These are adult literary novels and memoirs featuring LGBTQ+ protagonists full of depth and sensitivity. From coming-of-age stories to transformational cyberpunk, these books are immersive and transformative.
Titles are alphabetical by author.
sorted: Growing Up, Coming Out, and Finding My Place
When Jackson Bird was twenty-five, he came out as transgender to his friends, family, and anyone in the world with an internet connection.
Assigned female at birth and raised as a girl, he often wondered if he should have been born a boy. Jackson didn’t share this thought with anyone because he didn’t think he could share it with anyone. Growing up in Texas in the 1990s, he had no transgender role models. He barely remembers meeting anyone who was openly gay, let alone being taught that transgender people existed outside of punchlines.
With warmth and wit, Jackson also recounts how he navigated the many obstacles and quirks of his transition–like figuring out how to have a chest binder delivered to his NYU dorm room and having an emotional breakdown at a Harry Potter fan convention. From his first shot of testosterone to his eventual top surgery, Jackson lets you in on every part of his journey–taking the time to explain trans terminology and little-known facts about gender and identity along the way.
Jackson Bird is a multi-disciplined creator whose original works include his debut book Sorted: Growing Up, Coming Out, and Finding My Place, his YouTube channel, jackisnotabird, the podcast Cool Stuff Ride Home, his TED Talk, and on-stage performances with the New York Neo-Futurists. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Advocate, and more.
Under the Udala Trees
Intimate, witty, and deeply sexy, Homebodies is a testament to those trying to be heard and loved in a world that refuses to make space, and introduces a standout new writer.
Under the Udala Trees
Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does. Born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child and they, star-crossed, fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls. But when their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself–and there is a cost to living inside a lie.
Chinelo Okparanta is the author of Happiness, Like Water, Under the Udala Trees, and most recently, Harry Sylvester Bird. Her honors include an O. Henry Prize and finalist selections for the International DUBLIN Literary Award, the NAACP Image Award in Fiction, and the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award, among others. In 2017, Okparanta was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists, and in 2018 she served as a fiction judge for the U.S. National Book Awards.
The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts
Folktales and spirits animate this lively and unforgettable coming-of-age tale of two Jamaican-Trinidadian sisters in Brooklyn grappling with their mother’s illness, their father’s infidelity, and the truth of their family’s past
Sisters Zora and Sasha Porter are drifting apart. Bearing witness to their father’s violence and their mother’s worsening illness, an unsettled Zora escapes into her journal, dreaming of being a writer, while Sasha discovers sex and chest binding, spending more time with her new girlfriend than at home.
But the sisters, like their parents, must come together to answer to something more ancient and powerful than they know–and reckon with a family secret buried in the past. A tale told from the perspective of a mischievous narrator, featuring the Rolling Calf who haunts butchers, Mama Dglo who lives in the ocean, a vain tiger, and an outsmarted snake, The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts is set in a world as alive and unpredictable as Helen Oyeyemi’s.
Telling of the love between sisters who don’t always see eye to eye, this extraordinary debut novel is a celebration of the power of stories, asking, What happens to us when our stories are erased? Do we disappear? Or do we come back haunting?
Soraya Palmer is the author of The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts. She is a Flatbush-born-and-raised writer and licensed social worker who has worked to advocate for survivors of gender-based violence, a youth advocate, and a community organizer who fights against gentrification and police brutality.
When They Tell You to Be Good
After immigrating from Jamaica to the United States, Prince Shakur’s family is rocked by the murder of Prince’s biological father in 1995. Behind the murder is a sordid family truth, scripted in the lines of a diary by an outlawed uncle hell-bent on avenging the murder of Prince’s father. As Shakur begins to unravel his family’s secrets, he must navigate the strenuous terrain of coming to terms with one’s inner self while confronting the steeped complexities of the Afro-diaspora.
When They Tell You to Be Good charts Shakur’s political coming of age from closeted queer kid in a Jamaican family to radicalized adult traveler, writer, and anarchist in Obama and Trump’s America. Shakur journeys from France to the Philippines, South Korea, and elsewhere to discover the depths of the Black experience, and engages in deep political questions while participating in movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock. By the end, Shakur reckons with his identity, his family’s immigration, and the intergenerational impacts of patriarchal and colonial violence.
Examining a tangled web of race, trauma, and memory, When They Tell You to Be Good shines a light on what we all must ask of ourselves–to be more than what America envisions for the oppressed–as Shakur compels readers to take a closer, deeper look at the political world of young, Black, queer, and radical millennials today.
Prince Shakur is a Jamaican-American author, journalist, podcast host, and video maker. His writings have appeared in Teen Vogue, Afropunk, Catapult, Vice, and more on queer culture, film, and the inner lives of black icons. His media work has been recognized by GLAAD and Society for Features Journalism. His debut memoir, When They Tell You To Be Good, has been described as “… a searing account of self-discovery in the face of structural oppression” by Publishers Weekly and is a TIME Magazine’s “Most Anticipated Book of Fall 2022”. Shakur has attended residencies with Sangam House, Studios of Key West, Norton Island, Atlantic Center for the Arts, and La Madison Baldwin.
Malaya Clondon hates when her mother drags her to Weight Watchers meetings in the church’s stuffy basement community center. A quietly inquisitive eight-year-old struggling to suppress her insatiable longing, she would much rather paint alone in her bedroom, or sneak out with her father for a sampling of Harlem’s forbidden street foods.
For Malaya, the pressures of going to a predominantly white Upper East Side prep school are compounded by the high expectations passed down over generations from her sharp-tongued grandmother and her mother, Nyela, a painfully proper professor struggling to earn tenure at a prestigious university. But their relentless prescriptions–fad diets of cottage-cheese and sugar-free Jell-O, high-cardio African dance classes, endless doctors’ appointments–don’t work on Malaya.
As Malaya comes of age in a rapidly gentrifying 1990s Harlem, she strains to understand “ladyness” and fit neatly within the suffocating confines of a so-called “femininity” that holds no room for her body. She finds solace in the lyrical riffs of Biggie Smalls and Aaliyah, and in the support of her sensitive father, Percy; still, tensions at home mount as rapidly as Malaya’s weight. Nothing seems to help–until a family tragedy forces her to finally face the source of her hunger on her own terms.
Exquisitely compassionate and clever, Big Girl is “filled with everyday people who, in Mecca Jamilah Sullivan’s gifted hands, show us the love and struggle of what it means to be inside bodies that don’t always fit with the outside world” (Jacqueline Woodson). In tracing the perils and pleasures of the inheritance that comes with being born, Sullivan pushes boundaries and creates an unforgettable portrait of Black womanhood in America.
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, Ph.D., is the author of Big Girl, a NY Times Editors’ Choice selection, Blue Talk and Love, winner of the Judith Markowitz Award for LGBTQ Writers and The Poetics of Difference: Queer Feminist Forms in the African Diaspora. She has earned honors from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Center for Fiction, and the NEA. She is Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University.
Everything is Beautiful, and I’m Not Afraid
This one-of-a-kind graphic novel explores the poetics of searching for connection, belonging, and identity through the fictional life of a young, queer immigrant. Inspired by the creator’s own experiences as a queer, China-born illustrator living in the United States, Everything Is Beautiful, and I’m Not Afraid has an undeniable memoir quality to its recollection and thought-provoking accounts of what it’s like to navigate the complexities of seeking belonging–mentally and geographically.
Yao Xiao is a cartoonist and illustrator living in New York. Yao was born in China and emigrated to the United States in 2006. After graduation with a degree in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts, Yao sought a way to document her experiences as a queer immigrant in and developed a series of comics incorporating illustration and writing. Her debut graphic novel, Everything Is Beautiful, And I’m Not Afraid was published by Andrews McMeel in 2020 and has received praise by Publishers Weekly and Ms. Magazine. Her work has been nominated for the Ignatz Award and recognized by the Society of Illustrators.