Our Favourite Reads Celebrating the LGBTQIA+ Community
By Emily Myhill, Emma Holbrook and Becca Binnie
We’re taking a dive into some of our favourite reads written by Black authors who celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community!
Real Life by Brandon Taylor
Real Life is Brandon Taylor’s debut novel: published in 2020, it follows Wallace, a gay Black biochemistry student making the tricky move over to a Midwestern university town to finish his postgraduate degree. Shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, Real Life was instantly met with positive acclaim and has a large list of shortlist nominations under its belt.
Dealing with difficult issues including grief, childhood trauma and racism, Real Life weaves a subtle and honest narrative about the realities of life as a Black queer male, and the difficult ways in which those characteristics intersect.
Brandon Taylor’s writing is exquisite, powerful and intricately crafted. It communicates the suffocating alienation of Blackness in an overwhelmingly white, overtly racist society incredibly well. Likened to Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Taylor brings a new campus novel to the table with breath-taking prose and raw themes that will linger with you for days.
Perfect for anyone wanting a masterfully written contemporary fiction centring on a Black queer character navigating intense struggles. If you’ve read it and want more, make sure to check out Taylor’s short story collection Filthy Animals, and keep an eye out for his next book, The Late Americans, which will be published in 2023.
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Ace of Spades is an award-winning YA thriller published in 2021 by talented Nigerian author, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé. Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work - Youth / Teens in 2021, it’s no wonder this book remains popular for celebrating both the LGBTQ+ and Black community.
Taking place in Niveus Private Academy, where money controls everything, the story follows the only two Black students: talented musician Devon and head-girl Chiamaka. An anonymous texter threatens to expose their dark secrets to the entire school; someone knows everything about them and will stop at nothing to expose the truth that threatens to destroy everything these two students fought to protect.
Sex, lies, a badass female protagonist and a fight against racism, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s Ace of Spades truly captures the oppression under a society which favours white supremacy and manipulation of the LGBTQ+ community and should definitely be next on your TBR list!
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them is an American YA novel published by Dutton Books in 2019 and written by Junauda Petrus. The novel follows Mabel and Audre, both sixteen, both Black and both from completely different backgrounds.
Audre is sent to live in Minneapolis after being caught with a secret girlfriend by her religious mother. She is scared of losing her Trinidadian roots, but luckily Mabel is on hand to help Audre navigate a new life. However, Mabel has been haunted by confusing feelings and a vague illness all summer and as it catches up to the pair, their relationship is tested in all kinds of ways.
Petrus writes dynamic, engaging characters who prove love is stronger than hatred. Both a physical copy and the audiobook deserve a place on your bookshelf!
Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez
The semi-autobiographical Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez was published in 2020. Jesse McCarthy is living in the legacy of the Windrush generation and, at nineteen, wrestling with his racial and sexual identity after a Jehovah’s Witness upbringing. Trying to escape repressive religion, a broken family and a disempowered Black country, Jesse turns to sex work as he grasps for notions of love and spirituality.
Tackling important subjects including immigration, racism, sex, sexuality and religion, Paul Mendez’s book is urgent and creatively fresh.
This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
In 2021, Bloomsbury YA published an epic fantasy written by author of Cinderella is Dead Kalynn Bayron called This Poison Heart. This novel follows protagonist Briseis who has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms.
Bri uncovers secrets when she moves with her mother to her late Aunt’s estate in rural New York. As she meets some interesting characters, not all mean well and she must learn to control her gift in order to protect those she loves.
This Poison Heart is a must read and good news… the second instalment of this exciting series is already available. Look for This Wicked Fate to delve deeper to Briseis’ journey.
All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson
Published in 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, All Boys Aren’t Blue is a YA non-fiction novel. The book is composed of a selection of essays written by journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson. They follow his childhood through to college years in New Jersey and Virginia. The essays recount memories of being bullied, travelling to flea markets and exploring sexual relationships. This heartbreaking and important work displays the struggles of Black queer boys and is an enlightening masterpiece.