Anyone who knows me knows I love to read everything from poetry to true crime. The same goes for authors of color and different sexual orientations. If it has words and a great, original plot, I’m in. If I listed all my favorite books by LGBTQ and/or POC authors, the list would take you way too long to read, so I’ve included 16 of my top favorites. I hope you enjoy and find new material to read by marginalized authors.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Wilde’s Dorian Gray is a stunning and dizzying story of an established young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Wilde’s compelling writing style will draw you into a magical world of vanity and shallowness, making these unflattering attributes seem appealing. This is one of my all-time favorite books that I will read for the rest of my life and you should, too.
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Orlando is by far one of the strangest, funniest, long winded, and most enticing books I have ever read. Spanning three centuries, the novel follows Orlando, a young nobleman in Elizabeth’s England, as he undergoes transformation and exploration. Suddenly, Orlando awakes to find that he is now a woman, facing the struggles of women in the 18th and 19th centuries. The novel ends in 1928 with Orlando as a wife and a mother. To fully comprehend the intensity of this beautifully crafted book, you will have to read it for yourself.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
This book was not what I expected, but I was happily surprised. It is humorously written, but also intense in its context. It opens with Ayoola frantically calling her sister Korede with the shocking news that year another boyfriend of Ayoola’s is dead. It is satirical and clever, definitely setting itself apart from the rest. I love how authentic the characters’ names, traditions, and setting are to black culture. This is a comedy that needs to be read by all.
Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day by J.D. Scott
You may recognize this author’s name and you should! J.D. Scott is one of our forthcoming writers, the author of Mask for Mask, which is due for publication in 2021. This visceral collection of short stories combines reality with fantasy through a variety of unique tales. I’m not going to give it away, simply because there’s so much to narrow down, and also because you should read it on your own and find your favorite story in the collection.
Howl by Allen Ginsberg
If you aren’t familiar with Howl, then it’s time to get reading. This is Ginsberg’s longest and most famous poem, so if you are a fan of intensity, you will enjoy this poem and other famous poems of Ginsberg’s. The Beatnik Generation is one my favorite time period to read and study and a majority of my poetry is heavily influenced by authors of this time, especially Ginsberg. It’s difficult to adequately describe the brilliance that is Howl, but if poetry and raw, grittiness interests you, pick this one up.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Magical realism is a fascinating genre, and that’s exactly what you’ll find in this romantic tale. The story is divided by months instead of chapters, and each month is prefaced by an authentic Mexican recipe that is significant in the upcoming chapters. In fact, food takes on a very sensual and mystical role as Tita, the protagonist, is faced with challenges and discoveries. This is truly an enticing, earthy, and sweet story.
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
The Hours recasts the classic story of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway in new light. This unique novel travels across decades between England and America as it connects the lives of three stunning and very different women. Starting in the 1920s and ending in the 1990s, there is a time period and story for everyone to enjoy.
I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark
Clark’s bold and electrifying compilation illustrates black history, pain, racism, identity, and the inability to escape the terror of the bloodied trauma of the past. Her voice rises from the South as she presents soul and integrity in her poems. Her striking language and vivid imagery will paint a picture that will leave you feeling redeemed and put you in each scene.
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
Here’s another one from the Beatnik Generation, except Burroughs’ Naked Lunch is a series of vignettes. They are intended to be read in any order, allowing for different takeaways depending on the structure. The stories are based off Burroughs’ own experiences with various drug addictions, bringing an uncensored look to addiction during the 1950s.
The Black Unicorn: Poems by Audre Lorde
Lorde is so unique because she refuses to be defined as just one identity. In turn, she writes as a black woman, a daughter, a mother, a lesbian, and a feminist. She is so visionary and there is so much anguish and tradition in her poems. There are a lot of emotions running through this collection that I can’t properly sum it up in a few words, so you’ll just have to read it!
Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith
This celebrated collection sequences violence, the afterlife, queer experiences, racism, and police treatment toward black individuals. Smith’s daring and raw language encompasses the danger and outrage of living as a queer African American man in the modern world. Don’t Call Us Dead will make you cry, give you courage, make you angry, and make you proud of Smith’s strength and vulnerability.
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
This is a complex voyage about love, feminism, family, desire, and identity. This genre-bending memoir follows Nelson’s relationship with artist and fluidly gendered Harry Dodge. The journey of self-exploration and queer family making sets the fascinating backdrop for such a moving story.
Virgin by Analicia Sotelo
Virgin is an outstanding and jarring look at womanhood from Sotelo’s own experiences. She combines mythology with biography as she conquers the tropes of femininity and explores Latina sexuality. Virgin will leave you wanting more of her gorgeous and flawless sensory imagery, such as grilled meat, golden habaneros, and burnt sugar, and a taste for exotic life experiences.
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
If you are an English major, chances are you studied Whitman in college. This is a classic that every poetry lover should read. If you don’t love poetry, you may fall in love with it after reading this enormous collection of nature centered symbolic poems. There are also always so many limited editions published with beautiful covers and artwork.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
If you know me, you know I love murder mystery, and Capote’s masterpiece is one of my all-time favorite reconstructions of a brutal murder. His composition is striking and his journalistic approach to the Clutter family murders is empathetic and mesmerizing. Through Capote’s words and visuals, you are transported to this small town filled with horror and distress, yet he does it flawlessly and beautifully.
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
This one goes without saying. Although I love the book, I think the film is one of the most exceptional adaptations of a book I have ever seen. “The first rule about Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule about Fight Club is: you do NOT TALK about Fight Club.” If you haven’t read or seen Fight Club, you are missing out. This is revolutionary and a wild ride. You won’t regret it.