Reading Recommendations: Chosen Family

By Brenna Wheeler

It’s December, and that means holiday season. This time of the year can come with so many different feelings and experiences. As the fall and winter holidays arrive, many LGBTQIA+ members of our community are returning home to families who either don’t know or don’t accept aspects of their identities. Others may not even have that option. For many in this community, chosen family provides the acceptance their biological families may not. With this in mind, the DAC blog has put together a reading list with LGBTQIA+ authors and characters to keep you company during this season and share their own experiences with family, love, and acceptance.

I just need a novel to read

  1. Image of Book Cover for Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseAristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz“Fifteen-year-old Ari Mendoza is an angry loner with a brother in prison, but when he meets Dante and they become friends, Ari starts to ask questions about himself, his parents, and his family that he has never asked before.”
  2. Juliet takes a breath by Gabby Rivera
    • “Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole ‘Puerto Rican lesbian’ thing.”
  3. Nevada by Imogen Binnie
    • “Nevada is the darkly comedic story of Maria Griffiths a young trans woman living in New York City and trying to stay true to her punk values while working retail. When she finds out her girlfriend has lied to her, the world she thought she’d carefully built for herself begins to unravel, and Maria sets out on a journey that will most certainly change her forever.”
  4. Image of book cover: Confessions of a maskConfessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima
    • “Confessions of a Mask tells the story of Kochan, an adolescent boy tormented by his burgeoning attraction to men: he wants to be ‘normal.’ To hide his homosexuality, he courts a woman, Sonoko, but this exacerbates his feelings for men. As news of the War reaches Tokyo, Kochan considers the fate of Japan and his place within its deeply rooted propriety.”
  5. Witchmark by C.L. Polk
    • “Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family’s interest or to be committed to a witches’ asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.”
  6. Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
    • “Based on a true story plucked from Highsmith’s own life, Price of Salt tells the riveting drama of Therese Belivet, a stage designer trapped in a department-store day job, whose routine is forever shattered by a gorgeous epiphany–the appearance of Carol Aird, a customer who comes in to buy her daughter a Christmas toy. They fall in love and set out across the United States, ensnared by society’s confines and the imminent disapproval of others, yet propelled by their infatuation.”
  7. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
    • “This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance.”
  8. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
    • “Set in the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin’s now-classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.”Image of book cover: Heiresses of Russ 2016
  9. Heiresses of Russ: The year’s best lesbian speculative fiction.
    • “Heiresses of Russ offers readers in one volume the best lesbian-themed tales of the fantastical, weird and otherworldly, published during the prior year.”
  10. Meanwhile, elsewhere: Science fiction and fantasy from transgender writers edited by Cat Fitzpatrick and Casey Plett
    • “The #1 post-reality generation device approved for home use This manual will prepare you to travel from multiverse to multiverse. No experience is required. Choose from twenty-five preset post-realities. Rejoice at obstacles unquestionably bested and conflicts efficiently resolved.”
  11. Transcendent: the year’s best transgender speculative fiction
  12. Transcendent 2 : the year’s best transgender speculative fiction
    • “This anthology will be a welcome read for those who are ready to transcend gender through the lens of science fiction, fantasy, and other works of imaginative fiction.”

…but with fewer words.

  1. America: the life and times of America Chavez, Volume 1Image of book cover: America Volume 2
  2. America: Fast and fuertona, Volume 2 by Gabby Rivera
    • “In Marvel’s first series centered on an LGBTQIA+ Latinx character, America Chavez is kicking her way through dimensions, battling cults, viruses, and other aliens threatening Earth, all while attending her first college courses.”
  3. Black Panther: World of Wakanda by Roxane Gay
    • “You know them now as the Midnight Angels, but in this story they are just Ayo and Aneka, young women recruited to become Dora Milaje, an elite task force trained to protect the crown of Wakanda at all costs. Their first assignment will be to protect Queen Shuri… but what happens when your nation needs your hearts and minds, but you already gave them to each other?”
  4. Bingo Love by Tee Franklin
    • “When Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray met at church bingo in 1963, it was love at first sight. Forced apart by their families and society, Hazel and Mari both married young men and had families. Decades later, now in their mid-’60s, Hazel and Mari reunite again at a church bingo hall. Realizing their love for each other is still alive, what these grandmothers do next takes absolute strength and courage.”
  5. Image of book cover: HeathenHeathen, Volume 1 by Natasha Alterici
    • “Aydis is a viking, a warrior, an outcast, and a self-proclaimed heathen. Aydis is friend to the talking horse Saga, rescuer of the immortal Valkyrie Brynhild, and battler of demons and fantastic monsters. Aydis is a woman. Born into a time of warfare, suffering, and subjugation of women, she is on a mission to end the oppressive reign of the god-king Odin.”
  6. Art & queer culture by Catherine Lord & Richard Meyer.
    • “Art & Queer Culture is a comprehensive and definitive survey of artworks that have constructed, contested, or otherwise responded to alternative forms of sexuality. Rather than focusing exclusively on artists who self-identify as gay or lesbian, Art & Queer Culture instead traces the shifting possibilities and constraints of sexual identity that have provided visual artists with a rich creative resource over the last 130 years – and it does so in an accessible, authoritative voice, and with a wealth of rarely-seen imagery.”

Actually, some poetry really sounds good right now

  1. Image of book cover: NepantlaNepantla: an anthology for queer poets of color edited by Christopher Soto
    • “The first major literary anthology for queer poets of color in the United StatesIn 2014, Christopher Soto and Lambda Literary Foundation founded the online journal Nepantla, with the mission to nurture, celebrate, and preserve diversity within the queer poetry community, including contributions as diverse in style and form, as the experiences of QPOC in the United States.”
  2. The collected poems of Audre Lorde
    • “Collected here for the first time are more than three hundred poems from one of this country’s major and most influential poets, representing the complete oeuvre of Audre Lorde’s poetry. Included here are Lorde’s early, previously unavailable works: The First Cities, The New York Head Shop and Museum, Cables to Rage, and From a Land Where Other People Live.”
  3. When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz – Digital Copy; Physical Copy
    • “This debut collection is a fast-paced tour of Mojave life and family narrative: A sister fights for or against a brother on meth, and everyone from Antigone, Houdini, Huitzilopochtli, and Jesus is invoked and invited to hash it out. These darkly humorous poems illuminate far corners of the heart, revealing teeth, tails, and more than a few dreams.”
  4. Image of book cover: Night Sky with Exit WoundsNight sky with exit wounds by Ocean Vuong
    • “A haunting debut that is simultaneously dreamlike and visceral, vulnerable and redemptive, and risks the painful rewards of emotional honesty.”
  5. Cuicacalli / House of song by Ire’ne Lara Silva
    • “Part song, part grito, part wail, part lullaby, and part hymn, Cuicacalli / House of Song is a multi-vocal exploration of time, place, and history. Song lives within and without the poet’s physical and spiritual experience of body, of desire, of art, of loss, and of grief on an individual and communal level. Cuicacalli / House of Song sings survival, sings indigeneity, sings some part of the tattered world back together.”

I want a memoir or biography of LGBTQIA+ people!

  1. Image of book cover: Looking for LorraineLooking for Lorraine: the radiant and radical life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry
    • “Lorraine Hansberry, who died at thirty-four, was by all accounts a force of nature. Although best-known for her work A Raisin in the Sun, her short life was full of extraordinary experiences and achievements, and she had an unflinching commitment to social justice, which brought her under FBI surveillance when she was barely in her twenties.” -Amazon Summary
  2. Mama’s boy: a story from our Americas by Dustin Lance Black
    • “Black shares a candid, powerfully resonant memoir about growing up in a military, Mormon household outside San Antonio, Texas. His mother had contracted polio as a small girl, endured leg braces and iron lungs, and was repeatedly told that she could never have children or live a normal life. While Black struggled to come to terms with his sexuality, she remained his source of strength and his guiding light, and years later stood by his side when he helped bring the historic gay marriage case to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
  3. What drowns the flowers in your mouth: a memoir of brotherhood by Rigoberto Gonzalez
    • “Burdened by poverty, illiteracy, and vulnerability as Mexican immigrants to California’s Coachella Valley, three generations of González men turn to vices or withdraw into depression. As brothers Rigoberto and Alex grow to manhood, they are haunted by the traumas of their mother’s early death, their lonely youth, their father’s desertion, and their grandfather’s invective.”
  4. At the broken places: a mother and trans son pick up the pieces by Mary Collins and Donald Collins
    • “In this collaborative memoir, a parent and a transgender son recount wrestling with their differences as Donald Collins undertook medical-treatment options to better align his body with his gender identity. As a parent, Mary Collins didn’t agree with her trans son’s decision to physically alter his body, although she supported his right to realize himself as a person.”
  5. Image of book cover: MarblesMarbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by  Ellen Forney
    • “Shortly before her thirtieth birthday, Ellen Forney was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Flagrantly manic but terrified that medications would cause her to lose her creativity and livelihood, she began a years-long struggle to find mental stability without losing herself or her passion.”
  6. Nîtisânak by Lindsay Nixon
    • “Using a form of generative refusal towards western writing practices, the text works with the idea of kinship that derives from the author’s Plains Cree and other kinship teachings. It also examines how queer kin were some of their first experiences of reciprocal relationality and care.”
  7. Spit and Passion by Cristy C. Road
    • “At twelve years old, Cristy C. Road is struggling to balance tradition in a Cuban Catholic family with her newfound queer identity, and begins a chronic obsession with the punk band Green Day. In this stunning graphic biography, Road renders the clash between her rich inner world of fantasy and the numbing suburban conformity she is surrounded by. “

…or essays about their experiences

  1. Image of book cover: Cuentamelo¡Cuéntamelo! testimonios de inmigrantes latinos LGBT/Cuéntamelo! oral histories by LGBT Latino immigrants by Juliana Delgado Lopera; editado por/edited by Shadia Savo and Santiago Acosta; ilustrado por/illustrations by Laura Cerón Melo
    • “¡Cuéntamelo! Contains the oral history of nine different LGBTQIA+ Latinx immigrants and their experiences.”
  2. Reflections on female and trans* masculinities and other queer crossings edited by Nina Kane and Jude Woods
    • “The book presents many voices exploring themes of female and trans* masculinities, gender equality, and the lives, work and activism of LGBT*IQ artists and thinkers. It includes discussion of arts-making, cultural materials, diverse identities, contemporary queer politics, and social histories, and travels across time telling gender-crossing stories of creative resistance.”
  3. Nobody passes: rejecting the rules of gender and conformity edited by Mattilda, a.k.a. Matt Bernstein Sycamore – Physical Copy; Digital Copy
    • Nobody Passes explores and critiques the various systems of power seen (or not seen) in the act of “passing.” In a pass/fail situation, standards for acceptance may vary, but somebody always gets trampled on. This anthology seeks to eliminate the pressure to pass and thereby unearth the delicious and devastating opportunities for transformation that might create.”
  4. Image of book cover: I am your sister I am your sister: collected and unpublished writings of Audre Lorde edited by Rudolph P. Byrd, Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Beverly Guy-Sheftall
    • “Audre Lorde was not only a famous black poet; she was also one of the most important radical black feminists of the past half century. I Am Your Sister collects her non-fiction prose from 1976 to 1990, and it is the first volume to provide a full picture of Lorde’s political work (as opposed to her aesthetic work). The essays cover an impressive variety of topics: sexuality, race, gender, culture, class, parenting, disease, resistance, and power – both within the United States and across the African diaspora.”
  5. Affirmative acts: political essays by June Jordan
    • “Piercingly intuitive, eloquent, and caustic, Affirmative Acts is an address to the social, economic, racial, and political conflicts that mar the otherwise beautiful human experience. In this new collection of political essays, Jordan explores the confusion of an America in the grip of pseudo-multiculturalism and political intolerance.” -Google Books
  6. Black Lesbian in White America by Anita Cornwell
    • “Anita Cornwell (b.1923) is an American lesbian feminist author. Her writings in this book are the first collection of essays by an African-American lesbian. It also includes her interview with Audre Lorde, also a black lesbian.” -Amazon

Honestly, I just want to watch Queer Eye, but I won’t have access to Netflix for a while

  1. Image of book cover: Queer EyeQueer eye: love yourself, love your life by Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk & Karamo Brown
    • “At a cultural moment when we are all craving people to admire, Queer Eye offers hope and acceptance. After you get to know the Fab Five, together they will guide you through five practical chapters that go beyond their designated areas of expertise (food & wine, fashion, grooming, home decor, and culture), touching on topics like wellness, entertaining, and defining your personal brand, and complete with bite-sized Hip Tips for your everyday quandaries. Above all else, Queer Eye aims to help you create a happy and healthy life, rooted in self-love and authenticity.”
  2. Karamo: my story of embracing purpose, healing, and hope by Karamo Brown with Jancee Dunn
    • “An insightful, candid, and inspiring memoir from Karamo Brown–Queer Eye’s beloved culture expert–as he shares his story for the first time, exploring how the challenges in his own life have allowed him to forever transform the lives of those in need.”
  3. Over the top: a raw journey to self-love by Jonathan Van Ness
    • “Over the Top uncovers the pain and passion it took to end up becoming the model of self-love and acceptance that Jonathan is today. In this revelatory, raw, and rambunctious memoir, Jonathan shares never-before-told secrets and reveals sides of himself that the public has never seen.”
  4. Image of book cover: Naturally TanNaturally Tan by Tan France with Caroline Donofrio
    • “In this memoir, France illuminates his winding journey of coming of age, finding his voice (and style!), and marrying the love of his life – a Mormon cowboy from Salt Lake City. He shares the lessons he’s learned about being a successful businessman, a devoted spouse, and the importance of self-acceptance.”
  5. Queer eye for the straight guy: the fab 5’s guide to looking better, cooking better, dressing better, behaving better, and living better by Ted Allen, et al.
    • “Imagine this: Five eminently stylish and hilariously witty gay men — authoritative experts in food and wine, grooming, decorating, fashion, and culture — invade your life, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and, in the course of a day, make you better dressed, better groomed, better mannered, and a better cook, living in a better home.”

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