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Summer Books That’ll Have You Feeling a Sense of Pride

Embrace the vibrant spectrum of LGBTQ+ experiences this Pride Month with our curated list of enlightening reads for readers of all ages. From stirring memoirs to groundbreaking fiction, these books celebrate diversity, resilience and the ongoing journey toward equity.

You’ll find titles suitable for adults, children and teens, ensuring that everyone can find a voice that resonates with them. Whether you're seeking poignant narratives, empowering anthologies or insightful non-fiction, these compelling voices are sure to inspire, educate and entertain.

More Than Just a Pretty Book

‘Photography — A Queer History,’ edited by Flora Dunster and Theo Gordon



The role of photography in understanding queerness from various historical vantage points is vividly detailed by co-authors Flora Dunster and Theo Gordon in a volume rife with striking images and evocative details on who was behind the lens. Photos dating as far back as 1891, when feminist photographer Alice Austen shot “The Darned Club” — two pairs of women are seen embracing, including Austen, on her lawn overlooking the New York Bay Narrows — is among this collection of less-popularized depictions of queer life. Through time, we see the role of fantasy in lesbian history via “The Knight’s Move,” shot in 1990 by Tessa Boffin, and how a self-portrait by Collier Schor, captured just a few years ago in 2021, illustrates trans sensibility. With the work of 84 artists, Dunster and Gordon help us understand how the history of our documented lives through photography has advanced fights against LGBTQ+ discrimination while awakening our collective sense of self. 

‘A Great Gay Book: Stories of Growth, Belonging & Other Queer Possibilities,’ edited by Ryan Fitzgibbon 

Before “A Great Gay Book,” there was Hello Mr., a zine published by writer and editor Ryan Fitzgibbon for five years between 2013 and 2018 that you could just as easily find at your indie bookshop as the ones inside the mall. Fitzgibbon, a Grand Valley State University grad, was the founder of the magazine, which now serves as a time capsule of queer written and visual works created by some of the most accomplished queer voices of the last decade, including poet Ocean Vuong, journalist Matthew Rodriguez and New York Times critic-at-large Wesley Morris. A stunning decorative addition to any coffee table but foremost a must-read collection of writing and art, “A Great Gay Book” pulls together past work alongside new contributions that altogether accomplish exactly what Fitzgibbon, as he writes in the “Hello Again” prologue, set out to do: to encourage reflection “as a mirror to conceive new possibilities.” 

‘Gentle Chaos: Poems, Tales, and Magic,’ Tyler Gaca

Tyler Gaca, aka Ghosthoney on TikTok, was a pandemic-era quarantine comfort to many, known for a range of vlog-style videos, from comedic sketches to late-night musings. Now closing in on 3 million TikTok followers, Gaca is the published author of “Gentle Chaos,” which is on this list even though it came out in 2023 because it just may always be relevant given the state of the not-so-gentle chaos of the world. “I am still standing off stage in my own living room and gathering myself before I make a little joke, this time for the audience that lives inside my phone,” he writes in the book. Now, however, Gaca has an audience that loves a page flip and not just a finger tap, as his book adapts his TikTok stories into printed personal photographs and the written word, with vulnerable essays and poetry about growing up queer in Oklahoma. 

Real Life

‘Joan Baez: When You See My Mother, Ask Her to Dance,’ Joan Baez

A companion book to Joan Baez’s life-affirming documentary “I Am a Noise,” a moving must-see that goes to the personal and professional depths of the pioneering folk singer and social activist’s rich life, “When You See My Mother, Ask Her to Dance” presents an equally heartfelt experience through her never-before-published writing. In this collection of unguarded letters and poetry, Baez, who has dated both men and women, writes intimately about her romantic relationships and childhood memories. Much of her writing here was drafted between 1991 and 1997, after Baez was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, and some are credited to her “inner authors.”

‘Countless Sleepless Nights: A Collection of Coming-Out Stories & Experiences,’ edited by Carina Magger

Few things can remind you that you are, indeed, not alone on your self-discovery journey more than just knowing people around the world also feel the fear, pain and joy of taking the steps to be your authentic self. Editor Carina Magger interviewed 85 people from 16 countries over the course of eight months in 2022. The result is a collection of  stories with a diaristic sensibility, like “Not Part of God’s Plan,” about a gay Mormon’s experience in helping to change hearts and minds, even his own Republican father’s, and, via the UK, “Mum, I’m in Love,” about a lesbian woman’s parents proudly celebrating her newfound romance.

‘Cactus Country: A Boyhood Memoir,’ Zoë Bossiere

“This will resonate with anyone who’s longed for escape — from a hometown or their own body — but lacked an exit plan,” wrote Publisher’s Weekly about Brevity magazine editor Zoë Bossiere’s reflections on growing up feeling like a boy in the Sonoran Desert. The boys and working-class men in Bossiere’s orbit when they were an adolescent gave them a startling example of what seemed to define manhood — sexism, racism, substance abuse and violence — and, like so many of us trying to fit in at that age, mirrored their dress and mannerisms. That was until high school, when they gave up being one of the guys and harnessed their feminine power. 

The More You Know

‘Pride Power: The Young Person’s Guide to LGBTQ+,’ Harriet Dyer

This adorable little guide to everything LGBTQ+ for ages 11 and up presents an accessible, easy-to-follow look that can help anyone understand their sexual orientation and identity. In addition to breaking down the meaning of the gay ABCs and how to better understand your gender, the book gives a brief look at significant historical markers in our fight for equality, including Stonewall, and includes recommendations on films, TV and video games that celebrate LGBTQ+ visibility and representation. With allies in mind, “Pride Power” also offers a full chapter on tips for young LGBTQ+ people interested in getting involved in queer activism and how our allies can help to create a more inclusive world. 

‘Hollywood Pride: A Celebration of LGBTQ+ Representation and Perseverance in Film,’ Alonso Duralde  

One word in pop culture that you’ll keep hearing until we get exactly what we deserve — representation. There’s more of it, and there’s not enough of it, and now thanks to film critic Alonso Duralde, we have a comprehensive history book that charts, when it comes to seeing ourselves represented on screen, where we started and where we’ve yet to go. Through an exploration of LGBTQ+ themes and characters dating back to 1894 with “Dickson Experimental Sound Film,” Duralde charts progress through eras like “Silent Comics in Drag,” from the early 19th century, all the way through to our modern-era “Icons,” like director Todd Haynes, trans directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski, and a major 20th-century turning point in queer film: “Brokeback Mountain.” 

‘Gay Science: The Totally Scientific Examination of LGBTQ+ Culture, Myths, and Stereotypes,’ Rob Anderson 

You won’t be squirming in your seat waiting for class to be dismissed as you read comedian and TikTok influencer Rob Anderson’s amusingly satirical guide to understanding gayness through something only anti-vaxxers might argue with: science. Though Anderson is upfront about how this book really is not completely rooted in actual scientific-based facts, if you’re queer, you’ll identify with this body of cheekily presented knowledge, divided into three branches and 29 fields of Gay Science (it is capped in the book, because “science”). I really did laugh at Anderson’s anecdote on why queers can hit snooze on their alarm all they want and still arrive at work at a reasonable time — because we can speed “past slow straight people” to “defy the laws of physics.” To make this present as a real textbook you might bring to Gay Science class, there’s even a gay glossary and some very iconic stock photography.

Fiction

‘The Safekeep,’ Yael van der Wouden

Yael van der Wouden’s debut novel has received rave reviews from The Guardian and The New York Times, and Kirkus Reviews called it “nearly perfect.” Infatuation is at its mysterious core, as Isabel grows curious about her brother’s girlfriend Eva, who, while staying with Isabel, challenges her to shake up the monotony of her regimented life in the rural Dutch province of Overijssel. As the story unfolds, there’s more than meets the eye, some of which involves self-discovery and queer relationships during the 1960s, when those relationships rarely left the house. 

‘Four Squares,’ Bobby Finger

With friendship at its heart, author Bobby Finger’s followup to “The Old Place” finds more tenderness within community-driven narratives. This time, the story is about Artie Anderson over the course of 30 years, beginning in 1992 in New York City during his 30th birthday, against the backdrop of the AIDS epidemic. Three decades later, as those closest to him move across the country and after sustaining an injury, Artie is faced with the new reality of aging, but finds a warm community of queer seniors at a local center who show him the true meaning of friendship. 

‘The Guncle Abroad,’ Steven Rowley

One of contemporary literature’s favorite guncles has returned for more cute adventures with his beloved now-teenage niece and nephew, Maisie and Grant. This time, after Patrick O’Hara lovingly cared for them after they lost their mother, they’re heading overseas to Italy, where the waves of change are, for all of them, especially wavey: the kids’ father is getting remarried, much to their dismay; Patrick is coming to terms with his singlehood as he approaches 50 and, naturally, everything comes to a head at a rehearsal dinner that isn’t at all what anyone expected. And if Steve Rowley’s first book, simply titled “The Guncle,” is any indication, this sequel won’t be either. In fact, it may just be the wildly witty, tenderhearted balm this year calls for. 

Children’s Books

‘Jacob’s Missing Book,’ Sarah and Ian Hoffman

Fighting through all the noise related to the relentless assault on LGBTQ-centered books in school and public libraries is a simple refrain: Kids want to see themselves and their families reflected in the media they consume. There’s nothing wrong with that sentiment, despite insistence from the far right that loving and supporting LGBTQ+ community members is somehow problematic. “Jacob’s Missing Book” explores book banning and LGBTQ+ rights in a kid-friendly format that encourages discussion in an affirming, straightforward way. There’s plenty of humor here, too, as well as gorgeous, rich illustrations that bring a simple, yet poignant story to life. 

‘A Child's Introduction to Pride: The Inspirational History and Culture of the LGBTQIA+ Community,’ Sarah Prager

Presented for kids 8-12, this engaging LGBTQ+ history book celebrates love, hope, equality and progress through the lens of queer movements and the stories behind key figures like Harvey Milk and Marsha P. Johnson. Think of this volume as a supplement to history lessons in school that don’t often focus on the impact of queer people on everything from sports, music, literature, science and beyond. Bonus: a fun pull-out poster timeline dating from ancient times through recent events highlighting historical LGBTQ+ milestones. 

‘My Guncle and Me,’ Jonathan Merritt

Illustrator Joanna Carillo brings Merritt’s heartwarming book about the special relationship between a nephew and his favorite “guncle” to life in this colorful picture book for younger readers. Henry is having a hard time at school, until Guncle shows up with his puppy and a lesson about why Henry is special, why family is so important and how self-acceptance and feeling seen and loved are the keys to everything. 

‘ABC-Deconstructing Gender,’ Ashley Molesso and Chess Needham

Embrace positivity and individuality with this bright picture book focused on people like Daryl, who is “so affectionate,” and Alex, who is “gentle with the family cat.” Sage and Kaylin are “super strong.” And so on. Molesso and Needham, who run the Ash + Chess stationery company, are an artistically blessed queer couple who have clearly poured themselves into creating a work intended to empower kids to embrace who they are and to love who they love with their whole hearts. Inside the book’s jacket is a fun ABC poster ready for display.

Young Adult Non-Fiction

‘Queer Eye: You Are Fabulous,’ Lauren Emily Whalen

Geared toward young adults, especially those who have trouble expressing their feelings to loved ones, this fill-in giftable book is like having the Fab Five beside you, encouraging you to embrace your individuality, compassion and creativity in a way only you can manage. As you fill in the prompts with a friend or significant other in mind, you’ll create a personalized gift brimming with encouragement and love — with plenty of full-color photos from the series to round out the fun. 

‘Gender Rebels: 30 Trans, Nonbinary, and Gender Expansive Heroes Past and Present,’ Katherine Locke 

While there are several solid LGBTQ+ history books on the market, few focus exclusively on the gender-nonconforming folks who have shaped that particular history. “Gender Rebels” dives in enthusiastically with rich storytelling about 30 trans, gender-expansive and nonbinary heroes representing cultures from throughout the world. Here, readers will learn about Callon of Epidaurus, the first intersex individual to receive surgery, as well as actor Elliot Page and Tomoya Hosada, the first trans politician in Japan. Locke also includes accessible, deep information about trans topics, including the history of the word “transgender,” a reference guide and a glossary of terms. 

‘Queerbook,’ various authors

Published by the It Gets Better queer youth support organization, “Queerbook” is a collection of essays, short stories, photography, poetry and artwork created by young queer adults from across the U.S. inspired by the theme, “What’s Your LGBTQ+ Utopia?” A book truly “for queer youth, by queer youth,” the volume was curated and edited by 10 LGBTQ+ student ambassadors selected by It Gets Better, which promises to direct 100% of proceeds back into its organization. 

Young Adult Fiction

‘Wish You Weren’t Here,’ Erin Baldwin

Summer camp is the perfect setting for this queer teen romance novel — a world away from regular life where the characters come alive against the backdrop of rustic cabins, campfire gatherings and the daily rhythm of camp life. Erin Baldwin’s debut novel creates a summer to remember for high schoolers Juliette and Priya who undergo transformations that surprise even them in this enemies-to-lovers romance. Publishers Weekly called “Wish You Weren’t Here” a “charming debut that gives way to electric romance.” 

 ‘Gooseberry,’ Robin Gow

A middle-grade novel centered on a non-binary main character, “Gooseberry” is sure to charm readers with a tale about a sweet rescue dog. Poet and author Gow is best known for his acclaimed 2023 novel-in-verse “Dear Mothman,” which told the story of a young trans boy dealing with the death of his friend. “Gooseberry” is similarly tender, a thoughtfully spun story about found family and the importance of hope and self-acceptance, all told through the lens of a nonbinary young person bravely marking their early independence.



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