Pride Month Reading List: 5 Contemporary Books by Queer Authors to Check Out (Like, Yesterday)

Pride Month is already winding down, and this year, it’s looking quite a bit different than usual. While mass gatherings, marches, and celebrations are largely cancelled amidst COVID-19, there are many other ways to celebrate the LGBT+ community.

And one alternative way is to support the work of LGBT+ authors. Purchasing, reading, and sharing books by queer writers is something you can do from the comfort of your home — which still goes a long way in uplifting oft-marginalized voices.

Here are five of my favourite books by LGBT+ authors from the past few years. They vary in subject matter, but all include some form of a personal narrative:

1. Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope by Karamo Brown

Known best for his role as the culture expert of Netflix’s hit Queer Eye, Karamo Brown gives an intensely personal and uplifting account of his life in this memoir. Never one to shy away from deep and complicated conversations, Brown gives an intimate look at his own struggles and triumphs.

You may be used to watching Brown facilitate the emotional transformations of Queer Eye’s heroes, but his own life story is perhaps the most interesting of all. This book covers so many intersecting issues, like growing up in an abusive household, navigating substance abuse/mental health issues, and growing up as a gay, black man in America. 

Brown tackles each subject with care, ultimately leaving the reader feeling challenged and inspired. As a trained social worker, he is a master at using difficult experiences to facilitate personal growth, and after reading his memoir, you’ll understand the why behind his signature process. Keep your tissues handy, but rest assured that you’ll leave feeling the warmth and hope Brown is known for providing.

2. Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future by Pete Buttigieg

New York Times bestseller, this autobiography by Democratic nominee hopeful Pete Buttigieg is reflective and beautiful. Full disclosure — I’m currently part-way through reading this title, but I’m already deeply engaged in his story.

With perhaps the most unique resume imaginable, Buttigieg has won over the hearts of many this past year in the spotlight. The first openly-gay person to run a major presidential campaign, his life story has been broadcast frequently as of late. 

Buttigieg is Harvard-educated, Oxford-educated, a former recipient of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, an Afghanistan War veteran, and a former small-town mayor of South Bend, Indiana. (And just a few sentences into this book, you’ll notice that his writing style is indicative of an Ivy League literature major.)

If you’ve ever been curious about the backstory of this LGBT+ trailblazer, definitely check out his autobiography.

3. Bad with Money: The Imperfect Art of Getting Your Financial Sh*t Together by Gaby Dunn

In this personal finance title, self-proclaimed bi-con (“bisexual icon”) Gaby Dunn continues the conversation started in her popular podcast, Bad with Money. Recognized by many for her early work at Buzzfeed, Dunn’s accomplishments span genres.

Since leaving Buzzfeed to start Just Between Us (a YouTube-channel-turned-podcast) with comedy partner Allison Raskin, Dunn has also co-authored a New York Times bestselling YA novel and recently put out her first comic book.

Bad with Money (the book) takes Dunn’s own money journey and blends it with her classic wit, focus on intersectional activism, and all the info she’s learned since starting her hit podcast of the same name.

Funny, cheeky, and blunt, the book is an excellent look at the personal finance space from the lens of an author deeply concerned with intersecting forms of oppression such as systemic racism, LGBT+ marginalization, and sexism.

Always one to centre social activism in her work, this book by Dunn is a must-read for anyone interested in improving their financial situation or learning more about her unique story of improving her own. 

4. Naturally Tan by Tan France

This Sunday Times bestselling autobiography is written by another Queer Eye expert: Tan France. Known for his impeccable fashion sense and no-BS attitude, France is another extremely interesting LGBT+ figure.

His Wikipedia bio notes how France became “one of the very first openly gay South Asian men on a major show, and one of the first out gay Muslim men on western television.” Another LGBT+ trailblazer, France’s autobiography is a witty, fun, and frank account of his fascinating life.

France covers everything from growing up as one of the only people of colour in his British neighbourhood to coming out as gay to his family. Though he describes how difficult it was facing intersecting challenges like racism and homophobia, his story is ultimately one of triumph. 

A massively-successful fashion designer now married to the love of his life (an American cowboy), France weaves the tale of how he became the man he is today. Interspersed with his trademark fashion advice, this memoir is another must-read (which extends far beyond the importance of a French tuck).

5. I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff by Abbi Jacobson

Lastly, this collection of personal essays is by Broad City co-creator Abbi Jacobson. Already a New York Times bestselling author before writing this title, her tender account of a solo cross-country adventure is essential reading for any newly-out queer person.

Although you likely know this multi-faceted artist best for her stoner comedy style and cheeky drawings, I Might Regret This is an excellent account of what it’s like to face your first big heartbreak. The book follows Jacobson as she grapples with falling in (and out) of love for the first time ever — with a woman.

Whether you’re a diehard Broad City fan or just an individual questioning your sexuality, this title is another arresting personal story to consider reading.

Conclusion


And there you have it: my list of five great books to check out this Pride Month. Thank you, as always, for reading the Writing Advice blog, and be sure to subscribe to be notified of each new article.

Happy reading!

Why Reading Poetry Is Just as Important as Writing It: The Key to Creating Great Work

“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” — Stephen King

In King’s book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he explains how important it is to be continually reading if you want to get serious about writing.

I couldn’t agree more.

The bulk of my education about the English language came from the act of reading.

And I’m not talking about assigned school-work. I’m talking about round-the-clock reading for fun.

When I was a young child, my mom would endlessly read books to me from the local library. She was a teacher in her home country, and is a trained early childhood educator here in Canada, so she’s always appreciated the value of learning.

As soon as I could read independently, I inhaled books to no end.

In elementary school, I’d bring home a backpack full of books I’d borrowed from the classroom — every single night.

At six years old, my teacher remarked that I was already reading at a fifth-grade level. And I didn’t stop there.

I entered and won my local library’s creative writing contests as soon as I was old enough to enter.

By the age of thirteen, I had already won a national youth literary contest, given a paid poetry reading at the reception, and gotten a publishing credit out of the whole thing.

None of this happened by accident.

Why reading is your secret weapon as a creative writer

Fast-forward to today, and I’ve won more literary contests, been published widely in magazines/journals, and written two books for my publisher.

All of these accomplishments started from one habit: regularly reading for fun.

So if you want to embark on a creative writing career, it’s crucial that you start reading.

Read whatever you can get your hands on: poetry, novels, non-fiction.

Every genre has something different to teach you; poetry teaches brevity and emotion; fiction teaches world-building; non-fiction teaches research skills.

And you don’t need to spend a ton of money. Check out your local library (or college’s library) to start.

Used book stores are also gold-mines for finding affordable new reads.

If you have the cash to buy lots of new books, go for it — but don’t feel obligated.

Writing poetry in particular

The bulk of my career has been as a professional poet. Although I dabble in creative non-fiction and do plenty of client work, poetry is my niche.

For poetry especially, you really need to expose yourself to different styles. Read the classics. Read new poetry. Read formal poetry. Read experimental poetry.

Poetry is so incredibly open-ended — unlike fiction, there really aren’t any rigid guidelines for writing it.

You can write a poem that’s one word long, or you can write a poem that’s 1,000 words long. You can have a title or not. Poets have the freedom to basically do whatever we want.

But how can you find your unique style if you’re not a seasoned pro? Just keep reading.

Eventually, you’ll stumble upon poets that change your life. (For me, those include authors like Sylvia Plath and Charles Bukowski.)

You’ll find poets that write about things you care about. You’ll find poets that have incredible styles the kind you’d like to emulate.

But you’ll also find authors whose work you really hate (for me, that includes ‘Instagram poets’ like Rupi Kaur). And that’s good, too! It’s all part of the process.

You need to dip your toes into many different types of writing — otherwise, you won’t know what you like and dislike.

Reading is a constant process of learning new things about the world (and about your personal taste).

Get inspired, but don’t copy

It’s great to read other poets to get inspired. But don’t try to outright copy another writer’s style. That’s pointless and uninteresting.

There’s no use trying to be the next Shakespeare — because you aren’t Shakespeare.

Embrace who you are: your identity, your life experiences, your preferences, and your thoughts. Look to other writers for influence, but don’t try to imitate them.

Keep reading and keep writing new work. The two practices will feed into each other.

Conclusion

So, always keep a new book on your bedside table.

Constantly seek new literature to read.

And think of reading as a prerequisite for creating great work.

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As always, thanks for reading my Writing Advice column here on my blog.

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Happy writing!