An IDAHOBIT suggested reading list
Today – Friday, 17 May – is International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), a day to stand against the prejudice, fear, violence and marginalisation that members of the LGBTQIA+ community continue to face in their daily lives. It’s also a day for LGBTQIA+ people to celebrate themselves and their community, and for allies to commit in solidarity to making the world better and safer.
To mark this day, we’ve put together an IDAHOBIT reading list, though it is in no way a comprehensive showing of the talent and creativity that can be found among queer writers today.
For more recommendations (for today or any other day), read our list of recommended queer reads from Australian authors, or our post on children’s books to read for IDAHOBIT, or browse our collections of LGTQIA+ books for kids and LGBTQIA+ books for teens.
Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor
Reverberating with the sharp ring and pulsing bass of the 1990s queer scene, Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is a blistering novel that shifts and shimmies and never goes where you expect. A sort of modern-day Orlando with a wicked sense of playfulness, this much-talked-about novel follows Paul, a queer studies major/bartender living in a university town, who is able to shape shift into a series of different identities that will take him through the archives of recent queer history. Parties, theory, sex, work, pleasure… this is a dizzying boundary-shifting read steeped in 90s nostalgia.
The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara
A gritty and sensual literary debut about the 1980s and 1990s drag ball scene in Harlem, New York, which was so memorably documented in the film Paris is Burning. Drawing inspiration from the real life House of Xtravaganza that starred in that film, The House of Impossible Beauties features several young gay and transgender characters who form the first-ever all-Latino house in the ball circuit. As heartbreaking and visceral as it is to read about some of these characters' traumatic pasts and struggles in a hard-hearted city, the unflinching bond that forms between them is exhilarating and a reminder of their fierce will to live and to live uncompromisingly.
Look Who’s Morphing by Tom Cho
Australian writer Tom Cho’s short story collection Look Who’s Morphing was way ahead of its time. Published a decade ago, it centres on a narrator whose metamorphoses take them through a series of different iconic encounters in each story: dirty dancing with Johnny Castle, a rambunctious encounter with TV’s Dr Phil, a job as Whitney Houston’s bodyguard and another as a Muppet, and a period in service with the von Trapp family in The Sound of Music. Funny, outrageous and filled with fond allusions to the 1980s, this is truly an original work that will have you have you laughing one minute and deeply questioning aspects of identity the next.
Bingo Love Volume 1 by Tee Franklin, Jenn St. Onge, Joy San, Genevieve FT
The premise of this charming comic series is sweet like a confectioner’s treat: when teenagers Hazel and Mari meet at a church in 1963, it’s love at first sight, but society kept them apart. Fast forward some decades and Hazel and Mari are now grandmothers (having both married and started families). But when they meet at the a church bingo hall, the sparks start again. Sometimes queer stories can just be lovely and delightful romances, and this comic encapsulates this perfectly. Though it dips into the persecution both characters faced growing up, as well as the resistance their current relationship encounters, it is ultimately an uplifting tale about courage, love and finding yourself at any age.
Crimson by Niviaq Korneliussem
This fascinating novel of five interconnected young, queer Greenlanders negotiating their existence and relationships in the small, claustrophobic world of Nuuk was one of our top picks of last year. Originally written in Greenlandic and then rewritten in Danish by the author before beginning its journey into translation in French Canadian, English, etc., it’s an eye-opening look at a type of life that many readers outside of Greenland may not have imagined. It also fully incorporates the stylistic use of modern technology, with hashtags and text messages employed in creative ways. This is a modern, somewhat stream-of-consciousness novel that speaks to how queer identities are being formed all over the world.
Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko
When Jo Breen buys a neglected property in the Byron Bay hinterland, she is hoping for a tree change, and a connection to the land of her Aboriginal ancestors. What she discovers instead is sharp dissent from her teenage daughter Ellen, trouble brewing from unimpressed white neighbours, and a looming Native Title war among the local Bundjalung families. Lucashenko is a master of dialogue and duality and this darkly funny novel of romantic love and cultural warfare doesn’t shy away from depicting life in all its messiness: filled with laughter and hope, but also heartbreak, banality and back-breaking hurdles.
More suggested reads:
- Less by Andrew Sean Greer
- Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman
- The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
- Mr Wigg by Inga Simpson
- Chasing The Light by Jesse Blackadder
- An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen
The Lost Arabs by Omar Sakr
Sydney poet Omar Sakr’s new collection is a visceral response to notions of identity and belonging in the contemporary age. Braiding together sexuality and divinity, conflict and redemption, The Lost Arabs is an intimate, urgent collection from a rising star of the Australian literary scene.
Comfort Food by Ellen van Neerven
Ellen van Neerven is a master of different literary forms. Her short story collection, Heat and Light, radiated with a lilting strangeness, mixing speculative elements with political commentary. This poetry collection takes those same skills and weaves them together with ideas around love, identity and sovereignty with a heft and solidity that stays with you.
Milk Teeth by Rae White
Playful and unexpected, Milk Teeth challenge notions of category, identity, form and gender. Bodies transform, nature morphs and words dart and shift, as White’s wise and provocative poems sketch out new vocabularies and ways of being.
This ambitious and experimental graphic memoir debut by Melbourne writer Fury explores how transgender identities are constructed and constrained by medical frameworks. When Fury decides to go on testosterone, they must first see a psychiatrist, where they quickly become aware of the answers required for approval and of how they are retrofitting their memories to meet the diagnostic standards. Fury tackles large themes of memory, emotion and time with a light touch, and this work feels like a significant new voice arising from the Australian comics scene. For any people interested in experimental auto-fiction, this is the kind of book to grab and savour. Years down the track, when the author’s up for some big award, you can smugly say you read it when it first came out.
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee
Korean-American novelist Alexander Chee’s book of essays is more a portrait of a writing life than any kind of manual, as the title would suggest. With style and finesse, Chee explores significant moments in his own life that have shaped how he writes and approaches writing–his Asian American childhood, coming out as a gay man, his activism with ACT UP in the days of the AIDS crisis, his father’s death, September 11. In between, there are also reflections on the prosaic needs of being a writer and the jobs that have supported those literary ambitions: tarot reader, bookseller, waiter. From his novels, Chee has the kind of mind that leaps from one through to another, holding multitudes in its remit. To be able to spend time with that mind, as this book offers us, and to experience this gut-wrenching exploration of life and art and work, is a privilege.
Gentleman Jack: A Biography of Anne Lister by Angela Steidele
This biography of Anne Lister – a wealthy Yorkshire heiress who was also an out lesbian during the Regency era – is a fascinating romp that upends some of our notions of gender and sexuality throughout history while also stressing the precarious nature of being a woman in that time. Lister is famous for filling a diary in code derived from Ancient Greek that detailed her many liaisons with women. Some locals referred to her as ‘Gentleman Jack’ and sent her poison pen letters, but this did not dissuade her from living mostly as she pleased. This book, which combines excerpts of Lister’s own diaries with Steidele’s erudite and lively commentary, is inspiring in its sheer, and what’s more, has also been adapted for a period drama by the BBC, which will hopefully spread Lister’s name far and wide.
More suggested reads:
- How to Be Alone: If You Want To, and Even If You Don’t by Lane Moore
- Against Memoir by Michelle Tea
- The Stonewall Reader edited by the New York Public Library, foreword by Edmund White