Happy Pride Month! Throughout the month of June, pride festivities took place all around the world, and one way to continue celebrating all summer is by reading works that shed light on what it’s like to be a member of the LGBTQ community.
Below are some recommendations to get you started, including poetry collections that meditate on queerness, love, and cultural heritage; a genre-bending debut about notorious British thieves; a story about the art of finding love during a civil war; and an examination of the AIDS crisis that crosses the ocean from Chicago to Paris.
The Great Believers
By Rebecca Makkai
An impassioned novel that brings together the lives of profound yet everyday characters to tell a story of love and acceptance in the face of despair. In Chicago, 1985, and Yale attends a wake for a dead friend. 30 years later, the story picks up that friend’s younger sister, and Yale’s close friend, Fiona, as she navigates through Paris searching for her estranged daughter. The Great Believers is a tribute to those who lost loved ones during the crisis, as well as those who suffered and died by AIDS.
Don’t Call Us Dead
by Danez Smith
Beginning with an extended meditation on the traumatic effects of police brutality in the United States, Don’t Call Us Dead grapples with the emotional toll of racism and homophobia upon the lives of queer Black men. Danez Smith’s poems document the many forces, external and internal, that imperil black bodies: suicide, self-hatred, police violence, and “black-on-black” crime. His pain from his lived experiences with these forces as an HIV-positive, queer black man is palpable, and every poem brims with anger, regret, and unfathomable sadness, but also imagined futurities of love and safety.
Under the Udala Trees
by Chinelo Okparanta
This is a story of conflict and reconciliation, of civil war, of a mother and daughter at war with each other, and ultimately of a girl at war with her identity and how she journeys towards acceptance. Ijeoma is only 11 years old when her father dies, and with his passing, Ijeoma’s mother sends her to live with another family as a servant girl. Here, Ijoemoa’s life is completely changed, finding herself stuck between the Christian upbringing of her mother, and the force of her heart as she begins to love a girl. Told through mindful prose, Okparanta creates a profound story about love, growth, and the struggle of living life on someone else’s terms.
Confessions of the Fox
by Jordy Rosenberg
An 18th-century love story of infamous thieves and queer subcultures, this genre-bending debut tells an intense story of identity, desire, and yearnings for freedom. Recently dumped college professor, Dr. Voth, discovers the diaries of 18th century master thief Jack Sheppard, a trans carpenter’s apprentice, and his partner, Edgeworth Bess, a sex worker living in underground London. Told through Dr. Voth’s reading of the manuscripts and personal annotations, Rosenberg combines two uniquely different stories, into one profound novel.
by Hieu Minh Nguyen
Coffee House Press
Clear-eyed observations on the bond between mother and son, trauma, and race. In his new collection, Not Here, poet Hieu Minh Nguyen navigates through vulnerability and rage, love and war, Saigon and Sacramento, Vietnamese tradition and American expectations, his mother’s approval, and his queer identity.