Books for LGBT+ History Month

Controversial before the First World War, the Bloomsbury Group became notorious in the 1920s. New members joined their ranks, pushing at boundaries, flouting conventions, and spurring their seniors to new heights of creative activity. Bloomsbury had always celebrated sexual equality and freedom in private, but this younger generation brought their transgressive lifestyles out into the open. Nino Strachey’s Young Bloomsbury: A New Queer History (John Murray Press) is out in paperback this month.

For fans of Alan Hollinghurst and Edward St Aubyn, James Cahill’s stunning novel, Tiepolo Blue charts one middle-aged man’s sexual awakening and his spectacular fall from grace in 1990s London. Professor Don Lamb is a revered art historian, consumed by his work at Cambridge, but his academic brilliance belies a deep inexperience of life and love.  When he moves to London to take up a role at a museum, he befriends Ben, a young artist who draws him into the anarchic art scene and the alluring nightlife of Soho. Over the course of a long, hot summer, Don glimpses a liberating new existence.

In Jenner Miller’s YA novel, Out of Character (Harper Collins), seventeen-year-old Cass Williams is happy to describe herself, as fat, queer, and obsessed with the Tide Wars books. What she won’t tell you—or anyone in her life—is that she’s part of an online Tide Wars roleplay community. When she’s behind the screen writing scenes as Captain Aresha, she doesn’t have to think about her mother who walked out or how unexpectedly stressful it is dating resident cool girl Taylor Cooper.

Out this month, Jay Carmichael’s Marlo (Scribe) is for fans of Brokeback Mountain. It’s set in the 1950s in conservative Australia, and Christopher, a young gay man, moves to ‘the city’ to escape the repressive atmosphere of his tiny hometown. Once there, however, he finds that it is just as censorial and punitive in its own way. When Christopher meets Morgan, and they fall in love, what begins as a refuge for both men inevitably buckles under the intensity of navigating a world that wants them to refuse what they are.

All The Things They Said We Couldn’t Have: Stories of Trans Joy by Tash Oakes-Monger (Jessica Kingsley Publishers) is a series of uplifting vignettes which leads the reader through the cycle of the seasons – beginning in autumn and the shedding of leaves and identity, moving through the darkness of winter, its cold days, and the reality of daily life, into spring, newness, and change, and ending with the joy of long summer days and being out and proud.

Viola Di Grado’s Blue Hunger, translated by Jamie Richards (Scribe), is published in March. Set in Shanghai, a woman is adrift in the city when she falls into obsession with an enigmatic woman named Xu. As they push each other to extremes of experience in the underground clubs and abandoned buildings of the city, the novel explores identity, language, and sensation, and the lengths people will go to know one another and themselves.

A head’s up to look out for Paul Burston’s memoir, 
We Can Be Heroes: A Survivor’s Story (Little A) published in June. Paul came out in the mid-1980s, when ‘gay’ still felt like a dirty word, especially in the small Welsh town where he grew up. He moved to London hoping for a happier life, only to watch in horror as his new-found community was decimated by AIDS. Paul vowed never to stop fighting back on behalf of his young friends whose lives were cut tragically short.