Best LGBTQ+ books 2021: LGBTQ+ characters, gay authors, trans voices | The Independent

Total
0
Shares
gym24.uk

<p>Pride is a time to commemorate our elders and the continued resistance of LGBTQ+ folks to harassment, discrimination and abuse</p>

Pride is a time to commemorate our elders and the continued resistance of LGBTQ+ folks to harassment, discrimination and abuse

(iStock/The Independent)Leer en Español

June marks Pride month, a time for us to celebrate and reflect on our LGBTQ+ lives, history and experiences.

Pride is a time to commemorate our elders and the continued resistance of LGBTQ+ folks to harassment, discrimination and abuse.

While this year’s Pride month may be a little different for most people around the globe, books remain an essential way to connect us with our communities, learn and grow.

We’ve selected some of the best LGBTQ+ books of the last few years that will hopefully do just that.

Read more:

  • 8 best letter writing sets for a personal touch
  • 8 best book club books to discuss, debate and enjoy
  • 8 best climate emergency books that help you to understand the crisis

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

The best LGBTQ+ books for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – ‘Detransition, Baby’ by Torrey Peters, published by Serpent’s Tail, £12.99, Waterstones.com
  • Best for romance – ‘Last Night at the Telegraph Club’ by Malinda Lo, published by Hachette, £7.99, Blackwells.co.uk
  • Best coming-of-age tale – ‘The Black Flamingo’ by Dean Atta, published by Hachette, £6.99, Waterstones.com
  • Best for LGBTQ+ history – ‘Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide’ by Kate Charlesworth, published by Myriad Editions, £13.35, Hive.co.uk
  • Best for laughs – ‘Wow, No Thank You’ by Samantha Irby, published by Faber & Faber, £9.99, Waterstones.com
  • Best for learning about gender – ‘Non-Binary Lives: An Anthology of Intersecting Identities’ edited by Jos Twist, Ben Vincent, Meg-John Barker and Kat Gupta, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, £12.79, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best literary read –‘In the Dream House’ by Carmen Maria Machado, published by Graywolf Press, £14.99, Waterstones.com
  • Best poignant read – ‘Who Killed My Father’ by Edouard Louis, published by Penguin, £8.99, Waterstones.com
  • Best new British novelist – ‘Rainbow Milk’ by Paul Mendez, published by Hachette, £12.26, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best memoir – ‘I’m Afraid of Men’ by Vivek Shraya, published by Penguin Random House Canada,£9.56, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for understanding the migrant experience – ‘Patsy’ by Nicole Dennis-Benn, published by Oneworld Publications, £8.99, Waterstones.com

‘Detransition, Baby’ by Torrey Peters, published by Serpent’s Tail

Best: Overall

Devastating, hilarious, tender, ambitious, provocative – there simply aren’t enough superlatives to heap upon this masterful work of fiction. Longlisted for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction, Detransition, Baby interrogates the messy themes of motherhood – “just some vague test to ensure that everyone feels inadequate” – queerness, family and womanhood to expert effect.

Focusing on three people – cisgender and transgender – at a crossroads in life, whose unorthodox solution to a surprise pregnancy exposes the vulnerabilities and hopes buried beneath the steeliest exteriors, this smart and thoughtful book skewers heteronormative ideas around gender. While Peters has made clear that the book was not written with a cisgender audience in mind, the universal themes of love and sorrow transcend gender and sexuality; these flawed characters feel like friends.

Buy now £12.99, Waterstones.com {{#hasItems}}

Price comparison

    {{/hasItems}} {{#items}}

  • {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now
  • {{/items}} {{#hasItems}}

{{/hasItems}}

‘Last Night at the Telegraph Club’ by Malinda Lo, published by Hachette

Best: For romance

When 17-year-old Lily Hu spots an advert for a “male impersonator” act in her local paper at the enigmatic Telegraph Club, it marks the start of a journey of self-discovery and burgeoning sexuality that permeates every aspect of her life. Set in San Francisco’s 1950s Chinatown against a backdrop of McCarthyism and red scare paranoia, Hu begins to live a secret double-life that requires her to re-evaluate everything she thinks she knows, while discovering a thrilling underground queer community.

In this delightful book, Lo captures the headiness and thrill of first love exquisitely and the risks we take for love. Last Night at the Telegraph Club is a thoughtful semi-fictionalised account of an important and overlooked period in queer, American history.

Buy now £7.99, Blackwells.co.uk {{#hasItems}}

Price comparison

    {{/hasItems}} {{#items}}

  • {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now
  • {{/items}} {{#hasItems}}

{{/hasItems}}

‘The Black Flamingo’ by Dean Atta, published by Hachette

Best: Coming-of-age tale

Told in verse, this beautiful coming-of-age story focuses on Felix, a Jamaican-Greek Cypriot teenager, coming to terms with his identity as a gay man. From leaving his home in London, to finding a home to explore and celebrate himself in his university’s drag society, this joyful tale is full of heart and hope.

Winner of a Stonewall Book Award, respected poet Atta said of the novel: “I would like this book to show people some of the many ways you can fuck with gender rather than always being fucked over by it.” While this may be a book written for young adults, it’s a delight to read, whatever your age.

Buy now £6.99, Waterstones.com {{#hasItems}}

Price comparison

    {{/hasItems}} {{#items}}

  • {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now
  • {{/items}} {{#hasItems}}

{{/hasItems}}

‘Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide’ by Kate Charlesworth, published by Myriad Editions

Best: For LGBTQ+ history

Part memoir, part LGBT history book, this substantial graphic novel takes a witty and creative approach to this seminal part of British history. From humble beginnings in the South Yorkshire town of Barnsley, to her transition into a self-proclaimed “dyke about town”, this is a heart-warming and humbling look at the remarkable fight for equality LGBTQ+ people have been forced to endure simply for being their authentic selves.

Highlighting the lives of lesser known figures from the community, such as Jackie Forster and Nancy Spain, to pivotal players such as Lady Phyll and Peter Tatchell (who continue to be major voices in the equalities movement), this important book combines key moments from LGBTQ+ history, such as Section 28, the first Pride march and the arrival of Aids, with personal and professional anecdotes that reflect the era. While the pain of parental rejection and bigoted media reports sadly continue to be felt today, there’s much to celebrate in this entertaining and educational tome.

Buy now £13.35, Hive.co.uk {{#hasItems}}

Price comparison

    {{/hasItems}} {{#items}}

  • {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now
  • {{/items}} {{#hasItems}}

{{/hasItems}}

‘Wow, No Thank You’ by Samantha Irby, published by Faber & Faber

Best: For laughs

This flawless collection of essays by US comedian and author Samantha Irby combines candid emotional output with laugh-out-loud humour to triumphant effect. Written on the brink of her fortieth birthday, Irby contemplates the shifts in a life that has shifted from riotous all-nighters to “girls gone mild”.

Subjects under scrutiny include making friends as an adult, smartphone addiction, lesbian bed death – “the most I’ve been asked to do before fucking a woman is shoo the cat off the bed beforehand” – incontinence, loathing (of oneself and the wider populous) and life itself – “a mistake and everyone is trash”.

A welcome hiatus from the cacophony of millennial voices eulogising about skincare regimes – “I don’t drink water and my blood type is pizza” – this book makes you feel less alone. Misanthropy might not be cool, but Irby makes it funny as hell.

Buy now £9.99, Waterstones.com {{#hasItems}}

Price comparison

    {{/hasItems}} {{#items}}

  • {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now
  • {{/items}} {{#hasItems}}

{{/hasItems}}

‘Non-Binary Lives: An Anthology of Intersecting Identities’ edited by Jos Twist, Ben Vincent, Meg-John Barker and Kat Gupta, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Best: For learning about gender

This beautifully curated collection of essays is a welcome tonic in a cultural climate that seems hellbent on misunderstanding and misrepresenting those who do not fall into gender binaries. With a focus on intersections, this anthology specifically aims to examine the ways in which a person’s other identities – such as being a parent, having a faith, being black or having a disability – intersect with their non-binary identity.

Some writing on gender can often be inaccessible and academic, so it was a pleasure to read a collection of essays that were highly personal, thoughtful and immensely insightful. From “gender euphoria” to “radical softness”, working through each contribution felt like having an illuminating conversation with the most informed and thoughtful person you know.

This diverse group of individuals have done the work in picking apart the norms that prevail in many societies and discovered how prescriptive and stifling these can be. The overriding message is that non-binary people exist in multiple forms – that there is no “right way” to be non-binary – but there is plenty more to learn besides. Essential reading for anyone wishing to learn more about the wonderful diversity of humans. Furthermore, profits from the sale of this book will go to organisations supporting marginalised trans and non-binary folks.

Buy now £12.79, Blackwell’s {{#hasItems}}

Price comparison

    {{/hasItems}} {{#items}}

  • {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now
  • {{/items}} {{#hasItems}}

{{/hasItems}}

‘In the Dream House’ by Carmen Maria Machado, published by Graywolf Press

Best: Literary read

Winner of the 2021 Rathbones Folio Prize and 2020 Lambda Literary LGBTQ Nonfiction award, Carmen Maria Machado’s astonishing account of the abuse she was subjected to by her ex-partner is equal parts poetry and horror. With unwavering frankness, Machado describes the initial rapture of her first same-sex relationship and its subsequent distortion into violence and fear.

Deftly chronicling the shame, disbelief and immobilising nature of abuse, Machado utilises different literary forms to describe her experience, such as folk tale tropes and genres, an approach that only serves to add to the unsettling sense that permeates the book. Some “chapters” are a single sentence – “dream house as epiphany: most types of domestic abuse are completely legal” – and her ability to make language sing is absolutely remarkable. The book also exists as an essential addition to a limited archive documenting same-sex abuse. A towering achievement from a truly outstanding writer.

Buy now £14.99, Waterstones.com {{#hasItems}}

Price comparison

    {{/hasItems}} {{#items}}

  • {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now
  • {{/items}} {{#hasItems}}

{{/hasItems}}

‘Who Killed My Father’ by Edouard Louis, published by Penguin

Best: Poignant read

Louis’ devastating memoir reflects on his relationship with his father who, at the age of 50, is close to death. In less than 90 pages, Louis describes the casual violence, poverty, homophobia and shame that blight both father and son, while laying full responsibility at the feet of a political elite whose policies mean the difference between life and death for society’s most vulnerable.

It’s no coincidence that the book’s title lacks a question mark; Louis has receipts and names names. But it’s not all horror – tenderness, growth and honesty all feature, but it’s the lack of autonomy, the predictability of poverty and the anger this invariably generates that’s the real gut punch. A masterful work from an underrepresented voice, which reminds us that the political is intrinsically personal.

Buy now £8.99, Waterstones.com {{#hasItems}}

Price comparison

    {{/hasItems}} {{#items}}

  • {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now
  • {{/items}} {{#hasItems}}

{{/hasItems}}

‘Rainbow Milk’ by Paul Mendez, published by Hachette

Best: New British novelist

A fearless and hopeful account of one black man’s entry into adulthood that explores identity, family and sexuality against the backdrop of the Windrush legacy. Beginning with the arrival of his ancestors from Jamaica to the UK in the 1950s, Mendez deftly portrays the systemic discrimination and violence faced by black people, both then and now.

The story then moves to Jesse, a young man brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness, coming to terms with his sexuality in a family and religion that refuses to accept him. The novel follows him to London where he learns about independence, sex, love and class in often heart-breaking and joyful ways. Featuring one of the best Christmas Day scenes devoted to print, this is a wonderful read from an exciting new voice in British fiction.

Buy now £12.26, Amazon.co.uk {{#hasItems}}

Price comparison

    {{/hasItems}} {{#items}}

  • {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now
  • {{/items}} {{#hasItems}}

{{/hasItems}}

‘I'm Afraid of Men’ by Vivek Shraya, published by Penguin Random House Canada

Best: Memoir

As a trans woman of colour, Shraya writes with painful authority about the avalanche of violence she is subjected to. From her clothing, to her usage of exclamation marks in communication to “soften” her message and avoid “agitating or offending” men, Shraya’s experiences lead her to conclude that “the only time I can make choices about how I want to look, act [and] communicate is when I’m inside my apartment”.

In addition to the transmisogyny she faces, Shraya writes with clarity about boundaries and queer spaces, the epidemic of male violence, and how we need to discard the archetype of the “good man” for a more nuanced conversation around masculinity. Accessible, essential and all too relatable, this is a thought-provoking discussion of vital issues that affect us all.

Buy now £9.56, Amazon.co.uk {{#hasItems}}

Price comparison

    {{/hasItems}} {{#items}}

  • {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now
  • {{/items}} {{#hasItems}}

{{/hasItems}}

‘Patsy’ by Nicole Dennis-Benn, published by Oneworld Publications

Best: For understanding the migrant experience

Sacrifice and survival are the major themes in this absorbing novel that follows Patsy as she leaves behind her five-year-old daughter in Jamaica in the hope of a better life (and love) in the US. Instead of the American dream and a romantic reunion with her childhood sweetheart, Patsy quickly discovers the reality of life as a black, undocumented immigrant in a racist world. Left with her absent biological father, the book also charts her daughter Tru’s struggles as she grows up with her own secrets.

As well as examining the specific challenges faced by those at the intersection of race and class, Patsy also represents those women who fail to conform to societal expectations – be it as mothers, carers, or through sexuality and gender. A thoughtful and enjoyable portrayal of a woman seeking freedom, at all costs – and the 2020 Lambda Lesbian Fiction award winner.

Buy now £8.99, Waterstones.com {{#hasItems}}

Price comparison

    {{/hasItems}} {{#items}}

  • {{ merchant }} £{{ price }} Buy now
  • {{/items}} {{#hasItems}}

{{/hasItems}}

The verdict: LGBTQ+ books

There’s no doubt that the authors featured in this round-up are exceptional, but Detransition, Baby secured the top spot. This dazzling work is set to become a classic of the queer canon.

Non-Binary Lives is essential reading for anyone wishing to learn more about gender, while In The Dream House and Who Killed My Father shed light on vital issues.

At the lighter end of the spectrum, Wow, No Thank You is an uproarious and relatable collection offering welcome comedic relief after a particularly difficult year.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on audiobooks, try the link below:

  • Audible discount codes

Discover more great authors and books you’ll love in the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist 2021

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You May Also Like