By Amy Deppe:
It's June! It’s not only Pride Month but also my anniversary month (in fact, today!) with my wife of 19 years, Jimmie Sue Deppe.
Now more than ever, there is such a need for allyship and listening and understanding the experience of LGBTQIA+ people.
When I first became conscious of my queerness, I reached for books. I lingered in the "sexuality and gender studies" section of the bookstore and browsed quiet corners of libraries, seeking understanding and representation and looking for someone like me represented on the page.
When I was at university, my friend Joy and I started a Lesbian Book Club. Jimmie Sue was the first person to call and inquire about it. I remember that she said something to the effect of, "You're kinda young to start a book club" and me saying (or at least thinking) something to the effect of, "I'm not too young to read." She was the first to arrive for our first book club meeting (we are both early birds, still). I remember seeing her walk up to the table and knowing that we would be together forever. It would still be a few years until forever began for us, but here we are.
This is a very long-winded way of saying I have read A LOT of queer books. Not all books are for everyone, but everyone needs books. Everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in media! During Pride, I'm going to tell you about some of the LGBTQIA+ books that I have read and my general memories of the book, one per day throughout the month. The first 10 “book reports” are given below, with the rest to follow in Part 2 and Part 3 to come.
Pride Book Report #1
All the Things They Said We Couldn't Have: Stories of Trans Joy by T. C. Oakes-Monger
I will start with the book that I just finished. I checked it out from the library (yay! Library!).
In this time of discrimination, transphobia, and fear, there is still joy. This book looks with open eyes toward the transphobia that Oakes-Monger has faced while turning toward and fully embracing the joy that community brings. It reminded me that we can always find the joy, and we must run headlong into it.
Pride Book Report #2
Choices by Nancy Toder
This is the first LGBTQIA+ fiction book that I bought. I found this at a used bookstore my first year at Trinity University. I was alone. It was 1997. I was beginning to figure out how to come out to family and friends. I was so very curious to read about lesbians.
This was a story of a girl who goes to college and falls in love with her roommate. It ends poorly for her somehow, but I don't remember the details. For a long time in media, LGBTQIA+ people were not allowed to have happy endings. Sadly, that not-so-subtle message is still out there.
Pride Book Report #3
Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1945–1990: An Oral History by Eric Marcus
This was probably bought at that same used bookstore down the road from Trinity. I love history! So, of course, there will be lots of nonfiction and historical fiction books this month. This book taught me sooo much! I cherish the oral histories in it. AND Eric Marcus has a podcast called Making Gay History that is on heavy rotation in my ears. It is so powerful to learn directly from these queer ancestors. This is where I learned about Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, the Daughters of Bilitis, Barbara Gittings, and so many more heroes and pioneers.
Pride Book Report #4
The Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman
Omg! A happy ending!! Reading Heartstopper rocked my world and sent me down a queer love story/YA rabbit hole that I am so grateful for! This series of graphic novels follows a sweet, wholesome love story between two teen boys. Alice Oseman created a universe of characters and has written several other books about teens/twenty somethings who are living life inside the rainbow umbrella.
I watched the Netflix version first and let me tell ya, the "queer people can't have good things" message of lots of media had me on the edge of my seat, waiting for the homophobic/hate crime shoe to drop. Nick and Charlie struggle but not in a gay-bashing, murder, jail, unending sadness, horrible life way. They come out of it supported and normal. FINALLY!
This universe deals with mental health struggles and things aren't always rosy, but the characters have the love and support of their community, and that is so important.
Pride Book Report #5
Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
I read this book as part of that book club that I started; Jimmie Sue took over when I had to step away for a few years. She kept it going and growing. I eventually came back to the group, and I am so thankful for the people I met during the time we read together. It was a safe space to be me.
This book was the first time that I saw a tranmasculine person represented. At the time, we talked about the main character as a "stone butch," which is a very specific type of lesbian. We talked about the main character as essentially female but masculine presenting. That was sometime before 2004. My understanding of gender and sexuality and how those two parts of identity interact has changed. I revisited this book very recently. This time, I read it as a clear exploration of transness.
This book is HARD to read! It deals graphically with the violence faced by the LGBTQIA+ community: violence perpetuated by men, by police, by families, by society at large. It also touches on the tenderness and care of community, the healing nature of deep friendship, and how we can change over time and make amends.
Pride Book Report #6
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
This book is one of those “the future is the wild west”–type stories. In this future, there are a set of women who are librarians and travel from town to town bringing books. The main character has run away, escaping an arranged marriage. She hides in the librarians’ wagon and is discovered. These librarians are badass anti-fascists! This story doesn't center on queerness, but there are queer characters.
Pride Book Report #7
Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
I found Rick Riordan because my dad had read some of his books. He has a character who is from San Antonio, TX, who's straight. I read several of Riordan’s Tres Navarre books over the years, so when our son, Jacob, came home in the third grade with The Lightning Thief, the first of this series, I was like, "Cool, Rick Riordan writes for kids now! I like Rick Riordan!" We began to read these together.
If your kid (or you) likes Harry Potter, I recommend these as well, as they are about a group of young friends fighting evil, and friendship and heroism are at the core of the books.
It is pretty straight for a while, BUT there are LGBTQIA+ characters eventually. We meet this young kid, Nico, in one of the books. We watch him grow into himself and make some tricky discoveries about his parentage (his dad is Hades). And we see him come out as gay!
I haven't read this far into the series because my kids are grown and we stopped reading Percy Jackson years ago, but Nico has his own series now! I'm excited and glad. These books hold a special place in the reading life of me and the kiddos.
Pride Book Report #8
The Women’s House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison by Hugh Ryan
The Women’s House of Detention lingers on the edges of many histories of LGBTQIA+ experiences in NYC. It has been a curiosity for me for many years. So, when I heard an interview with Hugh Ryan about this book, I was beyond excited!
Ryan highlights specific people through the years who he found in jail records. Some of the people who are still living shared their stories directly with him. This book is about incarceration and how the carceral system is used to police not only crimes but norms.
Pride Book Report #9
Books by Sarah Waters
Sarah Waters became an important author for me at one point. I read everything that she wrote. It was always historical fiction, lesbian love stories. Oftentimes, there was a crime or a con involved in the story. The excitement of stolen glances and secret meetings that fill lesbian period dramas fill her books as well. Generally, I find them a good read; however, they do usually end with death or prison or some other horrible fate for at least one of the main characters.
Pride Book Report #10
Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman
In our house, we were constantly on the lookout for children's books that reflect our family. This is a classic and well-known choice. It was given to us by friends just before the kiddos joined our family.
The premise is that Heather joins a daycare and discovers that some people have daddies and is worried that her family is wrong. The teacher encourages conversation about everyone’s family. Each child has a unique family. Heather feels better and loved. The book is a little teachy, as many LGBTQIA+ books for kids are, but it is solid, and we enjoyed having it.
Amy Deppe is an Early Childhood Professional, happily married to the love of her life, with two grown children and one furbaby. She loves the outdoors and spends her free time hiking, biking, exploring in the kitchen, and reading.