New Queer Titles to Read Before the Homophobes Ban Them

By D’Anne Witkowski

In an era when books by or about LGBTQ+ people are being taken off library shelves and banned in grade schools, there’s never been a more important time to support queer literature. Remember: Representation not only matters, it saves lives. LGBTQ+ people will not be erased, as the pages of these books prove.

Fiction

The Salt Grows Heavy” by Cassandra Khaw

A mermaid, a prince and a plague doctor all walk into a bar. Actually, it’s not a bar but a village of bloodthirsty children. Author Cassandra Khaw’s wildly original novel is a dark fairy tale that defies easy explanation. Part nightmare, part romance, Khaw crafts this story with poetic prose and an eye for the macabre.

The Adult” by Bronwyn Fischer

A college freshman. An older woman. An affair. Bronwyn Fischer’s “The Adult” is a beautifully written novel about what it means to find yourself as a young person and whether finding yourself is even really possible when you’re consumed by a relationship with someone older and, presumably, wiser than you.

Confidence” by Rafael Frumkin

A novel about a couple of gay scalawags who con the rich? Yes, please. After meeting at a juvenile delinquent boot camp, Orson and Ezra become partners in a life of crime. When they embark on the biggest scam of their career, targeting unfulfilled rich people, things don’t exactly go as planned. Written in an engaging voice, “Confidence” is a book about how it pays to be morally bankrupt. Or does it?

Non-Fiction

Hi Honey, I’m Homo” by Matt Baume

You can learn a lot about cultural attitudes toward LGBTQ+ people by watching TV. Decades of it, in fact. And if you’re thinking, “Well who has the time for that?” worry not. Matt Baume has you covered. “Hi Honey, I’m Homo” examines how the fight for LGBTQ+ equality has been reflected through TV history. From “All In the Family” to “Soap” to “The Golden Girls” to “Modern Family,” Baume illustrates how sitcoms shaped and continue to shape the way people see LGBTQ+ people and how LGBTQ+ people see themselves.

We See Each Other: A Black, Trans Journey Through TV and Film” by Tre’vell Anderson

If you start every morning with the “What A Day” podcast, then you already know that Black trans journalist Tre’vell Anderson is engaging, hilarious and smart as hell. In “We See Each Other,” Anderson traces both a personal and on-screen history of transgender visibility through movies and TV shows like “Some Like It Hot,” “Boys Don’t Cry” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” This is an absolute must-read.

We Set the Night on Fire: Igniting the Gay Revolution” by Martha Shelley

During this time of intense backlash against LGBTQ+ rights, it’s wise to turn to the activists who were on the forefront of this movement to remember our history and how far we’ve come. “We Set the Night on Fire” recounts lesbian founder of the Gay Liberation Front Martha Shelley’s story of fighting for equality. It’s a personal history that cannot be separated from the history of the larger Civil Rights Movement. May this book inspire more LGBTQ+ people and allies to take to the streets and fight for our lives.

Memoir

Boy Wander by Jobert E. Abueva

In University of Michigan alum Jobert Abueva’s memoir, he navigates multiple identities as he grows up. A star student at a Catholic boys’ school in Tokyo and, after school, a call boy for rich foreign men. A child born in Manila and coming of age in Kathmandu and Bangkok before moving to the U.S. in the peak Reagan 1980s. A young man craving his family’s love and acceptance but afraid to be fully honest. Abueva’s road to self-acceptance was not an easy one, and this memoir is not always an easy one to read, but Abueva’s honesty makes it ultimately rewarding.

Pageboy by Elliot Page

They say celebrities have no private lives, and to some extent, with paparazzi around every corner, that’s true. But one’s interior life is a whole different story, and for Elliot Page, that life was very different from the public life on display after “Juno” brought Page wide acclaim and stardom. “Pageboy” tells the story of Page refusing to be crushed by Hollywood’s demands and society’s expectations and deciding to live his truth.

Tweakerworld: A Memoir” by Jason Yamas

How does one accidentally become one of San Francisco’s biggest crystal meth dealers? You start with Beanie Babies. OK, not exactly. But like a lot of Yamas’s life — past, present and future — it’s complicated. “Tweakerworld” explores Yamas’s history of addiction, from Adderall to meth, his career as a filmmaker, gay culture, his relationships with his family and boyfriends and his often drug-fueled sex life. “Tweakerworld” is brutally honest and beautifully told.

Young Adult

Not Everyone’s Going to Like You” by Rinny Perkins

In her collection of short essays and engaging graphics, author Rinny Perkins dishes out the kind of advice that young adults need to hear, like: “Your existence is not validated by anyone’s dusty ass opinion” and “You can mute the family group chat.” Perkins explores issues of mental health, racism, family, dating and more in a voice that sounds like you’re listening to your new best friend.

Nayra and the Djinn” by Iasmin Omar Ata

A graphic novel that follows Nayra, a Muslim girl, through Ramadan as she deals with classmates who bully her for being Muslim and a complicated relationship with her best friend. Just when she’s at her breaking point, a djinn (a mythical being in Islamic folklore) named Marjan appears. Marjan has a complicated relationship of their own and the two characters help each other find resolution.

Tegan and Sara: Junior High” by Tegan and Sara Quin, Tillie Walden

A prequel of sorts to Tegan and Sara’s acclaimed memoir “High School,” this graphic novel, illustrated by Eisner Award–winning artist Tillie Walden, follows everyone’s favorite twin-rock star duo through the trials and tribulations of middle school with a blend of fiction and autobiography. If you’re a fan of the Quin sisters, Walden or just charming and frank pre-teen stories, you’ll want to pick this up.

Childrens Books

My Paatis Saris by Jyoti Rajan Gopal; illustrated by art twink

The story of a day in the life of a young Tamil boy and his grandmother, who share a love of saris, as they prepare for a family party. A beautifully illustrated tale of acceptance, love, cultural tradition and intergenerational family bonds.

She Persisted: Rachel Levine” by Lisa Bunker; illustrated by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint

U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine is the latest subject of the “She Persisted” series. Levine is not only the first woman to hold this position, but also the first openly transgender person to serve in a role requiring Senate confirmation. Levine has been a favorite target of anti-trans hate and this book, which recounts her childhood and portrays her as someone who really loves to help people, is a great antidote to this hateful rhetoric.

ABC-Deconstructing Gender” by Ashley Molesso and Chess Needham

There is no “A is for Apple and Z is for Zebra” in this ABC book. Each letter is used in a sentence that illustrates a drawing of people doing people things. Some of them challenge gender stereotypes (“Mohammad likes to do makeup and get beautiful with his sister”), but the themes throughout are showing empathy, helping others and being yourself. The illustrations are delightfully retro.

D’Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.

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