This list of Read in Color recommended reads explores experiences from the LGBTQ+ community. These titles are recommended by Little Free Library’s Diverse Books Advisory Group and others. The list of books includes options for early readers, middle and YA readers, and adults and advanced readers.

View all of the Read in Color Recommended Reading lists. These lists are far from exhaustive, but they offer a starting point for exploring different perspectives. We recognize that categorizing books can be limiting and are working to show the intersectionality within our reading lists.

LGBTQ+ (Early Readers)

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Annie's Plaid Shirt

Annie’s Plaid Shirt by Stacy Davids, illustrated by Rachael Balsaitis (32 pp, Upswing Press, 2015). Annie loves her plaid shirt and wears it everywhere. But one day her mom tells Annie that she must wear a dress to her uncle’s wedding. Annie protests, but her mom insists and buys her a fancy new dress anyway. Annie is miserable. She feels weird in dresses. Why can’t her mom understand? Then Annie has an idea. But will her mom agree? Ages 3-8.

Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope

Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope by Jodie Patterson, illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (40 pp, Crown Books for Young Readers, 2021). Penelope knows that he’s a boy. (And a ninja.) The problem is getting everyone else to realize it. In this exuberant companion to Jodie Patterson’s adult memoir, The Bold World, Patterson shares her son Penelope’s frustrations and triumphs on his journey to share himself with the world. Penelope’s experiences show children that it always makes you stronger when you are true to yourself and who you really are. Ages 4-8.

Call Me Max

Call Me Max by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Luciano Lozano (32 pp, Reycraft Books, 2019). When Max starts school, the teacher hesitates to call out the name on the attendance sheet. Something doesn’t seem to fit. Max lets he know the name he wants to be called by—a boy’s name. This begins Max’s journey as he makes new friends and reveals his feelings about his identity to his parents. Written with warmth and sensitivity by trans writer Kyle Lukoff, this book is a sweet and age-appropriate introduction to what it means to be transgender. Ages 7-9.

I Am Perfectly Designed

I Am Perfectly Designed by Karamo Brown, with Jason “Rachel” Brown, illustrated by Anoosha Syed (40 pp, Henry Holt and Co, 2019). I Am Perfectly Designed is an exuberant celebration of loving who you are, exactly as you are, from Karamo Brown, the Culture Expert of Netflix’s hit series Queer Eye. In this empowering ode to modern families, a boy and his father take a joyful walk through the city, discovering all the ways in which they are perfectly designed for each other. Ages 4-8.

It Feels Good to Be Yourself

It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity by Theresa Thorn, illustrated by Noah Grigni (40 pp, Henry Holt and Co., 2019). Some people are boys. Some people are girls. Some people are both, neither, or somewhere in between. This sweet, straightforward exploration of gender identity will give children a fuller understanding of themselves and others. With child-friendly language and vibrant art, It Feels Good to Be Yourself provides young readers and parents alike with the vocabulary to discuss this important topic with sensitivity. Ages 4-8.

Love Makes a Family

Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer (24 pp, Dial Books, 2018). Love is baking a special cake. Love is lending a helping hand. Love is reading one more book. In this exuberant board book, many different families are shown in happy activity, from an early-morning wake-up to a kiss before bed. Whether a child has two moms, two dads, one parent, or one of each, this simple preschool read-aloud demonstrates that what’s most important in each family’s life is the love the family members share. Ages 5 and up.

My Rainbow

My Rainbow by Trinity and DeShanna Neal, illustrated by Art Twink (32 pp, Kokila, 2020). A dedicated mom puts love into action as she creates the perfect rainbow-colored wig for her transgender daughter, based on the real-life experience of mother-daughter advocate duo Trinity and DeShanna Neal. Ages 4-8.

Pink Is for Boys

Pink Is for Boys by Robb Pearlman, illustrated by Eda Kaban (40 pp, Running Press Kids, 2018). Pink is for boys … and girls … and everyone! This timely and beautiful picture book rethinks and reframes the stereotypical blue/pink gender binary and empowers kids—and their grown-ups—to express themselves in every color of the rainbow. Featuring a diverse group of relatable characters, Pink Is for Boys invites and encourages girls and boys to enjoy what they love to do, whether it’s racing cars and playing baseball, or loving unicorns and dressing up. Ages 4-8.

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Steven Salerno (48 pp, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2018). In this deeply moving and empowering true story, young readers will trace the life of the Gay Pride Flag, from its beginnings in 1978 with social activist Harvey Milk and designer Gilbert Baker to its spanning of the globe and its role in today’s world. Award-winning author Rob Sanders’s stirring text, and acclaimed illustrator Steven Salerno’s evocative images, combine to tell this remarkable—and undertold—story. A story of love, hope, equality, and pride. Ages 5-8.

Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution

Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Jamey Christoph (40 pp, Random House Books for Young Readers, 2019). This powerful and timeless true story allows young readers to discover the rich and dynamic history of the Stonewall Inn and its role in the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement—a movement that continues to this very day. Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution is an essential and empowering civil rights story that every child deserves to hear. Ages 5-8.

This Day in June

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten (40 pp, Magination Press, 2014). In a wildly whimsical, validating, and exuberant reflection of the LGBT community, This Day In June welcomes readers to experience a pride celebration and share in a day when we are all united. Ages 4-8.

What Are Your Words?

What Are Your Words? A Book About Pronouns by Katherine Locke, illustrated by Anne Passchier (40 pp, Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019). Whenever Ari’s Uncle Lior comes to visit, they ask Ari one question: “What are your words?” Some days Ari uses she/her. Other days Ari uses he/him. But on the day of the neighborhood’s big summer bash, Ari doesn’t know what words to use. On the way to the party, Ari and Lior meet lots of neighbors and learn the words each of them use to describe themselves, including pronouns like she/her, he/him, they/them, ey/em, and ze/zir. As Ari tries on different pronouns, they discover that it’s okay to not know your words right away—sometimes you have to wait for your words to find you. Ages 4-8.

When Aidan Became a Brother

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (32 pp, Lee & Low Books, 2019). When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl’s room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of his life that didn’t fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life. When Aidan Became a Brother is a heartwarming book that will resonate with transgender children, reassure any child concerned about becoming an older sibling, and celebrate the many transitions a family can experience. Ages 4-7.

LGBTQ+ (Middle Readers)

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All Boys Aren't Blue

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (320 pp, Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR, 2020). In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys. Ages 14-18.

The Best At It

The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy (336 pp, Balzer + Bray, 2020). Rahul Kapoor is heading into seventh grade in a small town in Indiana. The start of middle school is making him feel increasingly anxious, so his favorite person in the whole world, his grandfather, Bhai, gives him some well-meaning advice: Find one thing you’re really good at and become the BEST at it. Those four little words sear themselves into Rahul’s brain. While he’s not quite sure what that special thing is, he is convinced that once he finds it, bullies like Brent Mason will stop torturing him at school. And he won’t be worried about staring too long at his classmate Justin Emery. With his best friend, Chelsea, by his side, Rahul is ready to crush this challenge…. But what if he discovers he isn’t the best at anything? Ages 8-12.

Better Nate Than Ever

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle (304 pp, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018). Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he’d settle for seeing a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom. Ages 10 and up.

Bingo Love, Volume 1

Bingo Love, Volume 1 by Tee Franklin (88 pp, Image Comics, 2018). When Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray met at church bingo in 1963, it was love at first sight. Forced apart by their families and society, Hazel and Mari both married young men and had families. Decades later, now in their mid-’60s, Hazel and Mari reunite again at a church bingo hall. Realizing their love for each other is still alive, what these grandmothers do next takes absolute strength and courage. Ages 13-16.

The Black Flamingo

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta (416 pp, Balzer + Bray, 2020). Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican—but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough. As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs—and the Black Flamingo is born. Told with raw honesty, insight, and lyricism, this debut explores the layers of identity that make us who we are—and allow us to shine. Ages 14 and up.

Darius the Great Is Not Okay

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (336 pp, Penguin Books, 2019). Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian—half, his mom’s side—and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life. Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Adib Khorram’s brilliant debut is for anyone who’s ever felt not good enough—then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than okay. Ages 12-17.

Felix Ever After

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (368 pp, Balzer + Bray, 2020). Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after. When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle…. But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself. Ages 14 and up.

George

George by Alex Gino (224 pp, Scholastic, 2017). When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl. George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte—but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all. Ages 8-12.

If I Was Your Girl

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (320 pp, Flatiron Books, 2018). Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone. But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it. Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love? Ages 13-18.

Juliet Takes a Breath

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera (320 pp, Dial Books, 2019). Juliet Milagros Palante is a self-proclaimed closeted Puerto Rican baby dyke from the Bronx. Only, she’s not so closeted anymore. Not after coming out to her family the night before flying to Portland, Oregon, to intern with her favorite feminist writer—what’s sure to be a life-changing experience. And when Juliet’s coming out crashes and burns, she’s not sure her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan—sort of. In a summer bursting with queer brown dance parties, a sexy fling with a motorcycling librarian, and intense explorations of race and identity, Juliet learns what it means to come out—to the world, to her family, to herself. Ages 14 and up.

King and the Dragonflies

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender (272 pp, Scholastic, 2020). Twelve-year-old Kingston James is sure his brother Khalid has turned into a dragonfly. When Khalid unexpectedly passed away, he shed what was his first skin for another to live down by the bayou in their small Louisiana town. Khalid still visits in dreams, and King must keep these secrets to himself as he watches grief transform his family. It would be easier if King could talk with his best friend, Sandy Sanders. But just days before he died, Khalid told King to end their friendship, after overhearing a secret about Sandy—that he thinks he might be gay. But when Sandy goes missing, sparking a town-wide search, and King finds his former best friend hiding in a tent in his backyard, he agrees to help Sandy escape from his abusive father, and the two begin an adventure as they build their own private paradise down by the bayou and among the dragonflies. Ages 8-12.

Meet Cute Diary

Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee (400 pp, Quill Tree Books, 2021). Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe. When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. In this charming novel, Noah will have to choose between following his own rules for love or discovering that the most romantic endings are the ones that go off script. Ages 14-17.

Pet

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (208 pp, Make Me a World, 2019). Pet is here to hunt a monster. Are you brave enough to look? There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with the lesson that the city is safe for everyone. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature who some might call monstrous but, in reality, is anything but, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has emerged from one of her mother’s paintings to hunt a true monster—and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. No one has encountered monsters in years, though, and Jam’s quest to protect her best friend and uncover the truth is met with doubt and disbelief. This award-winning novel from a rising-star author asks: What really makes a monster, and how do you save the world from something if no one will admit it exists? Ages 12 and up.

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus (320 pp, Penguin Books, 2020). Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus’s bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both. Minneapolis, MN: Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels—about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner. Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future. Ages 14-17.

They Both Die at the End

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (416 pp, Quill Tree Books, 2018). On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day. Ages 14-17.

LGBTQ+ (Adult Readers)

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Detransition, Baby

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (352 pp, One World, 2021). Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men. Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese—and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby—and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it—Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family—and raise the baby together?

Fairest: A Memoir

Fairest: A Memoir by Meredith Talusan (320 pp, Viking, 2020). Fairest is a memoir about a precocious boy with albinism, a “sun child” from a rural Philippine village, who would grow up to become a woman in America. Coping with the strain of parental neglect and the elusive promise of U.S. citizenship, Talusan found childhood comfort from her devoted grandmother, a grounding force as she was treated by others with special preference or public curiosity. As an immigrant to the United States, Talusan came to be perceived as white. An academic scholarship to Harvard provided access to elite circles of privilege but required Talusan to navigate through the complex spheres of race, class, sexuality, and her place within the gay community.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee (288 pp, Mariner Books, 2018). How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is the author’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he grows from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckons with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover, and a friend. By turns commanding, heartbreaking, and wry, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel asks questions about how we create ourselves in life and in art, and how to fight when our dearest truths are under attack.

How We Fight for Our Lives

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones (224 pp, Simon & Schuster, 2020). Haunted and haunting, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir about a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his family, into passing flings with lovers, friends, and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves.

Less

Less by Andrew Sean Greer (272 pp, Back Bay Books, 2018). Who says you can’t run away from your problems? You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can’t say yes—it would be too awkward—and you can’t say no—it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world. QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town? ANSWER: You accept them all. What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.

Let's Get Back to the Party

Let’s Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih (288 pp, Algonquin Books, 2021).It is 2015, weeks after the Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, and all Sebastian Mote wants is to settle down. A high school art history teacher, newly single and desperately lonely, he envies his queer students their freedom to live openly the youth he lost to fear and shame. When he runs into his childhood friend Oscar Burnham at a wedding in Washington, D.C., he can’t help but see it as a second chance. Now thirty-five, the men haven’t seen each other in more than a decade. But Oscar has no interest in their shared history, nor in the sense of be­longing Sebastian craves. Instead, he’s outraged by what he sees as the death of gay culture: bars overrun with bachelorette parties, friends cou­pling off and having babies. For Oscar, confor­mity isn’t peace, it’s surrender. While Oscar and Sebastian struggle to find their place in a rapidly changing world, each is drawn into a cross-generational friendship that treads the line between envy and obsession: Se­bastian with one of his students, Oscar with an older icon of the AIDS era. And as they collide again and again, both men must reckon not just with one another but with themselves.

Marriage of a Thousand Lies

Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu (288 pp, Soho Press, 2018). Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met. As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life?

Memorial

Memorial by Bryan Washington (320 pp, Riverhead Books, 2020). Benson and Mike are two young guys who live together in Houston. Mike is a Japanese American chef at a Mexican restaurant and Benson’s a Black day care teacher, and they’ve been together for a few years—good years—but now they’re not sure why they’re still a couple. But when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying in Osaka just as his acerbic Japanese mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Texas for a visit, Mike picks up and flies across the world to say goodbye. Back home, Mitsuko and Benson are stuck living together as unconventional roommates, an absurd domestic situation that ends up meaning more to each of them than they ever could have predicted. Both men will change in ways that will either make them stronger together, or fracture everything they’ve ever known. And just maybe they’ll all be okay in the end.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (256 pp, Penguin Press, 2019) On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born—a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam—and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. 

Patsy

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn (432 pp, Liveright, 2019). Nicole Dennis-Benn introduces readers to an unforgettable heroine for our times: the eponymous Patsy, who leaves her young daughter behind in Jamaica to follow Cicely, her oldest friend, to New York. Beating with the pulse of a long-withheld confession and peppered with lilting patois, Patsy gives voice to a woman who looks to America for the opportunity to love whomever she chooses, bravely putting herself first. But to survive as an undocumented immigrant, Patsy is forced to work as a nanny, while back in Jamaica her daughter, Tru, ironically struggles to understand why she was left behind. Greeted with international critical acclaim from readers who, at last, saw themselves represented in Patsy, this astonishing novel fills a literary void with compassion, complexity and tenderness, offering up a vital portrait of the chasms between selfhood and motherhood, the American dream and reality.

Real Life

Real Life by Brandon Taylor (336 pp, Riverhead Books, 2020). Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends—some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate, conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community. Real Life is a novel of profound and lacerating power, a story that asks if it’s ever really possible to overcome our private wounds, and at what cost.

Under the Rainbow

Under the Rainbow by Celia Laskey (288 pp, Riverhead Books, 2020). Big Burr, Kansas, is the kind of place where everyone seems to know everyone—or so they think. But when a national nonprofit labels Big Burr “the most homophobic town in the U.S.” and sends in a queer task force to live and work there for two years, no one is prepared for what will ensue. Still grieving the death of her son, Linda welcomes the newcomers, who know mercifully little about her past. Teenage Avery, furious at being uprooted from her life in L.A. and desperate to fit in at her new high school, fears it’s only a matter of time before her classmates discover her mom is the head of the task force. And Gabe, an avid hunter who has lived in Big Burr his whole life, suddenly feels as if he’s in the crosshairs. As tensions roil the town, cratering relationships and bringing difficult truths to light, both longtime residents and new arrivals must reconsider what it means to belong.

We Are Everywhere

We Are Everywhere by Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown (368 pp, Ten Speed Press, 2019). Through the lenses of protest, power, and pride, We Are Everywhere is an essential and empowering introduction to the history of the fight for queer liberation. Combining exhaustively researched narrative with meticulously curated photographs, the book traces queer activism from its roots in late-nineteenth-century Europe—long before the pivotal Stonewall Riots of 1969—to the gender warriors leading the charge today. By challenging many of the assumptions that dominate mainstream LGBTQ+ history, We Are Everywhere shows readers how they can—and must—honor the queer past in order to shape our liberated future.

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