Hello my bookish sluts! Here at Out magazine, the library is always open. Because reading is what!? A sign of emotional and intellectual depth!! And we get a lot of books here in the Out office, but from the piles and piles of things that stack on up on my desk, here’s what rises to the top. Each month, we’re giving you the best books you can find by queers, or with queer-adjacent themes, and we know you’re gonna support queer art by adding them all to your cart, right? Anyway, here are the best queer books from March 2019.
I have given this book as a gift so many times, it’s not even funny. In every case, I’m giving it to a gay man or masculine-of-center person who has expressed to me that they are exploring their gender identity, but don’t know where to start. Sissy is a bit of a field guide — a 101 to understanding the insides and outs of a messy thing called gender. Jacob Tobia is bit of a transfeminine Nora Ephron, detailing the story of their “coming-of-gender” in a way that is both honest and didactic.
Queer history is, in large part, left out of historical texts. Our history as a people goes largely undocumented because, you know, kyriarchal structures, but also because a lot of the things that queer people do might not be considered “historic” to the greater public interest. But famed drag kings, cruising queer sailors of the Navy Yard, a stripper that saved Coney Island, and the vibrant anonymous sex scene of Prospect Park are all histories nonetheless. And Hugh Ryan’s When Brooklyn Was Queer tells stories like these with heart, dedication, and many years of experience unearthing them.
The first book out by Andrew Rannells is one not to be missed. Rannells already spilled the tea in our February issue about the trials and tribulations of being an openly gay actor in Hollywood. (Specifically he recounted needing to block an intimate love scene simply because no one on set knew how butt sex worked.) This book, will just be more of that!
It’s kind of like a trans Travels with Charley in Search of America, but without Steinbeck’s lightly misogynist depictions of women and meandering, stream of consciousness. As Samantha Allen travels across the country’s reddest states and perhaps the most unsafe for queer people, she unearths a humanity that the midwest and south are rarely afforded. (For example, a story about how a gay bar thrives in Pence Country.) Queer people exist everywhere, not just cities, and this book is a fierce testament to that.
T Kira Madden’s highly anticipated debut memoir is a queer girl’s handbook. The book deals with Madden’s coming of age as it pertains to her Jewish heritage, her Asian heritage, and relationships to parents that struggled with addiction. It is a striking and honest voice, this debut, so let’s hope Madden has more books to come because LGBTQ+ literature is starving for this.
A few years ago at another magazine job I had, Bryan Washington’s writing leapt off the page in a sea of an otherwise mediocre slushpile. The tenacity and no-stone-left-unturnedness of his writing probed into ideas of longing, identity, race, and community. Much like Solange’s most recent album, his book of stories is a love letter to Houston and all that comes with.
Stray City tells the story of a lesbian named Andrea who struggles with the idea of opting into seemingly straight-person life shifts (a sexual gray area with some dude named Ryan, the potential of becoming a mother). What the book goes on to tackle is the tricky liminal space between queer theoretical learnings, and what your being actually wants to do. Taking place in a pre-gentrification Portland, this book sets out to answer a question that many queers ask: Are we allowed to be heteronormative?
February Mentions: I missed some books from February, so here are two, just because.
Fewer minds are more underappreciated than Maria Popova’s. The author, creator, and editor behind Brain Pickings, archives thoughts, ideas, literature, philosophy, and anything else that interests Popova from the multiple books that she consumes a week — yes, that’s right, multiple! — as well as the hundreds of articles and texts she is pouring over in her fulltime practice of excavating the thoughts of yesteryear. Figuring is an amalgamation of those findings, as well other musings of hers from her twelve years of Brain Pickings.
The former editor-in-chief of Saveur, a man immensely respected in and outside of the food industry, pens his first memoir telling the story of growing up gay, punk, and rowdy in a 1979 San Francisco. This book is nonstop entertainment with an irreverent voice and a beautiful lens over a golden age now gone.