4 Books for Pride Month
I know this is pretty late but it’s still June and thus it’s still Pride Month. A lot of positive events have happened during Pride Month in the last few years. On 26 June 2015, the US Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage in all 50 states, which coincidentally is the same date as Ariana Grande’s birthday. On 30 June 2017, after years of avoiding the issue of same sex marriage, the German Parliament finally voted on the subject and legalized it with a huge majority. But there’s still a long way to go. Even when it comes to representation in the media. In the ocean of straight-centred books it is still really tough to find novels that focus on characters that are part of the LGBTQ+ community. I’m here to share some of my favourites with you. And since it’s 2018 aka 20gayteen, Pride Month isn’t ending at all. So enjoy these books beyond the month of June.
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Even though you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I initially bought We Are Okay because its cover is beautiful. After reading this book, the cover became even more beautiful to me, since it really fits to the story. Marin, a former Californian who now lives in New York, has seemingly left her old life behind. She tries to move on from a tragedy that happened shortly before her leaving for college. But now it’s Christmas and her best friend Mabel is coming to visit her, bringing the past with her. The chapters alternate between Marin’s old life in California with her grandfather and Mabel in present time New York. There are many connections to the beach and the ocean in Marin’s old life. Marin’s mother drowned when she was a baby, she spent a lot of time of her childhood there, and finally she got a lot closer to Mabel at the beach one night, a few weeks before she is set to be going to university. The reader slowly finds out how, when and why Marin left California throughout the chapters while also learning about Marin and Mabel’s relationship in the present. I wasn’t able to put the book down and finished the 234 pages in one go. The story was so tragic, so beautiful, so captivating that I just didn’t manage to concentrate on anything else. It is a striking narrative of grief and healing, of letting go. If you are into that, you should really, really read this book.
I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman
If you know me well enough, you probably have heard me talk about Alice Oseman, the author of Solitaire and Radio Silence, two of my all-time favourite YA novels, and the artist of the webcomic Heartstopper. This year saw the release of her third novel, I Was Born For This, which deals with celebrity and fan culture, the pressure of fame but also about finding yourself. The story is narrated from two perspectives: Fereshteh, the fangirl, and Jimmy, the lead singer of the boyband The Ark. Fereshteh, more commonly known by her online alias Angel, is an 18 year old Muslim girl who visits her online BFF Juliet for one week because they are attending a meet and greet and also a concert of their favourite band. Meanwhile, Jimmy, a gay trans man, struggles with fame, the constant pressure from the public and his anxiety disorder, especially the fans who ship him with his band mate Rowan Omondi. The lives of the two protagonists definitely get entangled throughout this week and the characters have to face their perception of and relationship with this band. You can tell that Oseman hired sensitivity readers for the novel, i.e. the book was read in advance by trans and Muslim people to ensure that no unintentional harm was done to their communities. Jimmy’s storyline doesn’t revolve around his transition or his coming-out. He isn’t written as what cis people expect of the trans experience. He is a real character with depth and not just a one dimensional place holder, so an author or a publisher can pride themselves with representation of diverse characters. Plus, this book also has one openly bisexual character, who attacks the stereotype of bisexual people being promiscuous. Oseman’s novels and her webcomic are worth checking out.
History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
This one takes a sadder turn. It deals with loss and grief, but also with young love. Griffin and Theo were best friends and ex-boyfriends when the latter died in a drowning accident. Griffin had still believed that they would one day end up together again, once they finished college. Now all that is gone and Griffin is only left with the history of their relationship. Griffin focuses on his grief while ignoring everything else. There is Wade, his former best friend. There is Jackson, Theo’s new boyfriend and maybe the only one who can understand what Griffin is going through. But there is also Griffin’s worsening obsessive compulsive disorder. Just like We Are Okay, the chapters are divided into two parts. The story alternates between “Today” and “History”, more specifically Griffin’s grief and the relationship between him and Theo. At first I was sceptical, because so many books focusing on gay love involve the tragic death of one of them but the story is really touching and does not reduce its protagonist to a tragical, sad gay person. The love story is not reduced to the death of Theo either. It’s painful to read at times, I had to put it down sometimes because I got too emotional. But it’s definitely worth reading on.
Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Another beautiful cover, but I actually bought this book because the entire internet recommended it. It was everywhere, all over Instagram, Youtube and Twitter, even years after its release. But the novel truly deserves every bit of praise it gets. Set in the 80s in southern USA, the story focuses on Ari, a quiet boy from a quiet family. His brother is in prison and he doesn’t know why. His mother doesn’t talk about it and his father still suffers from war trauma. But then he meets Dante. Dante is smart, thoughtful, and everything Ari isn’t, at least according to the latter. Dante teaches Ari how to swim and thus their friendship is born. A deep bond connects them, even over time and distance their friendship doesn’t suffer the least. It isn’t one of these dudes-being-bros kind of friendship, but a real one. Dante is gay, Ari says he’s straight, still their friendship is strong as ever. And maybe there is more to it than platonic love, but you’ll have to find out about that on your own by reading this book. It’s important to mention that Ari and Dante are of Mexican descent. It is already hard to find LGBTQ+ rep in books but it’s even harder to find non-white protagonists who aren’t straight and/or cisgender. So this book is even more important by highlighting the queer experience of Latinx people. One more reason to buy and support this book!
Robin was listening to “Hunger” by Florence + The Machine while writing this article.
Article and pictures by Robin