June is Pride month, a beautiful opportunity to focus on how we can all be supporting the LGBTQ community. But sometimes, there can be a monotony to tradition, and it can be easy to go through the motions without much intention or action. Instead, this Pride, challenge yourself to go beyond the convenient platitude of “love is love,” and recommit to fighting for the tangible equity and safety of LBGTQ people. We still live in a country where people aren’t always free to safely express their gender, where family planning for queer and transgender families is policed at every level, and where isolation and houselessness disproportionately affects LGBTQ folks. We cannot allow an abundance of rainbow merchandise to pinkwash these issues, and it’s critical that in our celebration of Pride, we don’t erase these continued fights for equality.
One place to start is in the stories you’re reading today and every day. Head to your local LGTBQ-owned store and grab a book that will expand your understanding of gender, sexuality, and how we can create a world where everyone is liberated in every sense of the word.
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Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought by Briona Simone Jones
In Mouths of Rain, Dr. Briona Simone Jones masterfully curates an anthology of Black women loving Black women. The concept seems simple, yet in a racist and sexist world, it is an act of political resistance. At a time when public displays of love for Black women feel few and far between, this collection is a balm that shows readers that Black feminism benefits us all.
If These Ovaries Could Talk by Jaimie Kelton and Robin Hopkins
When queer and transgender people seek to grow their families, it can feel insurmountably daunting to find information about the options that exist and the pros and cons of each one. Kelton and Hopkins’s podcast-turned-book makes the journey way feel more accessible and less lonely. In doing so, they also normalize the non-traditional journeys to parenting that queer, transgender, cisgender, and heterosexual people take, reminding us that queer liberation creates more space for everyone.
Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
In this moving novel, readers meet Jonny, a two-spirit, queer Indigenous person navigating kinship, sex work, loss, and healing. In a country where too many people have an antiquated understanding of Native American people, dive into this Indigenous coming-of-age story that does not revolve around whiteness.
No Ashes in the Fire by Darnell L. Moore
Darnell Moore is a seer. In moments of deep hatred and violence, he saw a future for himself as a queer, Black, and whole person. In his advocacy, he envisioned a world where all Black Lives Matter. And now as a creative executive, podcast host, and author, he builds spaces for queer Black people to see themselves as beautiful. No Ashes In The Fire shares this journey of “coming of age Black and free.”
Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon
A controversial aspect of the queer experience is the concept of “labels,” and even the acronym LGBTQIA+ relies on labels that leave many in the community feeling silenced and ignored. This all stems from the gender binary, and in this pocket-sized book, Vaid-Menon breaks down why gender isn’t black or white.
The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.
Just based on modern media and publishing, one might think that queerness didn’t exist before the late 20th century, and certainly not for Black people. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In The Prophets, Jones takes readers back to a time in history when being Black and queer was unspeakable, and those who dared to love and be loved were true activists. In this poetic novel, you’ll meet Isaiah and Samuel, two enslaved men in the antebellum South fighting for autonomy and each other.
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
Janet Mock has been sharing authentic stories for years through the hit TV show Pose and her career as a bestselling author. But before that, she was a young woman trying to make it in an industry, and a country, that wants any marginalized person to stay quiet. In Redefining Realness, Mock, a transgender Black and Hawaiian woman, takes us on her journey before she entered the spotlight.
Trans Like Me by CN Lester
In this collection of essays, Lester, a singer-songwriter, composer, and activist, explores the transgender experience and expertly breaks down how we collectively relate to our own gender and one another. As cisgender elected officials continue to make sweeping decisions about the lives of transgender people, read this book to learn about the community’s most pressing issues from the perspective of those directly impacted.
The Purpose of Power by Alicia Garza
So often, Black queer women are erased from the narratives around racial justice work. What we now know to be the Black Lives Matter movement all began as a digital love letter Alicia Garza posted on Facebook after the murder of Trayvon Martin. Her words would become the hashtag tweeted around the world and a rallying cry for a generation. In this book, Garza shares the lessons she’s gleaned about organizing and mobilizing people for change.
Unapologetic by Charlene A. Carruthers
To know where we’re going, we have to examine the movements we’ve come from, and in Unapologetic, Carruthers does just that. As the founding national director of the Black Youth Project 100, Carruthers has mastered what few can—building safe activist spaces for queer Black youth—and here, she brings her perspective to a book that can act as a guide for any organizer.
Just Your Local Bisexual Disaster by Andrea Mosqueda
Andrea Mosqueda is a queer Chicana writer, born and raised in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley. Her debut young adult novel takes place in her hometown and is all about passion: for family, for art, for romance. The protagonist, Maggie, is on a mission to find an escort for her little sister’s quinceañera, which brings up a flood of emotions about her own love life. True to the title’s name, queer readers will connect to Maggie’s clumsy journey toward finding herself and her truth in this coming-of-age saga.
Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker, 1965–2000 edited by Valerie Boyd
Alice Walker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and activist whose novels and poetry have touched every corner of this world. (Maybe you’ve heard of The Color Purple?) For those new to her work, this compilation of journal entries is the perfect introduction to the woman behind the classics. Coining the term “womanist” to describe a more intersectional approach to feminism, Walker’s work explores race, gender, and sexuality as a reflection of her experiences as a Black, queer woman from the U.S. South.
Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States by Joey Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock
A common refrain activists reiterate each June is that Pride began as a riot against police violence. While 21st century parades and commercialized observances may lose sight of that, Queer (In)justice is a sobering reminder of all the ways LGBTQ+ people have been historically policed and punished. It’s a harrowing exploration into what it will take to truly dismantle homophobia and transphobia in the U.S.—and the consequences if we don’t.
Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me by Janet Mock
Picking up where her debut book Redefining Realness left off, Surpassing Certainty finds Mock over the hurdle of teen angst and attempting to take over the New York magazine scene. Toeing the line between authenticity and self-preservation, Mock takes us through her dating woes, roommate drama, and the glitz of being a rising star.
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
An instant New York Times bestseller, The Death of Vivek Oji is a refreshing story, set in Nigeria, that centers queerness without becoming over reliant on trauma. From the moment readers meet Vivek, we are aware that he and the cast of characters who make up his world exist in a liminal space. Emezi’s lyrical prose and ability to strategically release information allows readers to feel everything—sadness, joy, fear, and the freedom that comes with surrendering to our truth.
Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity by C. Riley Snorton
For those looking for something a bit heftier, Snorton’s Black On Both Sides is the perfect deep dive into how white supremacy and slavery historically undergirded efforts to police gender expression. Readers will learn about Black transgender people across history and how they embraced self-determination and reinvention at a time when even cisgender Black people had no “authority” to do so. Snorton reminds us that Black transgender people aren’t some new phenomenon and truly eradicating racism depends on our willingness to also address patriarchy and transphobia.
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
James Baldwin is one of the most important authors in the queer canon. Through his expansive writing, he insists on reminding us that queer people have always existed—an essential message as state legislatures race to erase us from school curricula. This novel in particular follows a young man in 1950s Paris as he reconciles his feelings for people of different genders. Full of mystery, Parisian glamour, and messy emotions, this book explores the devastation that comes when you deny your true self.
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