June is Pride month and, well, this year has been a little different. Pride was all but cancelled due to COVID-19 and all the protesting. But, if there's anything the LGBTQIA+ community understands, it's a virus running through the community unchecked and destroying lives because people don't care, or they're uneducated, or, worst of all, a terrible combination of the two. Oh, and the community knows a thing or two about oppression and protesting as well. So, I have heard zero complaints from the LGBTQIA+ community about the cancellation. I, for one, think the rest of us should take the lessons in empathy and community and apply them to our own lives.
That said, we weren't going to let a Pride go by without celebrating some of our favorite LGBTQIA+ authors and, for good measure, to show we have no hard feelings toward old, white, straight men, a nod to an author who writes wonderful, well-rounded LGBTQIA+ characters.
Let's begin, shall we?
"I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain." - James Baldwin
James Baldwin was born and raised in Harlem, New York. His first novel, Go Tell it on the Mountain, was published in 1953.
After moving to Paris, Baldwin began to explore themes of sexuality and race in his writing. Giovanni's Room, published in 1954, was a ground breaking novel, exploring the relationship between two men.
Baldwin, always the eloquent innovator, openly spoke of his relationships with both men and women, renouncing the labels applied to him by society.
"All I want out of music is to think to myself, this could be in a makeover montage." - Guy Branum
Guy Branum is a national treasure.
My Life as a Goddess was one of the best books I read last year.
Using wit, charm, and pop culture, Guy tells his story. A story of growing up with a father who didn't understand him. A story of thinking being a waitress was the most glamorous job in the world. A story of deep fried spaghetti.
Goddess made me laugh, cry, and it taught me a few things in the process. You will also crave Punjabi okra for, quite possibly, the rest of your life.
Read this book. You will feel like the queen (or king) that you are.
“We spent so much time looking for pieces of ourselves in other people that we never realized they were busy searching for the same things in us.”
―Kristen Arnett,Mostly Dead Things
I am a sucker for a family drama, love triangles, and flamingos.
Set in Flordia, Mostly Dead Things is the debut novel from Kristen Arnett.
Centered around Jessa, Mostly Dead Things tells the story of the Morton family. A family struggling to maintain the failing family business. A family trying their best to come back together after tragedy tears them apart.
Arnett's book moves us through the grief process using wit and taxidermy.
This book is heavy on the taxidermy, so proceed with caution if you are squeamish.
"Any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person's nature; only hypocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves, emotional illiterates and those of righteous envy, who, in their agitated concern, mistake so frequently the arrow pointing to heaven for the one that leads to hell."
― Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms
Other Voices, Other Rooms was Capote’s first published novel and one of my favorites. The setting is a decaying Mississippi plantation where Joel, the 13-year-old main character, is abruptly dropped into a family of fantastically weird characters. The novel has sinister kidnapping plots, a bisexual love triangle with a little person, and recurring appearances of an unknown wigged woman staring at Joel from an upstairs window that will give you creepy Norman Bates vibes until their identity is finally revealed. (And after, honestly.) What more could you possibly want in a book?
The novel is Joel’s coming of age story. He discovers and accepts many aspects of himself, including his sexuality; Capote admitted that a lot of Joel’s story was autobiographical. Editor George Davis referred to the story as “The fairy Huckleberry Finn.” Again. What more could you possibly want in a book?
"There is always something left to love. And if you ain't learned that, you ain't learned nothing."
― Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun
Lorraine Hansberry was a playwright and civil rights activist. With her best known work, A Raisin in the Sun, she became the first African-American woman to have a play on Broadway. She was very vocal and public in her fight for racial equality, but very private about her sexuality. Only her closest friends knew her marriage was platonic and she carried on quiet affairs with women.
She slowly began to open up to more people about her sexuality after divorcing her husband. She contributed letters to The Ladder, the first subscription based magazine for lesbians. She immersed herself in her new, open life but died of pancreatic cancer before sharing her truth publicly. Her ex-husband donated her personal journals to the New York Library and blocked anything that referenced her homosexuality from being seen for 50 years. The works were finally released by a family member in 2013 to Kevin Mumford. While the journals haven't been published, you can read Mumford's thoughts on them here.
"'Oh, for Christ's sake,' I hear. 'Can we please just try to have a good time?' This is like ordering someone to find you attractive, and it doesn't work. I've tried it."
― David Sedaris, When You're Engulfed in Flames
David Sedaris is a writer, a phenomenal public speaker, and undoubtedly the funniest person I’ve ever had the privileged of being in the same room with. He was discovered when NPR’s Ira Glass saw him reading out loud from his diary in a Chicago Club. And while he’s dabbled in short stories, Sedaris’ compulsive diary writing and willingness to share his experiences with the rest of the world are what’s made him successful.
All of David Sedaris’ books are equally worthy of attention. And while they’re funny when read, they are hilarious when listened to. Invest in the audiobooks. They’re perfect for long road trips; you’ll feel like you have a very old, very talkative friend riding along to keep you company.
Honorable Ally Mention
“I like sexual outsiders; they attract me, I find them brave, and I fear for their safety—I worry about the intolerant people who want to harm them.”
― John Irving, Publisher's Weekly
When you pick up a John Irving novel, you can count on three things. If there’s anyway to work a bear into the story, there will be a bear in the story. If there’s anywhere to stick a dressmaker’s dummy in the story, there will be a dressmaker’s dummy in the story. And at least a handful of the characters, if not the entire cast, will be what Irving describes as “sexual suspects.”
Irving’s LGBTQIA+ characters are never caricatures, a master feat when you consider how outlandish and eccentric some of these characters are. But Irving doesn’t include them in the story as plot devises or comic relief. They are well-developed, relatable, honest characters who force the reader to confront any preconceived notions or prejudices they held before opening the book. If you’ve never read Irving, start with A Prayer for Owen Meany, The World According to Garp, or In One Person.
Well, there you have, seven of our favorite LGBTQIA+ authors. We hope you've had a happy Pride and, as always, keep reading.