Celebrating Debuts from Black LGBTQIA+ Authors: A Pride Month Reading List
A writer’s debut is a momentous occasion. It’s a beginning. It’s a commencement. It’s a celebration. Although the pandemic continues to disrupt our lives, it is important that we continue to honor literary debuts and the achievements they represent.
This Pride Month, our country is in the midst of a collective self-reckoning. People around the world are protesting, marching, and demanding that their voices be heard, and that Black Lives Matter. In the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, the Black LGBTQIA+ community led and began a movement asserting their rights, paving the way for today’s calls to action.
This week’s reading list aims to amplify the voices of recently debuted Black queer writers. From novels to poetry collections, essay collections to young adult titles, this list is by no means comprehensive. We gathered these books to celebrate their existence, the artists who created them, and the foundation they establish for reimagining the future.
PEN America encourages you to support your independent and Black-owned bookstores. Find a Black-owned bookstore in your state.
Felix’s poetry collection explores the trauma and pain of Black womanhood in language that’s simultaneously imbued with vulnerability and strength. Her words provide hope for a more just world, while refusing to look away from the violence with which Black bodies are policed in America.
In this series of personal essays, prominent LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson takes readers back to his childhood in New Jersey and Virginia. He covers topics such as toxic masculinity, gender identity, structural violence, and Black joy.
Taylor’s protagonist, Wallace, is a young queer Black man from Alabama, who is attending graduate school in the Midwest after leaving behind a difficult upbringing. Over the course of a single weekend—and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight white classmate—Wallace’s world is turned upside down when his new community unveils their hostile attitude towards him.
In this collection of poetry, Roya Marsh recalls the early stages of her coming of age as a butch Black woman in America. Always considered a “tomboy passing,” Marsh unearths the traumas and truths of growing up “different” amid restrictive notions of gender and sexuality.
Olayiwola’s cinematic language and craftsmanship seeps into every poem of this dazzling collection, as she dives into the question of what it means to care of oneself while contributing to the care of a community. Each poem provides a reflection of her unique experiences as a Black queer poet, while establishing her as part of a rich literary lineage of queer Black poetics.
Bryan Washington’s Lot tells the story of a young Black man finding his place and community in Houston, Texas. Lot contains stories that explore identity, family, and love in the sprawling city of Houston, with writing that crackles with energy and wit while shedding light on the lives of those on society’s margins.
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them brings together the stories of two 16-year-old Black girls searching for love and happiness, one from Trinidad and another from Minneapolis. Together, they navigate a wistful romance while facing the challenges of growing up Black in America.
In HoodWitch, Faylita Hicks channels mysticism, Afrofuturism, and Christian traditions to reclaim power for Black femmes, in language that is both formidable and vulnerable. This debut poetry collection is a tempest of language, iconography, and imagery that invokes the lost voices and bodies of mothers, daughters, sex workers, and widows, remaking them as cyborgs, wolves, and witches so that they might seek the justice they have been denied.
In his memoir-in-essays, journalist and playwright R. Eric Thomas details his lifelong experience of “otherness” as a gay Black man coming of age in affluent, predominantly white academic institutions and in his conservative Black church. Thomas examines the complexities of these disparate worlds with humor and heart as he discovers the power of being at the center of your own story.