Share 6 Powerful LGBTQIA+ Stories Everyone Should Read

6 Powerful LGBTQIA+ Stories Everyone Should Read

Stu Smith is a California native, raised on healthy doses of John Steinbeck and Jack London. When asked about his formative years, he is likely to respond “the only good things to ever come out of Sacramento were me and Joan Didion.”  Now a proud resident of New York City, he can be found on warm days lounging in Central Park with his dog on his lap and a manuscript in his hand.

Pride month is here. A time our community and our allies look forward to all year long when we can wave our rainbow flags in the sun and connect with our friends and our loved ones. But it is also a time of deep reflection as we look at the lives from history as well as at the lives around us now who have struggled and who are struggling to find pride in themselves. As we continue to tell our stories, we also seek out stories of others in order to continue adding to our ever-growing tapestry. The following books provide an opportunity to connect and reflect on what this month is all about.


The Great Believers
by Rebecca Makkai

I have lamented about this book time and time again on this site. But here I am again, now that the book is out in paperback. THE GREAT BELIEVERS is a heart-wrenching look at the early days of the AIDS crisis in Chicago’s Boystown. It examines the panic, fear, and devastation that brought our community to its knees. It then flips to modern-day Paris, where a mother is desperate to locate her daughter after years of separation because of her daughter’s relationship with a cult leader. The masterful storytelling of Makkai weaves these two stories of dread and sorrow together in such a way that you won’t be able to put it down. It’s a painful reminder of our history, but such a necessary story to pay homage to those we have lost.

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The Great Believers
Rebecca Makkai

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MENTIONED IN:

6 Powerful LGBTQIA+ Stories Everyone Should Read

By Stu Smith | June 27, 2019

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Leading Men
by Christopher Castellani

In this imaginative and ambitious tale, Castellani paints a picture of what the relationship between Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo may have looked like. It’s July 1953 and Williams is spending the summer in Portofino, Italy. At a glamorous party held by Truman Capote, the couple meet an unfamiliar but glamorous young woman named Anja. Over time, the couple will take Anja under their wing. They introduce her to the right people, and she is quickly swept up into the world of cinema where she will achieve great things. The novel then shifts to the future where Anja is a reclusive, wealthy former film star. She reflects on the love she witnessed between Williams and Merlo. She looks back on her own affairs. And she bears witness to two young lovers who have come into her life. The book is a reflection on what love looks like, and explores what love looks like in recent history and what it takes to keep it alive.

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Leading Men
Christopher Castellani

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6 Powerful LGBTQIA+ Stories Everyone Should Read

By Stu Smith | June 27, 2019

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Lie With Me
by Philippe Besson

This #1 French bestseller has been called the French BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Set in France in 1984, it tells the tale of a young love affair between two teenage boys. When Philippe Besson as an adult sees a young boy who bears a resemblance to his first love, he is transported back to his youth. In his final year at school he carried on a love affair that has never quite left him. This is a story of first love and the effects it can have on the rest of one’s life. It’s a beautiful look at youthful passion and the reverence we all carry for our first love. As a bonus, actress and writer Molly Ringwald provides the translation. Her careful attention to detail sets this book apart.

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Lie With Me
Philippe Besson

THE #1 FRENCH BESTSELLER

“Stunning and heart-gripping.” —André Aciman, author of Call Me By Your Name

The award-winning, bestselling French novel by Philippe Besson—“the French Brokeback Mountain” (Elle)—about an affair between two teenage boys in 1984 France, translated with subtle beauty and haunting lyricism by the iconic and internationally acclaimed actress/writer Molly Ringwald.

We drive at high speed along back roads, through woods, vineyards, and oat fields. The bike smells like gasoline and makes a lot of noise, and sometimes I’m frightened when the wheels slip on the gravel on the dirt road, but the only thing that matters is that I’m holding on to him, that I’m holding on to him outside.

Just outside a hotel in Bordeaux, Philippe chances upon a young man who bears a striking resemblance to his first love. What follows is a look back at the relationship he’s never forgotten, a hidden affair with a gorgeous boy named Thomas during their last year of high school. Without ever acknowledging they know each other in the halls, they steal time to meet in secret, carrying on a passionate, world-altering affair.

Dazzlingly rendered in English by Ringwald in her first-ever translation, Besson’s powerfully moving coming-of-age story captures the eroticism and tenderness of first love—and the heartbreaking passage of time.

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MENTIONED IN:

6 Powerful LGBTQIA+ Stories Everyone Should Read

By Stu Smith | June 27, 2019

11 International LGBTQIA+ Books to Read During Pride Month

By Emily Polson | June 13, 2019

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Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens
by Tanya Boteju

One thing Pride month does is bring together all of the communities under the rainbow. In this debut young adult novel, a queer teen looking for acceptance and searching for answers finds herself getting help from the drag community. Nima is a shy girl with an absent mother and a father who adores her. She is a lesbian who is in love with her straight girlfriend. While searching for some guidance, Nima attends the carnival that has come to town. She meets drag legend Dee Dee La Bouche, who takes Nima under her wing. With the help of Mama La Bouche, Nima begins to make sense of what it means to be queer and where to put your heart. It’s a wonderful look at how the community can come together to raise one another up.

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Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens
Tanya Boteju

“Poignant and important.” —Refinery29

Judy Blume meets RuPaul’s Drag Race in this funny, feel-good debut novel about a queer teen who navigates questions of identity and self-acceptance while discovering the magical world of drag.

Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.

Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she’ll have to learn to accept lost love to get there.

From debut author Tanya Boteju comes a poignant, laugh-out-loud tale of acceptance, self-expression, and the colorful worlds that await when we’re brave enough to look.

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MENTIONED IN:

6 Powerful LGBTQIA+ Stories Everyone Should Read

By Stu Smith | June 27, 2019

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My Life as a Goddess
by Guy Branum

Guy Branum is one of the funniest people you may not know. He has appeared on Chelsea Lately, The Mindy Project, and Talk Show the Game Show. But his humor skyrockets off the page in this fantastic essay collection. Branum grew up in a rural farm town where, bored with his surroundings, he spent his time cultivating a signature wit and sass. Being an overweight gay child, he learned the art of self-deprecation with the best of them. But he found solace in Greek mythology and learning about those who came before him. In this incredible collection he discusses finding himself at UC Berkeley, roaming through typecast auditions in Hollywood, and finding artistic freedom in stand-up comedy. Guy Branum proves that his comedy chops are indeed godlike.

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My Life as a Goddess
Guy Branum

“Smart, fast, clever, and funny (As f*ck!)” (Tiffany Haddish), this collection of side-splitting and illuminating essays by the popular stand-up comedian, alum of Chelsea Lately and The Mindy Project, and host of truTV’s Talk Show the Game Show is perfect for fans of the New York Times bestsellers Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling and We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby.

From a young age, Guy Branum always felt as if he were on the outside looking in.

From a stiflingly boring farm town, he couldn’t relate to his neighbors. While other boys played outside, he stayed indoors reading Greek mythology. And being gay and overweight, he got used to diminishing himself. But little by little, he started learning from all the sad, strange, lonely outcasts in history who had come before him, and he started to feel hope.

In this “singular, genuinely ballsy, and essential” (Billy Eichner) collection of personal essays, Guy talks about finding a sense of belonging at Berkeley—and stirring up controversy in a newspaper column that led to a run‑in with the Secret Service. He recounts the pitfalls of being typecast as the “Sassy Gay Friend,” and how, after taking a wrong turn in life (i.e. law school), he found stand‑up comedy and artistic freedom. He analyzes society’s calculated deprivation of personhood from fat people, and how, though it’s taken him a while to accept who he is, he has learned that with a little patience and a lot of humor, self-acceptance is possible.

“Keenly observant and intelligent, Branum’s book not only offers uproarious insights into walking paths less traveled, but also into what self-acceptance means in a world still woefully intolerant of difference” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review). My Life as a Goddess is an unforgettable and deeply moving book by one of today’s most endearing and galvanizing voices in comedy.

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MENTIONED IN:

6 Powerful LGBTQIA+ Stories Everyone Should Read

By Stu Smith | June 27, 2019

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Out East
by John Glynn

In this incredible memoir, John Glynn takes us through a summer that would change his life forever. In a raucous vacation home in Montauk known as “the Hive,” Glynn finds comfort in a new set of friends who are young and determined, and each holds a unique quality that contributes to this dynamic household. They will find their relationship tested through summer-long crushes, boozy arguments, and broken dreams, but Glynn portrays a crew that is all the stronger for it. The author’s own personal story threads through the book as he makes peace with the loss of his beloved grandmother, yearns for professional success, and discovers a new kind of feeling when he meets one of the Hive housemates who stirs a new kind of feeling inside him. Glynn captures perfectly what it is to form bonds, dream big, and find yourself all in one summer.

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Out East
John Glynn

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MENTIONED IN:

6 Powerful LGBTQIA+ Stories Everyone Should Read

By Stu Smith | June 27, 2019

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