In my experience as a student of the public school system, English literature departments seldom offer texts in the curriculum that deviate from a white, middle-to-upper class, Eurocentric (and very often male) voice. Students like me are taught authors like Shakespeare and Dickens, Steinbeck and Fitzgerald and Faulkner. The poets we learn about are poets like T.S. Eliot, Wordsworth and Dickinson. Women writers/protagonists are rare in these curriculums, and writers/protagonists of color are rarer still. I don’t believe I read a single book with a queer protagonist or written by an out queer author until university, and that was only because I chose to take a class specifically devoted to LGBT literature. I hope that the list I’m sharing below of books mostly written by and largely featuring queer people of color (POC) is taken as a call for change. There are so many different stories out there that we must, as Chimimanda Adichie said, break away from the single story.
Finlater – by Sean Stewart Ruff
In this novel, two young boys, one black and one Jewish, fall for each other in racially segregated 1970s Cincinnati. It is very sexually explicit, however, so reader beware if you’re squeamish about that.
Red Azalea – by Anchee Min
A memoir about growing up gay in China, Red Azalea has the added bonus of taking place during Maoist China, giving a rarely seen glimpse of rainbow behind the so-called red curtain.
Xicana Codex does not have an overarching narrative, but it doesn’t need to. The essays and anecdotes contained within address the queer and racial divide in the American social consciousness unabashedly. In short, it is not afraid to criticize what the author sees as a moral failing on the part of the privileged socioeconomic classes of America.
Funny Boy – by Shyam Selvadurai
A semi-autobiographical novel about growing up gay in Sri Lanka, Selvadurai’s Funny Boy examines the connections between gayness and traditional concepts of masculinity alongside the harsh realities of racial/ethnic strife.
Sister Outside – by Audre Lorde
A response to the book Brother Outsider, this collection of essays and speeches declares the need for the inclusion of black women in the black power movements and the need to rid society of anti-black misogyny.
Take Out: Queer Writing From Asian Pacific America – edited by Quang Bao and Hanya Yanagihara
Take Out is an anthology of prose and poetry that examines the problems of conflicting identity for queer people of Asian descent (and by extrapolation, queer POC in general).