As we celebrate Black History Month this February, it’s vital we remember that Black history is LGBTQ+ history.
Black LGBTQ+ trailblazers have always been and will continue to be at the forefront of the fight for LGBTQ+ equality. Similarly, the movement for LGBTQ+ equality is incomplete if it doesn’t include Black liberation.
While Black history goes back centuries, just like LGBTQ+ history, it’s also happening right now, every single day — thanks to a new generation of thought leaders, activists, creatives, and dreamers. Groundbreakers in their own right, their work highlights the complex nuances and humanity of the modern-day Black LGBTQ+ community.
To kick off Black History Month 2024, we’re amplifying this new generation with a list of 12 Must-Read Books by Black LGBTQ+ authors who are quite literally writing history in the here and now. All released within the last four years, the list includes powerful memoirs like “I Have Always Been Me” by transgender author and former Lambda Legal plaintiff Precious Brady-Davis, as well as poignant Young Adult love stories, such as Kacen Callander’s “Felix Ever After”.
Read below for the full list.
“All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George Johnson (2020)
“From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.
Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, ‘All Boys Aren’t Blue’ covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.”
“Felix Ever After” by Kacen Callander (2020)
Felix Love has never been in love — and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many — Black, queer, and transgender — to ever get his own happily-ever-after.”
“My Government Means to Kill Me” by Rasheed Newson (2022)
“Vibrant, humorous, and fraught with entanglements, Rasheed Newson’s ‘My Government Means to Kill Me’ is an exhilarating, fast-paced coming-of-age story that lends itself to a larger discussion about what it means for a young gay Black man in the mid-1980s to come to terms with his role in the midst of a political and social reckoning.”
“I Have Always Been Me” by Precious Brady-Davis (2021)
“In ‘I Have Always Been Me’, Brady-Davis reflects on a childhood of neglect, instability, and abandonment. She reveals her determination to dream through it and shares her profound journey as a trans woman now fully actualized, absolutely confident, and precious. She speaks to anyone who has ever tried to find their place in this world and imparts the wisdom that comes with surmounting odds and celebrating on the other side.”
“Rainbow Milk” by Paul Mendez (2021)
“An essential and revelatory coming-of-age narrative from a thrilling new voice, ‘Rainbow Milk’ follows nineteen-year-old Jesse McCarthy as he grapples with his racial and sexual identities against the backdrop of his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing.”
“The Risk It Takes to Bloom” by Raquel Willis (2023)
“In ‘The Risk It Takes to Bloom’, trailblazing Black transgender activist Raquel Willis recounts with passion and candor her experiences straddling the Obama and Trump eras, the possibility of transformation after tragedy, and how complex moments can push us all to take necessary risks and bloom toward collective liberation.”
“Black Boy in Time” by Harry Ziyad (2021)
“An eloquent, restless, and enlightening memoir by one of the most thought-provoking journalists today about growing up Black and queer in America, reuniting with the past, and coming of age their own way.”
“Miss Major Speaks: Conversations with a Black Trans Revolutionary” by Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and Toshio Meronek (2023)
“Miss Major is a veteran of the infamous Stonewall Riots, a former sex worker, and a transgender elder and activist who has survived Bellevue psychiatric hospital, New York’s jail system, and the HIV/AIDS crisis.
For more than fifty years, Major’s been on the front lines of struggles for queer liberation, repelling co-optation and misleadership while assembling organizations of mutual aid for those at the margins. A collaboration with Major’s close confidante, writer Toshio Meronek, ‘Miss Major Speaks’ is both a document of her brilliant life — told with intimacy, warmth, and an undeniable levity — and a roadmap for the challenges black, brown, queer and trans youth will face on the path of liberation today.”
“The Late Americans” by Brandon Taylor (2023)
“A novel of friendship and chosen family, ‘The Late Americans’ asks fresh questions about love and sex, ambition and precarity, and about how human beings can bruise one another while trying to find themselves. It is Brandon Taylor’s richest and most involving work of fiction to date, confirming his position as one of our most perceptive chroniclers of contemporary life.”
“Opinions: A Decade of Arguments, Criticism, and Minding Other People’s Business” by Roxane Gay (2023)
“‘Opinions’ is a collection of Roxane Gay’s best nonfiction pieces from the past ten years. Covering a wide range of topics — politics, feminism, the culture wars, civil rights, and much more — with an all-new introduction in which she reflects on the past decade in America, this sharp, thought-provoking anthology will delight Roxane Gay’s devotees and draw new readers to this inimitable talent.”
“Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought” edited by Briona Simone Jones (2021)
“A groundbreaking collection tracing the history of intellectual thought by Black Lesbian writers, spanning the nineteenth century through the twenty-first century.”
“Wow, No Thank You” by Samantha Irby (2020)
Irby is forty, and increasingly uncomfortable in her own skin despite what Inspirational Instagram Infographics have promised her. She has left her job as a receptionist at a veterinary clinic, has published successful books and has been friendzoned by Hollywood, left Chicago, and moved into a house with a garden that requires repairs and know-how with her wife in a Blue town in the middle of a Red state where she now hosts book clubs and makes mason jar salads. This is the bourgeois life of a Hallmark Channel dream. She goes on bad dates with new friends, spends weeks in Los Angeles taking meetings with ‘tv executives slash amateur astrologers’ while being a ‘cheese fry-eating slightly damp Midwest person,’ ‘with neck pain and no cartilage in [her] knees,’ who still hides past due bills under her pillow.
Looking for more Black queer storytellers and stories to celebrate? Check out these 21 Black queer films.