June is Pride Month, and while we celebrate LGBTQIA+ folx year-round at The Rumpus, we wanted to share a list of books written exclusively by queer authors this month. We’ve asked our editors to share some of their favorite titles by queer writers—including older work they still return to, new work they are loving, and forthcoming books they can’t wait to get their hands on!
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Time Is the Thing a Body Moves Through by T Fleischmann
How do the bodies we inhabit affect our relationship with art? How does art affect our relationship to our bodies? T Fleischmann uses Felix Gonzáles-Torres’s artworks―piles of candy, stacks of paper, puzzles―as a path through questions of love and loss, violence and rejuvenation, gender and sexuality. From the back porches of Buffalo, to the galleries of New York and LA, to farmhouses of rural Tennessee, the artworks act as still points, sites for reflection situated in lived experience. Fleischmann combines serious engagement with warmth and clarity of prose, reveling in the experiences and pleasures of art and the body, identity and community.
Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis
In 1977 Uruguay, a military government has crushed political dissent with ruthless force. In an environment where citizens are kidnapped, raped, and tortured, homosexuality is a dangerous transgression. And yet Romina, Flaca, Anita “La Venus,” Paz, and Malena—five cantoras, women who “sing”—somehow, miraculously, find one another and then, together, discover an isolated, nearly uninhabited cape, Cabo Polonio, which they claim as their secret sanctuary. Over the next thirty-five years, their lives move back and forth between Cabo Polonio and Montevideo, the city they call home, as they return, sometimes together, sometimes in pairs, with lovers in tow, or alone. And throughout, again and again, the women will be tested—by their families, lovers, society, and one another—as they fight to live authentic lives.
Odes to Lithium by Shira Erlichman
Odes to Lithium is a collage of moments―a love letter of sorts―praising the medication for Bipolar Disorder. Poems boldly confront stigmas of the mentally ill, showing a much needed point of view on how this medication has drastically changed the speaker’s life for the better. A positive spin on the heavy subject of the everyday battle of mental illness. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Díaz
While growing up in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, Jaquira Díaz found herself caught between extremes: as her family split apart and her mother battled schizophrenia, she was surrounded by the love of her friends; as she longed for a family and home, she found instead a life upended by violence. From her own struggles with depression and sexual assault to Puerto Rico’s history of colonialism, every page of Ordinary Girls vibrates with music and lyricism. Díaz triumphantly maps a way out of despair toward love and hope to become her version of the girl she always wanted to be.
Heed the Hollow by Malcolm Tariq
Heed the Hollow introduces the work of Malcolm Tariq, whose poems explore the concept of “the bottom” across blackness, sexuality, and the American South. These lyrics of queer desire meet the voices of enslaved ancestors to reckon with a lineage of trauma that manifests as silence, pain, and haunting memories, but also as want and love. In bops, lyrics, and erasures, Heed the Hollow tells of a heritage anchored to the landscape of the coastal South, to seawalls shaped by forced labor, and to the people “marked into the bottom / of history where then now / we find no shadow of life.” From that shadow, the voices in these poems make their own brightness, reclaiming their histories from a language that evolved to exclude them. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn
When Patsy gets her long-coveted visa to America, it’s the culmination of years of yearning to be reunited with Cicely, her oldest friend and secret love, who left home years before for the “land of opportunity.” Patsy’s plans do not include her religious mother or even her young daughter, Tru, both of whom she leaves behind in a bittersweet trail of sadness and relief. But Brooklyn is not at all what Cicely described in her letters, and to survive as an undocumented immigrant, Patsy is forced to work as a bathroom attendant, and ironically, as a nanny. Meanwhile, back in Jamaica, Tru struggles with her own questions of identity and sexuality, grappling every day with what it means to be abandoned by a mother who has no intention of returning. A Rumpus Book Club upcoming selection!
feeld by Jos Charles
In feeld, Charles stakes her claim on the language available to speak about trans experience, reckoning with the narratives that have come before by reclaiming the language of the past. In Charles’s electrifying transliteration of English―Chaucerian in affect, but revolutionary in effect―what is old is made new again. The world of feeld is our own, but off-kilter, distinctly queer―making visible what was formerly and forcefully hidden: trauma, liberation, strength, and joy.
Homie by Danez Smith
Rooted in the loss of one of Smith’s close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer. In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive, even harder to remember reasons for living. But then the phone lights up, or a shout comes up to the window, and family―blood and chosen―arrives with just the right food and some redemption. Part friendship diary, part bright elegy, part war cry, Homie is the exuberant new book written for Danez and for Danez’s friends and for you and for yours. A Rumpus Poetry Book Club upcoming selection!
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born—a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam—and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity.
Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man by Thomas Page McBee
McBee’s second memoir takes us on an exploration of what it means to be a man through the author’s account of being the first trans man to box in Madison Square Garden. Amateur investigates the connections between masculinity and violence, deconstructing the gendered behaviors and actions that our society explicitly and implicitly condones. This book is a must-read for parsing through the many layers of toxic masculinity and white privilege in American culture that allowed Kavanaugh to be seated on the Supreme Court.
How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir by Saeed Jones
Haunted and haunting, Jones’s memoir tells the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his mother and grandmother, into passing flings with lovers, friends and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves.
Para Las Duras/For the Hard Ones by tatiana de la tierra
Originally published in 2002, this is a collection of poetry existing from and beyond the boundaries of language, sexuality, and genre. Each memory, meditation, analysis, and erotic snapshot—featured side-by-side in both English and Spanish—is overlaid with the sexual character, experimental prose, and levity signature to the work of de la tierra. As a bilingual book, Para Las Duras centers, explores, and reimagines queer Latina sexuality, opening up space for multiple interpretations and transformations. This new edition features an introduction by scholars Olga García Echeverría and Maylei Blackwell, a foreword by Myriam Gurba, an essay on de la tierra’s periodicals by Sara Gregory, and a tribute to de la tierra by her mother.
Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family by Garrard Conley
The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality. When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalized Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness.
The Future Is Here and Everything Must Be Destroyed by Colette Arrand
“I love Colette Arrand’s poetry; it makes me feel close to George Michael again, makes me understand my own childhood better, and Star Trek too, which is important because Star Trek and transition are the only things that let the future make any sense to me. ‘As white boys often find themselves in Seattle’ is a sentence that lives permanently in my brain now.” – Daniel Ortberg
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.” Unsettling, heart-wrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.
Shine of the Ever by Claire Rudy Foster
Shine of the Ever is a literary mixtape of queer voices out of 1990s Portland. By turns tender and punk-tough, fierce and loving, this collection of short stories explores what binds a community of queer and trans people as they negotiate love, screwing up, and learning to forgive themselves for being young and sometimes foolish.
boy/girl/ghost by torrin a. greathouse
“In her collection boy/girl/ghost, torrin a. greathouse takes us on a journey to find softness, to find malleable understandings of language and of the selves who use that language, “i am searching for a soft poem in this mouth.” The poems in boy/girl/ghost implore us to question fixed forms, to see the danger inherent in confinement, in forcing the self to shrink in order to survive within rigid, socially imposed containers, “i took a pencil to my leg & tried / to see how much of myself i could erase.” Through stunning formal innovation, greathouse’s poems themselves become testaments to the freedom and power that come from sloughing off these constraints. Her poems become maps to new landscapes in which there is space enough to breathe.” – Paige Lewis
Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden
Bea is on the run. And then, she runs into Lou. This chance encounter sends them on a journey through West Texas, where strange things follow them wherever they go. The landscape morphs into an unsettling world, a mysterious cat joins them, and they are haunted by a group of threatening men. To stay safe, Bea and Lou must trust each other as they are driven to confront buried truths. The two women share their stories of loss and heartbreak―and a startling revelation about sexual assault―culminating in an exquisite example of human connection.
Soft Science by Franny Choi
Soft Science explores queer, Asian American femininity. A series of Turing Test-inspired poems grounds its exploration of questions not just of identity, but of consciousness―how to be tender and feeling and still survive a violent world filled with artificial intelligence and automation. We are dropped straight into the tangled intersections of technology, violence, erasure, agency, gender, and loneliness.
Mean by Myriam Gurba
True crime, memoir, and ghost story, Mean is the bold and hilarious tale of Myriam Gurba’s coming of age as a queer, mixed-race Chicana. Blending radical formal fluidity and caustic humor, Gurba takes on sexual violence, small towns, and race, turning what might be tragic into piercing, revealing comedy. This is a confident, intoxicating, brassy book that takes the cost of sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia deadly seriously.
Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett
One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the failing business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Her mother starts sneaking into the shop to make aggressively lewd art with the taxidermied animals. Her brother Milo withdraws, struggling to function. And Brynn, Milo’s wife―and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with―walks out without a word. As Jessa seeks out less-than-legal ways of generating income, her mother’s art escalates―picture a figure of her dead husband and a stuffed buffalo in an uncomfortably sexual pose―and the Mortons reach a tipping point. For the first time, Jessa has no choice but to learn who these people truly are, and ultimately how she fits alongside them.
What Runs Over by Kayleb Rae Candrilli
Born from the isolation of rural Pennsylvania, a life of homeschooling, and physiological and physical domestic abuse, Kayleb Rae Candrilli’s memoir in verse demands attention. Unfurling and unrelenting in its delivery, Candrilli has painted “the mountain” in excruciating detail. They show readers a world of canned peaches, of Borax-cured bear hides, of urine-filled Gatorade bottles, of the syringe and all the syringe may carry. They show a world of violence and its many personas. What Runs Over, too, is a story of rural queerness, of a transgender boy almost lost to the forest forever.
Willa & Hesper by Amy Feltman
Willa’s darkness enters Hesper’s light late one night in Brooklyn. Theirs is a whirlwind romance until Willa starts to know Hesper too well, to crawl into her hidden spaces, and Hesper shuts her out. She runs, following her fractured family back to her grandfather’s hometown of Tbilisi, Georgia, looking for the origin story that he is no longer able to tell. Meanwhile, heartbroken Willa is so desperate to leave New York that she joins a group trip for Jewish twentysomethings to visit Holocaust sites in Germany and Poland, hoping to override her emotional state. When it proves to be more fraught than home, she must come to terms with her past—the ancestral past, her romantic past, and the past that can lead her forward.
Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed
In these poems, Justin Phillip Reed experiments with language to explore inequity and injustice and to critique and lament the culture of white supremacy and the dominant social order. Political and personal, tender, daring, and insightful―the author unpacks his intimacies, weaponizing poetry to take on masculinity, sexuality, exploitation, and the prison industrial complex and unmask all the failures of the structures into which society sorts us.
Sketchtasy by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
This is Boston in 1995, a city defined by a rabid fear of difference. Alexa, an incisive twenty-one-year-old queen, faces everyday brutality with determined nonchalance. Rejecting middle-class pretensions, she negotiates past and present traumas with a scathing critique of the world. Drawn to the ecstasy of drugged-out escapades, Alexa searches for nourishment in a gay culture bonded by clubs and conformity, willful apathy, and the specter of AIDS. Is there any hope for communal care? Sketchtasy brings 1990s gay culture startlingly back to life, as Alexa and her friends grapple with the impact of growing up at a time when desire and death are intertwined.
The Tradition by Jericho Brown
Jericho Brown’s daring new book The Tradition details the normalization of evil and its history at the intersection of the past and the personal. Brown’s poetic concerns are both broad and intimate, and at their very core a distillation of the incredibly human: What is safety? Who is this nation? Where does freedom truly lie? Brown makes mythical pastorals to question the terrors to which we’ve become accustomed, and to celebrate how we survive. Poems of fatherhood, legacy, blackness, queerness, worship, and trauma are propelled into stunning clarity by Brown’s mastery, and his invention of the duplex―a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues―is testament to his formal skill.
Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden
With unflinching honesty and lyrical prose, spanning from 1960s Hawai’i to the present-day struggle of a young woman mourning the loss of a father while unearthing truths that reframe her reality, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is equal parts eulogy and love letter. It’s a story about trauma and forgiveness, about families of blood and affinity, both lost and found, unmade and rebuilt, crooked and beautiful.
Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit by Aisha Sabatini Sloan
This collection of luminous essays features swimming pools and poets, road trips and museums, family dinners and celebrity sightings. In a voice that is at once eccentric and piercing, Aisha Sabatini Sloan plays a series of roles: she is an art enthusiast in Los Angeles during a city-wide manhunt; a daughter on a road trip with her father; a professor playing with puppets in the wilds of Vermont; an interloper on a police ride-along in Detroit. As she watches cell phone video recordings of murder and dreams about the news, she reflects on her formative experiences with aesthetic and spiritual discovery, troubling those territories where blackness has been conflated with death. The curiosity that guides each story is rooted in the supposition that there is an intrinsic relationship between the way we conceptualize of darkness and our collective opportunity for awakening.
Pleasure by Brian Teare
Like Tennyson’s In Memoriam, Teare’s book sees within a personal loss evidence of an epochal shift at work, a shift at once historical, political, and cosmological. Asserting the lover’s body as a lost Eden, revisiting again and again the narrative of “the fall”—its iconic imagery as well as Gnostic reinterpretations—the book also records the eventual end of mourning and a return to the ecology not of myth but of the literal weather and landscape of California. The book is haunted throughout by the task of “writing the disaster” of AIDS; its lyrics link emergency to inquiry in an attempt to make a memorial “in language sufficient/to pain : not in itself the world : the thought of it.”
Love Dream with Television by Hannah Ensor
“Love Dream with Television wonders through the ways in which television, film, advertising, sporting events, and celebrity culture weave their ways into our lived experiences not only of the world but of ourselves: our relationships, our identity structures, our politics, our daily lived experiences of bookstores, national parks, museums, going to the gym. It’s a book informed by the place and community in which it was written; Tucson and its queers have pushed me to be more in my body, more in conversation with place and spirit and alchemy. The body that wrote this book was stretching more, trying to breathe and look around and feel.” – Hannah Ensor
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee
Here is Chee’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he grows from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckons with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover, and a friend. He examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and the nation’s history, including his father’s death, the AIDS crisis, 9/11, the jobs that supported his writing—Tarot-reading, bookselling, cater-waiting for William F. Buckley—the writing of his first novel, Edinburgh, and the election of Donald Trump. By turns commanding, heartbreaking, and wry, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel asks questions about how we create ourselves in life and in art, and how to fight when our dearest truths are under attack.
The Black Condition ft. Narcissus by Jayy Dodd
The Black Condition ft. Narcissus is preemptive memoir, documenting the beginning of the author’s gender transition and paralleling the inauguration of our latest Administration. These poems speak to and from fears holed up inside while contextualizing the cosmic impacts of our political landscape. Ranging from autobiographic melancholy to rigorously meditative, here is a necessary voice to process the world, predicated on unknowable desire and blossoming tragedy.
Inside/Out by Joseph Osmundson
“I wish I’d had this book when I was twenty-two and making mistakes all over the world. I might have made fewer, might have made more, but I might have loved myself better the whole time. Bold, wise, percussive delight—Joseph Osmundson brings to the page the candor of the empty bed, and the full one, too. Inside/Out is like if Maggie Nelson had written Bluets about fucking men.” – Alexander Chee
When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri
Katie Daniels, a twenty-eight-year-old Kentucky transplant with a strong set of traditional values, has just been dumped by her fiancé when she finds herself seated across a negotiating table from native New Yorker Cassidy Price, a sexy, self-assured woman wearing a man’s suit. At first neither of them knows what to make of the other, but soon their undeniable connection will bring into question everything each of them thought they knew about sex and love.
The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon
A powerful, darkly glittering novel about violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young Korean American woman at an elite American university is drawn into acts of domestic terrorism by a cult tied to North Korea. The Incendiaries is a fractured love story and a brilliant examination of the minds of extremist terrorists, and of what can happen to people who lose what they love most.
Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington
In the city of Houston—a sprawling, diverse microcosm of America—the son of a black mother and a Latino father is coming of age. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, weathering his brother’s blows, resenting his older sister’s absence. And discovering he likes boys. Around him, others live and thrive and die in Houston’s myriad neighborhoods: a young woman whose affair detonates across an apartment complex, a ragtag baseball team, a group of young hustlers, hurricane survivors, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing, a reluctant chupacabra. With soulful insight into what makes a community, a family, and a life, Lot explores trust and love in all its unsparing and unsteady forms.
Some Hell by Patrick Nathan
Colin’s family is dissolving in the aftermath of his father’s suicide. While his mother, Diane, retreats into therapy and cynicism, Colin clings to every shred of normal life. Awash with guilt, he casts about for someone to confide in: first his estranged grandfather, then a predatory science teacher. Shunned by his siblings and rejected by his homophobic best friend, Colin immerses himself in the notebooks his father left behind. Full of strange facts, lists, and historical anecdotes that neither Colin nor Diane can understand, the notebooks infect their worldview until they can no longer tell what’s real and what’s imagined.
Abandon Me by Melissa Febos
At once a fearlessly vulnerable memoir and an incisive investigation of art, love, and identity, Abandon Me draws on childhood stories, religion, psychology, mythology, popular culture, and the intimacies of one writer’s life to reveal intellectual and emotional truths that feel startlingly universal.