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June’s Most Anticipated LGBTQ Books

June’s Most Anticipated LGBTQ Books

Author: William Johnson

June 7, 2020

Pride Month has always contained multitudes; Stonewall was a riot born from a party. A testament to resistance to structural and culturally injustice toward LGBTQ communities, Pride has been defined by the tension between celebration and resistance. Its continued legacy is one of political action, rage, and communal joy.

The beginning of this year’s Pride Month has wrought more rage than joy. Among the inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the horrific violence perpetrated against the trans community, and the continued systemic violence against Black people, the need for informed commentary, deep empathy, and protest has taken on an even starker urgency.

I am heartened to see a cadre of new LGBTQ books that are offering readers necessary historical perspective, righteous anger, and much needed humanity. Let this month’s LGBTQ reading list be both a balm and a call to action.

Institutional malfeasance has been a hallmark of the American experiment. In The Deviant’s War, LGBTQ historian Eric Cervini details the rise of one movement’s drive to confront it.

From the publisher:

In 1957, Frank Kameny, a rising astronomer working for the U.S. Defense Department in Hawaii, received a summons to report immediately to Washington, D.C. The Pentagon had reason to believe he was a homosexual, and after a series of humiliating interviews, Kameny, like countless gay men and women before him, was promptly dismissed from his government job. Unlike many others, though, Kameny fought back.

Based on firsthand accounts, recently declassified FBI records, and forty thousand personal documents, Eric Cervini’s ‘The Deviant’s War’ unfolds over the course of the 1960s, as the Mattachine Society of Washington, the group Kameny founded, became the first organization to protest the systematic persecution of gay federal employees. It traces the forgotten ties that bound gay rights to the Black Freedom Movement, the New Left, lesbian activism, and trans resistance. Above all, it is a story of America (and Washington) at a cultural and sexual crossroads; of shocking, byzantine public battles with Congress; of FBI informants; murder; betrayal; sex; love; and ultimately victory.

Some oppositional truisms stand side by side: desire is the root of most suffering and desire is the key to necessary change. In the novel You Exist Too Much, author Zaina Arafat explores one young woman’s explicit queer desires, while she navigates fraught cultural barriers and intense trauma.

On a hot day in Bethlehem, a 12-year-old Palestinian-American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother’s response only intensifies a sense of shame: “You exist too much,” she tells her daughter.

Told in vignettes that flash between the U.S. and the Middle East–from New York to Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine–Zaina Arafat’s debut novel traces her protagonist’s progress from blushing teen to sought-after DJ and aspiring writer. In Brooklyn, she moves into an apartment with her first serious girlfriend and tries to content herself with their comfortable relationship. But soon her longings, so closely hidden during her teenage years, explode out into reckless romantic encounters and obsessions with other people. Her desire to thwart her own destructive impulses will eventually lead her to The Ledge, an unconventional treatment center that identifies her affliction as “love addiction.”

Desire also runs roughshod, this time to comic effect, in Leah Johnson’s debut novel You Should See Me in My Crown. The young adult novel follows one character’s sideways mission to get out of her small provincial town.

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay, Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor. But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down…until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen.

There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams… or make them come true?

With a mix of wit and pathos, Jean Kyoung Frazier’s debut novel Pizza Girl details one intense, life scrambling relationship.

Eighteen years old, pregnant, and working as a pizza delivery girl in suburban Los Angeles, our charmingly dysfunctional heroine is deeply lost and in complete denial about it all. She’s grieving the death of her father (whom she has more in common with than she’d like to admit), avoiding her supportive mom and loving boyfriend, and flagrantly ignoring her future. Her world is further upended when she becomes obsessed with Jenny, a stay-at-home mother new to the neighborhood, who comes to depend on weekly deliveries of pickled-covered pizzas for her son’s happiness. As one woman looks toward motherhood and the other toward middle age, the relationship between the two begins to blur in strange, complicated, and ultimately heartbreaking ways.

Lambda Literary Fellow Cooper Lee Bombardier’s new essay collection Pass With Care is a lyrical testament to the power of self-determination.

 ‘Pass with Care’ is a testament to trans resilience, queer joy, and the power of finding freedom and adventure within a community of your own creation. In this stunning debut memoir-in-essays, transgender writer, artist, and activist Cooper Lee Bombardier shifts effortlessly between lyrical essays, poetry, and narrative nonfiction as his own landscape changes over the course of two decades. From working-class New England to the queer punk scene of early ’90s-San Francisco to New Mexico’s deserts, Bombardier documents his experiences with compassion and reverence, offering us an expansive view of gender and sexuality, masculinity and tenderness, and the difference between surviving and thriving.

And lastly, if you are in need of some finely crafted poetics, check out new releases from Charles Flowers, July Westhale, Billie R Tadros, and Jay Besemer.

As always, if our list of LGBTQ releases missed an author or book, or if you have a book coming out next month, please email us.



LGBTQ Studies





Young Adult and Children’s Literature 


William Johnson photo

About: William Johnson

William Johnson is the former Deputy Director of Lambda Literary.

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