This book left me breathless. Jandy Nelson's language is entrancing, and you will not find a more spellbinding love story than the one in this book. Equal parts heartbreaking, interesting, and innovative, I'll Give You the Sun is a story about fraternal twins finding their own respective places in the world. Jude tries to decode her grandmother's journals, and Noah finds himself falling for a boy he meets in art class. And together, they also find out the secrets that lie within their own family.
– Connor M.
Also selected by Sarah G. and Madeline S.
When I was a teenager living in a small town in central West Virginia in the mid-1990s, I often felt alone and ostracized. I dared not come out of the closet as a lesbian, for fear of physical violence directed my way. One day in a thrift store, I came across a beat-up paperback copy of Rubyfruit Jungle, a coming-of-age story set partially in the South and partly in New York City, and featuring an openly gay woman. To say that it changed or saved my life would be hyperbole, but it sure did lessen my loneliness and help to make life more bearable until I was able to escape to a liberal arts college. This is a classic in LGBT literature, from an author who has never shied away from boldly living her life the way she wants to live it, regardless of how others might feel about that. And the book is not stodgy — it's a good story and at times laugh-out-loud funny.
– Candice B.
I dog-eared my way through this entire book. Audre Lorde tells her story of what it was like to be a lonely black lesbian woman coming to adulthood in early 1950s NYC. She writes with raw, poetic, political, and heartbreaking detail and never holds back. I recommend her work to every person who has ever used "feminist" when describing themselves.
– Andy A.
This is a book you can easily devour within a weekend, but one whose characters and story will stay with you long after. It's about a gay teenager living in a hospital after the deaths of his family and moving through his own "Five Stages of Grief" to find himself once again. Though it's marketed as a young adult novel, it certainly has the potential for a much wider audience with its complex storytelling and universal themes such as overcoming heartbreak, finding acceptance, navigating relationships, managing grief, and confronting death, all wrapped up in a coming-of-age love story. In addition, a 32-page graphic novel is cleverly woven into the narrative as a sort of "story within a story," which adds another layer to this novel's overall brilliance.
– Nicholas Y.
Laurie Frankel's terrific exploration of parenting, gender issues, unconditional love, and family is one hell of a read. When three-year-old Claude asks to wear a dress and refers to being a girl when he grows up, parents Rosie and Penn realize they are in a situation for which they are woefully unprepared. Doing everything they possibly can to support their child, Rosie and Penn help Claude transition into Poppy. She's thrilled to be Poppy and blossoms into a happy, joyful child. Yet there are problems; there are secrets; there are ominous situations. Frankel mines her own life with her transgender child and writes a story so beautiful and so heartbreaking, it's painful to read, but also gorgeous.
– Dianah H.
The Drowning Girl is a work of fiction, but as our narrator, Imp, reminds us, that doesn't mean it's not true. It's a study in necessary works of fiction — you know, those stories you need to read, or to write. The stories that save you, or that damn you ("ghost stories," Imp calls them). The Drowning Girl is beautiful, diverse, and heartrending, and it manages to be literary but accessible. Lush with East Coast folklore and beauty, The Drowning Girl pulls references from all walks of life. Kiernan's characters breathe on the page, sometimes steady, sometimes ragged with emotion. Pick up The Drowning Girl. It will stay with you, for better or worse.
– David R.
Leslie Feinberg is phenomenal because her writings remain extremely relevant to this day, which I find especially impressive because the field of gender studies evolves so quickly. Oftentimes I pick up a gender studies book and just from the vocabulary can tell it's dated, but that never happened to me while reading this book. The concepts Feinberg presents are before their time. If you liked Stone Butch Blues, I promise you'll like Feinberg's nonfiction just as much; it's written in a way that is personal, engaging, inspiring, welcoming, and at times poetic.
– Zoe S.
I picked up this book after hearing a friend talk about how it treats its characters so gently, with such kindness. It's true. Part coming-of-age, part love story, entirely beautiful, this book deserves every accolade it's been given and more.
– Madeline S.
The Lotterys are nothing like a traditional family — two dads, two moms, and seven kids, all living in a large Victorian home in Toronto. Named for the winning ticket that changed their fortune, this diverse family spends their days visiting museums, exploring the woods behind their home, playing with friends, and studying ancient Mesopotamia. However, after an estranged grandfather moves in, their delicate balance is thrown off, and no one takes this harder than nine-year-old Sumac. Touching, humorous, and vibrant, The Lotterys Plus One is an exploration of family, love, and acceptance.
– Carrie L.
History Is All You Left Me is written from the viewpoint of Griffin, to his dead ex-boyfriend Theo. Oh and Griff has mad OCD. I know, I know... seems like a sad, heavy book. Well, it totally is and it's totally worth every tear, I promise. This book captures grief in all of its forms, especially over a life lost young and suddenly. History Is All You Left Me is for anyone who has ever lost someone they love. It is about feeling out of control. The characters Silvera brings to the page are authentic and real. Sometimes selfish, sometimes kind, they fully encompass the journey of grief. Hold on for a heart-wrenching read into history and the lessons Theo left behind.
– Andy A.
This is an excellent resource that deals with bisexuality not as some kind of hybrid identity, but as a distinct orientation (!!!) and challenges the notion that bisexuality reinforces the gender binary. Eisner articulates notions of biphobia and monosexism in a way I have not previously encountered — I cannot recommend this book enough.
– Britney T.
This is an utter miracle of a book. Hayes skillfully blends short essays, journal entries, and photographs into an immersive and revealing look at love, loss, and New York. Despite harrowing events (Hayes’s partner, Oliver Sacks, was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 2015), the book is a love letter to his adopted city, to its inhabitants, and to Oliver.
– Keith M.
This book isn't just for fans of Laura Jane Grace (although anyone who loves Against Me! will delight, as I did, in the details of the band's history). LJG's story is about gender identity, punk music, and fighting for your dreams no matter how many people are (or aren't) behind you.
– Emily F.
"Had it taken her this long to discover that she lacked some simple mental trick that everyone else had, a mechanism so ordinary that no one ever mentioned it, an immediate sensual connection to people and events, and to her own needs and desires? All these years she had lived in isolation within herself and, strangely, from herself, never wanting or daring to look back.” Edward and Florence are virgin newlyweds on their honeymoon. Both worry that Florence is "frigid." McEwan masterfully depicts their painfully awkward courtship with all the anxiety and frustrations that go with it. Florence is the first asexual literary character I've read (though the word is never used), and I love how complex she is, and her love for Edward.
– Amy W.
The first in author Lyndsay Faye's Timothy Wilde trilogy, The Gods of Gotham is a delightfully written historical mystery about the inception of the NYPD and its early — and unorthodox — detectives. It also features one of my favorite LGBT characters in recent years, the protagonist's brother, Valentine "Val" Wilde: police officer, volunteer firefighter, burgeoning politician... drug addict, alcoholic, brothel patron, sodomite. Valentine gets his younger brother a job as a detective at the NYPD after a fire destroys Timothy's place of work and permanently disfigures him. Devastatingly intelligent but also violent and sometimes unhinged, Val serves as an excellent foil to his more even-keeled brother; their turbulent relationship is a prominent undercurrent throughout the series. Depictions of LGBT characters in historical fiction can be difficult to manage with grace, and Faye's attempt makes Val (in my opinion) the most compelling character on the scene. The sequels are equally as good as the first, so remember to check them out: Seven for a Secret, and The Fatal Flame.
– Helena F.W.
Riley’s life is complicated. A gender-fluid teen whose dad is up for reelection in Congress, Riley is struggling to navigate high school’s rocky terrain while living honestly and openly. This is a timely, important coming-of-age novel.
– Ashleigh B.
Nan is a small-town oyster girl in Victorian England. She falls in love with Kitty, a touring male impersonator, who sweeps her off her feet and on the road to big-city London. Nan's first love is a beautiful introduction to this coming-of-age tale, but her narrative evolves into so much more. Nan's story is one of romance, heartbreak, eroticism, and fascinating historical portrayals of lesbians and queers, expertly brought to life with interesting period slang and realistic descriptions of urban life in London. Reading this book felt like peering through a keyhole into a salacious gay past I didn't know I was missing.
– Tehya R.
I'm not sure why it took me 10 years to read this book. I'd always heard it was great but never actually picked it up until earlier this year. But when I did? I was stunned. Few authors capture the power of obsessive, overpowering first love and lust like Aciman does here. And with a movie adaptation coming out later this year, there isn't a better time to read (or reread!) this incredible book.
– Adam P.
This collection will break your heart over and over, but it will lift you up and give you hope, too. Because love is love.
– Doug C.
A book that brought me comfort when I was a teen, The Letter Q serves as a great recommendation for teens or middle-readers and also a great introduction to so many queer authors. In addition to the letters, there are a few short comics that are touching and unique. David Levithan's letter is a personal favorite of mine in this collection.
– Zoe S.
The Argonauts is a book I wanted to reread before I was even halfway through. Maggie Nelson shakes up all gender-queer stereotypes as she grows into a wife, a stepmom, and then a birth mother. She writes in a way that is literary, poetic, and academic. I would consider this canon for queer reads.
– Andy A.
A haunting family drama, Call Me Home explores themes of abuse, safety, love, longing, and home. Amy, Lydia, and Jackson are on the run from Gary, Amy's abusive husband. Separated from his mother and sister, 18-year-old Jackson experiences his own idea of home: a coming-of-age story that is so beautifully written, it will make your heart ache. Kruse has mastered the language of fear and love so well here. One of my favorite books of 2015, Call Me Home is an absolutely gripping read from an amazing debut author.
– Dianah H.