Few gifts are as reliable as books, especially during the holiday season. The following recommended titles are by LGBTQ authors in the fiction, poetry and non-fiction genres.
Almost everything you need to know about Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache: How Music Came Out (Backbeat Books, 2017) by Martin Aston can be found in the title, as the author traces “the sound of lavender” from the 1920s to the 21st century, and includes a multitude of black and white and color photos.
The second such comprehensive history of LGBTQ music to be published stateside this year is Darryl Bullock’s, David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music (Overlook, 2017), which begins with the tragic losses of talent in 2016 (including those who died at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla. and then ventures back to New Orleans, La. in the nineteen-teens before spinning forward, like a record, to the present day.
Award-winning, Grammy-nominated, Guggenheim fellow and composer/pianist/activist/ educator Fred Hersch has many notable achievements to his name, not the least of which is being an openly gay, HIV+ man in the world of jazz. He writes all about it in his memoir Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In and Out of Jazz (Crown Archetype, 2017).
Bill Hayes’ breathtaking Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me (Bloomsbury, 2017), interweaves essays with journal entries, photos and poetry, to tell the story of the writer’s romantic relationship with the late writer and scientist Oliver Sacks.
Speaking of Oliver Sacks, his just-published 10-essay collection The River of Consciousness (Knopf, 2017) is one of two books he was working on at the time of death in 2015.
James Allen Hall’s exquisite and devastating personal essay collection I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2017), like Maureen Seaton’s Sex Talks to Girls, is the kind of memoir that could only have been written by a gay poet.
Logical Family: A Memoir (Harper, 2017), the long-awaited memoir by Armistead Maupin, the beloved author of the Tales of the City series, is a revealing chronicle of the gay writer’s personal journey from the deep South to Vietnam to San Francisco, Calif.
Lesbian poet Eileen Myles is the author of Afterglow (a dog memoir) (Grove Press, 2017), described as part “screenplay, monologue, science fiction and lucid memory,” detailing the 16 years Myles spent as the human companion to a dog named Rosie.
In Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies (Atria, 2017), TV personality Michael Ausiello’s “memoir of love, loss and other four-letter words,” the writer recounts the deeply personal story of his “unconventional” 13-year relationship with his husband, the late Kit Cowan, who battled a rare form of cancer and passed away in 2015.
In the Province of the Gods (University of Wisconsin Press, 2017) follows disabled gay poet/playwright and memoirist, as well as educator and activist, Kenny Fries as he makes a return visit to Japan shortly after his HIV diagnosis.
The unpublished manuscript that became Arch Brown’s A Pornographer: A Memoir (Chelsea Station Editions, 2017) was discovered in 2012 following Brown’s passing, and recounts his interviews and interactions with the actors in the audition process for his erotic films.
With the controversial proposed ban on transgender personnel serving in the military on everyone’s mind at the time of this writing, Tell: Love, Defiance and the Military Trial at the Tipping Point for Gay Rights (ForeEdge, 2017) by Major Margaret Witt with Tim Connor takes readers back to the 1993 passage of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and its 2011 repeal.
Half-Light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 (FSG, 2017) compiles the work of lauded gay poet Frank Bidart in one stunning setting, including the new collection Thirst, featuring outstanding poems such as “Ellen West,” “Herbert White,” “In Memory of Joe Brainerd,” “The Second Hour of the Night” and “For the AIDS Dead.”
Things are lost (weight, memories, causes) and found (a drag queen, and birds, lots of birds) in award-winning lesbian poet Cheryl Dumesnil’s lustrous poems in Showtime at the Ministry of Lost Causes (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016).
Manila-based poet and novelist R. Zamora Linmark returns with the new poetry collection Pop Vérité (Hanging Loose Press, 2017), aptly named for its poems featuring poets (James Schuyler is a favorite) and other writers, dead divas (such as Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston and Donna Summer), other pop culture and literary figures.
Prolific, young, queer Native American poet Tommy Pico’s first poetry collection IRL was published in 2016. Nature Poem (Tin House, 2017) Pico’s second, book-length epic poem merges poetic and texting language for an unforgettable read.
Among the more than 70 poems in The Screwdriver’s Apprentice (Blue Light Press/1st World Publishing, 2017) by poet, playwright, fiction writer and educator Edmund Miller, author of the renowned The Go-Go Boy Sonnets, you will find “In The Porno Theater,” “The Beauty of a Male Model Fades” and “Learning From Lap Dancers,” among others.
It’s no exaggeration to say that you’ll never read anything quite like St. Sukie de la Croix’s slim, sexy, shocking and sparkly new novel The Blue Spong and the Flight from Mediocrity (Lethe Press, 2017), even if you are familiar with his historical writing, including 2012’s critically acclaimed Chicago Whispers or his humor/commentary columns in sundry LGBTQ outlets.
In Marriage of a Thousand Lies (Soho, 2017), the dazzling debut novel by SJ Sindu, we meet Lucky and Krishna, a married Sri Lankan-American couple who are, in reality, actually a lesbian and a gay man. The pair’s sham marriage is threatened when Lucky reconnects with her first lover Nisha, who is preparing to enter an arranged marriage.
There’s no shortage of the titular characters to be found in Difficult Women (Grove Press, 2017), the short story collection by award-winning bisexual Haitian-American novelist/essayist/memoirist Roxane Gay.
Queer actor and writer Tara Jepsen’s debut novel Like a Dog (City Lights, 2017) follows 30-something skateboarder Paloma as she rolls through life in the Central Valley, looking after her opiate-addicted brother and finding meaning in stand-up comedy.
How to Survive a Summer (Blue Rider Press, 2017), the debut novel by writer and educator Nick White, follows graduate student Will as he confronts the time he spent at ex-gay Camp Levi in his youth with the person he is today.
The follow-up to Dale Boyer’s 2016 debut novel The Dandelion Cloud, Thornton Stories (OhBoy Books) — subtitled “Tales Out of School” — returns readers to the town of Thornton, Ill. through a series of interconnected tales in which the characters attempt to “make sense of loneliness and love.”