Pride Month is here! That means now is a great time to discover new writers and voices across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Whether you’re hoping to see your own experiences reflected in fiction, you’re still figuring things out, or you just want to support Own Voices authors, we’ve assembled a list of books that represent the richness and diversity of the LGBTQ+ community.
1. The Chosen and the Beautiful, by Nghi Vo
The Great Gatsby finally entered the public domain in 2021, which means it’s time for writers to cash in on all their fanfiction! Nghi Vo is leading the charge with this gorgeous retelling focusing on Jordan Baker, Daisy Buchanan’s louche bestie. The Chosen and the Beautiful reimagines Jordan as a queer Vietnamese-American woman trying to fit in with a high society that treats her like an exotic pet, despite her apparent privilege. But Jordan has magic of her own, and she’s uses it to twist the narrative to her own advantage… In The Chosen and the Beautiful, The Great Gatsby’s homoerotic subtext finally becomes text, and there’s magic to boot. Zelda Fitzgerald would have loved it.
2. My Brother’s Husband, by Gengoroh Tagame
Yaichi Origuchi is a single dad estranged from his late twin brother, who is shocked by the sudden arrival of his brother-in-law. Mike Flanagan is a cuddly Canadian visiting Japan for the first time to grieve his husband’s death and connect with his family. In the process, Mike challenges all of Yaichi’s preconceptions and forces him to confront his own role in his estrangement from his brother. My Brother’s Husband is a manga that excels at addressing internalized homophobia, cultural differences, and the process of unlearning prejudice. That said, it’s also a heartwarming story about loss and family.
3. The Seven Husband’s of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Evelyn Hugo is a reclusive Hollywood icon, once famous for her scandalous personal life and seven husbands. So Monique Grant, a struggling journalist, is understandably shocked to be chosen out of the blue to write her tell-all biography. She’ll get the dirt on Evelyn’s career and marriages, and the answers to all her burning questions. Why Monique? Why now? And with seven husbands under her belt, who was the love of Evelyn’s life? The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo tackles topics like lavender marriages, domestic abuse, and bisexual erasure head-on and looks fabulous while doing it. If the glamor and power plays of Old Hollywood aren’t enough for you, Evelyn is a bombshell of a protagonist. Morally grey, ambitious, fearless, and unapologetically herself, she’s an iconic leading lady in every sense.
4. All Boys Aren’t Blue, by George M. Johnson
All Boys Aren’t Blue is a collection of essays by George M. Johnson, chronicling their experiences growing up queer and black in the United States. Johnson is a journalist and LGBTQ+ activist, so naturally they hit their points with unerring accuracy and skill. They also bring a much needed intersectional perspective to the issues they explore, like gender nonconformity, toxic masculinity, and marginalization. But there’s joy, too, as they recount memories from their childhood and their first tentative romances with nostalgia and warmth. Johnson has a knack for turning personal stories into object lessons, so reading their essays feels like getting advice from a wiser, more experienced friend. All Boys Aren’t Blue is aimed at teenagers, but it’s perfect for anyone exploring their identity and sexuality.
5. Felix Ever After, by Kacen Callender
Is it possible to be one marginalization too many? That’s Felix Love’s secret fear, as a black, queer, trans boy figuring out his gender identity and longing to fall in love. His fears seem to be realized when an anonymous troll outs him at school and starts harassing him online. But as his revenge scheme to catfish his number-one suspect gets wildly off track, Felix is in for more than a few surprises. Felix Ever After is a sweet high school coming-of-age story about loving and taking pride in yourself. It also challenges marginalization within the LGBTQ+ community while celebrating the diversity of trans and non-binary identities. And it has some of the best representations of New Yorkers I’ve ever seen.
6. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, by Kabi Nagata
Eyebrow-raising title aside, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is actually a medidative autobiography in manga form. Full disclosure, Nagata delves into eating disorders, depression, and self-harm, so take care if any of those issues are triggering for you. Still, Nagata has compassion for her younger self, and her thoughts on her experiences are insightful, witty, and intensely personal. Japan has its own complex history with lesbianism, and that’s reflected in Nagata’s writing—a “yuri” (“girls’ love”) manga this isn’t. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness also has some interesting points about gender identity and gender roles, but ultimately it’s an optimistic, quietly funny read. And it’s latest sequel, My Alcoholic Escape From Reality, was released in English in May of 2021.
7. I Wish You All the Best, by Mason Deaver
Non-binary identities tend to be overlooked in the LGBTQ+ spectrum. But if you’re interested in getting to grips with what it really means to be non-binary, I Wish You All the Best is a great place to start. It balances a sweet romance with angst as our protagonist, Ben, comes out as nonbinary to their parents and is immediately kicked out. Luckily, their estranged older sister is on hand to offer them a safe new home and school, where they meet and fall for Nathan. But after their parents’ rejection, Ben isn’t ready to face coming out yet again. Despite some heavy subject matter, including Ben’s severe anxiety disorder, I Wish You All the Best is optimistic and affirms non-binary identities.
8. Memorial, by Bryan Washington
Benson and Mike’s relationship is on the rocks, and it’s about to get rockier when Mike disappears to Japan to see his terminally-ill father just as his mother arrives for a visit. As Benson grapples with suddenly living with a stranger and his own estranged family, Mike must adjust to life in Japan and reconnect with his father, breaking open old wounds in the process. Actually, “reconnecting” and “old wounds” sum up both character’s storylines pretty well. Memorial traces fractured families and failing romantic relationships with understated sadness and humor, and an unusual writing style. More importantly, Mike and Benson feel like real, imperfect people and are that (relatively) rare thing in fiction: a gay, interracial couple of color.
9. Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Avoid Patsy if you dislike morally grey characters, but otherwise strap in for an excellent book. Patsy has endured a miserable, unfulfilled life, trapped in her Jamaican hometown and forced to have a child, while longing for her best friend Cicely, who long since moved to America. So when a chance to escape presents itself, she doesn’t hesitate to drop everything—even her daughter Tru. Patsy interrogates the usual narratives of motherhood and self-sacrifice and doesn’t have any easy answers. Still, there’s something beautiful about Patsy’s journey, coming out later in life and finding a community of peers in New York. Meanwhile, Tru has her own gender non-conforming hill to climb as she follows her dreams of becoming a professional footballer, all while building her own sense of self in the face of her mother’s abandonment.
10. Loveless, by Alice Oseman
What do you do when you love the idea of love, but you can’t seem to experience it for yourself? Georgia Ware practically has a PhD in romance, but no practical experience, not even a crush. Her first year at Durham University is going to be her big chance to finally find a nice boy or girl to date. She’s got her best friends along for moral support and a super supportive roommate, so it’ll happen if she just tries hard enough… right? Loveless does a great job of exploring the social pressure to pair up and the stigma of singledom, whether you’re asexual or not. It features multiple characters on the ace spectrum and takes the time to clear up common misconceptions about asexuality and aromanticism. Ultimately, Loveless is about realizing that a life without marriage or romance isn’t necessarily a life without love.
11. Sawkill Girls, by Claire Legrand
The specter of violence against women gets satisfyingly pulverized in Sawkill Girls. Our girls are Marion, Zoey, and Val, residents of Sawkill Rock, an island plagued by a monster that preys on girls. Marion is new in town and already grieving her father, so when her beloved sister vanishes, she stops at nothing to find her. She’s not alone, as Zoey is mourning her missing best friend. It’s part of a disturbing pattern, one that Val, the local “Mean Girl,” contributes to with every “disappearance.” Girls banding together to destroy their predator is awesome, of course. Better still, the main cast of Sawkill Girls is queer and/or asexual, making it one of the most diverse horror novels you’ll read this Pride Month.
12. Cemetery Boys, by Aiden Thomas
Yadriel is a trans boy eager to take his place among the men of his community. The Brujx are a secret Latinx community serving Lady Death in modern LA with magic… and strictly defined gender roles. Which is a problem for Yadriel, since his traditionalist family won’t let him train as a brujo. But when he accidentally summons the spirit of Julian, a bad boy classmate, Yadriel has the perfect opportunity to prove himself by releasing the spirit… and solving a murder. Thomas is an Own Voices queer, trans, Latinx writer, so Yadriel’s frustrations and struggles as a trans boy ring true, as does the warmth and community of his huge family. Cemetery Boys revisits the “secret magical worlds” and “underestimated teenagers” tropes with its sweet, low-key romance, death magic, and fantastic trans and Hispanic representation.
13. The Deep, by Rivers Solomon
Black mermaids? Yes, please! The Deep was actually inspired by a rap song by Clipping and it’s genius. Essentially, a race of merpeople have evolved from the pregnant Africans who were thrown overboard from slave ships. Their society is a utopia of equality and LGBTQ+ characters of every stripe, all living carefree lives. Except for Yetu. She’s the “historian,” forced to carry the whole community’s horrific ancestral memories. As the burden of remembering drives her away from her people and towards the world they escaped, Yetu discovers the dangers of trying to forget the past. The Deep is a profoundly layered novella that digs into the pain of buried trauma. As an added bonus, the audiobook is read by Daveed Diggs (of Hamilton fame), who co-wrote the original song and collaborated with Rivers Solomon on the novella.
14. Freshwater, by Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi is a trans, non-binary author and Freshwater is their gorgeously written autobiographical debut novel. Ada is a person straddling two worlds, born in Nigeria with ọgbanje (spirits) inhabiting her body. Yet just as Ada learns to live with the spirits within her, a new trauma she suffers while studying at college in America creates new selves. These stronger gods will protect her, but they will also control her, unless Ada can find a way to balance her many selves and become who she really wants to be. Blending Igbo spiritualism with Christianity, Freshwater takes “finding yourself” literally, as it’s narrated by Ada’s various selves. Based on Emezi’s own life, it brilliantly captures the struggle to figure out your true identity, especially if it doesn’t conform to “traditional” norms.
15. If I Was Your Girl, by Meredith Russo
The “New Girl in School” may be a tired trope of YA romance, but not in Amanda Hardy’s case. She’s new, shy, and definitely not falling for Grant, who’s kind, handsome, and altogether loveable. Amanda is a trans girl living in a small, conservative town, and she can’t afford to let her secret get out… Meredith Russo is an Own Voices author and deftly translates her own experiences as a trans woman into Amanda’s story. This makes for some heavy subject matter, including references to homophobic violence, body dysmorphia, suicidal ideation, and depression, especially in flashbacks to Amanda’s life pre-transition. Luckily, Amanda also gets supportive parents, awesome friends, and a heartwarming Star Wars themed courtship. But cute as the romance is, Amanda living as her true self is the real triumph of her story.