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LGBTQIA+ Non-Fiction History Recommendations

By Emily Myhill, Carly Bennett, Emma Holbrook and Becca Binnie

Below we have picked a few non-fiction history novels that focus on the LGBTQIA+ community. We hope these important, enlightening and engaging novels will make their way to your bookshelves!

All The Things She Said by Daisy Jones

When considering the history of queer culture, the lens has often focused upon the lifestyles, hobbies and struggles of gay men. On the other hand, All The Things She Said puts a much needed spin on this topic by throwing the spotlight onto lesbian and bisexual culture. Take a ride through the hits of the 21st century WLW (women-loving-women) scene with VICE journalist and self-proclaimed queer culture expert Daisy Jones. Interweaved effortlessly with humour, personal anecdotes and a fun, chatty narrative voice, this trip down memory lane won’t leave anyone yawning!

Covering a wide scope of topics, from film, TV and music to the clubbing scene, mental health and the internet, there’s something for everyone to learn in here – even if you think you’re already an expert in WLW culture! This book feels like a warm hug and a gossip filled chat with your best friend, yet it remains truly informative and well-researched. A clear effort has been made to stay intersectional and this shines through brightly during the interview sections, which spotlight voices and opinions from a wide range of different perspectives. A truly unmissable read!

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Jules Scheele

Do you want to learn more about queer history but are unsure where to start? If so, Queer: A Graphic History might just be the perfect title for you. Written by Meg-John Barker and illustrated by Jules Scheele, this is the perfect primer for anybody looking to uncover LGBTQIA+ history. Barker’s skill at taking complex queer theory concepts and making them not only digestible but engaging is unparalleled, and Scheele’s wonderful illustrations make this title sing.

Packed full of references (a certain Drag Race queen is used to illustrate Judith Butler’s writing on performativity, for example) and brimming with humour and heart, Queer: A Graphic History shines a light on everything from the early gay rights movement to the reclamation of slurs, compulsory heterosexuality and queer futurity. Boldly unafraid to shy away from critiques of queer studies, Barker delves into intersectionality, new normativity and many contemporary criticisms of queer studies to ensure this is a balanced, well-rounded history of all things queer.

Leonardo da Vinci: The Biography by Walter Isaacson

Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest artists of all time, is believed to have been gay or that his paintings had hidden homosexual meanings within them? No? Well then, Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci: The Biography is the perfect new edition to your TBR list! Through consulting the many thousand pages of da Vinci’s notebooks, Walter Isaacson takes us on a journey of learning more about what secrets are hidden within the great artist’s work and informing us about the many pieces of ‘evidence’ that historians to this day site as conclusive proof that Leonardo da Vinci was a gay man living in a homophobic society.

Walter Isaacson has dedicated many of his years to finding out more about some of the world’s ‘closeted’ LGBTQIA+ artists from our pasts. In this beautifully written biography, he takes us on a journey back to da Vinci’s time, to give us a glimpse of how he might have dealt with being a homosexual man living in a world that punished and, yes, even killed men for their sexuality. Tragic, emotive and alluring, this book is not one to overlook.

And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts

The enlightening non-fiction novel explains the history and rise of the AIDS disease in the U.S.A and exposes the homophobia which enabled the epidemic to grow. With a dynamic mix of investigative reporting and vivid storytelling, Shilts highlights the bravery of individuals in science, politics and the gay community who fought to alert people to the alarming and growing danger.

This recount of history underlines the severe neglect a government showed towards its own people and the severity of a health crisis that killed thousands of people. It is an important, engaging book on a serious part of 20th century history.

Brilliance Publishing describes this non-fiction historical novel as “both a tribute to these heroic people and a stinging indictment of the institutions that failed the nation so badly.” It is important to understand the failings of such a heart-breaking part of history and it is equally vital to remember the courage shown by individuals at such a scary and tragic time. This educational, fast-paced and fascinating book is definitely one to add to your bookshelf.


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