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Five LGBTQ+ Books to Read for Pride Month

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

While television shows and movies have become a major resource in recent years to highlight the struggles and bring attention to the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community, literature has also served the same purpose throughout history. This Pride Month, I’ve compiled several books that discuss themes of sexuality, belonging, and love that are great additions to your reading list!

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (1956)

Published in 1956, during a time in which homosexuality was classified as a mental illness in the United States, Giovanni’s Room discusses the everyday physical and emotional toll endured by the LGBTQ+ community in their continual battle against internalized homophobia and heteronormativity. In his realization that he never truly loved his fiancee Hella, the protagonist, an American man named David, reminisces about the time he fell in love with an Italian man named Giovanni while living in Paris. Baldwin invites readers to find empathy for his characters and to think about how enclosed spaces can be transformed from a barrier into sites of open expression and support for all.

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith (1952)

Known for being the first lesbian novel with a positive ending, The Price of Salt pushed against the norms of its time in the 1950s that rejected homosexuality and forced unfortunate endings instead (often with the death of one lover). As a struggling artist trying to make a living in New York, the protagonist, Therese, is enthralled by a married woman named Carol whom she meets at her [Therese’s] workplace. Highsmith incorporates real-world custody laws to comment on the harsh stigmas attributed to homosexuals (which deemed them as unfit caretakers to their children) at the time. This novel, in its exploration of sexuality, acts as a mark stone of the past to compare our progress in LGBTQ+ rights in the present.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (2012)

In following the life of the lonely fifteen-year-old Aristotle, he meets a young man named Dante who is questioning his sexuality. Later on, Dante tells Aristotle that he is attracted to boys, thus marking the start of a much more complicated relationship. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe does well to display the characters’ transition from friendship to romance in a natural manner—not rushed or forced—that allows readers to learn about who they are in all of their complexities. Just as in reality, life has its ups and downs, which Saenz perfectly emulates in this novel.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (2006)

Both a graphic novel and a memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic describes the life of the author herself as she discovers her own sexuality and explores her relationship with her closeted gay father. The gothic-style illustrations perfectly capture her story and the visual depictions of her contorted faces at certain moments provide ample meaning alone to how she feels. There are so many secrets and facades in trying to hide one’s true identity, and Bechdel demonstrates such struggles against expectations of gender and sexuality in complete honesty that is both beautiful and tragic.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011)

A retelling of the Illiad with a twist into a romance narrative, The Song of Achilles follows the relationship of Greece’s greatest hero Achilles, and his best friend, Patroclus, who becomes the protagonist in this version of the story as he develops an attraction for Achilles, although unable to recognize what these feelings were. Miller creatively interweaves the ancient tale with her interpretations and effectively presents a humanistic side to the Trojan War and its characters. She casts away the aspect of glory and heroism attributed to epic ballads, and instead focuses on mortality that renders even the strongest warriors as complexly tender and fragile. Through the eyes of Patroclus, readers are able to see both the individual character and relationship development.

Using their queer characters, these books build the literary world into a place that is just as diverse as the world we live in. Through them, our lived experiences are reflected and thus provide a space for discussion and exploration of our complex identities.

Kayla is currently a third-year English and Communications student at the University of California, Davis. She enjoys learning new skills, especially in relation to art or language, and loves petting cats.