June marks an important month in the year as it encompasses Pride Month and Juneteenth, both important events that celebrate freedom in different forms. As you celebrate and observe, here are some book recommendations to learn more about the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community and Black Americans.
The Stonewall Reader, edited by the New York Public Library, is a nonfiction anthology that pulls first-hand accounts, diaries, articles, and other periodic media about the Stonewall Riots from the library’s collection. Released in 2019 on the 50th anniversary of the riots, the book is a wonderful way to get a historical perspective on LGBTQ+ movements and understand the riots’ political and social significance. If reading nonfiction is not up your alley, consider listening to the audiobook version where listeners get to experience some of their interviews from their original recordings. The extensive collection will not only give you a perspective of queerness in the past, but it will help you contextualize it in the current political climate.
If you prefer fiction, Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters is a deeply moving novel about women — transgender and cisgender alike — navigating adulthood as they tackle an unexpected pregnancy that causes them to confront their ideas of motherhood, gender, and sex in a unique way. The novel is a groundbreaking example of transgender representation because it not only prominently features transgender characters, but it allows them to experience and navigate issues outside of their identity as well. Torrey tackles difficult topics, making the book controversial. However, with an average of 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads, it has clearly captured an audience because of the daring questions that it is willing to ask and is one of the first novels by a transgender author released by a major publishing house.
Do you prefer older literature? Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin may be more to your liking. Written in 1956, the novel centers around a young American man living in Paris as he deals with his feelings and frustrations about his relationships with men. Heartbreaking and deeply genuine, the novel was monumental for representation at the time and continues to be applauded for its storytelling. Baldwin created relatable, real characters that seemingly come out of the page to share their story with the world. If you were to only read one of the three queer books on this list, I would recommend this one.
Another important holiday during the month of June is Juneteenth, a commemoration of the emancipation of African American slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865. Juneteenth celebrations originated in Galveston, Texas, but have expanded out as time has gone on. Although the day may simply seem like a federal holiday to many, it is really a day steeped in history. Slavery often seems like such a far-removed concept, however, the remnants and effects of it are still in place today. To better understand this history, here are some book recommendations to include in your observance of Juneteenth.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is a gorgeously woven story about two half-sisters born in different parts of Ghana and their descendants throughout history. It is a monumental portrait of generations living through slave trade and the aftermath of it all. Covering topics such as colonialism, family and racism, the novel paints realistic, not always pretty accounts of what is means to be Black throughout history.
Similarly, Four Hundred Souls, curated by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, is a chronological account of Black America told by Black authors. Beginning with the arrival of enslaved people and continuing throughout history, it changes the notion of how history should be written by employing well-known writers and scholars to create something beautiful. With themes of resistance, migration, and identity, this book is a must-read.
Reading is understanding, so as you go through the month of June, keep in mind what this month represents for many people in America and the rest of the world. However, don’t stop your learning here. Continue to seek out new perspectives and embrace diversity in everything you read throughout the year.