This far into the pandemic most of us are feeling restless, overwhelmed, and just plain exhausted. As the weather cools in much of the country, many of us are also feeling worried, too, about how to spend the coming months. Yes, we all want to be safe and socially distance. And yes, many of us are also feeling bored. One solution? Read!
If reading isn’t quite your thing, audiobooks can be a true gift. Putting together a virtual book club can also be a fun way of getting motivated to read if it’s not typically your choice of entertainment, too. If you’re able to shop small and support local book stores, that’s fantastic. It’s also fantastic to support your local library (which often have e-books and audiobooks available for free, too).
And if you’re wondering what to read, why not check out some titles that center on LGBTQ folks? Some of these books have come out recently, while others will be released in the next few months or year (I was lucky enough to read some of those forthcoming titles thanks to the publishing houses sharing advanced review galleys with me). Let’s check out some titles below.
This novel takes place in southern Nigeria and centers on the lives of a small group of friends in a close community. From the beginning of the book, we know a character—Vivek Oji—has died, and that their family and community are devastated, but we don’t know why the tragedy occurred. As this story unfolds, we move through time and uncover secrets and bonds along with nuanced, fresh characters. This novel is a true tearjerker, especially at the end, but it is also absolutely stunning.
Hough’s most known for her sharp, funny personal essay about her time working as a cable guy, but her essay collection is really remarkable in itself. Hough writes about leaving a pretty famous cult, joining the Air Force, navigating the Washington, D.C., lesbian scene, and living in her car with speed, wry humor, and a drive for self-exploration and honesty.
This is absolutely one of my favorite short story collections. Afterparties masterfully, delicately tackles Cambodian-American life and offers sharp looks into life following genocide. Afterparties is also incredibly funny, new, and extremely gay and contemporary. These stories tackle masculinity, class dynamics, dating, young friendships, and even 24-hour donut shops (yes, really). Each story feels like a totally new experience but the collective meshes together for a fulfilling, satisfying reading experience. The author passed recently at age 28.
Do you ever want a mostly light, easy-to-read book that dips into emotional subjects just enough to rock your heart? The Guncle fits that bill perfectly. With a heavy backdrop—a recently dead mother—we meet the precocious children who are about to spend a summer with their Guncle (that is, Gay Uncle) at his Palm Springs bachelor pad. Heartwarming hilarity ensues.
Detransition, Baby has to be one of my favorite books of recent years. Peters is absolutely a gifted writer and her novel about trans folks, parenthood, race, class, and living in New York City manages to be funny, surprising, and deeply moving all at once. If you’re not already a bit familiar with some “insider” aspects of LGBTQ life, some parts of the book might take a bit of Googling to fully “get,” but I think that’s perfectly okay. This writer is a real reckoning and everyone should give this truly unique book a chance.
Do you like prose that reads like poetry? You will probably be blown away by Bestiary. Bestiary is full of lush, descriptive text that is sincerely fresh and surprising. This novel follows the lives of three generations of Taiwanese American women and is filled with cultural history, magic, hauntings, and explorations of queerness. This is a book that reminds readers that every sentence can be a gift.
Febos is an established essayist and Girlhood is no disappointment. This writer is truly bright, and she weaves in research, history, and personal narrative to examine womanhood, sexuality, queer sexuality, and power. If you’re a fan of personal narratives that feel a touch academic—the sort of sentences that can take a little while to sink into—you’ll likely enjoy Febos for her deft prose and deep-thinking.
Broder is perhaps most famous for her darkly funny Twitter account and the subsequent essay collection So Sad Today, but she is also an excellent fiction writer. Milk Fed tackles intergenerational trauma, Judaism, bisexuality, and eating disorders with much grace, humor, and quick pacing. As a heads up, however, this book might be triggering if you have, or have had, an eating disorder or body image struggles, so tread lightly and take care, if so.
This is the only book on my list I haven’t read myself, but I have high hopes. I read Taylor’s Real Life when it came out and that novel—a “campus” book that takes place over just a weekend—is positively delightful with rich, dense prose and moody, highly wired queer characters with much beneath the surface. If the short stories are anything like the novel, they’ll be a treat.
What are some of your favorite books by or about LGBTQ people? What books have stayed with you the longest? What sort of books do you most want to see in the future, or hope the industry invests more money and attention toward?
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