However you're celebrating this year, here are some can't-miss LGBTQ titles to add to your list.Literature
Each Pride Month I am reminded of one of my favorite words in the English language: visibility. To be seen, recognized,conspicuous. Being seen can be a liberating feeling: we wear loud, bright rainbows, paint our bodies, raise our voices up and are proud.
But this Pride comes on the heels of a series of Black Lives Matter protests, a movement many years in the making and with roots in oppression even older than Stonewall. This year, we are forced to examine that being visible is not the same for us all — being visible as a trans person or a person of color (especially when those two intersect) is downright deadly. I am sure that for many of us, Stonewall has been in the backs of our minds for weeks now — how eerily similar the fight to be seen and the fight against police brutality really are.
In our fight for visibility, we can not overlook the parts of our large and colorful community that are terrified to be seen, or angry they have to change the narrative around HOW they are seen in the first place. Instead we need to validate their fear and their anger, and work to create spaces of safety.
We must not forget that Pride could not exist without protest. Without Black lives. Without brave souls who demand to be seen. We can change the narrative. In fact, the authors below have worked damn hard to do just that.
Happy reading, and Happy Pride, Folx.
1) It’s Not Like It’s a Secret, by Misa Sugiura
This novel centers around Sana Kiyohara, a 16 year old Asian American who moves to California from Wisconsin, and meets the girl of her dreams. While a traditional Lesbian coming-of-age story in some regards, Sugiura develops a strong undercurrent that explores many levels of racism including model minority concepts, stereotypes, and racism between POC. Using poetry (mostly from women of color) as a plot device, the story challenges your perceptions in each new chapter. Sana is not a character you are likely to forget.
2) Lies We Tell Ourselves, by Robin Talley
While controversial on some levels (it is written by a Queer white woman), this novel explores the struggle between interracial same-sex couples in a time period in history where the lines around segregation were just beginning to blur. The protagonists of this story weave two unique perspectives of life inside the first-integrated American high school during 1959. These two young women defy odds at every turn, and learn a thing or two about themselves along the way.
3) Ziggy, Stardust, & Me, by James Brandon
This book is not for the faint hearted. Ziggy is set in a pivotal year in history 1973 where the characters face Vietnam, Watergate, Wounded Knee, and the removal of homosexuality as a mental disorder. It tells the story of two young men who find themselves on opposite sides of history. Jonathan is currently undergoing aversion therapy. Web is a Native American fighting not only the violence and racism from the surrounding communities, but hate for being openly two-spirit. This book is unflinching in it’s depictions of bigotry, and woven together with just enough Bowie to see you through to the other side.
4) Brave Face, by Shaun David Hutchinson
If you are looking for a tearjerker/memoir/humorous read for Pride, this is the way to go. Brave Face follows author Shaun David Hutchinson’s experiences growing up encountering shame, fear, isolation — and the true reality of how depression as a teen can grow and change as you age. This memoir holds a critical lens to the idea of sexual orientation accompanying, NOT creating, mental illness. A must read for our community-- and a must read for anyone who loves someone suffering from depression.
5) Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee
A Bisexual, male main character who abandons social status and wealth for a life with his Gay, BIPOC love interest? Sign me up. A rare sight in LGBTQ fiction in more ways than one — this novel features A) a sexuality that is not commonplace (or to be honest, is not always well written) and B) takes place in a historical fiction setting. There are aspects of a traditional adventure romance, but it also goes beyond social commentary of the time and touches on parental abuse, racism, differently abled people within society. (Also coming to HBO MAX soon, so be sure to read first!).
6) Little & Lion, by Brandy Colbert
Another Stonewall Award winner — and an extremely underrated novel (in my humble opinion). This book tells the story of Suzette, a Bisexual BIPOC who returns home after a year at an all-girls boarding school to find her family in shambles. Lionel, her step brother, is in "recovery" from bipolar disorder according to his family, and once home, Suzette begins to discover that mental illness is not as black and white as it may appear. I have yet to read a book that blends race, mental illness, blended family dynamics, and a powerful coming out story rolled into one.
Author’s Note: Numbers seven and eight on this list are both at a Middle Grade reading level, and I chose them on purpose. While the numbers vary, The Trevor Project finds, "40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25." One of the best ways for Trans youth to break those statistics is to read and experience novels that feature people like them.
7) The Pants Project, by Cat Clarke
Clarke writes an endearing story of a transgender child fighting to be seen as a boy. Throughout most of the story we know the main character as Liv, a young kid struggling with identity despite having two moms and living in an urban area. That all changes when the middle school they attend forces them to wear gendered uniforms. Sparking a rebellion, Liv fights the administration and enlists the help of other allies to join in. This is an amazing, heartwarming novel that beautifully embodies the spirit of Pride.
8) George, by Alex Gino
A fabulous book written by a trans author, for trans youth. In many ways, this novel breaks apart the typical "born in the wrong body" mentality and instead focuses on George, a kid struggling to make the world see her as a girl. She is not just a girl born in a boy’s body, she is a girl. If you are a fan of musical theater, you will love this novel just a little bit more, as the majority of the plot revolves around the performance of a school play (with a gendered lead) and an artful coup dedicated in George’s honor. This is also a great book to give someone struggling to understand how children can perceive their gender from a young age.
9) Symptoms of Being Human, by Jeff Garvin
An absolute must read — seriously, if you read one book from this list, make it this one. After completing this novel in less than 24 hours, I bought 10 copies and have given them to students, family members, friends, colleagues you name it. An incredible novel that completely changes worldviews about gender, this book tells the story of Riley, the child of a politician, stuck in the middle of a label war they want no part of. It is an eye-opening look at body dysmorphia, our own assumptions about gender, and what it really means to be genderqueer. The best part? Riley has no pronouns throughout the entire novel.
10) None of the Above, by J.W. Gregorio
A powerful, and educational look into the life of Kristin, an athlete who goes in to the doctor for a routine physical, and comes out with the knowledge that she is intersex. While fiction, the author has roots in the medical field, and in LGBTQ education, and it really shines throughout. Reminiscent of real-world athlete Caster Semenya’s story, this novel is both heartbreaking and empowering.
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