For more than 50 years, Pride events across the country have celebrated LGBTQ+ life and culture. Pride began as a protest against police raids on gay bars, which often resulted in the arrests of LGBTQ+ people for violations of sodomy laws. With revolutionary protests again making headlines, Bustle has curated a list of 25 timely books you should read for Pride 2020, because Stonewall was a riot.
In the summer of 1969, New York City's queer community struck back against anti-gay oppression, following a police raid on Greenwich Village's Stonewall Inn. The Village plunged into nearly a week of violent protests that went on to launch the gay rights movement as we know it today.
Bustle's Pride 2020 reading list attempts to address the challenges facing America's queer community today. Many responses to the novel coronavirus mirror those given to HIV/AIDS, and so we recommend Randy Shilts' And the Band Played On — a classic work of LGBTQ+ nonfiction. Because today's protests hearken back to the Stonewall Era, we're highlighting James Polchin's Indecent Advances.
Here are the 25 timely books you should read for Pride 2020:
And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts
First published in 1987, Randy Shilts' And the Band Played On sheds light on the institutional failure of U.S. political and medical systems to adequately address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s — failures that were largely rooted in racism and homophobia. As the world watches the contemporary United States fail to provide an adequate response to the coronavirus pandemic, queer readers, particularly those who are too young to remember the AIDS crisis, would do well to dive into Shilts' work.
Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory by Qwo-Li Driskill
You may have heard of "two-spirit": the term for Native American/First Nations people who "are blessed by their Creator to see life through the eyes of both genders," according to Indian Country Today. Cherokee scholar Qwo-Li Driskill re-visits Cherokee history and folklore, examining both through a two-spirit lens, in Asegi. With current protests also drawing attention to the prevalence of police brutality against indigenous people, Asegi is a must-read this Pride month.
Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Asexual and aromantic people are part of the LGBTQ+ community, and their stories are just as important as those of other queer people! For your reading pleasure this Pride month, Bustle recommends Claire Kann's Let's Talk About Love, a YA romance in which first-year college student Alice meets Takumi, and sparks begin to fly. There's just one problem: Alice swore off dating after she came out as asexual, a confession that led to her breakup with her high-school girlfriend. Will she keep her feelings for Takumi under-wraps, or will Alice decide to take a chance on falling in love all over again?
Build Yourself a Boat by Camonghne Felix
Praised by Magical Negro author Morgan Parker, Camonghne Felix's National Book Award-nominated poetry collection, Build Yourself a Boat, gets down and dirty with all types of trauma — particular those connected to race and gender. If you're looking to add some poetry to your TBR this Pride month, put Build Yourself a Boat at the top of your list.
Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis
Set in the midst of the Uruguayan military dictatorship, Carolina de Robertis' Cantoras centers on five queer women who find themselves hiding out, for various reasons, in Cabo Polonio — a secluded cape. Moving between life at their coastal retreat and in the capital city of Montevideo, Cantoras follows Anita, Flaca, Malena, Paz, and Romina as they try to build new lives for themselves under the watchful eye of an unfeeling government.
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett
Simone had to change schools when her HIV+ status became public knowledge, but things are finally starting to look up. She's directing her new school's rendition of Rent and growing closer to Miles, the boy she has a major crush on. If things keep heading in the right direction, Simone will have to tell Miles that she's positive sooner, rather than later. But when an anonymous blackmailer threatens to out her positive status to the entire school unless she breaks up with Miles, Simone faces one of her most difficult choices yet in Camryn Garrett's Full Disclosure.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Partner abuse is a serious problem that often goes overlooked and undetected in the LGBTQ+ community. In her new memoir, In the Dream House, Carmen Maria Machado re-visits painful and traumatic moments from her life, reckoning with the seemingly unique, yet all-too-common, circumstances of her abusive, same-sex relationship. Whether you have experienced abuse or not, witnessed it or not, In the Dream House is an achingly thorough, personal exposition on the subject.
The Deep by Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes
Based on the clipping. song of the same name, Rivers Solomon's Lambda Literary Award-winning novella centers on Yetu, a mermaid responsible for bearing all of her people's painful memories — namely, the fact that they are descended from pregnant women who were drowned in the sea during the Middle Passage. Unable to bear her lonely existence as the memory keeper any longer, Yetu flees, leaving the mermaids to founder without her while she learns more about the humans they once were.
Homie by Danez Smith
Don't Call Us Dead author Danez Smith kicked off 2020 with the publication of their third poetry collection. Homie celebrates the power of friendships, putting special focus on relationships between queer, Black people. Moving between explorations of oppression, loss, and joy, Homie proves to be the perfect read for a Pride month caught between national demonstrations and a global pandemic.
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
One of the year's most lauded speculative novels, Sarah Gailey's Upright Women Wanted centers on Esther, a young woman whose lover has just been executed for distributing seditious materials. When a group of traveling Librarians shows up, Esther hides in their wagon in an attempt to escape the bad memories — and worse present — of her hometown. Librarians are supposed to be staunch defenders of right thinking, but these wanderers may have more in common with Esther's lost love than meets the eye.
Something That May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel M. Lavery
From the author of Texts from Jane Eyre and the voice of "Dear Prudence" on Slate comes Something That May Shock and Discredit You: an essay collection that deals in the pop culture criticism for which Daniel M. Lavery — previously known as Daniel Mallory Ortberg — has long been famous, while also taking a deep dive into the author's life. Told with Lavery's signature sense of wry humor, and and turns heartbreaking, this collection is one of the year's best.
Real Life by Brandon Taylor
Pursuing a STEM degree at a Midwestern university, a queer, Black man finds himself reckoning with different varieties of the same old hostilities he'd hoped to leave behind in Alabama in Brandon Taylor's critically acclaimed new novel, Real Life. In spite of his attempts to remain distant from his new circle, Wallace's ongoing tensions with his colleagues eventually come to a head in this incredible debut.
Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Starling Days centers on Mina, a classicist who combines her knowledge of ancient literature with her efforts to control her anxiety and depression. As her newfound friendship with Phoebe deepens, Mina's relationship with her husband becomes more complicated than either of them expected in this new novel from Harmless Like You author Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.
Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Based in part on a New York Times Opinion column, Jennifer Finney Boylan's Good Boy revisits major events of the author's life through her relationships with seven canine companions. A book that, according to the publisher's copy, "show[s] how a young boy became a middle-aged woman," Good Boys is one of the year's most lauded memoirs.
All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson
Dubbed a "memoir-manifesto," George M. Johnson's All Boys Aren't Blue contains essays related to the author's childhood and adolescence, crafted to help young adults — queer, Black boys and men in particular — navigate the web of race- and gender-based questions and oppression they're facing. More thoughtful memoir than preaching self-help, this book is a must-read for anyone and everyone this Pride month.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Rom-com author Kacen Callender returned to bookstores this year with Felix Ever After. As a Black, queer, trans boy, Felix Love worries that his identity is too complicated for anyone to love him romantically. When he faces cyber-bullying from an anonymous, transphobic source, Felix hatches a plan to get back at his blackmailer. His revenge plot is the last place Felix expects to find love, but he soon realizes he might get his own happily ever after, after all.
Officer Clemmons by François S. Clemmons
A memoir from the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood guest star, François S. Clemmons' Officer Clemmons recounts his time on the children's TV show. A Black man whose role as a police officer on Fred Rogers' landmark show was forward-thinking in and of itself, Clemmons was forced to hide his sexuality in order to prevent causing a scandal for the series and its creators. A poignant memoir of the actor and musician's life, Officer Clemmons is one of the year's must-read books.
Amora by Natalia Borges Polesso, translated by Julia Sanches
Amazon's No. 1 New Release in Poetry at the time of this writing, Brazilian author Natalia Borges Polesso's Amora contains poems and short stories that examine the lives and experiences of women who love women. Moving beyond romantic and sexual love in its exploration of women's relationships, Amora is, at turns, tender and raw, and it's finally available in English this year.
Indecent Advances: A History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall by James Polchin
An Edgar Award finalist, this true crime book explores the unfortunately overlooked history of organized — and woefully excused — violence against gay men in the years leading up to Stonewall. Contemporaneous write-ups on these crimes often painted LGBTQ+ victims as criminals themselves, insinuating that they deserved their abuse, and worse. Indecent Advances is an eye-opening look at how far we've come and, in its stories' similarity to contemporary accounts of anti-gay violence, a portrait of how far we have left to go.
Fairest by Meredith Talusan
Assigned male at birth in the Philippines, Meredith Talusan expounds upon her life on two continents in Fairest. Known in her birth country as a "sun child," Talusan's albinism was less widely recognized in the United States, where she found she passed for white. Tracing the author's life from the rural Philippines to her time at Harvard, Fairest thoughtfully prods at questions of race and gender along the way.
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
Left alone in Hong Kong when her not-quite-a-boyfriend, Julian, leaves for work on another continent, Irish expat Ava finds herself wondering, yet again, what she's even doing in Asia. Then she meets Edith, a lawyer who isn't afraid to shower her with affection and tell her exactly how she feels. When Julian returns home, however, Ava must decide which of her lovers is more important in Naoise Dolan's searing debut.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Liz has plotted her perfect escape from her small an unappreciative hometown. She's going to go to Pennington College and have a fabulous medical career. When that career prematurely hits the skids, bookish and awkward Liz finds herself looking for financial aid in a new place: a scholarship for prom queens. But with Mack, the intriguing new girl in school, also competing for the top prize, Liz's path to prom glory might be more complicated than she thinks.
You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
"You exist too much." That's what the mother of Zaina Arafat's protagonist tells her freshly-out, queer daughter in this heartfelt new novel. As an adult, the Palestinian-American narrator of You Exist Too Much finds herself drifting through a series of failed relationships, each broken up, in part, by her sexual impulses. Does a novel treatment for "love addiction" hold the answers she needs, or will it only lead to more tragedy?
Broken People by Sam Lansky
Sam Lansky's fictional sequel to his 2016 memoir, The Gilded Razor, Broken People finds its protagonist building a new life for himself on another coast. Living with depression, Sam searches for answers in the "open-soul surgery" treatment offered by a travelling shaman. A weekend spent drinking psychedelic tea and sorting through his problems may be just the thing Sam needs, or it may open up a dark can of worms in Lansky's new novel.
Vanishing Monuments by John Elizabeth Stintzi
Alani ran away from home almost three decades ago, but now they're going back, for the first time in their adult life, to see the mother they left behind. She's approaching the end of her life, and her doctors want someone there to help iron out the details of her life. But as Alani tries to reconcile the affection they feel for their mother with the darkness of their childhood and adolescence, it quickly becomes clear that this quest for healing may be in vain.
Editors Note: This post underwent additional editorial review after it was originally published on June 18; after review, the list of books was updated on July 9.
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