We recommend queer reads from Australian authors

Inspired by our Queer Book Club (hosted by our St Kilda shop!), our staff have been talking about some of their own favourite queer Australian writing. Here, they share their picks.


queer-hold

Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave

Published in 1995 and not long after the author’s death, Holding the Man has been described as a real-life gay Romeo and Juliet story. Tim Conigrave met and fell in love with John Caleo, the captain of the football team while they were students at Xavier College in the late 1970s. The book tells of their years long relationship and coming-of-age in Melbourne during the 1980s and their courage in the face of discrimination. It outlines the pressures they had from their families, their courage in the face of prejudice and life during the looming AIDS crisis which had (and continues to have) a devastating effect on a whole generation of gay men at this time. It’s a heartbreaking love story and a modern Australian classic.

Jason Austin


queer-barracuda

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

This book is a beautiful depiction of a young man coming through an incredibly hard adolescence, and searching for a way to make peace with his sexuality and his identity. Tsiolkas is the master of crystalising the difficult and fraught concept of Australian shame in a way that is at once exquisitely ugly, yet heartbreakingly beautiful. This novel deals with class, gender, sexuality, sex, family, nationality, and psychology in a way that is both compelling and unique. I found myself glued to the story, hour after hour, and crying through the final sections.

Amy Vuleta


queer-ghost

Ghost Wife by Michelle Dicinoski

Ghost Wife is equal parts history, memoir, travelogue, coming-of-age tale and love story. It’s about Australianness, departure and return, and it questions our (still! unbelievably!) homophobic legislation around same-sex marriage. A lyrical and timeless book.

Amy Vuleta


queer-where

Where the Trees Were by Inga Simpson

This is another queer Australian book that deals with ‘Australianess’, touching on themes of place, childhood, and return. Simpson brings together two stories – one of youthful experiences with landscape and nature, and one of destroyed and ignored indigenous art and culture. Where the Trees Were depicts the time of youth as a story of the past and of loss, but does so in a way that doesn’t descend into nostalgia. This is my pick for a queer book that is actually just a novel which happens to have a character that is queer as the protagonist. If you ever find yourself wondering, ‘Where are all the lesbians in books?’, you’ll find some of them here, just living their lives.

Amy Vuleta


queer-twyborn

The Twyborn Affair by Patrick White

There’s no earthly way this book isn’t going to make it onto a list of Australian queer lit that I’m contributing to. I do recommend setting aside a good solid chunk of time to sink way down deep into this one yourself – you can thank me later. This is one of White’s later novels, and it’s a departure from his earlier, more well-known and -read work. It follows a single character through time and across both World Wars, from Europe to Australia to England – throughout all of the spaces of identity possible in, and around, and between all of these settings. I feel it’s an understatement to say that Patrick White is a masterful writer, and what he achieves with each individual sentence in this novel is nothing short of genius. The Twyborn Affair is not only an incredible book; it is pure art.

Amy Vuleta


queer-heat

Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

Ellen van Neerven gifts us an extraordinary debut with Heat and Light. Her stories are inventive, strange and assured – part mythical, part speculative, party contemporary politics. Many of the characters are queer and Neerven writes about sexuality with a light touch that never feels forced. I can’t recommend this collection highly enough.

Bronte Coates


queer-unbearable

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

In Unbearable Lightness, Portia De Rossi pulls us into the world of a young closeted actress abroad. I first came to this memoir interested to hear how De Rossi had met and married Ellen DeGeneres (and what it was like to be on Ally Mcbeal). What i got was a visceral account of De Rossi’s battle with her eating disorder, alongside an examination of the intersection of her sexuality and the demands of Hollywood that played out in that battle.

Marie Matteson


queer-bad

Bad Behaviour by Rebecca Starford

Rebecca Starford’s memoir throws you right back into high school. Away for semester at a wilderness camp, teenager Rebecca has an inkling that her discomfort is not quite like everyone else’s discomfort. This immersive, deeply honest, and uncomfortable memoir expertly evokes that time as a teenage queer when discomfort and fear could lead you into behaviour you would rather not remember.

Marie Matteson


queer-mask

The Monkey’s Mask by Dorothy Porter

This astonishing verse crime novel was the first great Australian queer writing I ever read. Before Dorothy Porter, long-form verse had only ever meant Chaucer to me. But after reading The Monkey’s Mask, the verse novel now also meant a queer private detective on the mean streets of Sydney. Tough, beautiful, and unabashedly both literary and queer.

Marie Matteson


queer-reckon

Reckoning by Magda Szubanski

Magda Szubanski’ Reckoning is as honest and warm and funny as you would expect. It’s also entirely unexpected as she delves into her family’s history which includes her father’s time as an assassin, the history of Poland and her own coming out. A whole life lived and shared in wonderful prose and surprising tangents.

Marie Matteson


queer-family

The Family Law by Benjamin Law

The Family Law is snort-laughingly funny. Law’s acerbic wit coupled with his unconventional family remind me a little of a David Sedaris, but the distinctly Australian voice (coupled with my own experience of growing up in an Asian family) lends the book a delicious familiarity. Law’s description of his burgeoning teenage sexuality feels remarkably true-to-life for anyone who’s ever been a teenager.

Lian Hingee


Find more recommendations from our booksellers in the collection below!

Reckoning: A Memoir

Reckoning: A Memoir

Magda Szubanski

$32.99Buy now

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