Okay, I’m caving–it was only a matter of time. Amanda from the Zen Leaf is once again hosting the Challenge That Dare Not Speak Its Name (thanks for that clever phrase, Lord Alfred Douglas), only this time it has it’s own fancy blog and will have monthly mini-challenges, which should make it that much more fun.
There are three levels of participation, and I’ll be taking on the Rainbow level of reading 12 or more books. I have a bunch of owned-but-unread GLBTQ books I’d like to read, and this challenge will be helpful in making that happen. In fact, until this year, the majority of books I read were queer non-fiction.
In honor of this great challenge, here’s my top five(ish) recommendations.
Full disclosure: they all have happy(ish) endings–no Well Of Loneliness here (I’m still shaking my fist at you, Radcliffe Hall), all are by GLBTQ authors, and all of them have a special place in my heart (but if you don’t like them, I promise I won’t take it personally).
1. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg: Required reading within the queer community, Feinberg’s semi-autobiographical first novel is an excellent account of what it was like to be a butch lesbian in the 1950s. This is a realistic, heartwrenching tale from someone who was there and lived the experience. Warning: crying is highly probable, but there’s an optimistic ending. (I also recommend Feinberg’s non-fiction Transgender Warriors.)
2. Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden (YA): This was my first girlfriend’s favorite book, and the first lesbian novel I ever read. It’s beautiful, timeless, and deserves to be read. (Side note: the new cover is awful. I much prefer this one.)
3. Fried Green Tomatoes by Fannie Flagg: One of the most angering book-to-movie de-gayings I’ve ever seen. Try the book and read between the lines, and don’t believe Mary Stuart Masterson’s attempt to convince you Idgie and Ruth were “just friends.” (Somewhere, Fannie Flagg is on the “I didn’t know she was gay!” list with Lily Tomlin.)
4. Valencia by Michelle Tea: She’s a great writer, even if she is a) the biggest Gen X-er who ever Gen X-ed and b) kind of awful in real life (or at least when she’s shopping in the chocolate store I worked in when I lived in Provincetown).
5. Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters: Sarah Waters is basically the Jane Austen of lesbian romance. (Nan is up there with Idgie on my list of literary crushes. Mr. Darcy is nowhere to be found.)
- Whipping Girl by Julia Serano, if you have a solid understanding of trans issues and feminism. This book blew my mind in the best way possible.
- S/He by Minnie Bruce Pratt (who happens to be Leslie Feinberg’s partner): I keep this one by my bed and refer to it often. Minnie Bruce is an inspiration.
- Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity (anthology): My favorite essay in this collection is “Quantum Femme.”
Books I’ve Read for this Challenge:
- Not the Only One: Lesbian and Gay Fiction for Teens, edited by Tony Grima (short story collection)
- Lynnee Breedlove’s One Freak Show (humor)
- How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity, edited by Michael Cart (short story collection)
- Scarlett Takes Manhattan by Molly Crabapple and John Leavitt (naughty graphic novel)
- The House You Pass On the Way by Jacqueline Woodson (young adult novel)
- The Philosophy of Andy Warhol by Andy Warhol
- The Last Time I Wore a Dress by [Dylan] Scholinski (memoir–Scholinski is a trans man, and began using Dylan after the memoir was published. Out of respect I use his chosen name, even though it is not the name on the book.)
- Pedro & Me by Judd Winnick (graphic novel)
- Behind You by Jacqueline Woodson (young adult)
- Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger (young adult)
- In Mike We Trust by P.E. Ryan (young adult)
- Two Or Three Things I Know For Sure by Dorothy Allison (memoir)
- Geography Club by Brent Hartinger (young adult)
- Mean Little Deaf Queer: A Memoir by Terry Galloway (memoir)
- The Family Man by Elinor Lipman (literary)
- My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger (young adult)
- Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (young adult)
- The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine
1. January: Why the Challenge Is Important
2. February: Review of The House You Pass On the Way
5. May: Transgender Non-Fiction
** Note: For the purpose of this challenge I have decided to only record books that feature a GLB and/or T main character. Therefore, books with only minor GLBT characters or books by GLBT authors without GLBT characters are not included.