As we near the end of gay pride month you may find yourself wanting to squeeze in one last LQBTQ read in celebration. Here are a few classics written by authors who were themselves a part of the community.
1. Maurice by E.M. Forster
Written in 1913-1914, E.M. Forster’s novel Maurice was published posthumously in 1971 due to its gay content. The book follows the eponymous Maurice Hall through his school days, university, and beyond as he struggles to come to terms with his attraction to men. Forster, who never found a committed life partner, was inspired to write the book after visiting his friend Edward Carpenter and seeing him happily settled with his partner George Merrill. For someone whose life was fraught with illicit love affairs and ensuing depression, seeing a successful homosexual love story was a revelation. Maurice is a beautiful character portrait and a moving love story.
2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
A deliciously written gothic horror novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of those stories that became bigger than itself as the beautiful, eponymous protagonist took on a life of his own outside the pages of his book. Like Count Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster, Dorian Gray and his cursed painting became a part of pop culture, known by people who have never read the book. Philosophical and sexy as hell, Wilde’s only novel is a look at an impressionable young man who is introduced into a world of sin by hedonistic Lord Henry Wotton. First published in 1890, The Picture of Dorian Gray ignited a furry of disapproval. Wilde passionately defended his book and the freedom of art in general, writing an essay on the purpose of art which has been included in the beginning of the book from then onward.
3. Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf
First published in 1928, Orlando: A Biography is a strange and intriguing tale about a poet who lives for centuries, sometimes as a woman and sometimes as a man. The titular character is based on Woolf’s friend and sometimes lover Vita Sackville-West with her androgynous charm and tumultuous family history. Sackville-West’s son called it the “most charming love letter in literature, in which [Woolf] explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her.”
4. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
A young American man named David moves to Paris after being left by his girlfriend and begins an affair with an Italian bartender named Giovanni. The story is told from the perspective of David on the morning of Giovanni’s execution. Baldwin wrote the novel at a time when he was feeling isolated both because of his race and his sexuality. Social segregation is a huge theme in this heart wrenching look at a doomed relationship where Baldwin explores what it means to be a gay, black man in a world of strict gender norms and rampant racism.
5. The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
Adapted into the popular 2015 film Carol, Highsmith’s lesbian classic tells the story of a young girl named Therese Belivet who falls in love with an older women named Carol Aird. They meet in the toy section of a department store in Manhattan and begin an illicit love affair while Carol’s husband dogs them with detectives, trying to find proof of their love and thus get sole custody of their son. Highsmith was a well known writer of psychological thrillers at the time but she used the pseudonym “Claire Morgan” when she published The Price of Salt because she didn’t want her sexuality to be known to the public and the book was heavily based on her own experiences. She did finally agree to have her name put on it and it was republished in 1984 without the pseudonym.