Hello Dear Readers, Book Lovers, Friends & Family,
Welcome to June 2021.... the bookshops are opening, museums are welcoming visitors, the sun is shining, and people are starting to inhabit the parks, the streets, the cafes, everywhere! This springy emergent post-Covid hopefulness permeating the air is delicious- and made even more delicious by the fact that this month is PRIDE!
Beyond the confetti-strewn parades, bumping street parties, and rainbow crop tops, pride is, at its core, about celebrating the self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and visibility of LGBTQI people. (Think pride as opposed to shame).
Pride is a month for promoting queer identities, for visibility and openness in the face of oppression, for overcoming fear, and for commemorating and recognizing the pain of so many whose rights (and even lives) have been trampled on and taken from them by those who spew ignorance, fear, intolerance, and hatred.
So in honor of celebrating all things LGBTQIA+ , here is Lovestruck Literature's very own Pride-inspired Literary "Best of" List:
The 5 Best Queer Romance Novels of All Time
1. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
I picked up a copy of Giovanni's Room once almost accidentally, on my way from London to Istanbul. I was surprised to see a James Baldwin there in the airport book store, among the usual beach reads and presidential memoirs and such.
I read the book on the airplane and then read it again when I returned.
Searing and haunting and painful and sad, Giovanni's Room is a semi-autobiographical tale by James Baldwin. Set in the bars and midnight streets of Paris in the 1950's, the story follows the lives, couplings, and uncouplings of a group of expats and bohemians. The main character is, David, an American expat who begins a fraught relationship with a beautiful Italian bartender, Giovanni.
The story of the tumult and drama that ensues is rendered so eloquently and carefully. This book is important. It left me feeling somewhat haunted, and is worth reading many times.
2. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
Before we were serenaded by Sufjan Stevens' sweet angelic voice as we watched the tension develop between Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer (both clad in pastel-hued shorts) during the 2017 hit film version of Call Me By Your Name, there was André Aciman's novel of the same name.
Set amongst cobblestone streets, olive groves, sun-drenched pools, and charming old villas in 1980’s Italy, the book follows the budding relationship between 17-year-old Jewish-Italian boy Elio Perlman and 24-year-old visiting American Jewish scholar, Oliver. As that one fateful summer unfolds, Elio discovers his own sensuality in new ways, and he and Oliver fall into a relationship that affects them both for years to come.
While the film ends after the summer sun fades, the book follows the lives of these characters for the next 20 years, tracing the impact of their passion as their lives unfold.
Fun fact: Armie Hammer, who stars as Oliver in the film version, also recorded the audio book version of Call Me By Your Name.
3. Orlando: A Biography By Virginia Woolf
Gay and lesbian characters make appearances throughout most of Woolf's canon, whether explicitly or ambiguously queer. From Neville's stark homosexuality in The Waves to the vaguely implied lesbian nature of Lily Briscoe in To The Lighthouse, Woolf's grappling with her own sexuality certainly seeped into her work on the page. But none of her previous works could rival the celebration of queer love that is Orlando: A Biography.
Written as a literary love letter from Woolf to her real life lover, Vita Sackville-West, Orlando follows the life of a charming young aristocratic man, Orlando, Woolf's literary portrait of Sackville-West. Orlando lives in Tudor England, travels abroad, has adventures and misadventures, and ultimately becomes a woman who lives through to the 1920's. While the man version of Orlando dates women and the woman version of Orlando dates men, the character overall exhibits a dashingly queer swagger that confounded societal expectations at the time Woolf wrote the novel.
Fun fact: The book originally included photos of Vita in both feminine and masculine clothes.
Vita's son, Nigel Nicolson, had this to say about it:
"The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her."
4. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Fingersmith is Sarah Waters's third novel and, like the previous two, showcases the author's intimate sense of language to craft an intricate story full of twists and turns, surprising characters, suspense, and a Victorian-era eroticism that feels anything but old.
The lesbian love of protagonists Maud and Sue challenges not just the norms of convention of the time in which the novel is set, but also provokes questions about sexuality, pornography, and what is considered appropriate for today. The novel is full of witticisms with sexual undertones that make this a thrilling and wildly fun read. (Even the title, Fingersmith, refers to both an old term for a common thief, and, perhaps, something about more salacious.)
Fun fact: Fingersmith inspired the film The Handmaiden, which, in this author's humble opinion, is a fantastic watch. The film transforms the tale from Victorian England to 1930s Korea.
5. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
I first read Alison Bechdel's daring and enduring graphic novel as part of my assigned curriculum for a college course entitled "Power and Representation". As a queer person myself, who had not yet emerged from my closet of ambiguity, I found the story of her own coming-of-age as a lesbian woman somewhat awe-inspiring.
The carefully illustrated graphic novel-style memoir traces Bechdel's upbringing in rural Pennsylvania, her complicated relationship with her father, and the key role literature can play in shaping a young life. The graphic novel made a huge splash, and was eventually translated to the stage, becoming the first mainstream musical with a young lesbian protagonist.
Fun Fact: Alison Bechdel invented the "Bechdel test" in the 1980's, which measures how a film portrays its female characters.
In order to pass the Bechdel test, a film must answer Yes! to three questions:
Want to star in your own queer romance novel?
Lovestruck Literature prides itself on inclusivity and celebration of love in all forms. For an extra special gift to help you celebrate your love, take a look at the gift packages we offer.
Each gift package includes a 100% original custom romantic work of literature, alongside original illustrations, audio recordings, and even special monogrammed wine glasses, for a truly one-of-a-kind gift.
We write short stories, mini mini stories, and full length novellas that tell the story of your real life relationship- but with a fun genre twist. So whether Brokeback Mountain, Pride and Prejudice, or The Great Gatsby is your dream literary setting, we can transform your real life love story to fit the bill.
In the meantime, happy Pride, happy reading, and we'll leave you with this inspirational quote from James Baldwin:
"You have to go the way your blood beats. If you don’t live the only life you have, you won’t live some other life, you won’t live any life at all."