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8 books to celebrate Pride Month

Eight books against a yellow background
Various

June is Pride Month in the United States, commemorating the Stonewall riots that began on June 28, 1969. They marked a turning point for a new generation of political activism. It's a chance to celebrate queer people across history and continue the fight for full and equal rights for LGBTQ+ people around the globe.

From history books and cozy mysteries to plenty of romance, we've rounded up eight books to help you mark Pride Month.

Bad Girls by Camila Sosa Villada, translated by Kit Maude

Bad Girls by Camila Sosa Villada, translated by Kit Maude
/ Other Press
/
Other Press

Camila Sosa Villada went to Córdoba to study communications at the Argentine city's university. But when she slips into Sarmiento park to spy on the travesti, or transgender, sex workers who operate there at night, she quickly finds herself part of their family, led by 178-year-old Auntie Encarna.

It's not a glamorous life — death looms large in the park, and the women must endure constant brutality from their families, clients and other sources — but despite the difficulties, Camila feels at home for the first time.

A beautifully written and expertly translated work of autofiction, Sosa Villada's tales of headless horsemen and women who turn into birds are a stunning mediation on gender, our bodies and the ties that bind.

I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir by Harvey Fierstein

I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir by Harvey Fierstein
/ Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
/
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

I Was Better Last Night offers stories on everything from Harvey Fierstein's high school's smoking terrace to his early days as a supporting actor in Andy Warhol's Pork and all the backstage gossip of La Cage Aux Folles. But the memoir goes well beyond the (often well-deserved) cattiness that punctuates Fierstein's writing.

He's blunt about his struggle with addiction, the feeling of abandonment he felt through the AIDS crisis, and the fear that characterized how many people in the entertainment business treated him even as he won award after award for his work — much of which focused on the lives of gay men.

The result is a poignant reflection on a decades-long career as a playwright and actor that will make you laugh and cry in turn.

And if Fierstein had just written I Was Better Last Night, it would have been enough, but we're happy to say he narrates the audiobook, too.

It Was Vulgar & It Was Beautiful: How AIDS Activists Used Art to Fight a Pandemic by Jack Lowery

It Was Vulgar and It Was Beautiful: How AIDS Activists Used Art to Fight a Pandemic By Jack Lowery
/ PublicAffairs
/
PublicAffairs

With a mixture of interviews, archival footage and historical records, It Was Vulgar & It Was Beautiful weaves together an unsparing account of the tireless efforts of activists during the height of the AIDS crisis, with a focus on the Gran Fury art collective, an offshoot of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP.

Faced with willful government inaction and wide public disinformation, the group approached their activism as an advertising project — looking for material that would catch the public's eye and draw their attention to the pandemic ravaging the country.

And to their credit, they succeeded. The collective is responsible for some of the most powerful protest art in modern history, including the now-iconic "Silence = Death" tagline that appeared on posters and shirts around New York City.

Lowery tenderly reconstructs the tedious planning, overwhelming sadness and occasional joys of the era to create an accessible history of the AIDS crisis and the activists who fought to make a difference.

Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly

Love & Other Disasters By Anita Kelly
/ Grand Central Publishing
/
Grand Central Publishing

Sometimes love can bloom in unexpected places — like cooking competitions!

Recently divorced and stuck in a job she hates, Dahlia Woodson hopes that Chef's Special, a cooking contest for amateur chefs, can give her a chance for a fresh start. Though considering her finances, a shot at the grand prize wouldn't hurt.

In any case, she's certainly not looking for romance when she embarrasses herself in front of London Parker, the show's first nonbinary contestant, who hopes to use the wins to open a nonprofit for queer teens. The pair can't deny the spark between them, and they soon find themselves embroiled in a romance on and off the screen.

But as they deal with family expectations, transphobic competitors and the stakes of losing the competition, Dahlia and London must decide whether their romance can stand the heat.

Payback's a Witch by Lana Harper

Payback's a Witch by Lana Harper
/ Penguin Publishing Group
/
Penguin Publishing Group

Emmy Harlow left the magical town of Thistle Grove, Ill., after a bad breakup nine years ago. Now, thanks to a very efficient bit of guilt-tripping, she's back to act as the arbiter for the Gauntlet of the Grove, a spellcasting tournament held every 50 years.

Emmy has every intention of doing her job and getting out of town as fast as she can when Linden Thorn — her best friend — and Talia Avramov approach her with a plan to rig the competition against the boy who broke all their hearts: Gareth Blackmoore.

The thought of taking Gareth down a few pegs is compelling to Emily. There's just one problem: She can't stop thinking about Talia.

Son of Sin by Omar Sakr

Son of Sin by Omar Sakr
/ Affirm Press
/
Affirm Press

Poet Omar Sakr's debut novel follows Jamal Smith, a queer Arab Australian, across the years as he struggles to mitigate the conflict between his desires and the strict Muslim family he loves.

Beginning with Jamal's sexual awakening during the holiest night of Ramadan, the novel tracks him though his adolescence and beyond as he watches the 2005 Cronulla riots on television, visits his estranged father in Turkey, and tries to make sense of the world — and the abuse he has endured.

The Romantic Agenda by Claire Kann

The Romantic Agenda by Claire Kann
/ Penguin Publishing Group
/
Penguin Publishing Group

Thirty-year-old Joy is outgoing, loves puns and is unashamed of herself or her asexuality. She's also been in love with her best friend, Malcolm, since they met in college, though she's never told him.

But when Malcolm asks her to be a fourth wheel on vacation with him, his new love interest Summer, and Summer's ex-boyfriend Fox, it's all too much. Joy needs a plan to show Malcolm what he's missing before it's too late.

So when Fox proposes they pretend to fall in love to make Malcolm jealous, Joy agrees. After all, what could go wrong?

The Verifiers by Jane Pek

The Verifiers by Jane Pek
/ Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
/
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Claudia Lin has a couple of secrets. Her mother is still trying to fix Claudia up with "a nice Chinese boy," and no one in her family knows that she has quit the low-level finance job her brother found for her to work for Veracity, a company that helps clients investigate and "verify" the people they meet on dating sites.

One day, Iris — a mysterious client with an unusual request — shows up at Veracity's offices. She's investigating individuals she has met online but is no longer in contact with. But when she turns up dead, missing an important appointment, Claudia is told to drop the case. Obviously, this isn't an option.

Taking inspiration from her literary hero, Inspector Yuan, Claudia sets out to uncover the truth behind Iris' death, the human heart and our online world.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Fi O'Reilly