This year I promised myself that I would get involved in a lot more LGBT+ literature. I have read very little so far, and I feel like, even though it has taken 27 years, I finally want to fully embrace this community that I am a part of but have never really been in any capacity active in. As the Pride festivities roll out across the globe, I wanted to join in this read-a-thon in order to feel more connected, to educate myself, and to just, in general, read some incredible books.
The books I have chosen are all LGBT+ themed in some way (obviously), and have been ones I have had on my general life to-be-read pile for forever.
So here are the books I have chosen to embark upon this lovely queer journey with me:
A Place Called Winter – Patrick Gale
This selection is very much a cheat, as I’m already half way through this book. I started it last year, put it down, and for some reason never returned. That was ridiculous of me because I was loving the story and the characters. As I’m literally half way through the book I will more than likely just carry on from where I left off rather than starting the whole book again from scratch. This is the story of a man who discovers himself in very much a complicated way, and embarks on a journey away from the life he has built for himself. I am very much looking forward to getting back into this novel, and the writing is beautiful, and the story is truly compelling.
Days Without End – Sebastian Barry
This novel has been winning everything ever since its release, but that being said, I have heard very little about this at all. What drew me to the fact that this book had anything to do with being gay at all was a video by Eric from Lonesome Reader (which you can watch here), in which he expresses his frustration about the way in which the promotion of this book was handled, in that it very much played down the gay aspect of the story. Having read the first few chapters of the book, I can honestly say that this is probably going to end up being one of my favorite books of the year already. Barry’s writing, and the way in which he writes his narrative, are stunningly captivating and I cannot wait to see where the story goes.
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson
I have heard a lot of people discussing and raving about the writing of Jeanette Winterson, and this book seems to be the one I hear about the most. I need to confess that this is another cheat choice, as I was already half way through it before I decided to do this read-a-thon but I’ll be finishing it within the week so I’m going to let it count anyway. This book is an autobiographical account of Jeanette’s growing up in the town next door to my own (which is fascinating and really makes me connect with the story on a level I never have with a book before) in the north of England, as a working class girl adopted into a deeply religious family. Her experiences with growing up and discovering herself and her sexuality, and the way that conflicts with all has known, really comes together in this wonderful story. I can’t wait to finish this and move on to even more of Winterson’s work.
The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller
I am a lover of delving into books without knowing very much at all about what they’re about, and this is no exception. All I know is – Gay love story + Ancient History. Those two aspects are enough to sell me on anything. I’m really excited for this one as I haven’t read anything sent in Ancient Greece since school. One that I have heard very good things about and I am hoping to love.
Boy Meets Boy – David Levithan
This is probably the first book about anything to do with being gay that I ever heard of. A friend of mine told me about it many years ago, and I have had it on my mind to pick up for literally a decade. David Levithan, from what I understand, is one of the masters of LGBT+ YA, and I feel like its only right that I made the effort to read this now. Its been a very long time coming and I hope its worth the wait (which I’m sure it will be).
You can see my TBR video ‘Queer Lit Read-A-Thon TBR | #LGBTQIAread‘ in which I also mention a classic but as I write this I’ve already missed the first day of the read-a-thon because I was far too hungover from a friend’s wedding on the Saturday so I’ll omit that from this list and blame the festive cheer.
Please please please, if you have any queer book recommendations do let me know via the comments or on twitter or anywhere at all, just throw them at me! I’m really looking forward to delving into these worlds and I can’t wait to see how much I can get through in the coming days.
Please do check out the wonderful organisers of this read-a-thon –
Happy reading guys, and I hope you all have a wonderful Pride.
Right, let me start off by saying that I was quite skeptical about this book for a number of reasons.
- Because its YA and my experiences with YA haven’t been overly amazing and I do prefer adult novels
- Because this is a gay love story and in my opinion it is very very rare for a gay love story to be written in an original and beautiful way
- It has a lot of hype around it, and I didn’t want to be let down.
Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret, something I’m going to admit, that no one every really likes to admit but its healthy and you learn from it…I WAS COMPLETELY. UTTERLY. COULDN’T HAVE BEEN MORE. wrong.
This book is a super quick read, I read this whilst on my way to London for a couple of days with my boyfriend. But it made to five hour journey across the great north to south England divide absolutely enthralling.
I never dog ear pages, ever, but this book is SO DOG EARED. I just kept marking pages with beautiful quotes, and there are so many. Benjamin Alire Saenz has a way with words that I haven’t encountered too much in my reading life, which made me stop and re-read lines over and over again because there were so so wonderful.
Basically, this is a coming of age story of two boys, Aristotle and Dante. Both of Mexican heritage, with which to story explores the idea of racial identity and the way in which some people try to dilute their own race when maneuvering through the world. It explores families who have to deal with their children in prison. It explores anger, and suppression, and all the things teenagers go through in their high school years, and I don’t think there is anyone who could read this book without seeing themselves projecting in some way back to them from the page. It explores sexuality, and coming to terms with the fact you might not be the same as the people around you. It has so many themes and doesn’t fail with any of them at getting the theme across in a stunning way.
This book is one which features later this year on the Banging Book Club’s reading list which I plan on joining with this year, so I won’t go into massive amounts of detail because I’ll be rereading it and I’m sure I’ll notice more things and have more ideas about the book but I’ll just end this little review with a couple of my favorite lines from the book.
My mother and father held hands. I wondered what that was like, to hold someone’s hand. I bet you could sometimes find all of the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand
I wondered about the science of storms and how sometimes it seemed that a storm wanted to break the world, and how the world refused to break
And finally the author’s dedication is as wonderful as his writing;
To all the boys who’ve had to learn to play by different rules
This book is a thing of beauty, and I want to buy and million copies and scatter them across the earth.
Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer is the 205 page non-fiction account of Christopher McCandless’ life and adventures throughout American, specifically focusing on his time in Alaska.
I watched Sean Penn’s adaptation of Into The Wild a number of years ago now, and it quickly became one of my favorite films of all time. The breath taking scenery and heart wrenching story sucked early 20’s me straight in, dragging me in by my naive wanderlust. Do I wish I had left it there, not having read the book behind the film? Do I wish I hadn’t delved deeper into this story I loved so much for years? I haven’t decided yet, but…probably.
**the remainder of this review will contain spoilers**
Christopher McCandless was a young man fresh out of college in America when he decided to just ditch his entire, more than a little privileged life and hitchhike his way up to a remote area of Alaska. He donated all the money in his bank account to OXFAM, a charity who focuses on famine and hunger, which is ironic really in hindsight, left for Alaska without telling a soul he was going, and never looked back.
Now here is where my problems begin with this book, I mean a beautiful film is a beautiful film, I also love Titanic, but if I stopped to think about the hundreds of lives lost in that real life situation I’d be completely shook, which is pretty much the situation I am in now that I’ve read this book. The movie, as do parts of Krakauer’s writing to be fair, deeply romanticise the fact that a young man, younger than me, decided to walk out of the lives of every single person he knew, and live in a wilderness he knew little, but not enough about, to satisfy his intense craving for adventure. We all have needs, we all desire to travel the world, and I guess the idea of waiting and saving for months to escape to a new part of the world for a 14 day holiday doesn’t appeal to all when one thinks of travelling, but McCandless took it to the extreme.
I fully understand why this book divides people into those who love it, and those who think Chris was a selfish, egotistical example of white privilege. Chris travels in and out of various communities on his way to Alaska, some times sticking around long enough to gain a job and get to know people. Some of these people are featured in the book, interviewed by Krakauer, and give their thoughts and opinions on him. The general feeling from those who met him on his journey seems to be similar in all instances, they are older people, some with children Chris’ age themselves, who cared about what happened to him, tried to help him, and ultimately cared for him even though he was basically a drifter.
I would love to travel America, I would adore to visit Alaska, maybe trek into the woods, camp out for a couple of nights maybe, but I don’t think I’d ever just vanish into the void of adventure. And after all Chris experienced, after all the wilderness he trekked through and survived, he died in what he assumed was the middle of nowhere, just six miles away from civilization. He wasn’t as into the wild as he thought, and that is another reason why this book shattered the illusion that the movie produced. This story takes place in the early 1990s, we aren’t talking about an adventure in the 1800’s in which a man sets out to discover and map out the new world, the world was already mapped, but I don’t think Chris quite saw it that way, I think he wanted to experience the simplest life possible, in the most natural way possible, and discover a land untouched by man.
I gave this book three stars on GoodReads, this isn’t really down to the story and the fact I’m pissed the book shattered the movie magic for me, but because I feel like the author really stretched to flesh out the book. Krakauer originally wrote about McCandless in a magazine article, and that kind of shows up clearly in the way the book is structured. You start off with the origins of the story, getting to Alaska, the build up to it, and then Chris is abandoned and we move on to other explorers whose stories have some parallels to Chris’…not too annoying, because its interesting to hear that this isn’t an isolated incident, but then we get entire chapters about Krakauer’s own near-death climbing experiences and it basically turns into the writer thinking, ‘okay I’ve run out of his life story, lets chuck a bit of mine in there for dramatic effect, really show the reader I knew what McCandless was feeling/thinking’. Once you know the book was spun from an article, it is quite easy to see the author in the writing, fleshing out bits of other stories to try and produce a full book.
All in all, I did enjoy this book, I found it interesting, factual, and it gave me a new, albeit conflicted insight into the life and times of Christopher McCandless. I still love the film, I think I’ll always love the film, but now after reading the book, I no longer feel the romanticized pull towards the actions of a man who left everyone he knew and that loved him, to die of starvation (maybe) a three hour walk away from civilisation.