I thought it would be a good day to share my top five favorite LGBT novels and to encourage those of you who may have never read an LGBT book to pick one up.
The Well of Loneliness (1928) by Radcyliffe Hall. The title says it all. This is story of a lesbian/transsexual women’s struggle to live openly and true to herself. I read this book in graduate school for a concentration in lesbian literature that I developed. It’s a painful book to read, but it really gives you a glimpse into the attitudes of the time and the pain experienced by those who were different from what was then being defined as “normal.” I know there’s a ways to go for full LGBT equality, but this is one of those books that lets you see how far we’ve come. Wikipedia has an extensive entry about Hall, the book, the time period, the obscenity trials surrounding the book in the UK and US, and the book’s lasting impact. Best read with a friend. Memorable line: “Give us also the right to our existence!”
Sudden Death (1984) by Rita Mae Brown. Before Rita Mae Brown wrote about animals solving mysteries, she wrote about lesbians living life. This was the first LGBT book that I ever read so it holds a special place in my heart even if I don’t remember much about it other than that it is set in the world of professional tennis and is supposedly loosely based on Brown’s relationship with Martina Navratilova. It is the first place I came across the quote (which is attributed to Ben Franklin), “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” Prior to reading it in an actual book, I thought my dad made it up.
Patience and Sarah (1971; originally self-published in 1969 under the title A Place for Us) by Isabel Miller (pen name of Alma Routsong). I read this book around the time I read The Well of Loneliness. If you have any desire to read Hall’s novel, read it first and then read Patience and Sarah. Its a historical novel about two women set in early 1800s America. It’s a beautiful love story, loosely based on the life of two real women, written with much humor and warmth. Practically every lesbian I’ve met has read this book and has a fond spot for it. It won the American Library Association Gay Book Award in 1971.
Tipping the Velvet (1998) by Sarah Waters. I love, love, love this book. I love the 19th century and this novel brought the seedy side of Victorian England to life. From the picturesque sea side village of Whitstable to the back alleys and stages of London, this is the story of young Nan and how she loses herself to passion and self-punishment, and eventually finds love and a sense of self. Not for the faint of heart. The BBC adaptation provides a nice visual for the story, but read the book first. “Have ever tasted a Whitstable oyster?”
Scars (2010) by Cheryl Rainfield. This is a bold, truth-filled Young Adult novel about a teenage girl struggling with sexual abuse and self-harm. Another book that’s not easy to read, but its an important story for its acknowledgement of the reality of abuse and self-harm and the hope it can provide for those currently living with it and for those well-along the path of healing.
For more LGBT books, check out the Publishing Triangle’s list of the 100 Best Gay & Lesbian Novels or visit The Lambda Literary Foundation.
What’s your favorite LGBT book or is there one you’ve been thinking about reading?