The Importance of LGBTQ+ Diversity in Literature
Many LGBTQ+ readers can remember the first book that they read that actually represented them, a turning point in their lives where heteronormative standards had been the be-all and end-all. Queer representation has come a long way since the ages when the only allowable queer representation in literature had to be negative; the reason why the classic “Maurice” by E.M. Forster had to be published posthumously. However, there is still some way to go for true equal representation, and this can be done by pushing for more LGBTQ+ representation, and by supporting LGBTQ+ authors, especially queer authors of colour. In this issue, we will be exploring the importance of diverse LGBTQ+ representation in literature and providing suggestions of books that may be helpful to those who feel unrepresented and don’t know where to start looking, or those who would simply like to expand their worldview and would like some direction.
Diversity of Narratives
The most common storyline that makes up the majority of literature related to LGBTQ+ narratives is the common plotline of teen/young-adults struggling with their identity, and whilst this is a common issue that many within the community experience, it can be quite repetitive. As explored by writer Martin Puchner, there’s a chance that the stories we tell each other can “change history and influence the mindset of generations”. If we would like to live in a society where ‘coming out’ stories are no longer a big deal and people just readily accept one another, we must normalise these types of stories and literature. If you’ve recently been in somewhat of a slump and are interested in stories that break this relative mould, some suggestions are:
Pirates! by Celia Rees: Get your fix of the ‘birates’ trend made popular on tiktok with this tale of two cross-dressing half-sisters who run away from the constraints of class, gender and race for the dangers and adventures onboard a pirate ship.
The Secret History by Donna Tart: Dive into the depraved world of bacchanals, drugs and murder in this reverse-whodunit books that will be sure to leave you at the edge of your seat for the entirety of the book.
Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson: A short story written for the anthology Zombies Vs. Unicorns about a gay zombie who falls in love with the son of zombie hunter… very star-crossed-lovers-esque!
Diversity of Identity
For a long time, before LGBTQ+ stories were available in the mainstream, it was difficult to find queer stories that focused on identities other than gay. While we can’t overlook the important work that these stories did in beginning to bring more diverse sexualities into the public eye, it’s important to keep in mind that representation of one queer identity is not representation of all queer identities. For us to continue to see an increase in diverse LGBTQ+ representation, it is essential for us to support #ownvoices queer authors of all identities. For some great examples of representation of different queer identities, check out these titles:
Loveless by Alice Oseman: Georgia is struggling with her sexuality - could she be asexual? She won’t have to figure it out by herself though, as this novel has a wonderfully diverse cast of characters to help her along.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee: Young, bisexual British Lord Monty knows it’s supposed to be time for him to settle down. But why do that when you could have one last adventure with your best friend?
I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver: Can non-binary teen Ben keep a low profile for the last half of his senior year? Or will a new friendship help him find his voice, and maybe even a happier new life?
Diversity of Ethnicity
Being queer is an undoubtedly difficult experience and there is often very little representation in literature of our experiences, however, for queer people of colour, this issue is even starker. Whilst LGBTQ+ representation has been improving somewhat in alignment with changes in societal norms and the increasing acceptance of LGBTQ+ identities within the publishing industry, there remain some issues with the racial diversity of said representation as evidenced by recent articles and blog posts on the issue. The intersection of race and queer identity very often comes with its own unique issues that complicate an already stressful experience. For those in need of representation or those who simply want to diversify their reading list a good place to start is:
Black Flamingo by Dean Atta: Smash hyper-masculinity alongside Michael as he comes to terms with his queer identity through witty and poignant descriptions of the inequalities of being a mixed-race gay man.
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley: Battle alongside Sarah and Linda as they explore their forbidden interracial relationship during the height of the Civil Rights Movement while everything around them tries to keep them apart.
Mr. Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo: Fall in love with the eccentricities of Barrington, a flamboyant elderly gay black man who is finally finding the courage to live out and proud despite his religious Caribbean upbringing.
We hope these recommendations help you to diversify your reading, please feel free to interact with us across our social media accounts @publishing_post with your own recommendations to help fellow readers. Until next time - happy reading!