married, and died in 1967 after complications from surgery for his prostate cancer. Hughes’ ashes were interred under a cosmogram at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.

7. Countee Cullen (1903-1946)

Image Via Poetry Foundation

Image Via Poetry Foundation

Like Hughes, Countee (pronounced coun-TAY) Cullen was a poet, children’s writer, novelist, and a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Unlike Hughes, Cullen was far more candid about his sexuality. Cullen was a mentee of the Harlem Renaissance’s “Dean,” Alain Locke, who guided Cullen towards queer-positive material that encouraged him to embrace his identity.

In a letter to Locke, Cullen wrote, “It opened up for me soul windows which had been closed; it threw a noble and evident light on what I had begun to believe, because of what the world believes, ignoble and unnatural.” Cullen’s career was devoted to the advancement of African-American literature and civil rights. He died in 1946 due to complications of high blood pressure, he was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

8. Michael Dillon (1915-1962)

Image Via Tranzgender

Image Via Tranzgender

Michael Dillon was a British physician and author, as well as the first man in England to undergo gender-affirming surgery (a surgery that was performed in secret by a trusted colleague). In 1946, Dillon published Self: A Study in Ethics and Endocrinology . The book is about the experience of “masculine inverts,” people we now refer to as men who were assigned female at birth.

In the book, Dillon argued for medical transition as a treatment for gender dysphoria, rather than conversion “therapy,” writing, “Where the mind cannot be made to fit the body, the body should be made to fit, approximately at any rate, to the mind.” Tragically, Dillon was publicly outed against his will, and in order to escape the undesired press, he spent the rest of his life in Buddhist communities in India, where he eventually died.

9. James Baldwin (1924-1987)

Image Via Los Angeles Times

Image Via Los Angeles Times

James Baldwin was an American novelist and prominent figure in the civil rights movement. Baldwin grew up in Harlem, and on that experience, he said, “I knew I was black, of course, but I also knew I was smart. I didn’t know how I would use my mind, or even if I could, but that was the only thing I had to use.” Frustrated by the discrimination he faced in the U.S., Baldwin emigrated to France when he was twenty-four, and spent most of his later life there.

In 1956, Baldwin published Giovanni’s Room , a novel that drew intense attention and criticism for its portrayal of homosexuality and bisexuality and is often cited as one of the most important queer novels ever written. In the 70s and 80s, Baldwin boldly and openly wrote about homosexuality and homophobia in several essays. Baldwin died of stomach cancer in France in 1987, his remains were interred in Hartsdale, New York.

10. Truman Capote (1924-1984)

Image Via Truman Capote

Image Via Truman Capote

If you love true crime writing, you owe a lot to Truman Capote, who, in 1966, published In Cold Blood , which revolutionized the form and style of crime writing. Capote is also responsible for Breakfast at Tiffany’s , Other Voices, Other Rooms , and A Christmas Memory . Capote was openly gay, and while he was never much of an active participant in the gay rights movement, the openness with which he expressed his identity in conjunction with his level of celebrity was an important milestone in queer history.

Capote was known for his sharp wit and searing humor; several years before his death, he said, “Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.” Capote died at the age of fifty-nine of liver disease and drug intoxication.

11. Yukio Mishima (1925-1970)

Image Via Medium

Image Via Medium

Yukio Mishima, widely considered to be one of the most important Japanese writers of the 20th century, was an author, poet, playwright, actor, model, and film director.  His first novel, Confessions of a Mask , is a semi-autobiographical tale of a young man who must deal with concealing his homosexuality in Imperial Japan.

Mishima was a nationalist and in 1968, he founded the Tatenokai right-wing militia, which in 1970 initiated a coup d’ėtat of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. The coup failed, and in shame, Mishima committed ritual suicide. Six years after his death, Mishima’s novel, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea , was adapted into a British film.

12. Jan Morris (1928-)

Image Via Getty Images

Image Via Getty Images 

Jan Morris is a Welsh author, best known for her travel writing, especially the Pax Britannica trilogy. For this work, she was honored with a CBE by Queen Elizabeth 1999. Morris is transgender, and in 1974, she detailed her transition in her book Conundrum , which was one of the first autobiographies to describe a person’s gender transition.

In the book, she writes about growing up and discovering her gender dysphoria as a child, saying, “Perhaps one day, when I grew up, I would be as solid as other people appeared to be; but perhaps I was meant always to be a creature of wisp or spindrift, loitering in this inconsequential way almost as though I were intangible.” Morris still writes and lives mainly in northern Wales.

13. Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965)

Image Via Sheen Magazine

Image Via Sheen Magazine

If you went to high school in the United States, you are probably familiar with Lorraine Hansberry. Hansberry is the American playwright behind A Raisin in the Sun , the very first play by a black woman to be performed on Broadway. Based on private journals and letters, as well as her enthusiastic advocacy for gay rights, it is believed that Hansberry was attracted to women.

Hansberry died of pancreatic cancer when she was only thirty-four, leaving behind a legacy of powerful activism, and throughout her life, she encouraged those on the furthest margins of society to push back against systemic oppression as hard as they can; “They must harass, debate, petition, give money to court struggles, sit-in, lie-down, strike, boycott, sing hymns, pray on steps—and shoot from their windows when the racists come cruising through their communities.”

14. Larry Kramer (1935-)

Image Via Instinct Magazine

Image Via Instinct Magazine

Larry Kramer is an American playwright and author best known for his passionate activism on behalf of AIDS victims, which most of his books and plays are written about. In 1980, he co-founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, which is now the largest private organization that works to provide assistance to people living with AIDS. Kramer became disillusioned with the pace of GMHC’s progress, and based his best-known play, The Normal Heart , on these experiences.

To counter the frustration he experienced with GMHC, Kramer helped found ACT UP, a direct action advocacy group dedicated to fighting the AIDS plague. Kramer still writes and advocates for AIDS victims, and in 2014, The Normal Heart was adapted into film by HBO.

15. Pat Parker (1944-1989)

Image Via Instinct Magazine

Image Via Lynda Koolish

Pat Parker was an American poet, activist, and writer known for her heartbreaking poetry on the experience of being a gay black woman in the U.S. From 1978-1988 she was the executive director of the Oakland Feminist Women’s Health Center, and she was also somewhat involved in the Black Panther movement. She spent her life advocating for the rights of LGBTQ people, victims of domestic violence, people of color, women, and the intersections among those groups.

One of her best known poems, Womanslaughter , is about the murder of her older sister at the hands of her husband, and the lack of justice that followed. Parker died of breast cancer in 1989; she is survived by her long-term partner, Marty Dunham, and their two daughters.

16. Angela Davis (1944-)

Image Via theGrio

Image Via theGrio

Angela Davis is and American activist, educator, and author, known for being a superstar of the Black Panther movement. In 1997, she identified herself as a lesbian in an issue of Out magazine. She is a prolific writer, and her work has taken on issues that face the black community in the United States, specifically black women. Some her works include Women, Race, & Class , Are Prisons Obsolete? , and The Meaning of Freedom: And Other Difficult Dialogues .

Davis still writes and teaches, and was recently featured in Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th . Davis’ activism and writing has mainly been oriented around using education as a method of promoting social change; “We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.”

17. Jackie Curtis (1947-1985)

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Image Via WarholSuperstars 

Jackie Curtis was an American actress, writer, and singer. She is best known for being one of Andy Warhol’s superstars, but she was also a prolific playwright, having written Glamour, Glory and Gold , Amerika Cleopatra , Femme Fatale , among others. Several notable people starred in productions of her plays, such as Robert de Niro, Harvey Fierstein, and Patti Smith.

Curtis is also one of the figures named in Lou Reed’s Take a Walk on the Wild Side . Curtis was transgender, and cast several trans actors in her plays to counter the lack of trans representation on stage. Throughout her life, Curtis struggled with drug addiction, and died of a heroin overdose in 1985 at thirty-eight years old.

18. Kate Bornstein (1948-)

Image Via Signature Reads

Image Via Signature Reads

Kate Bornstein is a gender non-conforming trans author and performance artist, who has published several queer-oriented books, including, Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens , Freaks, and Other Outlaws ,  and My New Gender Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving World Peace Through Gender Anarchy and Sex Positivity . Bornstein is still working and you can follow her excellent Twitter account at twitter.com/katebornstein.

Bornstein’s work has been primarily concerned with changing the way we understand gender, and transforming our understanding of gender as a binary system into one that acknowledges gender identities other than male and female. She is quoted as saying, “Gender is not sane. It’s not sane to call a rainbow black and white.”

19. Leslie Feinberg (1949-2014)

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Image Via Wildgender.com

Leslie Feinberg was an American author and activist. In 1993, Feinberg wrote Stone Butch Blues , a memoir about hir experience as a butch lesbian in the United States in the 1970s. Known for hir gender non-conforming expression, Feinberg adjusted hir pronouns in different contexts, noting, “I like the gender neutral pronoun “ze/hir” because it makes it impossible to hold on to gender/sex/sexuality assumptions about a person you’re about to meet or you’ve just met.” Feinberg’s work was generally oriented around the progression of gender studies discourse; hir 1996 book, Transgender Warriors , was crucial in advancing gender studies discourse in mainstream outlets.

Feinberg passed away in 2014 due to complications related to Lyme disease. Ze was survived by hir spouse, Minnie Bruce Pratt, also a writer and activist.

20. Lou Sullivan (1951-1991)

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Image Via JM Ellison

Lou Sullivan was an American writer and editor who published several resources for transgender men, both independently and as the editor of The Gateway , a San Franciscan newsletter circulated amongst the local queer community. As a gay trans man, Sullivan was met with obstacles to his transition, for at the time he was seeking medical attention, heterosexuality was a criterion for recognition of medical necessity for transition. This put Sullivan on the path of lobbying the American Psychiatric Association and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health to remove the orientation requirement, so that all transgender Americans could have access to life-saving dysphoria treatment regardless of sexual orientation.

Sullivan was diagnosed with HIV in 1980, and later passed away from AIDS-related complications in 1991. Known for his grim and often brutal sense of humor, Sullivan once wrote, “I took a certain pleasure in informing the gender clinic that even though their program told me I could not live as a Gay man, it looks like I’m going to die like one.”  

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How Writing a Novel Helped Me Say Gay

Jules ohman on the truths that her fiction uncovered.

In an early draft of my novel, two 18-year-old girls who had once been close friends have a dramatic falling out on a Portland rooftop. As I wrote the scene, in which one of them demands the protagonist say something, do something , while they’re both looking out at the shining Willamette River, on the very edge of whatever’s coming, I kept asking myself—staring at my laptop screen—why was she mad? What wasn’t the protagonist doing? I couldn’t make the emotional arc of the chapter make sense. I didn’t know what was missing.

I was 22 and had just started grad school. I was growing out a ( very gay) buzzcut but had been in a straight long-term relationship since I was a teenager. I’d had silent, longing crushes on queer friends in high school and college, but I didn’t have a label for what that feeling meant.

No adult around me had ever said “gay” at all, even in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, where I grew up. When I was a kid, I was drawn to books written by queer writers, but no one ever pointed that out to me, and for years, I’d written short stories about queer characters without ever calling them that or use the word to describe myself. I’d grown up in the 90s and aughts, when “Don’t Say Gay” was, for the most part, a nationwide agreement, and now that I was an adult, I couldn’t say it either. I couldn’t even think it.

Somewhere in that chapter it came to me. They liked each other, but only one of them had the words for it. Their relationship was intimate in a specific way, but to one of them, it was undefined; the protagonist couldn’t see that her friend was in love with her. She didn’t know what it felt like. She couldn’t even imagine it. It mirrored my own experience as a teenager without me being able to put a finger on it. Despite all the longing, I was always on the side of the crush where I didn’t quite know what was going on, where I feared any defining of it. Like the protagonist, I was unable to move forward, make a move, say it. Often, all it would have taken was saying it. But I couldn’t, and so nothing happened.

When it came time to workshop the chapter, I realized two things: other people would read this, and I didn’t care. I could describe queerness in fiction, write scenes full of a thousand gay things, and not feel like it was about me or my identity or what that meant. It was fiction!

Grad school was full of out queer writers, and my friends there became the first people to see me clearly and in context, even before I was able to. From the beginning, everyone just assumed I was queer; at our first gathering, a picnic where queer people were the majority, I was growing out the buzzcut and wearing a well-loved Horses t-shirt with androgynous icon Patti Smith slinging a suit jacket over her shoulder. I was self-conscious, but secretly pleased to be noticed in this way, by this community. I’d always paid more attention to my identity as a writer, but not as a person, and didn’t recognize what all that silence had done to me. Even when I was in a community that felt relatively safe, it took time to overcome years of not-naming.

For two years, I workshopped the novel, but I was also workshopping myself. I wrote a scene where the protagonist kissed the girl. I wrote a chapter where they slept together. Then, I did those things in real life, too. It was easier to do it first in fiction, and then in life; it was safer to describe it in detail before attempting to do it myself. I was writing myself an emotional blueprint, pacing the story at a safe speed. On the page, I could avoid labels altogether—instead, I could describe bodies, feelings, relationships.

I finished a draft of the book, but it was nowhere near done. When my agent regularly gave me notes like, “But how does she feel here? You’re avoiding saying something important,” I wanted to tell him, I don’t know! I don’t even know what I’m avoiding ! Those feelings had been so buried that I didn’t even know where to begin digging until I was being pressed in the margins to explicitly think about it. But eventually, I started to. I had to, for the sake of the novel. For myself.

Fiction also gave me more nuance to describe what my gender felt like in an embodied way. My gender had always been queer, masculine of center, and as my protagonist grappled with how her androgynous body could move through the world, I grew more comfortable with that myself. I’d always drifted in and out of the men’s section—a zone that felt magnetic but taboo—and eventually, I stopped drifting out of it. I let myself pick out men’s jeans with deep pockets, t-shirts, and sweaters without any flare, and lace up boots with no high heel. The last dress I ever wore was to my college graduation, one my mom, in trying to get me to wear it, described as “as not-a-dress as a dress can get.” Even a not-a-dress dress felt terrible.

From then on, I wore button downs, or suits. I grew my hair out, cut it off to a crew cut, grew it out again. For years, when I’d asked for a short haircut, hairstylists didn’t know what to do with me and I was too embarrassed to describe to them what I wanted, which resulted in a lot of pixie cuts whose long, femininizing pieces I later cut off with craft scissors in the bathroom of my apartment. But when I moved back to Portland, I could ask for something as specific as a butch bob, and the stylists knew what I meant. I wrote my protagonist reaching a sense of peace with the ambiguity of her gender, and then I did too. I wrote my protagonist falling in love with a musician, and then I did too.

Over time, my protagonist’s love interest became more like my girlfriend, now wife, not the other way around: the thick calluses on her fingers from playing guitar, the openness she has toward the world, our ease together. The queer community in the book became more like my own community: their jokes and taste in music, their endless kindnesses.

Finally, I had reached a place where I was living it first and writing it second.

The same year I started writing my novel, I began teaching creative writing to teenagers. I was only a few years away from high school myself, and it felt radical to teach the poems and short stories that I wished I’d been given, and to ask the students what kind of narratives they wanted to read. In the last decade, the kids I’ve worked with have become more comfortable saying who they are and asking for books that reflect their experiences. This is because students, educators, and parents have done enormous work since I last attended a public school in 2009. None of my teachers ever said gay, even in Portland, a place where I have found immense queer community as an adult, a place known for gender-affirming healthcare and LGBTQ+ rights.

Many of my friends came out in their late twenties, thirties, and forties, because we had to unlearn years of conditioning that the anti-LGBTQ+ bills currently gaining momentum in conservative legislatures are trying to codify. They are attempts to keep both kids and adults from naming who they are and therefore from being it. These bills, which assault the rights of trans kids and their families, are passing in state after state, all of them aiming to silence and erase. They are telling queer kids that they shouldn’t exist, that their stories don’t matter. They are trying to censor selfhood.

Over time, almost all the characters in my novel became queer: the protagonist’s brother, her childhood friend, her mentors, her new friends. By the time the book was done, no one was asking me how my protagonist felt anymore. It was on the page. Out in the world, I could say it and I could live it.

No one can erase queer narratives, as much as some want to. We’re writing them every day. We find ourselves anyway. But it could be—it should be—easier.


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Body Grammar by Jules Ohman is available via Vintage.

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The 25 Best Classic LGBTQ+ Novels of All Time

The best classic lgbtq+ novels.

Recently, Alan Hollinghurst said the gay novel is dead. "There was an urgency, a novelty to the whole thing," said the gay author , who won the Man Booker Prize for The Line of Beauty . "And in our culture at least those things are no longer the case." With all due respect to Hollinghurst, it is still an urgent time to write (and read) about LGBTQ+ lives. Queer people face dangerous and deadly challenges -- both in the United States and abroad -- and it falls on writers to continue to bring these stories to light.

To this end, The Advocate asked the fiction nominees of the 2019 Lambda Literary Awards to nominate the best LGBTQ+ novels of all time. Our editors then added our own selections. Spanning from the 19th century to the present day, these books demonstrate that, while much has changed for LGBTQ+ people, many struggles persist. Their words have much to offer in lessons about our history, our shared experience of being otherized, and how to address the challenges of today.

Below, see The Advocate 's ranking of the best LGBTQ+ novels ever written. Nominate your own favorites in the comments.

1. Giovanni's Room, by James Baldwin

Author Chavisa Woods is far from alone when calling Giovanni's Room "masterfully written, heartbreaking." It's a book that has resonated with so many queer people since first being published in 1956, speaking to issues of identity even now. Woods, a Lambda :Literary Award nominee for her novel Things to Do When You're Goth in the Country, says Baldwin succeeded at "blurring the lines of hero and villain and bringing the complexity of human nature into horrifying focus." Maybe that's because Baldwin said the book isn't actually about being gay. " Giovanni's Room is not really about homosexuality," said Baldwin in a 1980 interview about queer life . "It's the vehicle through which the book moves. Go Tell It on the Mountain , for example, is not about a church, and Giovanni is not really about homosexuality. It's about what happens to you if you're afraid to love anybody."

2. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

A revelation when it was published in 1982, Alice Walker's novel delves into the intersections of race, gender, family, and sexuality in Georgia circa 1930.

For all of the painful physical and sexual abuse and heartache Walker's protagonist Celie endures at the hands of Mister, the man she's forced to marry as an adolescent, and the violent, institutionalized racism she faces as a woman of color, the novel teems with hope and light. Epic in scope, the novel is, in part, a story of love between women --Celie's love for her long-lost sister Nettie and for Shug Avery, the blues singer and former lover of Mister's Celie falls for and with whom she eventually makes a home.

"An epic tale of perseverance and empowerment as well as a celebration of love in all its forms," Tailor-Made author Yolanda Wallac, said of the novel.

Of Walker's masterpiece, Long Shadows author Kate Sherwood said, "I loved how the characters found hope (and love) despite everything standing in their way."

Steven Spielberg directed the 1985 adaptation of the film that starred Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, and Oprah Winfrey and earned several Oscar nominations.

3. The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith

On the heels of her successful debut novel Strangers on a Train (with its own intimations of queerness), an encounter Patricia Highsmith had with a New Jersey socialite while working at a shopgirl at a department store became the seed for 1952's The Price of Salt. The result, which Highsmith's publisher forced her to publish under the pseudonym Claire Morgan at a time when a bold depiction of desire between women that eschewed the requisite tragic ending for those who transgressed could have tanked her career, would become that rare example of a lesbian-themed novel with what would prove to be a radically hopeful ending.

"A novel that is simultaneously of its time and timeless, and it holds the distinction of being the first of its kind to have a happy ending," Yolanda Wallace said of the novel. SJ Sindu, author of Marriage of a Thousand Lies, called it, "One of the first Anglophone works to challenge the trope of the sad/suicidal gays who die at the end, this book gave us a blueprint of what queer fiction could look like."

The Price of Salt's dizzyingly erotically charged prose also telegraphed her signature sense of an ominous "menace" (in this case, the threat of being caught or found out just as the Red Scare hit the United States). Highsmith went on to write more queer-tinged fiction, including The Talented Mr. Ripley and all of the Ripley novels to follow.

The Price of Salt , of course, became the critically acclaimed Todd Haynes-helmed 2015 film Carol ,starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

4. Orlando, by Virginia Woolf

Orlando, which Virginia Woolf wrote in tribute to friend and lover Vita Sackbville-West, is a study in gender fluidity across time and space.

The eponymous protagonist starts as a rakish young nobleman in Elizabethan England, finding favor with the queen, then falling out with her and indulging liberally in sex with a variety of women but having an intense friendship with a male poet. Later Orlando is sent on a diplomatic mission to Constantinople, where he finds he's become a woman, and the gender switch offers an opportunity for commentary on the limitations society places on women.

The book ends in 1928, with Orlando still a woman, with a husband and children but also a new sense of possibility, as this is the year women won full voting rights in England. And while the novel's action spans more than 300 years, Orlando ages only 36. A well-received 1992 film version, directed by Sally Potter, featured Tilda Swinton and Quentin Crisp.

5. Maurice, by E.M. Forster

Although the great E.M. Forster ( A Passage to India, A Room With a View, Howards End ) wrote the benchmark gay novel Maurice circa 1913, it was published posthumously in 1971.

In a lush tale of manners, position, and desire, the titular character meets and falls for his classmate Clive while at Oxford. The pair embark on a two-year affair until Clive leaves Maurice to marry a woman and live out his proscribed life as part of the landed gentry, leaving Maurice in shambles and seeking to cure his homosexuality.

But Forster's novel does not end in gay tragedy. Maurice falls in love with another man, Alec Scudder, and finally abandons his station so that they can be together. The author of Night Drop , Marshall Thornton called the novel "the original gay romance." A note found on Forster's manuscript for Maurice , which was discovered tucked in a drawer, read "Publishable, but worth it?" Ismail Merchant and James Ivory adapted the novel to the big screen in a gorgeous film starring James Wilby, Hugh Grant, and Rupert Graves.

6. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

Jeffrey Eugenides won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2002 coming-of-age story about intersex protagonist Cal Stephanides. Inspired by the 19th-century memoirs of Herculine Barbin, Middlesex incorporates elements of Greek mythology as well as Eugenides's Greek-American upbringing to tell a groundbreaking story about gender identity in the 21st century. While Middlesex has received some criticism from the intersex community -- the author does not identify as intersex, nor did he consult with those who do -- the novel is undoubtedly a landmark in queer visibility. In some literary circles, it is considered a candidate for the title of the Great American Novel.

7. The Line of Beauty, by Alan Hollinghurst

Alan Hollinghurst famously questioned the future of the gay novel this year , which is striking since he's often viewed as helping make queer books accessible to a mainstream audience. His 2004 novel broke through in a major way -- The Line of Beauty won that year's prestigious Man Booker Prize for fiction.

Hollinghurt was praised for his expert command of the English language and his flawless re-creation of upper-class British society and conservative political circles of the 1980s. Hollinghurst set his pen on the sexual hypocrisies of homophobic politicians, many of whom had their own indiscretions behind closed doors. The book follows Nick Guest, a gay graduate student unofficially adopted by the family of a schoolmate. Nick gets a sneak peek at the aristocracy, while indulging in no shortage of sex and party favors; the fun comes to a crashing halt as AIDS enters the fray. Amid all the human drama, there's an amusing and memorable cameo from the Iron Lady. "Captures a vitally important era in lovely prose" is how Night Drop 's Marshall Thornton describes Hollinghurst's most acclaimed book.

8. Rubyfruit Jungle, by Rita Mae Brown

Many queer female writers see Rita Mae Brown's 1973 coming-of-age book as an iconic work of LGBT literature: "[I love Rubyfruit Jungle ] because, well, because. I think this was the first 'lesbian' book I ever read! And devoured. And loved," writes The Year of Needy Girls' Patricia Smith. Yolanda Wallace, author of Tailor-Made, tells us, "When I was a teenager questioning my sexuality, this book provided the answers I was looking for."

Semi-autobiographical, Rubyfruit Jungle follows Molly Bolt's amorous adventures from childhood to adulthood, including a stint in swinging New York City. While Molly has sexual adventures with men, her true love is women, and Brown never shies away from describing Molly's insatiable passion for the ladies (the title perfectly captures Molly's zeal for female anatomy). Now assigned in many queer literature courses, Rubyfruit Jungle is brazen and brave; its frank discussion of lesbian sexuality can seem shocking to modern readers who imagine life in the early 1970s was less raunchy. Rubyfruit Jungle is a page-turning reminder that queer lust and queer sex are timeless.

9. Zami, by Audre Lorde

"She calls it a biomythography and leads us through a heart-wrenching account of the black lesbian experience." - SJ Sindu, Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction Winner

This 1982 autobiography by the iconic queer black poet Audre Lorde is an experience of intersectionality, in a genre of intersections. Lorde classified it as biomythography, which combines history, biography, and myth.

A fierce love letter to the strength women have given her throughout her upbringing, the book explores her challenges growing up blind in 1930s Harlem, fighting for dignity in the heat of Jim Crow, and finding a voice in the New York City lesbian bar scene.

While books like The Price of Salt show lesbians walking away from motherhood, Zami celebrates the beauty of when mothers stay through the harshest of challenges.

10. A Single Man, by Christopher Isherwood

A quietly devastating exploration of love, loneliness, and the often-crushing weight of adult responsibilities, 1962's A Single Man might just be one of Isherwood's most beloved works. The short novel -- under 200 pages -- tracks the experiences of an aging college professor in Los Angeles. Wracked with depression over the loss of his partner in a car accident, George matter-of-factly plots his suicide. But, as Isherwood demonstrates, life gets in the way. After crashing into others who are suffering as much as he is, George has a change of heart. But a last-minute twist changes everything. While Tom Ford's 2009 film adaptation conveys the styles and anxieties of the early 1960s, it doesn't exactly capture the beautiful tone of despondency created by the incomparable Isherwood.

11. The City and the Pillar, by Gore Vidal

The City and the Pillar shocked America when it was released in 1948. The queer coming-of-age novel about Jim Willard and his search for love was the first novel from a respected writer (Gore Vidal) to speak directly and sympathetically about the gay experience in an era when homosexuality was still very much taboo. The book is remembered today for this legacy as well as for various themes -- Hollywood's glass closet, being gay in the military, the poisonous effects of homophobia on society -- that still reverberate today.

12. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

The only novel by the great Oscar Wilde may not be overtly gay, but there's plenty of gay subtext there for the careful reader - about as much gay subtext as a popular author could get away with in 1891.

Dorian's friends Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton express intense admiration for his beauty, and passages that show Basil's feelings for Dorian as more clearly homoerotic were excised by an editor, according to Nicholas Frankel, who edited an edition presenting Wilde's original text in 2011.

Even the text as originally published has references to Dorian's corruption of not only young women but young men: "There was that wretched boy in the Guards who committed suicide. You were his great friend," Basil tells Dorian at one point. "There was Sir Henry Ashton, who had to leave England, with a tarnished name. You and he were inseparable." "At the Wilde trials of 1895, the opposing attorneys read aloud from 'Dorian Gray,' calling it a 'sodomitical' book," Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker in 2011. "Wilde went to prison not because he loved young men but because he flaunted that love, and 'Dorian Gray' became the chief exhibit of his shamelessness."

13. City of Night by John Rechy

City of Night , a 1963 novel by John Rechy, is a seminal piece of fiction that follows the life of a gay hustler in New York City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Through stream-of-consciousness narration, the reader gets a glimpse of queer life in mid-century America, with a long and fascinating cast of characters that includes drag performers, S&M practitioners, and sex workers. The book has inspired music from the Doors as well as a film by Gus Van Sant, My Own Private Idaho . "This epic chronicle of gay culture in the American sixties is as far-reaching as it is important, giving us a glimpse into identity and motive," affirmed SJ Sindu, the author of Marriage of a Thousand Lies .

14. Stone Butch Blues, by Leslie Feinberg

Well ahead of its time, Leslie Feinberg's 1993 Stone Butch Blues , about Jess Goldberg, a butch working-class lesbian, took massive strides in breaking down the gender binary. A story that is both hopeful in Jess's determination to forge an identity and heartrending in its depiction of violence against her for her daring to be herself, Stone Butch Blues endures as essential to the queer canon. Feinberg, whose bio reads "writer and transgender activist," would in later years become known more for activism, but the landmark novel about Jess's refusal to fit into a prescribed box for gender is arguably Feinberg's legacy.

15. Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin

Gay literature was forever changed the day Mary Ann Singleton first met her transgender landlady, Anna Madrigal, when she moved to San Francisco's 28 Barbary Lane. What began as serialized stories in the San Francisco Chronicle by writer Armistead Maupin became a 1978 novel. It was followed by a Tales of the City series of books, which chronicled decades of queer life in the Golden Gate City, including the AIDS crisis. Tales of the City was adapted in 1993 into a PBS television miniseries, which starred Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis. The pair are set to reprise their roles in an upcoming Netflix adaptation, proving the enduring power of Maupin's words.

16. A Boy’s Own Story, by Edmund White

A Boy's Own Story is comparable to another literary classic, J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye . The 1982 book by Edmund White, which begins with the first sexual encounter of a 15-year-old boy, is based on his own experiences coming to terms with his gay identity as a youth in the Midwestern United States. White would later write two additional novels, The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988) and The Farewell Symphony (1997), which follow his gay protagonist into young adulthood. Together, they form a poignant trilogy that chronicles a gay life in the latter half of the 20th century.

17. Well of Loneliness, by Radclyffe Hall

Integral to the lesbian canon (despite its being considered somewhat problematic) British writer Radclyffe Hall's 1928 novel focuses on Stephen Gordon, an upper-class lesbian who dons men's clothing and becomes a novelist who eventually becomes a part of a literary salon in Paris at a time when there were no overt laws expressly barring homosexuality. Hall's novel was groundbreaking in her introduction of the views of "sexologists" Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis, who posited that homosexuality was an inborn, unalterable trait that was considered a congenital sexual inversion that simply meant a "difference" and not a defect. The novel also stood trial on obscenity charges both in the United Kingdom where the book was deemed obscene and ordered destroyed, and in the United States, where it was eventually banned.

18. Fun Home, by Allison Bechdel

You might not expect to see a graphic novel in this list, but iconic cartoonist (and Bechdel test namesake) Alison Bechdel always takes the less traveled road. Off the success of her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, she created the deeply personal Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, which touches on her dysfunctional relationship with her father through a lesbian lens. Chronicling Bechdel's confusing childhood in rural Pennsylvania, the book took seven years to create in Bechdel's laborious artistic process, which included photographing herself in poses that are drawn into each human figure.

This queer exploration of broken family, unraveling emotions, and suicide was a New York Times best seller, and snagged nominations for the National Book Critics Circle Award and three Eisner Awards - becoming a mainstream critical and commercial success.

The book was adapted into a musical, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. When it hit Broadway in 2015, it won the Tony Award for Best Musical.

19. Death in Venice, by Thomas Mann

Some might say Death in Venice is not necessarily a gay novel, since there is no overt same-sex coupling or coitus. Others might say it's about a man with pedophilic tendencies. Then others might say it's brilliant.

German writer Thomas Mann crafted this novella based on his own experience in Venice, where he caught sight of a handsome young man who captivated him, body and soul. Is Aschenbach, the 50-something protagonist, just fixated on beautiful objects, where human beings and centuries-old buildings are of equal lure? Or is it something more lustful and disturbing? It's difficult, in 2018, to divorce the rich subject of sexual desire from the fact that it revolves around a 14-year-old boy. But the novella's legacy endures, amd it serves as an important artifact of secret desire at the turn of the 20th century.

20. Under the Udala Trees, by Chinelo Okparanta

"This lyrical book is a wonderful story with a background of a civil war and a love story between two young girls on the frontlines. Wonderful book," gay refugee activist and columnist Danny Ramadan raves about the global-minded story.

The book unpacks the emotional life of a young girl displaced by the Nigerian civil war who begins a gut-wrenching affair with a fellow refugee. These girls are from different ethnic communities, forcing them to face not only the taboos of being queer but the prejudices of surviving in a nation that is eating itself alive.

"A great recollection of everything anyone would say in Nigeria against homosexuality using the defense of religion," explains David Nnanna Ikpo, the Nigerian author of Fimisile Forever .

21. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson's first novel, published in 1985, is a semiautobiographical coming-of-age story about a girl growing up in a Pentecostal family in England's industrial Midlands region.

Winterson captures the weirdness of religious zealotry with the authority of someone who's lived in this environment, and her portrayal of the young woman's burgeoning lesbian sexuality - problematic in the Pentecostal world - rings true as well. Quirky and memorable secondary characters further enhance the novel, which made Winterson a literary star overnight, esteemed by both readers and fellow authors.

"A beautiful piece of fiction, this novel takes us through the complicated relationship between religion and LGBTQ+ identity.", says SJ Sindu, the prize-winning author of Marriage of a Thousand Lies.

22. The Hours, by Michael Cunningham

Cunningham's 1998 novel, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award, tells three parallel stories involving queer characters in different times and places.

In England in the 1920s, Virginia Woolf struggles with depression and writing Mrs. Dalloway, a novel to which Cunningham pays homage; in mid-20th-century Los Angeles, housewife Laura Brown, discontented with her life, confronts her attraction to women; and in 1990s New York City, Clarissa Vaughan, who is lesbian, plans a party for her best friend, writer Richard Brown, a gay man dying of AIDS.

Cunningham weaves their stories together seamlessly and movingly in a novel that is deservedly recognized as a modern classic.

The 2002 film adaptation, written by David Hare and directed by Stephen Daldry, received several Oscar nominations, and Nicole Kidman won Best Actress for her portrayal of Woolf. It costarred Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, and Ed Harris.

23. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara

In 2015, when the novel was published, reviewer and author Garth Greenwell declared in The Atlantic , " A Little Life : The Great Gay Novel Might Be Here." Hanya Yanagihara's story of four friends -- Jude, Malcolm, JB, and Willem -- lasts over 700 pages as you witness the evolution of friendship and love between these men who met in college. We follow them for three decades, withstanding alongside them the waves of trauma that life so often sends. The friends survive together, as described in intensely vulnerable detail. Yanagihara talked with The Guardian about friendship and hardship. "We might all have had that feeling: as a friend, what is my responsibility to save someone who doesn't want to be saved? Or tell someone to keep living when they don't want to live?" Gay men are often blindsided by A Little Life 's penetrating clarity about what binds them or drives them apart.

24. Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters's 1998 page-turner is the coming-of-age story of Nan, a Whitstable "oyster girl" (talk about a euphemism) circa 1890 who, upon taking in a show in her local theater, becomes smitten with the charismatic masher (male impersonator) Kitty. Waters's heroine follows Kitty to London, where the more experienced woman schools Nan in the ways of impersonating a dapper dandy onstage.

The pair begin performing as men together and become the toast of London's music halls while simultaneously falling in love. Heartbreak eventually ensues and Nan is left to her own defenses on the streets in the big city. She dabbles in sex work to survive before she becomes a boy-toy for a wealthy older lesbian renowned for throwing Bacchanalian gatherings of women. Finally, though, without the trappings of a male alter ego, Nan comes into her own.

The book, an immediate smash with queer women for its frank depiction of lesbian desire and of flirting with gender roles, was made into a 2002 BBC miniseries that reinvigorated interest in the novel, which won the Lambda Literary Award and earned a place on the New York Times list of notable books the year it was published.

"Love the sensuousness of it, the unapologetic portrayal of Nan--the sex scenes," said Patty Smith, author of The Year of Needy Girls.

25. Faggots, by Larry Kramer

Larry Kramer, a founder of ACT UP and the playwright of The Normal Heart , may be known for his vocal AIDS activism. But his 1978 novel, Faggots , was also a loud statement that portrayed the hedonism of gay New York City. The book features a cast of dozens of gay men, who variously engage in bathhouse orgies, use a slew of party drugs, and cavort in clubs with names like The Toilet Bowl and Fire Island. The book was condemned by numerous LGBT people upon its release for what many perceived as sex-negativity. But the ensuing AIDS crisis established Faggots as a bellwether of the storm to come.

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100 Must-Read Books by Queer Authors

There are far more than 100 books by queer authors, of course, and far more than 100 must-read books by queer authors. This list still feels lacking, partial, but it’s a start, isn’t it?

I wrestled with myself about the title of this list. Queer is both an identity in and of itself, and an umbrella term encompassing the LGBTQIA2S+ rainbow. Some people dislike the umbrella term, and some of the authors below are no longer with us to ask.

But we’ve got to start somewhere, and we’ve got to end at some point. So we’re starting with the premise that queer in this list means any author who falls on the rainbow. Be that trans, intersex, asexual, gay, or a beautiful mix of all of those.

Below I’ve included books by queer authors through the ages. I’ve divided them up into fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Many of them have written many more books than the single one represented here, and I urge you to seek them out. I hope you find below one, two, or many books to add to your TBR list. And if I’ve forgotten a queer author you love, please do add them in the comments! Book Riot is a community, after all, and we can all discover together.

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“In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted…Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.”

Edinburgh   by Alexander Chee

“Twelve-year-old Fee is a gifted Korean-American soprano in a boys’ choir in Maine whose choir director reveals himself to be a serial pedophile. Fee and his friends are forced to bear grief, shame, and pain that endure long after the director is imprisoned. Fee survives even as his friends do not, but a deep-seated horror and dread accompany him through his self-destructive college days and after, until the day he meets a beautiful young student named Warden and is forced to confront the demons of his brutal past.”

Passing   by Nella Larsen

“First published to critical acclaim in 1929, Passing firmly established Nella Larsen’s prominence among women writers of the Harlem Renaissance…

Irene Redfield, the novel’s protagonist, is a woman with an enviable life. She and her husband, Brian, a prominent physician, share a comfortable Harlem town house with their sons. Her work arranging charity balls that gather Harlem’s elite creates a sense of purpose and respectability for Irene. But her hold on this world begins to slip the day she encounters Clare Kendry, a childhood friend with whom she had lost touch.”

The Hours   by Michael Cunningham

“Passionate, profound, and deeply moving, The Hours  is the story of three women: Clarissa Vaughan, who one New York morning goes about planning a party in honor of a beloved friend; Laura Brown, who in a 1950s Los Angeles suburb slowly begins to feel the constraints of a perfect family and home; and Virginia Woolf, recuperating with her husband in a London suburb, and beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway .”

The Waves   by Virginia Woolf

“In deeply poetic prose, Woolf traces the lives of six children from infancy to death who fleetingly unite around the unseen figure of a seventh child, Percival. Allusive and mysterious, The Waves yields new treasures upon each reading.”

Rubyfruit Jungle   by Rita Mae Brown

“Bawdy and moving, the ultimate word-of-mouth bestseller, Rubyfruit Jungle is about growing up a lesbian in America—and living happily ever after.”

Maurice   by E. M. Forster

“Set in the elegant Edwardian world of Cambridge undergraduate life, this story by a master novelist introduces us to Maurice Hall when he is fourteen. We follow him through public school and Cambridge, and on into his father’s firm, Hill and Hall, Stock Brokers. In a highly structured society, Maurice is a conventional young man in almost every way, “stepping into the niche that England had prepared for him”: except that his is homosexual.”

Boy Meets Boy   by David Levithan

“This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance.

When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud.”

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter   by Carson McCullers

“At [the novel’s] center is the deaf-mute John Singer, who becomes the confidant for various types of misfits in a Georgia mill town during the 1930s. Each one yearns for escape from small-town life. When Singer’s mute companion goes insane, Singer moves into the Kelly house, where Mick Kelly, the book’s heroine (loosely based on McCullers), finds solace in her music. Brilliantly attuned to the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition, and with a deft sense for racial tensions in the South, McCullers spins a haunting, unforgettable story that gives voice to the rejected, the forgotten, and the mistreated—and, through Mick Kelly, to the quiet, intensely personal search for beauty.”

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“Baldwin’s haunting and controversial second novel is his most sustained treatment of sexuality, and a classic of gay literature. In a 1950s Paris swarming with expatriates and characterized 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.”

Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite

“At a club in Missing Mile, N.C., the children of the night gather, dressed in black, looking for acceptance. Among them are Ghost, who sees what others do not, Ann, longing for love, and Jason, whose real name is Nothing, newly awakened to an ancient, deathless truth about his father, and himself.

Others are coming to Missing Mile tonight. Three beautiful, hip vagabonds—Molochai, Twig, and the seductive Zillah (whose eyes are as green as limes) are on their own lost journey; slaking their ancient thirst for blood, looking for supple young flesh.”

Push   by Sapphire

“Precious Jones, an illiterate sixteen-year-old, has up until now been invisible: invisible to the father who rapes her and the mother who batters her and to the authorities who dismiss her as just one more of Harlem’s casualties. But when Precious, pregnant with a second child by her father, meets a determined and highly radical teacher, we follow her on a journey of education and enlightenment as Precious learns not only how to write  about her life, but how to make it her own for the first time.”

What Belongs to You   by Garth Greenwell

“On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher enters a public bathroom beneath Sofia’s National Palace of Culture. There he meets Mitko, a charismatic young hustler, and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, drawn by hunger and loneliness and risk, and finds himself ensnared in a relationship in which lust leads to mutual predation, and tenderness can transform into violence. As he struggles to reconcile his longing with the anguish it creates, he’s forced to grapple with his own fraught history, the world of his southern childhood where to be queer was to be a pariah. There are unnerving similarities between his past and the foreign country he finds himself in, a country whose geography and griefs he discovers as he learns more of Mitko’s own narrative, his private history of illness, exploitation, and disease.”

The Gilda Stories   by Jewelle Gomez

“The winner of two Lambda Literary Awards (fiction and science fiction) The Gilda Stories is a very American odyssey. Escaping from slavery in the 1850s, Gilda’s longing for kinship and community grows over two hundred years. Her induction into a family of benevolent vampires takes her on an adventurous and dangerous journey full of loud laughter and subtle terror.”

Kiss of the Fur Queen   by Tomson Highway

“Born into a magical Cree world in snowy northern Manitoba, Champion and Ooneemeetoo Okimasis are all too soon torn from their family and thrust into the hostile world of a Catholic residential school. Their language is forbidden, their names are changed to Jeremiah and Gabriel, and both boys are abused by priests.

As young men, estranged from their own people and alienated from the culture imposed upon them, the Okimasis brothers fight to survive. Wherever they go, the Fur Queen—a wily, shape-shifting trickster—watches over them with a protective eye. For Jeremiah and Gabriel are destined to be artists. Through music and dance they soar.”

Not Your Sidekick   by C. B. Lee

“Welcome to Andover…where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious ‘M,’ who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.”

The Berlin Stories   by Christopher Isherwood

“First published in the 1930s, The Berlin Stories contains two astonishing related novels, The Last of Mr. Norris and Goodbye to Berlin , which are recognized today as classics of modern fiction. Isherwood magnificently captures 1931 Berlin: charming, with its avenues and cafes; marvelously grotesque, with its nightlife and dreamers; dangerous, with its vice and intrigue; powerful and seedy, with its mobs and millionaires; this is the period when Hitler was beginning his move to power. The Berlin Stories is inhabited by a wealth of characters: the unforgettable Sally Bowles, whose misadventures in the demimonde were popularized on the American stage and screen by Julie Harris in I Am A Camera and Liza Minnelli in Cabaret ; Mr. Norris, the improbable old debauchee mysteriously caught between the Nazis and the Communists; plump Fräulein Schroeder, who thinks an operation to reduce the scale of her Buste might relieve her heart palpitations; and the distinguished and doomed Jewish family, the Landauers.”

Babel-17   by Samuel R. Delaney

“ Babel-17 is all about the power of language. Humanity, which has spread throughout the universe, is involved in a war with the Invaders, who have been covertly assassinating officials and sabotaging spaceships. The only clues humanity has to go on are strange alien messages that have been intercepted in space. Poet and linguist Rydra Wong is determined to understand the language and stop the alien threat.”

Depending on the Light by Thea Hillman

“ Depending on the Light contains 64 short works of smart sophisticated sudden fiction that erupt from a core of sharp urban observations. Her language is at once insightful yet pointed, her voice clear and urgent. Gritty compassion and wry humor permeate these short short stories, and Hillman’s insatiable lust for life is everywhere evident.”

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“Danny thinks he must be the only seventeen-year-old guy in Cape Breton—in Nova Scotia, maybe—who doesn’t have his life figured out. His buddy Kierce has a rule for every occasion, and his best friend Jay has bad grades, no plans and no worries. Danny’s dad nags him about his post-high-school plans, his friends bug him about girls and a run-in with the cops means he has to get a summer job. Worst of all, he’s keeping a secret that could ruin everything.”

Here Comes the Sun   by Nicole Dennis-Benn

“Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis-Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas. At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman. As they face the impending destruction of their community, each woman fighting to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves must confront long-hidden scars. From a much-heralded new writer, Here Comes the Sun offers a dramatic glimpse into a vibrant, passionate world most outsiders see simply as paradise.”

Mr Loverman   by Bernardine Evaristo

“ Mr Loverman is a groundbreaking exploration of Britain’s older Caribbean community, which explodes cultural myths and fallacies, and shows how deep and far-reaching the consequences of prejudice and fear can be. It is also a warm-hearted, funny and life-affirming story about a character as mischievous, cheeky and downright lovable as any you’ll ever meet.”

Skim   by Jillian Tamaki

“Heartbreakingly funny, moving and vibrantly drawn, Skim is an extraordinary book—a smart and sensitive graphic novel of the highest literary and artistic quality, by and about young women.

‘Skim’ is Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a not-slim, would-be Wiccan goth who goes to a private girls’ school. When Skim’s classmate Katie Matthews is dumped by her boyfriend, who then kills himself, the entire school goes into mourning overdrive. As concerned guidance counselors provide lectures on the ‘cycle of grief,’ and the popular clique starts a new club (Girls Celebrate Life!) to bolster school spirit, Skim sinks into an ever-deepening depression.

And falling in love only makes things worse…”

The Jungle Around Us   by Anne Raeff

“While struggling with fear, danger, and displacement, the characters of The Jungle around Us form strange and powerful bonds in distant and unlikely places. A family that has escaped Vienna ends up on the edge of the Amazon, where the parents fight yellow fever and the daughter falls in love with a village boy. Two sisters learn lessons about race and war during the Columbia University riots of 1968. A young girl confronts death when her former babysitter is mysteriously murdered. In Paraguay, two adult sisters confront their loneliness while their precocious young charge faces off with a monkey. Raeff’s stories are about embracing the world though the world contains everything we fear.”

The Well of Loneliness   by Radclyffe Hall

“First published in 1928, this timeless portrayal of lesbian love is now a classic. The thinly disguised story of Hall’s own life, it was banned outright upon publication and almost ruined her literary career.”

If You Could Be Mine   by Sara Farizan

“Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light…

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?”

Confessions of a Mask   by Yukio Mishima

“ Confessions of a Mask is the story of an adolescent who must learn to live with the painful fact that he is unlike other young men. Mishima’s protagonist discovers that he is becoming a homosexual in polite, post-war Japan. To survive, he must live behind a mask of propriety.”

Juliet Takes a Breath   by Gabby Rivera

“Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole ‘Puerto Rican lesbian’ thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.

Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?”

Trumpet   by Jackie Kay

“In her starkly beautiful and wholly unexpected tale, Jackie Kay delves into the most intimate workings of the human heart and mind and offers a triumphant tale of loving deception and lasting devotion.

The death of legendary jazz trumpeter Joss Moody exposes an extraordinary secret, one that enrages his adopted son, Colman, leading him to collude with a tabloid journalist. Besieged by the press, his widow Millie flees to a remote Scottish village, where she seeks solace in memories of their marriage. The reminiscences of those who knew Joss Moody render a moving portrait of a shared life founded on an intricate lie, one that preserved a rare, unconditional love.”

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“Lilith Iyapo is in the Andes, mourning the death of her family, when war destroys Earth. Centuries later, she is resurrected—by miraculously powerful unearthly beings, the Oankali. Driven by an irresistible need to heal others, the Oankali are rescuing our dying planet by merging genetically with mankind. But Lilith and all humanity must now share the world with uncanny, unimaginably alien creatures: their own children. This is their story…”

The Dream of Doctor Bantam   by Jeanne Thornton

“Jeanne Thornton’s debut novel is a love story unlike any other, featuring Julie Thatch, a tough-as-nails, chainsmoking, wise-cracking 17-year-old Texan. Her idol, her older sister, jogs headlong into the lights of an approaching car, and dies. And Julie falls in love with a girl who both is and isn’t an echo of her older sister, a long-limbed Francophone named Patrice—who is also a devotee of the Institute of Temporal Illusions, a Church of Scientology-like cult.”

Changers Book One: Drew   by T. Cooper

“ Changers Book One: Drew opens on the eve of Ethan Miller’s freshman year of high school in a brand-new town. He’s finally sporting a haircut he doesn’t hate, has grown two inches since middle school, and can’t wait to try out for the soccer team. At last, everything is looking up in life.

Until the next morning. When Ethan awakens as a girl.

Ethan is a Changer, a little-known, ancient race of humans who live out each of their four years of high school as a different person. After graduation, Changers choose which version of themselves they will be forever—and no, they cannot go back to who they were before the changes began.”

Oola   by Brittany Newell

“ Oola is a mind-bendingly original novel about the way that—particularly in the changeable, unsteady just-post-college years—sex, privilege, desire, and creativity can bend, blur, and break. In a novel that reads like the wicked love child of American Psycho and Lolita , Brittany Newell bursts into the literary world with a narrative as twisted and fresh as it is addicting.”

Luna   by Julie Anne Peters

“Regan’s brother Liam can’t stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister’s clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change—Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam’s family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen’s struggle for self-identity and acceptance.”

Jazz Moon   by Joe Okonkwo

“On a sweltering summer night in 1925, beauties in beaded dresses mingle with hepcats in dapper suits on the streets of Harlem. The air is thick with reefer smoke, and jazz pours out of speakeasy doorways. Ben Charles and his devoted wife, Angeline, are among the locals crammed into a basement club to hear jazz and drink bootleg liquor. For aspiring poet Ben, the swirling, heady rhythms are a revelation. So is Baby Back Johnston, an ambitious trumpet player who flashes a devilish grin and blasts jazz dynamite from his horn. Ben finds himself drawn to the trumpeter—and to Paris, where Baby Back says everything is happening.

In Paris, jazz and champagne flow eternally, and blacks are welcomed as exotic celebrities, especially those from Harlem. It’s an easy life that quickly leaves Ben adrift and alone, craving solace through anonymous dalliances in the city’s decadent underground scene. From chic Parisian cafés to seedy opium dens, his odyssey will bring new love, trials, and heartache, even as echoes from the past urge him to decide where true fulfillment and inspiration lie.”

The Summer We Got Free   by Mia McKenzie

“At one time a wild young girl and a brilliant artist, Ava Delaney changes dramatically after a violent event that rocks her entire family. Once loved and respected in their community and in their church, they are ostracized by their neighbors, led by their church leader, and a seventeen-year feud between the Delaneys and the church ensues. Ava and her family are displaced from the community even as they continue to live within it, trapped inside their creaky, shadowy old house.

When a mysterious woman arrives unexpectedly for a visit, her presence stirs up the past and ghosts and other restless things begin to emerge. And something is reignited in Ava: the indifferent woman she has become begins to give way to the wild girl, and the passionate artist, she used to be. But not without a struggle that threatens her well-being and, ultimately, her life.”

Invisible Life   by E. Lynn Harris

“ Invisible Life is the story of a young man’s coming of age. Law school, girlfriends, and career choices were all part of Raymond Tyler’s life, but there were other, more terrifying issues for him to confront. Being black was tough enough, but Raymond was becoming more and more conscious of sexual feelings that he knew weren’t “right.” He was completely committed to Sela, his longtime girlfriend, but his attraction to Kelvin, whom he had met during his last year in law school, had become more than just a friendship. No matter how much he tried to suppress them, his feelings were deeply sexual.

Fleeing to New York to escape both Sela and Kelvin, Raymond finds himself more confused than ever before. New relationships—both male and female—give him enormous pleasure but keep him from finding the inner peace and lasting love he so desperately desires. The horrible illness and death of a friend force Raymond, at last, to face the truth.”

Uptown Thief   by Aya de Leon

“Marisol Rivera barely survived being abused with nowhere to turn. So there’s nothing she won’t do to keep her Lower East Side women’s health clinic open and give disadvantaged women new lives. Running an exclusive escort service for New York City’s rich and powerful 1 percent is the perfect way to bankroll her business—not to mention the perfect cover for robbing corrupt CEOs. And when times get even tougher, pulling a heist on a mega-billionaire will secure the clinic’s future—and her gorgeous crew’s—for good…”

Difficult Women   by Roxane Gay

“The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters, grown now, have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and must negotiate the marriage of one of them. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. A black engineer moves to Upper Michigan for a job and faces the malign curiosity of her colleagues and the difficulty of leaving her past behind. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.”

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“Nidali, the rebellious daughter of an Egyptian-Greek mother and a Palestinian father, narrates the story of her childhood in Kuwait, her teenage years in Egypt (to where she and her family fled the 1990 Iraqi invasion), and her family’s last flight to Texas. Nidali mixes humor with a sharp, loving portrait of an eccentric middle-class family, and this perspective keeps her buoyant through the hardships she encounters: the humiliation of going through a checkpoint on a visit to her father’s home in the West Bank; the fights with her father, who wants her to become a famous professor and stay away from boys; the end of her childhood as Iraq invades Kuwait on her thirteenth birthday; and the scare she gives her family when she runs away from home.”

Lightless   by C. A. Higgins

“Serving aboard the Ananke, an experimental military spacecraft launched by the ruthless organization that rules Earth and its solar system, computer scientist Althea has established an intense emotional bond—not with any of her crewmates, but with the ship’s electronic systems, which speak more deeply to her analytical mind than human feelings do. But when a pair of fugitive terrorists gain access to the Ananke, Althea must draw upon her heart and soul for the strength to defend her beloved ship.

While one of the saboteurs remains at large somewhere on board, his captured partner—the enigmatic Ivan—may prove to be more dangerous. The perversely fascinating criminal whose silver tongue is his most effective weapon has long evaded the authorities’ most relentless surveillance—and kept the truth about his methods and motives well hidden.

As the ship’s systems begin to malfunction and the claustrophobic atmosphere is increasingly poisoned by distrust and suspicion, it falls to Althea to penetrate the prisoner’s layers of intrigue and deception before all is lost. But when the true nature of Ivan’s mission is exposed, it will change Althea forever—if it doesn’t kill her first.”

No Other World   by Rahul Mehta

“From the author of the prize-winning collection Quarantine , an insightful, compelling debut novel set in rural America and India in the 1980s and `90s, part coming-of-age story about a gay Indian American boy, part family saga about an immigrant family’s struggles each to find a sense of belonging, identity, and hope.”

The Coffins of Little Hope   by Timothy Schaffert

“Timothy Schaffert has created his most memorable character yet in Essie, an octogenarian obituary writer for her family’s small town newspaper. When a young country girl is reported to be missing, perhaps whisked away by an itinerant aerial photographer, Essie stumbles onto the story of her life. Or, it all could be simply a hoax, or a delusion, the child and child-thief invented from the desperate imagination of a lonely, lovelorn woman. Either way, the story of the girl reaches far and wide, igniting controversy, attracting curiosity-seekers and cult worshippers from all over the country to this dying rural town. And then it is revealed that the long awaited final book of an infamous series of YA gothic novels is being secretly printed on the newspaper’s presses.”

Ode to Lata   by Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla

“Banker by day, and denizen of Los Angeles’ clubs by night, the protagonist of Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla’s first novel is navigating between more than just a day job and an active social life. In Ode to Lata, Ali has left behind a tempestuous childhood in postcolonial Kenya, the overprotective mother who raised him on a steady diet of Hindi cinema, an emotionally abusive bisexual lover, and confused memories of his father’s violent death at the hands of his mistress. Now his mother’s messages ramble on his answering machine when he wants no one but his one obsession, Richard, to call. Passionate and unflinchingly honest in its narrative, Ode to Lata scavenges the depths of one man’s misguided search for love in a world of emotionally-void encounters and tangled memories. All the while, Ali’s story is intertwined with the unraveling of his parents’ own doomed relationship and the film music of Bollywood’s eminent singer Lata Mangeshkar (Diva of Indian film music and the namesake of the book’s title). And it is this hopelessly romantic music that scores their tormented lives and goads them to pursue love through chaos and ecstasy.”

Disappearing Moon Cafe   by Sky Lee

“Sometimes funny, sometimes scandalous, always compelling, this extraordinary first novel chronicles the women of the Wong family from frontier railroad camps to modern-day Vancouver. As past sins and inborn strengths are passed on from mother to daughter to granddaughter, each generation confronts, in its own way, the same problems—isolation, racism, and the clash of cultures. Moving effortlessly between past and present, between North America and China, Sky Lee weaves fiction and historical fact into a memorable and moving picture of a people’s struggle for identity.”

The Master   by Colm Tóibín

“Beautiful and profoundly moving, The Master tells the story of Henry James, a man born into one of America’s first intellectual families who leaves his country in the late nineteenth century to live in Paris, Rome, Venice, and London among privileged artists and writers.”

Salt Fish Girl   by Larissa Lai

“At turns whimsical and wry, Salt Fish Girl intertwines the story of Nu Wa, the shape-shifter, and that of Miranda, a troubled young girl living in the walled city of Serendipity circa 2044. Miranda is haunted by traces of her mother’s glamourous cabaret career, the strange smell of durian fruit that lingers about her, and odd tokens reminiscent of Nu Wa. Could Miranda be infected by the Dreaming Disease that makes the past leak into the present?”

The Ordinary   by Jim Grimsley

“The Twil Gate links two very different realms. On one side of the portal is Senal, an advanced technological civilization of some thirty billion inhabitants, all cybernetically linked and at war with machine intelligences many light-years away. On the other side is Irion, a land of myth and legend, where the world is flat and mighty wizards once ruled.

Jedda Martele is a linguist and trader from Senal. Although fascinated by the languages and cultures of Irion, she shares her people’s assumption that Irion is backward and superstitious and no match for her homeland’s superior numbers and technology. But as the two realms march inevitably toward war, Jedda finds herself at the center of historic, unimaginable events that will challenge everything she has ever believed about the world—and herself.”

The Line of Beauty   by Alan Hollinghurst

“In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens: conservative Member of Parliament Gerald, his wealthy wife Rachel, and their two children, Toby—whom Nick had idolized at Oxford—and Catherine, highly critical of her family’s assumptions and ambitions.

As the boom years of the eighties unfold, Nick, an innocent in the world of politics and money, finds his life altered by the rising fortunes of this glamorous family. His two vividly contrasting love affairs, one with a young black clerk and one with a Lebanese millionaire, dramatize the dangers and rewards of his own private pursuit of beauty, a pursuit as compelling to Nick as the desire for power and riches among his friends.”

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“ Beyond the Pale —winner of the Lambda Literary Award—tells the stories of two Jewish women living through times of darkness and inhumanity in the early 20th century, capturing their undaunted love and courage in luminous and moving prose. The richly textured novel details Gutke Gurvich’s odyssey from her apprenticeship as a midwife in a Russian shtetl to her work in the suffrage movement in New York. Interwoven with her tale is that Chava Meyer, who was attended by Gurvich at her birth and grew up to survive the pogrom that took the lives of her parents. Throughout the book, historical background plays a large part: Jewish faith and traditions, the practice of midwifery, the horrific conditions in prerevolutionary Russia and New York sweatshops, and the determined work of labor unionists and suffragists.”

Any Other Love   by Elizabeth Barone

“From the outside, Amarie has it all: a promising teaching career, a big group of friends, and a gorgeous boyfriend. On the inside, though, her immune system is attacking her own body and slowly taking away everything she loves. The specialists she’s seen are baffled by her condition, so Amarie takes matters into her own hands and makes an appointment with a renowned rheumatologist in NYC. She could finally get the diagnosis and treatment she needs to live her life—if only she can get there.

Charlotte may dye her hair bold colors, but she’s never been brave enough to chase her lifelong dream of owning her own restaurant. When she finds out about a restauranteur convention in NYC, she’s way too chicken to go for it—until her best friend signs her up. With no excuses left, Char heads out to the city, taking the girl of her dreams with her.

Five nights under the city lights could give Amarie and Char the happily-ever-after they’ve always wanted, but a devastating diagnosis and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity could send it all crashing down.”

Food and Spirits: Stories by Beth Brant

“Most of these sensitive, engaging tales set in Canada explore the private tragedies and triumphs of Native Americans. The exception, ‘This Is History,’ offers a woman-focused account of the origins of Turtle Island (the Earth) in which Sky Woman (the moon) and her daughter/companion First Woman share the ‘naming’ tasks central to creation tales. In ‘Wild Turkeys,’ a woman visiting her hometown is shaken when a chance encounter brings back vivid memories of an abusive relationship she fled. The title story tells of 80-year-old Elijah Powless, determined to see his twin granddaughters in the ‘big city.’ Armed only with innocent charm and a bag of homemade fry bread, he travels to Detroit, making friends and allies of all whom he meets. Several of Brant’s ( The Mohawk Trail ) stories consider the need to come to terms with death: in ‘This Place,’ a medicine man whose ‘good medicine’ ranges from butter tarts and old Hank Williams songs to a snakeskin and chanting helps a gay man afflicted with AIDS find the courage to ‘see death coming and run to meet it.'”

The Color Purple   by Alice Walker

“ The Color Purple is a 1982 epistolary novel by American author Alice Walker which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. It was later adapted into a film and musical of the same name.

Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of women of color in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture.”

Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

“Woman or man? This internationally acclaimed novel looks at the world through the eyes of Jess Goldberg, a masculine girl growing up in the ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ McCarthy era and coming out as a young butch lesbian in the pre-Stonewall gay drag bars of a blue-collar town. Stone Butch Blues traces a propulsive journey, powerfully evoking history and politics while portraying an extraordinary protagonist full of longing, vulnerability, and working-class grit. This once-underground classic takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride of gender transformation and exploration and ultimately speaks to the heart of anyone who has ever suffered or gloried in being different.”

T he Gentr ification of the Mind : Witness to a Lost Imagination by Sarah Schulman

“In this gripping memoir of the AIDS years (1981–1996), Sarah Schulman recalls how much of the rebellious queer culture, cheap rents, and a vibrant downtown arts movement vanished almost overnight to be replaced by gay conservative spokespeople and mainstream consumerism. Schulman takes us back to her Lower East Side and brings it to life, filling these pages with vivid memories of her avant-garde queer friends and dramatically recreating the early years of the AIDS crisis as experienced by a political insider. Interweaving personal reminiscence with cogent analysis, Schulman details her experience as a witness to the loss of a generation’s imagination and the consequences of that loss.”

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

“In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father.

Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.”

Mind Your Own Life by Aaron Anson

“A brave and deeply personal memoir of one man’s quest to rise above the political and religious rhetoric that divides and destroys the human spirit. Anson engagingly portrays universal love and acceptance—and its impact on spirituality, sexuality, and morality.”

The Big Sea by Langston Hughes

“Langston Hughes, born in 1902, came of age early in the 1920s. In The Big Sea he recounts those memorable years in the two great playgrounds of the decade—Harlem and Paris. In Paris he was a cook and waiter in nightclubs. He knew the musicians and dancers, the drunks and dope fiends. In Harlem he was a rising young poet—at the center of the ‘Harlem Renaissance.’”

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

“A collection of fifteen essays written between 1976 and 1984 gives clear voice to Audre Lorde’s literary and philosophical personae. These essays explore and illuminate the roots of Lorde’s intellectual development and her deep-seated and longstanding concerns about ways of increasing empowerment among minority women writers and the absolute necessity to explicate the concept of difference—difference according to sex, race, and economic status. The title Sister Outsider finds its source in her poetry collection The Black Unicorn (1978). These poems and the essays in Sister Outsider stress Lorde’s oft-stated theme of continuity, particularly of the geographical and intellectual link between Dahomey, Africa, and her emerging self. “

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“This powerful memoir follows Mock’s quest for identity, from an early, unwavering conviction about her gender to a turbulent adolescence in Honolulu that saw her transitioning during the tender years of high school, self-medicating with hormones at fifteen, and flying across the world alone for sex reassignment surgery at just eighteen. With unflinching honesty, Mock uses her own experience to impart vital insight about the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of trans youth and brave girls like herself.”

The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin

“No one knew Staceyann’s mother was pregnant until a dangerously small baby was born on the floor of her grandmother’s house in Jamaica, on Christmas Day. Staceyann’s mother did not want her, and her father was not present. No one, except her grandmother, thought Staceyann would survive. It was her grandmother who nurtured and protected and provided for Staceyann and her older brother in the early years. But when the three were separated, Staceyann was thrust, alone, into an unfamiliar and dysfunctional home in Paradise, Jamaica.

Told with grace, humor, and courage, Chin plumbs tender and unsettling memories as she writes about drifting from one home to the next, coming out as a lesbian, finding the man she believes to be her father, and ultimately, discovering her voice.”

Black Lesbian in White America by Anita Cornwell

“Anita Cornwell (b. 1923) is an American lesbian feminist author. Her writings in this book are the first collection of essays by an African-American lesbian. It also includes her interview with Audre Lorde, also a black lesbian. The foreword by Becky Birtha points out that the book offers an acute political analysis of both racial and sexual oppressions.”

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

“Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir, a work of ‘autotheory’ offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language. At its center is a romance: the story of the author’s relationship with the artist Harry Dodge. This story, which includes Nelson’s account of falling in love with Dodge, who is fluidly gendered, as well as her journey to and through a pregnancy, offers a firsthand account of the complexities and joys of (queer) family-making.”

A Queer and Pleasant Danger by Kate Bornstein

“A stunningly original memoir of a nice Jewish boy who joined the Church of Scientology and left twelve years later, ultimately transitioning to a woman. A few years later, she stopped calling herself a woman and became famous as a gender outlaw.

Kate Bornstein—gender theorist, performance artist, author—is set to change lives with her compelling memoir. Wickedly funny and disarmingly honest, this is Bornstein’s most intimate book yet, encompassing her early childhood and adolescence, college at Brown, a life in the theater, three marriages and fatherhood, the Scientology hierarchy, transsexual life, LGBTQ politics, and life on the road as a sought-after speaker.”

Born Both: An Intersex Life by Hida Viloria

“My name is Hida Viloria. I was raised as a girl but discovered at a young age that my body looked different. Having endured an often turbulent home life as a kid, there were many times when I felt scared and alone, especially given my attraction to girls. But unlike most people in the first world who are born intersex—meaning they have genitals, reproductive organs, hormones, and/or chromosomal patterns that do not fit standard definitions of male or female—I grew up in the body I was born with because my parents did not have my sex characteristics surgically altered at birth…

Born Both is the story of my lifelong journey toward finding love and embracing my authentic identity in a world that insists on categorizing people into either/or, and of my decades-long fight for human rights and equality for intersex people everywhere.”

Man Alive by Thomas Page McBee

“In Man Alive , McBee asks, ‘What does it really mean to be a man?’ by focusing on two of the most impactful men in his life—the father who abused him as a child, and a mugger who threatened his life and then released him in an odd moment of mercy. Standing at the brink of the life-changing decision to transition from female to male, McBee seeks to understand these fallen icons of manhood as he cobbles together his own identity.

Man Alive engages an extraordinary personal story to tell a universal one—how we all struggle to create ourselves, and how this struggle often requires risks. Far from a titillating, transgender tell-all, Man Alive grapples with questions of legacy and forgiveness, love and violence, agency and invisibility. Written with the grace of a poet and the intensity of a thriller, McBee’s story will haunt and inspire.”

Boy Erased by Gerrard Conley

“The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality.

When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalized Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness.”

White Girls by Hilton Als

“ White Girls , Hilton Als’s first book since The Women fourteen years ago, finds one of The New Yorker ’s boldest cultural critics deftly weaving together his brilliant analyses of literature, art, and music with fearless insights on race, gender, and history. The result is an extraordinary, complex portrait of ‘white girls,’ as Als dubs them—an expansive but precise category that encompasses figures as diverse as Truman Capote and Louise Brooks, Malcolm X and Flannery O’Connor. In pieces that hairpin between critique and meditation, fiction and nonfiction, high culture and low, the theoretical and the deeply personal, Als presents a stunning portrait of a writer by way of his subjects, and an invaluable guide to the culture of our time.”

The Narrow Door by Paul Lisicky

“In The Narrow Door , Paul Lisicky creates a compelling collage of scenes and images drawn from two long-term relationships, one with a woman novelist and the other with his ex-husband, a poet. The contours of these relationships shift constantly. Denise and Paul, stretched by the demands of their writing lives, drift apart, and Paul’s romance begins to falter. And the world around them is frail: environmental catastrophes like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti, and local disturbances make an unsettling backdrop to the pressing concerns of Denise’s cancer diagnosis and Paul’s impending breakup. Lisicky’s compassionate heart and resilience seem all the stronger in the face of such searing losses. His survival—hard-won, unsentimental, authentic—proves that in turning toward loss, we embrace life.”

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“This groundbreaking, transgenre work—part detective story, part literary memoir, part imagined past—is intensely autobiographical and confessional. Proceeding sentence by sentence, city by city, and backwards in time, poet and essayist Kazim Ali details the struggle of coming of age between cultures, overcoming personal and family strictures to talk about private affairs and secrets long held. The text is comprised of sentences that alternate in time, ranging from discursive essay to memoir to prose poetry. Art, history, politics, geography, love, sexuality, writing, and religion, and the role silence plays in each, are its interwoven themes. Bright Felon is literally ‘autobiography’ because the text itself becomes a form of writing the life, revealing secrets, and then, amid the shards and fragments of experience, dealing with the aftermath of such revelations.”

I Rise: The Transformation of Toni Newman by Toni Newman

“ I Rise is the true story of Toni Newman’s transformation from an internally conflicted male to a proud, pre-operative transsexual. Born the eldest son into a strict Christian family, Toni admits knowing from her earliest days that she ‘was a different bird born in the wrong body.’ With laser-guided sincerity, curiosity, and above all, humor and compassion, Toni tells her story of being a ‘sissy boy,’ a scholarship student, a business professional, an escort, a drag queen, a NYC prostitute, an LA dominatrix, and finally, a transsexual attending law school in order to help her transsexual sisters in need. From cross-dressing and Bible Study classes in Jacksonville, North Carolina, to writing and studying while tending to the fetish fantasies of Hollywood’s A-list, I Rise is far from a tale of fitting in. It is instead a unique and mesmerizing study of finding oneself in a world where gender and beauty can be hard fought for and earned. And Toni Newman, more than anyone else I know, deserves to be proud of her identity. Through the complete loss of friends, family support, employment and shelter, Toni was never deterred from seeking the path that was right for her. When a minority community so stricken by drug abuse, sexual exploitation, explosive suicide rates, and lack of education, has a voice rise out of it as courageous and profound as Toni Newman’s, you do everything you can to make sure it’s a home run heard the world over.”

Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma by Ana Castillo

“The ‘I’ in these critical essays by novelist, poet, scholar, and activist/curandera Ana Castillo is that of the Mexic-Amerindian woman living in the United States. The essays are addressed to everyone interested in the roots of the colonized woman’s reality. Castillo introduces the term Xicanisma in a passionate call for a politically active, socially committed Chicana feminism. In ‘A Countryless Woman’,  Castillo outlines the experience of the brown woman in a racist society that recognizes race relations mostly as a black and white dilemma. Essays on the Watsonville strike, the early Chicano movement, and the roots of machismo illustrate the extent to which women still struggle against male dominance. Other essays suggest strategies for opposing the suppression of women’s spirituality and sexuality by institutionalized religion and the state. These challenging essays will be a provocative guide for those who envision a new future for women as we face a new century.”

An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin by Gad Beck

“That a Jew living in Nazi Berlin survived the Holocaust at all is surprising. That he was a homosexual and a teenage leader in the resistance and yet survived is amazing. But that he endured the ongoing horror with an open heart, with love and without vitriol, and has written about it so beautifully is truly miraculous. This is Gad Beck’s story.”

Abandon Me by Melissa Febos

“In her dazzling Abandon Me , Febos captures the intense bonds of love and the need for connection—with family, lovers, and oneself. First, her birth father, who left her with only an inheritance of addiction and Native American blood, its meaning a mystery. As Febos tentatively reconnects, she sees how both these lineages manifest in her own life, marked by compulsion and an instinct for self-erasure. Meanwhile, she remains closely tied to the sea captain who raised her, his parenting ardent but intermittent as his work took him away for months at a time. Woven throughout is the hypnotic story of an all-consuming, long-distance love affair with a woman, marked equally by worship and withdrawal. In visceral, erotic prose, Febos captures their mutual abandonment to passion and obsession—and the terror and exhilaration of losing herself in another.”

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

“Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now, for the first time, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire.

In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States , Dunbar-Ortiz adroitly challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how policy against the Indigenous peoples was colonialist and designed to seize the territories of the original inhabitants, displacing or eliminating them. And as Dunbar-Ortiz reveals, this policy was praised in popular culture, through writers like James Fenimore Cooper and Walt Whitman, and in the highest offices of government and the military. Shockingly, as the genocidal policy reached its zenith under President Andrew Jackson, its ruthlessness was best articulated by US Army general Thomas S. Jesup, who, in 1836, wrote of the Seminoles: ‘The country can be rid of them only by exterminating them.’

Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative.”

Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow

“ New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow mines the compelling poetry of the out-of-time African-American Louisiana town where he grew up—a place where slavery’s legacy felt astonishingly close, reverberating in the elders’ stories and in the near-constant wash of violence.

Blow’s attachment to his mother—a fiercely driven woman with five sons, brass knuckles in her glove box, a job plucking poultry at a nearby factory, a soon-to-be-ex husband, and a love of newspapers and learning—cannot protect him from secret abuse at the hands of an older cousin. It’s damage that triggers years of anger and searing self-questioning.

Finally, Blow escapes to a nearby state university, where he joins a black fraternity after a passage of brutal hazing, and then enters a world of racial and sexual privilege that feels like everything he’s ever needed and wanted, until he’s called upon, himself, to become the one perpetuating the shocking abuse.

A powerfully redemptive memoir that both fits the tradition of African-American storytelling from the South, and gives it an indelible new slant.”

Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry by Essex Hemphill

“ Ceremonies offers provocative commentary on highly charged topics such as Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs of African-American men, feminism among men, and AIDS in the black community.”

Walking with Ghosts by Qwo-Li Driskill

“Written from a contemporary Cherokee, Queer and mixed-race experience, these poems confront a legacy of land-theft, genocide, and forced removal, and resist ongoing attacks on both Indigenous and Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender communities. Tender, startling, confrontational and erotic, this book honors the dead and brings the survivors back home.”

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“Kay Ulanday Barrett has been bringing his unique poetry to audiences for over a decade, unpicking vital political questions around race, sickness and disability and gender, and chronicling the everydayness of life in the U.S. Empire with humor, poignancy and inimitable vitality. Now at last a generous selection of his work will be available in print. Each of these poems is a brilliant little story. Taken together, they show a master craftsman at the top of his game.”

Directed by Desire by June Jordan

“ Directed by Desire is the definitive overview of the poetry of June Jordan, considered one of the most lyrically gifted poets of the late twentieth century. Directed by Desire gathers the finest work from Jordan’s 10 volumes, as well as 70 new, never-before-published poems that she wrote while dying of breast cancer. Throughout over 600 pages readers will find intimate lyricism, elegance, fury, meditative solos, and dazzling vernacular riffs.

As Adrienne Rich writes in her introduction, June Jordan ‘wanted her readers, listeners, students, to feel their own latent power—of the word, the deed, of their own beauty and intrinsic value…She believed, and nourished the belief, that genuine, up-from-the-bottom revolution must include art, laughter, sensual pleasure, and the widest possible human referentiality.’”

I Must Be Living Twice by Eileen Myles

“ I Must Be Living Twice brings selections from the poet’s previous work together with a set of bold new poems, through which Myles continues to refine her sardonic, unapologetic, and fiercely intellectual literary voice. Steeped in the culture of New York City, Myles’s stomping grounds and the home of her most well-known work, she provides a wide-open lens into a radical life.“

Portrait of the Alcoholic by Kaveh Akbar

“In Islam prayer is not transactional, poetry is not divorced from the quotidian and portraiture is embraced only in the abstract. And yet here in Kaveh Akbar’s book, entreaty is earnest, aimed at the human and particular more often than the divine but at the same time the language and form elevate themselves to the fevered register of desperation. Yes, sure, fine, you would think that a Muslim writing about being a drunk would have to adopt unconventional approaches, but drunkenness in the Islamic literary tradition is a long and time-honored metaphor. For what? Abandonment to God, a cessation of the self—but not so here; no. Here it’s real, it’s coarse, it’s dangerous. The reason we Muslims do not pray for things is that it is similarly dangerous for one to call God’s attention onto oneself. But for Kaveh Akbar, whose very name means ‘poetry, ‘ it is a risk every poem takes with gusto. And speaking purely for myself, these poems give me life because ‘for so long every step I’ve taken / has been from one tongue to another.’ Be careful, little brother. God’s got His eye on you now.”

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

“Ocean Vuong’s first full-length collection aims straight for the perennial ‘big’—and very human—subjects of romance, family, memory, grief, war, and melancholia. None of these he allows to overwhelm his spirit or his poems, which demonstrate, through breath and cadence and unrepentant enthrallment, that a gentle palm on a chest can calm the fiercest hungers.”

Salvation on Mission Street by Cathy Arellano

“The poetry and prose in the collection explore the deep love instilled in a people for themselves and their homeland even as they battle loss in San Francisco’s Mission District.”

i be, but i ain’t by Aziza Barnes

“ i be, but i ain’t is a manual for the queered Black body in neo-bellum America. Following the character “mutt,” and resurrecting the haint Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, i be, but i ain’t is a search party hosted by this pair, both in pursuit of understanding what a Black body means in this landscape. Is it property? A nuisance comparable to a cockroach? A zombie in Richard Pryor’s suit? A sexed commodity? Traversing LA, Ghana, Mississippi and Brooklyn, i be, but i ain’t aims to contend with the armament left from unfinished wars, havens and points of no return.”

Mannish Tongues by jayy dodd

“To speak in tongues is to be possessed / overcome by your own body. This collection speaks to these charades of understanding / some things about language, something about possessions & higher powers.”

Bite Hard by Justin Chin

“The first collection by award-winning performance artist/poet Justin Chin. In Bite Hard , poet Justin Chin explores his identity as an Asian, a gay man, an artist, and a lover. He rails against both his own life experiences and society’s limitations and stereotypes with scathing humor, bare-bones honesty, and unblinking detail. Whether addressing ‘what really goes on in the kitchen of Chinese restaurants’ or a series of ex-boyfriends, all named Michael, Chin displays his remarkable emotional range and voice as a poet.

His raw, incantatory, stream-of-consciousness poems confront issues of race, desire, and loss with a compelling urgency that reflects his work as a performance artist, speaking directly to an audience. Throughout this collection, Chin showcases his ability to convey thought-provoking viewpoints on a variety of controversial subjects.”

Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror by John Ashbery

“John Ashberry won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror . Ashberry reaffirms the poetic powers that have made him such an outstanding figure in contemporary literature. This new book continues his astonishing explorations of places where no one has ever been.”

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“ Prelude to Bruise works its tempestuous mojo just under the skin, wreaking a sweet havoc and rearranging the pulse. These poems don’t dole out mercy. Mr. Jones undoubtedly dipped his pen in fierce before crafting these stanzas that rock like backslap. Straighten your skirt, children. The doors of the church are open.”

Bending the Mind Around the Dream’s Blown Fuse by Timothy Liu

“Timothy Liu is too often reduced to being a poet of sexual audacity. He is audacious, but perhaps in his baroque architecture, his fluency, his intricacy, and his unwillingness to reduce himself by dogma or theory or design. I love his growing, growling work, and his violent soft hints about the whole body politic in progressive zooms. But the permanent, complicated delight is Liu’s poetry itself: uncontrollable melancholy and music.”

This Way to the Sugar by Hieu Minh Nguyen

“This bruising collection of poems puts a blade and a microscope to nostalgia, tradition, race, apology, and sexuality, in order to find beauty in a flawed world. His work has been described as an astounding testament to the power and necessity of confession.”

Marys of the Sea  by Joanna C. Valente

“Poetry. She is not dead, but sleeping, Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke; like the sick girl of that verse, the speakers of Joanna Valente’s sharp and urgent Marys of the Sea toss and turn through a series of feverish nightmares that refract lived experiences into prophetic and wild new imaginings. Preoccupied with the consequences of mothering and not-mothering, these fifty-three poems trenchantly interrogate sexual violence and its aftermath, lingering at the site of trauma as though hanging onto the lip of an abyss. Writing becomes power, structure an act of bravery. Like an ancient civilization’s first creation myths, these poems utter light out of darkness as they order a world into being.”

Written in Water by Luis Cerunda

“While Cernuda’s verse is vivid testimony to various aspects of his biographical itinerary, it is in his prose poems that he traces more explicitly an outline of his life’s journey. Reviewing this work, Octavio Paz wrote: ‘In these memories and landscapes, in these notes toward the history of his sensibility, there is great objectivity; the poet doesn’t set out to fantasize, or to lie to himself or anyone else. He attempts only to illuminate, with an almost impersonal light, something very personal: a few moments in his life. But is it truly ours, this life we live?’”

The Rest of Love by Carl Phillips

“In The Rest of Love, his seventh book, Carl Phillips examines the conflict between belief and disbelief, and our will to believe: Aren’t we always trying, Phillips asks, to contain or to stave off facing up to, even briefly, the hard truths we’re nevertheless attracted to? Phillips’s signature terse line and syntax enact this constant tension between abandon and control; following his impeccable interior logic, ‘passionately austere’ (Rita Dove, The Washington Post Book World ), Phillips plumbs the myths we make and return to in the name of desire—physical, emotional, and spiritual.”

The Dream of Common Language by Adrienne Rich

“ The Dream of a Common Language explores the contours of a woman’s heart and mind in language for everybody—language whose plainness, laughter, questions and nobility everyone can respond to…No one is writing better or more needed verse than this.”

Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns by Andrea Gibson

“Andrea Gibson’s dynamic and energetic first book, Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns, challenges us to not only read, but to react. Hauntingly vivid, the poems march through a soldier’s lingering psychological wounds, tackle the curious questions of school children on the meaning of “hate,” and tangle with a lover’s witty and vibrant description of longing. Gibson’s poems deconstruct the current political climate through stunning imagery and careful crafting. With the same velocity, the poignant and vacillating love poems sweep the air out of the room. It’s word-induced hypoxia. Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns whispers with a bold and unforgettable internal voice rich with the kind of questioning that inspires action.”

Half-light: Collected Poems by Frank Bidart

“Gathered together, the poems of Frank Bidart perform one of the most remarkable transmutations of the body into language in contemporary literature. His pages represent the human voice in all its extreme registers, whether it’s that of the child-murderer Herbert White, the obsessive anorexic Ellen West, the tormented genius Vaslav Nijinsky, or the poet’s own. And in that embodiment is a transgressive empathy, one that recognizes our wild appetites, the monsters, the misfits, the misunderstood among us and inside us. Few writers have so willingly ventured to the dark places of the human psyche and allowed themselves to be stripped bare on the page with such candor and vulnerability. Over the past half century, Bidart has done nothing less than invent a poetics commensurate with the chaos and appetites of our experience.”

Collected Poems by W. H. Auden

“Between 1927 and his death in 1973, W. H. Auden endowed poetry in the English language with a new face.  Or rather, with several faces, since his work ranged from the political to the religious, from the urbane to the pastoral, from the mandarin to the invigoratingly plain-spoken.

This collection presents all the poems Auden wished to preserve, in the texts that received his final approval. It includes the full contents of his previous collected editions along with all the later volumes of his shorter poems. Together, these works display the astonishing range of Auden’s voice and the breadth of his concerns, his deep knowledge of the traditions he inherited, and his ability to recast those traditions in modern times.”

Howl by Allen Ginsburg

“When the book arrived from its British printers, it was seized almost immediately by U.S. Customs, and shortly thereafter the San Francisco police arrested its publisher and editor, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, together with City Lights Bookstore manager Shigeyoshi Murao. The two of them were charged with disseminating obscene literature, and the case went to trial in the municipal court of Judge Clayton Horn. A parade of distinguished literary and academic witnesses persuaded the judge that the title poem was indeed not obscene and that it had ‘redeeming social significance.’”

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“This debut collection is a fast-paced tour of Mojave life and family narrative: A sister fights for or against a brother on meth, and everyone from Antigone, Houdini, Huitzilopochtli, and Jesus is invoked and invited to hash it out. These darkly humorous poems illuminate far corners of the heart, revealing teeth, tails, and more than a few dreams.”

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