For the past few years, I’ve been in a reading slump. Picking up a new book and putting effort into reading and understanding it wasn’t very appealing to me, especially since so many shows and movies need to be binge-watched. It wasn’t until this past January that I finally grabbed a book from my “To Be Read” pile—one that my roommate gave me in September, no less—and regained a newfound love for reading. I’m especially fond of reading books centered around queer characters as I feel that the publishing industry didn’t offer much diversity when I was younger. With that being said, I’d like to introduce you to my favorite LGBTQ+ books.
These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever
This book is my current favorite book of all time and is perhaps one of the best-written books I’ll ever read. These Violent Delights is set in 1970s Pittsburgh and follows two gay young adults, Paul and Julian, after they meet their freshman year at university. Their relationship is intensely interesting and extremely volatile but shows exactly what young love looks like, especially to people who have been ostracized their whole lives and are just looking for someone to understand them. Nemerever does a fantastic job of showing what it’s like to be “out” in different families and how outside pressures can affect your relationships with others. It’s a great look into how the perceptions of others play such a massive role in how comfortable people are in their sexuality and what they’ll do to preserve love. I also think that Nemerever has taken a trope like young gay love and made it into something so much more than just the happy-go-lucky versions that we see so often in mainstream media. This is why it’s so high up on every one of my lists.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
While this may be one of the newer books I’ve picked up, it has quickly become a favorite (and I haven’t even finished it!) This story follows seventeen-year-old Lily Hu, a Chinese-American, as she comes to terms with her sexuality and develops a relationship with Kathleen Miller. While this is absolutely a novel about coming of age as a Chinese-American, it is also a beautiful discussion of lesbian culture. The setting—1954 America—also adds a bit of tension to the story as police raids of gay bars were frequent, and the “Red Scare” placed Asian Americans under scrutiny. The best thing about this book is that the relationship between Lily and Kath is very representative of people who are still trying to figure things out but know there is more to their friendship with each other. It’s a slow burn, one that is soft and tender and makes you want more, but I feel that Lo has done a great job of describing someone’s queer coming of age amazingly.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
A book that was first introduced to me in a Women in Literature course at Florida State University, The Color Purple intrigued me with its masterful way of explaining what it’s like to be a Black woman in early twentieth-century Georgia. Not only did this book break barriers discussing domestic and sexual abuse, but it also delved into a lesbian relationship between two characters, Celie and Shug Avery. Celie’s emergence of self-love and liberation from a terrible situation stems from the emergence of her sexuality. Although readers don’t know if the two women reunite as lovers or just friends, Alice Walker makes it known that the night they spent together was the best Celie has ever had. What’s so great about this novel is that it is so radial. Two lower-class Black women form a relationship in a town and time where it was disgraceful for them to have anything nice, and the reason they end up happy is because of each other. This novel was ahead of its time and continues to be the only Pulitzer-winning novel with a lesbian protagonist to this day.
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Young adult (YA) books will have a grip on my heart until the end of time, especially those by Adam Silvera. All of his novels are a masterful description of being a queer teen and dealing with real-life issues like death and depression. They Both Die at the End is particularly great because it centers around two teens who couldn’t be more different from each other but realize the most important thing that brings them together is their sexuality. Silvera does a great job of discussing the stereotypes surrounding young, queer men, especially when Mateo assumes that Rufus is straight just because of the way he dresses and acts. Their impending doom brings them together in a beautiful way, with both trying their hardest to make sure the other lives and sacrificing everything for their love. With characters that feel so real and a love that is so genuine, the ending is a heartbreak that most see coming, but that will leave you crying for ages. This book is cheesy and everything you expect from the YA genre, but it holds such a special place in my heart.
Reading has become my new favorite thing, and there’s always something out there just begging you to pick it up. So, I implore you to get out of your reading slump and read one of these books. You will forever be changed.