What to Read When You Hunger for Innovative, Newly Released LGBTQIA+ Voices
Look no further for enthralling, sensual, perceptive queer stories. The newest publications from a gaggle of astonishing writers are linked below. In this list, you’ll find mostly memoir and essay collections, plus two novels, a short story collection, and a book of poetry.
of colour by Katherine Agyemaa Agard
of colour is Katherine Agyemaa Agard’s intimate meditation on color and colorism, as a multi-layered construction of poetry, prose, and image built of: paintings, drawings, ephemera, photography, and white space. Memoir smears and rearranges as this artist of Trinidadian and Scottish and Ghanaian descent examines race, class, culture, and queerness. Between the binaries of black and white, and gay and straight, and in the cultural distance between the Caribbean and the US, exists a whole spectrum of color, complexity, mood, and texture. Is “collage literature” a term? Let’s make it one and have this book lead the way forward.
All Land an Island. All Blue the Sea by Tracy Burkholder
Tracy Burkholder’s All Land an Island. All Blue the Sea follows the calendar year of 2020, tracing looking as an act of care. In brief reflections and color photographs, the narrator collects, throughout her fiftieth year, images of found footage, plant life, and urban textures in stunning abstractions, finding tiny bouts of solace and spiritual reverie as the pandemic rages. As in her previous book, I Want More, which examines queerness and embodiment with sizzling musicality, Burkholder takes us to hidden places of quiet resplendence within the storm.
Fairest by Meredith Talusan
Fairest is Meredith Talusan’s memoir exploring beauty, gender, identity, and heritage. This is a story of transformation and self-discovery: a boy with albinism from the Philippines who grows up in his grandmother’s small village between bouts of fame as a child actor, who immigrates to the US and excels at academics, becoming a Harvard scholar, who is misread as a white blond twink, while hiding beneath his unseen Asian skin is a woman who has been trapped and needs release. Talusan examines with acute awareness, from the perspective of two genders, the glory and belonging one receives when seen as acceptable and exceptional, and the pain that comes with breaking bonds and expectations to become one’s true self.
We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib
We Have Always Been Here is Samra Habib’s memoir of growing up Ahmadiyya Muslim in Pakistan, with a growing awareness of her disposability as a daughter through the lens of her strict cultural and familial traditions. This memoir traces her family’s flight to Canada, and Habib’s coming out process, as she expands her worldview and comes to embody the strong feminist creative spirit that she has always been inside. In lush depictions, Habib takes the reader into her tiny world, which expands with travel, as she begins to explore and document how queerness belongs within Islam and in herself.
My Meteorite: Or, Without the Random There Can Be No New Thing by Harry Dodge
Harry Dodge’s My Meteorite is a non-linear memoir charting so much serendipity it makes you wonder what you might be missing each time you blink. Dodge is an artist in isolation and in conversation, a father taking desert hikes with his son, an adoptee who reunites with his birth mother, a caretaker of his aging father. He delves into metaphysics, the paranormal, machine intelligence, and explorations of consciousness, while tending to the banal like birthday parties and art openings, in a voice as voluble as his partner Maggie Nelson’s. Astute, tender, epistemic, poetically stunning—every sentence in this book is a work of art.
Kiss the Scars on the Back of My Neck by Joe Okonkwo
Kiss the Scars on the Back of My Neck is a short story collection by novelist Joe Okonkwo, of interlocking stories tracing mothers and sons, and men and their lovers, mixed with single stories of revelation, separation, and betrayal. Okonkwo’s protagonists are mostly contemporary Black gay men, but he shines in other voices as well: as a young mother caught in an impossible situation, and, in another story, as a larger-than-life butch lesbian songstress at a Roaring Twenties Harlem club.
The Thirty Names of Night by Zeyn Joukhadar
The Thirty Names of Night is a novel of searing pain, beauty, and brilliance by Zeyn Joukhadar. The young trans protagonist in this story sorts through emotional and material mysteries of heritage, amidst unseen guardianship, linking him to a buried but vital source of his Syrian queer roots. Joukhadar writes magical realism high on sensuality, with unremitting heartache, sorrow, and transcendence.
Fiebre Tropicale by Juli Delgado Lopera
Fiebre Tropicale is a novel by Juli Delgado Lopera, told from the perspective of queer teen Francisca, transplanted from Bogotá, Colombia to Miami with her madcap family. With omniscient intimacy, this young narrator spins the grit of her reality into a prismatic story, ripe with vivacity, illuminating her queerness and sense of belonging—in the present, and also in her family’s past.
Homie by Danez Smith
Homie is (the alternate title of) the latest collection of poems by Danez Smith. Bounce and rhythm and verve swing through these verses, some concrete in form, all with a voice that sings with splintering honesty, cred, and deliverance. Love of mothers, of male lovers, of humankind, of friends and family flood this ecstatic array of poems impassioned by Black pride and rage, laden with lamentations of the life-sucking actions we take upon each other.
The Rib Joint: A Memoir in Essays by Julia Koets
The Rib Joint traces Julia Koets’s meandering path as a closeted queer girl growing up in a Southern church community where she could not be herself. Secrets and obsessions cloud the content of this precisely crafted lyric configuration of minimalist segments of astute perception.
¡Hola, Papi!: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons by John Paul Brammer
¡Hola, Papi! is John Paul Brammer’s essay collection in advice column form, about coming of age, coming out, and coming up in the world as a mixed-race Mexican kid from rural Oklahoma who moves to the big city to make it big. Brammer addresses childhood bullying and relatable desperate attempts to find lust and love with the compassionate voice of an admitted pseudo-expert who has put his inner child’s pizazz to good use.
Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir by Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi’s Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir is built of loneliness and aggrandizing, the grotesque and radiant, boldness and vulnerability. We witness the author playing tug-of-war with their pride and humility, their rage and longing for loyalty, and their doubts and devotions. Through excursions across the globe and home bases in Brooklyn, New Orleans, and Nigeria, the author, who identifies as trans and queer, introduces another identity: ogbanje, “a nonhuman entity.” In this epistolary memoir, they ask their beloveds, themself, and the divine about their life path and the decisions they’ve made, some out of obedience, others rebellion.
Broken Horses: A Memoir by Brandi Carlile
Broken Horses is Brandi Carlile’s memoir about growing up in rural Washington, prioritizing country singing and songwriting over school, and all the successes, pitfalls, and personal failures that made her who she is today: the mother of two children, a Grammy-award winning musical artist, and an activist. Carlile writes of her bullheadedness, addictions, struggles, and love of God with precision and repentant honesty. Her chapter on forgiveness is particularly incandescent. I recommend listening to the audiobook, as you get the author’s voice in your ears and her story is accentuated by interruptions of both live and studio-produced songs.
And to close out this wonderful list, we just had to include Liz’s new book, Your Salt on My Lips, out now from Cleis Press! – Ed.
Your Salt on My Lips by Liz Asch
Playful, explorative, taboo-smashing, and delectably liberating, Your Salt on My Lips is a mostly queer collection of literary erotica that will leave you stimulated, satisfied, and yearning for more. Coquettish or dominant, whimsical or down-and-dirty, Liz Asch explores love, lust, and play across the spectrum of sexuality—replete with orgies, personal discoveries, anachronous adventures, and hallucinatory spins at times amorous and passionate, wild, uninhibited, and unrequited. As both an artist and author, Asch ascends beyond everyday erotica, dancing from prurient to poetic in thirty-five scintillating shorts that will stimulate so much more than just your sex drive.