TW: mention of sexual assault and hate crimes
Finding LGBTQ books and writers can be a bit of a challenge. Queer writers are rarely taught in English classes. If they are, it’s likely an elective specifically on queer writing and not a core class. In reality, most books we read in literature classes, from elementary school to university level, are written by straight people, usually white men. Even though there are some popular authors who are gay (such as Oscar Wilde or James Baldwin) it’s not often that you find popular books about the queer experience. It’s important for us to give our attention to queer writers who have important messages to share.
Here are four of my favorite writers, whose messages are worth sharing:
Roxane Gay is probably best known for her book Bad Feminist, but has magnificent work outside of that, such as Difficult Women, a collection of short stories, or her newest novel Hunger, which explores her binge eating disorder. Bad Feminist, a collection of essays, was the first of her novels I read. Her idea of being a Bad Feminist teaches us that nobody is perfect, therefore, feminism can’t be perfect. We are all learning and experiencing in a way that is unique to us. We need to listen, learn, and support each other in the best ways we can. On her book, Gay says, “It just shows what it’s like to move through the world as a woman. It’s not even about feminism per se, it’s about humanity and empathy.”
Andrea Gibson is a spoken word poet and activist. Their work is influenced by gender, love, social justice, and being queer. “Your Life” is a beautiful and touching poem about being non-binary/trans. “Orlando” is about Gibson’s reaction to the Pulse Shooting of June 2016. Gibson’s newest album Hey Galaxy is a masterpiece and I cannot recommend it enough. It’s an emotional journey. It will make you cry, laugh, and smile. They use music in their spoken poetry as well, which adds to the experience. I got to experience Andrea Gibson first hand, when I saw their show last January. Andrea Gibson, in my opinion, is a gift to the world of spoken word poetry.
I felt like this list wasn’t complete without Audre Lorde. The subjects of her work are usually personal to her, as she wrote about race, feminism, and the LGBTQ community. She is a writer of poetry, essays, and non-fiction. My favorite work of hers is Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, a biomythography where she writes about the details of her life, living as a black lesbian in the 50s and 60s. One of my favorite poems by her, “Power” is about race relations and white supremacy. The opening lines:
“The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
instead of your children,” consider the power of our words in a system that tries to leave us voiceless. Lorde also has a book of essays and speeches, titled Sister Outsider.
Ocean Vuong is a gay poet from Vietnam whose work has become extremely popular recently. His book Night Sky With Exit Wounds is his first full length collection, exploring subjects such as femininity, being gay, family, and war. My favorite poem in this book is titled “Seventh Circle of Earth.” It is about a gay couple murdered in their home in Dallas, Texas in 2011. This is a heartbreaking poem with a very untraditional structure as it considers what it means to queer in America.