Virginia Woolf

15 LGBTQ+ Classics You Need to Read

“Every classic was written by a straight white man!” goes the saying. But in reality, a lot of books we now consider to be “classics” were written by people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ people. Dismissing all classic literature, or every book written before the turn of the millennium, as books written exclusively by old white dudes erases all of the work that people from marginalized groups did. So, because of pride month, and because literature (old and new) by underrepresented voices always deserves a special shout-out, here is a list of LGBTQ+ classics that you should read if you haven’t yet!

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

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As his tale begins, Orlando is a passionate sixteen-year-old nobleman whose days are spent in rowdy revelry, filled with the colorful delights of Queen Elizabeth I’s court. By the close, three centuries have passed, and he will have transformed into a thirty-six-year-old woman in the year 1928. Orlando’s journey is also an internal one—he is an impulsive poet who learns patience in matter of the heart, and a woman who knows what it is to be a man.

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If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho by Sappho, translated by Anne carson

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Of the nine books of lyrics the ancient Greek poet Sappho is said to have composed, only one poem has survived complete. The rest are fragments. In this miraculous new translation, acclaimed poet and classicist Anne Carson presents all of Sappho’s fragments, in Greek and in English, as if on the ragged scraps of papyrus that preserve them, inviting a thrill of discovery and conjecture that can be described only as electric—or, to use Sappho’s words, as “thin fire . . . racing under skin.”

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Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

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Nan King, an oyster girl, is captivated by the music hall phenomenon Kitty Butler, a male impersonator extraordinaire treading the boards in Canterbury. Through a friend at the box office, Nan manages to visit all her shows and finally meet her heroine. Soon after, she becomes Kitty’s dresser and the two head for the bright lights of Leicester Square where they begin a glittering career as music-hall stars in an all-singing and dancing double act. At the same time, behind closed doors, they admit their attraction to each other and their affair begins.

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The Hours by Michael Cunningham

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In The Hours, Michael Cunningham, widely praised as one of the most gifted writers of his generation, draws inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair. The narrative of Woolf’s last days before her suicide early in World War II counterpoints the fictional stories of Samuel, a famous poet whose life has been shadowed by his talented and troubled mother, and his lifelong friend Clarissa, who strives to forge a balanced and rewarding life in spite of the demands of friends, lovers, and family.

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The Color Purple by Alice Walker

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A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural Georgia. Separated as girls, sisters Celie and Nettie sustain their loyalty to and hope in each other across time, distance and silence. Through a series of letters spanning twenty years, first from Celie to God, then the sisters to each other despite the unknown, the novel draws readers into its rich and memorable portrayals of Celie, Nettie, Shug Avery and Sofia and their experience. The Color Purple broke the silence around domestic and sexual abuse, narrating the lives of women through their pain and struggle, companionship and growth, resilience and bravery. Deeply compassionate and beautifully imagined, Alice Walker’s epic carries readers on a spirit-affirming journey towards redemption and love.

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The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

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A chance encounter between two lonely women leads to a passionate romance in this lesbian cult classic. Therese, a struggling young sales clerk, and Carol, a homemaker in the midst of a bitter divorce, abandon their oppressive daily routines for the freedom of the open road, where their love can blossom. But their newly discovered bliss is shattered when Carol is forced to choose between her child and her lover.

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Maurice by E.M. Forster

Maurice : E M Forster : 9781444736298
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As Maurice Hall makes his way through a traditional English education, he projects an outer confidence that masks troubling questions about his own identity. Frustrated and unfulfilled, a product of the bourgeoisie he will grow to despise, he has difficulty acknowledging his nascent attraction to men.
At Cambridge he meets Clive, who opens his eyes to a less conventional view of the nature of love. Yet when Maurice is confronted by the societal pressures of life beyond university, self-doubt and heartbreak threaten his quest for happiness.

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Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

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In the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin’s now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.

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Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall

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Stephen is an ideal child of aristocratic parents — a fencer, a horse rider and a keen scholar. Stephen grows to be a war hero, a bestselling writer and a loyal, protective lover. But Stephen is a woman, and her lovers are women. As her ambitions drive her, and society confines her, Stephen is forced into desperate actions.

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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

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Winner of the Whitbread Prize for best first fiction, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a coming-out novel from Winterson, the acclaimed author of The Passion and Sexing the Cherry. The narrator, Jeanette, cuts her teeth on the knowledge that she is one of God’s elect, but as this budding evangelical comes of age, and comes to terms with her preference for her own sex, the peculiar balance of her God-fearing household crumbles.

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Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

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In bawdy, moving prose, Rita Mae Brown tells the story of Molly Bolt, the adoptive daughter of a dirt-poor Southern couple who boldly forges her own path in America. With her startling beauty and crackling wit, Molly finds that women are drawn to her wherever she goes—and she refuses to apologize for loving them back. This literary milestone continues to resonate with its message about being true to yourself and, against the odds, living happily ever after.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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Dorian Gray is the subject of a full-length portrait in oil by Basil Hallward, an artist impressed and infatuated by Dorian’s beauty; he believes that Dorian’s beauty is responsible for the new mood in his art as a painter. Through Basil, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, and he soon is enthralled by the aristocrat’s hedonistic world view: that beauty and sensual fulfilment are the only things worth pursuing in life. Newly understanding that his beauty will fade, Dorian expresses the desire to sell his soul, to ensure that the picture, rather than he, will age and fade. The wish is granted, and Dorian pursues a libertine life of varied amoral experiences while staying young and beautiful; all the while, his portrait ages and records every sin.

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The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal

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Jim, a handsome, all-American athlete, has always been shy around girls. But when he and his best friend, Bob, partake in “awful kid stuff,” the experience forms Jim’s ideal of spiritual completion. Defying his parents’ expectations, Jim strikes out on his own, hoping to find Bob and rekindle their amorous friendship. Along the way he struggles with what he feels is his unique bond with Bob and with his persistent attraction to other men. Upon finally encountering Bob years later, the force of his hopes for a life together leads to a devastating climax.

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Zami by Audre Lorde

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Zami is a fast-moving chronicle. From the author’s vivid childhood memories in Harlem to her coming of age in the late 1950s, the nature of Audre Lorde’s work is cyclical. It especially relates the linkage of women who have shaped her. Lorde brings into play her craft of lush description and characterization. It keeps unfolding page after page.

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City of Night by John Rechy

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Based in part on John Rechy’s own experiences as an itinerant male prostitute in the late 1950’s, City of Night is a powerful evocation of a nameless narrator’s journey through the underside of America’s urban wastelands and a haunting description of the different people he encounters there.

Synopsis via Amazon

 

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5 Authors Who Lived With Mental Illness

Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in may since 1949. This month is meant to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and to help reduce the stigma so many experience. For that reason, in this article we’re talking about 5 famous authors who lived with mental illness, and how that affected their work.

[Trigger warning for depression, and suicide.]

1. Silvia Plath

Sylvia Plath | Poetry Foundation
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Silvia Plath is perhaps one of the most famous examples of an author with mental illness. Her life and work were greatly affected by her illness; there is even something called the “Sylvia Plath Effect,” which is the phenomenon that poets are more susceptible to mental illness than other creative writers. She was diagnosed with depression when she was 20 years old, and consequently died of suicide at age 30.  In her novel, The Bell Jar, Plath describes the decline of main character Esther into a depressive episode and her stay in a psychiatric ward, which mirrors Silvia’s own life.

2. Leo Tolstoy 

Leo Tolstoy | Russian writer | Britannica
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Often regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time, Leo Tolstoy also battled with depression. After writing his novels War and Peace and Anna Kareninathe writer began experiencing depression, and even went as far as rejecting his literary success and calling Anna Karenina and “abomination.” During his early fifties (the years he struggled with depression), Leo wrote A Confession, a short work on the subject of melancholia, philosophy and religion.

 

 

3. Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf - Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre
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Virginia Woolf is another author who severely struggled with depression, and it is also now agreed upon that she had bipolar disorder. Around 1910 she had been admitted three times to a “private nursing home for women with nervous disorder.” Her novel Mrs. Dalloway is a manifesto of mental health awareness, and in it she criticizes the medical establishment and medical discourse surrounding mental illness at the time.

4. Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway - Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre
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Ernest Hemingway had a very complicated history of mental health. He suffered from severe depression, paranoid delusions and bipolar disorder, which were exacerbated by a history of alcoholism, severe head injuries, and a genetic disorder known as hemochromatosis. His family was also greatly impacted by mental health issues, and his father, brother, and sister (and himself) all died by suicide. His granddaughter Mariel, now a mental health advocate, created a documentary called, “Running From Crazy,” which reveals the impact mental illness had on her family.

5. Zelda Fitzgerald 

Zelda Fitzgerald quería ser su propia musa - Gatopardo
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Perhaps less famously than her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda — the novelist, socialite, and painter — also struggled greatly with her mental health. She was in and out of mental hospitals during the 1930s and 1940s, and although she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, it is agreed today that a more accurate diagnosis would’ve been bipolar disorder. During her time at the mental hospital she experienced a rush of creativity and wrote Save Me the Waltz as part of her therapy.

 

The complicated lives of these writers highlight the importance of destigmatizing mental health, as well as the importance of accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

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