26 Jun LGBTQIA2S+ Stories to Read this Pride Week
For this 2021 pride week, I’ve compiled a collection of my favourite queer-centric, as well as queer authored books that encompass diverse genres, stories, journeys, and perspectives. I hope you can find something here that interests you, makes you laugh, cry, discover something new, celebrate your truest self, or simply find the joy and satisfaction of reading a good book.
I’M AFRAID OF MEN – VIVEK SHRAYA
Vivek Shraya’s remarkable book I’m Afraid of Men dissects and provides profound insight on the intersectionality of race, gender and sexuality through her life as a brown boy growing up in Alberta to becoming a woman who is a renowned writer, professor, musician, poet, and activist . Vivek’s writing is intellectual, generous, and ultimately accessible. While she addresses heavy issues including misogyny, racism, homophobia, and transphobia, there is a true sense of joy that will inspire the reader to challenge norms and question the status quo of gender and sexuality. Vivek expresses both the initial barriers and ultimate jubilation to be found in resisting assimilation and pursuing one’s true identity, whatever that may be. This is a super quick read, but incredibly well-written and one that stays with you for a long time after you’ve turned the final page.
WHEN EVERYTHING FEELS LIKE THE MOVIES – RAZIEL REID
Genre: YA Fiction
A fictional retelling based on the true story of Larry Fobes King, this book invites the reader directly into the mind of openly gay high school student, Jude. He believes that his high school is a movie set and that he’s the ultimate star–he knows that he wears heels better than the girls and all of the boys secretly want him. While his friends generally support him, most of his peers seem indifferent or disdainful of his self-expression, but Jude pretends not to notice. In his mind, any hatred is simply a consequence of being famous. It can be guaranteed that this book is unlike anything you’ve ever read before; it’s almost difficult to find the words that can do it justice. The writing style is entirely unique yet does a fabulous job of expressing the inner workings of the mind of a teenager; the plot is both gritty and heartbreaking, yet incredibly beautiful. It’s the retelling of a story that deserves to be, and needs to be, heard. Once again, this book is Canadian authored!
WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HERE – SAMRA HABIB
This memoir tells the story of Samra Habib’s immigration to Canada and finding her way within her religion, family, and the new society that was supposed to welcome her with open arms. From suddenly being thrust into an arranged marriage the night before her grade 12 bio exam to coming out as queer and becoming a Journalist for a living, she increasingly bucks the expectations of her family, culture and religion. Simultaneously, she highlights the importance of these three facets of her life and how finding herself, and countering their imposing presence, has allowed her to return to these roots and tentatively reaccept them into her life. This is a story of true intersectionality–of cultures, identities, religions, society–and the challenges that come with. Samra writes in an entirely matter-of-fact way, relaying her story without unnecessary embellishment or detail. While this story is extremely specific, there is universality to be found within its details, such as feeling that you don’t fit in, discovering your queerness after years of internal repression, being an immigrant, or questioning the traditions and values of your roots
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY – OSCAR WILDE
Genre: Classic Fiction
What makes this book unique is that it is difficult to find a book written before 1900 in a compilation of LGBTQIA2S+ books, but this classic, with its undeniable queer undertones, fits perfectly. The author, Oscar Wilde, was charged and imprisoned for gross indecency (code for homosexuality in the late 1800’s) and it was this harsh imprisonment that has been largely attributed to his early death. With knowledge of the author and an understanding of the extreme persecution that any hint of deviance from heterosexuality faced at the time this was written, the undercurrents of homoeroticism in this book are impossible to miss. The story is centered around the sudden rise and downfall of a stunning young man–Dorian Gray–and highlights themes of vanity, ego, and greed. Wilde’s enthralling descriptions of beauty, specifically male beauty and the male body, along with the exceptionally close relationships of the male characters in his story are clear hints at a part of his identity that he is both exploring and attempting to suppress. This story alone is incredible and a great read even if you aren’t examining its inherent queerness, yet doing so adds an extra dimension to the book’s meaning and historical significance.
CARRY ON – RAINBOW ROWELL
The revelation that author J. K. Rowling is transphobic was an incredibly disappointing blow to anyone who grew up reading Harry Potter, especially so for those within the LGBTQIA2S+ community who found a sense of solace and belonging within her stories that celebrate the unique and the power of self-expression. While nothing can truly remedy the damage done by discrimination and transphobia, Carry on by Rainbow Rowell may help by acting as a salve for anyone who still holds a love and nostalgia for Harry Potter but has difficulty returning to those books. Inspired by Harry Potter fan fiction (don’t worry though, there’s no uneccessary smut or horrendous grammer to be found here), this story of magical teenagers at a boarding school centering a queer storyline and protagonists is a joyful and fun read and there’s even two sequels if you fall in love with this one!
THE POWER OF STYLE – CHRISTIAN ALLAIRE
Genre: Non-Fiction, Coffee Table
The Power of Style is a true feast for the eyes. It is compiled and written by Christian Allaire, the current fashion and style writer at Vogue in New York, who is Ojibwe and grew up on the Nipissing First Nation Reserve in Ontario. He wrote this book to highlight style as a form of “self-expression, representation, and transformation.” It focuses on the style and traditions of commonly marginalized groups such as the ribbon work created by the Indigenous People’s of Turtle Island, drag, cosplay, and modest fashion in the Muslim community. This is a visually stunning platform for forces and individuals that are changing the way current Western beauty standards and style are perceived and perpetuated.
THE COLLECTED POEMS OF AUDRE LORDE – AUDRE LORDE
This compilation of poems by the self-described “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”, Audre Lorde, encompasses a vast range of her work from the beginning to the end of her poetic career. It’s a book that you can flip open to any page and read her thoughtful and alluring prose. Her poems hold an undeniable femininity, a connection to the natural world and subtle, yet powerfully confront authority, misogyny, racism, sexism, and homophobia. Even if you don’t generally read poetry, her captivating poems are definitely worth a try.
Support local! Most of these books can be found or ordered in Kingston from Novel Idea or the Kingston Frontenac Public Library’s central branch. Alternatively, to order pre-loved books directly to your door, visit https://www.abebooks.com/books/CompanyInformation/.