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10 books to read on the occasion of Pride Month

From the latest releases to the great classics of LGBTQIA+ literature

10 books to read on the occasion of Pride Month From the latest releases to the great classics of LGBTQIA+ literature

LGBTQIA+ literature refers to the type of narrative that involves characters, plots or themes belonging to the LGBQT + community. Hindered and censored for centuries, gay and queer literature is today the address of specialized studies in the largest universities in Europe and beyond (including Cambridge and Oxford), a real object of study.

On the occasion of Pride Month, here is a selection of 10 books on the subject, from the most recent to classics of the genre, to remind us to fight discrimination every day with the most powerful means we have: culture.

 

MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex is a novel by the American writer Jeffrey Eugenides, Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction in 2003.  In Bitinio, a sunny village on the Black Sea coast, the Stephanides brothers fall in love and, forced to emigrate due to the 1922 war between Greeks and Turks, they marry on the ship that will take them to the United States. Their incest goes completely unnoticed until it resurfaces in the body of their granddaughter Calliope.

At fourteen, Callie falls in love with her best friend and has her first sexual experiences with both sexes, but it is only after an accident in a Michigan emergency room that Callie turns out to be a pseudo-hermaphrodite. The responsible for her "biological eccentricity" is a mysterious gene that runs through three generations of her family and now manifests itself in her body. While in a New York clinic the parents try to make up for it by consenting to a sex reassignment surgery to maintain the feminine aspect with which their daughter was raised, Calliope decides to follow her nature as a male, assumes the identity of Cal and flees by hitch-hiking to San Francisco, where he performs as Hermaphrodite in a Burlesque show. This is the starting point, the beginning of a journey that projects us into the secrets of the Stephanides family, in an alternation of births, marriages, incests, which from the Turkey of the Ottoman Empire moves to the America of Prohibition and wars. A bildungsroman in which the sense of destiny, of family inheritance, and the will to decide for oneself are mixed and opposed.

 

FEBBRE by Jonathan Bazzi

Jonathan was 31 years old in 2016 when one day in January he got a fever shich never went away, a constant, exhausting fever that freezed him when he went out, made him sweat at night as if he had water instead of blood in his veins. This happens to Jonathan, who despite the diagnosis of HIV and the consequent exhausting fever that follows, continues his life as always, with the longtime boyfriend, the cats Mirtilla and Purè, the apprehensive mother, the absent father: everything is different, but everything remains the same.

Only a pink pill is added to his daily routine, to be taken every day at 7 pm, a pill as big as a candy becomes his pass for normality. Between childhood memories and fragments of present, the fortitude of a homosexual boy in the suburbs of Milan clearly emerges: a child ignored, beaten, mocked for stuttering, now a man who refuses to let a medical report decide for his life. Febbre was born from the autobiographical experience of Jonathan Bazzi, candidated for the Strega 2020 award, a very current and sincere testimony that will soon become a film for Cross Production.

 

ALEXIS or THE TREATY OF VAIN DESIRE by Marguerite Yourcenar

Published in 1929, Alexis marks Marguerite Yourcenar's literary debut. The story of a 24-year-old musician who through this short epistolary novel declares to his wife the end of their marriage and his homosexuality, and how, in vain and for years, he tried to repudiate her. The theme of homosexuality and the title of the book itself recall a youthful work by Gide, "Traité du vain désir", there is also a certain influence of Rilke for the scruples and religiosity of the protagonist, for the tenderness that Alexis emanates about people and things.

 

ORLANDO by Virgina Woolf

Orlando, published for the first time in 1928, is dedicated and inspired by the poet Vita Sackville-West, a rebellious and androgynous figure with whom Woolf had a life long relationship (Vita's son defined the novel as "the longest love letter of the story"). Orlando, initially a young courtier under the reign of Elizabeth I, travels in time, space, in different cultural environments, in this short but dense novel of adventure and fantasy. In Istanbul, Orlando sleeps for seven consecutive days and wakes up as a woman, in her new female identity she spends a period as a nomad together with a caravan of gypsies. She returns to London only in the Eighteenth century, where her life is divided indiscriminately between the high-ranking society and the environment of prostitution, where he accidentally finds love in the adventurer Lord Bonthrop Shelmerdine and at the same time fame as a poet.

Published thirty years after Oscar Wilde's conviction for homosexuality and in the same year of 'Well of Solitude', a novel by Marguerite Radclyffe Hall focusing on the events of the young transgender Stephen, the novel was banned in Great Britain for its 'obscene' content. The sexual revolution of the 1960s decreed its fame, making it a cult book not only for English literature, but clearly also for the LGBT community. The novel also explores the difficult theme of women's emancipation and gender equality, particularly dear to Woolf, (who speaks of it in a broader and more exhaustive way in 'A room of one’s own') condemning the hypocrisy of British society at the time. The story has been picked up several times by the big screen, among the different versions strongly recommended the Oscar-winning version of Sally Potter in 1992, with Tilda Swinton in the role of Orlando.

 

A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL by John Preston

A thriller halfway between a novel and an essay, based on a true story. Published for the first time in 2016, Preston's novel aims to reveal the behind the scene of the Thorpe scandal in the 70s in Great Britain, an intrigue that shocked public opinion of the times and involved the former leader of the Liberal Party, Jeremy Thorpe, accused of conspiring to kill his alleged ex-lover model Norman Scott. In 1979 Thorpe was tried on charges of hiring a killer to murder his lover, too bad that the killer in question had missed his aim by hitting the dog instead of Scott.

The novel focuses on Thorpe's early and secret love life at a time when homosexuality was illegal in the UK: a story of hypocrisy, deceit and betrayal at the heart of the English political system. The book was adapted into a three-part British television miniseries starring Hugh Grant as the protagonist.

 

SPUTNIK SWEETHEART by Haruki Murakami

Sumire is in love with a woman who is seventeen years older than her. But while Miu is charming, successful and most of all very married, Sumire is an aspiring writer who wears an oversized second-hand coat and chunky boots like any Kerouac character. Sumire spends hours on the phone talking to her best friend about life's big questions: What is sexual desire and should she ever tell Miu how she feels about her? Meanwhile, her best friend wonders if he should confess his unilateral love for Sumire. Like all of Murakami's novels, Sputnik Sweetheart has a dream logic and an irreducible strangeness, enriched with symbolic and paradoxical events, it’s about of love and the loss of love, about sexual desire and the uncertainty that derives from it, in a maze of unrequited feelings worthy of the Japanese version of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

 

ONE DAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL by Peter Cameron

In New York during the summer of high school, James argues with the psychotherapist his divorced parents sent him to, works in his mother's art gallery, where no one ever enters and to enter, and in the hope of finding an alternative to university he’s is looking online for a home in the Midwest where he can pursue his favorite activities, reading and solitude. Until one day he enters a chat of lonely hearts and, under a false name, proposes a blind date to John, the manager of the gallery of his mother who is a compulsive user.

A coming-of-age novel that draw sthe portrait of James Sveck, a young misfit who remembers froma afar the young Holden in his desperate effort to escape from social conventions, until, with a sacrifice and the irreverent spirit of adaptation of a morality that applies to everyone, he has to accept the inevitable with the awareness that one day this pain will be useful. An Italian-American film adaptation of the novel directed by Roberto Faenza has been made, starring Toby Regbo, among others Peter Gallagher and Lucy Liu.

 

TRANSITIONS by Pajtim Statovci

In Albania the only person Bujar is attached to is his friend Agim, his neighbor who will soon become his first great love. Thanks to Agim, Bujar questions the idea of gender, sexuality and nationality and takes the decision to leave Tirana behind. Bujar begins a journey, an inner epic between Rome, Berlin, New York and Helsinki, where each destination corresponds to a reinvention of oneself. Bujar becomes Ariana, a twenty-three year old girl from Sarajevo, or Tanya, a transsexual woman in Finland: he can choose who he wants to be, his sex, nationality, his name, as in the Albanian stories that his father told him as a child he can create the myth of its origin. Bujar/Ariana /Tanya, stateless people, fluid identities, in continuous transit, from the Adriatic to America, every place a rebirth, a port in which leave part of his past behind and start over.

 

THE GIRL WITH GOLDEN EYES by Honoré de Balzac

Written in the spring of 1834, The Girl with the Golden Eyes completes the Story of the Thirteen, a fictional trilogy that focuses on the exploits of the secret society with the omonimous name. In a nocturnal and sinister Paris, a scenario of intrigue, revenge and power games, the aristocrat Henry De Marsay falls in love with a young woman with an exotic charm and irrepressible sensuality, Paquita Valdes. Henry manages to meet the young girl in secret several times, despite the strict control of her housekeeper, but at the very height of the passion, when the two dream of escaping together to Asia, Paquita surprisingly invokes the name of a woman, arousing the Henry's wrath and vengeance.

Together with the gang of thirteen, De Marsay raids the girl's house, to discover the girl already dying in the arms of the Marquise de San-Real, Marsay's half-sister and Piquita's betrayed lover. Balzac describes the amorous passion between women as no novelist up to that time had yet dared to do, and, at the same time, with extreme modernity he describes existence as a democratic hell in which men and women of all social classes, from the most poor to the wealthiest, are consumed in a frantic search for glory, money and pleasure, in which even love underlies the logic of power and tyranny. The 1961 film adaptation was directed by Jean-Gabriel Albicocco with Marie Laforet.

 

BOY ERASED by Garrard Conley

The only child of a car salesman who is about to become a Baptist pastor, Garrard is a boy from Arkansas who at 19 is completely terrified of his own sexuality. During college, Garrard declares his homosexuality to his parents and they put him in front of a clear choice: not to complete his studies and be dishonored or undergo conversion therapy. Torn between his faith and his sexuality, between the love for his family and that for his own freedom, the protagonist retraces his days at the ex-gay Love in Action program, where, deprived of any personal effects, he is to activities such as the Moral Inventory, which consists in writing all the impure thoughts that have distanced him from God and then list them in front of the community, or the Genogram, in which the sins of his family are listed in a family tree with the aim of identifying the faults transmitted from father to son.

Boy Erased is a courageous denunciation of the pathological fear of the different in the great South of the United States, as well as the difficult attempt to dig up and understand the reasons why Gerrard's own family found it necessary to submit him to this "cure". In 2018, the film based on the book on the book, written, directed and in part starring Joel Edgerton, starring Lucas Hedges and Nicole Kidman.