From novels to memoirs and everything in between, here’s a selection of the most beautiful literature that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community.
Personally, I’ve always found books to be very therapeutic. As a black person who identifies as femme and queer, reading about heroic characters who mirror me always lights up my spirit and, through the years, has been a great source of inspiration.
Ahead, I share some of my favourite books - novels, poetry collections and autobiographies - by amazing LGBTQ+ authors whose work reflects queer lives through beautiful, impactful and underrepresented characters.
Soft Science by Franny Choi
A beautifully exhilarating collection of poems that invokes the reality of queerness and femininity from an Asian-American perspective. Choi’s poems all ask a series of questions about identity and recognition. The collection’s exploration of violence, gender, loneliness and artificial intelligence is striking and resonates deeply. As a 2020 Lambda Literary Award finalist for lesbian poetry, Choi’s voice is indeed one to familiarise yourself with.
Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs by Jennifer Finney Boylan
An astonishing autobiography about the love of dogs. Boylan writes a remarkable story about the transition of a small boy to a middle-aged woman. Using seven dogs to signpost the story, Boylan takes us through crucial stages of growth over the years. Exploring how we have the ability to learn about love from dogs, Boylan uses the relationship she has with her dogs to illustrate the power of love with both courage and humour.
Boys of Alabama by Genevieve Hudson
A capturing and sensitive novel that follows an anxious, teenage German immigrant, Max, who has supernatural powers. He falls deeply in love with Pan, the top student in his Physics class and their relationship trajectory is shaped by the innermost secrets they share with each other. Here, Hudson unpicks the themes of boyhood, masculinity, mystery, love, immigration and religion with such strong imagery that I hope it’s one day adapted for the screen.
& More Black by T’ai Freedom Ford
Winner of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian poetry, in new poetry collection & More Black, Ford embraces the portraiture of blackness and queerness. With soft, eloquent language, Ford explores erotic love and the electricity of two women craving each other’s bodies. You’re taken on a journey signposted by the lyrics from familiar black music - from Wangechi Mutu, Amiri Baraka, Erykah Badu, Glenn Ligon, and Kanye West - along the way, all in a riveting account of black vibrancy.
Non-Binary Lives: An Anthology of Intersecting Identity edited by Kay Gupta, Jos twist, Ben Vincent and Meg-John Barker
A powerful collection of heart-warming tales about identity, each curated to tell the many stories of those who are misrepresented and those who do not fall into the gender binaries. The anthology draws an intersection between race, sexuality and class. It also explores the individual’s capacity to fit into spaces defined by others while wrestling with our innermost emotions and desires.
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
An astonishing book by a finalist of the 2019 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Emezi takes us to Nigeria in their third book; one that begins with the end of titular character Vivek Oji’s life as he lays naked on his mother’s doorstep. With warmth and great detail, Emezi explores the complicated friction of cultural clashes and the loss of youthful innocence.
Homie by Danez Smith
Anyone who is familiar with Danez Smith’s work will know them as the president of black voices in poetry. Smith uses their new collection to explore the ideas of friendship, intimacy and comfort. Smith draws from the conflicts of their home country where they are born and bred— its xenophobia, violence, dichotomy; it renowned struggles. They introduce black, queer bodies trying to survive a violent system of oppression, clutching to friendship and family as a saving grace.
We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia
Kanakia’s queer contemporary young adult fiction tells the story of protagonist Nandan’s plans for his junior year of high school. Everything seems to go wrong when he hooks up with a guy for the first time. Nandan is willing to give everything up for the relationship but his anxiety grows in the process of trying to navigate unfamiliar territory while also juggling a complicated social life.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
A phenomenal memoir from the number-one New York Times bestselling author. Doyle empathically tells us about coming out to her family after divorcing her husband. We learn about how she met her wife at a conference and with little more than three words - “There she is” - to go on. Doyle’s story is one of vulnerability as well as forwardness; it’s both heartfelt and galvanizing.
All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad
An awakening debut novel about intimacy, self-realisation and mystery. Protagonist Maggie returns to her hometown of California at 27-years-old after battling grief of her homophobic mother’s death. When she arrives in California, however, she discovers that her mother Iris’s will contains five sealed envelops, each addressed a man neither of them have never heard of. Leaving her brother and father behind, Maggie sets off on a journey to deliver the letters to uncover the truth her mother had been hiding.