At OprahMag. This June marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots , the New York City demonstration that in many ways ignited the modern gay rights movement and exhibited resistance before there were hashtags. In commemoration, we asked 50! These are the novels, poetry, memoirs, and fiction collections that brought them solace, solidarity, and self-acceptance.
I was interested in being a writer and Leavitt is a beautiful writer, and thus a great teacher. But Family Dancing was truly my first encounter with gay men. I learned a lesson about being a writer, but also about being a gay man myself. Everything happens in cheap apartments and lesbian bars. These women are mostly oppressed in the closet, but they have pages and pages of excellent sex. When I read them I thought, 'Hey, I could be having some of this. I was thirteen and aching, scared of the 'strangeness' welling inside me. Dorothy not only wrote about loving hard places—South Carolina for Bone, Central Florida for me—she manifested the beauty and pain of being young, queer, and wanting.
To embrace the things that might ruin you, and love them fiercely. It was the book that turned me into a writer.
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The short stories are mazes; characters mystery into themselves. I love the way they defy ideas of traditional relationships with ease, and how queerness is embedded not only in the characters, but also in the actual DNA of the stories. In a world that constantly demands labels to define ourselves, this book blooms in the relief of un-labeling, in characters simply being without explaining themselves. Seeing these people talking openly about their queerness made me realize not just that I was gay, too, but that it was okay.
I came out that afternoon, in one fell swoop. How I came to see love's variousness. Within its walls I felt free to form a question that launched a personal metamorphosis: What exactly did I need to escape—why and how? To this day, Hemphill is an ancestor poet whose outspoken cultural activism unites the hopes of Black gay men all over this country.
Somewhere along the way, though, I found the work of this Victorian poet who became a Jesuit priest, partly, it seems to cope with his attraction to men , and his beautiful, broken verses were so arresting and strange that I wanted to read everything he ever wrote. Love this book so much. The lid of a sarcophagus cracked open and the lesbian past leapt out, still breathing, still sexy.
My first play was inspired by Lister's diaries. I wrote a conference paper on her that got me my first book commission. Lister finally getting her moment in the spotlight in the HBO series Gentleman Jack fascinates and inspires me still. His visionary poems show me again how daring great writing can be, challenging our very sense of who we are.
Seven queer novels you probably should be reading – DIVA MAGAZINE
Not just their bodies, but something deeper. But yes, also, a thorough appreciation of their bodies in a way that invokes no shame. Myles, a poet, has a beautiful and dark way with words that soaks you in their world—and makes it your queer existence too. I understood that it was possible for a queer woman to write the madness of love, to strike the right words together and burn up the page.
And I will , I thought. I will. Bechdel sculpts the marble of Story with the chisels of mystery, poetry, and myth. Rereading it now, I thought, 'This is magic. A generation earlier, Delany had been a gay teenager living in the East Village with his best friend, family, and spouse, the poet Marilyn Hacker. A couple of years ago, when I read part of it to my year-old daughter, I discovered that now we live next door to the building where Delany grew up in Harlem.
My Tender Matador , his only novel, tells an unlikely love story between an aging drag queen and a straight revolutionary. For a long time, I had no idea.
Seven queer novels you probably should be reading
And without Women' s equally confused, struggling narrator, I might not have known such a seemingly monumental shift in self-identity was possible so 'late' in life. As a teenager, I found her in an anthology of women poets.
The poems had such a finely-crafted ferocity and vivid, captivating presence. It feels like a fairy tale for modern times. This graphic novel gives me all the happy feels.
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The beginning will sound familiar: a prince must marry, so his father the king and his mother the queen throw a ball with all the eligible women in the land. The story takes a sharp turn when one of these eligible ladies turns up with a beautifully raunchy gown, and Prince Sebastian simply must know who the dressmaker is. For Prince Sebastian loves wearing dresses, unbeknownst to his parents and the kingdom. So he hires the dressmaker Frances to create the beautiful gowns of his dreams.
The illustrations are gorgeous and charming.
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This book will make you smile until your cheeks hurt. Published by the Feminist Press, La Bastarda is a queer coming of age novella set in Equatorial Guinea and is the first English translation of a book by a woman from that country. The story follows Okomo, an orphan who falls in with three outcast girls who defend her gay uncle. This book totally blew me away! Set in a fantasy world filled with demons and caste discrimination, its main form of resistance against a patriarchal and fascist demon king is the forbidden romance between two of his consorts.
The girls not only find comfort in each other in a brutal palace, but they also find both physical and emotional strength in each other. It follows young Ivy Aberdeen, whose house has been devastated by a tornado. As her family tries to deal with aftermath, Ivy feels ignored. But then, pictures from her notebook start showing up in her locker, along with mysterious notes asking Ivy to open up about her identity. This is a totally adorable novel about first loves, fashion, and burgers! Abby has just landed her dream summer internship at her favourite boutique in town.
The internship can lead to a paid opportunity — but Abby has some competition in the form of fellow intern and photographer Jordi Perez.
But when Abby and Jordi begin dating, the competition gets a bit complicated. The magician casts a spell that turns Chet into a human. Moonstruck is a really adorable and quirky fantasy graphic novel! Sometimes a fluffy romance is all that we need—but only if it feels realistic.
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I read this book in May, and I continue to think about it. But it was also harrowing and surprisingly woke. Every woman in the Fernweh family has magic that materializes by their eighteenth birthday—except Georgina. And as she waits for her magic to show itself on this, the last summer before college and her eighteenth birthday, she tries to keep her head down and go about her business helping her mom run the busy inn on the island of By-the-Sea. But when tragedy strikes and nature begins to get out of sorts, Georgina wishes for her magic even more, if for no other reason than to put the world back on its axis, help her twin sister, and maybe—just maybe—woo the girl who has captured her heart this summer.
Picture Us in the Light was one of the first books I read in and it still stands as one of my top five reads of the year. Our protagonist, Danny Cheng, is the son of Chinese immigrants. Not only do we get a fantastic storyline about immigration, citizenship, adoption, and more, Danny is harboring a deep, secret attraction for his best friend, Harry. Get your tissues ready, folks. Jen Wilde writes the most adorable contemporary YA. I read this book in the spring when it came out, and when I also was toying with the idea of coming out see what I did there?
The Brightsiders has a plethora of queer characters who are hilarious, adorable, and real. Freshwater is a stunning novel with original storytelling and breathtaking prose. Bitty is working on learning how to get body checked in the game, while he wins over his teammates with his sweetness and his delicious, delicious pies.
This will warm even the coldest of hearts. But make sure you have pie before you begin.
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