May 17 holds a particular significance for the LGBTQ+ community, as it commemorates the World Health Organization’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.
It’s the day that rejects discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, bi-curious, queer, transgender, intersex, and all those who have diversified sexual orientation. It empowers the LGBTQ+ community and motivates them to embrace their reality, whether they’re closeted or out and proud.
As we celebrate this day with our audience, we’ve gathered some incredible stories that normalize conversations around diverse sexualism and give closeted people confidence. Such novels inspire, educate, and empower readers and help them cope with the world and how it reacts to different people.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
By Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Simon & Schuster
Recipient of two Lambda Literary Awards and PEN/Faulkner Award, Benjamin Alire Sáenz is a top American novelist and poet. He crafted a unique fictional story of a chance encounter blossoming into a beautiful friendship and budding romance. Both the teen boys find solace in each other’s company, excavating the meaning of life and happiness. A love story with no resentment, this novel of self-discovery will force you to speed read until the end in one sitting for sure.
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit
By Jaye Robin Brown
Jaye Robin Brown is an American novelist accredited for several critically acclaimed books. After embracing her sexual identity, she decided to pursue a career in narrative writing. This young-adult fictional novel takes up the themes of compassion, love, fear of being judged, and everything in between. Jo is an out and proud teen girl forced by her evangelist father to hide her identity when they move to a conservative country. Share Jo’s struggles, heartaches, and the possibility of an endearing relationship that may jeopardize the family bonds she holds so dear.
Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation
By Jim Downs
University of Georgia Press
Publisher of leading journals and magazines, Jim Downs is an Associate Professor of History at Harvard University. In this nonfictional book, he brings his readers to speed with the gay community’s complex history and daunting struggles during the 1970s United States. This historical book is an emotional, revelatory, and heart-rending collection of untold true stories and historical events related to the gay people who struggled to get their voices heard.
Under the Udala Trees
By Chinelo Okparanta
The Nigerian author Chinelo Okparanta started her journey as a novel writer with her debut novel Under the Udala Trees. She is the recipient of the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction and Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Award. Chinelo Okparanta uses the essence of hypnotics to bring a magical touch to her writing. This novel explores an 11 years old Nigerian girl’s urge to assert her sexual orientation in a country where being a lesbian is a sinful crime. Forbidden love, budding romance, angst, and gut-wrenching sacrifices take you on a journey of pain, detriment, and tears.
Somebody Told Me
By Mia Siegert
Carolrhoda Lab (R)
Capturing attention via her debut novel Jerkbait, Mia Siegert recently published her second novel, Somebody Told Me. It’s an intense fictional story about a bi-gender character trying to recover from a traumatic incident. The main protagonist, Aleks/Alexis, moves in with their uncle, who is a Catholic priest. There they discover a sinful confession of an abusive priest who molested a boy. Aleks/Alexis decides to seek justice for the boy, but would they be able to fight their own demons in this quest? Somebody Told Me is an excellent book about grave issues which may be overbearing for sensitive readers.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
By Emily M. Danforth
Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is Emily M. Danforth’s debut book. It was filmed under the same name and became the 2018 Sundance Grand Jury Prize-Winning movie. The story unveils the harsh treatment of gay people at the hands of conservative societies, especially relatives. Grace, our lesbian protagonist, is forcefully sent to the gay conversion therapy center by their aunt when she finds out the truth. Would the protagonist deny their identity and live a life of deception, or would they stay true to themselves and fight for themselves and their love? It is a social-themed novel that is sure to provoke your rebellious side and move you to take action.
By Julie Anne Peters
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
The out and proud novelist Julie Anne Peters is an American author of nearly two dozen books. She has received many awards, including the prestigious Lambda Literary Award and American Library Association (ALA) Awards. The novel Luna is a heartening story of a transgender teen who has to live as a boy in the day. They can enjoy their true self as a girl only at night. This novel explores the stigma and rejection transgender people face as they try to come out and assert their individuality. Luna is an emotional roller coaster that makes you wonder at each turn, will Luna be able to live a life they dream of? Kirkus Reviews calls it “first of its kind essential book for every library serving young adults,” and we agree.
I Wish You All the Best
By Mason Deaver
Mason Deaver’s debut fictional novel, I Wish You All the Best, is a heart-wrenching tragedy that helps you heal in the process. Being a nonbinary writer, Deaver’s I Wish You All the Best follows the themes of love, friendship, and a hope of finding peace in the face of adversity. The nonbinary protagonist of this novel has to lie low until the school year ends, but everything changes as they fall for a guy who turns their whole world around. The novel alludes to the sufferings, depression, and social anxiety the protagonist has to deal with due to mockery by the world.
I’m Afraid of Men
Penguin Books Canada
As a trans woman of color, Vivek Shraya shares their painful, raw, and honest journey in their biographical novel. They discuss the misogyny, transphobia, and homophobia they experienced throughout their life. Awarded with Honour of Distinction at Dayne Ogilvie Awards, Shraya is a celebrated writer and musician from Calgary. In I’m Afraid of Men, Shraya openly talks about the trauma they suffered due to their uniqueness. Understandable and all too relatable, I’m Afraid of Men is a thought-provoking symposium of critical issues affecting the lives of the trans community.
By Nicole Dennis-Benn
Liveright Publishing Corporation
The Jamaican novelist Nicole Dennis-Benn, known for her debut novel Here Comes the Sun published another critically acclaimed book, Patsy, in 2019. It’s the story of a mother’s sacrifice and survival who pays the ultimate price of prioritizing themselves. They leave their child behind to reunite with their childhood love in America. However, the American dream shatters when the reality of being a black woman and an undocumented immigrant hits them. Patsy represents all those women who try to balance motherhood, gender, and sexuality. The Guardian reviews Patsy as a story of broken bonds and dashed dreams.