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Queer Reading Guide

There's so much to love in these books. They tell stories of life on the edge and of identities in crisis. Stories about bravery and stories about love. No matter who you are or how you identitfy, there are books out there for everyone just waiting to be found and celebrated. Happy reading.

#1: Giovanni's Room

by James Baldwin

First Published in 1956, Giovanni's Room is a seminal classic bringing gay and bisexual identities to modern audiences with audacity and empathy in equal measure.

The novel traces one man's struggle with his sexual identity. In a 1950s Paris swarming with expatriates and characterized by dangerous liaisons and hidden violence, an American finds himself confronting secret desires that jeopardize the conventional life he envisions for himself. After meeting and proposing to a young woman, he falls into a lengthy affair with an Italian bartender and is confounded and tortured as he oscillates between the two... more

#2: The Hours

by Michael Cunningham

Winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize and Pen Faulkner prize. Adapted into the Oscar-winning film.

The Hours is a daring and deeply affecting novel inspired by the life and work of Virginia Woolf. In 1920s London, Virginia Woolf is fighting against her rebellious spirit as she attempts to make a start on her new novel. A young wife and mother, broiling in a suburb of 1940s Los Angeles, yearns to escape and read her precious copy of Mrs Dalloway.

And Clarissa Vaughan steps out of her smart Greenwich village apartment in 1990s New York to buy flowers for a party she is hosting for a dying friend... more

#3: Hello, Cruel World

by Kate Bornstein

101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks & Other Outlaws

This is a one-of-a-kind guide to staying alive outside the box for marginalised youth. Celebrated transsexual trailblazer, Kate Bornstein bravely and wittily shares personal and unorthodox methods of survival in an often cruel world.

This title features a catalogue of 101 alternatives to suicide that range from the playful (moisturise!) to the irreverent (shatter family values) to the highly controversial (get laid, please)... more

#4: Rat Bohemia

by Sarah Schulman

First published in 1995, this award-winning novel is a bold, achingly honest novel set in the rat bohemia of New York City, whose huddled masses include gay men and lesbians abandoned by their families and forced to find new bonds.

Navigating the currents are three friends: Rita, a rat exterminator; Killer, a plant-waterer; and David, an HIV+ writer; together, they seek new ways to be truthful and honest about their lives, as others around them avert their glances.

Updated edition includes a new introduction by the author... more

#5: Merciless Gods

by Christos Tsiolkas

A collection of thrilling, original and imaginative stories from the award-winning, bestselling author of The Slap & Barracuda - a showcase all of his immense and unique story-telling talents.

Love, sex, death, family, friendship, betrayal, tenderness, brutality, sacrifice and revelation.

'One of the most significant contemporary storytellers at work today.' - Colm Toibin, author of Brooklyn

'Every story is a gripping out-pouring; a horrific image of our humanity blending recurrent spiritual notions in both character and landscape.' - Ben @ A&R... more

#6: Maurice

by E. M. Forster

Maurice Hall is a young man who grows up confident in his privileged status and well aware of his role in society. Modest and generally conformist, he nevertheless finds himself increasingly attracted to his own sex.

Through Clive, whom he encounters at Cambridge, and through Alec, the gamekeeper on Clive's country estate, Maurice gradually experiences a profound emotional and sexual awakening.

A tale of passion, bravery and defiance, this intensely personal novel was completed in 1914 but remained unpublished until after Forster's death in 1970... more

#7: Orlando

by Virginia Woolf

Written for Virginia Woolf's intimate friend, the charismatic writer Vita Sackville-West, Orlando is a playful mock 'biography' of a chameleonic historical figure, immortal and ageless, who changes sex and identity on a whim.

Orlando, deciding not to grow old, pursues his quest for passion, adventure, fulfilment and protracted youth. Chasing a dream through the centuries, he bounds from Elizabethan England and imperial Turkey to the modern world. Will he find happiness with the exotic Russian Princess Sasha? Or is the dashing explorer Shelmerdine the ideal man? And what form will Orlando take on the journey - a nobleman, gypsy, writer?

Man or...woman?... more

#8: Our Young Man

by Edmund White

New York City in the eighties, and at its decadent heart is Guy.

Guy is taking on the fashion world and fast becoming the darling of the Fire Island's gay community. Cuddly yet depraved Fred; Andre, dealing in stolen paintings and hurtling towards prison and the abyss; Pierre-Georges, adept with acerbic asides and knowing lectures: they are all in some way fixated on Guy. And Guy, Dorian Gray-like, never ageing. Still modelling at thirty-five, still enjoying lavish, expensive gifts from those older men who all believe he's far younger, Guy lets them believe - until he finds his way of life is destroying the men he loves... more

#9: Why be Happy When You Could be Normal?

by Jeanette Winterson

The shocking, heart-breaking - and often very funny - true story behind Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

In 1985 Jeanette Winterson's first novel, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, was published. It tells the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents. The girl is supposed to grow up and be a missionary. Instead she falls in love with a woman. Disaster. Written when Jeanette was only twenty-five, her novel went on to win the Whitbread First Novel award, become an international bestseller and inspire an award-winning BBC television adaptation. Oranges was semi-autobiographical. Mrs Winterson, a thwarted giantess, loomed over that novel and its author's life... more

#10: A Single Man

by Christopher Isherwood

Now a major film starring Julianne Moore and Colin Firth directed by Tom Ford

Celebrated as a masterpiece from its first publication, A Single Man is the story of George Falconer, an English professor in suburban California left heartbroken after the death of his lover, Jim.

With devastating clarity and humour, Christopher Isherwood shows George's determination to carry on, evoking the unexpected pleasures of life as well as the soul's ability to triumph over loneliness and alienation... more

#11: Gaysia

by Benjamin Law

'Benjamin Law is funny and honest and handsome - Gaysia is a delightful, occasionally confronting adventure.' - Josh Thomas

Benjamin Law considers himself pretty lucky to live in Australia: he can hold his boyfriend's hand in public and lobby his politicians to recognise same-sex marriage. As the child of migrants, though, he also wonders how different life might have been had he grown up elsewhere. So off he sets to meet his fellow Gaysians.

Law takes his investigative duties seriously, baring all in Balinese nudist resorts and taking Indian yoga classes designed to cure his homosexuality... more

#12: Patrick White: A life

by David Marr

Patrick White, winner of the Nobel Prize and author of more than a dozen novels and plays - including Voss, The Vivisector and The Twyborn Affair - lived an extraordinary life. David Marr's brilliant biography draws not only on a wide range of original research but also on the single most difficult and important source of all: the man himself.

Throughout his exciting narrative, Marr explores the roots of White's writing and unearths the raw material of his remarkable art. He makes plain the central fact of White's life as an artist: the homosexuality that formed his view of himself as an outcast and stranger able to penetrate the hearts of both men and women... more

#13: Take Me to Paris, Johnny

by John Foster

Take Me to Paris, Johnny is John Foster's moving yet unsentimental account of the life of his partner, Juan C├ęspedes. It traces Juan's youth in Cuba and his move to New York, where he struggles to make it as a dancer. There, in 1981 - in 'a chance encounter, much like any other' - he meets John, an Australian historian. What begins as just a fling becomes a dazzling six-year affair.

First published in 1993, not long before John Foster's death, Take Me to Paris, Johnny is brilliant and unflinching, at once controlled and impassioned: a love story told with humour and unerring skill... more

#14: Holding the Man

by Timothy Conigrave

'A monumentally loved book... [and] an Australian classic.' - Benjamin Law

The mid-seventies: at an all-boys Catholic school in Melbourne, Timothy Conigrave falls wildly and sweetly in love with the captain of the football team. So begins a relationship that weathers disapproval, separation and, ultimately, death. With honesty and insight, Holding the Man explores the highs and lows of any partnership, and the strength of heart both men have to find when they test positive to HIV.

This is a book as refreshing and uplifting as it is moving; a funny and sad and celebratory account of growing up gay... more

#15: What Days are for: A Memoir

by Robert Dessaix

One Sunday night in Sydney, Robert Dessaix collapses in a gutter in Darlinghurst, and is helped to his hotel by a kind young man wearing a T-shirt that says F__K YOU.

What follows are weeks in hospital, tubes and cannulae puncturing his body, as he recovers from the heart attack threatening daily to kill him.

While lying in the hospital bed, Robert chances upon Philip Larkin's poem 'Days'. What, he muses, have his days been for? What and who has he loved and why? This is vintage Robert Dessaix... more

#16: The Bee Hut: Poems 2001-2008

by Dorothy Porter

The Bee Hut brings together the poems Doroty Porter wrote in the last five years of her life.

By turns expansive and intimate, effusive and contemplative, these poems roam widely - into history and to sacred places both mythic and personal. Porter's writing glows and shimmers with passionate curiosity and exuberant love of life.

'(Dorothy Porter's)' poems are short, powerful, beautiful and sometimes brutal. Each poem is a portrait, a sensation, a short story, a joke, or a reflection in itself.' - The Times... more

#17: Reckoning: A Memoir

by Magda Szubanski

Heartbreaking, joyous, traumatic, intimate and revelatory, Reckoning is the book where Magda Szubanski, one of Australia's most beloved performers, tells her story.

In this extraordinary memoir, Magda describes her journey of self-discovery from a suburban childhood, haunted by the demons of her father's espionage activities in wartime Poland and by her secret awareness of her sexuality, to the complex dramas of adulthood and her need to find out the truth about herself and her family... more

#18: Becoming Westerly

by Jamie Brisick

The incredible true story of Peter Drouyn and his amazing journey from life as a heartthrob champion surfer to the woman he always believed he was meant to be: Westerly Windina.

'Peter was always looking for a princess, he wanted to find his princess. Unfortunately, the princess was me. I'm the princess that Peter always wanted but never met.'

Peter Drouyn was a surfer with a touch of genius who forever changed the face of surfing... more

#19: The City and the Pillar

by Gore Vidal

Jim Willard, former high-school athlete and clean-cut boy-next-door-, is haunted by the memory of a romantic adolescent encounter with his friend Bob Ford.

As Jim pursues his first love, in awe of the very same masculinity he possesses himself, his progress through the secret gay world of 1940's America unveils surreptitious Hollywood affairs, the hidden life of the military in the Second World War and the underworld bar culture of New York City.

With the publication of his daring third novel, The City and the Pillar in 1948, Gore Vidal shocked the American public, which has just begun to hail him as their newest and brightest young writer... more

#20: A Boy's Own Story

by Edmund White

Originally published in 1982 as the first of Edmund White's trilogy of autobiographical novels, A Boy's Own Story became an instant classic for its pioneering portrayal of homosexuality.

The book's unnamed narrator, growing up during the 1950s, is beset by aloof parents, a cruel sister, and relentless mocking from his peers, compelling him to seek out works of art and literature as solace-and to uncover new relationships in the struggle to embrace his own sexuality. Lyrical and poignant, with powerful evocations of shame and yearning, this is an American literary treasure... more