I’m not really one for big parades and teary social media coming-outs, but I wanted to intentionally commit time this Pride Month to study and appreciate the history, art, and literature of LGBTQ+ people. As most of you already know, I’m a bisexual woman whose books feature people and couples from all sorts of backgrounds, genders, and sexualities, and I’ve found such solidarity and freedom in queer theology and LGBTQ+ inclusive fiction.
So I dusted off the old TBR and followed my instincts around from queer book to queer book, and ended up reading four amazing books this month! I didn’t intentionally set out to read one f/f romance, one m/m romance, one queer theology text, and a gay history book, but I’m pleased with the balance nonetheless!
In the Vanishers’ Palace – Aliette de Bodard
⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5 Stars)
This Vietnamese science fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast takes place in a shadowy, lush world driven by linguistic magic, generational trauma, and alien technology. The central romance is between two women, a displaced scholar and a powerful dragon shapeshifter in need of a tutor for her two wild children. Their tentative love story is interwoven seamlessly with fresh worldbuilding, the main character’s driving devotion to her family, and the struggle of repairing a world ripped open at the seams by previous rulers who did not steward it well. All in all, a mind-opening speculative ride with a happy ever after to sweeten the telling.
Transforming – Austen Hartke
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5 Stars)
I’m a big admirer of Hartke’s work as a speaker and Youtuber, and his first book is a warm, welcoming introduction to transgender-inclusive theology. Hartke raises up the voices of diverse trans Christians rather than focusing on proof-texting, which was so incredibly refreshing in a sphere that is usually obsessed with nitpicking translations of Hebrew and Greek. As a bonus, the book ends with pointers for self care, church inclusion, and pastoral best practices. It’s a good blend of memoir, theology, biblical study, and social mobilization, and would be a good starting point for anyone who wants to learn more about the transgender experience in the American Christian church. As a bonus, Hartke imbues the narration of his audiobook with such a soothing, centered authenticity!
Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 1890-1949 – George Chauncey
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5 Stars)
I was looking for queer history to round out Pride Month and am so happy I picked up Gay New York, despite my initial trepidation. I was hesitant about committing to such a long book that focuses primarily on the experiences of gay men, since I’ve found similar histories to be dismissive of women, transgender people, and especially bisexual men. However, Chauncey paints a rich portrait of the complexities of turn of the century gay life with an eye towards ethnic and class distinctions and norms of homosocial behavior, all while being fully aware of the text’s limitations. The history is thorough, compassionate, fact-checked, and doesn’t project modern political struggles or sociological sexual labels onto the diversity of queer life 100 years ago. Anyone who wants to understand the development of gay identity, anti-gay political policies, and “gayborhoods” in America should pick this one up. It’s proof that even during a time when it was much more dangerous to be out, there was still queer joy, art, love, activism, nightlife, and scholarship happening in the public eye.
Spectred Isle – KJ Charles
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5 Stars)
My favorite romance of the year and one of the best fantasy/fabulism titles I’ve read in a long time. Imagine The League of Extraordinary Gentleman meets the Raven Cycle with a slow burn historical romance at the center, and you’re getting there. A disgraced archaeologist is thrown in with the rich heir to a family legacy of self-sacrifice and occultism, and together they must unravel the supernatural forces threatening to tear England apart. Folklore-driven mysteries, deft subplots that kept me guessing, a well realized supporting cast, a hard won love story, plus scorching love scenes of lightest d/s that will squeeze your heart all come together to create a deeply satisfying story. KJ Charles really outdid herself here.
Have you read any of the books I picked up for Pride Month? Let me know what you thought of them in the comments!