Pride Month Reading List 2023
8 books, from new fiction to old Southern classics, that celebrate queer characters and themes.
Red Clay Suzie by Jeffery Dale Lofton
Red Clay Suzie is a coming-of-age story written by Jeffrey Dale Lofton, a senior advisor at the Library of Congress. It centers on Philbet, a gay, physically misshapen boy in rural Georgia who struggles against suffocating expectations, heartless indifference and wounding rejection. Ultimately, he finds inner strength from life lessons learned in his grandaddy’s garden and through his passion for Knox, the boy to whom he has given his heart. The book offers a lesson in what it takes to thrive in a world that’s intent on building fences, and it does so with affection and sweetness. Read a review by novelist Kimberly Brock here.
Tar Hollow Trans: Essays by Stacy Jane Grover
In Tar Hollow Trans, Stacy Jane Grover explores her transgender experience through common Appalachian cultural traditions. In “Dead Furrows,” a death vigil and funeral lead to an investigation of Appalachian funerary rituals and their failure to help Grover cope with the grief of being denied her transness. “Homeplace” threads family interactions with farm animals and Grover’s coming out journey, illuminating the disturbing parallels between the American Veterinary Association’s guidelines for ethical euthanasia and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s guidelines for transgender care.
Together, her essays write transgender experience into broader cultural narratives beyond transition and interrogate the failures of concepts such as memory, metaphor, heritage and tradition.
Big Gay Wedding by Byron Lane
Two grooms. One mother of a problem. Barnett Durang has a secret. No, not THAT secret. His widowed mother has long known he’s gay. The secret is Barnett is getting married at his mother’s farm in their small Louisiana town. She just doesn’t know it yet.
It’ll be an intimate affair. Just 200 or so of the most fabulous folks Barnett is shipping in from the “heathen coasts,” as Mom likes to call them, turning her quiet rescue farm for misfit animals into a most unlikely wedding venue. But there are forces, both within this modern new family and in the town itself, that really don’t want to see this handsome couple march down the aisle. It’ll be the biggest, gayest event in the town’s history if they can pull it off.
The Kingdom of Sand by Andrew Holleran
The Kingdom of Sand is a poignant tale of desire and dread—Andrew Holleran’s first new book in 16 years. The nameless narrator is a gay man who moved to Florida to look after his aging parents—during the height of the AIDS epidemic—and has found himself unable to leave after their deaths. With gallows humor, he chronicles the indignities of growing old in a small town.
At the heart of the novel is the story of his friendship with Earl, whom he met cruising at the local boat ramp. For the last 20 years, he has been visiting Earl to watch classic films together and critique the neighbors. Earl is the only person in town with whom he can truly be himself. Now Earl’s health is failing, and our increasingly misanthropic narrator must contend with the fact that once Earl dies, he will be completely alone. He distracts himself with sexual encounters at the video porn store and visits to Walgreens. All the while, he shares reflections on illness and death that are at once funny and heartbreaking.
Southernmost by Silas House
In this stunning novel about judgment, courage, heartbreak and change, Kentucky author Silas House wrestles with the limits of belief and the infinite ways to love.
In the aftermath of a flood that washes away much of a small Tennessee town, evangelical preacher Asher Sharp offers shelter to two gay men. In doing so, he starts to see his life anew—and risks losing everything: his wife, locked into her religious prejudices; his congregation, which shuns Asher after he delivers a passionate sermon in defense of tolerance; and his young son, Justin, caught in the middle of what turns into a bitter custody battle. With no way out but ahead, Asher takes Justin and flees to Key West, where he hopes to find his brother, Luke, whom he’d turned against years ago after Luke came out. And it is there, at the southernmost point of the country, that Asher and Justin discover a new way of thinking about the world and a new way of understanding love.
Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote
Truman Capote’s first novel is a story of almost supernatural intensity and inventiveness, an audacious foray into the mind of a sensitive boy as he seeks out the grown-up enigmas of love and death in the ghostly landscape of the Deep South.
At the age of 12, Joel Knox is summoned to meet the father who abandoned him at birth. But when Joel arrives at the decaying mansion in Skully’s Landing, his father is nowhere in sight. What he finds instead is a sullen stepmother who delights in killing birds; a homosexual cousin with the face—and heart—of a debauched child; and a fearsome little girl named Idabel who may offer him the closest thing he has ever known to love.
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
A landmark coming-of-age novel that launched the career of one of this country’s most distinctive voices, Rubyfruit Jungle remains a transformative work more than 40 years after its original publication. In bawdy, moving prose, Rita Mae Brown tells the story of Molly Bolt, the adoptive daughter of a dirt-poor Southern couple who boldly forges her own path in America.
With her startling beauty and crackling wit, Molly finds that women are drawn to her wherever she goes—and she refuses to apologize for loving them back. This literary milestone continues to resonate with its message about being true to yourself and, against the odds, living happily ever after.
How Y’all Doing? by Leslie Jordan
Viral sensation and Emmy Award-winner the late Leslie Jordan regaled fans with entertaining stories about the odd, funny and unforgettable events in his life in this essay collection that echoes his droll, irreverent voice.
Bursting with color—and dripping with his puckish Southern charm—How Y’all Doing? is Jordan telling stories that make us laugh and lift our spirits even in the darkest days. Whether he’s writing about his brush with a group of ruffians in a West Hollywood Starbucks or an unexpected phone call from legendary Hollywood star Debbie Reynolds, he infused each story with his fresh and saucy humor and pure heart.