Inspiring LGBTQ+ Books to Read

Pride can mean a lot of things, but it all comes down to expression and support for the LGBTQ+ community. Whether you identify as LGBTQ+ yourself, or want to become a better ally to the gay community, these nonfiction books are our top picks for celebrating Pride.
by Uptime Staff / 2021-09-09

From nonfiction to fiction, to YA to biographies, these books and documentaries featured here are just a fraction of the amazing canon of LGBTQ+ literature. 2020 and 2021 have both been tough years, and the queer community needs a lot of help, support, and understanding. Reading and education is a great way to begin.

These books are especially important reads for teens who may be coming to terms with their sexuality, or just want to explore what’s out there. Still, of course, they’re also great reads for adults too.

Happy Pride.

We Have Always Been Here - Samra Habib

On Uptime

Samra Habib knows something about how it feels to not fit in. As she shows in her stunning memoir, We Have Always Been Here, being yourself in a world that doesn’t want you to thrive - or even exist - is its own form of protest. 

As a queer Muslim woman, Habib has had to exercise her right to live every single day. She’s also a journalist, photographer, and activist. Her memoir tells the story of coming to terms with her identity and learning to live in a world that isn’t eager to accept her.

Our favorite lessons from this book include…

  • People assume that there are no queer-identifying individuals in the Islamic faith, but that is far from true. It’s not monolithic; each individual makes their own choices.
  • For women and girls to be safe in today’s world, we have to accept every part of their identity, rather than picking and choosing.
  • Queer Muslims face different kinds of prejudice depending on where they live. 

To explore these ideas in detail, have a look at our favorite lessons from this book in our We Have Always Been Here summary over on Uptime.

Transgender History - Susan Stryker

On Uptime

Individuals who identify as transgender have existed for all of human history, but most people don’t know the interesting and complicated background of the transgender community. 

This book was written with the aim to help those who identify as transgender to better understand the legacy of their forebearers, while also providing a resource for those who have a family member or friend who is transitioning understand what their loved one is going through,  and how they can best support them. 

:"Transgender issues have been presented as personal issues, rather than being seen in a wider social context.""

A few important facets of Transgender History include:

  • Transgender isn’t a noun; rather, it’s an adjective, describing the act of becoming a different person than the body you were born into. The meaning of the word changes as society changes and the transgender community defines it. It means to resist essentialist claims about gender and letting the individual define their own self.
  • The social movements that have changed the social rights of transgender people have always emerged from grassroots organizations, not political majorities. 
  • There are both positives and negatives to trans people becoming more represented in the media - it means that more people are becoming used to the fact that transgender people are equal members of society, but it also puts the community under constant scrutiny. 

To explore these lessons in more detail, have a look at our Transgender History summary on Uptime.

The Queer Advantage - Andrew Gelwicks

On Uptime

In a series of interviews, Gelwicks profiles successful, inspiring, and notable LGBTQ+ individuals in this anthology, exploring how queerness can be a powerful motivator and strength. 

Our struggles can in time create amazing skillsets, writes Andrew Gelwicks. It can help to shift the common narrative of suffering to oen of strength, so this book is both personally inspirational and a portrait of people who have used struggle to make change for the better.

quotation marksQueer people know well life's jagged course. The individuals here have revealed to us their idiosyncratic responses in learning how first to adapt, and then to thrive, in a world where being deemed less than is often our lot.

Some of the book’s best lessons include:

  • Though the title is ‘The Queer Advantage,’ Gelwicks is quick to note that it’s not a linear skillset; rather, a unique journey for each individual that can result in amazing personal strengths.
  • Any social 'outsider' can look to their past struggles for opportunities to change their life.
  • Communities are an integral part of getting ahead as a queer person. Queer communities help each other with both solid political progress, and personal growth and relationships. 

To explore more of Gelwicks' insights on the power of embracing who you really are, then check out our The Queer Advantage book summary on Uptime.

Yay! You’re Gay! Now What? - Riyadh Khalaf

On Uptime

Young queer people need help and support during the process of coming out. Riyadh Khalaf’s book is the perfect companion. This also a great book for finding ways to support the young queer individuals in your life. The feelings of confusion and isolation that many young gay teens can feel can, in time and with the right support, become feelings of self love, pleasure, and friendship. Riyadh Khalaf shows us how. 

Our favorite moments include the following ideas:

  • You can’t change who you are. The faster you learn to explore and embrace your true self, the happier you’ll be. 
  • There is support out there. Even if your immediate circles aren’t doing the best job, there are always ways to find community for young queer people.
  • The journey to discovering your sexuality is beautiful, and results in some of life’s greatest experiences.

To find out more about how you can show support to young queer teens, you can have a look at our Yay! You're Gay! Now What? book summary.

A Secret Love - Chris Bolan

On Uptime

In this moving documentary, Chris Bolan reveals the long-unknown story of a woman’s baseball player who kept her lesbian relationship hidden for decades. This documentary is a stark reminder that until recently, gay people felt they had to live their life in the shadows. The two women featured here - Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel - were in a relationship for 72 years (!), and kept it secret even from friends and family. Above all, the film captures the enduring power of love.

Some of the best insights from the A Secret Love documentary include:

  • The two women were pioneers in both recreational sports and their love for each other. 
  • Homophobia was so rampant that they had to live in secret for most of their lives. Though we’re lucky that that’s not the case today, it is recent history and must be acknowledged.
  • Many challenges remain for queer couples today. From healthcare to parenting to social stigma, we still have to work for queer rights. 

To find out more about this beautiful love story, have a look at our A Secret Love summary on Uptime.

James Baldwin - David Leeming

On Uptime

James Baldwin is an icon in many arenas: writing, political activism, and queer theory. One of the most significant writers of the last century, this biography goes deep on Baldwin’s life, and how the world was changed by his work. James Baldwin wrote fiction from the experience of a Black gay man, a groundbreaking feat at his time of writing. He used his writing to explore his sexuality and to make sense of who he was.

One of his most popular novels, Giovanni's Room, is known for its (at the time) new representation and exploration of sexuality, bisexuality, and queer identity; in the process, making important work in creating more public discourse around homosexuality, of which little existed upon the book's publication. This biography of the famous author, written by a longtime friend and assistant, paints an intimate portrait that is both staggering and moving.

The most fascinating insights into Baldwin’s life behind closed doors include:

  • How his family and peers shaped his life. He was an ‘illegitimate’ child, and this began to obsess him and serve as a conduit for the role of a Black gay American.
  • Baldwin lived between Paris and New York, which gave him an unprecedented perspective on race in the United States. These bohemian centers also developed his sexual politics. 
  • Baldwin became an intellectual leader on race in America, but was plagued by loneliness. Though he had many friends and lovers, he longed for a steadfast companionship that eluded him. 

To explore these insights in depth, you can dive into our James Baldwin book summary on Uptime.

Whether you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally, any of these titles will help you learn more about this vibrant community who we celebrate both during Pride 2021, and every Pride that comes after.

Hungry for more knowledge? If it's more inspiring reads you're after, then why not have a look at our picks of life-changing books to change how you see the world?

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