Today is July 1 which means that Pride Month is officially over, but here at Autostraddle we like talking about gay books 24/7/365. So, for your summer reading pleasure, I’ve gathered a list of thirty books that are — gasp — still gay even though it’s not June anymore.
Some notes: When I say gay I mean queer in the broadest umbrella sense of the word. I focused on books that came out during the pandemic because it has been an extra rough time to launch a book over the past two years and I wanted to show these authors a little bit of extra love and support. I have read many of these books myself, but not all; some were suggested by fellow Autostraddle writers and some were suggested by friendly strangers on Twitter.
Without further ado, please enjoy this list of thirty books that are still gay even though Pride Month is over. You’re welcome.
Virology: Essays for the Living, the Dead, and the Small Things in Between by Joseph Osmundson
To say I devoured this book would be an understatement. I’ll let Judith Butler tell you why this collection, wherein Osmundson, a leading microbiologist and talented creative writer, tackles the scientific and sociopolitical impact of viruses in twelve striking essays, is so good: “This book explains the science of virology for our times, offering a compassionate education for all of us disoriented in pandemic times. This book is queer pedagogy at its best: non-patronizing, thoroughly smart, and full of urgent and caring knowledge that beckons us to get closer again with caution and passion.” (Look out for an interview/review of Virology from me next month!)
X by Davey Davis
What do you do when the world is ending, you’re a sadist with a day job and a penchant for true crime podcasts, and the US government has started encouraging undesirable citizens to “volunteer” to leave the country? Go to a warehouse party in Brooklyn and become obsessed with the seductive and bloodthirsty X, of course. That’s the state in which we find Lee, the narrator of this novel, and things only get more interesting as they struggle to find X before she is exported by the fascist state. Davey is one of my favorite living writers, and the way they portray kink, power dynamics, and the end of the world is the way I wish all novels approached these subjects. Drew recently described X as “sticky, thought-provoking, and, simply, entertaining” — make sure to check out her interview with Davey Davis if you missed it earlier this week.
Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson
If you’re into music festivals, dual POV perspectives, and Black girl love stories, this is the YA rom-com for you! Last summer Autostraddle published an exclusive excerpt from this very book in advance of its release, so if you want to check out the vibe before you dive in, today is your lucky day because you can do just that! And don’t miss Carmen’s interview with Leah Johnson, where she pronounced her the Toni Morrison of Queer YA, too.
The Boy with a Bird in His Chest by Emme Lund
Owen Tanner has a chatty bird in his chest, and his mother has kept him hidden away for a decade to protect him from the world because of it. But when Owen takes a trip outdoors in the middle of a forest fire, his life changes forever, as he experiences living — and all the highs and lows that accompany it — for the first time. Emme Lund’s debut novel asks its readers to feel hopeful, not afraid, of the things that make us unique and lovable, and to believe that we can all live joyful lives openly as our true selves. You can read more from Emme on Autostraddle: Caterpillar Soup: A Trans Girl Finds Her Style.
You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
Perhaps you recognize this book from Kayla’s (multiple!) recommendations, but if you still haven’t picked up a copy, consider this your sign! Zaina Arafat’s debut novel follows its unnamed queer Palestinian-American protagonist through her life to her current reality in Brooklyn as a chaotic bisexual DJ trying to make it work in a comfortable relationship but unable to shut down her longings and obsessions with other people, eventually landing herself in a treatment center for her “love addiction.” Sarah Yanni interviewed Zaina for Autostraddle in September 2020, and in her introduction to the conversation she wrote: “It was easy to fall into the world of this book and into the inner workings of the narrator’s in-betweenness. To me (and I imagine that to other LGBTQ Arabs) it’s a story that felt overwhelmingly relatable.”
We Do What We Do in the Dark by Michelle Hart
Drew reviewed this book earlier this year and wrote that it is “more than a lesbian age gap romance,” and I wholeheartedly agree! Michelle Hart’s debut novel opens on Mallory, a college freshman who is mourning her mother’s recent death, and follows her as she becomes enthralled with an older married professor; she and the older woman begin an affair, and Mallory’s obsession only grows from there. The book examines themes of grief and obsession, but also delves into questions about loneliness, growing up, parenting oneself, and what (and who) we let ourselves desire.
Special Topics in Being a Human: A Queer and Tender Guide to Things I’ve Learned the Hard Way about Caring for People, Including Myself by S. Bear Bergman and Saul Freedman-Lawson
If you enjoy S. Bear Bergman’s advice column “Ask Bear,” you’re going to love this book — and if you’ve never had the pleasure of reading “Ask Bear,” this illustrated book of wisdom is a great introduction to Bergman’s work. As a trans parent, Bergman has personal expertise on questions about queerness and raising children, but this book doesn’t stop there — it addresses many complicated special topics (all through Bergman’s signature queer lens) including how to apologize, how to navigate a breakup, and how to be the kindest, most honest, absolute best version of yourself.
The Hammer of Witches by Kelly Rose Pflug-Back
Kelly Rose Pflug-Back’s first full-length poetry collection blends lore and magic with contemporary questions about belief, beauty, power, and fear. The poems in this book linger on the macabre and the monstrous while exploring the grief of living in a dystopian present-day world where it seems that the ancient gods have abandoned the humans left here to make sense of it all on their (our) own.
The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya
Vivek Shraya’s second novel about music, friendship, messy women, the internet, and what we owe each other was one I simply could not put down. This book, a 2021 Lambda Literary finalist, follows serious (and seriously talented) indie musician Neela Devaki and internet artist RUK-MINI through their unlikely and transformative friendship — until jealousy and self-doubt, stirred and amplified by systemic pressures, leads to a single (sub)tweet that implodes their friendship and changes both of their paths forever. This book does not offer a neat and satisfying ending, which is one of my favorite things about it — in fact, I haven’t stopped thinking about Neela and RUK-MINI since I finished the book. In her review of this book, Drew writes that Vivek Shraya is an original, and I couldn’t agree more.
Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi
Spanning three continents, two generations and many diverse lives, Butter Honey Pig Bread tells the story of three Nigerian women: a mother, Kambirinachi, and her twin daughters, Kehinde and Taiye. Themes of homecoming, trauma, sisterhood, queerness, food, and more emerge in Ekwuyasi’s gorgeous prose.
A Natural History of Transition by Callum Angus
This collection of short stories disrupts the idea that trans people are only granted one transformation. The trans characters in these stories grow as tall as buildings, turn into mountains, unravel mysteries, and give birth to cocoons. Rather than rely on tired sci-fi tropes, the future this book presents is infused with alternative history, horror, and magic, making each story more surprising and transcendent than the next.
Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body by Megan Milks
Back in 2021, Casey called this debut novel “a delightfully weird and very queer reimagining of 90s YA nostalgia,” and I believe that description still stands! Margaret, our main character, is the former head detective of the mystery club Girls Can Solve Anything, but since she’s started high school she finds herself unmoored. The club has disbanded and it seems like her friends are all ready to grow up, but she isn’t. She develops an eating disorder and lands in a treatment center, where she must come to terms with a ghost, a hidden passage, disturbing desires, and most importantly: herself.
A Dream of a Woman by Casey Plett
Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel by Julian K. Jarboe
In this debut collection, Julian K. Jarboe imagines future worlds and alternative realities that are thought provoking, satirical, surreal, tear jerking, and very queer. In the title piece, people are being employed by a tech company to go work on the moon, where the conditions are questionable and the pay is “flexible.” The satirical jabs at our present reality feel unfortunately close to home, but Jarboe weaves in enough laughs to make the doom still enjoyable.
Funeral for Flaca by Emilly Prado
This collection of essays explores coming of age in a way that feels relatable and heartbreaking. Emilly Prado writes about growing up as a Chicana in the Bay Area and moving to Portland in her early adulthood — grappling with the love, heartbreak, and identity finding that often occurs during those years.
Darryl by Jackie Ess
We Are Watching Eliza Bright by A.E. Osworth
This debut novel written by former Autostraddle Geekery Editor and longtime contributor A.E. Osworth is a wild ride that is, indeed, “unputdownable.” Told from the perspectives of multiple collective narrators, some of whom are quite unreliable, this story follows Eliza Bright, a self-taught coder who calls out misogyny in her workplace and industry and then suffers the very scary very real consequences of asking for equality on the internet. Kate Gorton reviewed this debut for Autostraddle last year, and Lindsay Lee Wallace interviewed A.E., too.
BloodFresh by Ebony Stewart
Care Manual: Dreaming Care into Being by Kamra Sadia Hakim
Part pedagogy and part archive of lived experience, Care Manual is a blueprint for giving and receiving care in community. Organized into nine chapters including titles like “Love is the Answer” and “Harm Happens,” Care Manual combines source references with theories lived. kamra sadia hakim uses language that is culturally specific, accessible, and open. This book is ideal for students, teachers, and anyone who wants to live and love in our world.
There Are Trans People Here by H. Melt
Centering deep care, love, and joy within trans communities, this book says confidently (and correctly!) that there are trans people in the past, the present, and the future. This poetry collection describes moments of resistance in queer and trans history as catalysts for movements today. It honors trans ancestors and contemporary activists, artists, and writers fighting for trans liberation.
Zigzags by Kamala Puligandla
Written by former Autostraddle editor in chief Kamala Puligandla, this debut novel is one of my favorite love letters to queer community and the fun but sometimes messy reality we all inhabit together. The story’s narrator, extroverted and sentimental Aneesha, is visiting Chicago (and all her old life there entailed) for the summer. Her plan is to write and hang with friends at dance parties and dive bars, but life has shifted while she’s been gone and things don’t go quite according to plan. You can read Kamala’s thoughts about her novel, and if you’re an A+ member you can witness Kamala’s notes and annotations in her very own handwriting, as well as read an excerpt!
The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend Is My Girlfriend: Advice on Queer Dating, Love, and Friendship by Maddy Court and Kelsey Wroten
I first fell in love with Maddy Court’s voice through her infamous lesbian memes as @xenaworrierprincess on Instagram, but it’s her calm, funny, honest, and earnest advice columns that have made me dub her the voice of our generation! I reviewed this book, written by Maddy and illustrated by Kelsey Wroten, for Autostraddle when it first came out, and my original opinion still stands: “This book is a goddamn delight!” You can also read Kim Wong-Shing’s more nostalgic review of the book for Autostraddle, and all of Maddy’s pieces for Autostraddle, too.
100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell
This collection of stories is transgressive, hilarious, and extremely honest. The characters in these tales are imperfect and messy, but you’ll root for them anyway (or maybe because). Kayla has recommended this in the past and described it as a book that focuses on queer Black men and “has great humor, place writing, and relationships dynamics (and yes, pretty much all of those relationships are CHAOTIC). It’s a bouncy, fun read about fucking up and, yes, fucking!” This book is the winner of the 2022 Lambda Literary Award in Gay Fiction, and I personally couldn’t put it down.
High-Risk Homosexual by Edgar Gomez
A debut memoir about coming of age as a gay, Latinx man, this book allows readers to follow Edgar Gomez through the queer spaces where he learned to love being gay and Latinx, including Pulse nightclub in Orlando, a drag queen convention in Los Angeles, and the doctor’s office where he was diagnosed a “high-risk homosexual.” Edgar’s story includes vulnerable yet witty insights about power dynamics of all kinds including racial, sexual, familial, and professional, but also highlights the author’s pride and joy in himself and his identity.
Let The Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993 by Sarah Schulman
ACT UP changed the world, and in this 700+ page account, Sarah Schulman tells us all about it. Based on more than 200 interviews with ACT UP members and twenty years in the making, this book is the most comprehensive political history ever assembled of ACT UP. When I think of Sarah Schulman, I think of both a writer and an activist, and I can’t think of a more suitable voice to share the victories, mistakes, conflicts, and lessons that this group experienced. I wish this book wasn’t so relevant for our current times, but I suppose it always will be. I am so grateful it exists.
Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie
Kayla writes, “If messy queer protagonists are indeed your jam, you have simply GOT to read Skye Falling,“ and how can I resist? The protagonist, Skye, is doing perfectly fine avoiding close relationships with anyone and everyone, that is, until she’s contacted by a 12-year-old girl who turns out to be… “her egg,” aka the result of an egg donation Skye did in her twenties when she was broke. Now in her forties, Skye decides to give a close relationship with another human — this child — a go, and spoiler alert: it’s very hard! With its endearingly prickly narrator and a cast of characters willing to both challenge her and catch her when she falls, this novel is a clever, moving portrait of a woman who realizes she does need other people after all.
Summer Fun by Jeanne Thornton
Gala is a young trans woman working at a hostel in New Mexico, obsessed with a fictional 60s band called the Get Happies. When she starts writing fan letters to the lead singer/songwriter to learn why the band stopped making music, her life intersects unexpectedly with the musician’s, including over their shared trans identities. The letters form a dialogue that showcases ideas about creation — of music, identity, culture, counterculture, and self.
Voice of the Fish: A Lyric Essay by Lars Horn
This interwoven collection looks at the trans experience through themes of water, fish, and mythology. The book weaves short vignettes and longer essays together, creating a unified story with a wave-like narrative shape. Lars Horn takes the reader expertly through a huge range of subjects including marine history, theology, gender, the body, sexuality, transmasculinity, and illness. Throughout, the essays resist binaries and Lars resists the idea that all bodies experience life in a uniform or singular way. Their prose takes the reader to a place beyond through a blend of the aquatic, the mystical, and the physical. Stef reviewed Voice of the Fish for Autostraddle earlier this month and I encourage you to read their review!
Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought edited by Briona Simone Jones
This groundbreaking anthology traces the long history of intellectual thought produced by Black lesbian writers, including contributors such as Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, and Jewelle Gomez. For the purpose of this collection the signifier “Black Lesbian” is a large umbrella, and the works address issues such as misogynoir, anti-blackness, love, romance, coming out, and the erotic. This book won the Lambda Literary Award in LGBTQ Anthology for 2022.
Patricia Wants to Cuddle by Samantha Allen
Set on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest, this ambitious novel is part satire and part murder mystery. When a Bachelor-esque reality TV show — The Catch — heads to Otter Island to film the final leg of the series, the contestants and the producers get much more drama and excitement than they’re looking for when they meet Patricia, a local living in the woods and desperate for love and intimacy. Samantha Allen uses creative craft choices, like multiple voices on an internet message board, secret love letters, and a trove of diary-like blog posts to gift the reader with more information than the first person narrators could otherwise provide. The mysterious plot and fast paced prose kept me turning the pages swiftly.
Which gay books are you reading today even though it’s no longer June? 😇
so many good titles! i just got my hands on the fun YA flip the script, by lyla lee, as well as r/b mertz’s burning butch, about which i’m very excited!
i finished ‘i kissed shara wheeler’ last week and have just gotten ‘home field advantage’ from the library!
Caitlin if you’re interested in the themes of Home Field Advantage, you should also try Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin, also about a queer teen girl playing high school football. I just finished it and loved it so much. A moving story about a masculine girl unlearning internalized misogyny, making friends, and of course getting the girl!
Love this, between it and other recent Lit-o-straddle content I won’t be stuck for reading ideas for a while.
Right now I’m reading Affinity by Sarah Waters! Nothing gay has happened yet, but the trademark ‘sapphic hum’ of the first 100 pages in any Sarah Waters book is getting louder for sure.
I haven’t read Affinity, but I was startled to discover that in some Sarah Waters books nothing gay actually ever happens.
Despite the sapphic hum!
This was amazing!! I’m adding more than a handful of these to my libro.fm wishlist!!
Love this list!!
I am always reading gay books. As I wrote in a reply to Caitlin above, I just finished a truly spectacular YA called Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin, about a closeted butch lesbian who joins her high school football team. There is a butch woman in her 30s who becomes her queer mentor among many other great aspects of the book!