This Pride Month is time for us to celebrate the inclusivity of June. It’s also a great time to reexamine your TBR and your bookshelves—make sure the books you’re reading don’t solely reflect one identity, whether one portion of the LGBTQ community or mostly white authors. Diversifying your bookshelf widens your worldview, helps you reevaluate ingrained biases and beliefs, and, hopefully, exposes you to incredible new authors and books you might not have discovered if you only ever explored stodgy old lists of classics featuring solely straight cis white authors. Below discover five amazing Black authors of LGBTQ books that explore the realities, both fictional and non, of what it means to be queer and Black.
1. James Baldwin
James Arthur Baldwin (1924–1987) was an American writer who garnered acclaim for his work across several forms, including essays, novels, plays, and poems. Baldwin’s work fictionalizes fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures.
Themes of masculinity, sexuality, race, and class intertwine to create intricate narratives that run parallel with some of the major political movements toward social change in mid-twentieth century America, such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Liberation Movement. Baldwin’s protagonists are often but not exclusively African American, and gay and bisexual men frequently feature prominently in his literature. These characters often face internal and external obstacles in their search for social and self-acceptance.
From the semi-autobiographical Go Tell It on the Mountain to essay collections like The Fire Next Time, Baldwin is an incisive voice in both Black and queer American history. His novels, like Another Country and Giovanni’s Room, explore love along racial and gender lines and are classics of gay literature.
2. Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay (born 1974) is an American writer, professor, editor, and social commentator of Haitian descent. Her writing has been featured in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others.
She is noted as having authored the introduction to Love and Resistance: Out of the Closet into the Stonewall Era. The book features over 100 vivid photographs of the LGBTQ revolution—and its public and intimate moments in the 1960s and ’70s—that lit a fire that is still burning today. She is a prominent figure in journalism and editorial; Gay writes opinion pieces for The New York Times, works as the co-editor of PANK, a nonprofit literary arts collective, and is the editor for Gay Mag. Gay’s books and collections include:
Her debut collection, Ayiti, explores the Haitian diaspora through fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Her short story collection Difficult Women and nonfiction pieces such as Bad Feminist and Hunger are pretty much mandatory reading at this point, especially for Pride Month and the representation of black queer voices in the media.
3. Kacen Callender
Kacen Callender (born 1989) is a Saint Thomian author of children’s fiction and fantasy, having won the Stonewall Book Award and Lambda Literary Award for their work in literature.
Prior to becoming an author, Callender was an editor at Little, Brown. In 2018, in reaction to Hurricane Irma, Callender launched the online auction #USVIPubFund, under which they and other book publishing professionals raised $104,000 to support the U.S. Virgin Islands. Calendar is black, queer, trans, and uses they/them and he/him pronouns. Their debut novel, Hurricane Child, about a twelve-year-old born during a hurricane who believes herself to be cursed, was published by Scholastic in 2018 and received the Stonewall Book Award in 2019. Both this and Callender’s young adult debut, This is Kind of an Epic Love Story, were nominated for a 2019 Lambda Literary Award in the category LGBTQ+ Children’s/Young Adult.
Their second young adult novel, Felix Ever After, is about a transgender teen who catfishes a classmate for revenge and ends up falling for him. Their adult debut, Queen of the Conquered, is set in a Caribbean-inspired fantasy world and tells the story of a biracial black woman who fights to retain power in a society that loathes the idea of her.
4. Jewelle Gomez
Jewelle Gomez (born 1948) is an American author, poet, critic, and playwright whose work has been featured in a wide variety of outlets, both feminist and mainstream. Her work centers on women’s experiences, particularly those of LGBTQ women of color. She has been interviewed for several documentaries focused on LGBT rights and culture.
Growing up in Boston in the 1950s and 1960s, Gomez was shaped socially and politically by close family ties with her great-grandmother, Grace, and grandmother, Lydia. Their history of independence as well as marginalization in an African-American community are referenced throughout her work. During her high school and college years, Gomez was involved with Black political and social movements, which is reflected in much of her writing. In subsequent years in New York City, she spent her time in Black theater, many of those years as a stage manager for off-Broadway productions. During this time, she became involved in lesbian feminist activism and magazine publication. She was a member of Conditions, a lesbian feminist literary magazine.
Her novel, The Gilda Stories, has become a modern classic of queer Sci-Fi/Fantasy—the story of a lesbian vampire through the ages that earned two Lambda Literary Awards. Her essay collection Forty-Three Septembers and poetry collections like Oral Tradition: Selected Poems Old and New explore the intersection of her identity as a Black Native American lesbian.
5. Julian Winters
Julian Winters is a bestselling and award-winning author of contemporary young adult fiction. His novels have won many awards and accolades for their positive depictions of diverse, relatable characters. A former management trainer, Julian currently lives outside of Atlanta, where he can be found reading, being a self-proclaimed comic book geek, or watching the only two sports he can follow—volleyball and soccer.
From love on the soccer field in Running with Lions to an exploration of labels and self-expression from an out-and-proud gay teen in How To Be Remy Cameron. And his 2020 novel, The Summer of Everything, is about a boy on the cusp of adulthood trying to save his beloved local bookstore, salvage a strained sibling relationship, and maybe win over his longtime crush while he’s at it. One of Winters’ recent releases, Right Where I Left You, is a quiet but important message that queer Black and brown kids deserve to live happily ever after too.
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