To many readers, June marks the start of the summer reading season, but it also means Pride Month! In honour of the season, we’ve compiled a list of ten books by LGBTQIA+ authors that you’ll feel proud to add to your summer reading list. From poetry to non-fiction, from Scarborough to Jamaica, these titles represent only a small fraction of queer storytelling. We expect they’ll inspire you to add more to your bookshelves long past June.
Playwright, performer and novelist Catherine Hernandez was a Toronto Book Award finalist and named one of 17 Writers to Watch by CBC Books in 2017. In her critically acclaimed novel, Scarborough, Hernandez follows the lives of three children growing up in the low-income borough of the title’s namesake.
“Rooted from within the worldview and place it portrays, Scarborough is an intimate portrait of a community with all its nuances and desires deftly captured. Through this novel, Hernandez invites us to engage in both the subtle and the sharp, the ordinary and the extraordinary; which, at its best, is what Toronto is all about. Brick by brick, life by life, Scarborough delivers an orchestral impact, one small, beautiful voice at a time.”
2. even this page is white by Vivek Shraya
Vivek Shraya does it all: visual arts, film, books and music. Now she heads an imprint called VS. Books under Arsenal Pulp Press which offers both mentorship and a publishing contract to an unpublished youth who is Indigenous, Black or a person of colour. With her latest book due to launch this Fall 2018, we’re recommending her 2016 title, even this page is white.
“Vivek Shraya radically centres radiant darkness in even this page is white. In and around and between the lines I see multi-dimensional reflections of myself; all the possibilities of my becoming. Beasts are everywhere, outside and in, and Vivek’s words root my courage to face them in love-a-lutionary soil.”
Gwen Benaway is a Two-Spirited Trans poet of Anishinaabe and Métis descent with three poetry collections under her belt (Ceremonies for the Dead, Passage) including the upcoming Holy Wild (September 2018). She’s the recipient of the 2016 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers Honour of Distinction from The Writer’s Trust and an outspoken voice for Indigenous trans women.
“Gwen Benaway’s first collection of poetry is truth telling in grace. An unflinching look at intergenerational trauma, Ceremonies of the Dead is a stellar contribution to contemporary Canadian poetry. Benaway digs deep and pulls you in, revealing light and love in the midst of violence. She is a poet to watch.”
Comedian Shawn Hitchins has made a career out of oversharing and writing a collection of essays about his experiences feels almost inevitable. Funny, heartwarming, blunt and incredibly awkward, it’s a book you’ll want to devour this summer.
“Thank you, Shawn Hitchins, for oversharing. Any loss of dignity you experienced from writing this memoir is a laugh-out-loud funny gain for the rest of us.” —Rick Mercer
Alex Leslie has published two books (The things I heard about you and People Who Disappear) and has two upcoming, We All Need To Eat (Fall 2018) and Vancouver for Beginners (2019). They’re a self-described “cross-genre writer” and was the recipient 2015 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers Honour of Distinction from The Writer’s Trust.
“Prose poems, soundtracks, minifictions—the lyrical, multi-faceted pieces in The things I heard about you record the ways in which language makes and unmakes us.” —Jen Currin
Dean Atta is a British slam poet with an electrifying presence on stage. His collection of poetry, I Am Nobody’s Nigger, was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize in 2014 and he’s working on a children’s book called The Black Flamingo (2019). With Deanna Rodger, he co-created the Come Rhyme with Me event which includes a menu of both delicious flavourful food and delectable poetic performances.
“Go Dean Atta. Speak the truth. Tweet the truth. Upload it. Let it ring out over the digital domain and strike at the heart of the offline wireless and disconnected.” —Lemn Sissay
Eileen Myles is a poet, novelist, performer and art journalist. Last year, they participated in our panel, Art and Politics in the Age of Resistance, via Skype which was the first time it was attempted on our stage. They’re an accomplished creative with list of awards a mile long (see here) but in 2016, they received a Creative Capital grant and the Clark Prize for excellence in art writing.
“Afterglow is a mutt elegy in a million . . . Myles gets at something no other dog book I’ve read has gotten at quite this distinctly: The sense of wordless connection and spiritual expansion you feel when you love and are loved by a creature who’s not human . . . It’s raw and affecting, and in its wild snuffling way, utterly original.”
Marlon James is a Jamaican-born award-winning writer whose most recent novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, won the 2015 Man Booker Prize. The novel explores the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the late 1970s and it’s praised for its ambitious scope as well as James’ skill at characterization.
“The way James uses language is amazing….Vigorous, intricate and captivating, A Brief History of Seven Killings is hard to put down.” —Ebony
Kamal Al-Solaylee is a bestselling and award-winning author. His memoir, Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes, was a Canada Reads finalist and his latest book, Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (to Everyone), won the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing in 2017.
“Kamal Al-Solaylee perfectly captures the beauty and heartbreak of being brown. This ambitious and powerful book is mandatory reading for anyone who wants to understand the complexities of race relations in our globalized world. You’ll never see a brown person in the same way again.”
Rachel Giese is an award-winning writer and editor who also happens to be the editor-at-large at Chatelaine. Her first book, Boys: What It Means to Become a Man, interrogates what it means to be a man. It’s an interesting look at how the societal pressures that limit girls also limit boys who are trapped within the toxic and narrow framework of mainstream “masculinity”.
“A broad, readable take on the limits of modern-day masculinity, and how to push its boundaries to better serve our children and ourselves. It’s full of love but unsentimental, with new tidbits for scholars of gender, race and identify, and valuable insight for parents of little boys, like me.”
Celebrate Pride Month right by supporting LGBTQIA+ storytelling this June and all year round.