Three things prompted this post. It’s Pride in London today; Yesterday, the US Supreme Court ruled gay marriage is now legal nationwide; And I was recently named as a judge for the 2015 Green Carnation Prize. It’s a pretty fabulous time for all things LGBT. So to celebrate I want to shout out about ten novels by LGBT authors and about LGBT issues which I think deserve to be read more widely. What's amazing about these books are the range of queer experiences they explore, often tapping into areas I've never seen represented before. I should add that some of these are better known in the US. I wrote this post thinking about a UK audience.
Have you read any of these?
Do you have any LGBT books you’ve read which you think should be better known? Comment and let me know!
You Are Not the One by Vestal McIntyre
The short stories in this debut book exhibit a full spectrum of characters from a tender sensitive boy with a pet octopus to a young woman working in new media whose plans to acquire a new gay best friend backfire. McIntyre’s writing shows tremendous psychological insight into the mess people make of their lives. He’s also written an excellent novel called “Lake Overturn” which you’ll want to race to after experiencing the humour and intelligence of these stories.
The Repercussions by Catherine Hall
Only published last year, Hall’s tremendous novel about war and love spanning across a century deserves much more attention. She handles two equally compelling parallel narratives which come together in the end to deliver a tremendous emotional punch. It made me cry. It’s especially impressive how Hall writes about the genuine love that can develop between gay and straight individuals.
Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
This is a large family epic which is one of those reads you can’t help racing through despite its length. MacDonald’s writing is so compelling. Not only does she explore complex issues to do with sexuality but also race, religion and the arts all within a story that is absolutely enthralling and characters whose lives you experience through many stages.
Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal
A sensitive adolescent boy named Kiran grows up in the suburbs of Cincinnati and believes himself to be the reincarnation of Krishna when he notices his skin starts glowing blue. This novel is so endearing and thoughtful it’s a coming of age tale like no other. It will make you want to laugh as often as it will make you cry while reading about Kiran's struggle to understand his burgeoning sexuality and grow into a new identity.
Trumpet by Jackie Kay
“Trumpet” tells the story of a fictional jazz performer named Joss Moody whose death reveals he lived his life as a man but was a biological woman. This beautifully written and powerful novel explores grief and the complexities of gender in a way so rare and wonderful it’s a book you’ll never forget. Kay writes tremendous short stories as well, but the story told in this novel is exceptionally special.
The Torturer’s Wife by Thomas Glave
This group of short stories is both political and personal. It explores specific instances of historical injustice where ordinary people are caught in terrible situations because of their politics, class, race and sexuality. Some of the stories also explore the less talked about troubles within the gay community in regards to self-hatred and prejudice against people who are HIV+. These stories are powerful and vibrantly alive.
Hotel de Dream by Edmund White
White is probably the most famous author on this list. Although many readers are familiar with his memoirist fiction, his historical novels are less well known. This novel takes an enticing nugget from history and creates a story around a rumour whose historical accuracy can never be verified. The author Stephen Crane was said to have written a novel about a boy prostitute which he later destroyed without publishing. Here White brings this tale alive with real heart and sophistication to make a compelling rich story about Crane's friendship with a forgotten queer boy who lived in the fringes of society.
Lost Girls by Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie
This graphic novel brings together three of literature’s most beloved female characters: Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy Gale and Wendy from Peter Pan. It transports them to the historically-specific point of an Austrian hotel in 1913. The women vary wildly in age but all discover new sides to their adult sexuality as they have various homosexual and heterosexual encounters with guests, staff... and each other! This book is not just a bawdy romp; it's a meaningful exploration of desire and identity created by an author and illustrator who are husband and wife in real life.
Send Me by Patrick Ryan
Ryan depicts a multi-layered view of a family in this novel composed of interlinked stories. Hopscotching through time, you see members of the family at different points which together make a complete picture of their complex relationships to each other. At the same time it explores individual struggle and a diversity of gay experience from an introverted gay son to an outgoing gay son with AIDS. It’s a memorable superb novel that shouldn’t be forgotten.
Edinburgh by Alexander Chee
This novel presents the life of a boy named Fee as if he were a mythic fox. He has a troubled teenage existence where sex is excruciatingly complex and suicide becomes a tantalizing prospect that hovers near. This novel has a special place in my heart as it is set in my home state of Maine. It was a tremendous debut which first appeared in 2002 and it’s exciting to know that Chee’s much-awaited second novel “The Queen of the Night” will appear early next year!