What to read during Pride Month
In celebration of Pride Month, the College of Liberal Arts asked English Ph.D. candidates Justin Rogers and Landon Sadler for reading recommendations. The list they composed is both fun and compelling, and reading their selections is something that can be done safely during a global pandemic. Happy reading, and Happy Pride!
By Justin Rogers and Landon Sadler, TAMU English PhD Candidates
Making this list was difficult—not because there were too few good literary works with LGBTQ+ themes, but because there were too many. What follows should not be viewed as an exhaustive, final reading list for LGBTQ+ literature, but rather as a starting point for conversations, a foray into LGBTQ+ literature, politics, history, and art.
1) The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982)
Told through letters, Walker’s novel examines the experiences of African-American women from rural Georgia in the 1930s. Vital to the story is the romance between the protagonist Celie and the glamorous Shug Avery whose partners include men and women. Full of tribulations, triumphs, and transnational journeys, The Color Purple celebrates female friendships and the power of reclaiming one’s narrative.
2) M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang (1988)
Hwang’s play is based on the real-life relationship between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and Shi Pei Pu, a male Peking opera singer and Chinese spy who extracted information from Boursicot in a 20-year-long honey trap. In both reality and fiction, the French diplomat is convinced that his lover is female, raising questions about gender expectations and Western stereotypes of the East.
3) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (2012)
Set in 1987 El Paso, Texas, this young adult novel focuses on the friendship between Mexican-American teenagers Aristotle “Ari” Mendoza and Dante Quintana. When Dante confesses to Ari that he would rather kiss boys than girls, their relationship changes, and they must navigate family and societal issues connected to race, age, and sexuality.
4) Bloom written by Kevin Panetta and illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau (2019)
Aptly titled, this coming-of-age graphic novel is candy-coated in mellow shades of cyan and floral imagery. When Ari Kyrkos’s family bakery hires Hector, the two young adults help each other blossom. Peppered with indie song recommendations and Greek and Samoan bread recipes, Bloom makes for a sugary sweet teenage romance.
5) Full-Metal Indigiqueer by Joshua Whitehead (2017)
Full-Metal Indigiqueer is a collection of poems by Joshua Whitehead, an Oji-Cree, Two-Spirit member of the Peguis First Nation. A central character in this collection is the queer trickster Zoa who bridges and complicates binary oppositions such as the organic and the technological. Full-Metal Indigiqueer re-centers Two-Spirit voices while queerly reading works from William Shakespeare to Lana del Rey to X-Men.
6) Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde (1982)
Audre Lorde calls this text a “biomythography,” making it part history, part autobiography, part myth. “Zami,” Lorde explains, is “a Carriacou name for women who work together as friends and lovers,” and Lorde’s biomythography features portraits of women who helped Lorde mature into a strong Black lesbian feminist.
7) Chrysalis Special Issue on Intersexuality edited by Dallas Denny, Cheryl Chase, and Martha Coventry (1997)
Running from 1991 until 1998, Chrysalis: The Journal of Transgressive Gender Identities was published by the American Educational Gender Information Service. This special issue is guest-edited by intersex activists and contains poems, essays, and short stories devoted to addressing intersex issues. The Intersex Society of North America has made the special issue available for free to read online.
8) Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai (1994)
Funny Boy’s narrator and protagonist is Arjun “Arjie” Chelvaratnam, a young Sri Lankan boy raised in Colombo who is uninterested in traditionally masculine pursuits such as rugby. A “funny boy,” Arjie learns that he is attracted to men as he experiences Sinhala–Tamil tensions that culminate in Black July, the anti-Tamil pogrom and riots in 1983 Sri Lanka. Funny Boy is told in six moving stories.
9) Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (1956)
Written by one of America’s greatest writers, Giovanni’s Room is a novel that focuses on the events in the life of an American man living in Paris and his feelings and frustrations with his relationships with other men in his life, particularly an Italian bartender named Giovanni whom he meets at a Parisian gay bar. This novel is worth reading for its complex representation of homosexuality and bisexuality.
10) Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters (1998)
Set in England during the 1890s, Tipping the Velvet tells a story about a young woman who falls in love with a male impersonator and follows her to London. A novel with pervasive lesbian themes concentrating on eroticism and self-discovery. The main character’s experiences in the theatrical profession and her perpetual motion through the city allow her to make observations on social conditions while exploring the issues of gender, sexism, and class difference.
11) A Natural by Ross Raisin (2017)
After his release from a Premier League academy at nineteen, Tom feels his future is slipping away. The only contract offer he receives is from a lower-level club. A Natural delves into the heart of a professional soccer club: the pressure, the loneliness, the threat of scandal, the fragility of the body, and the struggle of conforming to the person everybody else expects you to be.
12) Small Beauty by Jia Qing Wilson-Yang (2016)
Small Beauty follows Xiao Mei, a Chinese-Canadian trans woman, reeling from the loss of her cousin. Inheriting his truck and his dog, Mei flees the city and holds up in the house three generations of his family called home in small town Ontario. Specters of the past, both figurative and supernatural, haunt Mei in the house–prompting Mei to question who she is and where she belongs.
About the Authors:
Justin Rogers is a graduate student in the English department at Texas A&M University who specializes in the long nineteenth-century as well as critical theory. He also teaches and publishes creative writing outside of the department.
Landon Sadler is a third-year Ph.D. student in the English department at Texas A&M University. His pedagogy is queer, feminist, and largely informed by his time at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying political science, human rights, and democracy.