I have, a guilty confession. I am a book hoarder.
I accumulate books in any way I can- “borrowing” from friends, libraries (let’s not talk about my fines), bookstores (I work in a bookshop, and at this point my paycheck just goes on buying more books). I tell myself that buying books shouldn’t be a guilty purchase.
And to some extent, I believe that claim. This year, one of my goals is to diversify my bookshelves. For me, this means reading stories from authors of different ethnic backgrounds, sexualities, ages and identities. Reading diversely, or in this case, reading the rainbow allows us LGBTIQ+ readers with visibility, and allies with a better understanding of the lived experiences of queer folk.
And with the anniversary of the first ever Sydney Mardi Gras quickly approaching, what better time to seek out brilliant LGBTIQA+ authors?
Here are some truly radical, moving and simply beautiful books which grapple notions, body politics, of gender and identity.
Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor
Where oh where to start? This sexy, snarky and oh so clever book follows Paul: a twenty-something student living in the 1990s. Paul has a secret… he can shift between genders at will. This book had me blushing on the bus, but also serves as an amazing study of gender, identity and love. Non- binary author Andrea Lawlor has received some serious acclaim for this one, from the likes of Eileen Myles, to Maggie Nelson. If you want a romping fun read, but you also want thought provoking fiction- this is the one for you!
The Performance, by Claire Thomas
This brilliant read drops at the end of the month and is sure to put Melbourne author Claire Thomas on the map as one of Australia’s sharpest contemporary authors. Timely as ever, this intergenerational feminist novel takes place over the space of a single theatre performance- A Samuel Beckett play no less. Nearby, bushfires are engulfing the hills outside. Safe within the walls of the theatre, we encounter three women from vastly different walks of life; Margot a university professor, facing a difficult relationship with her ailing husband. Ivy, a philanthropist with a murky past, and Summer, a theatre usher, distracted by the thought of her girlfriend, stuck in the fire zone. Deeply affecting in nature, this intimate novel reveals the power of art in making us turn inward, as our leading characters grapple with notions of identity, shame and prejudice. A must read.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
For those who think they’re above reading teen fiction, think again. This book is gorgeous. It follows two teenage boys, Aristotle and Dante both to some extent social outcasts, who seemingly have nothing in common. As the pair grow together, they build a life changing bond. You’ll need some tissues for this one, I’m warning you.
Zami, by Audre Lorde
All hail self-proclaimed as a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior poet Audrey Lorde. I discovered this book a few summers ago and read it so intently my copy is now in shambles. Zami is the story of Lorde’s life- her personal experiences: her upbringing, exploration of her own sexuality. The book is particularly significant as it gave way to a new genre, the biomythography, which combines history, biography, and myth. Lorde’s writing is rich and nostalgic, transporting readers to the harsh, but sometimes beautiful reality of Lorde’s working-class upbringing against the backdrop of New York in the 1950s.
BY KATHERINE RAJWAR