By Gregg Shapiro
Few gifts are as reliable as books, especially during the holiday season. The following recommended titles are by LGBTQ authors in the fiction, poetry and non-fiction genres.
For Music Lovers
Almost everything you need to know about Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache: How Music Came Out (Backbeat Books, 2017) by Martin Aston can be found in the title, as the author traces “the sound of lavender” from the 1920s to the 21st century, and includes a multitude of black & white and color photos.
The second such comprehensive history of LGBTQ music to be published stateside this year is Darryl Bullock’s, David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music (Overlook, 2017), which begins with the tragic losses of talent in 2016 (including those who died at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando), and then ventures back to New Orleans in the nineteen-teens before spinning forward, like a record, to the present day.
Award-winning, Grammy-nominated, Guggenheim fellow and composer/pianist/activist/ educator Fred Hersch has many notable achievements to his name, not the least of which is being an openly gay, HIV+ man in the world of jazz. He writes all about it in his memoir Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In and Out of Jazz (Crown Archetype, 2017).
For Memoir Lovers
Bill Hayes’ breathtaking Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me (Bloomsbury, 2017), interweaves essays with journal entries, photos, and poetry, to tell the story of the writer’s romantic relationship with the late writer and scientist Oliver Sacks. Speaking of Oliver Sacks, his just-published 10-essay collection The River of Consciousness (Knopf, 2017) is one of two books he was working on at the time of death in 2015.
Logical Family: A Memoir (Harper, 2017), the long-awaited memoir by Armistead Maupin, the beloved author of the Tales of the City series, is a revealing chronicle of the gay writer’s journey from the deep South to Vietnam to San Francisco.
The unpublished manuscript that became Arch Brown’s A Pornographer: A Memoir (Chelsea Station Editions, 2017) was discovered in 2012 following Brown’s passing, and recounts his interviews and interactions with the actors in the audition process for his erotic films.
With the controversial proposed ban on transgender personnel serving in the military on everyone’s mind at the time of this writing, Tell: Love, Defiance and the Military Trial at the Tipping Point for Gay Rights (ForeEdge, 2017) by Major Margaret Witt with Tim Connor takes readers back to the 1993 passage of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and its 2011 repeal.
For Poetry Lovers
Half-Light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 (FSG, 2017) compiles the work of lauded gay poet Frank Bidart in one stunning setting, including the new collection Thirst, featuring outstanding poems such as “Ellen West”, “Herbert White”, “In Memory of Joe Brainerd”, “The Second Hour of the Night” and “For the AIDS Dead”.
Things are lost (weight, memories, causes) and found (a drag queen, and birds, lots of birds) in award-winning lesbian poet Cheryl Dumesnil’s lustrous poems in Showtime at the Ministry of Lost Causes (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016).
Prolific, young, queer Native American poet Tommy Pico’s first poetry collection IRL was published in 2016. Nature Poem (Tin House, 2017) Pico’s second, book-length epic poem merges poetic and texting language for an unforgettable read.
For Fiction Lovers
It’s no exaggeration to say that you’ll never read anything quite like St Sukie de la Croix’s slim, sexy, shocking and sparkly new novel The Blue Spong and the Flight from Mediocrity (Lethe Press, 2017), even if you are familiar with his historical writing, including 2012’s critically acclaimed Chicago Whispers or his humor/commentary columns in sundry LGBTQ outlets.
In Marriage of a Thousand Lies (Soho, 2017), the dazzling debut novel by SJ Sindu, we meet Lucky and Krishna, a married Sri Lankan-American couple who are, in reality, actually a lesbian and a gay man. The pair’s sham marriage is threatened when Lucky reconnects with her first lover Nisha, who is preparing to enter an arranged marriage.
There’s no shortage of the titular characters to be found in Difficult Women (Grove Press, 2017), the short story collection by award-winning bisexual Haitian-American novelist/essayist/memoirist Roxane Gay.
Queer actor and writer Tara Jepsen’s debut novel Like a Dog (City Lights, 2017) follows 30-something skateboarder Paloma as she rolls through life in the Central Valley, looking after her opiate-addicted brother and finding meaning in stand-up comedy.
The follow-up to Dale Boyer’s 2016 debut novel The Dandelion Cloud, Thornton Stories (OhBoy Books), subtitled “Tales Out of School,” returns readers to the town of Thornton, Illinois through a series of interconnected tales in which the characters attempt to “make sense of loneliness and love.”