2023 Pride Month Reads

Texas Book Festival is #ReadingWithPride. The LGBTQIA+ stories in the pages of these staff-picked titles remind us of the importance and power of being our authentic selves every day. Let us know what you’re reading on all of our social platforms @texasbookfest on Instagram and Twitter and @TexasBookFestival on Facebook.

The Town of Babylon, Alejandro Vela

“This richly layered polyphonic novel explores the question of whether one can go home again. Here, the home in question is a homogenous New England suburb, and the character in question is a gay Latinx man whose discomforts with the place he came from have only grown sharper with age. The story shifts between the present day, where Andrés navigates his 20th high school reunion and his complex relationships with family and people from his past, and flashbacks that reveal his parents’ immigrant experience and other narratives that lend depth and context to Andrés and his hometown. I love a novel that can pivot between the personal and universal, allowing us to get to know an utterly unique cast of characters while illuminating human experiences that we all share.” – Dalia Azim, Interim Executive Director

All Boys Aren’t Blue, George M. Johnson

“Having made the list of most frequently banned books across the US in 2022, this book is more important than ever. This intimate memoir is both a coming-of-age story and an exploration of race and gender. Amidst a world that prioritizes whiteness and heteronormative ideals, Johnson creates a safe space for boys who defy societal norms. Growing up, George Johnson didn’t have anyone like him to look up to, so to ensure representation for Black queer boys of the next generation, Johnson decided to share his story with the world. Even though this book is intended for a young adult audience, it’s packed with deep insights that should resonate with audiences of all ages. I highly recommend this book to anyone that seeks a better understanding of humanity and how gender, race, and sexual orientation define our society.” – Hannah Gabel, Literary Director

My Government Means to Kill Me, Rasheed Newson

“After seeing a recording of Rasheed Newson reading from My Government Means to Kill Me in Literary Death Match, I knew I needed to read his book. This debut fiction novel reads like a memoir, and within the first few chapters, I found myself pausing to look up Newson’s history to compare to the protagonist, Trey’s. He captured the coming-of-age story of a young black gay man in the 80s as if he wasn’t still in diapers when all of it took place. Through intertwining history with the personal drama of Earl “Trey” Singleton III as he comes into his own in New York City, any reader will walk away from this book both endlessly entertained and with a deeper understanding of the culture and the laws surrounding gay rights, race, and AIDS in the last few decades of the 20th century.” – Olivia Hesse, Event Production & Logistics Coordinator

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, Translated by Anne Carson

“This was assigned in one of the most memorable and enlightening undergraduate poetry honors classes I had at Texas State University. Sappho’s original poems were written on papyrus, a material that was long eroded once finally discovered, leaving only fragments of the original works. What remains is a collection of delicate allusions to a larger lyrical picture of her desire, her sexual and emotional conflict, and the morsels of intimate longing that would inspire leagues of romantics for millennia. ‘Of the nine books of lyrics that Sappho is said to have composed,’ writes Anne, ‘one poem has survived complete. All the rest are fragments.’ ”- Jose, Communications & PR Coordinator

Before Lawrence v. Texas: The Making of a Queer Social Movement, Wesley G. Phelps

Before Lawrence v. Texas delves into the history of grassroots movements and local activists that laid the groundwork for the titular court case. This information-rich text introduced me to Lawrence v. Texas — a landmark case that overturned anti-sodomy laws across the nation — along with a host of other court cases that bolstered the movement for LGBTQIA+ rights in and beyond Texas. Delving into the history of discriminatory laws and the activists who opposed them, Phelps celebrates the Texan activists who have led the movement for legal equality. Through its interviews and archival narratives, Before Lawrence v. Texas tells a story of hope and empowerment, reminding readers of the impact that local grassroots activism can have on both a single state and the whole country.” – Anna Dolliver, Operations & Literary Coordinator