For some, Pride month is the time to hit the streets and celebrate who we are. That may take you to a patio, a nightclub, a drag show and, yes, the big parade. Pride is also a time for reflection at a time of year when we find ourselves in our backyards in Hammocks, hanging out in the sun at the park or at the cottage, reading.
Ultimately we are all looking to connect. These 10 books, released in the last year, include fiction and non-fiction stories about the journeys of two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer intersex, asexual (2SLGBTQIA+) people we can all relate to. They help us connect with who we are, how far we have come and what matters to us.
“Small Town Pride” by Phil Stamper (HarperCollins)
It’s not easy being a kid, even more so if you are the only openly gay kid in small-town Ohio and want to take on ignorance by staging a Pride parade. Oh, and while you are at it, why not fall in love with the son of the town sheriff? Stamper is a bestselling author of queer books for teens. His latest offering explores a young character’s emotional journey that any 2SLGBTQIA+ person can identify with. It’s all about finding and using one’s voice, an appropriate sentiment for Pride month.
“Funny Gyal: My Fight Against Homophobia in Jamaica” by Angeline Jackson and Susan McClelland (Dundurn Press)
“Funny Gyal” is the autobiography of Jackson, an LGBTQ human rights activist and HIV/AIDS educator. It is a brave telling of Jackson’s young life in a country where homosexual sex is criminalized, and deals with the trauma of “corrective rape” and conversion therapy, her sexual and spiritual awakening, and her courage to challenge oppression. “Instead of remaining silent, she chose to speak out,” said former US President Barack Obama, when recognizing Jackson. “That’s the power of one person.”
“Threads: A Poetry Collection” by Jeffrey Round (Beautiful Dreamer Press)
Author Round has done it all. He’s a writer, director, playwright and even a songwriter. LGBTQ history nerds might be interested to know he was also the founder of Canada’s first annual print journal for LGBT creative writing. Now releasing “Threads,” Round has delivered an enticing poetry collection. It is an exploration of queer love and tender secrets, paired with the themes of suicide and hate crimes.
“All the Rage: A Partial Memoir in Two Acts and a Prologue” by Brad Fraser (Double Day Canada)
Canadian playwright Fraser’s autobiography came out one year ago but, as it was the height of COVID-19 and stores were largely closed, you’d be forgiven if you missed it. Fraser has been billed as “abrasive, notorious and polarizing” — rightly said, if you’ve met him or follow him on Twitter — but embracing that makes for a raw and candid detailing of making a career in the performing arts in the volatile decades that included the fight for queer rights and the AIDS epidemic. Fraser reveals gritty truths about LGBTQ history, all worth revisiting and remembering in a month marked by celebration.
“Painting Church Street in Lavender” edited by Sica Saccone (Goblin Cat Zines)
Dance party event lavender exploded onto Toronto’s nightlife scene in 2018, an instant hit that has endured. It is less about sweating and dancing as having a safe, dedicated and regular place for queer women, trans and non-binary people. “Painting Church Street in Lavender,” a zine edited by Lavender founder Saccone, is meant as a living history generated by contributors. It is an ode to queer joy, including memories, art and poetry. It was released by Goblin Cat, an operation producing limited issue zines and chapbooks by emerging queer, trans and non-binary authors and artists.
“The Queen of Junk Island” by Alexandra Mae Jones (Annick Press)
This is the debut novel of writer Alexandra Mae Jones. Full disclosure, she once worked at the Toronto Star, but if you knew her then, you knew her passion for creative writing would take her far beyond the confines of our radio room. This young adult book takes the reader on 16-year-old Dell’s journey to explore her bisexual identity and come to grips with trauma in her family’s past.
“Queer As All Get Out: 10 People Who’ve Inspired Me” by Shelby Criswell (Street Noise Books)
In “Queer As All Get Out,” author Criswell shares their life as a genderqueer person in the American South, set against a listing of the historical 2SLGBTQIA+ figures who inspired them. The book includes short biographies of people like Zuni artist We’wha, rights activist Magnus Hirschfeld and trans gospel singer Willmer “Little Axe” M. Broadnax.
“People Change” by Vivek Shraya (Penguin Canada)
The pandemic didn’t keep Shraya down. The multi-faceted artist kept busy as an assistant professor, brand ambassador, debut playwright and author of the bestselling 2018 book “I’m Afraid of Men.” In “People Change,” released in January, Shraya explores what many of us fear: change. We change how we love, we change how we live and, as Shraya suggests, we make a mistake to disregard who we were before that change. Called a “deeply generous and honest gift to the world” by actor Elliot Page, “People Change” is a guide to celebrating who we are as evolving beings.
“Wonderworld” by KR Byggdin (Great Plains Publications)
“Wonder World,” by Canadian author Byggdin, brings us the story of Isaac Funk, a broke and drifting 27-year-old (haven’t we all been there?) who fled Manitoba for Nova Scotia to study music and embrace queer culture but ultimately questions his lonely existence and returns to the Prairies to find a place for himself. “Wonder World” might, at least in part, be fiction based on fact. Byggdin grew up on the Prairies and now studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
“ABC Pride” by Louie Stowell and Elly Barnes (DK)
Just as Pride is about activism and celebration, it is also about family. “ABC Pride” is a sweet offering for little readers, presenting the alphabet through our colorful world. In learning about letters and words, the book allows children to also learn about 2SLGBTQIA+ communities and how to be inclusive.
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