It’s finally June! The sun is shining (well, not in the UK, but I’m assuming it must be somewhere), days are getting longer and longer, but most importantly… it’s Pride Month! Happy Pride to everyone in the LGBT+ community, and thank you for your support to all the allies out there. And what better way to celebrate than to read some books? More specifically, some queer books!
If you’ve ever spoken to anyone in the LGBT+ community about books or TV for more than 5 minutes, you’ll have heard this phrase repeated at least five times: representation is important. And it is, LGBT+ representation is fundamental! Nothing equals the joy of reading yourself on the page or seeing yourself on the screen, of having your feelings validated. So whether you’re part of the community and want some good book recommendations or if you’re an ally who just wants to learn more, here’s 3 LGBT+-themed books I’ve read (and loved) and 3 I want to read soon!
1 I’ll start with one of my most recent reads: The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily Danforth. I’ve already written a full review of this book back in April but just as a tldr: the novel follows the teenage years of a young lesbian girl living in Montana in the 90s. Just as she is about to come to terms with her sexuality she is outed and sent to a conversion camp. What I loved the most about this book is firstly how far away it moves from the stereotypical “gay struggle” narrative. Cameron is not meek nor self-hating: she’s strong-headed, outspoken and brave. Secondly, this book is incredibly authentic in its depiction not only of Cameron’s thoughts and feelings, but also of her relationship with her family and friends.
Since reading the book (and writing the above review) I’ve also seen the movie, which I honestly didn’t like as much. So if the movie put you off reading the book, please do reconsider as I think the book is exceptionally good! And if you’re interested in the theme of conversion therapy, another book I want to read eventually is Gerrard Conley’s memoir Boy Erased.
2 The second one on the list is also one of my favourite books ever, i.e. The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller. Set in Ancient Greece, the novel is the retelling of the Iliad from the point of view of Patroclus, Achilles’ brother in arms and lover. Beautifully written, this book is everything a Classics nerd like myself could hope for: Miller perfectly recreated the setting and atmosphere of Homer’s epic poem without all the westernising filters that have distorted this story in its modern conception (ahem Troy ahem). What you get is an engrossing, dramatic and achingly poetic story of love, war, and loyalty – that is to say, the Iliad if Homer had written it in 2011. The novel also won the Women’s Prize for Fiction (Miller was long-listed again this year with Circe) and I’m surprised the book hasn’t been turned into a movie yet. So grab a copy before they turn it into a movie starring Brad Pitt!
3 My third recommendation is a graphic novel (in translation!): Blue is The Warmest Colour, by Julie Maroh. I believe the movie is better known than the novel, but not unlike Cameron Post, I liked the novel much more! Set in modern day France, the graphic novel follows the entire life (get that, movie adaptation!) of Clémentine, who at the beginning of the story in a teenager and who falls in love with a blue-haired woman she meets by chance. The graphic novel is quite short but very addictive and just as a warning: it will make you cry. If you want to know more, I talked about it in my recap of #GraphicNovelApril.
Coming up with a top three has been very challenging, and I had to leave out some brilliant LGBT+ books I’ve read over the years (Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe and Carol, to name a few), but I’ve also noticed my reads have not been very diverse – there’s some hints of diversity here and there but I certainly can do better. So going forward I’ll try to diversify my LGBT+ reads, starting with…
1 The Colour Purple, by Alice Walker. It won the Pulizer Prize in 1983 and is an American contemporary classic. It follows the life of Celie, a poor black girl living in Georgia, whose life is, well, calling it “miserable” would be a compliment. She’s initially abused by her father, who then sells her off in marriage to a man called Mister, who also abuses her. Throughout the story she tries to reconnect with her sister Nettie, from whom she was separated, and eventually also starts a relationship with Shug Avery, a jazz singer. There’s much more in the book, but this is sort of what I can remember from the movie (starring Whoopi Goldberg!). I think the story is very interesting and I’m especially fascinated by how the book explores power dynamics (of race and gender in particular).
2 The second book on this list is Camere Separate, by Pier Vittorio Tondelli, which admittedly isn’t very diverse in the traditional sense (the protagonist is a gay white man). However, I still think it would be an interesting read. Firstly, it’s one of the, if not the best known LGBT+ novel penned by an Italian author, and being Italian myself I feel like it would be a great novel to learn about the history of LGBT+ people in Italy. Secondly, it deals with a very delicate theme, grief, and I’m very curious to see how that is explored in this context.
The novel was translated into English by Simon Pleasance and published in the UK by Serpent’s Tail in 1992 with the title Separate Rooms, but I’m not sure if there are any copies still on the market.
3 Last but not least, number three is for the T in LGBT! Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano, is actually a non-fiction title, and it’s been often described as “the transfeminist manifesto”. It explores a wealth of themes regarding gender, and being a transgender woman in particular. I tries to answer questions like: what space do trans women occupy in modern society? What is transmisogyny and how does it differ from misogyny? And why is our culture obsessed with femininity? I’m not a stranger to gender theory and queer theory but I’ve definitely never explored this theme in depth, and I want to make up for it. I also feel it’s particularly important for cis women like myself to have a better understanding of trans female identities so that we can actually help each other our rather than tearing each other down!
We’ve come to the end of my list and I have to say I’m really excited by the sheer amount of LGBT+ literature that has been published in the past couple of years! If you’re looking for some more inspiration, check out Penguin Random House’s Ultimate LGBTQIA+ Pride Book List and The Oprah’s Magazine Best LGBTQ Books Of All Time List – and as always happy reading!
This is M signing out for now! ✨