Blanche’s Book Club: 2019 Pride Reading Guide!

We’re already halfway into June, but I just recently thought of the idea to offer up a reading for PRIDE month — better late than never!

I got the idea from the library. I was checking out my books and they had a stack of paper bookmarks that had lists of LGBT reading recommendations. Amazing!

I know I’m trying to diversify my reading list to include more black authors, and LGBT authors shouldn’t be excluded from that effort. My life is full of members of the LGBT family and I always want them to know they have support from me. If there’s any way I can use my voice, my platform, my privilege to lift up others, I want to do it.

So, I went on a search for some great books that have LGBT authors. I also want to note that this is my first attempt at a PRIDE list, and I am of the school of thought that these authors should write whatever they want — not just books about being LGBT — but those kinds of books are often the ones that get highlighted.

If you have additional books or authors that would be good for this list, please let me know in the comments — I’m down to read this all year long, not just in June. Happy PRIDE!

“No Ashes in the Fire” by Darnell Moore

[Memoir] When Darnell Moore was fourteen, three boys from his neighborhood tried to set him on fire. They cornered him while he was walking home from school, harassed him because they thought he was gay and poured a jug of gasoline on him. He escaped, but just barely. It wasn’t the last time he would face death.

Three decades, later, Moore is an award-winning writer, a leading Black Lives Matter activist, and an advocate for justice and liberation.

In No Ashes in the Fire, he shares the journey taken by that scared, bullied teenager who not only survived, but found his calling. Moore’s transcendence over the myriad forces of repression that faced him is a testament to the grace and care of the people who loved him, and to his hometown, Camden, NJ, scarred and ignored but brimming with life.

Moore reminds us that liberation is possible if we commit ourselves to fighting for it, and if we dream and create figures where those who survive on society’s edges can thrive.

No Ashes in the Fire is a story of beauty and hope and an honest reckoning with family, with place, and with what it means to be free.

“Juliet Takes a Breath” by Gabby Rivera

[Fiction] Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again.

But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing.

She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.

Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer?

Is that even possible?

Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?

With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlow, and most importantly, herself.

“Hunger” by Roxane Gay

[Memoir] From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself

“I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.”

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health.

As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

“Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility” edited by Reina Gossett, Eric A. Stanley, and Johanna Burton

[Essays] Essays, conversations, and archival investigations explore the paradoxes, limitations, and social ramifications of trans representation within contemporary culture.

The increasing representation of trans identity throughout art and popular culture in recent years has been nothing if not paradoxical. Trans visibility is touted as a sign of a liberal society, but it has coincided with a political moment marked both by heightened violence against trans people (especially trans women of color) and by the suppression of trans rights under civil law. Trap Door grapples with these contradictions.

The essays, conversations, and dossiers gathered here delve into themes as wide-ranging yet interconnected as beauty, performativity, activism, and police brutality. Collectively, they attest to how trans people are frequently offered “doors”—entrances to visibility and recognition—that are actually “traps,” accommodating trans bodies and communities only insofar as they cooperate with dominant norms.

The volume speculates about a third term, perhaps uniquely suited for our time: the trapdoor, neither entrance nor exit, but a secret passageway leading elsewhere. Trap Door begins a conversation that extends through and beyond trans culture, showing how these issues have relevance for anyone invested in the ethics of visual culture. 

“Ruby-Fruit Jungle” by Rita Mae Brown

[Fiction] Molly Bolt is a young lady with a big character. Beautiful, funny and bright, Molly figures out at a young age that she will have to be tough to stay true to herself in 1950s America.

In her dealings with boyfriends and girlfriends, in the rocky relationship with her mother and in her determination to pursue her career, she will fight for her right to happiness.

Charming, proud and inspiring, Molly is the girl who refuses to be put in a box.

Editor’s note: The description for this book is short, but I did a little extra digging and feel ridiculous that I’ve never heard of this book! Many consider it revolutionary, as it was published during a time when being gay was very taboo.

If you look on GoodReads, there are so many reviews and stories saying people turned to this book during difficult times, or times when a family member came out and they were seeking understanding. Wow!

“Edinburgh” by Alexander Chee

[Fiction] Twelve-year-old Fee is a shy Korean American boy and a newly named section leader of the first sopranos in his local boys’ choir.

At their summer camp, situated in an idyllic and secluded lakeside retreat, Fee grapples with his complicated feelings towards his best friend, Peter. But as Fee comes to learn how the director treats his section leaders, he is so ashamed he says nothing of the abuse, not even when Peter is in line to be next.

When the director is arrested, Fee tries to forgive himself for his silence. Yet the actions of the director have vast consequences, and in their wake, Fee blames only himself.

In the years that follow he slowly builds a new life, teaching near his hometown. There, he meets a young student who is the picture of Peter – and is forced to confront the past he believed was gone.

“Real Queer America” by Samatha Allen

[Non-fiction] Ten years ago, Samantha Allen was a suit-and-tie-wearing Mormon missionary. Now she’s a senior Daily Beast reporter happily married to another woman.

A lot in her life has changed, but what hasn’t changed is her deep love of Red State America, and of queer people who stay in so-called “flyover country” rather than moving to the liberal coasts.

In Real Queer America, Allen takes us on a cross-country road-trip stretching all the way from Provo, Utah to the Rio Grande Valley to the Bible Belt to the Deep South. Her motto for the trip: “Something gay every day.”

Making pit stops at drag shows, political rallies, and hubs of queer life across the heartland, she introduces us to scores of extraordinary LGBT people working for change, from the first openly transgender mayor in Texas history to the manager of the only queer night club in Bloomington, Indiana, and many more.

Capturing profound cultural shifts underway in unexpected places and revealing a national network of chosen family fighting for a better world, Real Queer America is a treasure trove of uplifting stories and a much-needed source of hope and inspiration in these divided times.

“Sissy” by Jacob Tobia

[Non-fiction] From the moment a doctor in Raleigh, North Carolina, put “male” on Jacob Tobia’s birth certificate, everything went wrong. Alongside “male” came many other, far less neutral words: words that carried expectations about who Jacob was and who Jacob should be, words like “masculine” and “aggressive” and “cargo shorts” and “SPORTS!”

Naturally sensitive, playful, creative, and glitter-obsessed, as a child Jacob was given the label “sissy.” In the two decades that followed, “sissy” joined forces with “gay,” “trans,” “nonbinary,” and “too-queer-to-function” to become a source of pride and, today, a rallying cry for a much-needed gender revolution.

Through revisiting their childhood and calling out the stereotypes that each of us have faced, Jacob invites us to rethink what we know about gender and offers a bold blueprint for a healed world–one free from gender-based trauma and bursting with trans-inclusive feminism.

From Jacob’s Methodist childhood and the hallowed halls of Duke University to the portrait-laden parlors of the White House, Sissy takes you on a gender odyssey you won’t soon forget.

Writing with the fierce honesty, wildly irreverent humor, and wrenching vulnerability that have made them a media sensation, Jacob shatters the long-held notion that people are easily sortable into “men” and “women.” Sissy guarantees that you’ll never think about gender–both other people’s and your own–the same way again.

“Less” by Andrew Sean Greer

[Fiction] Who says you can’t run away from your problems? You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else.

You can’t say yes–it would be too awkward–and you can’t say no–it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.

QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?

ANSWER: You accept them all.

What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face.

Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last. Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, Less is, above all, a love story.

A scintillating satire of the American abroad, a rumination on time and the human heart, a bittersweet romance of chances lost, by an author The New York Times has hailed as “inspired, lyrical,” “elegiac,” “ingenious,” as well as “too sappy by half,” Less shows a writer at the peak of his talents raising the curtain on our shared human comedy.

The books mentioned above are all ones I haven’t read, but a few that might be worth considering that I have read are: “Ramona Blue” by Julie Murphy, “What If It’s Us” by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli, “Dear Evan Hansen” by Val Emmich, “Leah On The Offbeat” by Becky Albertalli, “The Female Persuasion” by Meg Wolitzer, “Simon And The Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli, and “Most Talkative” by Andy Cohen.

Happy PRIDE!

For more book recommendations, be sure to subscribe to the blog (look to the right) and follow me on Instagram @Orangejulius7 – where I share more of my daily life, including my PRIDE makeup look. Need help with your blog? I can help with all of your digital marketing efforts – just let me know!

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