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6 Lesser-Known Books To Read This Pride Month

Bustle’s columnist recommends queer reads, from fun, sexy romps to more ruminative novels.

A selection of old and new books to read for Pride Month 2024.
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It’s Pride month, and over 50 years after the Stonewall riots it’s still necessary to remember that LGBTQ Pride is a protest — an especially vital one this year, as 515 anti-LGBTQ bills are being considered across the country. As a reader and writer, I strongly believe in writing as a form of activism, and in the power of books and stories to expand worldviews, challenge biases, and shift beliefs toward tolerance — a power only confirmed by the fear they instill in those who prefer the status quo. This makes it all the more important to ensure these stories aren’t silenced. (Over at PEN America, you can find an extensive account of books that are being banned in schools and libraries.)

Of course, we should be reading and recommending queer writers all year long. But I’m not going to not take advantage of an opportunity to make them the stars of this month’s column! Below, you’ll find a couple inventive novels — both featuring trans protagonists — that play around with the format of fiction; a fun and sexy lesbian rom-com; an affecting story about immigration and identity; a shocking memoir about three women taking down a prolific catfish; and more. (Be sure to also check out Bustle’s best of summer list, which includes two LGBTQ titles out this month, which would be here if I hadn’t already raved about them there: Blessings by Chukwuebuka Ibeh and Four Squares by Bobby Finger.)

Something Old

Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg

I’m notorious for forgetting what a book is about mere hours after finishing it, but Jordy Rosenberg’s 2018 debut is a rare exception. Part speculative, genderqueered historical fiction and part meta-analysis of queer history itself, Confessions of the Fox imagines the notorious 18th-century British thief and jailbreaker Jack Sheppard as trans. His many wild romps through London are described in found “confessions,” which a modern-day literary scholar, who’s also trans, is analyzing. Not only can I pull up details from this exhaustively researched book six years after first cracking its cover, but I can also remember exactly what reading it felt like: thrilling, sexy, transporting, enlightening, and utterly new.

Summer Fun by Jeanne Thornton

When this book came out, I would not shut up about it. Despite delving into some of our heaviest questions about identity and belonging, this novel is ultimately — as the name suggests — a lot of fun. Thirty-something trans woman Gala lives and works at a New Mexico hostel but is, most importantly, a megafan of the Get Happies. The epistolary novel is made up of the daily letters Gala writes to the lead singer of the now-disbanded group from the ‘60s, ostensibly to convince him to get the band back together but also to confirm a connection with someone who’s brought her so much joy — to share but also discover herself. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Gala, and I will always recommend this as a perfect summer read.

Something New

Hombrecito by Santiago Jose Sanchez

When young Santiago moves from Colombia to Miami, his father stays behind and his mother — struggling to find work — is hardly around, leaving him and his brother, Manuel, to fend for themselves. The brothers are split in their reactions to the move. Manuel resents it and starts to act out, but Santiago discovers himself in this new home and — as he gets older and eventually moves to New York — embraces a very active dating and sex life as a gay man. His understanding of himself is shaken, though, when he returns to Colombia with his mother and reckons with the effects of his alienation from his birthplace and his abandonment by his parents. It’s a beautiful, tender coming-of-age story, deepened by Sanchez’s exploration of Santiago’s mother’s necessary sacrifices and the intricacies of their relationship.

Experienced by Kate Young

Kate Young’s extremely hot debut novel follows late-bloomer Bette after her girlfriend Mei suggests they take a break so Bette can explore the queer dating scene before deciding to settle down. Bette didn’t realize she was gay until she was close to 30, so this sexual odyssey is her messy 20s redux — and it gets messy. Sexy, hilarious, and rife with romantic tension, Experienced is a ton of fun.

There Is No Ethan by Anna Akbari

OK so this memoir is not LGBTQ but I simply had to mention it. In 2011, the successful, attractive sociologist Anna Akbari falls in love with Ethan Schuman despite only ever communicating through texts, Gchat (RIP), and emails. When weeks of delayed meetups turn into months, she starts to realize Ethan’s not who he says he is — and soon she links up with two other women who’ve fallen into his trap. I listened to the audiobook in (literally) one sitting, and though hearing Ethan’s manipulative messages — which range from cruelty to eye-roll-inducing sap — was almost painful, it’s impossible not to feel for these women. How did they let this go on so long??? you’ll want to shout, but who amongst us hasn’t ignored red flags in the pursuit of a true connection? Regardless, it’s a fascinating look at the emotional damages of catfishing, and the reveal is truly shocking.

Something Out Of The Blue

Abu Jmeel's Daughter & Other Stories: Arab Folk Tales from Palestine and Lebanon, retold by Jamal Sleem

I’ve been dipping in and out of this used bookstore find since I brought it home a few weeks ago. Shortly before her death, Palestinian novelist and poet Jamal Sleem Nuweihed transcribed 27 of the traditional Arabic stories that had been passed down to her, which she’d been passing down in turn for decades. The collection — conversational and magical, full of daring adventure and starring quick-witted women — is a testament to the value of oral tradition, and the importance of preserving it.