This year might be weird in, well, pretty much every other way, but it’s been a great year for lovers of LGBT lit. Here are five of the most acclaimed books published this year that feature prominent queer characters or were written by queer and/or trans authors.
Juliet Takes a Breath, by Gabby Rivera (Riverdale Avenue Books)
Gabby Rivera’s debut novel was described as “the dopest LGBTQA YA book ever” by Latina and as “outstanding” by Roxane Gay herself. And it’s easy to see why: This is one gorgeously written, dreamy-badass story. Our Juliet, a teen Puerto Rican lesbian who leaves the Bronx to intern in Portland for a single life-changing summer with her favorite feminist author, pulls precisely zero punches.
We Love You, Charlie Freeman, by Kaitlyn Greenidge (Algonquin Books)
The New York Times describes Kaitlyn Greenidge’s debut novel as “terrifically auspicious” and “ambitious.” And so it is, delving into the intricate and often unspoken complexities of racial identity and racialization through the eyes of the black Freeman family. The Freeman move from a primarily black neighborhood in Massachusetts to the all-white, wealthy Berkshires and settle in with a fifth family member–a chimpanzee, Charlie–as part of a scientific experiment. The relatively timid 14-year-old Charlotte Freeman strikes up a young romance with Adia Breitling, a teen who is much more aware of her own feelings about race, her identity, and sexuality.
Princess Princess Ever After, by Katie O’Neill (Oni Press)
Meant for kids ages 9-12 but lovely at any age, Katie O’Neill’s Princess Princess Ever After is a lively graphic normal that eschews stereotypes about ‘damsels in distress’ while maintaining the whimsy of fairy tales. Sadie and Amira (who initially rescues Sadie from a tower) are two princesses with very disparate strengths and weaknesses. They fall in love, defeat evil, and go on adventures in this rollicking, big-hearted tale.
even this page is white, by Vivek Shraya (Arsenal Pulp Press)
even this page is white is a stark, bold poetry debut. Shraya writes on, through, and about skin and color–and the meanings we make of both. This beautiful collection is the rawest consideration of race, racism, and identity that I’ve read in a while.
Trans Toronto-based writer and artist Shraya is a three-time Lambda Literary Awards finalist who recently also published a children’s picture book, The Boy and the Bindi, with Arsenal Press.
I’m Just a Person, by Tig Notaro (Ecco)
Forget 2016 — Tig Notaro’s weirdest year had to be 2012. Within four months, she had to grieve the sudden loss of her mother, battle a breast cancer diagnosis and a hospitalization for an intestinal disease, AND get over a bad breakup. Three days after her cancer diagnosis, she did a legendary set (that Louis C.K. described as one of the best nights of standup he’d ever seen) that began, “Good evening. Hello. I have cancer.”
This New York Times bestselling memoir boasts the same sharp comedic bite and dark wit for which Notaro is famous as a standup comedian and comedy writer. But don’t worry if, like me, you only like happy endings: Notaro is newly married, is in remission, and has her own show on Amazon.