Plenty of lessons stem from literature. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the reimagining of society around us, the questioning of the anti-trans brigade, or a flourishing novel of romance – these are impactful stories that can be transformational. There has long been a startling lack of intersectionality and representative diversity seen across bookshelves and in the publishing industry.
So, where do we go when our libraries and bookstores do not have books that resonate with our identities? The world of literature is seemingly changing as Black, Brown and minority LGBTQ+ voices are receiving the opportunity to platform their unique stories. This year alone, we’ve seen incredible authors (and editors) drive new tales forward. From Malinda Lo’s glorious Last Night at the Telegraph Club to Torrey Peters outstanding Detransition Baby, these releases have become markers of gradual industry change.
As 2021 comes to an end, many of our listed books will remain vessels of education and revised for their lessons and brilliant world-building. Last year, physical book sales soared as we found ourselves stuck indoors. As the year wraps up, we recognised a selection of books for their originality and vital messages to the LGBTQ+ community. We hope our audiences take away a few new recommendations from our well-intended suggestions. Here at GAY TIMES, we do not like to pit creatives, authors, or artists against one another so there is no official ranking. However, we have crowned our favourite book of the year. Keep reading to see which authors made our annual roundup.
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
First-time author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is a bold new voice in Young Adult literature. Her debut novel, Ace of Spades, is a dark, gritty thriller that delves deep into the world of Black queer sexuality, class, and institutionalised racism. Set in Niveus Private Academy, Ace of Spades is best described as Gossip Girl meets Get Out – it’s witty, slick, and undeniably mysterious. It’s a new novel you won’t want to miss out on.
Black Joy edited by Charlie Brinkhust-Cuff and Timi Sotire
A compilation of 28 fantastic voices, Black Joy is a brilliant cross-section of diverse Black British stories. A thoroughly enjoyable collection of essays, readers are able to immerse themselves in journies of celebration, self-discovery and unfiltered expression. Black Joy has it all. Whether it’s a retelling of busy houses buzzing with family and friends or recounting proud moments of heritage, there are plenty of stories to get lost in. Reading Black Joy readers do not feel like they’re looking from the outside in, but you will find yourself immersed in a world of communal joy and solidarity.
Detransiton Baby by Torrey Peters
This nuanced debut book has taken the literary world by storm and for good reason. Achieving critical acclaim among all audiences, Detransition, Baby has been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for its portrayal of the trans community. A character study of three women – two trans and one cis – whose lives unexpectedly collide. Peters delivers a stunning first novel centred around three unique women (Reese, Ames, Katrina) as they learn to navigate queerness, gender, and parenthood. Detransition, Baby brings these characters to life in a three dimensional way that is almost difficult to shake by the end, and, for that alone, it’s worth reading.
First Comes Love by Tom Rasmussen
As queer people, should we really aspire to marriage? For decades, marriage equality was the epicentre of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. But, as Tom Rasmussen explores in their brilliant new book First Comes Love, we really shouldn’t succumb so easily to an institution that has historically shunned us; one that still isn’t trans and non-binary inclusive to this day. From polyamory to poltergeists, Tom goes on a journey to interrogate the sanctity of marriage, to challenge the heteronormative ideology of what a traditional healthy union should look like, and bring light to what the marriage system really stands for. Packed with sharp wit, warm empathy, insightful discussion, and Tom’s own personal love story, it redefines what Happy Ever After can look like.
Gay Bar by Jeremy Atherton Lin
Gay Bar: Why We Went Out is a bold and insightful memoir that catalogues the author’s life story in queer venues around the world. Built of seven chapters, each is dedicated to a specific bar and the wonders that happened inside. If you’re looking for an exhaustive history of queer venues, then this isn’t the book for you. But, if you’re wanting to dive headfirst into a personal telling of gay history and experience then Lin does exactly that. In glittery, magnetic prose, readers are offered a tour of various chaotic stories that shaped this author’s life
Last Night At The Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
A gripping novel where historical fiction meets romance, Last Night at the Telegraph is a whirlwind read set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Red Scare. Immersive and creative, Lo gets wrapped up in her fictitious world of adventure and adrenaline and follows Lily Hu as she seeks out the woman she loves during the Communist era.
Let The Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987–1993by Sarah Schulman
A deep dive into the realities of America’s AIDS crisis, Schulman charts how events of activism and crisis come together in this ground-breaking tour de force. A compilation of historical research and countless interviews with the AIDS Coalition, Let The Record Show returns to the frontlines of the epidemic. Blending the past and present of the ACT UP archives, Schulman reminds us of the efforts that went into an era dominated by fear and frustration, and how grassroots organisations changed the face of the crisis.
Release The Beast: A Drag Queen’s Guide To Life by Bimini
Labelled as a “self-love manifesto with a punky attitude” from the drag queen herself, this reflective book delves into everything from positive affirmations to self-destruction. Bimini’s book is packed with first-hand life advice coming directly from the source. So, if you’re ready to have a fun dose of insight into the topics of fashion, gender, and sexuality directly from one of the drag scene’s most successful fashion queens, then this is the book for you.
We Can Do Better Than This: 35 Voices on the Future of LGBTQ+ Rights by Amelia Abraham
A captivating anthology edited by author and journalist Amelia Abraham, this collection of stories unites a collection of leading LGBTQ+ voices to share their stories and stances on the future of queer liberation.
We Can Do Better Than This imagines the next step for our community. Pabllo Vittar pleads for the end of hate murders, Olly Alexander champions inclusive sex education in schools, and Beth Ditto calls for a revolution in representation. Amelia Abraham’s second book digs deep to present a candid commentary on the LGBTQ+ community’s ongoing issues (from the treatment of the trans and non-binary community to personal endeavours to deal with shame and safety when it comes to LGBTQ+ sexuality) and delivers hopeful, thoughtful solutions to our community. Simply put, it’s a must-read.
BOOK OF THE YEAR: The Transgender Issue by Shon Faye
Shone Faye diligently details the reality of what it’s like to be transgender in the UK. The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice is not an anecdotal recalling of personal injustices, but a forward-thinking analysis of how capitalist and patriarchal systems backseat trans liberation. Threaded throughout, Faye unpacks cases of state violence to the varying forms of discrimination experienced faced by the trans community. While, at times, The Transgender Issue can be an uncomfortable read, it’s a book that expertly unpicks how transphobia has seeped into our state and offers unique voices we can only continue to learn from. Whether it’s discussing topics of healthcare, sex work, or feminism, The Transgender Issue is a vital read that clearly communicates the extent of how deeply anti-transness is embedded in our society and how much work is to be done to achieve trans liberation.