In a time when LGBTQ+ books are being banned from libraries across the country and legislation nationwide is undermining the rights of queer youth, telling queer stories is more important than ever. Though no collection of books could ever capture the diversity of the queer experience, this list aims to provide readers with a variety of reads, ranging from young adult novels to sci-fi epics to nonfiction queer theory.
“Gender Euphoria” by Laura Kate Dale
“Gender euphoria” refers to “a powerful feeling of happiness experienced as a result of moving away from one’s birth-assigned gender.” This collection of 19 essays edited by Laura Kate Dale focuses on stories of gender euphoria, with essays from non-binary, agender, gender-fluid and intersex writers about different moments of gender euphoria in their lives. From the story of a trans man getting his first tattoos to the adventures of an agender dominatrix, the essays are as interesting as they are diverse.
Though each essay is fascinating and unique, this collection’s strength is its diversity when looking at all these narratives together. Whether you’re looking to learn more about experiences that aren’t your own or are searching for a story to relate to, there’s likely an essay for you in “Gender Euphoria.”
“Hijab Butch Blues: A Memoir” by Lamya H.
Fourteen-year-old Lamya is completely uninterested in men. One day, while reading the Quran, Lamya reads about Maryam who, upon learning she was pregnant, said no man had touched her. This makes Lamya wonder: are she and Maryam… similar? So begins Lamya H.'s coming-of-age memoir, as she compares her experiences as a young queer person with the stories she reads about in the Quran.
Lamya’s memoir is captivating and introspective. Though the story is incredibly unique to her lived experience as a queer Muslim, the novel has the capacity to resonate with readers from all walks of life, as her quest for community and complex journey navigating her multifaceted identity are incredibly relatable, particularly for many queer readers.
“Maurice” by E.M. Forster
You may be wondering: why on earth should I read a 1913 novel in my spare time? But fear not, the language in this novel is remarkably accessible. Although it takes place in a completely different era, the conversations and struggles these characters are navigating feel just as relevant now as they did when Forster first wrote it over a century ago. “Maurice” follows the life of Maurice Hall, a young middle-class gay man coming of age in early 20th-century England.
As a queer story, Forster wasn’t able to publish “Maurice” until 1972. Yet, despite the immense homophobia of Forster’s time, he remained committed to queer joy, remaining dedicated to the happiness of his queer characters and exploring queer love in its full, rich complexity. As we live in a time when it can feel like every new queer piece of media is about death and suffering, “Maurice” shows that queer joy is still possible, even in 1913.
“The Queer Art of Failure” by Jack Halberstam
If you’re looking to read some queer theory in your spare time, Halberstam’s “The Queer Art of Failure” is for you. Through his analysis of popular media and queer history, Halberstam argues that in a cis-heteropatriarchal society, queerness is inherently a failure. Though that may sound grim, it’s intensely liberating, as the realm of failure is incredibly generative, as it allows us to imagine new ways of being, outside the standards of cisheteropatriarchy.
While some academic texts can feel irrelevant to one’s day-to-day life, this book provides a new outlook on being queer that has the potential to resonate with many readers. As Halberstam writes, “Queerness offers the promise of failure as a way of life … but it is up to us whether we choose to make good on that promise in a way that makes a detour around the usual markers of accomplishment and satisfaction.”
“All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir Manifesto” by George M. Johnson
Though you can’t always judge a book by its cover, Johnson’s memoir-manifesto is just as beautiful as its stunning cover illustration. Johnson’s collection of essays recounts his childhood, adolescence and college years as a young, queer man. From remembering his first time getting bullied to reminiscing on his time at flea markets with his grandmother, Johnson’s collection of essays is filled with beautiful prose that’s sure to move you.
This self-labeled “Memoir-Manifesto” is also a guide, answering all sorts of queer questions about relationships and identity while providing examples of what allyship can look like and the transformative potential of a supportive community. Johnson’s reflection on intersecting identities has much to offer all sorts of readers, whether you’re looking to relate, to learn or both.
“Love in the Big City” by Sang Young Park
Originally written in Korean, “Love in the Big City” follows Young and his best friend Jaehee, two young Korean students who ignore their existential crises by creating drama-filled love lives for themselves with the help of Tinder. Eventually, Jaehee decides to settle down, leaving Young on his own to figure out who he is and what he wants from his life.
If you’re someone who cares about ambiance over plot twists, this is the book for you. Anton Hur’s translation does the novel justice, as it feels like you’re in the city center of Seoul when you peruse its pages. But be warned — you may need a pack of tissues when reading this novel.
“She Drives Me Crazy” by Kelly Quindlen
If you’re a YA fan, consider picking up Quindlen’s lesbian enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy. “She Drives Me Crazy” begins with a car crash. After losing a basketball game to her former girlfriend, Scottie gets in a car crash with Irene Abraham, her sworn enemy. Scottie’s mom then forces her to drive Irene to school every day until her car gets fixed; the girls slowly but surely learn that they may have more in common than they think.
This book has more fanfiction tropes than a Wattpad story: enemies-to-lovers, fake-dating and friends-to-lovers plot arcs fill the pages of this fast-paced rom-com. Cutesy and fun, this book promises a good time for YA lovers everywhere.
“The Great Believers” by Rebecca Makkai
This novel is not one story but rather two intertwined narratives. The first is the story of Yale Tishman, a young man working at an art gallery in 1980s Chicago, who is beginning to lose his loved ones to the AIDs epidemic. The second is the story of Fiona, the younger sister of one of Yale’s closest friends, and her journey to track down her daughter, who has disappeared into a cult. The two stories are expertly interwoven, with the time jumps feeling natural and seamless.
The strength of “The Great Believers” is its characters; each feels so believable that you’ll likely be left feeling like you might run into Yale on your way to class. Though a story about tragedy and its aftermath, the book still prioritizes queer joy, highlighting the vibrant queer community of 1980s Chicago. It’s clear Makkai has spent an incredible amount of time researching this history, giving the narrative a polished, genuine authenticity.
“Spit and Passion” by Cristy Road
The only graphic novel on this list, Cristy Road’s memoir isn’t your typical coming-out story, as Cristy never officially comes out. Overwhelmed by the conformist values of her stifling suburban community and the casual homophobia of her Cuban family, Cristy’s closet becomes a safe space for her to listen to punk music and think about coming out when she’s ready one day.
The book’s unique punk aesthetic combined with Cristy’s hard-hitting reflections on a multi-faceted identity and queerness make it a graphic novel unlike any other. It’s definitely not for everybody, as it revels in the grotesque and uncomfortable. This is precisely what, arguably, makes the book so distinctly captivating.
“The Cybernetic Tea Shop” by Meredith Katz
“The Cybernetic Tea Shop” is as unique as its eccentric title. The science fiction novel follows Clara Gutierrez, a technician specializing in AI, whose childhood has taught her to not stay in one place too long, leaving her flighty and frequently on the move. Sal, on the other hand, can’t move on — she is an autonomous robot who runs the tea shop that her human “master” owned before he died, trapped by the past. When Clara stops by the tea shop for lunch, their paths collide, leading to a romance between the two asexual women.
The book is a love story and so much more, as it asks what it means to be human and what it takes to move on from the past. Though set in a fast-paced sci-fi world, it’s a thoughtful, tender look at connection and what it means to love someone.
Read more from The Herald's Pride 2023 Special Issue.
Indigo Mudbhary is a University news senior staff writer covering student government. In her free time, she enjoys running around Providence and finding new routes.