What better time of the year to get stuck into an LGBTQ+ book than Pride Month? Every year since 1970 — when the first ever Pride event took place in New York City — June has been a month of pride celebrations, marches, and commemorations. In 2021 a lot of events may be stalled in some cities as we continue to navigate the health crisis of COVID-19, but don’t despair, there’s still plenty to celebrate and lots of LGBTQ+ content to get you in the mood.
This short list is by no means extensive — there are so many books out there, both fiction and non-fiction about and by LGBTQ+ people, and only 5 have made it onto my recommendation list — but I believe these 5 are a solid starting point for anyone looking for queer reading material this pride month.
Check out these 5 books by LGBTQ+ authors and/or featuring queer characters!
1. Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Waters
Sarah Waters’ debut novel, Tipping the Velvet, is the queer Victorian tale you never knew you needed. Pushing the boundaries of gender roles of 1890’s London, Waters’ protagonist Nancy “Nan” finds herself in positions throughout this story that even the most discerning reader would not predict. From oyster girls to male impersonators, Piccadilly prostitutes, to East End socialites, Tipping the Velvet defies all expectations of a monotonous Victorian-era novel and instead tackles themes of gender, sexism, and classism with a twist.
2. Disobedience, by Naomi Alderman
Disobedience is the debut novel by Naomi Alderman. First published in 2006, this “somewhat controversial” novel has since been translated into ten languages and transformed into a film starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams. Whilst outwardly Disobedience is a story about two women with a romantic history, the novel focuses heavily on religious history, Orthodox Judaism, and how — or if — queerness fits into the picture. If, like me, you have little knowledge of traditional Judaism this novel may be as educative as it is compelling.
3. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Classic Hollywood intrigue, a glamorous protagonist, and an extraordinary twist — The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a beautifully written love story between two women set in the time of old Hollywood. If you’re looking for a story with a “happily ever after” you may want to steer clear of this one, but if you want to lose yourself in queer novel that explores the resilience of LGBTQ+ people in an era less progressive than our own, this is the book for you.
4. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Alice Walker’s The Color Purple paints a vivid and wrenching picture of the lives of African American women in rural Georgia in the 1930s. This iconic modern classic — winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award — grapples not only with themes of sexuality, but also of race, class, gender, sexual assault, and domestic abuse. With an abundance of strong, remarkable, and unforgettable female characters The Color Purple is a seminal classic and a must-read for all avid, queer readers.
5. The Stonewall Reader, by New York Public Library, Edmund White (Foreword)
Published in 2019, The Stonewall Reader is an anthology chronicling the fight for LGBTQ rights in the 1960s. Its release two years ago marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, the event considered by many to be the catalyst for the modern fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States. This collection of first accounts, literature, diaries, and articles documents the years running up to, and following the riots — an essential read for anyone interested in queer history and LGBTQ+ rights this Pride month.
Special mentions (because these two stole my heart!):
The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith
The Price of Salt (also known as “Carol” after the 2015 film adaption starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara), is perhaps Patricia Highsmith’s most popular and well-loved novel. Whether you pick up a copy because Ms. Blanchett’s Carol Aird had you mesmerized on screen, or because sapphic stories with a relatively happy ending are few and far between, The Price of Salt is sure to move you.
Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters
Despite not being Water’s most popular novel (Tipping the Velvet seems to have snagged that title) this crime novel with a lesbian romance twist, set in Victorian-era Britain, is sure to tug on your heartstrings and keep you guessing until the very end.
You may have noticed that the majority of these queer books are written by women, about women, and whilst that’s no accident (I admit to being biased in my reading preferences), the mainstream media is still lacking in LGBTQ+ representation.
This Pride month why not show your support for LGBTQ+ creators and stories, and remember to keep fighting for queer representation every month of the year!