When picturing pride month, the first thing you may imagine is a joyous celebration filled with love and rainbows. This month will be filled with fun and liberation, from Pride pop-up markets to parties and the big parade. No worries if you can’t make it outside, though: there are other ways to honor the LGBTQIA+ community beyond June.
Houston has helped cultivate a range of talented LGBTQIA+ authors, so if you’re in the mood for a good book, dive deep into this handpicked selection of titles to pick up at the nearest independent bookstore (or online).
I Can’t Date Jesus, Michael Arceneaux
Though Arceneaux has had the pleasure of calling DC, Los Angeles, and New York home at certain points throughout his life, he prides himself on being a forever Houstonian wherever he goes (seriously, check out his Instagram bio). In his widely celebrated memoir, which has had its brilliance recognized by Vogue, Vulture, and Entertainment Weekly, Arceneaux reflects on growing up in the Bayou City as a Black gay man on an intricate path of self-discovery. With his intimate vulnerability and spectacular wit, Arceneaux invites us to experience life through his eyes—causing us to crack up, shed a tear, and reflect on our own life journey within the course of a single page.
Dear Twin, Addie Tsai
Seeing that she excels at consistently balancing her passion for creative writing, dance, literature, and humanities, it is safe to say there is little Houstonian Addie Tsai doesn’t do. As a queer, nonbinary writer and role model for many, Tsai has impacted countless people with her knowledge, photography, and writing. One particular piece of her writing that has received a multitude of praise is her YA fiction novel, Dear Twin. The book tells the story of Poppy, a girl who is denied the opportunity to attend college and emerge into adulthood like the rest of her peers due to her father’s strictness ... and also her twin sister Lola's disappearance. Desperate to leave home with Juniper, her secret love, Poppy explores the complicated relationship between family, love, trauma, and trust in this novel you won’t be able to put down.
Memorial, Bryan Washington
It seems we can’t keep Washington’s name out of our heads here at Houstonia, but it would be a literary crime to exclude him from this list. The native Houstonian, UH grad, and current Rice lecturer's first novel has only heightened audiences' adoration. The book tells the transformative tale of Benson and Mike, a Black teacher and Japanese American chef, respectively, who’ve been living together in Houston for a couple of years in what has become a stagnant relationship. After their lives are irreversibly impacted by outside forces (like Benson spending an unprecedented amount of one-on-one time with Mike’s mother, Mitsuko, and Mike finding out shocking truths while journeying abroad to visit his estranged father), the two men come back together newly changed and find their relationship has taken a whole new shape.
Uncovered, Leah Lax
Lax has one of the most intriguing life stories you’ll likely ever come by. After joining the Hasidic fold, a strict orthodox Jewish community that rejects the majority of secular ideas, at the age of 15, Lax became accustomed to a life spent without television, mainstream books and music, and even restaurants. When she finally left at age 45, Lax would endure a difficult journey that many could never imagine: adapting to modern-day society as an adult. Filled with epiphanies, revelations, and an intriguing exploration of spirituality and sexuality, Lax intimately invites us to follow her fascinating journey of learning, healing, and rediscovering herself and the world around her.
Sontag: Her Life and Work, Benjamin Moser
This award-winning biography chronicles the worldly and complex life of Susan Sontag, a lesbian novelist, activist, and filmmaker. Author Benjamin Moser saw the importance of keeping Sontag’s name at the forefront of queer culture. Sontag left a legacy of writings on art and politics, feminism, and homosexuality in America. She wrote about the Cuban Revolution and the Berlin Wall when it came down; she covered Vietnam under American attack, wartime in Israel, and was on the ground in Sarajevo, Bosnia when it was besieged. The book also explores her various romantic relationships, her struggle with sexuality, and her response to American politics and society.
“If you want to know why our world is the way it is in some major ways—whether [it involves] politics, culture, sexuality, illness, film, dance, painting, literature, or anything at all that influences our world in these much deeper ways—Susan Sontag is a fascinating place to start,” Moser said in a statement. Moser compiled 573 interviews and produced an 832-page snapshot of Sontag’s life and long-lasting impact. He won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Biography for his book on Sontag: Her Life and Work.
The Last Alias, Ste7en Foster
Who are we? The Last Alias dissects that question and more. This heartbreaking and inspiring memoir chronicles Ste7en Foster’s “straight” life and his experience discovering his authentic self. Each chapter is written from the perspective of a new, distinct persona and explores 23 versions of Ste7en, including “The Father,” “The Ad Man,” “The Survivor,” “The Fool,” “The Freak of Nature,” and “The Sexual Carnivore.”
Throughout the text, he examines painful life moments that involve mental health, family disputes, and gay identity. The Last Alias may seem like it’s only about a man with many lives, but it’s about us all.
Night Is This Anyway, Robin Reagler
Night Is This Anyway is a collection of poetry that explores the love, desire, and pain of the LGBTQ+ experience in the deep South. In three acts, Robin Reagler creates an abstract image of lesbian love and self-discovery.
The book opens with an epigraph from the book Tender Buttons by lesbian novelist and poet Gertrude Stein: “In the morning there is meaning, in the evening there is feeling.” Starting with poems on Reagler’s difficult experience of coming out, the book shifts toward the more joyous and harmonious parts of being in love. One of the poems, titled “Queer Theory,” is about two lesbian lovers being sought after by Godzilla, a metaphor for an era when LGBTQ+ people were scrutinized and under attack.