Hello and happy Pride Month!
First, I wanted to link to some resources that I’ve been using:
- Antiracist Reading List by Ibram X. Kendi
- Black-owned bookstores that are open virtually
- Upcoming books by Black authors that you can preorder
- And speaking of Pride Month: Why we owe Pride to Black transgender women
“Don’t just read Black literature in this moment. Read Black lit for the rest of your life. Read and support the work of Black essayists, novelists, poets, today and forever and always. Do NOT make your support conditional on whether or not racism is in the headlines.”
If you’d like to celebrate Pride by donating to some Black queer organizations doing great work, check out this list. If you’re a rising high school senior (or if you know any), I teamed up with two of my friends to raise money by editing college application essays – all proceeds will be donated to Black Lives Matter. You can find out more here.
On Instagram, I shared some of my favorite sapphic poems. (June Jordan! Chaia Heller! Natalie Wee! Joan Larkin! Also Strawberry Blond by Mitski which is not technically a poem but it may as well be!) I thought I’d keep sharing the love (literally) with ten of my favorite sapphic books, plus ten that I’m hoping to read.
10 of My Favorite Sapphic Reads
1. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
INCREDIBLE. LIFE-CHANGING. Completely altered my ideas about graphic novels, queerness, and metaphor.
2. Songs of Sappho
Listen, I can’t write a list of “sapphic” lists and not include SAPPHO. She wrote some love poems about girls, she lived on an Island named Lesbos, and now we call women who love women lesbians. That’s iconic. Sappho is a really interesting figure to me – despite being a woman living in 600 B.C., she gained an immense amount of respect as a poet; yet only fragments of her work survive. And that writing varies widely depending on what translator you’re reading. Here’s one of my favorite lines of hers: “Sweet mother, I cannot weave – slender Aphrodite has overcome me. with longing…” One translator finishes this line with “for a boy.” Another? “For a girl.” Queerness is a matter of translation.
3. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
I love Carmen Maria Machado so much and it pains me that whenever I write about her, I sound like New Year Eve noise maker. “WHOOOO WAH AHHH!” She is just so good! She is my favorite writer! She is one of the smartest humans alive probably! Okay, I’m going to try to write something comprehensible: this book changed me as a reader and a writer. Machado plays with form – there are stories told through inventory lists and Law and Order episodes. I would say that Machado rewrites classic myths, but it feels more as though she is simply revealing the story that’s been there all along, unwrapping the truth. I didn’t know that writing could look like this. Do yourself a favor. Go read it.
4. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
What’s this, another book by Carmen Maria Machado? Yes. This is my list and I shall do what I want! I read this book in one painful and incredible gulp at the end of 2019. The words are still with me. The way she uses POV, switching from first to second person? The freaking choose-your-own-adventure section??? Please, just go read this and then email me so I can continue to talk about it for eternity.
5. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
I expected this book to be about queer love, but I wasn’t expecting the poignant and compelling friendships that Freddy navigates along the way. Also, the artwork is gorgeous.
6. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
This is a Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda spin-off novel – Leah was always my favorite character in Simon’s story, so it was fun to spend more time with this snarky, bisexual drummer.
7. Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Jules Scheele
This was super informative – definitely gave me a better sense of queer history and theory.
8. American Primitive by Mary Oliver
If I was a doctor I’d tell anyone who didn’t feel well that they should read Mary Oliver, because reading her poems makes me feel like everything will be okay. This is probably why I am not a doctor.
9. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
The sort of book that’s about loneliness, but makes you feel less alone. Achingly good.
10. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
“Your silence will not protect you” and ““Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future” and ” “I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self.” Foundational, fundamental, and fantastic. Required reading for everyone.
10 Sapphic Books That Are On My TBR
1. The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
Any book that inspired both Carol and King Princess’s 1950 has to be worth its salt. (Haha. See what I did there?)
2. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
This YA novel follows Juliet Milagros Palante, who’s trying to “figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing” during a summer internship with the author of her favorite book. Sign me up.
3. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
The Poet X was brilliant, so I’m excited to read another novel in verse from Elizabeth Acevedo!
4. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
A student in my Gender and Sexuality class read an excerpt of this novel by Leslie Feinberg – “an anti-racist white, working-class, secular Jewish, transgender, lesbian, female, revolutionary communist” – and I immediately added it to my TBR list. (I’m aware that was a very liberal-arts-student-sentence.)
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Through a series of letters spanning more than twenty years, some written to God, some written between two sisters, Walker writes about the lives of Black women in rural Georgia. Everyone who has recommended this says the same two things: this book is devastating, and you have to read it.
6. The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
This YA “rom com about two teen girls with rival henna businesses” looks SO good. (Also, that cover!! My heart!!)
7. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
I’m working my way through Woolf’s works! (Whew, that was a lot of w’s.) We watched a clip of the movie version in my costume design class and it was STUNNING. This novel was also the major inspiration for the MET Costume Institute’s delayed 2020 exhibit.
8. Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz
Natalie Diaz did an interview with Poets and Writers and it made me reconsider my entire life and now I have to read her poetry collection.
9. Queer Style by Vicki Karaminas and Adam Geczy
Any book with a chapter titled “Lesbian Style: From Mannish Women to Lipstick Dykes” feels worth reading.
10. In the Role of Brie Hutchens… by Nicole Melleby
What can I say? Middle-grade will always, always have my heart, and I cannot wait to read this story about a soap opera super fan navigating her queerness at a small Catholic school.