Happy Pride month everyone! Here on Vancouver Island, the Victoria Pride Parade isn’t until July 7th but I wanted to post this list during Pride month! I’ve been going to Pride parades for well over twenty years. Let me tell you, they’ve changed a lot over the years.
The first pride parade I attended was in Edmonton, Alberta. There were probably about fifty of us (and I think my memory is being generous.)
Books are one of my favorite things in the world. And LGBTQ books are something I will champion whenever possible. Some of my best friends passed away before they were lucky enough to see LGBTQ characters on prime time TV shows. They passed away before they were able to read books about coming out and living a healthy queer life. They passed away before there were books discussing what it’s like to be religious and bisexual. You get the idea. I will continue to read and promote great books… and in particular, great books with LGBTQ content.
So, if you’re interested… here are some of my favorites!
Aristotle And Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
This is one of my favorite books. Aristotle is angry, confused, quiet and doesn’t know how to swim. Dante is talkative, thoughtful, crazy-intellectual and he CAN swim. The two boys meet at the pool and their friendship grows. Over years of friendship, they grow closer, move apart, hurt each other and ultimately, discover how important they are in each other’s lives. This is a beautiful story about life, love and all the things that we can’t control in between. This book has quite a following online, there’s even a twitter bot that posts random quotes from the story.
Benjamin Alire Sáenz has announced that he is working on a sequel entitled: There Will Be Other Summers. In addition to being a great author. Benjamin also has a podcast with a variety of interesting guests and poetry!
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This is the most beautiful book I have ever read … and the most difficult to read. I will be thinking of these people for so long … JB, Malcolm, Willem, and Jude are friends who have spent most of their adult lives together. As the years tick by, the friends face a variety of challenges from the past and the present. The author writes about child sexual abuse, addiction, loss, infidelity, and self-harm.
Reading this was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It is beautiful, Yanagihara’s writing is poetic and soothing while also being sharp and cutting. There were times when I had to set the book aside to try and process what had happened. I know that I will never read this book again, but I will remain incredibly thankful that it exists.
I know that it has mixed reviews with some readers feeling as though the content was too harsh. I suspect it’s all subjective. I happen to think that life is harsh and full of loss, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find value in the moments that are good. This book is about the good and the loving and the kindness that weaves through the horrible moments in our lives and manages to hold us together.
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
André Aciman writes prose like it’s a song coming directly from his soul. No exaggeration. There may not be a more poetic, emotional, vivid and gorgeous book.
The 2017 film of the same name by the dream team of, Luca Guadagnino and James Ivory brought renewed interest in this novel. But the movie is such a small part of the book. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the film and I thought Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer were fantastic as Elio and Oliver. The portion of the book chosen for the movie is only about a third of the novel.
Aciman’s novel is, at its core, about love. It’s about the love of a young man for the people in his life, his love of life, the love of a father for a son in pain … and so much more. This isn’t a simple romance, it’s far from that. It’s about the painful, imperfect sort of love that leaves scars on us in ways we may never understand.
I have read this book no less than seven times, and I will probably read it again.
How To Be A Normal Person by T.J. Klune
I’ve read quite a few of Klune’s books and I think this is my favorite. Gus isn’t normal and he knows it. He runs a video store with three customers and has a pet ferret named Harry S. Truman. Casey is an asexual, stoner, hipster who might be famous (If you’re not Gus and actually know about pop culture). What could possibly go wrong if these two begin a friendship that could potentially be more?
The dialogue! The banter! I’ve been telling everyone that I got in trouble for attempting to read this in bed because it kept making me laugh. This book was so much fun to read and at the same time I was drawn into the way these two guys learned about each other and how different they might be … and how similar. What a lovely book to read.
Draw the Line by Laurent Linn
Adrian Piper is an artist and struggles through the day to day confusion of being a teenager by drawing graphic novel type versions of the people he encounters. He’s a bit of a nerd, arty and… he’s gay. When a hate crime shakes the community, it also gets Adrian wondering about how public he wants to be. Is he ready to be the real superhero?
This novel is wonderful. It’s original, engaging and hopeful. I loved this visit to the mind of a teen superhero.
Laurent Linn’s artwork is scattered throughout the book and it’s all quite amazing. Good for all age groups, but a real great find for a young adult struggling with the conflict of “coming out”.
Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley
It only took about five pages for me to be hooked on this novel. The introduction of both characters instantly made me curious about them, and that increased steadily.
There’s been a beating. There’s been a stabbing. Nate and Cam have ended up across from each other in a deposition because of the violence that has erupted in their lives. Through the course of his deposition, Nate slowly unravels the events leading up to the violence.
Nate and Cam seem very different, but they connected quickly when they first met. Their friendship begins with a night of talking about everything: religion, families, relationships, and science. They fall asleep lying on the trampoline staring up the stars and it seems like Nate feels free and unfettered for the first time in his life.
This isn’t an ordinary book, it’s not an ordinary tale. Nate is struggling with his “parents”… his father and his Aunt who swooped in when his Mom died. She’s controlling, relentless and abusive and his father is absent at best. So, Nate’s friendships are important, perhaps the only thing that keeps him tethered.
But he’s not struggling solely with his home life, he’s struggling with his feelings for Cam.
This is the kind of book that young people need to read. It really could be a book that makes a difference in someone’s life.
The Parting Gift by Evan Fallenberg
This book left me completely speechless as I finished it. It was a long time before I stopped thinking about it. The story begins with a man who is staying with an old college friend.
This is a story of instant attraction, consuming lust, confusion, and revenge. This is a shocking book and you won’t know where it’s going to end until you get there. I can’t say that I enjoyed it because it’s like watching a train speeding towards inevitable destruction. This is so well written, that I forgot that I wasn’t reading a real letter. It’s brilliant.
The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay
Paris is flooding as the Malegarde family arrives to celebrate the patriarch’s seventieth birthday. The youngest son, Linden is the narrator of the story. This is such a rich and involving story that it’s difficult to put down from the moment you begin reading. Linden has some secrets from his family and when his father’s health takes a turn for the worse, he looks back over his life and realizes that he is distanced from his father.
Linden is a photographer by trade and much of the novel is seen through his “view” of the world. I enjoyed his perspective on the land around him, the disaster in Paris and the dynamics of his family.
Wolfsong by T. J. Klune
If you know me at all, you will know that I’m not generally a fan of werewolf stories. Klune gets me every time though! This story…and the sequels are AWESOME.
When OX is a young man, his father leaves and he finds a home at a local garage. Then one day, he’s walking down the road and meets a little boy named, Joe. His family reveals that prior to meeting Ox, Joe hadn’t spoken for a very long time. The bond between them is special and that is ALL the hints you are going to get from me because you must read this book.
This series is coming to an end this fall, so you have time to catch up!
Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson
This book was a remarkable journey. It was one of those books that I left a trail through … turned down corners at places that contained perfect descriptions, thoughts I know I will want to go back to.
I read parts of this book aloud to my partner, sometimes because it was a funny line, sometimes because I had never read a more perfect description of a feeling, thought …. or that nasty internal voice.
Not only is this book beautifully written, but it is also honest and candid in a way that many memoirs don’t quite manage. I wish I had been able to read a book like “Brave” when I was a teenager but I’m thankful that so many young people now have the option. Thank you, Shaun.
And yes, Shaun David Hutchinson, smoking menthol cigarettes is EXACTLY like sucking minty hornets through a fire hose.
Honorable mentions (Only because I ran out of room): Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, The Why You series by Chase Taylor Hackett, The Disasters by M.K. England, They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram