Black LGBTQ Leaders Share Their Recommendations for the Best Black Queer Books

This year’s Pride month, appropriately, arrives during a time of protests and revolution for the Black Lives Matter movement. The gay rights movement and the Black civil rights movement have long interwined and overlapped with one another. Activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Stormé DeLaverie were instrumental in the fight for gay rights and the Stonewall Uprising of 1969. It is clear that these movements are still connected as they continue to fight for equal rights. In honor of Pride month, Black LGBTQ leaders, activists, and writers shared some of their favorite books that discuss the Black queer experience.

 

 

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

James Baldwin, one of the most famous writers of our time, has long written stories dealing with themes of race, sexuality, and class, while often featuring intersectional protagonists. Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, says of Baldwin, “Pride is protest, and Baldwin’s work shows this – he refused to stay silent in the face of bigotry.” The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin includes two essays, one which discusses race in United States’ history and the other which discusses race and religion. Another book David recommends is Conversations with James Baldwin.

 

book cover of the fire next time

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Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde

David’s second recommendation is Your Silence Will Not Protect You, which is a posthumous collection of Audre Lorde’s speeches and poems. David says of the book, “it reminds us of the importance of community in achieving equality.”

 

book cover of your silence will not protect you

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The Days of Good Looks by Cheryl Clarke

Kendra Johnson, the executive director of Equality North Carolina, resonated with Cheryl Clarke’s work from a young age. A Black, feminist activist and lesbian poet, Cheryl Clarke has published five poetry books, in addition to a study that made the contributions of Black women to a field that traditionally recognizes Black men more visible. Clarke’s The Days of Good Looks: The Prose and Poetry of Cheryl Clarke, 1980-2005, is a collection of the writer’s poems and essays that established Clarke as a Black lesbian feminist icon.

 

book cover of the days of good looks

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Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Kendra Johnson also recommends Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. As a Black, lesbian woman, Johnson often felt like she didn’t fit into either community. Sister Outsider helped her to “put word to the why behind that feeling.” This book remains one that Johnson regularly returns to. 

 

book cover of sister outsider

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Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

This book, which once seemed like a futuristic and apocalyptic tale, now seems rather prophetic. Parable of the Sower is a science fiction novel that takes place in the 2020s amid climate change and worsening wealth inequality, leading to the collapse of the world. Of her third book recommendation, Kendra Johnson says, “There are so many layers that both reflects the long history of white supremacy that the United States is founded upon and the present moment, that it constantly astounds me.”

 

book cover of parable of the sower

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Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde

Self-described “Black, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet, warrior,” Audre Lorde deems her book Zami: A New Spelling of My Name a combination of an autobiography, history, and myth chronicling her life. Editor-in-chief of Tagg Magazine, Eboné Bell, says Zami is the “perfect coming out read”. For young, Black, queer people, Lorde’s work is incredibly validating.

 

book cover of zami

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Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair

Coffee Will Make You Black is the first book in a series following “Stevie” Stevenson’s adolescence growing up in 1960s Chicago. For filmmaker Sekiya Dorsett of NBC’s Stonewall 50: The Revolution series, Sinclair’s book made her feel seen. Dorsett also recommends the second book in the series, Ain’t Gonna Be the Same Fool Twice, which follows Stevie as she moves to New York City.

 

book cover of coffee will make you black

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B-Boy Blues by James Earl Hardy

B-Boy Blues is a six part series that follows a group of gay Black men living in New York City. DaShawn Usher, the programs officer for communities of color at GLAAD, recommends this series because it reflects many of the same feelings he had as a young, queer, Black boy.

 

book cover of b boy blues

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A Year Without You by Julian J. Walker

DaShawn Usher’s second recommendation is A Year Without You, which is a poetry book that takes readers through the four seasons. He describes the book as “a journey through the life of a Black man that experiences love, joy, pain, and loss.

 

book cover of a year without you

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I Don’t Want to Die Poor by Michael Arceneaux

Usher’s third recommendation is I Don’t Want to Die Poor, which serves as a “reminder of the costs that come with dreaming” and how we can prepare to overcome the financial burden that comes with these dreams.

 

book cover of I don't want to die poor

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Trap Door edited by Reina Gossett, Eric A.Stanley and Johanna Burton

Founder of Black Trans Circles at the Transgender Law Center and former executive editor of Out magazine, Raquel Willis recommends Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and Politics of Visibility. This book is an “anthology of essays analyzing the triumphs and limitations of representations of transgender people in popculture.”

 

book cover of trap door

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Black on Both Sides by C. Riley Snorton

Another recommendation from Willis is Black on Both Sides. This book “details the intersection of Black and trans identities from the mid-19th century to today and, in doing so, highlights the lives of integral Black trans figures like Lucy Hicks Anderson and James McHarris, who have often been overlooked.”

 

book cover of black on both sides

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Unapologetic by Charlene A. Carruthers

Raquel Willis’s third recommendation is Unapologetic, which provides the framework as to how activists “can make the movement for Black liberation more radical, more queer, and more feminist.”

 

book cover of unapologetic

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