LGBTQIA+ Pride Month is as much about celebrating and making a very large community visible as it is about protecting human rights. The books we’re highlighting here do both.
When I think about celebrations, I think about gatherings that highlight people’s happiness, pride, and accomplishments. One of the biggest events for this in Milwaukee is Pridefest, Wisconsin’s largest festival that celebrates the LGBTQIA+ community. The beauty of Pridefest is that it’s not about a single person or small group of people. It celebrates everyone that joins the celebration! The inclusivity, diversity, and support felt at Pridefest is unmatched. So I hope you can join the party this weekend, find a similar celebration in your community, or even put together your own party this month. LGBTQIA+ Pride Month is as much about celebrating and making a very large community visible as it is about protecting human rights. The books we’re highlighting here do both.
From Roy: “A gut-wrenching depiction of being homeless and poor in the US. The book targets mental illness, abuse, foster care, pharmaceutical/insurance juggernauts, politics, LGBTQ issues, and systemic issues. A no holds barred, take no prisoners, memoir. A definite MUST READ.”
Men I Trust by Tommi Parrish, Fantagraphics
Recommended by Michael Jantz
From Michael: “It is a ‘graphic novel’ technically, though Parrish's work kind of evades categorization, and for some reason that phrase doesn't seem to be right for this book. But it's a great story, and the drawings/paintings are unlike anything else.”
From Jasmine: “Plenty of books have left me feeling changed after reading them. Elliot Page’s memoir may be the first book I’ve read where I could feel the fundamental shift happening within me in real time. Page expresses the hope that his story will ‘help someone feel less alone, seen, no matter who they are or what journey they are on,’ and without a doubt, his book does just that.”
2023 New Releases
Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World by Christian Cooper, Random House
Christian Cooper is a self-described “Blerd” (Black nerd), an avid comics fan and expert birder who devotes every spring to gazing upon the migratory birds that stop to rest in Central Park, just a subway ride away from where he lives in New York City. While in the park one morning in May 2020, Cooper was engaged in the birdwatching ritual that had been a part of his life since he was ten years old when what might have been a routine encounter with a dog walker exploded age-oldracial tensions. Cooper’s viral video of the incident would send shock waves through the nation.
In Better Living Through Birding, Cooper tells the story of his extraordinary life leading up to the now-infamous incident in Central Park and shows how a life spent looking up at the birds prepared him, in the most uncanny of ways, to be a gay, Black man in America today. From sharpened senses that work just as well at a protest as in a park to what a bird like the Common Grackle can teach us about self-acceptance, Better Living Through Birding exults in the pleasures of a life lived in pursuit of the natural world and invites you to discover them yourself.
Equal parts memoir, travelogue, and primer on the art of birding, this is Cooper’s story of learning to claim and defend space for himself and others like him, from his days at Marvel Comics introducing the first gay storylines to vivid and life-changing birding expeditions through Africa, Australia, the Americas, and the Himalayas. Better Living Through Birding recounts Cooper’s journey through the wonderful world of birds and what they can teach us about life, if only we would look and listen.
Dis…Miss Gender? edited by Anne Bray, The MIT Press
A bold mix of photographs and short essays in which artists, writers, and theorists investigate and celebrate the rapidly evolving world of gender.
Discuss. Discover. Disrupt. We dis- a lot in English, particularly with regard to women and queer people. Our understanding of gender is changing, and with it, so are our questions. Dis…Miss Gender? provides thoughtfully considered contributions from an intrepid group of a hundred artists and writers who explore contemporary concepts of gender. Anchored by lavish illustrations and original essays from prominent gender theorists, including Karen Tongson, Amelia Jones, and Tiffany E. Barber, plus commentary from artists, viewers, and organizations committed to equity and justice, this provocative book is the culmination of a five-year initiative by Anne Bray.
Dis… Mis Gender? offers a kaleidoscopic survey of intersectionality and queer thought, as well as fourth-wave feminism, misogyny, and other forms of oppression based on age, ethnicity, ability, or class. As the population of gender nonconforming and people of color grows, so too does their demand for visual representations of themselves in the world at large. Dis…Miss Gender? nourishes the change we need so that we can at last model diverse identities, question our options, reduce our judgments, and destroy stereotypes. Celebrating a joyful plurality, this book is a finger-on-the-pulse revelation of gender in the act of transforming.
A queer hijabi Muslim immigrant survives her coming-of-age by drawing strength and inspiration from stories in the Quran in this daring, provocative, and radically hopeful memoir.
When fourteen-year-old Lamya H realizes she has a crush on her teacher—her female teacher—she covers up her attraction, an attraction she can’t yet name, by playing up her roles as overachiever and class clown. She’s spent her childhood in the Middle East feeling like her own desires and dreams don’t matter, and it’s easier to hide in plain sight. To disappear. But one day in Quran class, she reads a passage about Maryam that changes everything. Lamya learns that Maryam was untempted by an angelically handsome man, and that later, when told she is pregnant, Maryam insists no man has touched her. Could Maryam, uninterested in men, be…like Lamya?
From that moment on, Lamya makes sense of her struggles and triumphs by comparing her experiences with some of the most famous stories in the Quran. She juxtaposes her coming out with Musa liberating his people from the pharoah; asks if Allah, who is neither male nor female, might instead be nonbinary; and, drawing on the faith and hope Nuh needed to construct his ark, begins to build a life of her own—ultimately finding that the answer to her life-long quest for safety and belonging lies in owning her identity as a queer, devout Muslim immigrant.
This searingly intimate memoir in essays, spanning Lamya's childhood to her arrival in the United States for college through early-adult life in New York City, tells a universal story of courage, trust, and love, celebrating what it means to be a seeker and an architect of one’s own life.
Horse Barbie: A Memoir by Geena Rocero, The Dial Press
As a young femme in 1990s Manila, Geena Rocero heard, “Bakla, bakla!,” a taunt aimed at her feminine sway, whenever she left the tiny universe of her eskinita. Eventually, she found her place in trans pageants, the Philippines’ informal national sport. When her competitors mocked her as a “horse Barbie” due to her statuesque physique, tumbling hair, long neck, and dark skin, she leaned into the epithet. By seventeen, she was the Philippines’ highest-earning trans pageant queen.
A year later, Geena moved to the United States where she could change her name and gender marker on her documents. But legal recognition didn’t mean safety. In order to survive, Geena went stealth and hid her trans identity, gaining one type of freedom at the expense of another. For a while, it worked. She became an in-demand model. But as her star rose, her sense of self eroded. She craved acceptance as her authentic self yet had to remain vigilant in order to protect her dream career. The high-stakes double life finally forced Geena to decide herself if she wanted to reclaim the power of Horse Barbie once and for all: radiant, head held high, and unabashedly herself.
A dazzling testimony from an icon who sits at the center of transgender history and activism, Horse Barbie is a celebratory and universal story of survival, love, and pure joy.
I Am More Than My Body: The Body Neutral Journey by Bethany C. Meyers, G.P. Putnam's Sons
A lot of us were raised on toxic diet culture—restrictions, limitations, and deprivation. Then the pendulum swung to the other extreme, with messages that we could love ourselves at any size, any weight, any shape…but sometimes, even that can feel like a lot of pressure. There is a third option: body neutrality. For many of us, a neutral approach to our physical self—based on compassion, acceptance, and respect—can be a revolutionary, rewarding shift in how we move through the world.
I Am More Than My Body will help you strengthen your relationship with yourself and find balance, steering you away from shame without the pressure of having to love your body at all times. It will introduce a framework to help you practice neutral movement, recognize and arm yourself against bias, act with self-compassion, and navigate your feelings on this journey.
A longtime practitioner of the body-neutral approach, Bethany C. Meyers shares their own story together with the experiences and ideas of experts and activists to help us care for our bodies while not having them dictate our worth. Because happiness comes from honest acceptance, something that body neutrality has the power to help you find.
Is It Hot In Here (Or Am I Suffering For All Eternity For The Sins I Committed On Earth)? by Zach Zimmerman, Chronicle Books
In this debut collection of essays, lists, musings, and quips, New York-based comedian Zach Zimmerman delicately walks the fine line between tear-jerking and knee-slapping, and does so with aplomb.
In this laugh-and-cry-out-loud, memoir-esque exploration of selfhood, Zimmerman dives into the pros and cons of retiring a Bible-Belt-dwelling, meat-eating, God-fearing identity in exchange for a new, metropolitan lease on life—one of vegetarianism, atheism, queerness, and humor. Whether learning to absolve instilled religious guilt or reminiscing over Tinder dates gone horribly wrong, this book is a candid and hysterical look at one person's journey toward making peace with the past and seeking hope in the future.
Lesbian Love Story: A Memoir In Archives by Amelia Possanza, Catapult
When Amelia Possanza moved to Brooklyn to build a life of her own, she found herself surrounded by queer stories: she read them on landmark placards, overheard them on the pool deck when she joined the world’s largest LGBTQ swim team, and even watched them on TV in her cockroach-infested apartment. These stories inspired her to seek out lesbians throughout history who could become her role models, in romance and in life.
Centered around seven love stories for the ages, this is Possanza’s journey into the archives to recover the personal histories of lesbians in the twentieth century: who they were, how they loved, why their stories were destroyed, and where their memories echo and live on. Possanza’s hunt takes readers from a drag king show in Bushwick to the home of activists in Harlem and then across the ocean to Hadrian’s Library, where she searches for traces of Sappho in the ruins. Along the way, she discovers her own love—for swimming, for community, for New York City—and adds her record to the archive.
At the heart of this riveting, inventive history, Possanza asks: How could lesbian love help us reimagine care and community? What would our world look like if we replaced its foundation of misogyny with something new, with something distinctly lesbian?
Pleasure and Efficacy: Of Pen Names, Cover Versions, and Other Trans Techniques by Grace Elisabeth Lavery, Princeton University Press
A leading trans scholar and activist explores cultural representations of gender transition in the modern period
In Pleasure and Efficacy, Grace Lavery investigates gender transition as it has been experienced and represented in the modern period. Considering examples that range from the novels of George Eliot to the psychoanalytic practice of Sigmund Freud to marriage manuals by Marie Stopes, Lavery explores the skepticism found in such works about whether it is truly possible to change one’s sex. This ambivalence, she argues, has contributed to both antitrans oppression and the civil rights claims with which trans people have confronted it. Lavery examines what she terms “trans pragmatism”―the ways that trans people resist medicalization and pathologization to achieve pleasure and freedom. Trans pragmatism, she writes, affirms that transition works, that it is possible, and that it happens.
With Eliot and Freud as the guiding geniuses of the book, Lavery covers a vast range of modern culture―poetry, prose, criticism, philosophy, fiction, cinema, pop music, pornography, and memes. Since transition takes people out of one genre and deposits them in another, she suggests, it should be no surprise that a cultural history of gender transition will also provide, by accident, a history of genre transition. Considering the concept of technique and its associations with feminine craftiness, as opposed to masculine freedom, Lavery argues that techniques of giving and receiving pleasure are essential to the possibility of trans feminist thriving―even as they are suppressed by patriarchal and antitrans feminist philosophies. Contesting claims for the impossibility of transition, she offers a counterhistory of tricks and techniques, passed on by women to women, that comprises a body of knowledge written in the margins of history.
The Queer Film Guide: 100 great movies that tell LGBTQIA+ stories by Kyle Turner, Smith Street
Enjoy your night in with these movies that tell queer stories.
Have you noticed something about every “100 Greatest Movies Ever Made” list? The people in those movies . . . they’re almost all straight, white men. With so much incredible cinema to choose from, those lists only begin to peer into the cinematic and wider world.
It’s time to push past the gatekeepers of what makes a movie “great” or “culturally significant” and get a broader view of what’s out there. Kyle Turner has selected 100 of cinema’s greatest queer films that are often overlooked but foundational to the art form and the wider culture.
Starting in early cinema with trailblazers like Making a Man of Her and Different from Others, the list progresses through the eras, from Hitchcock’s Rope to cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show to today’s fast-growing list of queer films, including Carol, The Duke of Burgundy,and Moonlight. From lesser-known names to Academy Award winners, The Queer Film Guide offers a fresh take on what defines great cinema, lending a voice to the diverse creators and characters who’ve shaped the art form.
The Transmasculine Guide to Physical Transition: For Trans, Nonbinary, and Other Masculine Folks by Sage Buch, Microcosm Pub
This in-depth exploration of all aspects of physical transition is an accessible and supportive guide for transgender men, transmasculine people, and nonbinary people. Drawing on their personal experience and extensive research, Sage Buch walks you through a wide array of safe transition options. Inside, you'll learn about non-medical interventions like chest binding and packing, explore the varieties and effects of hormone replacement therapy, and get a comprehensive primer on choosing, preparing for, and recovering from top and bottom surgery. Medical research and jargon is made accessible, side effects and pros and cons are clearly spelled out, and empowering perspectives help you consider what transition path is right for you. Everything always comes back to checking in with yourself at every step of the way so that you can enjoy the unique self-expression that comes with finding yourself and who you are meant to be. Reading can be enhanced by working through The Transmasculine Guide to Physical Transition Workbook as you read.
We Set the Night on Fire: Igniting the Gay Revolution by Martha Shelley, Chicago Review Press
Martha Shelley didn’t start out in life wanting to become a gay activist, or an activist of any kind.
The daughter of Jewish refugees and undocumented immigrants in New York City, she grew up during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and 1950s, was inspired by the civil rights and anti–Vietnam War movements that followed, and struggled with coming out as a lesbian at a time when being gay made her a criminal.
Shelley rose to become a public speaker for the New York chapter of the lesbian rights group the Daughters of Bilitis, organized the first gay march in response to the Stonewall Riots of 1969, and then cofounded the Gay Liberation Front. She coproduced the newspaper Come Out!, worked on the women’s takeover of the RAT Subterranean News, and took a central role in the Lavender Menace action to confront homophobia in the women’s movement.
Martha Shelley’s story is a feminist and lesbian document that gives context and adds necessary humanity to the historical record.
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