Pride Month is a wonderful time to celebrate the contributions to literature, scholarship, art, and society made by members of the LGBTQ community. Below are just a few of the books, films, and documents by and about queer folks that can be found at the UVA Library. This list only scratches the surface of what is out there, but provides a glimpse into queer history and culture, much of which has been historically ignored by mainstream cultural institutions like libraries, archives, museums, publishers, film studios, and others.
Of course, the work of celebrating LGBTQ folks goes beyond Pride Month; to quote author and librarian Kristen Arnett, “it’s fine to read gay stuff even when it’s not june and there aren’t rainbows plastered all over everything, you can be gay all year if you feel like it.”
Is your favorite piece of queer literature or media missing from this list? Find us on Twitter @UVALibrary and let us know!
Living Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City (2021), by Gregory Samantha Rosenthal
In “Living Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City,” Gregory Samantha Rosenthal tells the story of the LGBTQ community in Roanoke, Virginia (a few hours southwest of Charlottesville). Rosenthal also chronicles how she transitioned as she worked on the community history project that forms the basis for the book. There is not much scholarship out there about Virginia’s queer history, and this book represents an important intervention in Virginia history and the history of queer folks in the South more broadly.
The Secret to Superhuman Strength (2021), by Alison Bechdel, with the extremely extensive coloring collaboration of Holly Rae Taylor
“The Secret to Superhuman Strength” follows lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s previous, highly acclaimed works “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Are You My Mother?” and the “Dykes to Watch Out For” comic strip. Drawing on extended literary metaphors and her own experiences, Bechdel uses beautifully realistic, evocative drawings and dry humor to explore deeply personal issues including her relationship to herself and her relationship to her body.
Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women (2019), by E. Patrick Johnson
“Honeypot” is E. Patrick Johnson’s creative nonfiction companion to his longer work, “Black. Queer. Southern. Women.: An Oral History.” Both feature oral history interviews conducted by Johnson with Black queer women living across the South. In “Honeypot,” Johnson’s character is guided through the women-only world of Hymen by Miss B, who is determined that he listen to stories of the women there and share them on his return to his world. Their stories cover coming out, family relationships, religion, political activism, and much more. Johnson’s use of magical realism and poetry make the powerful oral history interviews even more accessible and impactful in this book.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club (2021), by Malinda Lo
Winner of the 2021 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, “Last Night at the Telegraph Club” follows Lily, a Chinese American teenager living in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1950s, as she discovers and explores her queer identity. Lily must contend with 1950s prejudice against homosexuality and threats of her father’s deportation as part of the Red Scare to navigate her heritage and her sexuality. This book is an excellent read for young adults and adults alike.
Semi Queer: Stories of Trans, Gay, and Black Truck Drivers (2018), by Anne Balay
Anne Balay dives into the stories of working-class truck drivers to highlight both the harsh realities of truckers’ lives and the “welcome isolation” trucking can provide for marginalized people. A licensed trucker herself, Balay explores the juxtaposition of strict regulations, tough labor conditions, and opportunities for truckers to earn a living and be themselves; in other words, the paradox of finding safety in an unsafe job. This book will make you rethink the semi trucks you pass on the interstate every day.
Transitioning: Transgender Children (2016) (film)
This documentary film explores the process of transitioning through the stories of four transgender people who chose to transition at a young age. The young people share their experiences of transitioning in their own words, and their parents also share their experiences of their children’s transitions. This film is in Catalan and Spanish with English subtitles.
Field Files from the Privacy Project: Arlington Virginia Gay Alliance (1988), from Archives of Sexuality & Gender
In addition to books and films, the UVA Library has access to many historical primary sources by and about LGBTQ people. The documents highlighted here come from a number of gay organizations across Virginia in the 1980s, including Virginians for Justice, the Arlington Virginia Gay Alliance, the Prince William Gay and Lesbian Association, the Virginia Council on Human Rights, and PFLAG of the Washington Metropolitan Area. These documents cover a variety of subjects, including lobby days and marches in Richmond for gay rights, relevant bills under consideration in the General Assembly, and information about how to get involved with these organizations. Check out the Archives of Sexuality and Gender (domestic and international), the LGBT Magazine Archive, and the Sex & Sexuality databases for more information, or search our full collections in Virgo, which includes many primary sources such as those from UVA Library’s special collections.
For more information on doing research on topics related to LGBTQ history, culture, and politics, contact Erin Pappas, Librarian for the Humanities, or see the Women, Gender, & Sexuality Resources research guide.