help queer my summer reading list please!
May 23, 2012 1:39 PM   Subscribe

What are some great (somewhat) recently released novels/books/memoirs with queer/LGBTQ themes or characters?

I've looked through the archives, but haven't found much since 2008, so I thought this type of question was worth asking again. Sorry if I've missed a more recent question!

Feel free to throw out any type of book you'd like, but I'm most interested in fiction, particularly with younger (college-aged +) characters/protagonists. If a book has got urban/activist-y/radical themes to it as well, that would be really cool!

I'm more interested in realistic fiction, but definitely feel free to throw out fantasy/sci-fi novels as well!

Thanks so much!
posted by kylej to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
In One Person by John Irving came out this month.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:41 PM on May 23, 2012

Have you considered the Milennium Trilogy?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:42 PM on May 23, 2012

Best answer: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach ticks every one of your criteria boxes. I realy enjoyed it.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:42 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is a wonderful graphic novel (and from 2006): Fun Home, Alison Bechdel. She also has a book just out about her mother.
posted by maya at 1:47 PM on May 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Memoir - Just Kids, by Patti Smith

Novels - well, okay, these are old, but they are 100% awesome and I absolutely recommend them, they were crucial to me as a young queer person (and they were a bit old then!)...Sarah Schulman's novels Shimmer, Rat Bohemia, People In Trouble, After Delores, Empathy, Girls Visions and Everything. (People In Trouble is my favorite and I think the most powerful.) These all have super-duper activist themes - Schulman was heavily involved in Act Up! and other important queer political things, plus anti-war stuff.

So Many Ways To Sleep Badly, by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
posted by Frowner at 1:51 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, if you don't mind a book about the past - The Evening Crowd at Kirmser's is a memoir about being gay in Minnesota around WWII by a guy who later went on to be a big San Francisco writer. Kirmser's is this gay bar run by an immigrant's a sad book, but really gripping and readable.

As I think about this, I realize how many of my books-about-being-queer are books set in the past or written a while ago. Outdated! I fail in queer temporalities, I think.

posted by Frowner at 1:55 PM on May 23, 2012

Oh, and if fantasy/SF are should totally read

Love's Body, Dancing In Time, by L Timmel Du Champ - honestly most of the stories are the dreaded het, but they're all good and the first one is queer as heck in many many ways.

Centuries Ago And Very Fast by Rebecca also might want to look around Aqueduct Press's site in general, as a bunch of their books are by queer women.

posted by Frowner at 1:59 PM on May 23, 2012

If YA is okay (it's definitely literary, older-audience-intended YA), then Benjamin Alire Saenz's "Dante and Aristotle Discover The Secrets Of The Universe." Two Mexican-American teens from very different backgrounds, struggling with friendship and sexuality in 1980s El Paso.

Also in YA, Peter Cameron's "Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You" is a great post-9/11 post-Catcher In The Rye book about a recent high school graduate struggling for connection and meaning.

I enthusiastically second Bechdel's "Fun Home," and I've heard fantastic things about her new one, "Are You My Mother?"
posted by Jeanne at 2:03 PM on May 23, 2012

And you've read, like, Samuel Delany, right? Times Square Red, Times Square Blue is a great memoir of sex and gentrification, and a good starting point for his work and voice. Much of his work is SF, some of it memoir, some of it theory. His SF is ninth-level ninja SF - you have to like science fiction to enjoy it, since a lot of it is a bit experimental. My favorite is Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, although you need to really sit tight through the first fifty pages of framing - they are great, but they are not the easiest thing to read. That one is about...huh, it's about desire and whether it can be quantified. It's a really pre-AIDS book, even though it came out in the 80s. You might also enjoy Delany's memoirs of the sixties, The Motion of Light In Water and Heavenly Breakfast.

And Hal Duncan! Good old Hal Duncan! Vellum is also science fiction for people who like science fiction, but you could start by looking at his web site, where he posts some short stories from time to time. (Honestly, I think his longer work is way better, but it will give you an idea. He's also dazzlingly good-looking, which makes me feel weird about his work because I'm partial to the perspective of people who are not handsome, but it must be said.)
posted by Frowner at 2:05 PM on May 23, 2012

Alan Hollinghurst has a new book, The Stranger's Child. (I see The Line of Beauty was already recommended in the 2008 thread, but it is also great.
posted by JuliaJellicoe at 2:12 PM on May 23, 2012

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms trilogy.
Farthing, Ha'Penny and Half a Crown.
posted by freshwater at 2:15 PM on May 23, 2012

I just read Nicola Griffith's Slow River, which is not really that recent (early nineties) and is science fiction, but fairly realistic science fiction as most of the book deals with the heroine's struggles to do her job at a waste treatment plant. All the main characters are lesbian/queer.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:16 PM on May 23, 2012

Farthing, Ha'Penny and Half a Crown.

Nthing that, but it is set in an alternate history England that threw its lot in with nazi Germany and needless to say the gay characters in it are not quite leading happy lives...
posted by MartinWisse at 2:18 PM on May 23, 2012

Also, my favorite Hollinghurst is The Swimming Pool Library. But it's sad. I mean, it's sad not in a "gay people are tragic and their lives! so full of tragedy!" way, but in a larger way.
posted by Frowner at 2:19 PM on May 23, 2012

Speaking of Delany, his just-released Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders is getting rave reviews.
posted by gerryblog at 2:55 PM on May 23, 2012

Best answer: Will Grayson, Will Grayson is FANTASTIC. It's YA (the characters are in high school), but I think it checks off your boxes.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 3:31 PM on May 23, 2012

For some near future fiction: Rule 34 by mefi's own cstross has many queer characters but most are older than college age.
posted by Z303 at 3:36 PM on May 23, 2012

Rule 34 came to mind for me too, but it fits "recent" more than it fits "has queer characters," since the protagonist, though a lesbian, could've been replaced with a straight male without too much disruption to the plot, as I recall. Bravo for queer normalization, but thematically, the book doesn't need her queerness, and barely intrudes on her love-life, though not for lack of trying.

I will add that the same character appeared in "Halting State," and presumably will appear in the third book of the trilogy, as yet unpublished. The first two books have me eagerly awaiting the third.

I don't mean anything unkind Z303 or Charlie Stross, whose works I love. Maybe someone else will get more out of it. Respects due and offered all around.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:13 PM on May 23, 2012

Jeannette Winterson just came out with Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Also seconding Alison Bechdel's two memoirs.
posted by zoomorphic at 4:36 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Somehow it escaped mention in the 2008 thread, but Oranges are not the only fruit is a classic, even if it's not recent.
posted by hoyland at 5:07 PM on May 23, 2012

Catalina by Markus Orths is my favorite book; if it were a cake I would eat it. It is historical-fiction-by-way-of-The Princess Bride, the mostly-true story of a 17th-century Spanish nun who fled the convent at fifteen, adopted a male identity, and sailed to the Americas to fight as a conquistador. No, really. Catalina is stylish and playful and heartbreaking, and I would like Toby Press to release an ebook edition so that I may pimp it to EVERYONE ON THE INTERNETS.

The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont is outstanding and has a bisexual teen boy as the protagonist.

I will second the Millennium Trilogy; The Girl Who Played With Fire is particularly queer-positive.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:27 PM on May 23, 2012

The Lazarus Trilogy (Lazarus, Covenant, and Epiphany) by Rashid Darden. (Disclaimer: he's a very good friend of mine.)
posted by SisterHavana at 11:32 PM on May 23, 2012

Lockpick Pornography by Joey Comeau. The blurb:

"A genderqueer adventure story!

I feel the way bank robbers must feel just before they go out on that last big job that ends up getting them all killed.

That is to say, optimistic."

It's available online for free, as is its sequel, We All Got It Coming. They're both fun and a little crazy and a little cute.

If I recall correctly, his other story, We Are Become Pals also has queer themes. And Richard Feynman!
posted by teraspawn at 3:32 AM on May 24, 2012

A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She is Today by Kate Bornstein

I've not read this myself yet but I found her other books: Gender Outlaw and My Gender Workbook (new edition in the works) both interesting reads.

Rule 34 came to mind for me too, but it fits "recent" more than it fits "has queer characters,"
No totally, it mostly came to mind because of cstross's recent post (heavy spoilers for the whole book) on some of the background.
posted by Z303 at 4:33 AM on May 24, 2012

Iron Council by China Mieville is a fantasy novel that is about a leftist dystopia/utopia and features a gay love story at the same time.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 5:50 AM on May 24, 2012

God Says No is about a young, black Christian failing to come to terms with himself.
posted by minifigs at 6:01 AM on May 24, 2012

Fun Home by Allison Bechdel is a graphic novel memoir of a young woman coming to terms with her queerness just as her father is, it's lovely and I love it.
posted by The Whelk at 8:58 AM on May 24, 2012

My question from last year may help.
posted by deborah at 3:54 PM on May 24, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all your recommendations, everyone! Very much appreciated!
posted by kylej at 8:48 AM on May 29, 2012

It's lighter and superhero-y and can pass as YA lit, but I liked Hero by Perry Moore a few years back. I wouldn't call it "great," but it's a pretty fun and interesting book about a high school basketball player who has to deal with a disgraced former superdad, his own newly developing powers, being closeted and, oh yeah, trying to save the world.

It's a shame Moore died of an overdose just as the book and plans for a Showtime series were taking off; he had talent.
posted by mediareport at 11:31 PM on May 29, 2012

Happened to spot this list of queer teen fiction on the library website just now.
posted by hoyland at 6:28 PM on May 30, 2012

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