We are right in the heart of LGBTQIA+ History Month where we have been spending time with authors and stories that shine a light on queer histories across time with some having clear sights on the future.
Spending this month reading through our list has been a wonderful treat because there are some places always worth a revisit and there are always new discoveries when you go back to familiar places.
From LOTE whose zany exploration of Black modernist poets and the 'Bright Young Things' of the roaring 20s and 30s, to Crosshairs where a Black drag queen, must evade and resist the government's concentration camps for queer and diverse communities, this month's reading has been a journeyed linguistic feast into spaces and worlds that showcase how communities are formed, fractured and fortified from uniquely queer perspectives.
If you are new to our list, no worries and no pressure to inhale every single story this month (but don't be afraid to take on the challenge). With a focus on four stories across fiction and non fiction, with dystopian and autobiographical stories in the mix, there is definitely something for your reading pleasure.
LOTE | Shola von Reinhold
Lush and frothy, incisive and witty, Shola von Reinhold’s decadent queer literary debut immerses readers in the pursuit of aesthetics and beauty, while interrogating the removal and obscurement of Black figures from history.
Solitary Mathilda has long been enamored with the ‘Bright Young Things’ of the 20s, and throughout her life, her attempts at reinvention have mirrored their extravagance and artfulness. After discovering a photograph of the forgotten Black modernist poet Hermia Druitt, who ran in the same circles as the Bright Young Things that she adores, Mathilda becomes transfixed and resolves to learn as much as she can about the mysterious figure. Her search brings her to a peculiar artists’ residency in Dun, a small European town Hermia was known to have lived in during the 30s. The artists’ residency throws her deeper into a lattice of secrets and secret societies that takes hold of her aesthetic imagination, but will she be able to break the thrall of her Transfixions?
From champagne theft and Black Modernisms, to art sabotage, alchemy and lotus-eating proto-luxury communist cults, Mathilda’s journey through modes of aesthetic expression guides her to truth and the convoluted ways it is made and obscured.
CROSSHAIRS | Catherine Hernandez
Set in a terrifyingly familiar near-future, with massive floods leading to rampant homelessness and devastation, a government-sanctioned regime called The Boots seizes on the opportunity to round up communities of colour, the disabled, and the LGBTQ+ into labour camps.
In the shadows, a new hero emerges. After he loses his livelihood as a drag queen and the love of his life, Kay joins the resistance alongside Bahadur, a transmasculine refugee, and Firuzeh, a headstrong social worker. Guiding them in the use of weapons and close-quarters combat is Beck, a rogue army officer, who helps them plan an uprising at a major televised international event.
With her signature “raw yet beautiful, disturbing yet hopeful” (Booklist) prose, Catherine Hernandez creates a vision of the future that is all the more frightening because it is very possible. A cautionary tale filled with fierce and vibrant characters, Crosshairs explores the universal desire to thrive, love, and be loved for being your true self.
EVELYN DOVE | Stephen Bourne
Evelyn Dove embraced the worlds of jazz, musical theatre and, most importantly, cabaret, in a career spanning five decades from the 1920s through to the 1960s. A black British diva with movie star looks, she captivated audiences and admirers around the world, enjoying the same appeal as the ‘Forces Sweetheart’ Vera Lynn throughout the Second World War.
Refusing to be constrained by her race or middle–class West African and English backgrounds, she would perform for infamous Russian leader, Joseph Stalin; become a regular vocalist for the BBC and a celebrated performer across continental Europe, India and the US.
At the height of her fame in the 1930s, she worked with the pioneers of black British theatre, replacing Josephine Baker as the star attraction in a revue at the Casino de Paris and scandalizing her family by appearing on stage semi-nude.
This is a celebration of an extraordinary career punctuated with vertiginous highs and profound lows, and places Dove in historical context with artists of her time, such as Adelaide Hall, Dame Cleo Laine and Dame Shirley Bassey.
LIFTING THE FIRE HYDRANT LID | Kate Fullen
A raw, eye-opening memoir from a North East firefighter, charting her journey into the male dominated heart of the British Fire and Rescue Service.
Lifting the Fire Hydrant Lid follows young, idealistic recruit, Kate Fullen, as she negotiates training school and settles into life on the watch. With incidents and routine tasks woven into the fabric of the story, it describes the consuming pressure, emotional turmoil and unpredictable nature of the job.
Utilising the rare perspective of a northern, queer, working-class female firefighter, Lifting the Fire Hydrant Lid examines the more intricate difficulties experienced by minority groups and gives a voice to a profession that is seldom heard and rarely seen.
Enjoy 30% off all our LGBTQ stories this month with discount automatically applied at checkout.