Cure your lockdown boredom with some of these great LGBTQ+ books! From gothic retellings to get you into the Halloween spirit to beautiful reads to help you escape reality for a little while.
Frankisstein by Jeannette Winterson
Jeannette Winterson has written a fascinating reimagination of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in her recent novel, Frankissstein. Winterson successfully brings together romanticism and science through her exploration of current technological advancements and developments in artificial intelligence juxtaposed with speculative chapters of how Mary Shelley came to write Frankenstein and her views, regarding life, death and the soul.
The novel begins with Shelley composing Frankenstein, before skipping to the present day and the life of Ry Shelley, a transgender doctor. We read how Ry meets Victor Stein – a mysterious professor who is working on “accelerating evolution” to live forever as a consciousness in a machine – and Ron Lord, who is on the road to launching a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men. The interaction between these three characters, all of whom have vastly different views on life, death, gender and sex, allows any reader to maintain any opinion whilst insisting that they question their beliefs on all these issues. For instance, whilst I am thoroughly opposed to Ron Lord’s attitude, I found it enlightening to gain insight into how he perceived the world and why he chose to run a business producing sex dolls.
Winterson beautifully explores some of the problems we may face as a society if we continue on this quest to live forever through technology. In particular, Victor Stein’s obsession with existing without a physical form fascinated me. The concept of existing simply as a consciousness is an immediately unappealing one to me, and so, to read about a character whose life’s work centres around this goal was deeply intriguing.
This is a novel I would definitely recommend for anyone interested in the questions surrounding artificial intelligence and how it may intersect with issues of sex, gender and how we understand the difference between life and death.
By Ella McFarlane
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong
“and you wanted to be real, to be swallowed by what drowns you”
Vuong’s debut book is a poem-turned-novel; a letter written from a world-weary son looking back on his life to his illiterate mother. The prose is drawing, merging the boundaries between the forms of poem and novel, some parts read Siken-esque and staccato, whilst in other parts, the words paint wild pictures. There is not a single theme that the book can be defined by; instead, the life of Little Dog is discovered through the letter that he writes to his mum, one he knows she won’t be able to read. Family and love are at the epicentre of this story; it is shown in all its forms, fading the lines between care and violence, showing how love and hate intermingle, one cannot exist without the other, there is no black and white but shades upon shades of grey. Little Dog’s relationship with Trevor is heart-wrenching in the way that it manages to stay, at its heart, pure, despite the environment crumbling and decaying around them.
This novel deals with the experiences of being a Vietnamese immigrant in post-war America, of being gay and of growing up in the opioid crisis. Yet it does it in a way that showcases the beauty of life without romanticising it or downplaying the issues faced. Power lies behind every word in this book, a must-read for everyone.
By Nina Sood
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
“History will remember us.”
Red, White & Royal Blue follows our protagonist, Alex Claremont-Diaz, on a self-discovery journey of many facets; from his sexuality to his place within his family, to what it means to leave behind a legacy. It explores the relationships between friends, family and would-be international arch-nemeses through the lens of one young person trying to find their way in the world. It tackles issues of racism, gender, sexuality and ethics, with a flair for both wit and compassion.
Alex and Henry’s relationship moves from enemies to friends to denial, before finally tumbling into a love so fierce and true that it can no longer be ignored. When we talk about books that we “couldn’t put down”, this really is a frontrunner; so compelling and full of hope and joy that I honestly couldn’t stand to be away from it. From the wonderful writing style to the engaging plot and the almost-real-enough-to-live-in world to the nuanced representation of Alex as a biracial and bisexual person, McQuiston has done a stellar job.
Usually, I find it impossible to answer when I’m asked what my favourite book is. At the moment, I can say with confidence that it is Red, White & Royal Blue.
By Lorna Dicken