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Mental Health

Novels on Self-Discovery I’m Reading This Summer

Are you looking for some entertainment this summer? Well, here's a list of novels on what it means to be a human for you!

Content warning: discussion of mental health issues and violence

Some of the books on this list are ones that I've read before, but there's meaning in this. And I've heard of all of the authors before and have been meaning to read some of these novels for a while. Over the summer, I tend to do a lot of self-reflection and exploration on my intersecting identities, so reading novels like these are useful tools for that journey.

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

Aristotle and Dante was perhaps the first queer novel I read, and I did this in high school. I had also never come across a book that discusses queerness and Mexicanidad in such an intimate and real way via teenage characters. In short, this book saved me from giving up on being the proud queer and trans person I wanted to be when I grew up. Plus, reading this book over the summer is preparation for the sequel that's coming out in the fall!

The Book of Lamentations by Rosario Castellanos

The other book on this list by an author of Mexican heritage, The Book of Lamentations, holds a special place in my heart. I've never read the book before, so it'll be an exciting first time going through the exhilarating plot when I read it in a few weeks. This novel discusses a fictional Mayan uprising and the struggle for Indigenous power. Whilst I don't identify as an Indigenous person, I'm sympathetic toward the liberation of minoritized people and their cultural and societal struggles. I found Castellanos when I was doing independent research on Mexican women authors, and this sounded like the perfect novel to enhance my liberationist views.

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

I've been a big fan of Murakami's work since high school — The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is my favorite — and I'm excited to continue my fascination with his work through Killing Commendatore. I started the book in my senior year of high school and got 70 pages in before putting it down, but I want to finish the 700-page book. Murakami's work usually centers around a lens of self-exploration, the meaning of humanity and mental health, which is perfect for me.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I can't tell you how many times I cried the first time I read this book. Although I read I'll Give You the Sun for a Battle of the Books competition in high school, it didn't feel like an academic chore, but rather an exploration of queerness and the mental health journey following a family death. I recently experienced a devastating loss — my family cat died — and I would really like some solace and reflection over the summer (during which my cat's birthday would've been).

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

Invisible Monsters is all about trans people, as it should be!! I received this book as a birthday present a few years ago as a result of it being referenced in my favorite song at the time: "Time To Dance" by Panic! At The Disco. I literally just want to be as glamorous as the main character as a fellow trans person :,^).

Self-exploration is such a crucial part of the human experience! And what a better way to do that through the power literature carries? I hope y'all enjoyed this list!

X. Ramos-Lara

Chapel Hill '23

Hello! My name is X. and I'm a senior at UNC-CH majoring in Gender Studies and English. When I'm not stressed out about doing research on Foucault, Kant, and Butler for my thesis I like to write queer poetry. Welcome to this little sliver of my mind!
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