The Boreham Library at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith has released a Summer Reading List featuring faculty and staff book recommendations that celebrate and honor the LGBTQIA+ community during Pride Month. In line with the university's commitment to amplify diverse voices, each installment of the UAFS Summer Book Series will feature faculty picks that educate, inform and celebrate diversity.
Please be aware that the recommended titles may contain instances of violence, rape, bullying, conversion therapy, drug use, self-harm, and/or suicide.
(A)sexual directed by Angela Tucker ; produced by Big Mouth Productions, Katy Chevigny, Beth Davenport and Jolene Pinder – recommended by Melissa Freiley
Asexuality, or Asexual—the lack of sexual attraction—is the A in LGBTQIA (which can also stand for Allied). This 2012 documentary begins by asking people what asexuality means—with some interesting answers. It then profiles individuals who are asexual and allows them to explain what asexuality means, including the man who founded asexuality.org and a woman who has been making YouTube videos about asexuality for years. This video is just over an hour and an engaging intro to this sexual orientation and some lived experiences of asexuals.
Carol by Patricia Highsmith – recommended by Jordan Ruud
Patricia Highsmith worked events from her own life into this novel -- a page-turner that much more intriguing for being ahead of its time. The story of all that follows from a chance meeting between a young woman and an elegant married woman in a department store, this novel shows all the psychological precision of Highsmith's best work in combination with scandalous (for 1952) and unconventional subject matter. Don't miss the film version with performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara vividly bringing the story to life.
Carry On : the Rise and Fall of Simon Snow by Rainbow Rowell – recommended by Alora Bauer
An original take on a Harry Potter-esque world, Carry On is, at its heart, a love story about teenagers who don't fit neatly into houses. Simon Snow is the Chosen One. The only problem - he's terrible at it. Despite being the greatest mage ever to walk the Earth (supposedly), Simon can't seem to perform the simplest of spells. Basilton "Baz" Pitch is Simon's roommate and sworn enemy who might also be a vampire. Together they must defeat the Insidious Humdrum, a super villain with Simon's face that's destroying magic. Carry On is the LGBT romance that you need in your life right now. You'll be all in on Simon and Baz as they go from enemies to friends to maybe something more.
The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman – recommended by Amanda Sexton
Lillian Hellman’s play “The Children’s Hour” is an early work about a scandal involving lesbianism, in which the term is never even used. It was written 1934 and must be looked at in its context. For the time it was quite bold and several cities banned the performance. The topic to take away from reading this play has more to do with how society reacts to homosexuality. In this case how it ruins two school teachers’ lives. Also, it’s worth a read for one character’s battle with self-love and acceptance. Her struggle is one of internalized homophobia and I think that’s something that many members of the LGBTQIA+ can relate to. We’ve come a long way however, in more conservative areas “The Children’s Hour” can still be seen as relevant.
Cleanness by Garth Greenwell – recommended by Jordan Ruud
An explicit and somewhat depressing novel, but exciting in that it gives us the chance to see the development of a promising writer with a great eye for detail both sensuous and psychological.
The Full Spectrum : a new generation of writing about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and other identities edited by David Levithan & Billy Merrell – recommended by Jason D. Phillips
The Full Spectrum is a collection of poems, essays, and stories from LGBTQ teenagers and college students. These touching or humorous entries speak on coming out, dating, transitioning, friendship, family, and heartache. I first read this collection in graduate school, not long after I came out, and at that time knew little about the experiences of other LGBT individuals. These deeply personal perspectives helped me navigate my own experience with coming out. David Levithan is a prolific author of LGBT literature, winning numerous awards, and is best known for Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Will Grayson, Will Grayson.
In the dream house : a memoir by Carmen Maria Machado – recommended by Melissa Freiley
A raw, poetic anatomy of an abusive relationship between two women. Written in brief chapters in the second person, with the house of Carmen’s lover as setting and metaphor, the reader is taken on a journey of love, emotional abuse, and, ultimately, healing, and learns some queer history and relevant TV shows and movies (such as Gaslight) along the way. A Lambda Literary Award winner.
Love WITH accountability : digging up the roots of child sexual abuse edited by Aishah Shahidah Simmons ; foreword by Darnell L. Moore – recommended by Melissa Freiley
This Lambda Literary Award winner shines a much-needed light on the epidemic of child sexual abuse, through a Black feminist lens. Candid and heartbreaking, while also hopeful, this anthology of 40 contributions from survivors and advocates helps in the important goal of “naming, disrupting, and ultimately ending child sexual abuse along with other forms of violence.”
Featuring several narratives from lesbian, queer, and/or transgender perspectives, including the editor’s, and noting how—in addition to child sexual abuse (CSA)--homophobia and transphobia further marginalizes them and others in current American society, this vital anthology speaks to social justice aspects of CSA and centers the survivors, while also discussing what restorative or transformative justice might look like instead of carceral solutions.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi – recommended by Melissa Freiley
What if monsters were thought to be gone from the earth, but then you found they exist, only no one believes you? And, worse, the monster lives in your best friend’s house? That’s what happens to Jam, a transgender teen, living in the supposedly utopian town of Lucille. This Stonewall Book Award winner is a beautifully written, slow moving novel about the power of friendship and the hunt for the truth.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – recommended by Alora Bauer
Hands down one of my favorite books of 2017, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo takes you back to the glitz and glamour of Old Hollywood, detailing the title character's rise to fame and her scandalous seven marriages along the way. From infidelity and betrayal to domestic abuse, each marriage reveals shocking secrets and gives you a glimpse into the real woman behind the tabloid headlines. But who was Evelyn Hugo's one true love? The answer may surprise you. I couldn't put this book down. It looks at the cost of fame and incorporates LGBT issues in a thoughtful way. You won't want to miss it!
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – recommended by Alora Bauer
Miller has a way of making Greek mythology new and exciting. In The Song of Achilles, we see the life of Achilles through the eyes of his closest companion, Patroclus. From their first meeting as young boys to their training with the centaur Chiron to the great Trojan War and all the moments in between, Achilles and Patroclus are inseparable. Their relationship is at the heart of this novel, how it defined and affected both their lives. With love, pride, and time stolen from fate, The Song of Achilles breathes new life into an old tale.
For other poignant coming of age stories, check-out:
- Boy Erased : A Memoir by Garrad Conley or film
- Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman or film
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky or film