Classics to read for Pride Month

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.

Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

Five classic LGBTQIA2S+ books

Here’s a list of five classic books that represent some aspect of the LGBTQIA2S+ community.

  1. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)
  2. Orlando by Virginia Woolf (1928)
  3. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (1956)
  4. Maurice by E.M. Forster (1971)
  5. 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

Summary:

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.

Links:

Orlando (1928)

by Virginia Woolf

  • Year Published: 1928
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, classics, lgbtqia+, literary, magical realism, challenging, reflective, slow-paced
  • Considered a feminist classic

Summary:

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.

Links:

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

Summary:

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.

Links:

Maurice (1971)

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.

Summary:

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.

Links:

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)

Summary:

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.

Links:

Final thoughts

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.

All I want now is to…

This is a quote from the book The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Quote by Oscar Wilde, “All I want now is to look at life. You may come and look at it with me, if you care to.”

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

If you’re interested, you can read an excerpt from the book here.

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

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.

Copyright © 1890 by Oscar Wilde.

More details on Goodreads can be found here.

Lord Henry and Dorian Gray

Photo by Natalia Yakovleva | Accessed on Unsplash.com

This is an excerpt from the book The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

‘There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray. All influence is immoral-immoral from the scientific point of view.’

‘Why?’

‘Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul. He does not think his natural thoughts or burn with his natural passions. His virtues are not real to him. His sins, if there are such things as sins, are borrowed. He becomes an echo of some one else’s music, an actor of a part that has not been written for him. The aim of life is self-development. To realise one’s nature perfectly-that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one’s self. Of course they are charitable. They feed the hungry, and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked. Courage has gone out of our race. Perhaps we never really had it. The terror of society, which is the basis of morals, the terror of God, which is the secret of religion-these are the two things that govern us. And yet – ‘

‘Just turn your head a little more to the right, Dorian, like a good boy,’ said the painter, deep in his work, and conscious only that a look had come into the lad’s face that he had never seen there before.

‘And yet,’ continued Lord Henry, in his low, musical voice, and with that graceful wave of the hand that was always so characteristic of him, and that he had even in his Eton days, ‘I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream-I believe we would forget all the maladies of medievalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal-to something finer, richer, than the Hellenic ideal, it may be. But the bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also. You, Mr. Gray, you yourself, with your rose-red youth and rose-white boyhood, you have had passions that have made you afraid, thoughts that have filled you with terror, day-dreams and sleeping dreams whose mere memory might stain your cheek with shame-’

‘Stop!’ faltered Dorian Gray, ‘stop! You bewilder me. I don’t know what to say. There is some answer to you, but I cannot find it. Don’t speak. Let me think. Or, rather, let me try not to think.’

For nearly ten minutes he stood there, motionless, with parted lips, and eyes strangely bright. He was dimly conscious that entirely fresh influences were at work within him. Yet they seemed to have come really from himself. The few words that Basil’s friend had said to him-words spoken by chance, no doubt, and with wilful paradox in them-had touched some secret chord that had never been touched before, but that he felt was now vibrating and throbbing to curious pulses.

Music had stirred him like that. Music had troubled him many times. But music was not articulate. It was not a new world, but rather another chaos, that it created in us. Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere words! Was there there anything so real as words?

Yes; there had been things in his boyhood that he had not understood. He understood them now. Life suddenly became fiery-coloured to him. It seemed to him that he had been walking in fire. Why had he not known it?

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

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.

Copyright © 1890 by Oscar Wilde.

More details on Goodreads can be found here.