Once again, here is Pride Month! In case you don’t know, every year, the whole month of June is dedicated to the LGBTQIA+ community as a tribute to the Stonewall Riots, which took place around the same period in 1969. The purpose is to fight against prejudice, to promote awareness and to celebrate identity and pride for being who they are. Usually, on June 28th, LGBTQIA+ parades are held around the world to honor the first one that happened in 1970 and the day is widely known as Pride Day.
Unfortunately, it’s not totally safe yet to go out on the streets and gather together for the celebrations as it was before. So, in order to praise the community from home, how about consuming literature by, about and for them? That’s why I bring you today five of the best books with LGBTQIA+ protagonists, that not only contribute to Pride, but also teach us valuable lessons. Follow us through!
- Here The Whole Time, by Vitor Martins
“That’s the most important thing – to not put your head down, to fight for the right to marry who you love, for the right to have your body respected regardless of what it looks like or what you’re wearing. To fight for the right to walk down the street without being attacked for the color of your skin.”
Let’s start this list with a very talented brazilian author, who brings in this quick romance novel relevant and important topics to discuss, Victor Martins. Here the whole time is his first published book – also the only one (yet) to be translated to english. With the original title Quinze Dias (Fifteen Days), the book tells the story of Felipe, a fat young teenager, who is completely tired of school and the bullying because of his appearance.
School break is almost there and he can’t wait to put in practice all the plans he made for his alone time, but all of that suddenly has to change when his mom announces a new guest in their house for the next two week – his secret school crush, Caio. Felipe definitely wasn’t looking forward to dealing with his feelings right now, especially in a situation like this.
It is a Young Adult novel brightly made, touching on matters every teenager should be aware about, such as racism, homophobia and fatphobia, while also discussing bullying, self-discovery, body insecurities, and self-acceptance. Martins creates the perfect balance between awarrenes and the precise dose of cliché. Grab yourself your favorite tea and follow Felipe and Caio through this comforting journey.
- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel
“I suppose that a lifetime spent hiding one’s erotic truth could have a cumulative renunciatory effect. Sexual shame is in itself a kind of death.”
Alison Bechdel‘s Fun Home is an autobiography graphic novel with a poetic vocabulary. It is the perfect example of the popular phrase “it would be comic if it weren’t tragic” – but it’s comic and tragic. If you’re looking for someone’s story to identify with and feel less crazy in the world we live in, this one is perfect for you.
Bechdel tells the real early life of a lesbian girl – herself – and her daily routine with her family, but, most importantly, with Bruce Bechdel: her father, “a manic-depressive, closeted fag”, as she describes, and an English teacher, who raised his daughter with a lot of classic literature. However, some time after she decided to come out to her family, Bruce happens to be found dead, leaving hints to a possible suicide.
She begins to live with the mystery surrounding her father’s death, as well as with her own mission to reflect more upon his sexuality, as he happened to be gay himself. The story of this dysfunctional family includes deep matters: emotional abuse, suicide, sexual discovery and the stigma of social labels, all this while embracing how literature helped both daugther and father with their sexual nature.
A memoir novel written in a stream of consciousness couldn’t have a better art style as well. The illustrations with various shades of blue and green make the story even more emotional. It’s impossible not to identify with the dilemmas of the protagonist and some family situations that everyone goes through in their lives. Not to mention that all sad moments are handled with a certain lightness and humor. All these factors combined makes us travel through Alison’s mind as if it was our own. This book is the one for those who seek social criticism of LGBTphobia and an analysis on how this prejudice impacts one’s life, but with characters who resemble our own imperfect families too.
- Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey Mcquiston
“Thinking about history makes me wonder how I’ll fit into it one day, I guess. And you too”
“History, huh? Bet we could make some.”
Imagine this: the USA is governed by a woman, President Ellen Claremont. Alex Claremont-Diaz, the First Son, is madly obsessed with politics and eternally enraged at Henry, the Prince of Wales. Due to a conflict at a royal wedding between these them, American/British relations are portrayed as unstable by the media. The resolution to this little inconvenience is very simple: both governments decide to force their young boys into faking a healthy friendship, but what they don’t know is that a much stronger bond can grow along the way. This book could be defined as ‘an enemies-to-lovers fanfic comes true’. Well, almost, because it’s still fiction, but it’s close enough.
In addition to the intellectual baggage – great political and historical content that teaches the reader a lot about the countries involved in the plot – the relationship between Alex and Henry may have started with a lot of tension, but it turns into a very sweet romance very quickly. Their pure love for each other makes any heart melt and dream with the emotions they describe. Putting it like that makes it seem very sugary all the time, but don’t fool yourself: as any fanfiction-type of novel, it isn’t immune from the sexual content the readers are looking for – and there is a lot.
If you want a book with a good love story, but also with a fun group of the best of friends, Red, White & Royal Blue is the perfect novel for that. Alex, Henry, June, Nora, Percy and Bea will make you laugh a lot and, at the same time, make you feel like you belong in their group. Actually, this whole novel could be a very special comfort book, if the style fits your literary taste. So, prepare your heart to feel all kinds of good emotions at once!
- The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin
“What if the woman on Hester Street is right, and the next few years are his last? The mere thought turns his life a different color; it makes everything feel urgent, glittering, precious.”
Right in the synopsis, this book proposes the question: if you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life? This uncomfortable doubt is what guides the entire novel and its four protagonists. As childs, Simon, Klara, Daniel and Varya – the Gold siblings – heard about a fortune teller living near their house, who promised her clients to predict the date of their death. With their savings on hand, they decided to go, not knowing that what they were about to be told would change their lives, as well as their relationship, forever. Some years later, their ways part and each one of them follows a different journey, whether desperately trying to lengthen their life or living each second intensely.
Through the reading of The Immortalists, it’s impossible not to elaborate on two more questions: Has destiny decided their path and their death all along? Or did thinking they found out the date of their last day defined their whole future and led to this end? While reading, be careful or Chloe Benjamin’s work can cause you a deep existential crisis!
You may be wondering “but where’s the LGBTQIA+ character?”. This book is what I like to call the “casual representation” type. It’s not entirely about the experience of a LGBTQIA+ person, but brings a very important character of this community. This kind of literature shows itself as becoming more and more important nowadays, in order to avoid queer people to be restraingned to LGBTQIA+ themed books only and isolated from other literary genres.
With that being said, The Immortalists gift us with Simon, a closeted gay boy who decides to break free and run away from home to San Francisco after the death of his father, Saul. His deepest desire is to enjoy the last years of his life in the most intense way possible with his sister, Klara – and he was only 16 years old at the time. Simon teaches us how to live with no regrets and embrace who we truly are, but also helps us learn from his mistakes, contributing with good awareness.
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
“Heartbreak is a loss. Divorce is a piece of paper.”
I would like to consider this book the best on this list. It is nothing less than a true majestic work of art and everyone who can should read it immediately. Taylor Jenkins Reid has a talent which many would die to obtain and a remarkable ability to make the reader believe every single word she writes is real – and anyone who has already met Reid’s creations knows what this means.
Evelyn Hugo, a retired but insanely famous Hollywood star, has decided to offer to Monique Grant, a young journalist, the opportunity to write her biography. The reasons why she chose to do so now and this specific author for her book, as well as when she wants it to be published are not clear, but one fact is for sure: she’s willing to open up about everything! Monique accepts the job and enters on a journey that begins back in the 1950s, revealing every detail and truth about the rise and fall of the legendary actress. She confesses to Grant a lot of events that almost no one knew happened and she worked hard to keep hidden. However, one strongly noted aspect about her life is that she got married seven times and the question that rules Monique’s work is disquieting: who was Evelyn’s true love?
Here’s where Reid’s sagacity comes with great presence. As already seen, the novel proposes a discussion about the value that society gives to looks over reality and it’s common knowledge that the Hollywood industry is all about maintaining good appearances and pleasing fans’ expectations. But the book itself is a false display! The title may suggest crazy heterossexual love stories between the protagonist and her husbands and the reader waits anxiously to find out which of them was ‘the one’. The reality couldn’t be better: Evelyn Hugo’s true love was, in fact, a woman.
Brilliantly, the author explores deeply the subject of bissexuality, from the experiences to the discrimination involved. The novel also touches other topics, such as intimacy, the effort needed to achieve our dreams and the price we must pay for it. Evelyn teaches us lessons about valuing ourselves, even if everyone tries to belittle us. It’s simply impossible not to fall for the protagonist’s personality and for Reid’s incredible writing. I should warn you, though: get you a box of tissues, it’s surely needed!
This is a diverse list, but besides their literary genre differences, they all are great at one thing: contributing to representativeness. These books help young LGBTQIA+ people to discover themselves by seeing someone just like them in literature, something that makes them feel less lonely in this still very homophobic society. Through the world of imagination these novels create, it’s possible for many to find the support they need and, unfortunately, don’t encounter in the real world. And that’s what literature is all about anyway: helping people live any lives they want. So, I hope this list helped you somehow too. Have a good reading!
The article above was edited by Julia Queiroz.
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