Happy Pride month everybody! In honour, I’ve pulled together a list of some great queer reads. Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive but just ones that I’ve read and enjoyed, and that you might love too.
It may seem silly to place a lot of importance on a book but they really do have the power to make a big difference, even if on an individual scale. Some the right person, the representation in these books can mean everything. But even if they don’t reflect your life, you still get the opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes and understand more about people in the world who experience gender, sexuality and attraction differently from yourself. Which can only be a good thing.
And before I get started, I’d just like to say: please support your local, independent, queer bookshops, not just this month but all year round! I’m giving a special shout-out to my friendly neighbourhood bookseller Category Is Books for offering the most wonderful space for us in the Southside of Glasgow ❤
I’m kicking off the list with Torrey Peter’s Detransition, Baby which I listened to on audiobook at the end of last year. It’s about three women, trans and cis, whose lives become intertwined around an unexpected pregnancy. Reese is a trans woman who desperately wants to be a mother. And Ames, Reese’s ex, is a de-transitioned trans woman who got her boss, Katrina, pregnant. It’s all very complicated and gossipy which makes it a really fun read. It’s well written, messy, sexy and provokes some really interesting topics and dilemmas.
CW: Transphobia, miscarriage, abortion, suicide
I bought this book after the lovely Fin from Category Is Books told me it was ‘a game-changer’ and dang were they right! ACE by Angela Chen is a non-fiction book that explores asexuality from a personal, intersectional and relational perspective. There are a lot of misconceptions or just a general lack of awareness of what it means for a person to be asexual so it’s a really beneficial read for anyone, regardless of how you identify. There are still aspects that may ring true with you in how we relate to desire because of society. I learned a lot from reading this and it was a game-changer in shifting perceptions. Highly recommend.
It’s gotta be on the list, especially in the summertime: Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman is a book about Elio who becomes infatuated with his family’s summer house guest Oliver. It’s gorgeously written and Elio’s naive longing feels so real. There’s a lot of detail and inner thoughts that you don’t get from watching the film but it is beautiful so watch it after you read the book. Be warned: it will give you a lot of Italian wanderlust.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker is an absolute classic and there’s a reason. It spans the life of Celie, an African-American woman living in the South who survives incredible abuse. After her father marries her off to her asshole husband, things go from bad to worse, leaving Celie to find companionship anywhere she can. She perseveres, holding on to her dream of one day being reunited with her sister in Africa. It’s one that will stick with you for a long time.
CW: Rape, domestic abuse, racism
Next up is The Song of Achilles by Greek mythology retelling queen Madeline Miller. It gives us a reimagined telling of the story of Patroclus and Achilles, exploring their relationship from childhood to the Battle of Troy. This one has a lot of hype on social media and, honestly, it’s well deserved, it’s such a page-turner and heart-wrenching in the end. Miller has a great talent for making the world of Greek mythology feel approachable and modern while writing in the most beautiful way.
CW: Rape, slavery
Alice Oseman is all over the internet right now as people fawn with love for the Heartstopper Netflix series based on her graphic novels, but I want to shout out another of her books: Loveless. Georgia starts uni and is trying to figure out her sexuality or lack thereof, while also navigating making new friends and putting on shows with the Shakespeare Society. It’s a lovely, comforting coming-of-age story that’s really about celebrating the value of our friendships. It’s refreshing to read a ‘romance novel’ being told from the perspective of an asexual person. It is very easy to read and just a good time.
Now we’re getting into a little tougher territory. You have to brace yourself for Young Mungo by Scottish author Douglas Stuart. Set in the housing schemes of working-class Glasgow we follow the story of Mungo, a gay, sensitive teenager who is looking for love and navigating life with his alcoholic mother, an adoring, clever sister and a vicious older brother who leads the violent local Protestant gang. It is at times disturbing and brutal and for that reason stuck in my mind for many months after reading. It’s not exactly a happy read but is searing, beautifully written and moving.
CW: Rape, abuse, violence, homophobia, abortion, domestic abuse
And finally, for those without big book fear, I’d highly recommend reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I actually listened to it on some long drives and as it’s such a long read it feels like you really get to know the characters deeply. A Little Life is about four young men – friends from college – who move to New York to chase big careers. They are all, improbably, incredibly successful: JB in the art world, Malcolm as an architect, Willem as an actor and Jude as a lawyer. They each have their own personality and history that we explore over the course of their lives, the common thread being their love and friendship with one another. It’s a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the cruelty of memory, trauma and the limits of human endurance.
CW: Child abuse, sexual abuse, self-harm, suicide, rape, drug addiction, violence
So there you go! That should be enough to be getting on with. How many of the books in this post have you read?
As for my tbr this month, I’m looking at Shon Faye’s The Transgender Issue, Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo, another one from Alice Oseman: Radio Silence and listening to the audiobook Bernadine Evaristo’s Mr Loverman.
What’s your favourite queer book? I’d love to know!