LGBTQIA+ Celebrities Promoting Inclusive Literature!
By Becca Binnie, Emma Holbrook, Carly Bennett and Lauren Dooley
Some people discover their next read on the shelves of their local bookstore, some turn to the recommendations of friends and other may turn to celebrities for inspiration. With their immense impact, celebrities have the capacity to influence their fans. This power needs to be used to promote and celebrate acceptance and love. This is especially true for the LGBTQIA+ community. As such, we want to celebrate some celebrities in the queer community that have promoted inclusive literature and highlight the amazing books they celebrate.
Embracing who you are as well as your sexuality has always been a difficult aspect for anyone to come to terms with, but it’s people like actor, comedian, director and writer Stephen Fry whose own self-embracement has encouraged hundreds of others to do the same. Since publicly coming out as gay very early in his acting career, Fry has taken every opportunity he can to show his support for the LGBTQIA+ community, especially in the creative and media industries. Not only has he shown his support for fiction writers inspired by ancient Greek mythology for shining a light on diverse couples such as Apollo and Hyacinth or the love Artemis, a goddess who has been reimagined as asexual and potentially aromantic, bore for Orion while remaining a maid. He also went on to write three of his own retellings of Greek mythology with a heavy focus on the LGBTQIA+ community.
Though he is well known for his striking performance as disgraced, gay and Irish playwright Oscar Wilde in the 1997 film Simply Wilde, Fry has gained the hearts of many by promoting books of both fiction and non-fiction that accurately represent the struggles and the beauty that can be found within the LGBTQIA+ community. He has gone as far as to record audiobooks on such books and he is included amongst many writers in an anthology of gay fiction, Speak my Language, and Other Stories.
Graham Norton is a well-known Irish actor, author, comedian, commentator and writer. In May 2021, Norton began a podcast named The Graham Norton Book Club, where he is often joined by co-hosts journalist Alex Clark and author Sara Collins as well as a heap of famous writers and audiobook narrators. The podcast discusses all things books, including reviews, recommendations, interviews and the latest news. As a gay man, Norton uses this platform to spotlight many LGBTQIA+ voices and stories including those of Miriam Margolyes, Sarah Waters, Bernardine Evaristo, Jonathan Coe and N.K. Jemisin. Available on Audible, Norton’s podcast is great for inclusive discussions surrounding representative and wonderful literature.
Furthermore, Graham Norton is a New York Times bestselling author himself. His recent novel Home Stretch, published by Hachette in September 2020, follows the life of Connor in a 1987 small Irish community after a fatal accident. After the tragedy, Connor takes himself and his secrets to New York, where unspoken regrets and desires continue to haunt his new life. A tale of emigration, stigma and secrecy, Home Stretch is a novel representative of LGBTQIA+ struggle as Connor confronts his past.
Comfortably moving through numerous spaces as an essayist, professor, social commentator and short story writer, Roxane Gay has published numerous titles exploring sexuality, race and feminism. Bad Feminist is her 2014 New York Times bestselling title, which has musings on sexuality woven into many of the essays that explore the way her feminism is often at odds with the pop culture she loves. Difficult Women, her 2017 short story collection, was shortlisted for the Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Fiction.
As well as being an award-winning LGBTQIA+ writer, Roxane Gay has also become something of a go-to for her diverse book recommendations, which she shares on Goodreads and Medium. LGBTQIA+ novels recommended by Gay include Real Life by Brandon Taylor, Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous; Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters and The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.
While not part of the LGBTQIA+ community, Reese Witherspoon is becoming a vital ally through her book club Reese’s Book Club. Witherspoon’s daughter recently stated that she does not look for a partner based on gender, and Witherspoon is using her immense platform to promote amazing, inclusive LGBTQIA+ books. The book club’s Instagram reaches over 2.3 million readers, and recently collaborated with Leah Johnson, author of You Should See Me In A Crown and Rise To The Sun, to recommend nine books for Pride.
For Pride, this book club promoted Robby Weber’s If You Change Your Mind, a contemporary story that celebrates gay love, and Sofi and the Bone Song by Adrienne Tooley, a sapphic fantasy. Two further important recommendations are Different Kinds of Fruit by Kyle Lukoff, a Middle Grade story that follows a child discovering their father is trans, and Act Cool by Tobly McSmith, a Young Adult book that celebrates transgender people.