Exploring LGBTQ+ Past, Present, and Future by Way of Authentic Lit

Through memoirs, essays, and historical fiction, LGBTQ+ voices are coming to light. Read on to learn about these nine thought-provoking narratives.

Author's Corner Historical Fiction LGBTQ Voices Memoirs & Biographies Non-Fiction Recommendations
Book covers for Fellow Travelers by Thomas Mallon, The Rib Joint by Julia Koets, and Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin are framed by a light blue background with rainbow corners.

Memoirs, essays, and historical fiction are immersive genres that transport readers into the past and place them in the shoes of others. Literature such as this is rich in authenticity, compassion, and honesty, acknowledging the roots from which we grow and alluding to a future we can sculpt. As readers learn from and empathize with the circumstances of others, they take a step in the direction of a brighter, more inclusive future. To honor the lives and celebrate the voices of LGBTQ+ authors, here are nine thought-provoking books on queer history and experiences.

Memoirs and Essays

The Rib Joint by Julia Koets

The Rib Joint by Julia Koets book cover. A human rib cage with flowers inside.

In this memoir-in-essays, readers traverse through Julia Koets’ childhood growing up closeted in the American South. Written in poignant, lyrical form, Koets’s life of hidden love, first with Laura, whose family moved away in middle school, then with a priest’s daughter, unfolds. As she moves through life, Koets is ultimately confronted with the ramifications of secrecy after college, when she and her friend Kate become waitresses in Julia’s hometown. Inspired by mythology, religion, pop culture, and anecdotes, Koets reflects on coming out, the manifestation of grief and fear, and the acceptance of desire and healing.

Finding Latinx: In Search of the Voices Redefining Latino Identity by Paola Ramos

Finding Latinx: In Search of the Voices Redefining Latino Identity by Paola Ramos book cover. A person's face partially obstructed.

Journalist and activist Paola Ramos travels across the country as she searches for each multi-faceted, valid definition of “Latinx.” Weaving her narrative with tales from Indigenous Oaxacans, Afro-Latinos, musicians, drag queens, migrants and undocumented immigrants, environmental activists, farmworkers, and every identity that falls under the scope of 60 million Latinos in the U.S., Ramos maps out the history and significance of the word “Latinx” as a pillar of solidarity, unity, and celebration of the self.

Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews and Joshua Lyon

Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews and Joshua Lyon. The title is spelled-out in tiny trinkets.

In this honest tale of self-discovery, readers follow Arin Andrews as he recounts his transition. Beginning gender reassignment in high school, Arin traverses the tumultuous path to self-acceptance—surviving bullying, getting kicked out of private school, and coping with the mental and physical challenges and changes of transitioning. Andrews also describes his first encounter with love with a transgender girl, the spark they had, and the broken hearts that followed.

Blood, Marriage, Wine, & Glitter by S. Bear Bergman

Blood, Marriage, Wine, & Glitter by S. Bear Bergman book cover. The title is written in red glitter.

In Blood, Marriage, Wine, & Glitter, S. Bear Bergman redefines the definition of family, speaking eloquently and truthfully to the found relationships stronger than DNA forged within the queer community. Family extends beyond one’s spouse, children, and parents. Family can be a vast garden of drag sisters, donors, and anyone else offering unconditional love and support in all its forms.

Black Boy Out of Time by Hari Ziyad

Black Boy Out of Time by Hari Ziyad book cover. An illustration of a Black boy with a mask of a man. Flowers grow between the mask and face. Behind the boy is a gold sun on a pink sky and dark pink grass. An orange butterfly flies in the sky.

Black Boy Out of Time is a revolutionary and illuminating memoir by renowned journalist Hari Ziyad. As one of nineteen children born to a Hindu Hare Krishna mother and a Muslim father, Ziyad paints a vivid picture of their childhood being queer and Black in Cleveland, Ohio, followed by their self-discovery and becoming in New York City. Redefining their own narrative as well as the narratives of others, Hari Ziyad breaks the societal boundaries that limit Black children, exploring themes of race, gender, generational relationships, culture, radical ingredients for change, and hope.

Historical Fiction

Fellow Travelers by Thomas Mallon

Fellow Travelers by Thomas Mallon book cover. Two men raise a glass in a toast.

Set during McCarthyism, Fellow Travelers follows Timothy Laughlin, a young, ambitious, anti-communist, devout Catholic, and State Department official Hawkins Fuller, as they navigate a forbidden and dangerous love affair in the tense, uncertain, and unforgiving political world of Washington, D.C.

Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin

Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin book cover. Crocodiles are hung by red strings.

Set in Taipei during the post-martial-law era of the late 1980s at one of Taiwan’s most prestigious universities. Lazi, barely getting by, falls in love with an older woman, Shui Ling. The only source of safety and solace is in her unlikely group of a found family: a reformed rich kid turned criminal convert and his self-destructive boyfriend, and a duplicitous perfectionist and her indifferent creative girlfriend. This cult-classic coming-of-age tale illustrates liberation from societal norms, speaking to the power of love and friendship.

The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr

The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr book cover. A Black man in a 1920s pink suit stands on a hill with trees in the background. On the ground are a rabbit, hedgehog, and squirrel near the man's feet.

A visceral portrait of North American Black history, The Sleeping Car Porter tells the story of Baxter, misnamed George, and his life working as a sleeping car porter in 1929 to save for dentistry school. On one fateful trip, the train faces a 2-day delay, and the secrets of each unruly passenger slither into the light. Mixing in with Baxter’s sleep-deprived hallucinations, he discovers a salacious postcard between two queer men. Although holding on to it could incriminate Baxter, he is overcome with memories of his own concealed love for Porter Instructor Edwin Drew.

The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara

In 1980s New York City, 17-year-old Angel immerses herself in the vivacious glamour of the up-and-coming Harlem ball scene. There, she meets Hector, a young man who dreams of dancing, and together, they create House of Xtravaganza, the first all-Latino house in the community with the mission to open their arms to anyone in need of a family.

The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara book cover. A person stands, showered by multi-colored lights.

But Angel is left to manage the house when Hector dies of AIDS complications, enlisting the help of Venus, a clever and bright trans girl set on finding a wealthy man to care for her, Daniel, a butch queen who miraculously saves Venus’s life, and Juanito, a shy artist. Together, they fight for their narrative and persevere through a life of sex work, addiction, and abuse, telling a story about the strength and nuances of the human spirit.

Read with intention and add these books to your TBR today!

For more on LGBTQ+ reads, click here!

For some wondrous LGBTQ+ book recs, click here!