June is LGBTQ Pride Month, and we asked our staff to recommend titles old and new that focus on and are inspired by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer stories and themes.
We hope you will check out these great books and join us in Celebrating Pride!
“My pick is Female Masculinity by Jack (then known as Judith) Halberstam. A rebellion against the notion that gender only exists as ‘male’ or ‘female’ (known as the ‘gender binary’), as well as a detailed anthropological catalogue of masculinity as presented by female-bodied people in cultural history, this book asserts that masculinity is not owned by any one sex, while commenting on the problems (and dangers) that emerge when we police the way other people present their true selves.”
— Danielle Thillet, Queens Library Social Media Manager
"I need to evangelize one of the best LGBTQ books to be published in recent years. Alex Gino's George is brilliant because it's a middle-grade book—LGBTQ has usually been a YA theme—and speaks to a younger audience about a hugely important issue: being transgender. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl. George gives us a middle-grade, positive, self-aware LGBTQ character figuring out how to bring others to the understanding she's had for a while now. She's surrounded by a positive support system, including a best friend who's there for the journey and a family who may struggle with this knowledge, but will ultimately have enough love between them to come to a path they can all walk together."
— Rosemary Kiladitis, Children's Librarian, Queens Library at Corona
“Set in the 1860s, Fingersmith by Sarah Waters is an intriguing story that describes more than just a lesbian tale of romance; it’s a story of lies, deceit, crime, passion, and betrayal. After the public hanging of her mother, Sue is raised in a poor and desolate town by a thief and a woman who sells abandoned babies. One day, they’re visited by a man they call Gentleman, who convinces the family to have Sue act as a maid to an heiress named Maud. During her charade, Sue has to convince Maud to marry Gentleman, who plans to 'ruin' Maud and then throw her in an asylum, claiming her fortune as his own. However, shortly after meeting Maud, Sue does something she never could have predicted: fall in love. It was in this moment that I felt this book spoke to the LGBTQ experience. It's the 'shameful,' forbidden, and unexpected love story that touches home for so many LGBTQ persons. It's a story about life not going the way we expected or may have wanted, but rather the way it was meant to be. Waters truly created a story that surpasses time and place and resonates with so many today in the same way it will in the future. It is one of my highest recommendations." (Fingersmith has also been adapted as a popular BBC mini-series, for the stage, and as a South Korean film!)
— Leshawn McFarlan, General Librarian, Queens Library at Long Island City
“I read a YA book a couple of months ago by Ami Polonsky called Gracefully Grayson, and it was about a 12-year-old boy who wished he could dress like a girl. Grayson wore wide shorts so he could pretend they swished like a skirt and he doodled pictures of girls all over his notebooks. He convinced his teacher to let him try out for the female lead in the school play, and the teacher chose him for the part because he read it so well—he really identified with the character, which showed in his acting. Grayson went on to do well in the final performance, even though the teacher's choice had shocked some of the other parents and members of the school administration. Although this book had an unusual subject matter, the story was told clearly and well and I enjoyed it.”
— Ingrid Andersen, Assistant Community Library Manager, Queens Library at Hollis
“While Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis does not specifically address LGBTQ issues, it follows a youngster and his larger-than-life, sophisticated aunt who “opens doors he never DREAMED existed!” Patrick Dennis never explicitly announced his homosexuality during his lifetime, but the nonfiction work Uncle Mame by Eric Myers traces Dennis’ life and reveals the extreme highs and lows he encountered. I love Auntie Mame and Dennis’ other works because they remind us of the joy of our own follies, how important it is to forgo pretense and just be nice people, yet at the same time he lays out a fantastic world that makes us believe our lives can really be as fabulous as we make them! For me specifically, when I read this as a young gay kid, this book took me away from surroundings that often felt stifling and into a world where I was swept away by a warm, loving, globetrotting eccentric. After all, who doesn’t love an unconventional, flamboyant, ridiculously whimsical Auntie who teaches us that “life is a smorgasbord and most poor suckers are starving to death!”
— Thomas Maxheimer, Assistant Community Library Manager, Queens Library at Hillcrest
“As a librarian new to Queens who is also gay, I'm trying to make sure my collection has many LGBTQ selections. While the classic LGBTQ books are excellent and I have read many of those, they really don't pertain to today's LGBTQ teens. So here are some of my new favorites.
“Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
There aren't a lot of teen books about gender fluidity, so I grabbed this one as soon as I heard about it. I know a couple of gender-queer teens and it's a book I would recommend to them. In the book, Riley has dealt with a lot so far in life and now is going to be the new kid at a new high school. You see life through their eyes and get an understanding of what it's like to be gender queer.
“George by Alex Gino
George is about a 4th grader who was born biologically a boy but knows she is a girl. She hasn't told her family about it yet, but she does talk about it with a friend, who loves and accepts her. When her class has play auditions for Charlotte's Web, George wants to play Charlotte but only ‘girls’ are trying out for that part. Read this book to see how George handles it! It's one of the first books written about a transgender protagonist for children. Such an awesome book not only for kids, but also for teens!
“Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
When I first picked up this book, I thought I was just going to be reading a story about the Civil Rights era (which I love!) and then I was surprised! This book takes place in 1959 and Sarah Dunbar is one of the first students to be integrated into the local high school that used to be whites-only. She deals with a lot of obstacles and hatred and is forced to work with Linda, a student who was raised to believe that the races must be kept separate. The two girls learn a lot about each other and then develop feelings for each other.
“One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
Once I read about this book and found out the main character was Armenian and gay I was sold!!! I'm half-Armenian myself and never find books like this! Alek is forced to go to summer school, where he meets Ethan. Through Ethan, Alek's world opens up and his life changes. He soon realizes Ethan is starting to have feelings for him and starts to think about having a boyfriend.”
— Jody Ruggiero, YA Librarian, Queens Library at Peninsula