by Jessica Freedman
Representation is important. Finding that book that perfectly resonates with your experiences and fills your eyes with tears because you finally feel seen and understood is priceless. Unfortunately for people in the LGBTQI+ community, this is a rare thing to find. To assist with the search for good representation, I have compiled a list of short reviews of some of my favourite books with LGBTQI+ representation.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Levithan’s beautiful prose and intimate look into the fear and freedom of being gay makes reading this book a deeply moving experience. The main plotline follows two boys who are attempting to break the record for the world’s longest kiss. What is particularly gripping about this book was that it is narrated by the voices of dead LGBTQI+ people. These voices reflect on their past lives while telling the story of the present-day characters. The reader hears a story of youth, recklessness and teenage struggle told by those long dead; those who had once been in those situations. Apart from being beautifully written, the book made me appreciate how far the LGBTQI+ community has come in our struggles and how far we still must go.
You Have to Be Gay to Know God by Siya Khumalo
This autobiographical novel shares many insights into the life of LGBTQI+ South Africans. Khumalo discusses the three most difficult (and controversial) topics: sex, politics, and religion. The author shares his life experiences with intelligence and wit, so the book is neither too heavy nor too light-hearted. Khumalo is unafraid of causing offence and critically assesses his life as a gay and black South African man.
Collective Amnesia by Koleka Putuma
This is a poetry collection that explores Putuma’s experiences as a black, queer, South African woman. Her poetry is emotional and vulnerable but holds immense strength in every word. She skillfully tackles important topics like religious homophobia, South African racism, and black history. You can find her performing one of her poems, titled “Water”, here.
I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman
As in her other works, such as Solitaire and Radio Silence, Oseman tackles relationship tension, fandom culture, and other topics that weigh on young adults. This particular novel follows the story of a fangirl spending time with her Internet best friend and meeting the lead singer of the band she idolizes. One of the most striking things about this book is that the characters’ LGBTQI+ identities are not used as plot points. Instead, they are treated as integral parts of the characters’ lives. I also highly recommend Oseman’s graphic novel, Heartstopper, for an adorable gay love story.
Always Anastacia: A Transgender Life in South Africa by Anastacia Tomson
In an emotional and touching book, Doctor Tomson explores her experiences as a Jewish transgender woman in South Africa. From her social life to her religion to her medical career, Doctor Tomson shines light on the difficulties she faces and has faced. It must also be noted that she is an extraordinary advocate for better LGBTQI+ healthcare and is the founder of the Professional Alliance Combating Transphobia.
Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg of LGBTQI+ literature. There are thousands of other beautifully written books and, of course, some books that are less beautifully written. It is important to continue searching for what speaks to you and to support authors representing issues you care about. Happy reading!