Friday, June 12, 2020

Megan's Pick: 20 LGBTQIA+ Books to Read for Pride and Beyond [Contributor: Megan Mann]

Streets flooded with rainbow colours on Tel Aviv pride parade

Welcome to 2020 where everything you thought would happen didn't, where the things you thought wouldn't happen are plaguing us, and where we've realized that maybe staying away from people isn't the worst thing in the world. We've also entered into a very important time in America's history. Late May and the month of June, so far, have been dedicated to eradicating systemic racism and defunding the police.

While this is vital (please make sure you sign petitions, donate, learn everything you can to be anti-racist and help in the fight), June is also Pride Month. This is a month where the LGBTQIA+ community can stand together, proud of who they are and where they've come from. After all, much like we're seeing today, Pride was started 51 years ago by Black and Brown trans women who were tired of the system betraying them.

To celebrate this rainbow month, I've put together a list of books that are all about the LGBTQIA+ community. While this is only a small sampling of all of the amazing books out there, here's something to get you started! 

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

I am stupidly biased about this one because it is tied for my favorite book of all time, so I feel like everyone should read it. It follows Astrid as she navigates figuring out how she fits into the conservative small town that her mother is so desperate to maintain appearances in. Which makes her struggling with her sexuality even harder to try to figure out. Her mom is worried about the wrong things, her dad unwilling to listen, and Astrid doesn't want to to confide in her sister. So she asks the passengers in the planes flying overhead for advice. Using magical realism, Ask the Passengers is an absolute must-read. (Again, not only because it's my favorite book, but also because it's just that good.)

When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri

If you want a deliciously sexy read, I cannot recommend When Katie Met Cassidy enough. Katie has just discovered that her fiance is cheating on her with her friend. So it's no surprise that when she heads to a brief one morning, she doesn't realize that the man she assumed she bumped into in the lobby is actually a female lawyer, and she's sitting across from her. Katie decides to go out later that night and who does she run into but the same woman. Cassidy, ever the suave player, sees Katie as nothing more than a conquest; Katie sees her as nothing. However, the two wind up spending more time together and bring out sides of each other that both are surprised to discover.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

I was mad at myself for waiting so long to finally read this. It's that good. Marin is a college student who is quiet and keeps to herself. She doesn't have a ton of possessions in her shared dorm room and aside from her roommate, she doesn't really have any friends. But it wasn't always that way. When Marin lived in California with her grandpa, she had plenty of friends including her best friend Mabel. They were inseparable and held feelings for each other that they never told anyone about. When Mabel comes to visit Marin, everything they've kept from each other comes out.

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

This is a really fantastic graphic novel if you want to understand pronouns, and I think is an absolute must-read for everyone. Identity is sometimes difficult for those who are conflicted about it and/or their sexuality, so if you don't understand the hurt and pain it can cause if you misgender someone, this is crucial reading. Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, takes readers through eir journey through navigating self-identity, sexuality, and having the difficult discussions with family about pronouns. E takes you through the trauma of pap smears, the confusion around sex, and being proud of the skin you're in.

Lot by Bryan Washington

This was something so unique and interesting to read. Instead of taking readers on a linear journey, Washington has taken his novel about a gay kid living with his family in Houston and woven in short stories about the people in the surrounding area to give the city and story itself more depth. It was absolutely incredible. The story follows a boy who is half-Black and half-Latino as he navigates his family, their constantly-on-the-brink-of-going-broke restaurant, and tries to figure out where he fits in in this world. We also learn of a woman whose lover is killed by her husband, a local drug dealer, a group of hustlers just trying to make a living and others who surround him. Oh, and there's a story about a chupacabra, so it's got that if nothing else interests you. A powerful new voice. 

My Brother's Husband by Gengoroh Tagame

Yaichi is home cooking for his daughter when a burly Canadian shows up at his door introducing himself as his dead twin brother's husband, Mike. Yaichi is uncomfortable and it's only at the behest of his daughter, who has come home to discover Mike there, that he allow him to stay with them. Over time, Yaichi realizes that making assumptions based on someone's sexuality isn't fair and that Mike is as much a member of his family as Ryoji. In a country that does not allow the LGBTQIA+ community to openly be themselves, Mike and Yaichi both learn from each other. Just a note: this is a manga. If you are not sure how to read them, you can watch a video. It can be hard at first!

Mama's Boy by Dustin Lance Black

Dustin Lance Black is a well-known screenwriter (he won the Oscar for Milk) and LGTBQIA+ activist, but unless you read his book, Mama's Boy, you'd never know that he grew up in a conversative Texas town with an even more conservative mother. As you might expect, this combination does not mix well with a young, gay teen. The two people go at each other over their ideals, but it's his mother who shows Dustin what strength and resilience looks like and how family can sometimes change their long-held beliefs. It's a story about familial love, identity, politics, and facing the odds together.

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker

Nova is a young witch who works at her grandmothers' bookshop. They sell books, but if you know what you're looking for, they'll loan you the right spellbook. She loves a good investigation and one night, she discovers her childhood crush battling a horse demon. Tam has been wandering around for years without any place to call home, but with dark forces trying to steal her white wolf powers, Nova offers to help Tam defeat the enemy. Working so closely together brings up old feelings for both of them. It's got witchcraft and evil spirits and love and magic! Who could ask for anything else from a graphic novel?

George by Alex Gino

George is a girl stuck in a boy's body and she's tired of it. When she decides to audition for to play Charlotte in the school's production of Charlotte's Web, she sets in motion a string of events that give her the strength to embrace who she really is and start living the life meant for her. This is a really great middle-grade novel for those who want to understand the trans experience in simpler terms or for those who want to share a trans story with the children in their lives. It's a great lesson in acceptance both of yourself and others. Bonus: Alex Gino wrote another book along these lines called Rick which is also super important!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle is a bit of a loner. While at the pool one day, he meets Dante, a boy with a lot of personality but whom he's not exactly sure about. There's something different about Dante though. He makes Ari laugh and the two quickly become friends who spend most of every day together. But Ari's parents know something is different about Dante, and it's something they don't want Ari being around. When Dante says he'll be moving to Chicago for eight months and then something terrible happens, Ari doesn't know how to feel. Life and the universe have many mysteries, and Ari believes that Dante has figured out most of them. But can Ari figure out the secret that's most important? Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a stunning novel that you will be drawn into from start to finish.

Too Much is Not Enough by Andrew Rannells

You may know him from Broadway productions, as Elijah from Girls, from the sadly cancelled-too-soon The New Normal, or the one guy who hit Blake Lively's character with a car in A Simple Favor. But before all of that, Andrew Rannells was just a struggling actor trying to make it in New York. It's about a Midwestern kid coming of age through horrible auditions, bad relationships, not-so-great hookups, and all of the ups and downs of chasing your dreams. It's hilarious, it's relatable (even if Broadway isn't your prize), and a really great memoir of what it's like before you finally find real success. It stops just before he gets a major role and I love that it doesn't keep going and get too muddied by that. It's about chasing the dream, not what it's like once you're there.

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin

When I tell you I adored this graphic novel, I really mean I loved every single page. It's about a same-sex couple over the span of 60 years. SIXTY. Hazel and Mari meet in 1963 at a church bingo game as teenagers. As the two girls grow up and get closer, they realize that they love each other more than just platonically. But their families put a stop to the relationship before it can go any further. Both women wind up marrying men and having children, though they're not as fulfilled as they hope to be. Decades later, they find each other again at a bingo hall. Once they see each other, they know that their hearts still belong to each other. I cried. A lot.

These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling

Imagine that all of the witches in Salem weren't burned during the witch trials. Imagine that those who didn't get found out stayed hiding in plain sight and that their descendants, and therefore their coven, still live there today. Hannah's an elemental witch who's just coming into her power and learning how to wield it. Her grandmother is the head of their coven and maintains the rules pretty strictly. When things start happening in her town, she thinks it's because of something stupid her ex, Veronica, did with some blood witches (the worst sort of witches). Between dealing with the blood witch threat without the full use of her magic and trying to date the new girl, she's got a lot on her hands. I read this book so fast and Isabel just released the sequel, This Coven Won't Break!

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Prince Sebastian is supposed to be looking for a bride, but he's just not into it. He's dreaming of the pretty dresses all of the ladies get to wear. At night, Sebastian likes to dress up as a woman and galavant around Paris going by the name Lady Crystallia. But his secret is found out by Frances, a woman who works in the castle and is waiting for greatness to happen in her life. Together, the two become the talk of the town: he as the most fashionable woman and she as his dressmaker. But his secret weighs heavily on her. How long can she keep it? How long can she hold herself back from her own dreams to see his dreams come true? This is a BEAUTIFUL story of love and identity and acceptance.

All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson

A brand-new release, this stunning collection of essays by George M. Johnson, a journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist, explores everything from childhood to college, from adolescence to the bullying that took place throughout his entire life. He talks about his relationships and what family means to him. It's about the difficulties about not only being queer, but also being Black and queer. It's about identity and masculinity (toxic and otherwise), love and consent, and being proud of who you are. This has been optioned by Gabrielle Union, so get on it!

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

This is another book that I suggest to everyone. I'll Give You the Sun follows Jude and her twin brother Noah as they grow up and grow apart. Noah is a gifted artist who begins to realize that he's in love with the boy next door. Jude has always been jealous of the ease with which Noah creates art. He's quiet while she's the party girl. Over the next few years, they stop speaking altogether and lose their innate, twin telepathy. The first half of the novel is told by Noah and the second half is by Jude; the story weaves love, friendship, identity, jealousy, art, family deceit, and so much more together. This is an absolutely breathtaking novel.

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuinston

Alex Claremont-Diaz is the First Son of the United States and he basically runs that place with his sister and the Vice Presidents's granddaughter. Together they do the perfect marketing for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. When photos of Alex and his British rival, Prince Henry, leak to the press, the dream team has to think of a way to save the situation before it spirals out with some serious consequences. So they dream up a fake friendship between the two. Alex soon realizes that maybe Henry isn't too bad after all. And then maybe he decides that he's super into him and they have a secret relationship that could also derail a ton of things... like his mother's reelection. This story is so delicious that you won't be able to put it down.

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan

Lou is determined to have the absolute best summer ever. Except... she's the girl in the hotdog costume at Magic Castle Playland. She can't stop swooning over Diving Pirate Nick, who totally has a girlfriend, but Lou has never felt this way about anyone before and wants to be the princess of the story for once. Her best friend, Seeley, works over at the carousel and sees her friend struggling with the whole "best summer ever" thing. And yeah, maybe Seeley wants her happily ever after too. With Lou, Diving Pirate Nick, Seeley, and Nick's princess girlfriend all realizing this is the last year they'll be at Magic Castle Playland, they fight to keep the park from closing and their hearts open to love and all its possibilities.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

This book is also a brand-new release and follows Felix, a transgender teen, as he navigates growing up queer, his identity, and falling in love for the first time. He thinks that love is easier for everyone except him. Why doesn't he deserve love? But he worries that all aspects of his identity — queer, Black, and transgender — are just too much for any one person to take on. The novel follows as a student anonymously posts photos of Felix, along with his deadname, from pre-transition and transphobic messages and how Felix decides to tackle that situation. It's an absolute must-read that will have you addicted. It's a great story about how everyone deserves love.

Drag Teen by Jeffrey Self

Drag Teen is a really fun novel. It's about a high-school student whose parents don't understand why he wants to go to college. They certainly don't have the money to send him so if he wants to go, he is told that he needs to figure it out for himself. Thankfully, his friends have his back and tell him about a drag competition for teens with a college scholarship on the line. Totally insecure and questioning whether he should do it, Drag Teen is a story about friendship, finding your confidence and voice, knowing what's right for you — and above all — love and acceptance.

Memoirs! Graphic novels! YA! Fiction! Mangas! It's all here for you. What are some of your favorite Pride books? Tweet me at @MissMeganMann and let me know. 


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