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Stonewall at 50: Suggested readings for Pride!

Pride Month is an important global event every year, but this year is special: June 28th, 2019 is the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Stonewall riots, the event that each year’s Pride Month commemorates. It’s also a special year because, in honor of a half-century of gay rights, gay pride, and gay struggle, we’re re-releasing Charles Kaiser’s The Gay Metropolis—the landmark history of gay life in twentieth-century New York first published in 1997—in an updated edition with a new introduction. That re-release heads up this list, along with ten more books on LGBTQ+ themes we’re proud to publish, and glad to recommend, this Pride Month. Happy Pride!

 

The Gay Metropolis (Updated and with a New Introduction)Charles Kaiser
Charles Kaiser’s pathbreaking history gives us gay New York in the twentieth century as a saga of struggle and triumph, and was instantly recognized as one of the most authoritative works of its kind. The Gay Metropolis has been newly updated to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall — an epochal event that, along with its aftermath, the book explores in depth. By examining transformations in the worlds of American film, music, and TV, alongside gains and reversals in the American court system, and our broader culture, Kaiser paints a vivid portrait of an astounding era, with new material carrying us into the age of RuPaul’s Drag Race and gay marriage. A New York Times Notable Book of the Year and winner of a Lambda Literary Award, The Gay Metropolis is a vital telling of American history. (Be sure, too, to read Charles’s outstanding recent Time magazine piece, in which some of today’s most prominent LGBT activists reflect on Stonewall at 50, with gorgeous photography by Collier Schorr.)

 

EvolutionEileen Myles
Eileen Myles is arguably the premier queer poet in English today, and Evolution—published in 2018 after seven years without a new collection—amply testifies to why. Upending genre in a new vernacular that enacts—like nobody else—the way we speak (inside and out) today, Myles speaks, in a direct voice that pulses with the contemporary, to humanity’s most venerable concerns, drives, preoccupations, and exaltations. In Evolution, the New York Times Book Review writes, “we encounter an arrival, a voice always becoming, unpinnable and queer.”

 

Christodora / Tim Murphy
The Christodora House is a storied apartment building in Manhattan’s East Village, and this vivid and compelling novel follows a diverse set of characters whose fates intertwine there — including a privileged young couple with artistic ambitions, and their neighbor, a lonely Puerto Rican gay man once celebrated for his AIDS activism and now living the life of an addict. Following a stretch of history that extends from the Tompkins Square Riots of 1988 to a projected future that finds New York  a barren of glass towers in the throes of global warming, it’s a captivating portrait of how ambition, compulsion, and trauma form and re-form all of our lives. The New York Times Book Review called it a “thrillingly accomplished novel… joyous despite its subject matter.”

 

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson
Today, Jeanette Winterson enjoys a tremendous, heard-earned reputation as a leading queer voice in world fiction — a reputation that burst onto the scene as an almost instant consensus with the publication of her debut novel in 1985. It tells the story of Jeanette, a girl growing up in England’s bleak industrial north under the care of evangelical Christians whose best answer to her adolescent attraction to another girl is… exorcism. The Washington Post called it “a striking, quirky, delicate, and intricate work,” adding that “Winterson has mastered both comedy and tragedy in this rich little novel.” We can hardly wait to publish Winterson’s latest, the sci-fi-tinged, gender-chewing, rebellious novel Frankissstein, in the US this fall.

 

FreshwaterAkwaeke Emezi
Igbo and Tamil writer Akwaeke Emezi’s debut novel Freshwater made a huge splash when we published it last year — it was named a New York Times Notable Book, a Best Debut Novel of the Year at Entertainment Weekly, and a Best Book of the Year at the New Yorker, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, NPR, Shelf Wareness, Amazon, and elsewhere. With stylistic brilliance and based in the author’s realities, this raw and extraordinary narrative explores the metaphysics of identity and being, plunging the reader into the mysteries of self. Its protagonist, Ada, is born “with one foot on the other side”—she begins to develop separate selves, “alters,” who, over the course of the novel, move into control. Writing in the New Yorker, Edwidge Danticat called it “an extraordinarily powerful and very different kind of physical and psychological migration story.”

 

FaggotsLarry Kramer
Larry Kramer is one of America’s most respected and beloved gay elders — a co-founder of both Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP, and a novelist, playwright, and film producer of rare power and sensitivity. In Faggots, published shortly before the AIDS crisis broke over gay communities around the world, he offers a send-up of gay New York’s then-prevailing culture of romance and sex that has never ceased to stir controversy or draw readers. Faggots follows 39-year-old Fred Lemish on a quest to find true love before he turns forty, through scenes that include Fire Island, the Everhard Bathhouse, and the sensational opening of a new club called, yes, the Toilet Bowl. Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner has written, “There are few books in modern gay fiction, or in modern fiction for that matter, that must be read. Faggots is certainly one of them.”

 

Last Night in NuukNiviaq Korneliussen (tr. by Anna Halager)
A work of daring invention about young life in Greenland, Last Night in Nuuk brilliantly weaves together the coming of age of five young people in the territory’s capital, through a series of blurry nights and bleary mornings after, told in language that’s vital, urbane, stream-of-consciousness, studded with textspeak, and delirious with nightlife. The New Yorker calls it “a work of a strikingly modern sensibility,” and names Korneliussen “the first of a new generation of Greenlandic writers to find a true relationship outside of her native land.” Bomb writes that Last Night “soars high, inviting us into a world of blurred lines where neat resolutions are probably just new and complicated beginnings.”

 

The Angel of HistoryRabih Alameddine
Set over the course of one night in the waiting room of a psych clinic, The Angel of History follows Jacob, a poet born in Yemen, as he’s taunted by Satan and Death, and revisits the events of his life, from growing up in an Egyptian brothel and surviving adolescence under the aegis of his wealthy father to his life as a gay Arab man in San Francisco at the height of the AIDS crisis. Bookforum writes, “An elegy for a lost generation of gay men [and] a structurally inventive bildungsroman… The Angel of History marks the triumph of memory over oblivion.”

 

Blood and Guts in High School / Kathy Acker
More than twenty years after her death, Kathy Acker remains a staunchly contradictory figure: an iconic iconoclast, a countercultural institution, and a queer touchstone who fiercely resists inclusion in any — even the most sympathetic — group. Blood and Guts in High School, her 1984 surrealist H-bomb of a novel, is arguably the work most responsible for her status as punk godparent to a world of avant-garde queer writing. Lidia Yuknavitch writes, “Blood and Guts in High School saved my life.” Lynne Tillman says, “No writer I know is more audacious than Kathy Acker, whose anarchic wit drives a thoroughgoing attack on conventions and complacencies of all sorts.” Jeanette Winterson notes, “Kathy Acker’s writing is virtuoso, maddening, crazy, so sexy, so painful, and beaten out of a wild heart that nothing can tame.” If you haven’t read Acker, read Acker.

 

Difficult WomenRoxane Gay
Roxane Gay is, more and more, and thank goodness, an author who needs no introduction. Difficult Women, which we published at the start of 2017, is a story collection of rare force and beauty, limning hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection. As in all her books, Gay here writes with lyrical, penetrating clarity about lives lived across a broad spectrum of identities and experiences. The Washington Post notes, “Her restrained and forthright style allows her to write sensual scenes with efficacy, grit and authority… Gay excels in her allowance for human complexity.”

 

Night BeastRuth Joffre
A masterful debut collection from an important, fresh voice in American fiction, Night Beast presents doomed love stories and twisted fairy tales that explore the lives of women—particularly queer women and mothers—and reveal the monsters lurking in our daily lives: the madness, isolation, betrayals, and regrets that arise as we seek human connection. Joffre has written, “One of the sad truths of literature is that minority groups like the LGBT community have to write their ways into public consciousness. As a result, we have a preponderance of coming-out narratives and stories about queer identity politics, but very little attention is paid to queer life.” Of Joffre’s own work, which aims to redress that crucial inattention, Kelly Link has written, “What pure pleasure to recommend to you the debut collection of Ruth Joffre, whose stories are nimble, audacious, and far seeing.”