One of the reasons I read is to seek the perspective of people who are different than me–who see and experience the world in geographies, social location and experiences that are different from my own. I find that reading another’s story strengthens your muscles for compassion, empathy and good global citizenship. It’s Pride Month and so I thought I would share a few of the novels, memoirs and theology books that have influenced my head, my heart and the way I live in this world.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I received The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo via my Book of the Month membership two summers ago and packed it on a weekend getaway to Sedona. I thought by the title and synopsis it would be a light, fun poolside read. It was fun, but it was so much more than a light pool read as it tells the story of the famous Evelyn Hugo and the love life she lived in public to protect the love she held in private. This book was thought provoking and entertaining–my favorite mix!
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies is easily one of my favorite books of all time. I love literary fiction and a multi-decade coming of age story. Add that it takes place in Ireland in the 1950’s and tells the coming of age story of a gay young man and this was by far one of my very favorite reads of 2018. I will also give a quick shout out to Boyne’s other book Ladder to the Sky–if you like despicable protagonists it’s a good one. It’s one where you find yourself not cheering for the main character but cheering for his demise.
The Book of Essie by Megan MacLean Weir
I loved this little scrappy little novel. The Book of Essie was another Book of the Month pick that I thought would be a light entertaining read. (Did you know that along with telling you the genre, length and synopsis Book of the Month will disclose whether a book is LGBTQ+ friendly, page turner, non-linear timeline, multiple viewpoints and other helpful tips about the books you are selecting from which makes choosing a book that helps you expand your reading to include LGBTQ+ narratives easy) Essie is the teen daughter of a famous conservative Christian reality television family and she’s pregnant. This book could easily fall into tropes or tie up all the issues into one neat, simplistic narrative but instead it leave space for the reader to think through a variety of experiences and ethical dilemmas. I enjoyed cheering for Essie as she navigates a world that only sees her as a ratings and image problem to solve to find her own voice and story.
I Can’t Date Jesus by Michael Arceneaux
I have to admit I knew nothing about Michael Arceneuax’s book but I had heard him as a guest on several podcasts I listen to like Keep It and Fresh Air on NPR and was intrigued by his story. And let’s be honest the title of his memoir I Can’t Date Jesus was funny and caught my attention immediately. This was a quick, engaging and entertaining read while still being insightful and moving.
Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles Blow
I have read Charles Blow’s column in the New York Times for years, enjoying they way he balanced beautiful prose and a directness about topics that were often new to me. I preordered his memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones and read it within the month of its arrival. Aside from Blow telling of his upbringing in the rural south, his own coming of age, his writing is breath taking. He is one of those writers that simultaneously makes you want to write more and want to quit writing because you will never be as good.
When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones
This book helped me understand more about the movement for civil rights and what it was like during the AIDS crisis. Given how young I am, When We Rise was a helpful education on parts of history that I knew some about but not nearly as much as I should. I am deeply appreciative of this book for helping me stretch and grow.
The Corinthian Body by Dale E Martin
This is an academic book which makes it an odd fit in the midst of novels and memoirs, but Dale Martin’s The Corinthian Body helps people from the Christian tradition answer the questions “what about what the Bible says about human sexuality? Especially Paul?” (because Jesus doesn’t mention human sexuality near as often or specifically like he does wealth). This book takes a look at the context of the socioeconomic strata, bodily and sexual practices of the community on Corinth that Paul wrote to. This book was helpful and enlightening with its handling of the original Greek text and how it has been translated and interpreted out of context of the Corinthian context.
Clearly this is not an all expansive list. I am really curious what books have helped you expand your understanding and knowledge of queer stories and perspectives?
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