Literature, News

5 books to read in Pride Month

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Featured image: Amber Bermingham

June is Pride Month. This month is all about coming together in unison to celebrate queerness and campaigning for equal justice and opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community. As we take to the streets and march, and companies flash the famous rainbow, let’s remember the origins of this movement.

Pride Month stemmed from the Stonewall riots, a series of riots protesting for gay liberation that took place over several days, beginning on 28th June, 1969. The riots started after undercover police infiltrated the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar located in Lower Manhattan, NYC, and used force to arrest attendees. 

A year after the riots, the first pride marches were held in several US cities, which soon became a tradition. In June 1999, Bill Clinton declared the anniversary of the Stonewall riots every June in America as “gay and lesbian pride month.” Obama later rectified this to include the whole LGBTQ+ community. 

On 1st July, 1972, the UK’s first pride march was held in London. The date was chosen as the nearest Saturday to the Stonewall riots. This was the beginning of what would become annual demonstrations and protests in the UK.

Literature exploring queer relationships has been historically censored, and was often seen as ‘taboo’ – the late 19th century saw the infamous trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde for “gross indecency”. Despite this, Wilde’s works, such as The Picture of Dorian Gray, which contain queer themes, continue to be celebrated for their literary merit.

Inspired by Pride Month, here are my top five recommendations of phenomenal queer books.

1. Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart (2022)

Young Mungo is a heart-breaking and tender love story set in early 1990s Glasgow. It is Scottish-American writer Douglas Stuart’s second book, published two years after his award-winning debut Shuggie Bain.

The story centres on Mungo Hamilton, a young Protestant, and his relationship with James, a Catholic lad. Their passionate yet forbidden romance is threatened with danger and disapproval due to the divide in their religious communities. Mungo works hard to hide his true self from those around him, and dreams of a world where he and James can be together safely. 

2. This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (2019)

This Is How You Lose the Time War uniquely blends romance, science fiction, and poetic narrative to tell the story of two time-travelling agents, Red and Blue. The two protagonists are fighting against each other in a temporal time war to secure the best possible future for their societies. Red works for the Agency, a technotopia, while Blue works for the Garden, an organic and nature-focused society.

Their romance is explored through the medium of letters, which they leave for each other in creative ways across points in time, providing a glimpse into their intimate thoughts, becoming more affectionate over time. Despite being on rival teams, the two develop a profound understanding of one another, which complicates their missions and loyalty. It won the Hugo Award for Best Novella, the Nebula Award for Best Novella, and the Locus Award for Best Novella in 2020. 

3. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (2019)

This semi-autobiographical work is Vuong’s debut novel. The heartfelt story is constructed as a letter from a son, Little Dog, to his mother, Rose. The narrative follows Little Dog through his childhood to early adulthood, revealing his struggles as a Vietnamese-American growing up in Hartford, Connecticut.

Little Dog’s story includes his awakening sexuality and his first love with a boy named Trevor. Their relationship is tender yet marked by the struggles of growing up in a conservative, rural community. Read this book for a beautiful poetic narrative under 300 pages, which touches on themes of family, sexuality, and race.

4. Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2017)

This TikTok sensation is the perfect book to read during Pride Month. As a book with ‘husband’ literally in the title, it’s a welcome surprise that this book is actually a lesbian love story.

This dual-narrative tells the story of journalist Monique Grant as she meets with recluse Old Hollywood superstar Evelyn Hugo every week to interview her with the intent to publish her memoirs when she passes. As Evelyn reveals her story, Monique undergoes her own transformation, gaining insight into her life and career. Evelyn’s story is heart warming and gut-wrenching, full of twists and turns, and is a must-read (not only because it is one of my favourite books). The film adaptation is currently in the works!

5. Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White (2022)

Hell Followed With Us by Andrew Joseph White is a young adult dystopian novel combining horror and science fiction. The story follows Benji, a trans boy who is on the run from the fundamentalist cult that raised him, who unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population.

The story follows his search for a place where they can’t find him, or more importantly, cannot find the bioweapon they infected him with. The novel is littered with parallels between the world Benji lives in, and the real world. This book has a darkly unique concept and throws you head-first into Benji’s world. It’s a perfect read for fans of Gideon the Ninth and Annihilation.

About the author / 

Amber Bermingham

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