Monday, July 15, 2024

Recommit to Action All Year Long With This Essential Pride Reading List

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In Mouths of Rain, Dr. Briona Simone Jones masterfully curates an anthology of Black women loving Black women. The concept seems simple, yet in a racist and sexist world, it is an act of political resistance. At a time when public displays of love for Black women feel few and far between, this collection is a balm that shows readers that Black feminism benefits us all.

When queer and transgender people seek to grow their families, it can feel insurmountably daunting to find information about the options that exist and the pros and cons of each one. Kelton and Hopkins’s podcast-turned-book makes the journey way feel more accessible and less lonely. In doing so, they also normalize the non-traditional journeys to parenting that queer, transgender, cisgender, and heterosexual people take, reminding us that queer liberation creates more space for everyone.

In this moving novel, readers meet Jonny, a two-spirit, queer Indigenous person navigating kinship, sex work, loss, and healing. In a country where too many people have an antiquated understanding of Native American people, dive into this Indigenous coming-of-age story that does not revolve around whiteness.

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Darnell Moore is a seer. In moments of deep hatred and violence, he saw a future for himself as a queer, Black, and whole person. In his advocacy, he envisioned a world where all Black Lives Matter. And now as a creative executive, podcast host, and author, he builds spaces for queer Black people to see themselves as beautiful. No Ashes In The Fire shares this journey of “coming of age Black and free.”

A controversial aspect of the queer experience is the concept of “labels,” and even the acronym LGBTQIA+ relies on labels that leave many in the community feeling silenced and ignored. This all stems from the gender binary, and in this pocket-sized book, Vaid-Menon breaks down why gender isn’t black or white.

Just based on modern media and publishing, one might think that queerness didn’t exist before the late 20th century, and certainly not for Black people. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In The Prophets, Jones takes readers back to a time in history when being Black and queer was unspeakable, and those who dared to love and be loved were true activists. In this poetic novel, you’ll meet Isaiah and Samuel, two enslaved men in the antebellum South fighting for autonomy and each other.

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Janet Mock has been sharing authentic stories for years through the hit TV show Pose and her career as a bestselling author. But before that, she was a young woman trying to make it in an industry, and a country, that wants any marginalized person to stay quiet. In Redefining Realness, Mock, a transgender Black and Hawaiian woman, takes us on her journey before she entered the spotlight.

In this collection of essays, Lester, a singer-songwriter, composer, and activist, explores the transgender experience and expertly breaks down how we collectively relate to our own gender and one another. As cisgender elected officials continue to make sweeping decisions about the lives of transgender people, read this book to learn about the community’s most pressing issues from the perspective of those directly impacted.

So often, Black queer women are erased from the narratives around racial justice work. What we now know to be the Black Lives Matter movement all began as a digital love letter Alicia Garza posted on Facebook after the murder of Trayvon Martin. Her words would become the hashtag tweeted around the world and a rallying cry for a generation. In this book, Garza shares the lessons she’s gleaned about organizing and mobilizing people for change.

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To know where we’re going, we have to examine the movements we’ve come from, and in Unapologetic, Carruthers does just that. As the founding national director of the Black Youth Project 100, Carruthers has mastered what few can—building safe activist spaces for queer Black youth—and here, she brings her perspective to a book that can act as a guide for any organizer.

Andrea Mosqueda is a queer Chicana writer, born and raised in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley. Her debut young adult novel takes place in her hometown and is all about passion: for family, for art, for romance. The protagonist, Maggie, is on a mission to find an escort for her little sister’s quinceañera, which brings up a flood of emotions about her own love life. True to the title’s name, queer readers will connect to Maggie’s clumsy journey toward finding herself and her truth in this coming-of-age saga.

Alice Walker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and activist whose novels and poetry have touched every corner of this world. (Maybe you’ve heard of The Color Purple?) For those new to her work, this compilation of journal entries is the perfect introduction to the woman behind the classics. Coining the term “womanist” to describe a more intersectional approach to feminism, Walker’s work explores race, gender, and sexuality as a reflection of her experiences as a Black, queer woman from the U.S. South.

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Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States by Joey Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock

A common refrain activists reiterate each June is that Pride began as a riot against police violence. While 21st century parades and commercialized observances may lose sight of that, Queer (In)justice is a sobering reminder of all the ways LGBTQ+ people have been historically policed and punished. It’s a harrowing exploration into what it will take to truly dismantle homophobia and transphobia in the U.S.—and the consequences if we don’t.

Picking up where her debut book Redefining Realness left off, Surpassing Certainty finds Mock over the hurdle of teen angst and attempting to take over the New York magazine scene. Toeing the line between authenticity and self-preservation, Mock takes us through her dating woes, roommate drama, and the glitz of being a rising star.

An instant New York Times bestseller, The Death of Vivek Oji is a refreshing story, set in Nigeria, that centers queerness without becoming over reliant on trauma. From the moment readers meet Vivek, we are aware that he and the cast of characters who make up his world exist in a liminal space. Emezi’s lyrical prose and ability to strategically release information allows readers to feel everything—sadness, joy, fear, and the freedom that comes with surrendering to our truth.

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For those looking for something a bit heftier, Snorton’s Black On Both Sides is the perfect deep dive into how white supremacy and slavery historically undergirded efforts to police gender expression. Readers will learn about Black transgender people across history and how they embraced self-determination and reinvention at a time when even cisgender Black people had no “authority” to do so. Snorton reminds us that Black transgender people aren’t some new phenomenon and truly eradicating racism depends on our willingness to also address patriarchy and transphobia.

James Baldwin is one of the most important authors in the queer canon. Through his expansive writing, he insists on reminding us that queer people have always existed—an essential message as state legislatures race to erase us from school curricula. This novel in particular follows a young man in 1950s Paris as he reconciles his feelings for people of different genders. Full of mystery, Parisian glamour, and messy emotions, this book explores the devastation that comes when you deny your true self.


A Place For Us: A Memoir by Brandon J. Wolf

Credit: Courtesy Little A

For Brandon Wolf, being part of the LGBTQ+ community helped introduce him to the truest version of himself and some of the greatest people he’d ever known. On June 12, 2016, a 29-year-old walked into an Orlando nightclub killing 49 people, including Wolf’s best friend. That night changed everything. A Place For Us is a heart-wrenching memoir that takes the reader from Wolf’s hometown in Oregon to his adopted home of Florida as he explores sexuality and community, and searches for genuine safety for all of us.

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Coming-of-age stories are one of my favorite genres because of their timeless ability to reach into the parts of us that yearn to be unpacked. We all want to love and be loved, to belong, and to fight for what we believe to be right. Sixteen-year-old Maya Krishnan wants that too, but life in Florida as the brown daughter of a single mother poses a lot of barriers. When Maya follows a friend into a world of expression—whether creative, sexual, and justice-oriented—Kannan’s masterful writing absorbs you into her world. And it might just spit you back out.

From Beyonce’s Renaissance, which honors ballroom culture, to the critically-acclaimed TV show Pose, to RuPaul’s Drag Race, to the election of transgender politicians across the nation, trans creatives and leaders are more visible than ever. But that visibility hasn’t always translated to safety. According to a UCLA study, transgender people are over four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violence. Featuring the essays and reflections of the nation’s foremost trans activists and thinkers, including Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Trap Door explores this contradiction up close, discussing allyship, safety, beauty norms, binaries, and everything in between.

Headshot of Brea Baker

Brea Baker

Brea Baker is racial and gender justice activist working locally and nationally towards the liberation of all oppressed people with an emphasis on Black people and women. When not organizing, you can find her traveling the world, listening to Beyonce, or manifesting the life her ancestors deserved.  

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