What to Read During Pride Month

For Pride Month, I thought I’d make a list of some queer authors whose work I’ve enjoyed lately. I could go on and on with this list, but I’ve tried to focus on authors whose work may not be as widely known as it should be, or who may not usually make it onto lists of queer books. Full disclosure: some of these writers are also personal friends (why have a blog if I can’t talk up my friends?)

A Fragile Union: New and Selected Writings by Joan Nestle

Nestle is one of the founders of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, a prolific writer and organizer, and an example of someone with enough wisdom to allow her views to change over time. This is what I found most interesting about this collection—Nestle shows us what experiences evolved her language and politics. Whether it’s the essay ‘“I Lift My Eyes to the Hill’: The Life of Mabel Hampton as Told by a White Woman” or retelling the story of a woman who survived concentration camps and said to Nestle, “I wanted to live long enough to kiss a woman,” the collection has some deep and meaningful history.

Nestle writes about starting the archives and living among them in her NYC apartment (they’re now housed in their own brownstone in Park Slope). She writes about what it meant to live as a Jewish lesbian in NYC in the 1950s. There’s also erotica, which Nestle published during the so-called “feminist sex wars,” a very interesting context to keep in mind as you read. There’s a little bit of everything in this book. Read it for the energy, the history, the vision of an ever-curious lesbian activist. The intro is on Nestle’s website.

One Man’s Trash by Ivan E. Coyote

A friend was moving and gave me a whole bunch of books. Coyote’s was one of them. One Man’s Trash is a quick and satisfying read of very short stories featuring endlessly Canadian humor (in one of my favorite scenes, the protagonist, at a barbecue in British Columbia, is asked the question “have you ever eaten beaver?”). I love this book and will read it again. I picked it up right after the semester ended—I needed the levity—and this book delivered.

Necromantic by Cathleen Chambless

Cathleen is a friend of mine here in Miami and we’ve read poetry together a couple of times. Necromantic was a finalist for the Bisexual Book Awards and is an unusual book in the best of ways. Poems named after punk songs; dark quasi-nursery rhymes; and Chambless’ own illustrations make this a distinct collection. Looking for someone who’s telling queer feminist truths? Check this one out.

Reading Queer: Poetry in a Time of Chaos

I’m reviewing this book for South Florida Poetry Journal later this summer, so all I’ll say here is that it has the best elements of an anthology, lots of satisfying political content, and is a needed balm in the Trump era.

“Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality” by Gayle Rubin

Okay, this one isn’t a book, but an essay from the early ’80s, much of it still edgy. It seems like a particularly appropriate choice for this week in light of the Supreme Court decision granting homophobic bakers the right to deny wedding cakes to queer couples (let’s be real: it’s not about angel food).

Rubin is dealing with a broad range of “deviant” sexualities in the article, also in the midst of the “feminist sex wars” mentioned above. She questions why suppression of sexualities is an organizing principle of society. If you like spaghetti and I don’t, do I deny you the right to enjoy it? Do I deny you the right to take a picture of spaghetti and post it to your Instagram? Do I deny you the right to talk about spaghetti in front of the same people to whom I laud my love of apples? Sounds ridiculous, right? Why is it different with sexualities?

I’m pretty sure I never read this essay during my Gender & Women’s Studies classes in undergrad, and I sort of know why. It questions many of the tenants we’re usually afraid to question—gender, monogamy, and heterosexuality as just a few examples. And what we’re hesitant to question (capitalism, police, prisons, colonization, the two-party system…) is often what is most oppressive. It’s almost…as if it’s by design. Do I agree with every single detail of every claim in this essay? I do not. Is it worth reading as it ever has been in 2018? Yes, I think so.

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker

This isn’t necessarily a queer book, but I think that queer (or queer-adjacent) readers will love it. Parker’s second book got a lot of buzz when it came out in 2017, but I didn’t get a hold of a copy until last week. We see many influences: there’s a little bit of Eileen Myles, a little bit of Frank O’Hara and Amiri Baraka, and a decidedly womanist take on topics ranging from mental health to loneliness to, of course, Beyoncé. We see Beyoncé alone, Beyoncé taking on Lady Gaga, Beyoncé as a feminist icon.

Have you read other books lately that I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments.

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