The month of June is attributed to celebrating and recognizing the LGBTQ+ community, including their longstanding histories, legacies, and activism. Historically, the month of Pride began in light of the Manhattan Stonewall Uprising of 1969. Stonewall emphasized the need for a Gay Liberation Movement at the time and inspired the first-ever Pride marches to occur in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles in 1970. While Stonewall is the uprising typically related to Pride, it is important to recognize the number of uprisings and forms of activism occurring beforehand, such as those in response to the Pepper Hill Club Raid in Baltimore (1955) or Compton’s Cafeteria Raid in San Francisco (1966).
Pride—an event, action, or feeling—encapsulates more than just festivals, parades, and general celebrations within the community. As seen through the list of books and graphic novels below, conversations within and surrounding Pride and the LGBTQ+ community include intersectionality, racism, transnationalism, disability rights, prison reform, capitalism, and exploration of defining one’s happiness.
These authors are examples of people within the queer community working on challenging ways of thinking and making space for new and pre-existing voices often left out of or silenced within historical and political narratives. Additionally, authors like those below challenge character archetypes and stereotypes within the arts, further emphasizing the need for better representation; however, this form of representation should not solely define a group, identity, or community but rather advocate for the fact that these identities exist and have existed in forms that are unique to each person.
Below are ten books and graphic novels written by authors and artists within the LGBTQ+ community! Except for one work by Audre Lorde, these pieces have been published in the last ten to thirteen years, a couple even in 2023! Of course, they can be read any time of the year—before, during, or after Pride month. Pride, after all, is more than just one month. Without further ado, let’s get started with Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name:
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde (1982)
Any world which did not have a place for me loving women was not a world in which I wanted to live, nor one which I could fight for.
From Harlem to Connecticut, Mexico, and New York once again, Audre Lorde documents her coming-of-age in the twentieth century starting near the beginning of World War II and into the 70s. Lorde references this piece as a biomythography because while she does explore her life and identity as a Black lesbian, she also questions the stories her mother used to tell her as a child about an island called Carriacou—home to the Black lesbians Linda and Afrekete. Lorde’s lived experiences with Jim Crow, McCarthyism, factory work, abortion, and her relationships with women push her to question what life would and should look like without systematic, heteronormative structures established in America.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011)
I am made of memories.
Madeline Miller takes on the Greek mythological story of Achilles and retells it, putting a spotlight on the romantic narrative between Achilles and Patroclus. Some historians have described Patroclus as Achilles’ best friend or right-hand man, but who can confirm they were not lovers? Miller challenges this debate by giving power to Patroclus’ narrative, starting in his childhood and into the tragedies that occur during the Trojan War.
Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera (2016)
Feminism. I’m new to it. The word still sounds weird and wrong. Too white, too structured, too foreign; something I can’t claim.
Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx to work with feminist writer Harlowe Brisbane in Portland, Oregon. Juliet had just come out to her family as a lesbian and has broken up with her girlfriend. While moving to Portland, doing archival research on powerful Puerto Rican women throughout history, and meeting the cute local librarian with a motorcycle, Juliet discovers a love for her identity and body image. However, her work with Harlowe starts to take a negative turn as Juliet is utilized as a tool in Harlowe’s white feminist agenda. Gabby Rivera has also released this novel as a graphic novel if you prefer one format over the other or want to look at both!
Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (2018)
It [i.e., disability justice] means we are not left behind; we are beloved, kindred, needed.
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (she/they) is an activist and performance artist specializing in protecting and liberating Black, trans, and queer people with disabilities. In this collection of essays, they work to put radical love at the center of communal activism, survival, and futurity and recognize the work that queer and Black people with disabilities have accomplished throughout time.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (2019)
To be or not to be. That is the question. A question, yes, but not a choice.
My personal favorite is Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous! Like Lorde, Vuong utilizes fiction and autobiography genres to tell the coming-of-age story of Little Dog. Little Dog writes in the form of a letter to his mother, who cannot read or speak English, telling her about growing up as a child of immigrants in America, challenging the gender binary, and falling in love with a man facing an addiction. Vuong writes in an attempt to build a bridge between himself and his mother and understand how pain and beauty can exist together.
Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe (2019)
As I pondered a pronoun change, I began to think of gender less as a scale and more as a landscape. Some people are born in the mountains, while others are born by the sea. Some people are happy to live in the place they were born, while others must make a journey to reach the climate in which they can flourish and grow. Between the ocean and the mountains is a wild forest. That is where I want to make my home.
Maia Kobabe’s (e/em/eir) graphic novel memoir illustrates eir coming-of-age story of coming out as gender queer and asexual. Currently, Gender Queer is one of the most banned books in America and is being taken out of school libraries in states such as Texas and Florida. Yet, this graphic novel operates as a safe space for young queer people to explore their own identities. It has even become a popular book for parents of queer children to read and unlearn gender binaries ingrained within us the moment we are born.
Loveless by Alice Oseman (2020)
I’ve learnt some things. Like the way friendship can be just as intense, beautiful and endless as romance. Like the way there’s love everywhere around me—there’s love for my friends, there’s love for my paintings, there’s love for myself.
Alice Oseman (she/they) is the graphic novelist who created the heartwarming Heartstopper series, now a Netflix show. Oseman has also created a variety of other young adult fiction and graphic novels that work towards creating queer representation that is not defined by pain, violence, and death. In Loveless, Georgia, the main character, struggles with her identity and not understanding why she does not want to pursue any romantic or sexual relationships. This novel not only explores asexual and aromantic identities but highlights that love is not defined just by romance or sexual interactions—it can be found within friendships, family, etc.
Pageboy: A Memoir by Elliot Page (2023)
I am evolved as I freed myself from the expectations of others. These memories shape a nonlinear narrative, because queerness is intrinsically nonlinear, journeys that bend and wind. Two steps forward, one step back.
Academy Award-nominated actor, Elliot Page, leads with celebration and resilience in his memoir of being a transgender man in Hollywood. After rising to fame from his role in the movie Juno, Page had received immense pressure to conform to stereotypes defined by the gender binary and become the glamorous, feminine star that movies and Hollywood society wanted him to be. Yet, he no longer felt he could be silenced during his coming-of-age. His memoir details his journey towards self-love, caring for his mental health, and ultimately putting himself first.
Miss Major Speaks: Conversations with a Black Trans Revolutionary by Toshio Meronek and Miss Major (2023)
For all she’s survived, Major gives younger people permission to imagine a life that isn’t defined by plagues and neglect by corporations and the government.
Miss Major, the infamous Black and transgender activist, has been a mother figure for the transgender and gender nonconforming community for over fifty years. The interview format with Toshio Meronek (they/them) allows readers to see Miss Major’s personality and her theories and philosophies about queer lives and US institutions in an accessible and relatable way. Ranging from critiques about Pride festivals, prisons, and Stonewall historical narratives, Miss Major ultimately pushes the message that Black trans lives matter and safety and liberation can only occur if we act together as a community and family.
Lesbian Love Story: A Memoir in Archives by Amelia Possanza (2023)
Lesbians, in my eyes, are defined as the ones who invent their own systems of love: Romantic love. Family love. Friend love. A love for community, and for strangers too. They love when there is nothing to gain—no kingdom, no castle, no seat in the official record books of history—even when they are at risk of losing everything.
Amelia Possanza utilizes memoir and archival research to uncover and trace the lives of twentieth-century lesbians—not necessarily the lives of popular lesbian figures, but those who purposefully left behind some form of archival record or sign of their existence. Although Possanza feels surrounded by queer histories and stories in Brooklyn, she also recognizes the remaining lack of stories or remembrance of lesbians. However, through this work, Possanza has not only discovered a variety of lesbian histories but has redefined what it means to truly love, build community, and care for anyone through the lens of being a lesbian.
Head to your local indie bookstore, library, or online resource and support a queer author! Some bookstores or book festivals may also sell zines from local creators around you! Especially during a time in which books by queer creators are being banned across the US, it is important to support, promote, and read their works. We are beautiful because of our differences, not despite them! Again, happy Pride and happy reading.