Must-reads for Pride Month - Hindustan Times
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Must-reads for Pride Month

BySharmistha Jha
Jun 18, 2024 05:51 PM IST

From the collection that shattered the idea that homosexuality is a 19th century Western invention to the Booker winning story of a boy growing up in Glasgow and the moving autobiography of a hijra, here’s a list of classic titles to read during this Pride Month

Queer Literature has always been around, often occupying marginal space in underground literature. Things are changing with prestigious literary awards such as Lambda Literary, and more recently launched in India, the Rainbow Awards for Literature and Journalism. Books like Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain and Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, both recent Booker Prize winners, tell stories of queer lives, and big bookstores too now have sections allotted to “Pride Month reads”. All of which suggests a movement away from the censorship of queer narratives and the imposition of heteronormativity. Here’s a list of classic queer titles:

The Pride Parade in Bengaluru in 2017 (HT Photo)
The Pride Parade in Bengaluru in 2017 (HT Photo)

Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History (Edited) by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai

Stories of homosexuality from early Hindu and Buddhist texts
Stories of homosexuality from early Hindu and Buddhist texts

This book shatters the belief that homosexuality is a 19th century Western invention by presenting stories of homosexuality from early Hindu and Buddhist texts. Edited by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, this is a collection of texts that have been translated and reinterpreted by scholars to make evident the homoerotic narratives that were previously underplayed.

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Exploring taboos around sex and gender
Exploring taboos around sex and gender

Torrey Peters’s debut novel tells the story of three women –- transgender and cisgender – whose lives intersect as a result of a complicated pregnancy. Destransition, Baby explores the desires of these women who are trying to navigate motherhood. Peters explores taboos around sex and gender with writing that is deeply moving.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

Chronicling the author’s life experience
Chronicling the author’s life experience

Author Alexander Chee explores his many identities as a son, a writer, a teacher, a person of colour, and a gay man in this collection of essays. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel chronicles Chee’s life experiences as he goes from being a student to a writer and a teacher. Chee also writes about the horrifying reality of the AIDS epidemic and the violent suppression of queer rights by government authorities.

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Forming a new kind of family
Forming a new kind of family

Kitchen tells the story of Mikage as she mourns the death of her only remaining relative, her grandmother. She is comforted by her friend’s mother, who has transitioned from man to woman. Together, they form a new kind of family. Written by Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen is an exploration of grief, womanhood, and the lives of transgender people.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

Queer and fiercely feminist
Queer and fiercely feminist

Bernardine Evaristo’s Booker-winning novel tells the story of 12 mostly black, British women (both heterosexual and queer) whose lives intersect. Sexual identities and Black heritage take centre stage in Girl, Woman, Other. The reader meets a diverse host of characters, many of whom are queer and fiercely feminist.

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

A coming-of-age story set in Glasgow
A coming-of-age story set in Glasgow

A tender story of sexuality, love, grief, and addiction, Douglas Stuart’s debut novel chronicles the life of Shug as he struggles to take care of his alcoholic mother. Set against the backdrop of 1980s working-class Glasgow society, Shuggie Bain is the story of a lonely boy growing up in a society that encourages hyper-masculinity and shuns homosexuality.

Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar, Translated by Jerry Pinto

A paying guest causes a rift between a brother and sister
A paying guest causes a rift between a brother and sister

Cobalt Blue tells the story of a pair of siblings whose comfortable living arrangement is disrupted by the arrival of a lodger. The paying guest causes a rift between a brother and sister when both find themselves falling in love with him.

The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story by A Revathi, translated by V Geetha

An autobiography that presents the challenges faced by the trans community in India
An autobiography that presents the challenges faced by the trans community in India

Written by A Revathi and translated into English by V Geetha, this is an important books that helps the reader understand the challenges faced by the trans community in India. In this autobiography, Revathi gives the reader an unflinching account of the violent oppression she faced inside and outside her home.

Bolla by Pajtim Statovci

Love in the wrong place at the wrong time
Love in the wrong place at the wrong time

Pajtim Statovci’s Bolla writes about the perils of self-loathing homophobia. In this doomed love story, two men fall in love with each other at the wrong time and in the wrong place. One, a Serb doctor and the other, an Albanian in a society dominated by Serbs. Bolla takes an unflinching look at war, PTSD, homophobia and sexual repression.

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

On how patriarchy can seep even into same-sex relationships
On how patriarchy can seep even into same-sex relationships

In this memoir, Carmen Maria Machado opens up about her abusive same-sex relationship with writing that makes use of horror and gothic themes. Machado conveys how strong the trappings of abusive relationships are and how patriarchy can seep even into same-sex relationships. Raw and honest, In the Dream House is an essential read.

Why be Happy When You Could be Normal by Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson’s memoir about being cast out for her sexuality.
Jeanette Winterson’s memoir about being cast out for her sexuality.

Why be Happy When You Could be Normal tells the coming-of-age story of a girl who has been adopted by Pentecostal parents. This memoir explores Jeanette’s journey as she is cast out by her adoptive mother for her homosexuality. Later, while searching for her biological mother, she reconciles with her dark past and forgives Mrs Winterson for her cruelty.

Sharmistha Jha is an independent writer and editor.

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