If you have any suggestions of your own, why not sound off in the comments section below?
1. Thirteen Cents by K. Sello Duiker
I first came across K. Sello Duiker in my second year of graduate school. I was working on putting a list of South African LGBT+ writers together and stumbled upon his name.
Thirteen Cents was Duiker’s first novel and gained much critical acclaim – even being republished because of its reception. It takes place in post-apartheid South Africa, and centers on Azure, a young boy on the cusp of manhood with mysterious blue eyes that see everything. Azure navigates between the spaces of being an orphan, coming of age, facing sexual abuse, and survival in the face of a culture and society ripped from its roots.
This is a must-read, and one that will leave you wanting more. Duiker revealed in an interview that this novel came to life after he spent a month on the streets with young orphans who shared their stories of survival with him.
2. The Quiet Violence of Dreams by K. Sello Duiker
The second book on my list also comes from Duiker. Before his tragic passing in 2007, Duiker left South Africa with this poignant and beautifully written novel. Truth be told, this is a literary masterpiece unlike any that have come before, and on that note, unlike any I have ever read.
This novel also takes place in post-apartheid South Africa, and is full of tension when the lines between sexuality, culture, and people begin to cross. The poetic passages that interweave the pages make this Duiker’s magnum opus. I have yet to find a rival to this amazing piece of literature.
3. The Boyfriend by R. Raj Rao
This text by Indian author R. Raj Rao is an all-round witty and hilarious commentary on being gay in Mumbai.
A young journalist, who cruises loos by day and falls in love at night, gives the reader insight into what it means to survive when fate has other plans. This is a tale about masculinity, religion, class, and the thriving gay subculture that permeates Indian society.
You’ll laugh, be filled with anger, and finally find joy when the story plays out its star crossed lover’s ups and downs – all while passing commentary on the effects of globalisation and homosexuality.
4. Our Caribbean, edited by Thomas Glave
This collection of short stories, poetry and essays comes from the Caribbean – a place where being LGBT+ is often looked upon as taboo and deviant. In an effort to produce a work purely LGBT+ in origin, and to give voice to the LGBT+ community in the Caribbean, Glave delivers an anthology of the greatest voices that need to be heard by everyone within the LGBT+ community.
5. Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas
Reinaldo Arenas is one of my favorite queer icons. He pursued his literary career during the rise of Fidel Castro’s regime. In fact, Arenas and his literary circle were considered a ‘threat to the state’, and so much so that most of Arenas’ manuscripts were confiscated by the government.
Eventually, Arenas was forced to flee Cuba during the Mariel Boat lift of the 1980s – a mass exodus of Cubans who were released from jail and exiled to the United States.
Arenas committed suicide after contracting HIV in the states, and as a result could no longer write.
Before Night Falls is his autobiography and perfectly captures life in 1960s’ Cuba. This is a must read for all LGBT+ scholars.
6. Walking With Ghosts by Qwo Li Driskill
Qwo Li Driskill is a Two-Spirit Cherokee who is making much advancement in giving voice to LGBT+ Natives.
In Walking with Ghosts, Driskill finds hir voice by returning to the effects colonisation has on hir peoples, while paying homage to those who have suffered and were even kill by hate crimes involving race and queerness.
This is another must-read and one that will leave you walking with the ghosts of Driskill’s heritage.
7. Salvation Army by Abdella Taïa
This is a coming of age novel by Abdella Taïa, a self-proclaimed homosexual who was exiled from Morocco to France after coming out via many public outlets. This novel both functions as a work of fiction as well as Taïa’s own autobiography.
Salvation Army examines the many difficulties facing a child who is coming into his own sexual awakening in a place that is both foreign and familiar. Eventually, the child grows into a man who examines life, culture, and sexuality in a Diasporic land.
8. My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
Pamuk is a Turkish writer that focuses on the cultural implications that arise when the ‘West’ meets the ‘East.’
Taking place in 16th century Istanbul, this beautiful gem recounts the tale of a Sultan who commissions a work of art in the European style – an affront to Islam which condemns the use of figurative art. Meanwhile, one of the miniaturists who is commissioned to create the piece is murdered.
This novel examines the many complexities that arise when cultural differences in sexuality, art and religion meet. This is a surely a mystery that will leave you questioning your own culture until the very last page.
9. The Smell of Apples by Mark Behr
Mark Behr is another writer from South Africa that examines the cultural politics of apartheid rule – from a white colonial perspective.
This is another coming of age novel that stretches the divides of apartheid. This novel takes a look at a prominent white family who hides a daunting secret of its own. Eventually, a boy must decide if his upbringing is a product of a corrupt war machine.
Read. Weep. Enjoy.
10. Shadow Game by Michael Power
This novel was originally banned in South Africa because of its subject matter. However, it was recently re-introduced after a long ban.
Shadow Game is a novel that will leave you questioning ‘Why?’. It takes place in South Africa during apartheid, when a white human resource officer falls in love with a black radio host on the rise. They must face adversity in a system that would prevent any such thing from happening. Power cuts your heart strings and intentionally makes you question everything you were ever taught.
I promise you won’t be disappointed by this one.
11. Trumpet by Jackie Kay
Trumpet by Jackie Kay is a sublime novel about the ordinariness of the trans* experience. It’s based on a true story, in which a man was discovered, upon his death, to have been assigned female at birth. His wife claimed he was a man and that was the end of the matter, despite the coroner’s claims he was ‘biologically female’.
Set in a time before gender reassignment and hormones, this novel reveals, quite simply, how one trans* person lived his life simply and in a way that was true to who he was. Here is none of the sensationalism of the stereoytpical ‘trans* narrative’. Just two people, in love, creating their own life together – while one of them also becomes a world-famous trumpet player. (AL)
12. The Passion of New Eve by Angela Carter
In The Passion of New Eve, a new order arises, where women rule and men are used as slaves and sex objects. The cruel misogynist Evelyn is transformed by a scientist named Mother into Eve – a woman.
As a woman, Eve discovers what it is like to live on the other side of oppression, and sets off to find her favourite film icon: the beautiful, mysterious Tristressa. (AL)
13. Among the Blood People by Thomas Glave
Among the Blood People is Thomas Glave’s latest book of essays. The essays are highly personal, highly political and always entertaining. Glave writes with dramatic insistence, carrying us through intensely felt narratives rooted in the body and all the body’s rich experiences.
Race, class, sexuality and gender are all dissected effortlessly and breathlessly. Best of all is Glave’s ‘A Meditation on “Barebacking”‘, which attempts to show (powerfully) some of the emotional and psychological imperatives that seduce people into ignoring the patriarchal shaming tactics of the safer sex message. (AL)
14. Telling Tales by Patience Agbabi
Telling Tales by Patience Agbabi is a vivid, multivocal reimagining of Chaucer’s unforgettable classic, The Canterbury Tales. Updating her stories for the contemporary era, Agbabi writes in a variety of forms and styles (from rap to prose), offering us a multicultural cast of characters – each with their own unique voice. (AL)
15. Reader, I Married Him by Dorothea Smartt
Reader, I Married Him by Dorothea Smartt is a powerful and poignant chapbook of poems by a queer poet and Orisha priestess. ‘Brit-born Bajan’ Smartt writes of queer love and desire in the colonial and postcolonial world, building this short collection around the marriage of an older Caribbean woman with a gay Jamaican man so he can escape the homophobia of his homeland. (AL)
First published at Vada Magazine. Republished with permission.