June 5, 2021
Pride Month has begun and this week we celebrate with a selection that includes fiction from first-time writers and old friends alike, plus an anthology of new poetry. You can mark the occasion by reading one of these new titles featuring LGBTQ+ stories and storytellers. They wrestle with sexual identity, shifting family dynamics, unsettling eroticism, and comic relief. Critics have described a few of them as books you didn’t know you wanted to read. I agree.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
By KRISTEN ARNETT
Published by RIVERHEAD
Arnett’s first novel, Mostly Dead Things, came out in 2019 and made her a household name in literary circles. In her new novel, she once again explores her forte: fraught family dynamics. Set in Arnett’s native Florida, two women endeavor to build a family while their problematic teenage son grows increasingly hard to manage. Arnett addresses the challenges of creating a thriving, loving, queer household, including all the social and emotional pressures within the relationships. And she does so with great heart and humor.
Playing the Palace
By PAUL RUDNICK
Published by BERKLEY BOOKS
What happens when a New York City event planner gets involved with a real British Royal? It’s like a dream come true, but what will the Prince’s family think of him? Who better to tell this story than the beloved humorist Paul Rudnick whose essays and fiction in the pages of the New Yorker have been making us smile for years. This queer rom-com is just the right choice for a comic, uplifting summer read..
By PAUL MENDEZ
Published by DOUBLEDAY
Mendez’s personal history informs his debut fiction about a young man struggling to reinvent himself. Jesse’s grandparents emigrated from Jamaica to a working class town in England in the 50s. He was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, but Jesse is queer and Black and finds himself at a crossroads when he moves to London. The novel addresses how the various pieces of his upbringing influence his coming of age: race, sexuality, identity, and religion. The author (who’s also a successful reader for audiobooks) has said that it “is a story of someone discovering their own politics and shifting from right to left.” Jesse’s powerful story will stay with the reader for a long time.
The Chosen and the Beautiful
By NGHI VO
Published by TORDOTCOM
Another novel that combines issues of race and gender, plus several genres is this debut by Nghi Vo. She has written a welcome re-imagining of the Gatsby story just as Fitzgerald’s masterpiece enters the public domain. It features a favorite and less well-developed character (Jordan Baker) from the original novel, still set in the Jazz Age among the glitterati. But this time the character is a queer young magician adopted from Vietnam. Ambitious and infectious, it’s fun to see the Fitzgerald classic so cleverly retold..
By JONATHAN PARKS-RAMAGE
Published by HOUGHTON MIFFLIN
Behind the tall, lush privets of the Hamptons lurks a private mansion where some unspeakable things are taking place. Jonah, a young New York City waiter/struggling writer, begins an affair with an older famous playwright who invites him to come out to his East End estate. The house is filled with beautiful young men but there seems to be something suspicious going on. Yes, Daddy will have you afraid to turn the pages, but stay with it to the end of this contemporary Gothic thriller.
Home Is Where You Queer Your Heart
Published by FOGLIFTER PRESS
Edited by Miah Jeffra, Arisa White, and Monique Mero-Williams
Foglifter is a nonprofit publisher dedicated to presenting contemporary queer and trans work. Their biannual poetry anthology is a terrific example of some of the most diverse LGBTQ+ writing today, including C.W. Emerson, Michal MJ Jones and Claudia Rodriguez. What unites the entries of prose, poetry and hybrid writing is the search for home, and is in part a response to the effects of the pandemic and the global political climate. A great press to support while discovering the writing of both emerging and established writers..