February 1st marks the start of LGBT+ History Month in the UK, an annual, month-long period of recognition and celebration of queer history, the fight for the rights of queer people and the experiences, stories and lives of queer people.
I wanted to mark this month by reaching out to some wonderful people in the bookish community to share some of their favourite queer stories, representation and authors. Literature is so important for exploring issues and experiences of queer people, giving a voice to people in the LGBTQ+ community and celebrating and sharing in the joy of being queer.
Alongside my own recommendation of two memoirs, you will find a mixture of fiction, non-fiction and young adult recommendations from Kieran Sangha, Jay Moran and Nicole Barbosa. Don’t forget to give them a follow on Twitter/Instagram to get lots more fantastic book reviews and recommendations!
One of my favourite LGBTQ+ novels in recent years, Garth Greenwell’s debut novel follows an unnamed narrator embroiled in a dangerous game of explicit desire with a high-spirited rent boy called Mitko, whilst also struggling with a silent shame that is deep-rooted in his past.
The slipperiness of the narrator’s desire makes the language shine, even in the raw, honest depictions of queer sex. Moments of eroticism are so rich with striking beauty it never feels out of place, evoking a subtle sensuality that is all but told with an underlying, aching repression. The free-flowing narrative also reads as a confession, striking parallels to James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room.
This is a compelling, moving novel that is so rich, so important, so brutally honest that acts as a new landmark in gay literature. Everyone should read this, and I know it’ll go down as one of my all-time favourites.
Kieran Sangha. Follow Kieran on Twitter @Kieran_Sangha and Instagram @ksangh94.
At almost thirty years old, I’ve rarely seen fragments let alone a whole reflection of myself in the books I read – Trumpet by Jackie Kay is the closest I’ve ever come.
When famous jazz musician, Joss Moody, dies, the entire world learns of the secret he has kept between himself and his wife, Millie, for all these years – Moody wasn’t born male. As the crowds and the questions close in on Millie and their son, Colman, past and present interweave together to tell a story of love, identity, family, and music.
Whilst Kay isn’t transgender herself, this novel is flush with compassion and delicacy, which perhaps stems from the fact that Kay is part of the LGBTQ+ community. Joss isn’t a prop of a character with TRANSGENDER emblazoned across his chest – he’s a fully realised person whose humanity beats on the page.
Jay Moran. Follow Jay on Instagram at @and.yet.the.books.
From the first page, I knew Yadriel was a true brujo. Why else would he and Maritza, a badass bruja, be sneaking into the church to perform the quinces ritual? With his beautiful portaje in hand, Yadriel performs the ritual and it works. Then Miguel – one of their own – is murdered and the whole brujx community sets out to find his ghost and set it free. But Yadriel’s father won’t let him join the other brujos on the search. Why does the family have problems accepting Yadriel’s gender?
It’s almost Día de Muertos and Camila, Yadriel’s beloved mother, is due to return. Yadriel is determined to prove himself a real brujo and to show everyone that he has, and always was, a true brujo who possesses a very special gift. After a heated argument with his father, Yadriel and Martiza head back to the church to summon a spirit. But it’s not Miguel… it’s Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy.
All three are shocked by the surprise events and decide to strike up a deal: Yadriel will help Julian find his friends and figure out what happened to his body. Julian will help Yadriel prove his worth to the brujx community. Be prepared to fall in love with this book. It’s absolutely stunning.
I Can’t Date Jesus and I Don’t Want to Die Poor by Michael Arceneaux
I highly recommend BOTH of these books because Michael Arceneaux is brilliant. Let’s start with I Can’t Date Jesus.
Every essay is unique, raw and beautiful. I was so engrossed in this book that it felt like two friends sat together in a pew, talking about their shared and different experiences with faith. I love this book and Michael for writing about important and essential topics: Beyoncé, sexuality and pleasure, generational differences, religion and faith, and politics. I devoured I Can’t Date Jesus in two days and can’t recommend this book enough.
Then two years later, I Don’t Want to Die Poor is published and another gift from Michael arrives. In this book, Michael writes about the crippling economic inequalities in America as well as his experience of living under student loan debt. Just like his first book, Michael writes with so much rawness, humour, and honesty that it feels like a conversation between two close friends. My favourite essay is Mama’s Boy. I read it twice because it was beautiful but also because my tears made the text blurry the first time that I read the essay.
Read both books with tissues nearby. Thank goodness for Michael Arceneaux and both these books. Amen.
Camille Perri has written two incredible books but When Katie Met Cassidy stole my heart away. I’ve read this book so many times that I’ve lost count. However, I’ll never tire of talking about how much I LOVE everything about it.
Originally from Kentucky, Katie works in NYC as a lawyer and has recently been dumped by Paul Michael (we hate him). Enter Cassidy: a super confident, sexy lawyer who Katie meets across a table one day during a client negotiation.
When they both end up at Metropolis, a lesbian dive bar with a tight-knit community, it becomes clear very quickly that their undeniable chemistry is what they both need and want. The connection between Katie and Cassidy is hypnotic and magical. And the sex scenes are SO DAMN SEXY! It’s funny, clever, heartbreaking and a book that you’ll always want to re-read and have displayed proudly on your shelf.
Nicole Barbosa. Follow Nicole on Twitter at @NicoleBarbosaPR and Instagram @nicbarbosa85.
…and my recommendations are as follows!
This absolutely stunning book was one of my top reads of 2020, and for very good reasons. From the first page I knew I was going to love it.
In the Dream House is a memoir with a twist. It tells the story, through the inventive use of narrative tropes, of Machado’s experience in an abusive same-sex relationship.
Violence in queer relationships is often ignored or underrepresented, masked by the idyllic perception of (in particular) relationships between two women. It can make an abusive same-sex relationship extremely hard to navigate when you don’t have the words or understanding of how to communicate the experiences you’re going through, a struggle the Machado experienced for many years.
The style in which this book is written is just so beautiful, exciting and creative, whilst also dealing with a dark, but important subject. I cannot recommend In the Dream House enough.
This is such an important read. We Have Always Been Here is a queer Muslim memoir in which Samra tells her experience of growing up as an Ahmadi Muslim in Pakistan then moving to Canada with her family, as refugees. She shares the challenges she faced from bullying and racism to the threat of poverty and an arranged marriage.
Along the way of facing these challenges, Samra starts to embrace her creativity, her queerness and her feminist beliefs. She finds new ways to connect with her faith, whilst also exploring art, love, sexuality and gender.
I connected with this book instantly, it felt so intimate and vital to read. I learned so much from We Have Always Been Here and it was incredibly helpful to hear about Samra’s personal experiences and how she came to understand and accept herself. I’m so grateful for Samra sharing her story so far and I 100% recommend reading.
Will you be picking up any of these books?
I highly recommend checking out and putting an order in with a queer bookshop or an indie that supports queer and marginalised voices! I personally love Paned o Gê and Shelflife, but there’s plenty online that you can find to support and pick up any of the books mentioned.
Let me know if you decide to buy any of these books, or if you’ve read them then I’d love to hear what you thought! You can comment below or follow me / chat to me on Twitter @HannahDurham_ and Instagram @BreatheDeep_.