Five landmark LGBTQIA2S+ books

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.

LGBTQIA2S+ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit, and plus (anyone who doesn’t fit into one specific category)


Landmarks are things that stand out to us and help us understand the progress we’re making on our journey.

I believe landmark books are ones that made a significant impact, that caught peoples’ attention and was able to challenge their perspective. These are the books that mark changes in our society’s literary journey, maybe as turning points or cultural flash points.

They always challenge some status quo, but also deeply connect with people, and (hopefully) help others move past some preconceived notions.

For this week, I wanted to highlight some landmark LGBTQIA2S+ books. Each of these caused a commotion, made people uncomfortable, but also helped so many people feel seen and opened doors for conversations.

These books are historically important and yet still relevant today.

I believe it’s important to recognize the impact these books had both at the time they were published and on the literary community afterwards. I want to give them their flowers.

These are also great books to gain a better insight into the context and development of LGBTQIA2S+ literature. These had a huge impact on how the literature evolved and changed, and how these themes were perceived by the cis-hetero side of the literary world.

Just remember, this is a list of only five books, it’s not exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start.

Photo by Viviana Couto Sayalero on Unsplash

Five landmark LGBTQIA2S+ books

Here’s a list of five landmark LGBTQIA2S+ books.

  1. Another Country by James Baldwin (1962)
  2. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown (1973)
  3. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde (1982)
  4. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg (1993)
  5. Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters (1998)

Keep reading to find out more about each one. I’ve listed them in order of when they were published

Another Country (1962)

by James Baldwin

  • Year Published: 1962
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, classics, lgbtqia+, literary, challenging, emotional, reflective, slow-paced

From one of the most important American novelists of the twentieth century—a novel of sexual, racial, political, artistic passions, set in Greenwich Village, Harlem, and France.

Stunning for its emotional intensity and haunting sensuality, this book depicts men and women, blacks and whites, stripped of their masks of gender and race by love and hatred at the most elemental and sublime.

Links:

Rubyfruit Jungle (1973)

by Rita Mae Brown

  • Year Published: 1973
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, classics, lgbtqia+, emotional, reflective, medium-paced
  • Winner of the Lambda Literary Pioneer Award and the Lee Lynch Classic Book Award

A landmark coming-of-age novel that launched the career of one of this country’s most distinctive voices, Rubyfruit Jungle remains a transformative work more than forty years after its original publication. In bawdy, moving prose, Rita Mae Brown tells the story of Molly Bolt, the adoptive daughter of a dirt-poor Southern couple who boldly forges her own path in America. With her startling beauty and crackling wit, Molly finds that women are drawn to her wherever she goes—and she refuses to apologize for loving them back. This literary milestone continues to resonate with its message about being true to yourself and, against the odds, living happily ever after.

Links:

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982)

by Audre Lorde

  • Year Published: 1982
  • Storygraph Categories:
    nonfiction, feminism, lgbtqia+, memoir, emotional, inspiring, reflective, medium-paced
  • Created a new genre of literature called biomythography, which combines history, biography, and myth

If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.

A little black girl opens her eyes in 1930s Harlem. Around her, a heady swirl of passers-by, car horns, kerosene lamps, the stock market falling, fried bananas, tales of her parents’ native Grenada. She trudges to public school along snowy sidewalks, and finds she is tongue-tied, legally blind, left behind by her older sisters. On she stumbles through teenage hardships — suicide, abortion, hunger, a Christmas spent alone — until she emerges into happiness: an oasis of friendship in Washington Heights, an affair in a dirty factory in Connecticut, and, finally, a journey down to the heat of Mexico, discovering sex, tenderness, and suppers of hot tamales and cold milk. This is Audre Lorde’s story. It is a rapturous, life-affirming tale of independence, love, work, strength, sexuality and change, rich with poetry and fierce emotional power.

Links:

Stone Butch Blues (1993)

by Leslie Feinberg (she/her/zie/hir)

  • Year Published: 1993
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, lgbtqia+, literary, emotional, reflective, sad, medium-paced
  • Considered a cult classic in LGBTQIA2S+ communities
  • Won the 1994 American Library Association Gay & Lesbian Book Award (now the Stonewall Book Award), and finalist for the 1994 Lambda LIterary Award for Lesbian Fiction

Woman or man? This internationally acclaimed novel looks at the world through the eyes of Jess Goldberg, a masculine girl growing up in the “Ozzie and Harriet” McCarthy era and coming out as a young butch lesbian in the pre-Stonewall gay drag bars of a blue-collar town. Stone Butch Blues traces a propulsive journey, powerfully evoking history and politics while portraying an extraordinary protagonist full of longing, vulnerability, and working-class grit. This once-underground classic takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride of gender transformation and exploration and ultimately speaks to the heart of anyone who has ever suffered or gloried in being different.

Links:

Tipping the Velvet (1998)

by Sarah Waters

  • Year Published: 1998
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, historical, lgbtqia+, adventurous, emotional, medium-paced
  • Won the Lambda Literary Award for lesbian fiction in 2000 and the Betty Trask Award (for Commonwealth citizens’ first novel published before the age of 35)

Nan King, an oyster girl, is captivated by the music hall phenomenon Kitty Butler, a male impersonator extraordinaire treading the boards in Canterbury. Through a friend at the box office, Nan manages to visit all her shows and finally meet her heroine. Soon after, she becomes Kitty’s dresser and the two head for the bright lights of Leicester Square where they begin a glittering career as music-hall stars in an all-singing and dancing double act. At the same time, behind closed doors, they admit their attraction to each other and their affair begins.

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Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which books you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.