Reader’s Advisory: LGBTQ Stories

LGBTQ characters in comics, literature, television, and film have become increasingly popular and accepted. The success of TV shows such as Orange is the New Black, the recently critically acclaimed film Carol, and queer retellings of stories such as that of Catwoman have boosted representation of LGBTQ people. If you’ve been searching for more LGBTQ characters, here is a list of books available in the Undergraduate Library that will capture your interest.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home:A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

This graphic memoir by lesbian comic artist Alison Bechdel, author of the long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, explores Bechdel’s sexuality as a child and college student alongside the retelling of her father’s complicated sexuality and premature death. This Lambda Literary and Eisner award-winning graphic memoir is a great introduction to graphic novels and queer literature, but will also please aficionados of the genres. Fans of the Broadway musical Fun Home who were left craving more should pick up this original story!

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

This book tells the story of Ijeoma, a young Nigerian girl who falls in love with another girl of a different ethnic group as the civil war becomes the backdrop of their lives in the 1970s. As the adult Ijeoma reminisces about her childhood, she discovers herself and her desires in this intimate debut novel. People interested in coming-of-age stories will love Ijeoma’s journey to understanding her sexuality.

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
James Baldwin’s 1956 classic Giovanni’s Room follows a man conflicted between the women to whom he has recently engaged and his affair with an Italian bartender—who just so happens to be a man. As David struggles to choose between his goal of a traditional lifestyle and his sexual desires, he falls deeper into his affair with Giovanni. Baldwin wrote the classic tale of self-discovery mixed with a sex and sin in this literary masterpiece.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Fans of lesbian romance, mysteries, and historical fiction alike will devour this period romance by renowned lesbian author Sarah Waters. Sue, an orphan raised in a community of con artists, becomes the maid of a wealthy woman whose inheritance is the object of desire. With a surprising romance and plot twists, if you can’t get enough of this Lambda Literary winning story, it was retold in the form of a BBC One series, which is also available in the Undergraduate Library!

Long Red Hair by Meags Fitzgerald

Long Red Hair by Meags Fitzgerald

Comic artist Meags Fitzgerald details her story of discovering and labeling her sexuality while struggling with the social pressure to choose between her attraction to men and to women. Even within queer literatures, stories of bisexuality and other non-monosexual identities are less prevalent than gay or lesbian narratives. Fitzgerald interweaves historical examples of relationships and sexuality with her own in this 93-page whirlwind of a memoir. Readers who seek representations of lesser-discussed sexualities, or those looking for a book to devour in one sitting, will love this graphic retelling of Fitzgerald’s coming-of-age as a queer woman.

Wandering Son by Takako Shimura

Wandering Son by Takako Shimura

Takako Shimura’s manga series follows two transgender friends in middle school as they discover what it means to be transgender and how to live as their authentic selves. Through eight volumes, Shimura gives readers a coming-of-age story unlike any other: as the characters approach and experience puberty, their experiences are shaped by their gender identities that do not match their bodies. This manga series broke new ground during its first release in 2002. It will be enjoyed by lovers of comics, coming-of-age stories, and LGBTQ literature alike.

What are your favorite LGBTQ books? Tweet at us (@askundergrad) or contact us on Facebook (Undergraduate Library at UIUC)!

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Got Pride? LGBT Pride Month at the UGL

The Stonewall Inn Riots, a series of protests following police raids on a queer bar in New York City that are widely considered the igniting spark for the modern LGBT rights movement, took place on June 28-29, 1969. Ever since then, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer folks in the United States have taken the month of June as a symbolic time to demonstrate pride in their sexual and gender minority identities.

A rainbow-colored robot invites you to LGBT pride month.

Original image by Quinn Dombrowski.

This year, 45 years later, President Barack Obama has again declared June LGBT Pride Month, recognizing the importance for LGBTQ people to celebrate themselves and the political struggles their communities have been involved in. In order to show off our own pride, the UGL would like to recommend some items from our collection that display some LGBTQ pride and history.


by Martin Duberman

If you’re interested in going back to the beginning, Martin Duberman’s Stonewall is an important look—even 20 years on—at the watershed nature of the events at Stonewall through the eyes of six very different people. His history captures the conflicting and varied responses to the Stonewall events and draws a messy picture of the events leading up to Stonewall that made the riots such a historic event.

Smash the Church, Smash the State book cover with vintage photos of activists

Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation

edited by Tommi Avicolli Mecca

Smash the Church, Smash the State takes a look at the political climate immediately following Stonewall by investigating the early years of the Gay Liberation Front, a anti-assimilationist activist group—the first to use the word “gay” in its name—that worked alongside (and sometimes against) other radical movements of the 1970s. Written by former GLF members, this book provides insight into a turbulent and fabulous movement whose work laid the foundation for contemporary LGBTQ politics.

Body Counts boko cover with image of couple kissing

Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival

by Sean Strub

Moving forward in time, another historically significant event in the history of queer people in the United States was the AIDS crisis of the late 80s and early 90s. Sean Strub’s memoir, Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival, documents one slice of that time and what it meant for the gay community. As the founder of POZ magazine and the first openly HIV-positive candidate for the US legislature, Strub’s insight into the critical need for AIDS-related protections and research and his work with ACT UP paints an important picture of this era.

Redefining Realness book cover with image of Janet Mock looking incredibly regal

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More

by Janet Mock

For a contemporary look at one aspect of LGBTQ pride, check out Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More. Mock was born to Black and Native Hawaiian parents in a working class neighborhood of Honolulu, and is now a respected writer and advocate for trans rights, creating #girlslikeus, an online movement for transwomen living visibly. Mock’s memoir traces her life from a childhood in Hawai‘i through her career in New York City, and it highlights the need for mainstream LGBTQ movements to center the experiences of trans women of color to continue to fight oppression both within and outside of LGBTQ communities.

There’s lots more Pride to be found in the stacks of the UGL and in Champaign-Urbana more widely. If you’re looking to celebrate this month, check out the UP Center’s Reel It UP! LGBT film festival, with showings every Tuesday in June at the Champaign Art Theater. Or, if you won’t be back on campus until school starts, Champaign-Urbana Pride  will be on Saturday, September 6 in downtown Champaign. We encourage you to celebrate along with us by checking out some of these resources and events…Happy Pride!

Special thanks to guest blogger Tad Andracki!

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