There are many powerful books that celebrate pride. So, let’s focus on three special ones that absolutely need to be on your reading list. Each, in its own way, does a remarkable job addressing pertinent themes of identity, self-love, and courage. Remember, by supporting LGBTQ+ independent authors, you make a difference in the collective effort to stand up for queer spaces throughout the country.
Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill by Lee Wind
(Young Adult Fiction)
Although the genre lists this as a young adult fiction book, I can confidently say that it is a must-read story for all ages. Written by award-winning author Lee Wind, Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill is a book that you won’t be able to put down. This powerful story prompts readers to reconsider their understanding of history… and their understanding of themselves.
The protagonist is a fifteen-year-old young man named Wyatt. Growing up in a homophobic small town in Oregon, no one knows that he is gay – not even his accidental girlfriend, Mackenzie. But then, he uncovers a historical secret that changes everything – Abraham Lincoln was in love with another man. Knowing that Lincoln is one of the most beloved historical men in American history, Wyatt figures that this little-known fact can change the towns’ perceptions on sexuality.
Wyatt decides to out Lincoln online… which leads to a media firestorm and conservative outrage that threatens everything he cares about. Out of self-preservation and fear that no one would believe a gay kid’s reporting, he pretends he is straight. While in his closeted survival mode, he meets Martin, who is openly gay, and soon Wyatt is forced to decide… Does he remain closeted to change the world’s understanding of history? Or does he come out, pursue love, and live as his true self?
Every aspect of this book is courageous and captivating. Lee Wind shares fascinating insight into an iconic American President’s life while also touching on heartfelt themes that empower LGBTQ+ youth. It is a coming-of-age and coming-out story that is beautifully unique and marvelously written in a way that makes it addicting. I promise, you’ll have a hard time putting it down. The book allows you to contemplate fundamental aspects of the human condition while earnestly guiding you on an adventure of self-discovery.
Our New Normal by Jennifer Brooks
(Fiction, LGBTQ+ / Lesbian)
Our New Normal is a remarkable story about identity that explores the effects bullying and LGBTQ+ discrimination have on society, especially our youth. Jennifer Brooks’ novel introduces you to Victoria (Tori) Reynolds. For years, it seemed like she had everything. But when she realizes that she doesn’t fit into the role society molded for her, everything changes.
For much of her early life, Tori had it all. Her parents were wealthy and gave her everything she wanted. She was popular, the head cheerleader, and her high school boyfriend was the star quarterback. Not always the humblest, Tori and her friends would bully and torment anyone who didn’t live up to their standards.
But then in her senior year, Tori realizes that the person she is meant to be is different than the person she has been for so many years. Tori realizes that she has a crush on another girl.
Her hypocritical, religious parents kick her out of the house. She is ostracized by her friends, and after having everything it seems like she has nothing. But that is not the case. Tori might need to start her life from scratch, but she discovers her true self in the process. Once a spoiled rich girl, Tori now must grow and become the person she was born to be.
This is such a beautiful story that reminds readers the most important part of life is being who you are – and loving every aspect of that. Tori’s journey is inspiring and relatable for so many who have had to start over after coming out. Every step of her path to self-discovery is expressed thoughtfully and beautifully. I loved every aspect of this book – I highly recommend you give it a read.
Swish: A Quest by Joel Derfner
(Biography & Autobiography / LGBTQ+)
Swish is a vulnerable, honest memoir that captures one man’s quest to come to terms with his identity and sexuality. In the book, author Joel Derfner shares in beautiful detail the fleeting emotions of daily life – the insecurities, jealousies, insights, and petty triumphs – with acuity and humor. A true game-changer, this is a non-fiction book that deserves celebration and praise.
The autobiography takes readers on a journey from stereotype to truth. Author Joel Derfner is a knitter, an aerobics instructor, a cheerleader, a go-go dancer, and a musical theater composer. When he realizes that he’s a “walking gay cliché”, he sets out on a quest to find deeper meaning to his life. This involves confronting the demons of his past at an LGBT summer camp, using the internet to “meet” men, going undercover to a conference of ex-gays, and more. Along the journey, he finds what he’s looking for – hidden under the surface of everyday life is his true self.
More than anything, Derfner’s writing allows you to feel and experience the complexities of life right alongside him. With extreme joy, there also is profound sadness. He has a rather wild sense of humor, but also a touching sense of tenderness that was born out of self-actualization. This book glows with beauty, intuition, and meaning. You will love this one-of-a-kind reflection of learning to accept and love yourself – even when it’s not an easy thing to do.