LGBTQI+ voices may traditionally be marginalised in literature, however, this is slowly but surely changing as the queer community’s voice grows. And we are here for it. YAS! Books by LGBTQI+ authors, as well as queer characters, show us how beautifully diverse our world is and reinforces that we all deserved to see our lived experiences reflected in the pages of a great book.
Pride Month is an amazing time to spotlight talent within the queer community, however, increased visibility during Pride Month should just be a starting point to expand our media consumption all year round. No matter what kind of reader you are, we’ve got your bookworm needs covered with all of the best LGBTQI+ books, from romantic comedies to confrontingly honest memoirs and powerful classics.
Grab your book, curl up on the couch and prepare to get lost in the pages of some truly stellar reads.
BY NICOLE DENNIS-BENN
One of the most acclaimed LGBTQI+ books out there, Patsy has taken home a slew of literary awards, including Best Book of 2019 and Lambda Literary Award Winner so set your expectations high, and prepare to have them exceeded. Award-winning author Nicole Dennis-Benn introduces readers to the eponymous Patsy, who leaves her young daughter behind in Jamaica to follow Cicely, her oldest friend, to New York. Patsy gives voice to a woman who looks to America for an opportunity to put herself first in a defiant act of self-preservation, however, she encounters a fractured version of the American dream, full of challenges. Fall in love with the complex characters, who are raw, vibrant and will keep you turning pages as you explore themes of identity, sexuality and family. Read it here, stat.
Where The Trees Were
BY INGA SIMPSON
We love a classic Australian novel and award-winning Aussie author Inga Simpson brings the Australian outback to life, with evocative descriptions of the bushland that transport you right back to childhood summers. Where The Trees Were follows the lives of Jay and her two childhood friends who spend their summers playing in rivers, climbing trees and frolicking together in their secret grove. However, their attempt to protect the grove ends in disaster and one fateful day changes their lives forever, forging a lifelong bond between them. Running parallel to this narrative is the story of Jay’s adult life, where she works as an art historian in Canberra and has decided to make amends and take back some of the wrongs that were done. This gentle, thoughtful read reflects many Australian issues of our time, including Indigenous land rights, the struggle of farming during drought and preserving our cultural heritage. Fall in love with this wonderful book here.
BY BRYAN WASHINGTON
We like to make our own judgments about books, but when it’s called one of Barack Obama’s favourite books of the year, you can bet your bottom dollar we are going to read it ASAP. Penned by the talented Bryan Washington, Lot is a coming of age story about a son of a black mother and Latino father, as he deals with the everyday teenage struggles. And discovers he likes boys. Washington weaves a complex tale of characters around him, who live, thrive and die in Houston’s myriad neighbourhoods. With soulful insight into what makes a community, a family, and a life, Lot explores trust and love in all its unsparing and unsteady forms. You need a copy of this phenomenal book, stat.
BY REBECCA STARFORD
Looking for some book club fodder? We’ve got you covered. Rebecca Starford’s thought-provoking autobiography, Bad Behaviour, describes itself as a 'memoir of bullying and boarding school’ but it’s so much more than that. Fourteen-year-old Rebecca spent a year at a school in the bush, where the worst behaved students and socially vulnerable young girls clashed. As everyone tried to fit in and cope with their feelings of isolation and homesickness, Rebecca found herself joining ranks with the powerful girls, becoming both a participant—and later a victim—of bullying. Bad Behaviour is a painfully honest exploration of how these experiences affected Rebecca as an adult, shaped her future relationships and asks thoughtful questions about female friendship. Text the book club group chat and snag your copy here.
The Stonewall Reader
BY THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
Commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, The Stonewall Reader is an anthology chronicling the tumultuous fight for LGBTQI+ rights in the 1960s and the activists who spearheaded it. The Stonewall uprising is considered by many as the most significant event in the gay liberation movement in America and drawings from The New York Public Library’s archives, this powerful anthology collates a collection of first accounts, diaries and articles from LGBTQ magazines that document both the years leading up to and following the riots. The Stonewall Reader spotlights iconic activists and forgotten figures of the movement, giving a voice to those long gone. Snag a copy of this must-read here.
The Color Purple
BY ALICE WALKER
We couldn’t make a list of the best LGBTQI+ books without including this literary classic. If you only have time to read one book, make it this one. Trust us, you’ll thank us later. The Color Purple is an iconic modern classic and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, so you know it’s something special. A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, this coming of age story depicts the lives of an African American woman, Celie, living in the deep American South in the early twentieth century. Celie narrates her troubled life through painfully honest letters to God, which continue throughout various traumas and her ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug—a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Celie pushes herself towards an awakening of her creative spirit, freeing her from her past. Get your literary classic fix here.
Things a Bright Girl Can Do
BY SALLY NICHOLLS
This inspiring novel follows three courageous young women through rallies and marches, prison cells and poverty-stricken slums as they fight for the vote. Things A Bright Girl can do is set in England during the Suffragette movement and will inspire you with these girls’ fight for freedom, for the vote, and to be their true selves. Nominated for four (yes, four) national literary awards, Sally Nicholls weaves an utterly captivating tale of sacrifice and forbidden love with a sprinkle of British history thrown in for good measure. Get your hands on a copy here.
The Family Law
BY BENJAMIN LAW
If you’re not already a fan of Benjamin Law, firstly, what are you doing with your life? And secondly, we need to fix that ASAP. Benjamin Law is a Chinese-Australian author who has been published in hundreds of publications and turned his memoir into a major television series. The Family Law is a collection of humorous personal essays that give you an inside glimpse into his eccentric, straight-talking, foul-mouthed family. While it has its fair share of laughs, it’s not all humour—many of these stories are also touchingly poignant or subtly confronting. In many of the essays, Law recounts life as a gay teenager and growing up as an Asian-Australian teenager in Queensland. Tug at your heartstrings here.
Mostly Dead Things
BY KRISTEN ARNETT
We’re a sucker for some dark humour and Kristen Arnett certainly delivers it in bucket loads in her debut novel, Mostly Dead Things. This celebrated New York Times bestseller follows Jessa-Lynn Morton who, in the wake of her father’s suicide, has stepped up to manage his failing taxidermy business. Around her, the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Jessa’s brother’s wife, Brynn—and the only person Jessa has ever loved—walks out without a word, which is the tipping point for a string of unexpected incidents. Surprising possibilities and second chances bloom, but they may not be enough to salvage this family. Get your fill of this darkly funny family portrait here.
BY ANNA WHATELEY
What exactly is normal? Is anyone truly normal? This young adult’s book certainly isn’t just for young ones and explores powerful concepts of social conformity, sexuality and self-identity. We love that Rating Normal is set in the suburban Brisbane bayside, paying homage to Anna Whateley’s Aussie roots. The plot goes like this: 16-year-old Peta is far from typical. The world she lives in isn't designed for the way her mind works, but when she follows her therapist's rules for 'normal' behaviour, she can almost fit in without attracting attention. All that changes when a new girl, Sam, starts at school and Peta’s carefully structured routines start to crack. Get all the feel-good vibes here.
If picking up a book isn’t your thing, you don’t need to miss out on your dose of awesome queerness. Bless your ears with the best LGBTQI+ podcasts that will make you laugh and cry.
Design Credit: Juliette Davies
Editor's note: Urban List editors independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. Urban List has affiliate partnerships, so we get revenue from your purchases.