June 1 is the first day of Pride month, a commemoration of visibility, affirmation and equality for the LGBTQ+ community. Pride takes place during June as a way to remember the Stonewall riots, which began on June 28, 1969. It was a major event in the growing momentum of the gay liberation movement and its efforts to stand against societal shame of queer people.
Although the month culminates with marches, festivals and other celebrations around the 28th, the rest of June provides a great opportunity to learn more about LGBTQ+ history, culture and significance.
One of the best ways to learn more is through the arts, as they have long provided means of expression for the queer experience. If you’re a reader, you’re in luck. There is a wealth of literature by members of and about the LGBTQ+ community. Here are a few books you can check out if you’re interested in learning more this June. Check with your local libraries and bookstores for these titles and other Pride month recommendations they may have.
“We Are Everywhere,” by Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown – A collection of history and photographs that aims to document the history of social movements for queer liberation within Western culture, dating as far back to periods of activism in late 19th century Europe.
“The Stonewall Reader,” by the New York Public Library – Released in 2019 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, this book takes from the New York Public Library archives to provide a curated collection of first accounts, articles, literature and diary excerpts to capture the years leading to and following the riots.
“How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS,” by David France – A moving telling of the AIDS epidemic and its profound effect both on the health and reputation of gay communities as the initial cases emerged in gay men as well as those who took drugs through injection. This insider’s account of the outbreak highlights the humanity of those who were affected and raised awareness of the disease, as well as the researchers who then worked to develop anti-AIDs drugs that have improved and saved the lives of millions.
“Outlaw Marriages,” by Rodger Streitmatter – A historian-led journey into the stories of same-sex unions through history such as the relationships between Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein, Frank Merlo and Tennessee Williams and Walt Whitman and Peter Doyle.
“Giovanni’s Room,” by James Baldwin – An American expatriate is torn between his personal desires and social expectations in 1950s Paris.
“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz – A coming of age tale about two loner teens who strike up an unexpected friendship that teaches them life-changing truths about themselves and each another.
“Maurice,” by E.M. Forster – A story of homosexual love set in the Edwardian world of 20th century England and the internal personal battles that are born out of shame of oneself.
“The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker – An epistolary novel that tells the story of Celie through a series of letters written over the span of 20 years. Growing up poor and frequently abused, Celie’s sufferings eventually lead her to discovery of her personal truth.
“Passing,” by Nella Larsen – A Harlem Renaissance-era short novel centered around two women who share the experience of hiding their true selves.
“Guapa,” by Saleem Haddad – A day in the life of a gay man living in an unnamed Arab country whose secret love life is uncovered, leading him to face his identity.
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