For ages, love stories playing themselves out in printed words, have been the talking point of many a social gatherings. From Romeo and Juliet to Fault in our Stars, love has been made to bloom and be doomed in every form between the two covers.
There have been innumerable publications under this genre over the years; some of them attained the heights of being classic and cult reads. But needless to say that almost every one of them is about heteronormative, straight romantic relationships.
Even the coming-of-age, self-identification books in the market are mostly about the kind of identities and emotions that the society easily accepts.
Being an avid reader myself, I can say with assertion that among the books that are up there in the list of being path-breaking or course-changing by popular belief, there are not many that explore the possibilities of non-normative genders, queerness or homosexuality.
But exceptions are always there. Here are 5 books that every member of the LGBT community should have on their reading list; or rather every reader irrespective of their gender or sexuality should check off from their list soon.
- RUBYFRUIT JUNGLE by RITA MAE BROWN
Published in 1973, Rubyfruit Jungle is the author’s first book – a coming-of-age autobiographical account of her own youth, struggle and emergence as a writer. The book has Molly Bolt, the adopted daughter of a poor family who does not shy away from being experimental and questioning about her sexuality. In high school, she has relationships with her female friends, and also with males once in a while. Later it portrays how she reaches the big city and has her conceptions and notions about life and everything else slowly changes in the concrete jungle.
While many criticise the novel for being too cliché and “yet another lesbian novel”, it is still remarkable in its own way of liberal boldness in that time.
- ANNIE ON MY MIND by NANCY GARDEN
This novel is about two New York City girls, Annie and Liza. It shows how confusion and insecurity can push someone to take decisions that are clearly not voluntary, and only acceptance and support can undo them. The book is from Liza’s perspective where she is trying to reply to all the letters Annie had written her over the whole period of their friendship. Their tender affection is questioned and suspected upon, but finally Liza decides to call her up and work on their own happily-ever-after.
In 1993, the LGBT organization Project 21 donated Annie on My Mind, along with Frank Mosca’s All-American Boys, to 42 high schools in the Kansas City area. Because both books included homosexual themes, some parents objected that the books were made available to high school students. During the controversy, copies of the book were burned.
- AND THE BAND PLAYED ON by RANDY SHILTS
And The Band Played On is a 1987 book by San Francisco Chronicle journalist Randy Shilts on the HIV and AIDS epidemic that took over, especially in the United States with special emphasis on Government indifference and fight over political agendas. In a narrative which briefly summarised the sequential mishaps in which the epidemic spread, his main premise was how ignorance, inefficiency and apathy towards the initially affected in turn made its spread much more wide and worse.
In an interview after the release of the book, when asked about what motivated him to write the book, he said:
“Any good reporter could have done this story, but I think the reason I did it, and no one else did, is because I am gay. It was happening to people I cared about and loved.”
- ONE MAN GUY by MICHAEL BARAKIVA
One Man Guy is a one-of-a-kind funny and heartfelt read about self-discover, family and new-found romance. Alek meets Ethan in his summer school, and suddenly the far-fetched possibilities of him falling for any guy didn’t seem that far any more. Published in 2014, it shows how a book involving a budding something-more-than friendship between two guys can be an equally good light-mood, quick-read paperback without being preachy or too serious, yet bring out the nuances of a gay relationship in modern world perfectly.
- BEING EMILY by RACHEL GOLD
Being Emily is the story of a young girl, Emily from Minnesota trapped in the body of a Christopher – a persona she didn’t choose and neither does she want to keep. She is tired of her parents’ assurances that Emily is a ‘sickness’ and her friends’ assertions that it is a ‘phase’. She desperately wants to stop being Chris and become Emily from outside as much as she was from the inside.
It is a simple yet complex story of anyone who has ever felt the sheer hopelessness of not being able to be true to oneself inspite of being completely sure about one’s identity.