Cities around the world commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots every June with LGBT--Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender--Pride celebrations. Americans concerned with gay rights had a special occasion to celebrate last weekend. New York became the sixth state, and by far the most populous, to allow same-sex couples to marry. (California, the most populous state, allowed such marriages for a few months in 2008 before a ballot proposition rescinded the right.)
Books with gay themes, both overt and hidden, are nothing new; however, the open place they have on mainstream bookstore and library shelves demonstrates LGBT culture's progress in the decades since Stonewall. Their importance to the development of positive lesbian and gay identity, as Red Room member Baxter Clare Trautman writes in "The Rubyfruit Path," can't be overstated. In the run-up to the major pride celebrations in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and other cities last weekend, we asked Red Roomers to blog about their favorite works--from Plato's Symposium to Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain--that have a queer theme.
A few entries stood out:
- Walt Whitman expressed radical views of love and marriage, and predicted something marriage equality would someday be the norm. Steven B. Herrmann entitles his appreciation of Whitman's innovative poet-politics in "Walt Whitman and the Bi-Erotic Imagination."
- The Cancer Journals are poems and prose Audre Lorde wrote about her fight against breast cancer. In "Standing Up to Be Counted," Stephanie Suesan Smith recounts how this fight cost Lorde a breast, and ultimately her life, but not her ability to live full out right until the end.
- We love stories of how the setting in which one has read a book makes the experience especially memorable. For his first Red Room post, "Three Men and a Lady," Greg Herren describes vividly how that was true when he read a novel cowritten by a four-author team.
- When Red Room Content Coordinator Jennifer Gibbons cited a Facebook complaint by Lana Nieves about gay-themed love stories rarely ending well in her blog post about this week's topic, Nieves expanded on the theme in "Isn't It Romantic? Not Really?" (We're grateful she gave us some examples of hope near the end.)
These bloggers will receive books from Red Room authors:
- Scars is Cheryl Rainfield's unforgettable story of one girl's frightening path to the truth. Kendra, fifteen, hasn't felt safe since she began to recall devastating memories of childhood sexual abuse. To relieve the pressure, Kendra cuts; aside from her brilliantly expressive artwork, it's her only way of coping. She's forced to look for support from a family friend who encourages her artwork, and from Meghan, a high school friend who might be becoming much more. Scars has generated recent fascinating controversy about the place dark themes have Young Adult literature.
- Lambda Award-winning Michael Thomas Ford's novel The Road Home deals with themes of middle age, injury, coming home, and exciting new love. When a car accident leaves photographer Burke Crenshaw in need of temporary full-time care, he finds himself back in the one place no forty-year-old chooses to be—his childhood bedroom in Vermont. Reconnecting with old friends and falling in love with a younger man, Burke takes a journey coming to terms with who he is, what he wants out of life, and where he belongs-and the complex, surprising path that finally takes him there.
- In Pay It Forward author Catherine Ryan Hyde's newest novel Jumpstart the World, 16-year-old Elle is dumped into her into her own Manhattan apartment by a neglectful mother. She has to sink or swim on her own, going to a new school and dealing with a problematic love with an older neighbor who is in a relationship and who, she discovers, is transgender. The feelings are a little more uncomfortable now. But they haven’t gone away. Instead, they stay on to force Elle to reexamine the meaning of friendship and, of course, herself.
- Blood Strangers is a captivating, multigenerational story of an alternative family. In her memoir, Katherine A. Briccetti writes about three generations of absent fathers and adoptions: her father's closed adoption in the 1930s, her own adoption by her stepfather in the 1960s, and finally, the "second-parent" adoption of her sons by her partner in the 1990s
–Huntington W. Sharp, Senior Editor, Red Room