It’s Pride Month! In honour of celebrating Pride Month, I’ll be sharing some LGBTQIA2S+ book recommendations. Keep checking in each week for more recommendations.
Are you tired of reading classics by boring old white men? Here’s your chance to read some queer friendly classics!
Even though most classics represent heteronormative relationships, there have always been people who exist outside those norms. There’s a small portion of classics that represent people within the LGBTQIA2S+ community and I think it’s important to highlight them.
Everyone deserves to see themselves in the books they read.
It’s unfortunate that there aren’t more classics with a range of sexualities portrayed, but sadly, it’s not surprising. Especially since homosexuality has been illegal, and remains illegal in many countries around the world (source).
However, it does make me think about the many works of art that have been lost to history due to society’s limited acceptance of people.
With all the barriers authors faced to get these types of novels published, I think it makes the ones that do exist that much more valuable.
Five classic LGBTQIA2S+ books
Here’s a list of five classic books that represent some aspect of the LGBTQIA2S+ community.
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)
- Orlando by Virginia Woolf (1928)
- Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (1956)
- Maurice by E.M. Forster (1971)
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982)
Keep reading to find out more about each one. I’ve listed them in order of when they were published.
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)
by Oscar Wilde
- Year Published: 1890
- Storygraph Categories: fiction, classics, horror, lgbtqia+, literary, dark, mysterious, reflective, medium-paced
- Oscar Wilde’s only novel
In this celebrated work Wilde forged a devastating portrait of the effects of evil and debauchery on a young aesthete in late-19th-century England. Combining elements of the Gothic horror novel and decadent French fiction, the book centers on a striking premise: As Dorian Gray sinks into a life of crime and gross sensuality, his body retains perfect youth and vigor while his recently painted portrait grows day by day into a hideous record of evil, which he must keep hidden from the world. For over a century, this mesmerizing tale of horror and suspense has enjoyed wide popularity. It ranks as one of Wilde’s most important creations and among the classic achievements of its kind.
- You can find out more on:
- Access the book for free here on Project Gutenberg.
by Virginia Woolf
- Year Published: 1928
- Storygraph Categories: fiction, classics, lgbtqia+, literary, magical realism, challenging, reflective, slow-paced
- Considered a feminist classic
As his tale begins, Orlando is a passionate young nobleman whose days are spent in rowdy revelry, filled with the colourful delights of Queen Elizabeth’s court. By the close, he will have transformed into a modern, 36-year-old woman and three centuries will have passed. Orlando will not only witness the making of history from its edge, but will find that his unique position as a woman who knows what it is to be a man will give him insight into matters of the heart.
Giovanni’s Room (1956)
by James Baldwin
- Year Published: 1956
- Storygraph Categories:
fiction, classics, lgbtqia+, literary, emotional, reflective, sad, medium-paced
- Considered a classic of gay literature, and helped foster discussions of homosexuality and bisexuality in mainstream readers
Baldwin’s haunting and controversial second novel is his most sustained treatment of sexuality, and a classic of gay literature. In a 1950s Paris swarming with expatriates and characterized by dangerous liaisons and hidden violence, an American finds himself unable to repress his impulses, despite his determination to live the conventional life he envisions for himself. After meeting and proposing to a young woman, he falls into a lengthy affair with an Italian bartender and is confounded and tortured by his sexual identity as he oscillates between the two.
Examining the mystery of love and passion in an intensely imagined narrative, Baldwin creates a moving and complex story of death and desire that is revelatory in its insight.
by E.M. Forster
- Year Published: 1971 (written in 1914)
- Storygraph Categories:
fiction, classics, lgbtqia+, literary, emotional, reflective, medium-paced
- Forster wrote the book in 1914 but wouldn’t let it be published until after his death.
Maurice is heartbroken over unrequited love, which opened his heart and mind to his own sexual identity. In order to be true to himself, he goes against the grain of society’s often unspoken rules of class, wealth, and politics.
Forster understood that his homage to same-sex love, if published when he completed it in 1914, would probably end his career. Thus, Maurice languished in a drawer for fifty-seven years, the author requesting it be published only after his death (along with his stories about homosexuality later collected in The Life to Come).
Since its release in 1971, Maurice has been widely read and praised. It has been, and continues to be, adapted for major stage productions, including the 1987 Oscar-nominated film adaptation starring Hugh Grant and James Wilby.
The Color Purple (1982)
by Alice Walker
- Year Published: 1982
- Storygraph Categories:
fiction, classics, historical, lgbtqia+, literary, emotional, reflective, slow-paced
- Importance: Winner of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize (making Walker the first black woman to win the prize)
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Alice Walker’s iconic modern classic is now a Penguin Book.
A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural Georgia. Separated as girls, sisters Celie and Nettie sustain their loyalty to and hope in each other across time, distance and silence. Through a series of letters spanning twenty years, first from Celie to God, then the sisters to each other despite the unknown, the novel draws readers into its rich and memorable portrayals of Celie, Nettie, Shug Avery and Sofia and their experience.
The Color Purple broke the silence around domestic and sexual abuse, narrating the lives of women through their pain and struggle, companionship and growth, resilience and bravery. Deeply compassionate and beautifully imagined, Alice Walker’s epic carries readers on a spirit-affirming journey towards redemption and love.
I’ve only listed five books here, so it’s only a small portion of the classics available. But hopefully something caught your eye.
I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. If you have a favourite classic that represents part of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, please feel free to share it in a comment below!
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of the book?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.