One of the scariest things about coming out is often not knowing what’ll happen after – especially if you’re only a teenager (like I was). Navigating those transitional years and approaching your early 20’s is daunting enough. Add in living as your full self for the first time, and it can be downright terrifying. Thankfully, more and more authors are answering the question of “what comes next?” for LGBTQ2IA+ stories. Whether you’ve already come out, are planning to in the future, or just began that conversation with yourself, I hope these five titles can be a starting point as you search for your place in the world.
‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ – Emily M. Danforth
Image via Penguin platform on Twitter
The Miseducation of Cameron Post isn’t a happy book. Then again, that’s an unfortunate reality: not all queer coming-of-age stories are happy. However, it’s an important one because it shows that, despite all odds, we have the power to endure. It also validates the significance of finding acceptance in a chosen family. We meet Cameron Post before she even recognizes that she likes girls; that’s one of the best things about the story. As readers, we grow with her during her early stages of questioning, exploration, and ultimate self-realization. That’s why we share in her shock when, upon learning her parents have died in a car crash, her first feeling is relief. Relief that they’ll never know she was kissing a girl that very same day. We feel her pain as she arrives in Montana to live with her conservative aunt and old-fashioned grandma, which forces her further into hiding. Our hearts swell with hope as Cameron begins what could be her first real relationship. We’re stung with betrayal when she’s outed and everything comes to a crashing end. Finally, we stand with her as her aunt aims to “fix” her in one of the worst ways possible. This is a story of survival and mourning, but it’s also a story of hope. We can forge our own path to what’s next.
‘Felix Ever After’ – Kacen Callender
Image Via Feminist Book Club
Felix Love has never been in love, and he desperately wants to change that. He’s also already well aware of the irony of his last name. Still, he can’t help but wonder why it’s so difficult for him to find someone when love seems to come so easily for everyone else. As a queer, black, transgender, 17-year-old, he can’t help but wonder if his struggles stem from the many intersections of identity – no matter how proud he is. Felix also has to juggle the uncertainty that comes with senior year. He hopes that his talent as a visual artist can land him a spot at Brown University, but being in direct competition with a classmate puts that future at stake. His world is entirely upended when an anonymous student publicly posts Felix’s deadname and pictures of him pre-transition, all before beginning to send Felix transphobic messages. Felix comes to one conclusion: revenge. However, he doesn’t expect to end up in a complicated, semi-love triangle. As he tries to sort through his feelings, his reflections ultimately turn inwards and redefine how he perceives himself. Felix Ever After is a wonderfully messy ode to self-discovery, the multiple facets of love, and the gravity forgiveness.
‘All Out’ – Edited by Saundra Mitchell
Image via Malinda Lo
All Out is an anthology that combines genres, time periods, and stories from across the queer spectrum. With collected works from 17 LGBTQIA+ authors, this collection embraces queer history through the medium of fiction. It’s everything that LGBTQIA+ History Month seeks to accomplish. The authors play with fantasy, retellings, magic, and more to imagine the lives of queer people throughout the past century. The 1970s roller-disco scene is home to a Black asexual girl coming to terms with her identity. A war-torn, 1870s Mexico features the jailbreak of an imprisoned transgender soldier. 1300s England serves as the setting for Robin Hood reimagined as a trans, gay boy. A convent in 16th century Spain brings two women together in a forbidden love. 1732 witch-crazed Massachusetts offers an exploration of gender. All Out is a celebration of queer identity and reminder that no matter where we are, we aren’t alone in our stories.
‘A Safe Girl to Love’ – Casey Plett
Image via Goodreads
A Safe Girl to Love is made up of eleven short stories that follow young trans women through various aspects of their lives. The common theme is that they’re all 20-something year olds grappling with how their identities and surrounding world both mesh and collide. Written by a trans woman, these stories have been lauded as authentically raw depictions of young trans lives. The relationships, both romantic and familial, are messy and awkward and sometimes beautiful. Humor and emotion work in tandem, and the dialogue engages with harsh realities of living in a world that isn’t overwhelmingly accepting. Whether the setting is a gay bar in Brooklyn or the glow of a prairie sunset, these stories initiate a significant conversation – one that gives voice to a rising generation of trans women.
‘Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe’ – Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Image via Mississippi Library Commission Blog
Set in El Paso, Texas during the 1980s, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is about a seemingly unusual pairing evolving into a life-changing bond. When Aristotle “Ari” and Dante first meet at the local swimming pool, they assume they have nothing in common besides their shared Mexican-American heritage and unique names. Ari is quiet and angry, largely due to the separation he feels from his family. Dante is an emotionally expressive lover of poetry who also happens to be a swimmer. Their friendship begins when Dante offers to give Ari swim lessons. As they begin to spend more and more time together, they begin to realize that their special pairing is meant to last a lifetime. The story spans over the course of two years as the young boys navigate life and identity questions and ultimately help each other grow in ways they never could’ve imagined.