A curated booklist by your favorite SPL librarians!
Biographies and Memoirs | Historical Fiction | Historical Nonfiction | Graphic Novels | Movies
Biographies and Memoirs
|Agent Josephine: American Beauty, French Hero, British Spy by Damian Lewis
A richly detailed biography of the late, great Black WWII hero and queer icon, Josephine Baker. Prior to the war, Baker was the highest paid female performer in Europe. After being banned from the stage by the Nazis, she became a key spy in the Resistance.
|An Underground Life: The Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin by Gad Beck
Not only did author Gad Beck survive being a homosexual Jew in Nazi Germany, he also spent the duration of the war smuggling food and supplies to Jews in hiding, and even helped smuggle people to safety. In this Lambda Literary Award-nominated memoir, Beck details his remarkable acts of bravery and Nazi treatment of the gay community in WWII.
|A Wild and Precious Life by Edie Windsor
Late Gay Rights icon, Edie Windsor describes gay life in 1950s and 1960s New York City and her longtime activism toward marriage equality in this celebrated memoir. Windsor became famous for suing the US government seeking federal recognition for her marriage to her partner of forty years, resulting in a landmark victory for queer rights.
|Fire Island: A Century in the Life of an American Paradise by Jack Parlett
This is not just a history of an island in New York: it’s a comprehensive yet accessible chronicle of this queer enclave’s influence on art, literature, and culture. Fast-paced and richly detailed, Fire Island is an accessible and thorough work about this historically vital space for queer America.
|Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death by Lillian Faderman
Read about the late, legendary gay activist and politician, Harvey Milk, in this engaging biography. Charismatic and charming, Milk’s life and tragic assassination at a young age propelled him into fame as one of the most influential men and queer individuals of the twentieth century.
|The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco
In this award-winning historical fiction mystery, former Pinkerton detective, Alma Rosales, a bisexual, biracial woman of Mexican decent, goes undercover in drag to infiltrate a Washington State smuggling ring and track down stolen drugs. But her habit of living a double life is threatening to catch up with her in more ways than one.
|Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg
A re-imagining of the life of London’s eighteenth century notorious thief and jailbreaker, Jack Sheppard. When a trans professor discovers a stash of papers titled “Confessions of the Fox,” a first-person account of Jack’s secretive past in London’s underworld–including a time spent as part of a thriving queer subculture–is uncovered.
|The Perfume Thief by Timothy Schaffert
Clementine, a Nebraska native and 72-year-old queer woman, has left her life of crime back in America but becomes entangled in the Paris underground resistance during World War II. Now a successful perfumer, Clem can’t resist the chance to steal the diary (and formulas) of a legendary perfumer out from under the Nazi’s noses.
|The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.
An NPR Best Book of the Year following two male slaves, Sam and Isaiah, who become lovers while growing up together on a Southern plantation. Though their community tries to protect Sam and Isaiah from harm, they’re placed in jeopardy when fellow slave, Amos, aims to get into the plantation owner’s good graces by becoming a preacher and sewing seeds of discord.
|The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Set during the Trojan War in a fantastical version of Ancient Greece, this award-winning novel centers on Patroclus, a young exiled prince who follows his lover Achilles into battle. Readers will get caught up in the drama of Greek deities interfering in the mortal realm as well as the action packed story and well-developed characters.
|A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski
A groundbreaking look at how American culture has shaped the queer experience, while arguing that LGBTQ+ people were both a part of, and pivotal in creating our country and history. This book is not so much about queer history as it is about all American history, and why this history matters to both LGBTQ+ people and non-queer folks equally.
|Bad Gays: A Homosexual History by Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller
Part revisionist history, part historical biography, Bad Gays is based on the hugely popular podcast series of the same name. This book subverts the notion of gay icons and queer heroes and asks what we can learn about LGBTQ+ history, sexuality, and identity through its villains and baddies.
|The Book of Pride: LGBTQ Heroes Who Changed the World by Mason Funk
Meet the leaders and activists on the front lines of the LGBTQ+ movement, from the 1960s to the present, through stunning interviews and compelling black and white photographs compiled and presented by OUTWORDS, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the stories of LGBTQ+ people.
|From Gay to Z by Justin Elizabeth Sayre; illustrations by Fredy Ralda
Learn your gAyBCs with this collection of witty, readable shorts on pop culture moments, iconic figures, ongoing challenges in the LGBTQ+ community and more. Here to entertain, throw some shade, and bring some joy, this carefully curated perspective serves as a reminder that queer culture isn't just what we have been, but what we are.
|Gay Life and Culture: A World History edited by Robert Aldrich
In the years since Stonewall, the world has witnessed an outpouring of research, critical inquiry, and re-interpretation of gay life and culture. This book draws on groundbreaking new material to present a comprehensive survey of all things gay, stretching back to ancient Sumeria and ranging to the present day.
|The Pink Line: Journeys Across the World's Queer Frontiers by Mark Gevisser
A globetrotting exploration of how the human rights frontier around sexual orientation and gender identity has come to divide—and describe—the world in an entirely new way. While same-sex marriage and gender transition is celebrated in some parts of the world, laws are being strengthened to criminalize homosexuality and gender nonconformity in others.
|Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century by Graham Robb
Long before Stonewall and Gay Pride, there was such a thing as gay culture, and it was recognized throughout Europe and America. Graham Robb examines how homosexuals were treated by society in the nineteenth century, and finds a tale of surprising tolerance.
|The Stonewall Generation: LGBT Elders on Sex, Activism, and Aging edited by Jane Fleishman
Sexuality researcher Jane Fleishman shares the stories of nine fearless elders in the LGBTQ+ community who came of age around the time of Stonewall. In candid interviews, they lay bare their struggles, their strengths, their activism, and their sexual liberation in the context of the political movements of the 1960s, 1970s, and today.
|We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation by Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown
Through the lens of protest, power, and pride, We Are Everywhere is an essential introduction–told through stunning photographs and thoroughly researched narrative–to the history of the modern queer liberation movement.
|Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality by Julia Shaw
Author Julia Shaw probes the science and culture of attraction beyond the binary. From the history of the Kinsey scale to asylum seekers defending their bisexuality in a court of law, there is more to explore than most have ever realized. Shaw draws on her own original research, and her own experience in this personal and scientific manifesto.
|Transgender History: The Roots of Today's Revolution by Susan Stryker
A timely second edition of the classic text on transgender history, with a new introduction and updated material throughout covering American transgender history from the mid-twentieth century to today. Covering major movements, writings, and events, this informational text also includes brief biographies of key players, transgenderism in popular culture, and more.
|And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts
By the time Rock Hudson's 1985 death alerted America to the danger of the AIDS epidemic, the disease had spread across the nation as the greatest health crisis of the 20th century. Shilts weaves the disparate threads of how this epidemic spread so far before being taken seriously into a coherent story, pinning down every evasion and contradiction of the AIDS crisis.
|Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano
In Whipping Girl, Julia Serano, a trans woman, shares her powerful experiences and observations–both pre- and post-transition–to reveal the ways in which fear, suspicion, and dismissiveness toward femininity shape our societal attitudes toward trans women, as well as gender and sexuality as a whole.
|Our Work is Everywhere: An Illustrated Oral History of Queer and Trans Resistance by Syan Rose
A graphic novel about the history of queer and trans resistance. With bold images and candid writing, this thought-provoking work of nonfiction gives voice to queer and trans organizers, artists, healers, comrades, and leaders as they relay their own stories of resistance.
|The Boys in the Band directed by William Friedkin
Following a group of gay men in Manhattan as they navigate life and culture in the 1970s, this drama and film version of an original Off-Broadway production, and was one of the first major motion pictures to center on gay characters.
|Carol directed by Todd Haynes
A romantic period drama based on the 1952 romance novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. Two women from differing backgrounds fall in love in the 1950s, pushing the bounds of conventional norms to feed their growing passion.
|The Celluloid Closet directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
A 1995 documentary based on Vito Russo's groundbreaking 1981 book The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies, with lectures and film clips of presentations Russo gave in 1972–1982.
|The Girl King directed by directed by Mika Kaurismäki
A biographical drama about Kristina, Queen of Sweden in the seventeenth century, who ascended the throne at age six, was raised as a prince, and strived to bring peace and education to her country—all while pursuing an illicit romance with her female royal attendant.
|Milk directed by Gus Van Sant
An Oscar-winning biographical film based on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California and died tragically in a political assassination.
|Paris is Burning directed by Jennie Livingston
A historically and culturally significant 1990 documentary filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s about ball and drag culture in New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities participating in it.
|Portrait of a Lady on Fire directed by Céline Sciamma
An award-winning French historical romantic drama set in late eighteenth century France, revolving around the star-crossed love affair between a female aristocrat and the woman artist hired to paint her portrait.
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