By Isabel Corp
It is more important now than ever to see LGBTQ+ stories reflected in media; better representation means a safer, more inclusive world, and can help our families feel seen. This National Authors Day, we are amplifying the voices of LGBTQ+ writers—many of whom were parents or had LGBTQ+ parents—with the hopes that you and your family can honor the legacy of those who shaped our community. Here is a list of past and present LGBTQ+ authors that every family should know about.
Audre Lorde described herself as a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” and she was known for writing that called out social injustice and the absence of intersectionality in progressive circles. In her most famous poem, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House,” she calls for radical change as the only way structural oppression can end. Lorde has two children with her husband, Edward Rollins, before divorcing him and meeting her long-time partner, Frances Clayton.
For the littles in your life: Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History spotlights Lorde’s legacy and would make for a great, inspiring bed-time story!
James Baldwin was arguably one of the most important voices of the late twentieth century. Raised in Harlem, Baldwin joined the Baptist ministry at a young age, which he ended up leaving to pursue writing. He went on to write and several successful plays, essays, and novels, including the semi-autobiographical Go Tell It on the Mountain and the critically acclaimed Giovanni’s Room—a tragic queer love story centered in Paris. In addition to writing, he was also a public speaker and a civil rights activist among the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin.
For the littles in your life: Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood is James Baldwin’s only children’s book—and would make for a wonderful addition to any classroom bookshelf!
Alison Bechdel’s work as a cartoonist and writer received critical acclaim for her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” one of the earliest representations of queer women in pop culture, which ran from 1983-2008. Her heartbreaking graphic memoir Fun Home chronicles her early childhood and the unique dynamic between her experience as a queer woman with a closeted gay father.
For adult children of LGBTQ+ parents: Bechdel’s Fun Home touches on the experience of growing up and then coming out as queer to a father who was closeted—and after reading, you can check out the Broadway show this comic was adapted into!
Vivek Shreya is the modern heroine that we all deserve to know. Her book-long essay, I’m Afraid of Men, tackles the systems of oppression that she faces every day as a trans woman of color, where she also goes into detail about the code-switching she has had to do in public in order to survive. The essay also expresses her disappointment in many LGBTQ+ community members’ complicity in the structural oppression and toxic masculinity that regularly result in violence against transgender women of color.
For the littles in your life: Shreya’s children’s book, The Boy and the Bindi, tells the story of a five-year-old South Asian boy who is fascinated with his mother’s bindi—the red dot commonly worn by Hindu women to indicate the point at which creation begins. It’s a great story about gender, culture, and the power of being yourself!
If you aren’t familiar with Roxane Gay, chances are you’ve probably seen her work on the front shelves of bookstores at least once (when she isn’t dominating New York Times Best Seller lists with works like Hunger and Bad Feminist). Her writing explores difficult themes such as poverty, racism, rape culture, the body, and feminism. In 2018 she received a GLAAD Media Award for her comic book World of Wakanda, and is also a winner of the Guggenheim Fellowship Award for Creative Arts.
For the young adult in your life: In Black Panther: World of Wakanda, Gay spins a Wakandan love story that begs the question: What happens when your nation needs your hearts and minds, but you already gave them to one another?
Looking for more great LGBTQ+ books for yourself and your family? Check out Family Equality’s Book Nook for recommendations!