LGBTQ History Month means not only examining, appreciating and dissecting the history of LGBTQ activism and experience, but also amplifying the voices of those within the community who have stories to tell. From comprehensive lexicons of change to tender tales of love, loss and self-discovery, authors break down the barriers of the literary community with each new publication. If you’re lost in a sea of these great works in October, we’ve compiled a list of gems to get your hands on.
Non-fiction and memoirs
“The Stonewall Reader”
By the New York Public Library and Jason Baumann
From the archives of the New York Public Library, “The Stonewall Reader” adds a certain polyvocality to the events of June 28, 1969 through first-hand accounts, journal entries and interviews with activists who participated in the Stonewall Riots . Understanding this history is key to understanding the LGBTQ rights movement that followed, as it sparked a new generation of liberation, and this book is a great way to learn and ruminate where the movement came from and where it is going.
“How to write an autobiographical novel”
By Alexandre Chee
Through a collection of essays about the formative events in her life, Chee weaves a beautiful manifesto on how to navigate life in a world where more and more problems are erupting all around you. From being Korean in America to the AIDS crisis until the death of his father, Chee experienced events that he could not separate from his literary work and the pleasure he had always found in reading and writing. Through Chee’s exploration of his identity, you will inevitably begin to explore your own identities as the pages go by, and that’s a beautiful thing in itself.
“The articulation of the ribs: a dissertation in trials”
By Julia Koets
Where you live inevitably affects your life experience: our mental maps of reality depend on our space, and what is considered possible or permissible also depends on that space, especially in the formative years of our lives. In her essay memoir, Koets details her life growing up in a heavily religious, not so heavily populated town in the southern United States, and how intense fear, loss, and love hurt her, driving her to realize that “naming our desire makes us feel the heart beating in our chests. I would say this story is essential for everyone, but especially for those who live and grow up in North Carolina – a state with deep southern roots and leanings – as is our community at NC State.
By James Baldwin
My first fiction recommendation has to be a classic, and who better to choose than James Baldwin? From the author of “The Color of Water” and “Allez le dire sur la montagne”, “Giovanni’s Room” is ghostly and powerful, comforting and haunting, and the only book I’ve come across that spits so artfully in the face of happy endings and the concept of “living free” by telling a true story of pain that is intrinsically linked to love. The story is set in 1950s France and follows white American expatriate David as he suppresses his sexual urges and reminisces about his life so far. There’s a lot more to unbox, so get yourself a copy!
“Everyone in this room will one day be dead”
By Emily Austin
Of all the fiction exploring LGBTQ identity and mental health together, this is the one I would recommend to anyone. The main character, Gilda, is a walking blob of self-doubt and worry, always thinking about death, its impact, and how others view it. When she, a lesbian, gets a job as a receptionist at an ultra-traditional Catholic church, her anxiety is heightened as she becomes obsessed with the previous receptionist’s death and legacy, while constantly thinking about her own. Austin is good at describing what the brain of someone with intense anxiety sounds and feels on a daily basis and how that anxiety affects the journey to self-acceptance as a non-hetero individual.
Latinx LGBTQ Stories
“A Cup of Water Under My Bed: Memoirs”
By Daisy Hernandez
A story of immigrant life told through lessons told by her tias and her mother, Hernández’s memoirs are about finding her identity as a bisexual woman and trying to preserve her connection to the family that means so much to her, while simultaneously defying the dictates by which she was raised and which seem to hold her back. With multiple narrative threads that tell tales of colonialism, compromise, sacrifice and strength, this is a tale for anyone wishing to explore the connections between identity, family and the impacts of oppression.
By Gaby Rivera
This book is powerful. That’s the first thing I’ll say. The story of Juliet, a young Puerto Rican lesbian from the Bronx, who moves to Portland and finds community, what intersectionality means to her, and her own way of identifying with feminism. A constant critique of white feminist structures and a poignant examination of what it means to be an LGBTQ woman of color through the eyes of a fresh-faced Juliet, this book is a must-read for those who want to open themselves up to a conversation about intersectionality and for anyone looking for a refreshing read on reunited families and finding the love we deserve.
“And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic” by Randy Shilts
“The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America” by Margot Canaday
“Tomorrow Will Be Different” by Sarah McBride
“Are you my mother?” by Alison Bechdel
“Tall It Ends in Heaven: Poems” by Jarme Ringleb
“Her Body and Other Parties” by Carmen Maria Machado
“Little Beauty” by Jia Qing Wilson-Yang
“Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex” by Angela Chen
“Detransition, Baby” by Torrey Peters
“What If It Were Us” by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli
“Blue is the warmest color” by Julie Maroh and Ivanka Hahnenberger (translator)