interior banner image

October’s Most Anticipated LGBTQ Books

October’s Most Anticipated LGBTQ Books

Author: Willem Finn Harling

September 30, 2020

This Month’s Most Anticipated LGBTQ Books

With a global pandemic still underway, the persistence of racial injustice and the structures that enable it, a vacant supreme court seat, and an immensely consequential presidential election looming, you may be reconsidering where literature fits into your list of priorities. You might even be asking if there is room for it at all. But while books can have broad, societal impacts, this month, why not ask what literature can do for you. What do you need from it? How can it meet you in the moment, whatever that might mean for you? Maybe it’s reading a book about the past to make more sense of the present or a fantasy novel through which you can leave this reality for a different, slightly more magical one. Maybe it’s reading your child a story at bedtime, followed by a book of theory to enlighten your mind before you fall asleep.

If you’re not sure what you want from literature (or what you can even ask of it), I encourage you to get out of your literary comfort zone and think more broadly about genre and form. Discover new writers and voices by reading an anthology. Pick up a book of poetry, even if you haven’t read poetry since high school. Or rediscover your love of YA thirty years after graduating middle school. If you have been reading in the same spot on the sofa since March, download an audiobook and pick up the embroidery you’ve been eyeing. Your long commute may be the exact length of a short story or a personal essay. Swap your usual long-form non-fiction with romantic poetry or vice versa. Join a (virtual) book club. Try reading out loud with your friends or to your cat. Who knows what you might discover!

This month’s anticipated LGBTQ books offer many answers to the question of what literature can do for you.

Connection is a necessary thing to seek, especially in times when it is difficult to come by. Begin your search by reading Bryan Washington’s Memorial, a “funny and profound” story about an interracial gay couple, Mike and Benson, whose relationship has begun to plateau before a family emergency sees Mike flying to Japan, leaving Benson back home in Houston to live with Mike’s visiting mother, Mitsuko. In the words of Ocean Vuong: “This book, in what feels like a new vision for the 21st-century novel, made me happy.”

Perhaps you’d like to contextualize the present by looking at the past, which is what Pamela Sneed does masterfully in Funeral Diva. In this collection of personal essays and poetry, she recounts her coming of age in New York City during the late 1980s and the effect of AIDS on Black Queer life. She engages topics of police brutality, LGBTQ rights, as well as the “two pandemics of her time, AIDS and COVID-19.”

If you usually skip over the LGBTQ Studies category in our “Most Anticipated” lists, give Queers in State Socialism: Cruising 1970s Poland a chance. It’s a short collection of essays about queer lives and activism in 1970s Poland, “illustrating discourses about queerness and a trajectory of the struggle for rights which clearly sets itself apart and differs from a Western-based narrative of liberation.” This might be an especially necessary read, given the current trajectory of LGBTQ rights in Poland.

Another recommendation is Queer and Trans Migrations: Dynamics of Illegalization, Detention, and Deportationwhich brings voices from both inside and outside of the academy (including activists and artists) to the conversation about “illegalization, detention, and deportation in national and transnational contexts” with a collection of pieces that “examine how migrants and allies negotiate, resist, refuse, and critique these [aforementioned] processes.” This too is a necessary read, as it highlights the oft-ignored intersections between LGBTQ issues and the continued human rights atrocities surrounding immigration and undocumented persons in the U.S. and around the world.

For those of you who skip ahead to the LGBTQ Studies category, there are new texts by José Esteban Muñoz, Wai Chee Dimock, and Jack Halberstam.

If theory isn’t exactly what you need right now, experience Jubi Arriola-Headley’s new collection of poems, Original Kink, which explores sites for “Black and queer (un)becomings.” The excerpts in the book’s synopsis are striking enough to warrant a read: “Arriola-Headley explores kink as mythscape of promised pleasure, lush and lustral, kink as Godzilla’s desire for softness and the boy gone ‘starburst,’ kink as ‘the sun-soaked / surface of impossible kick,’ as ‘something loose enough / to dance in.’” That being said, I’d recommend taking a look at all of the books under the poetry category this month (Kazim Ali! Caroline M. Mar! Cyril Wong!), especially if you have neglected the genre in the past.

And, of course, I would be remised if I didn’t mention Halloween. Thankfully, there are several books coming out this October in the genre of horror to help you get into the holiday spirit. Immerse yourself in a number of “very short stories of horror” in the collection Tiny Nightmares, edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto, in which contributors have weaved “real-world horrors”, including global warming, racism, social media addiction, and homelessness, into their fiction. Or, for a longer-form piece, pick up Jenny Hval’s Girls Against Goda novel that blends queer feminist theory with experimental horror.

But what if you’re needing part thriller novel, part picture book? Well, there’s an option for you too: Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth features black-and-white period-inspired illustrations by Sara Lautman to accompany her “laugh-out-loud” horror-comedy novel about a cursed New England boarding school for girls. Or were you perhaps intrigued by my previous suggestion of rediscovering YA? Then I’d recommend easing the transition with Laurel Flores Fantauzzo’s My Heart Underwatera coming-of-age novel about a queer Filipina American teenager who is sent back to live with her relatives in Manila after her crush on a teacher turns into something more.

If you’re looking to find comfort in the familiar, why not re-read Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals, reprinted as a Penguin Classic forty years after its initial publication, with a new forward by Tracy K. Smith and stunning cover art. Celebrated author and poet Etel Adnan has a new book being published later in October, in which she reflects on “the breadth of her own life at 95, the process of aging, and the knowledge of her own inevitable death.”

Hope and inspiration can be found in the words of LGBTQ leaders and celebrities via their “deeply personal” conversations with author and celebrity fashion stylist Andrew Gelwicks or, if you need something a little more hands-on, why not try Amalia Andrade’s new workbook for fear and anxiety. And, as always, there is a fantastic collection of children’s literature coming out this month, including The Name I Call Myself by Hasan Namir and My Rainbow by DeShanna and Trinity Neal, all of which do the important work of exposing the private potential of literature to youth.

But don’t just take my word for it! Look through all of the October LGBTQ releases and discover for yourself what literature can do for you. As always, if our list is missing an author or a book, or if you have a book coming out next month, please email us.



LGBTQ Studies






Young Adult

Children’s Literature


Willem Finn Harling photo

About: Willem Finn Harling

Willem (he/they) is a student at the University of Chicago studying Gender and Sexuality Studies and Performance Studies.

Subscribe to our newsletter