June means many things. Sunshine (you’d hope, at least); barbecues; Aperol Spritz; Factor 50; weekends away in Salcombe or Cornwall; overcrowded London parks; polo shirts; and tennis memorabilia everywhere the eye can see, as we build up to the Wimbledon championships.
But June means something else, too — June is Pride Month. It’s about celebrating inclusivity; for showing support and solidarity to the LGBTQ+ community; for protesting against injustices; and for fighting for equity and freedom.
On 28th June 1969, repeated abhorrent police brutality resulted in the Stonewall Uprising protests: and this, in turn, led to the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement as we know it today. On 28th June 1970, New York City was the location of the first ever Pride event — and the first ever Pride march in London took place two years later. Today, we continue to celebrate Pride and all it stands for — and so we’ve curated a selection of books you can read to celebrate with us, and which will help us all become better allies to the LGBTQ+ community.
Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez
The scene is the turn of the millennium; and nineteen-year old Jesse McCarthy is seeking a fresh start in London. As a gay Black man, he struggles internally with both his racial and sexual identities — he comes from a Jehovah’s Witness upbringing, and he seeks to escape from his repressive religious upbringing; and he carries with him the legacies of the Windrush generation.
Struggling to centre himself, he turns to sex work — and the result is a deeply powerful and urgent book that explores issues of class, race, identity, sexuality and freedom. It’s the debut novel from author Paul Mendez; and we, for one, are hoping for many more books from this brilliant new voice.
Find Me by André Aciman
We assume you’re all familiar with Call Me By Your Name? The book became a hit bestseller, and the film of the same name shot to fame, starring Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalmalet. Well, Find Me is the sequel; so if you loved the former (or even if you didn’t), you’re guaranteed to love the latter.
We met Elio and Oliver in Call Me By Your Name. In this second book, we meet Elio again, who has embarked on an affair with an older man. But Elio’s thoughts keep returning to Oliver; and Oliver, in turn, is getting ready to leave his New York home — a decision that keeps prompting thoughts and memories of the past.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This one’s a real tearjerker; honestly, if you don’t cry at least once when reading this book, your heart must be made of something stronger than stone. The story focuses on four bright young graduates, all looking to make their way in New York City. Their friendship is strong, but they’re all navigating their own struggles: especially Jude.
Jude is effectively the novel’s protagonist; and he’s a character fighting every day to escape the unspeakable horrors of his childhood. He has a limp that no one knows the cause of — not even his best friend, Willem — and as you witness Jude trying to escape from his trauma and find long-lasting happiness, you’ll find yourself feverishly turning the pages in the hope that Jude will, in the end, be happy.
A Little Life
Queer Intentions by Amelia Abraham
Journalist Amelia Abraham combines her personal journey with expert journalism to explore the challenges still faced by LGBTQ+ people everywhere; both in the West, and in the parts of the world where LGBTQ+ rights aren’t as advanced.
Abraham explores issues like same-sex marriage and corporate endorsement in a powerful — and very open — way. She explores the cost of acceptance, and delves into questions and challenges many are not willing to ask or face. More than anything, Abraham explores what it means to be queer in the here and now: and the result is a deeply moving and incredibly thought-provoking book.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
When 12-year old Cameron Post’s parents are killed in a car crash, she goes to live with her conservative, highly religious aunt in small-town Montana. She hides her sexuality, and does her best to blend in; but when her romantic relationship with her best friend, Coley, is discovered, her aunt sends her to a conversion camp — desperate to ‘correct’ her niece at any cost.
This is a deeply moving novel, set in the author’s very own home town. It’s said to be influenced by the Zach Stark controversy of 2005, when teenager Zach Stark was sent to a conversion camp after he came out to his parents. It’s a book that’s sure to simultaneously tug at the heartstrings, and to leave any reader feeling determined to fight for justice, equality and freedom for the LGBTQ+ community.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
All The Young Men by Ruth Coker Burks
This book is about as inspiring as they come. In 1986, Ruth Coker Burks became an inadvertent activist when she started to help the young men in her community afflicted by the AIDS crisis. She’s the only one in her community willing to do so — the hospital rooms of those ill with AIDS are marked red, and the nurses would draw straws when it came to deciding who would enter.
Ruth worked to help the men as much as she could — not only when it came to caring for them in hospital, but in every area of their life; from finding them food, medication, housing and jobs — even finding funeral homes prepared to take the bodies. She became an impassioned advocate for the visibility of those afflicted by AIDS, and her book is both a beacon of hope and a vital resource.
All The Young Men
The Magnificent Sons by Justin Myers
This contemporary novel is full of heart, warmth and humour. It focuses on 29-year old Jake D’Arcy, whose life is perfect on the outside; he’s got a job with good prospects, and a loving girlfriend. He knows something’s missing, but can’t quite put his finger on what that ‘something’ might be.
He has a younger brother, Trick: and when Trick comes out as gay, his coming out is celebrated by all the family. It also helps Jake realise that he has questions about his own bisexuality that he needs to find answers to; and the result is a novel that explores relationships, identity and sexuality in a deeply moving way.
The Magnificent Sons
Queer by Frank Wynn
This is a groundbreaking collection of queer writing, ranging from ancient times to the present day; and if you’re looking to educate yourself on the queer experience, this truly is the book for you. Frank Wynn has collated writings across the ages into one book, and the result is a collection of eighty works from some of the most brilliant queer writers of all time.
Readers can expect to find work by Catullus and Sappho, Armistead Maupin, Oscar Wilde and Emily Dickinson; ranging all the way up to contemporary writer Juno Dawson. It’s a combination of short stories, poems, extracts and other pieces, and the anthology as a whole is a joyful celebration of love — as well as a means by which voices that are too often silenced are, finally, heard.
The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle by Matt Cain
Albert Entwhistle is 64, living in a small town in Northern England. He’s been a postman all his life, and he’s proud of it. He lives alone, and much prefers his own company. But when he learns he’s going to have to retire upon his next birthday, a feeling of terror descends: a terror connected to the loneliness and monotony he sees stretching out before him.
He realises he needs to think long and hard about what he wants; and that he must be honest with himself when it comes to the answers. Before long, he realises it’s time to search for a man from his past — a long-lost love, who he’s never forgotten. This is a deeply poignant love story, with an unforgettable, utterly unique character at its centre.
The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle
Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski
The setting is Poland; and the year is 1980. Student Ludwik Glowacki has graduation in his sights; and he’s been sent, along with his class, to an agricultural camp for the summer. He’s prone to anxiety and disenchantment; but unbeknownst to him, this will be the summer of his dreams — because this is the summer that he meets Janusz.
The two fall in love; but when the summer comes to a close, they both have to return to Warsaw. It’s a Warsaw under the rule of the Party; and both have to ultimately make choices and sacrifices when it comes to their survival, and their love for each other. This is a book that brings young love to the centre; young love set against a harsh political backdrop.
Swimming in the Dark
Looking to add more books to your shelf? These seaside novels are the books to read this summer…
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