Today kicks off Pride weekend in Vancouver! Here are some of our favourite groundbreaking LGBTQ+ works of prose, poetry, memoir, and hybrid forms. These stories have changed the way we read, think, and experience our lives. Get them. Devour them. Enjoy every second. We did.
Everything Is Awful And You’re A Terrible Person – Daniel Zomparelli (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2017)
Genre: Fiction/Short Stories
Why You Need It In Your Life: Heartbreaking yet utterly captivating, Everything Is Awful is a series of interlocking vignettes capturing gay loneliness. From a narcissistic YouTuber to a ghost ex-boyfriend, this collection is a quietly devastating necessity.
A Line: “I think about hummus and bread. I think about my genitals being replaced by hummus and bread. Like I could lie down at any Mediterranean restaurant and customers would say, ‘What a great appetizer for the whole family, and it’s vegan friendly!’”
Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? – Jeanette Winterson (Grove Press, 2011)
Why You Need It In Your Life: A frank, darkly funny memoir about Winterson’s early life in the UK during the sixties. Religion, queer relationships, and a quest to meet her birth mother are just part of a vulnerable journey that puts the reader in the passenger seat.
A Line: “When I got back that night, the flowers were in a vase on the table. I looked at them… The stalks of the flowers were in the vase. She had cut off the heads and thrown them on the unlit fire.”
Boyfriends With Girlfriends – Alex Sanchez (Simon & Schuster, 2011)
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Why You Need It In Your Life: Sanchez’s novel follows two pairs of friends, Lance and Allie, and Sergio and Kimiko, as they navigate relationships with one another in high school. It’s a rare, smart, and layered portrayal of bisexuality–and even more rare, male bisexuality–that shows how moments in relationships affect each character differently, like a queer version of Flipped.
A Line: “Above all, his dad emphasized the importance of good hygiene–as if being extra clean was the most significant part of sex. And he never even broached the possibility that Sergio might be attracted to guys as well as girls.”
Prelude to Bruise – Saeed Jones (Coffee House Press, 2014)
Why You Need It In Your Life: Prelude to Bruise, one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014, is a brilliant poetry collection in six sections. The book is a deep exploration of growing up black and queer in Texas and Kentucky. These poems’ imagery and flow are remarkable.
A Line: “In curlicues of smoke, I sing / his name / to the night / and his darkness / mistakes me / for sunrise.”
Gender Failure – Rae Spoon & Ivan E. Coyote (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2014)
Why You Need It In Your Life: A stunning they said/they said book about life outside of the gender binary–in the music scene, in the world of performance, and at home. Full of challenges, reflections, and poetic wisdom, this novel is a genderqueer gem.
A Line: “So I get a little tired of having to swallow my lived experience to be force-fed someone else’s what-ifs. I get tired of my safety coming second. I get tired of the realities of trans and gender non-conforming people’s lives being overshadowed and ignored in favour of a boogeyman that might be lurking in the ladies’ room.”
Transcendent – edited by K.M. Szpara (Lethe Press, 2016)
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Why You Need It In Your Life: A collection of transgender speculative fiction with forays into sci-fi, fantasy, and other imaginative sub-genres. It’s an exploration of worlds that don’t function like ours, a collection that floats in a new world.
A Line: “The year 2076 smells like antiseptic gauze and the lavender diffuser that Dara set up in my room. It has the bitter aftertaste of pills: probiotics and microphages and PPMOs. It feels like the itch of healing, the ache that’s settled on my pubic bone. It has the sound of a new name that’s fresh and yet familiar on my lips.” (from “The Shape of My Name” by Nino Cipri)
IRL – Tommy Pico (Birds, LLC, 2016)
Why You Need It In Your Life: Pico’s poem, with roots in epic tradition, is like a concept album: modern, rhythmic, story-based. It follows Teebs, a reservation-born queer writer, who tries to navigate Brooklyn. IRL mixes a deep exploration of colonialism and patriarchy with light musings on gummy candy — starkly comedic and candidly in your face.
A Line: “Don’t fall in love Don’t fall / in love Don’t fall in love / with Muse, duh! Muse is / embodiment of abstract / concept: Art, dance, / astronomy, drama, heroic / poetry, security, good/ god, edible / underwear, pepperoni pizza, Jim / Beam. You touch / his shoulder and he / scoops. Stab. You can’t hold / Muse because yr / the side piece.”
Women – Chloe Caldwell (Short Flight/Long Drive Books, 2014)
Why You Need It In Your Life: A complex novella that takes on sexual exploration, friendship, and female identity in the wake of falling in love (and obsession) with someone. It’s unapologetic, awkward, and intoxicating–a book you’ll finish in one sitting.
A Line: “I feel like people say this a lot and it should be banned from all books, but she smelled like cocoa butter. She read books avidly. She walked with a certain swagger. My friend Nathan saw her walking down the street, and told me, I can’t tell if she’s incredibly cocky or incredibly tortured.”
Even This Page is White – Vivek Shraya (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016)
Why you need it in your life: In this innovative debut poetry collection, multi-disciplinary artist and writer Vivek Shraya tackles colourism, racism, white privilege, allyship, and colonialism. Can a book do all this and also explore the politics of queer love and gender identity? The answer is yes, because Shraya is a fearless and generous poet. This book will welcome you, envelope you, and change you—and it will only hurt a little bit.
A line: “sometimes / the inconceivable: // i am tender / tensionless / in my body / my gender”
*You can read our review of Even This Page is White here.
The Chronology of Water – Lidia Yuknavitch (Hawthorne Books & Literary Arts, 2010)
Why you need it in your life: There are more lovers in this book—male and female—than characters in the average memoir. The sex is hot, but what’s hotter is how brilliantly Yuknavitch subverts literary conventions. Her alchemical writing illuminates new possibilities for the ways we write and live.
A line: “Your life doesn’t happen in any kind of order. Events don’t have cause and effect relationships the way you wish they did. It’s all a series of fragments and repetitions and pattern formations. Language and water have this in common. // All the events of my life swim in and out between each other. Without chronology. Like in dreams.”
Testo Junkie – Paul B. Preciado (Feminist Press, 2013)
Genre: Autofiction and philosophy
Why You Need It In Your Life: Testo Junkie is a book of autobiographical fiction about a feminist’s struggle to rewrite gender–on an intense and corporeal level–by changing her body to become male after the death of her close friend who died from AIDS. It’s candid, resonant, and pushes us to the limits of love and identity.
A Line: “The day of your death I put a 50-mg dose of Testogel on my skin, so that I can begin to write this book. […] How can I explain what is happening to me? What can I do about my desire for transformation? What can I do about all the years I defined myself as a feminist? What kind of feminist am I today?”