PRIDE month continues with this list of 5 must-read gay novels handpicked by the Off the Shelf staff. Last week, we focused on men, but this week we hear from the ladies–from a 1928 classic (The Well of Loneliness) to contemporary poet Eileen Myles’ Cool for You, these are the essential beach reads to get through before the month is over (OK, we’ll give you through July).
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.
Cool for You’s tough-girl narrator wants to be an astronaut. Instead, she becomes a poet and journeys through a series of low-end schools, pathetic jobs, and unmade beds. Schooled by mean and memorable Catholic nuns, this tomboy heroine stumbles and dreams her way through the painful corridors of family, early sexual encounters, and an eye-opening series of jobs caring for the sick and insane—the abandoned wards of the state. This is a book hell-bent on telling the truth about poor women, and how they do (and do not) get out of the hands of their families and the state. Without artifice or pseudonym, protagonist Eileen Myles boldly sets down a rich and graphic account of female experience in this world.
More than sixty years after it was published, this groundbreaking novel is going Hollywood with Carol. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are superbly cast as a pair of star-crossed lovers in 1950s New York whose relationship becomes fodder for blackmail. While the script was written fifteen years ago, the female-driven storyline struggled to find support. Skeptics were disproven when the premiere got a standing ovation at Cannes and was nominated for the Palme d’Or.
Release date: December 18, 2015
The fiery and enigmatic masterpiece—one of the greatest novels of the Modernist era. Nightwood, Djuna Barnes' strange and sinuous tour de force, "belongs to that small class of books that somehow reflect a time or an epoch" (Times Literary Supplement). That time is the period between the two World Wars, and Barnes' novel unfolds in the decadent shadows of Europe's great cities, Paris, Berlin, and Vienna—a world in which the boundaries of class, religion, and sexuality are bold but surprisingly porous.
First published in 1928, this timeless portrayal of lesbian love is now a classic. The thinly disguised story of Hall's own life, it was banned outright upon publication and almost ruined her literary career.