The Arts world is one filled with self-expression and introspection, whether from artist or from audience member. Naturally, this translates into many different ways of approaching the queer experience. For Pride Month, Daily Arts wanted to cover this self-search and love through different forms of art, with these articles revealing more to the reader and writer about how many ways there are to celebrate and reflect on queerness.
“A Tip for the Hangman” by Allison Epstein
Centered around the short life of Christopher Marlowe — a prolific playwright, contemporary of Shakespeare and lover of Thomas Watson — “A Tip for the Hangman” draws you into a morally convoluted world of spies, treason, politics, romance and murder. With a witty, captivating protagonist and fast-paced adventure, it’s the sort of book you should never pick up before bedtime lest you look out the window to see the sun rising. This is easily one of 2021’s best historical fiction books to date.
“The Priory of the Orange Tree” by Samantha Shannon
“The Priory of the Orange Tree” is a gripping fantasy defined by its extensive, thought-provoking worldbuilding. At 848 pages, this book is perfect for those looking to dive headlong into another universe — at once a pure form of escapism and a piercing look at the battles we wage between good and evil and in the murky area in between. The characters are both brilliant and flawed (and frequently queer), and their relationships with one another, their families and their cultures are masterfully developed alongside the story’s action and magic.
“Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernardine Evaristo
Evaristo deftly weaves together 12 narratives in this insightful look into the lives of Black British women and nonbinary people. Though told in Evaristo’s characteristically humorous voice, “Girl, Woman, Other” explores racial and gender dynamics, sexuality, colonial legacies, familial relationships, generational divides and connections to one’s culture with no holds barred. Poetic, emotional and skillfully arranged, this novel makes us starkly aware of the threads that connect us all to one another, no matter how dissimilar or distant.
“Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller
“Song of Achilles” is one of those rare books that can make you cry, smile, swoon and rage — all within pages of one another. The characters grow so close to the heart, are so endearing and yet so agonizing, that this book is impossible to part with even after the last page. As a retelling of the myth of Achilles and told from his lover Patroclus’ perspective, this book is not for those looking for happy stories with happy endings, but it is so worth the read.
“The City We Became” by N. K. Jemisin
Jemisin does something totally new with “The City We Became,” and (unsurprisingly, to anyone who knows her work) it really, really works. The story follows the paths of five characters — who just so happen to be the boroughs of New York City — as they learn to work together to save their city from destruction. The narrative is steeped in political and cultural context, which only serves to bolster the fantasy elements and thrilling action scenes.
“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong
“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” is an epistolary novel written by a gay, twenty-something-year-old son to his immigrant mother. Deeply personal and moving, this story lays bare both the painful and beautiful realities of mother-child relationships, heritage and healing from trauma. Ocean Vuong is primarily a poet, and his incredible way with words is evident in his prose as he creates profound moments with simple precision.
“Black Sun” by Rebecca Roanhorse
Inspired by Pre-Columbian American civilizations, “Black Sun” is an engrossing fantasy adventure filled with magic, ritual, politics and mythos. Although set in a world removed from our own, Roanhorse skillfully connects the two, forcing us to confront our own natures and collective past. Fast-paced and gripping, “Black Sun” is driven by its intricate cast of (often queer) characters and its commitment to diving deeply into the human heart.
“How to Make a Wish” by Ashley Herring Blake
Narrated in the voice of a seventeen-year-old girl who just can’t with her immature, impulsive mom, “How to Make a Wish” is a coming-of-age story with a heartwarming sapphic twist. As the protagonist travels the long path of self-discovery and self-healing, she confronts her fraught relationship with her mother, her dreams for the future and all the baggage weighing on her that she didn’t even know she was carrying. Both funny and poignant, “How to Make a Wish” is a story of first love — and so much more.
“Her Body and Other Parties” by Carmen Maria Machado
“Her Body and Other Parties” is a collection of short stories resting on the boundary between magical and psychological realism. Confronting our society’s cisheteronormative patriarchy with razor-sharp wit, Machado holds a mirror up for us all to see the damage we’ve done to one another. Although these stories could be triggering to some (I would suggest reading the stories’ summaries ahead of time), they are brutally honest and incredibly important.
“They Both Die at the End” by Adam Silvera
“They Both Die at the End” is a young adult book that will tug at your heartstrings. In a world in which people are warned ahead of time that they are going to die that day, two young men decide to use their last day on Earth to make a new friend — and they just so happen to find each other. Although the ending is known to us from the very beginning (after all, it’s in the title), this does nothing to lessen its impact. The characters are so deeply flawed and yet so undeniably likable that you can’t help but hope it’ll work out differently. Regardless of whether or not it does, this book has a lesson about life for everyone who reads it.
Daily Arts writer Brenna Goss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.