Next month, June, is Pride Month, a celebration of everything LGBTQ. As any gay writer would, I love reading books with queer themes, although I have to admit there are a lot of gay literature I haven’t read like The Dancers From the Dance by Andrew Holleran or City of Night by John Rechy. Except for The Color Purple, I haven’t read a lot of lesbian fiction like Nightwood by Djuna Barnes and Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. I read Middlesex last year, but I don’t know if the main character was transgendered or intersex. I am asking for any books you might recommend dealing with lesbians or transgendered people. Meanwhile, here are 6 books with queer themes I highly recommend. 3 are novels and 3 are memoirs.
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh is probably belongs on a list of my favorite books of all time. Charles Ryder meets Sebastian Flyte at University and they seem very close. When Sebastian falls and breaks his leg over the Summer, Charles comes to be with him. Charles is obsessed with the family’s class as well as their Catholicism. Later, Charles is infatuated with Sebastian’s sister Julia. There is a debate whether or not the two men are lovers, but I think the book makes more sense if they were. The book, though, is not about sexuality but about class and religion. I think it can be appreciated on so many different levels.
Giovanni’s Room was the second book by James Baldwin. It was considered a risky novel after the success of his first novel, Go Tell It to the Mountain. Baldwin’s publishers even asked him to burn the manuscript. The book is about David, and American living in Paris and is engaged to his girlfriend Helena. While his fiancee goes back to America, David has an affair with Giovanni, an Italian bartender in a gay bar. They sleep in Giovanni’s room, where they have to make love in the dark because the room has no curtains or blinds. Later, when in Spain, he learns about Giovanni murdering his former boss from the bar and seems paralyzed in what he wants to do with his life. The book is about American versus European views on homosexuality and also about internal homophobia.
A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood portrays a day in the life of George Falconer, a British professor teaching literature at a small LA college. George is still grieving over the loss of his younger lover Jim and thinks this is the day he will kill himself. George is an outsider because he is British and gay. The writing is so beautiful. I also loved the film by Tom Ford. Colin Firth gives a great performance as George. Please though, read the book first.
I am not a big fan of graphic novels. They usually deal with subjects and themes I’m not interested in. I was surprised then when I read Fun House : A Family Tragicomic by Allison Bechdal. The story is about her coming out as a lesbian while discussing the life of her closeted father Bruce, which worked at a funeral home as well as being a high school English teacher. Soon after Allison calls her dad and comes out to him, he walked in front of a truck and was killed. Fun Home is a moving portrait of family secrets kept and revealed. It was also made into a Tony winning musical.
Reflections of a Rock Lobster: A Story About Growing Up Gay is by Aaron Fricke. Now it’s common for same-sex couples to go to the prom, but it was unheard of in 1980. This is the story of how Aaron sued his high school so he could bring his boyfriend Paul, a former student, to the prom. It’s an interesting look back at queer history plus how can you not love a book that references the B-52′ s song “Rock Lobster”?
Mississippi Sissy by Kevin Sessum is about growing up gay in Mississippi in the 60’s. Kevin’s father was a macho basketball coach and Kevin was a boy obsessed with Arlene Francis. I related to this book in a way because my father was a sports writer who was hoping that I would be a jock. Sessum is a wonderful writer and he evokes the era very well.
Next month, I will be in San Francisco, so maybe I will come back from City Lights Books with some queer literature in my suitcase. Let me know if you like any of the books on this list and please tell me any queer themed books you might recommend to me.