Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Best known for her children’s books, she was a teacher before she became a writer/ author. She worked Bank Street School in New York City where she helped make the curriculum for students. In her books, she worked on portraying girls and boys as equals. In a male dominated society, it was rare to see girls being equal to boys in stories for children and in general.
A poem: “Who Said It Was Simple” by Audre Lorde
From a Land Where Other People Live is a collection of poetry, released in 1973, where “Who Said It Was Simple” was presented. This poem is about the racism that Lorde experienced in her adult years during the feminism movement. The question she raises in this poem is essentially this: how many times can a person be oppressed?
A collection of poems: Narratives: Poems in the Traditions of Black Women by Cheryl Clarke
Narratives: Poems in the Traditions of Black Women was published in 1982. Her work became an important work for lesbian-feminist print culture and literature. In Narratives, sexuality and one’s sexual orientation are important themes. The collection of poems in Clarke’s book is a reminder of how significant her works were in the LGBTQ+ community, in lesbian print culture, and the influence she had on contemporary poetry.
- Read Narratives: Poems in the Traditions of Black Women here
- Cheryl Clarke about page link here and more publications here
A collection of poems: Seasonal Velocities by Ryka Aoki
Aoki’s book, Seasonal Velocities, is a collection of essays, poems and short stories that challenge and inform the reader about queer identity Aoki shares her transgender experience, as well as her feelings and knowledge. The book begins with the pain that Aoki went through for her struggles with gender, transitioning, and dealing with others. Seasonal Velocities is all about her raw emotions and experiences as a transgender woman in America.
- Read reviews of Seasonal Velocities here
- Preview of Seasonal Velocities here
A poem: “Cities” by Hilda Doolittle also known as H.D.
Doolittle went by the pen name H.D. and she was into modernism, psychoanalysis, syncretist mythologies, and feminist writings. Many of the themes she worked with fall within literary modernism; the emergence of Victorian norms and the beginning of quickly changing technologies in the 20th century. Her poem, “Cities” is based on her observations of the city, how changed society has become, and the dark realities of life in a city.
A collection of poems: American Primitive by Mary Oliver
As much as she loved poetry, she also loved nature and the humanity of it. Her fifth collection of poems, American Primitive, did so well that it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984. It reflects her love of nature and the American wilderness not only outdoors but within ourselves. This book was written in the memory of James Wright, an American poet. They both worked in similar genres, often talking about nature and the wilderness. However, American Primitive is entirely Oliver’s perspective of the nature both outside and within humanity.
- Read reviews of American Primitive here
- Read more about Mary Oliver and her poems from the Poetry Foundation here
A poem: “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop
In Bishop’s youth, she went out fishing a lot. “The Fish” relates closely to her experience while fishing as a young girl and as an adult about how she could articulate how she felt about the fish she caught. In her poem, she feels conflicted about her catch – how she had caught a fish out of water. As a girl, she might have felt bad about injuring the fish with the hook or taking its breath away. This poem closely relates with how she also felt as a lesbian in a heteronormative society.
A collection of poetry, prose and non-fiction essays: The New Negro by Alain LeRoy Locke
This book is a collection of poetry and non-fiction essays written by Black individuals who have shared their life experiences as an African American in American society in the 1920’s. Locke was the editor of this book, but he was able to give a platform to all these people to voice their experiences. Locke was known as “the father of the Harlem Renaissance,” so it only made sense that a book published under his name would have a larger reach to those who were Black and also other people of color and white people.
A poem: “Poem about My Rights” by June Jordan
Jordan was known for her work as a Black journalist and her poetry spoke volumes. Her poem, “Poem about My Rights” is about how Black women face oppression in America. Despite the title of the poem, it is ironic. The poem addresses the wrongs. Jordan was the wrong sex, wrong color and lived in the wrong country. This poem reaches many women of color as they have experienced what Jordan recounts in her poem.
- Read “Poem about My Rights” here
- Read more about June Jordan and her work from the Poetry Foundation here
A collection of poems: More Than Organs by Kay Ulanday Barrett
Barret is a transgender person who wrote about their life experiences as being trans and gender non-conforming. In the book, Barret makes it an inclusive space for all people of color, gender and sexualities. They want to be able to give people a place where you can have a discussion without feeling like you’ll be attacked for being yourself.
- Read reviews of More Than Organs here
A collection of poems: Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
In Whitman’s collection of poems there are many that allude to gay moments that Whitman experienced. In “Song of Myself,” he expresses how he wants a man to hold him by the hand. This may be referring to his boyfriend, Peter Doyle, who was at the time thought of as his lifelong companion. It was said that gay readers of his work would understand what Whitman was trying to express and that his heterosexual readers would miss. He referred to his heterosexual readers as “civilians.”
- Read Leaves of Grass and more of Whitman’s work here
- “Song of Myself” is the first poem in Book III or read it here
A collection of poems, lyrics and essays: Spells of a Voodoo Doll by Assotto Saint
In his book, Saint’s work reflects the importance of gay writers. His work in literature changed for gay male literature. As a Haitian, he brings influences from his heritage, music and radical political views into the book. He was a key figure in the LGBT and African-American art and literacy culture in the 1980’s and 1990’s. His work was vibrant which made it recognizable to the LGBTQ+ community to have more representation in literature.
- Read reviews of Spells of a Voodoo Doll here
“The Outing” by James Baldwin
Going to Meet the Man, is a collection of short stories released in 1965. “The Outing” is one of eight short stories in the book. It’s about a Harlem church group who escapes the city for a summer day-trip of prayer and romance. Baldwin’s stories delve into the sexual uncertainties and a suffocating religious community in children who grew up in Harlem.
The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer
The play is about the AIDS epidemic and how it impacts the LGBTQ+ community lives. Research, hospitals and funding organizations did not recognize AIDS as a disease that could affect everyone no matter the sexual orientation. It was believed that AIDS only affected gay and lesbian people. Kramer was not only a playwright, but also a public health advocate and LGBT activist. This play is influenced by Kramer’s personal experiences and observations he had during the AIDS epidemic.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
Williams’ play is about the character’s, Brick, homosexual desires and his father’s death. Once Brick’s homosexuality was discovered by his mother, his mother does everything in her power to make him into the ideal heteronormative family man. Williams was gay and had a male partner. The release of this play created a lot of controversy however, it still won the Pulitzer Prize in 1955. This play has been played on Broadway many times and in many different versions as Williams would make edits as he was still never quite satisfied with the published version.
- Read Cat on a Hot Tin Roof here
- Read reviews of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof here
- Listen to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on YouTube here
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
Hansberry was the first African American female author to have a play performed on Broadway. Her play expressed the working class, African-American experience who are faced with difficult dilemmas such as knowing who to trust, financial struggles, racism and classism. As a Black playwright, Hansberry’s play changed American theater.
Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon
Vaid-Menon has written about gender identity and hoping to give people a different perspective that gender is not just black and white. Beyond the Gender Binary is influenced by Vaid-Menon’s own experiences as a gender-nonconforming artist and observations with gender as they also identity as non-binary and use they/them pronouns.
A collection of poetry, prose and non-fiction essays: The New Negro by Alain LeRoy Locke
This book is a collection of poetry and non-fiction essays written by Black individuals who shared their life experiences as an African American in American society in the 1920’s. Locke was the editor of this book, but he was able to give a platform to all these people to voice their experiences. Locke was known as “the father of the Harlem Renaissance,” so it only made sense that a book published under his name would have a larger reach to those who were Black and also other people of color and white people.
Hiding My Candy by The Lady Chablis
Chablis’ autobiography goes into her life as a transgender woman who hasn’t gone through sex reassignment surgery. As this autobiography was written by herself, she goes into the perceptions people had of her. For example, she didn’t like being called a drag queen because she saw herself to be more than just a drag queen or even just being Black. She was more than just those labels, and Chablis wanted to be known for more than just the societal labels. She wanted to be known for her name “The Lady Chablis.”
- Read reviews of Hiding My Candy here
Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas
As a Cuban homosexual, Arenas was fighting as a rebel for Fidel Castro and when Arenas released his works, they were suppressed by the Castro government. He was being persecuted for being homosexual and eventually he was imprisoned for it. His autobiography goes through all of what Arenas went through. He ultimately blamed Castro for causing him to have a rough childhood and even into adulthood.
Death Threat by Vivek Shraya
Shraya is a transgender person who goes by she/her pronouns, and in her experience as a transgender person in the public eye, she has received many death threats and hate from strangers. Death Threat is a graphic novel addressing real death threats she has received. She uses humor and irony to address these letters because she wants to give a perspective of what violent harassment from the perspective of the sender and the person receiving the death threats.
- Read reviews of Death Threat here
Loving Her by Ann Allen Shockley
Known for writing on the themes of interracial lesbian love, making sure to bring up how black lesbians are living in what she calls “triple oppression.” Loving Her was thought to be the first novel to be published piece of black lesbian literature. This novel is about an interracial lesbian relationship between an African American musician and wealthy white woman.
The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom by Barbara Smith
Smith has defined Black women’s literary traditions and has made connections to them with racism, classism, sexuality, and gender. Smith is an American lesbian feminist and socialist. Her novel reflects her critical thoughts on gender, race, sexuality, power and social change.
- Read reviews of The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom here
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Solomon writes science fiction novels influenced by gender, race and sexuality as she has also faced discrimination for their gender, sexuality and race. In her science fiction novel, An Unkindness of Ghosts, it explores the structural racism the main character faces and experiences throughout her journey.
- Read reviews of An Unkindness of Ghosts here
- Preview of An Unkindness of Ghosts here
- Solomon’s official about page here
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The novel is about two African American girls who are writing letters to God and to each other. Throughout time, distance and hardships that the main characters go through, they still share experiences with each other. This book has been banned in many schools for the graphic content Walker writes like the abuse, sexual content and violence that the characters experience in their lives. Walker writes this story of African American girls going through these hardships and heavy topics because of the lesson the book teaches; to stand up against the silence and be brave.
Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars by Kai Cheng Thom
This novel is a memoir of Thom’s life experiences as a young transgender girl. She writes about how her youth being a “pathological liar” and always running away from an abusive house. What Thom writes about closely relates to those who are transgender or anybody that belongs outside of the heteronormative standard and shares a very relatable experience of being a “liar,” coming from an unsupportive household and being alone in your journey to discover your sexuality and gender.
- Read reviews of Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars here
Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us by Kate Bornstein (link)
The novel is a public declaration about gender and what it means for Kate Bornstein. Although she was born a male and going through sex reassignment surgery to become female, she now identifies as non-binary; having no preference on they/them or she/her pronouns. This novel goes into her life experiences as a transgender woman that breaks the law of gender conformity.
- Read reviews of Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us here
- Preview of Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us here
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
This fiction novel reflects the actual experiences Machado went through in her past relationship with her ex-wife. In the novel, the wife doesn’t want her husband taking off her ribbon which is around her neck. The main concept of the idea of your significant other doing whatever they want to you because you are together is still wrong. Machado has written about domestic violence in lesbian relationships in her memoir, In the Dream House, and discusses how same sex relationships are overlooked.
America Is Not the Heat by Elaine Castillo (link)
As a bisexual Filipino writer, Castillo wanted to give bisexual characters of color more representation in literature. Her novel is about an immigrant believing that America is where dreams come true; the typical American dream every immigrant wants to achieve. Since the character’s family disowned her for being bisexual, she has to figure out her new life in America as a Filipino immigrant. In Castillo’s experience, she knows the realities of what hardships immigrants go through when they live in America, not knowing the language, not having a close community to rely on and having queer relatives/children being taboo.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (link)
In his novel, Wilde represented his queer identity through Dorian Gray, a man who was beautiful, young and someone Wilde wanted to be. When this novel was published in 1890, it was a huge scandal because Wilde was accused for its “bad” influence the novel had on society. Wilde was imprisoned for his sexuality years after the book was release and the same moral dilemma that happened in the novel happened to Wilde.
- Read reviews of The Picture of Dorian Gray here
- Read The Picture of Dorian Gray here
- Reading of The Picture of Dorian Gray on YouTube here
You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
As an LGBTQ Arab/Muslim American, she wanted to write about similar experiences many Palestinian American women who were conflicted with their religion, sexual identity and culture. The book follows a young 12-year-old girl who is Palestinian American. It goes on to describe the main characters challenges they face with religion and sexuality.
Modern HERstory by Blair Imani
Imani’s novel, Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History, reflects her identity as a Black, Muslim, bisexual woman. The book is about the people who have made large contributions to history however they were never taught/ recognized in history for their efforts because of their gender, sexuality, race and religion. Imani hopes that this book will inspire people of color, the LGBTQ community, disabled people and people of faith.
- About Blair Imani here
- Blair Imani’s “Smarter in Seconds” series on Instagram Stories here
- Find her books here
Female Masculinity by Jack Halberstam
Halberstam conducted a study about female masculinity, cataloging the diversity of gender expressions amongst masculine women from the 19th century to contemporary drag king performances. Halberstam was born a female, but uses he/him pronouns. When it comes to his gender, he is a “free floater” about it. His work reflects how he sees the world’s social construct of gender and what gender roles each gender has to play in them. However, Halberstam focuses on the ways of female masculinity since it has been ignored in most academia and most of society.
I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters by Bayard Rustin
Rustin was a leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism and gay rights. He was an openly gay man in a homophobic time period however, this did not discourage him from resisting and pressing forward to end racial discrimination in the work force. The book goes on to tell his experiences on how he got his recognition while still staying silent in the background not getting as much attention like Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Read reviews of I Must Resist: Beyond Rustin’s Life in Letters here
- Preview of I Must Resist: Beyond Rustin’s Life here
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock
Mock’s, Redefining Realness, is about her experience as a child going through the hardships of what her sexuality and her identity was without her parental figures around. As she got older, she went through a nonconventional path of womanhood as a transgender woman. This novel is about her and how she faced each obstacle. Her book has been praised by Hollywood celebrities who also relate to Mock’s life such as Laverne Cox.
- Read reviews of Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More here
- Preview of Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More here
And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts
As one of the first openly gay journalists for a major newspaper organization, many of his work focused on LGBT issues like gay rights and the AIDS epidemic that was heavily ignored by the press and medical organizations. His book warns America about the dangers and struggles people have gone through because of the AIDS epidemic. This book explains why the AIDS epidemic spread so quickly and why it wasn’t taken seriously.
- Read reviews of And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic here
- Preview of And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic here