In honor of Pride Month 2020, here are numerous books with LGBTQIA authors and/or characters!
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saénz
Published in 2012, Aristotle and Dante is one of the first published works featuring gay characters that I remember hearing about in "mainstream" media! At this point, I'd been reading online slash (fan)fiction for a couple of years, so LGBT themes were nothing new online, but Aristotle and Dante is a "tonal" sort of work. It's soft, quiet, and embodies, in its writing style, what I can only ever understand through literature as a muted fear and hesitation toward coming out, paired with an anger at the circumstances of life.
In Aristotle and Dante, teenage Ari and Dante are seemingly total opposites when they first meet. Ari is mad at the world and his older brother for being in prison, and Dante is something else, somehow more self-contained and thoughtful in his view of the world. The two meet at a swimming pool and begin spending time together, growing a friendship and altering the way they view each other and themselves.
The writing is my favorite part of this novel. It's captivating and uncommon, and something worth reading over and over again.
2. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Fun Home is actually a graphic novel and memoir of Bechdel's early life. I was assigned this text in college, actually, and it's one that I still remember well. The graphic novel focuses on Bechdel's childhood and relationship with her father in rural Pennsylvania.
One of the themes of the novel is the role that literature plays in self-discovery, and Fun Home is very meta in that sense, because it discusses sexuality, gender roles, suicide and self-harm, as well as emotional abuse and dysfunctional family homelife. Fun Home is Bechdel's exploration of herself and how she came to be who she is, despite or because of, all the things that impacted her growing up.
It's cathartic because the graphic novel doesn't wash away childhood as something to brushed over and left behind. Often it seems that society demands that you "get over" your early childhood experiences and start new, but Bechdel shows that while it's not the experiences that make us who we are, the way we grow, learn, and self-identify with those experiences plays a huge role in who we allow ourselves to become.
The role of Bechdel's father character in Fun Home can't be overestimated. It's really his life decisions that Bechdel reflects on the most, drawing comparisons between his life as an angry, abusive, closeted gay man and her own sexuality. Fun Home traces the decisions of her father's life as she learns to process them alongside her own growth.
It's a complex read, very emotional, and unfortunately true to the difficulties of life. But Bechdel doesn't shy away from the personal information or the difficult conversations. She details the time leading up to her realization that she is a lesbian, and all the awkward and private firsts that came along with exploring that sexuality. The story is bitter and sweet, and Bechdel masterfully ties the two together. The graphic novel took seven years to write and illustrate (all done by Bechdel), and the time and attention to detail really show.
3. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
You are definitely familiar with this title if you've read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Carry On is the fanfiction that the Cath writes in the novel, Fangirl, where she pairs two main characters from another fictional Harry Potter-esque series, Simon Snow and Tyrannus "Baz" Basilton Grimm-Pitch. They're her OTP, and it's so fun to see the idea of slash fanfiction "come to the big screen," so to say, and get published as its own individual novel.
Of course, slash online is normally a lot more graphic, but Carry On is a very cute YA fantasy story about two private magic school boys who hate each other, end up as roommates, and discover a lot about each other (and it's more than what you're thinking!).
Carry On is a light, quick read, but Baz and Simon are a pairing you shouldn't miss out on. Rowell has this tone about her writing that makes her characters seem intensely invested in lives they're living. They feel real without being overly emotional or complex. She doesn't try to weigh them down; they're just people living their lives, a bit resigned to dealing with the troubles that come at them. Despite that, they'll witty, bright, and enjoyable to read. Simon and Baz are a disaster in the best way, and that sort of fatalist-love has a lot of heart behind it.
Wayward Son, the sequel to Carry On, was released in September of 2018, and it comes with a change of scenery for Baz and Simon, but, of course, the magical escapades come with them.
4. The Raven Cycle & Call Down The Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater
The Raven Cycle is one of my favorite series. Stiefvater has been one of my favorite authors since Shiver was released my freshman year of high school. The Raven Boys isn't solely an LGBT novel, but it has two of my favorite gay characters. Ronan Lynch and Adam Parrish begin as good friends in a group of guy friends, and their relationship feels like it builds behind the scenes almost. We get glimpses of feelings they might have for each other, but they never outright say it or think on it too much until it all comes together.
Ronan is the tough guy who deals with impossible things, and Adam is perfectly put together on the surface, but cracking underneath. They come together by finding that solidarity in one another despite their differences.
I haven't finished Call Down the Hawk yet, but I adore these two, and the feel of Stiefvater's writing. She's really an author who makes the setting another character, and everywhere the characters go, you feel the environment leaching into their stories. When I think of Stiefvater, I picture a low fog around all the ankles of her characters: the environment adding a constant hint of flavor to the stories. I love that.
5. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Every time I need to describe this book, I want to open my mouth and scream instead. But in a good way. It's one of those reading experiences that I simply don't have words for.
By now, if you've read my other posts, you're probably familiar with my The Iliad obsession. In fact, I've alluded to it multiple times now. Well The Song of Achilles deserves a spot on the shelf right next to The Iliad. Miller takes a story that I know by heart and breathes this monumental sense of loss into it. Even as Achilles and Patroclus fall in love, it's deceptively quiet and reserved, like an explosion in space. Silence in a vacuum, deprivation, even as you watch.
This novel made me cry. A lot. Achilles and Patroclus are worth the mythology surrounding them, and I weep for how much they love each other. How completely they see each other.
Read the book.
(Outlander Spoilers:) Lord John from Outlander and the Lord John series. While Outlander isn't a queer text, I really appreciate the relationship between John and Jamie. The books depict Jonathan Randall as being a really bad guy, who sexually abuses anyone he has power over, including Clare and Jamie. His infatuation with Jamie becomes central to the storyline, it's one of the only main gay plots we see, and unfortunately it's a negative portrayal. I mention this not because I have a problem with it (Randall is an equal-opportunity abuser), but to point out how well-done the friendship is between Jamie and John. The relationship is natural. They're honestly really great friends, not not once is Lord John used to "fix" Jamie's trauma after dealing with Randall.
Lord John himself is one of my favorite characters. In the late 1700s, he's not openly able to be gay, so he unfortunately sacrifices a lot in that regard, but he has a life he enjoys and he's such a kind person. I haven't read the Lord John series yet, but it's high on my list!
My Goals for LGBT fiction:
Read fiction that isn't solely focused on two white, cis male characters.
Read more classics and less YA.
Other YA LGBT Novels:
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzie Lee; Think Queer, teen, historical fiction. Monty is a well-off, openly(ish) bisexual teen (and Lord) in the 1700s off on a Grand Tour trip of Europe with his best friend, Percy, and his sister, Felicity. Knowing he has to return to England when the trip is over, Monty vows to openly flirt with Percy the whole way, hoping to expel enough of his crush to be able to return and move past his feelings for his best friend.
Red, White, & Royal Blue - Casey McQuiston; American First-Son (and child of a female president), Alex, meets and despises the young British prince, Henry. When the media get a hint of this rivalry, the White House officials quickly stage a plot for damage control... one that means Alex and Henry will be spending a lot of time together.
What If it's Us - Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera; Two very different boys in two very different situations meet in a post office in New York City and feel life is pulling them in opposite directions. While one believes in fate, the other wants the universe to keep its hands to its self!
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli; Secretly gay high schooler, Simon Spier, is email penpals with a boy named Blue, who he shares things with that he's never told anyone else. But when one of his emails ends up in the black-mailing hands of a classmate, Simon fears his secrets - and Blue's - will get out to the whole school.
Other LGBT fiction/authors:
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name - Audre Lorde, a black, lesbian, mother, poet, and feminist writer; Zami is a fictionalized and mythologized account of the author's autobiography of growing up blind and isolated, while experiencing racism and discovering her sexuality. See also: Sister Outsider, a collection of Lorde's speeches and essays.
B-Boy Blues by James Earl Hardy; gay, hip-hop love story. One of the first gay novels I ever read, it follows the relationship two gay Black men, Mitchell and Raheim. Coined as catalyst for "Africentric gay fiction" B-Boy Blues came out during a time when two Black men loving each other was a radical act. Available on Kindle Unlimited!
Call Me By Your Name - André Aciman; a young boy meets a guest staying at his parents' summer home (read: mansion) on the Italian Riviera.
The Hours - Michael Cunningham; draws on the life of Virginia Woolf as the counterpoint to the fictional stories of characters dealing with love, despair, and family.
The Berlin Stories - Christopher Isherwood; chronicles of Berliners just as Hitler comes to power.
Black on Both Sides - C. Riley Snorton; nonfiction stories of Black, trans people and activists, such as Lucy Hicks Anderson and James McHarris.
There are so many more books out there that I've yet to discover, and so many of these I wish I could've put in the main list at the top, but many will be featured in posts to come! I hope you enjoyed the list and found some new reads!
What are some that I missed that you've loved? Let me know in the comments!