Pride is upon us. This month is a celebration of diversity, an acknowledgement of history and a time to give the LGBTQ+ community the recognition they deserve.
Let’s not forget the road that led us to this point and that we still have a long way to go. Today we’re recognizing the achievements of LGBTQ+ authors, some of whom face hardships in the form of book bans in the United States, having their work challenged and removed from schools and libraries.
Of the top 10 most challenged books of 2021, five were banned for LGBTQ+ content, and because they were considered sexually explicit.
New York Times bestselling author George Matthew Johnson, who has had their book challenged and banned, told Daily Hive, “Banning my book will never stop me from telling my story.”
We live in a country where these books are available openly, and today we’re both celebrating and amplifying them.
These are 11 books we recommend this month.
Drawing on their own experiences growing up, and with themes of gender identity, toxic masculinity, and family dynamics, Johnson’s remarkable memoir is a deeply moving tale that chronicles the tumultuous challenges and triumphs faced by Black queer boys. While this is a book that will appeal directly to young adults, we recommend it for older readers too.
Following two teen boys in the ’90s during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York City, Shaw’s debut for young adults is a mesmerizing love story. Expertly crafted and accurately portrayed, the side characters in this book will feel like family by the time you reach the end. It’s one of those novels that you’ll finish and want to begin all over again.
Award-winning writer, designer, and activist Henry Fry’s debut novel is a brilliant and entertaining story about a budding London-based journalist named Danny Scudd. When things don’t work out with a man he’s dating, and he’s evicted from his apartment, Danny winds up living with his best friend. What follows is a moving journey of self-discovery.
Zak Salih’s debut is an exploration of contemporary gay life told through the alternating perspectives of Sebastian and Oscar, who met in childhood and reconnect later in life. The novel takes place in 2015, when the marriage equality act is passed in America, and follows the two characters over the course of a year as they struggle to find their place in a changing landscape.
Gender Queer is a courageous award-winning graphic memoir about growing up and coming to terms with being non-binary and asexual. Maia, who uses Spivak pronouns (e/em/eir) addresses many relatable themes through comic illustrations, such as grappling with coming out to friends and trying to find eir place in relationships.
Kobabe’s debut is often the most challenged book in America, with the images taken out of context. We recommend reading this op-ed by the author.
A fantastic coming-of-age story about four best friends from a small town called Gracemont in Ohio. The boys are taking off in separate directions for the summer, and Stamper’s gorgeous prose takes us around the world as each one finds their place in a new city. Alternating perspectives and an unforgettable cast of characters form the foundation of this truly wonderful young adult book.
Named a Most Anticipated Book by Time, Electric Literature, and more, Conklin’s critically acclaimed and thought-provoking collection of 10 short stories features a number of queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming characters as they seek love and connection in the world. The author’s masterful and prize-winning writing is on full display throughout.
Penned by the star of Queer as Folk and the Netflix series Special, this novel follows Elliot, a successful TV writer with cerebral palsy as he grapples with alcohol addiction and searches for acceptance while coping with internalized homophobia. The writer’s foray into fiction is brilliant, touching, and, according to Lena Dunham, “shockingly elegant.”
Holleran’s highly praised classic works of gay literature have been described as beautiful, exhilarating, and bold. Gorgeously written and emotionally impactful, The Kingdom of Sand centres around a nameless gay narrator in Florida during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It’s an exploration of the deep bonds of friendship, growing older, and loneliness. Holleran’s latest work has received three literary stars and is an absolute must-read for everyone.
A charming and heartwarming story about a 16-year-old adopted non-verbal boy named Skylar Gray, a new student at AL Brown High. His preference to wear skirts, despite the school’s dress code, leads to a connection with Jacob, the son of a conservative school board member. The book tackles important issues, like coming out to family, ableism, homophobia, and trauma.
Poignant and admirably written, renowned journalist and writer Meredith Talusan’s memoir covers her powerful life story. From growing up with albinism in a rural Philippine village and immigrating to the United States at 15 years old, to later attending Harvard University on an academic scholarship and transitioning, this moving tale from one of our most cherished LGBTQ+ writers is not to be missed.