Queer Black Books to Celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month

In the UK, February marks the start of LGBT+ History Month, a month-long celebration and commemoration of LGBT+ history. Across the pond in the US, February also marks the beginning of Black History Month, to honour the struggles of all African Americans throughout U.S history. Both countries have a violent history against the two marginalised groups, a history that has continued on to the present day.

The Florida Senate committee recently passed a hateful ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which bans any and all discussion of sexual orientation in schools, and book bans on books that discuss race or LGBT+ issues is increasing at an alarming rate in schools across the US. Meanwhile, the voices of Black scholars, theorists and authors are being silenced in the UK and the US by painting any mention of race in schools as the teaching of critical race theory.

This increasing trend stigmatises Black and LGBT+ identities and histories as ‘inappropriate’ and can lead to further instances of racism and homophobia in an impressionable group in our societies.

Calls to ban discussions of sexual orientation and ‘critical race theory’ is a step in the wrong direction to gaining justice for already marginalised identities. Therefore, it is important, now more than ever, to raise the voices of both LGBT+ and Black people in the current climate of hate. To honour the voices of those who live in the intersection of both these identities, I have compiled a list of books written by and for Queer Black people.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Butler was a Black and lesbian pioneer. As the first Black feminist sci-fi writer, she paved the way for other Black women writers in fantasy and sci-fi. In the Parable of the Sower, Butler creates a dystopian society set in the 2020s, which warns readers of the dangers of religious fundamentalism, global warming, and authoritarianism. This is a novel that is just as relevant today as when it was written in 1993.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season is the first science fiction book in The Broken Earth series. N.K. Jemisin is a best-selling and critically acclaimed author. In 2016, Jemisin became the first Black author to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel and has been deemed the most important speculative writer of her generation. I am also fond of her other series, The Inheritance Trilogy.

The Prophets by Robert Jones, JR.

This is an amazing and evocative debut novel that follows the lives and love of two enslaved men on a southern plantation. The Prophets juxtaposes both brutality and cruelty with passion and enduring love.

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Set against the backdrop of the Nigerian civil war, Under the Udala Trees examines the cost of living a lie. Told through the lens of a young lesbian in Nigeria, Okparanta portrays strong themes of self-acceptance and reconciliation.

Giovanni’s room by James Baldwin

This short yet bold novel recounts a Parisian love affair. Now a classic, Giovanni’s room was extremely controversial when it was first written. Baldwin’s other books, Go Tell it on the mountain and Notes of a Native Son are also particular favourites of mine.

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Lorde is a revolutionary writer, and Sister Outsider encompasses all of her most essential writings. This collection features her ground-breaking piece, ‘The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House’, a piece which was essential for my journey towards Black feminism growing up.

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

All Boys Aren’t Blue is a part-memoir part-manifesto book that follows Johnson’s journey as he grew up as a queer Black man in Virginia. It covers important themes like consent, gender identity, toxic masculinity as radical Black joy. Activist and Journalist George M. Johnson wrote this book to embolden other queer Black boys to peel back the layers of their masculinity and racialised being.

If you feel inspired to pick up a book on this list, they can be purchased at a Black owned bookstore like New Beacon Books or Afrori Books, or an LGBT+ owned bookstore like Gay’s The Word or Proud Geek, which is based in Birmingham.

Hamdi Rage

26 Feb 2022

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Queer Black Books to Celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month