This article was originally published June 2019.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
And what a better way to commemorate the night that would spawn a movement than by making a list of some of the best LGBTQ authors out there?
Representation is incredibly important. In fiction, we can find ourselves, we can empathize with the characters’ struggles and triumphs, and most importantly, we can learn different perspectives. These books will make you laugh, cry, and most importantly, make you want to be your authentic self.
1. Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
In Anger is a Gift, Moss Jeffries is a teenager dealing with the death of his father while trying to make his way in his tough Oakland neighborhood. One of the most touching things that Oshiro focuses on community and family. The relationships between parents and kids in black and brown communities are often portrayed as broken but those who have grown up in these neighborhoods know that this is the farthest from the truth. Moss’ mom is present in his life and is supportive of his sexuality and his budding relationship with Javier. Since this story tackles so many issues, it’s not something that you can sit and read in one sitting. But it’s a necessary piece of work.
2. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
If you’ve ever read anything by Silvera ( More Happy Than Not, History is All You Left Me), then you know that happy stories are not in his repertoire. In this universe, there is something called the Death Cast, a piece of technology that tells you exactly when you’re going to die. 18-year-olds Mateo and Rufus get the message that they will die in the next twenty-four hours and they connect through “The Last Friend,” an app that brings people together who are about to die. The novel deals with the inevitability of death and makes you rethink how and with whom you would want to spend your last moments with. As for if they really die at the end, you have to read it to find out.
3. I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel
With a hit television show and best selling memoir, Jazz has become an advocate for trans kids everywhere. Jazz knew she was born in the wrong body when she was just two years old. And though it was confusing to her family, they supported her every step of the way. This is a great book for parents who want to explain gender identity to their kids.
4. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Fun Home is a must-read if you want to venture into the LGBTQ genre. It’s a graphic novel and serves as a memoir for Bechdel’s life and her relationship with her abusive, closeted gay father, Bruce. She struggles with her own sexual identity and shortly after she comes out, Bruce is killed in a car accident. Bechdel is then left to wonder if the news of her lesbianism made him jump in front of the car on purpose. Fun Home was made into a Broadway musical in 2015, and if you want to ugly cry, listen to “This Is What I Have of You”.
5. Boy Erased by Garrard Conley
Boy Erased is a gut-wrenching memoir about Conley’s time at Love in Action, a now-closed gay conversion camp. After being outed to his conservative parents, Garrard was forced to choose between being disowned or attending LIA. The novel showcases how dangerous and unnecessary conversion therapy is. The book was made into a film in 2018 and has amazing performances from Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, and Russell Crow.
6. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Juliet Takes a Breath tells the story of Juliet, a Puerto Rican lesbian from the Bronx. Her family isn’t exactly ecstatic when she comes out to them and she struggles to even speak to her mother. She goes to Portland, Oregon to intern with her favorite author. While trying to find herself, she wonders if she should go back to the Bronx and face her problems head-on or if she should have the best summer of her life.
7. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
James Baldwin is a legend in every sense of the word. Not only was he an amazing author, but he’s one of the greatest social and political activists of our time. In his novel Giovanni’s Room, David is an American man who has escaped to Paris. After his girlfriend leaves him, he begins an affair with an Italian man named Giovanni. David grapples with homosexuality, bisexuality, and what it means to be a man. What makes this book even more groundbreaking, is the fact that it was written in 1956. When Baldwin gave the book to his publisher, he was told that it would completely ruin his career. Giovanni’s Room has stood the test of time, and still remains one of the best LGBTQ novels.
Don’t just stop at this list — there are countless LGBTQ books out there that are dying to be read. Happy reading!
Header Photo by Jason Leung