Columns > Published on June 18th, 2019

6 Books To Celebrate Pride Month

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I love heritage months so much because they make me think. They make me think about my own experience walking through the world and how it aligns or doesn't with the myriad experiences around me. These months are a focused opportunity to broaden our perspectives and truly appreciate the challenges various communities endure. Pride month is my favorite because it's symbol is the rainbow and it encompasses such a broad range of interesting individuals. Let's look at a few highlights.

1. 'Gentleman Jack: The Real Anne Lister' by Anne Choma

If you haven't seen HBO's Gentleman Jack, get thee some HBO Now! It follows the remarkable Anne Lister, a gender-bending, unapologetic lesbian living in 19th century Halifax. The show has everything that is wonderful about period drama — the clothes, the accents, landscapes before1970's architecture — without the requirement that all characters be heterosexual and conservative. Lister's sexuality is not a secret and she strives to live openly and happily. Choma's book is a companion to the series and gives excerpts from Lister's diaries (she was the Pepys of her day), as well as biographical background. If you can't get enough of this character, this is the next step down the rabbit's hole.

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2. 'Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love' by Jonathan Van Ness

This book isn't even out yet, but I have to include it! Jonathan Van Ness captured many hearts with the Queer Eye reboot, but he had me at Gay of Thrones. Anyone who can take the dark and dirty Song of Ice and Fire and spin it as salon conversation is a genius. Also, he nicknamed all the characters and it's worth watching for just that. If you've seen Queer Eye, you know Van Ness focuses on self-care and loving yourself for all your fabulous qualities. He's a force of nature and who projects happiness and love. I can't wait to read his book!

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3. 'This Book is Gay' by Juno Dawson

Juno Dawson wrote the "how to be gay" instruction manual every person who has ever come out of the closet always wished for. There are fun illustrations, chapters like "Where to meet people like you", "The ins and outs of gay sex" and "A guide to recognizing your gay saints." It's fun and informative and most importantly, supportive. It's like a textbook written by a wise friend. I would give this to any person in my life who recently came out.

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4. 'Sissy: A Coming of Gender Story' by Jacob Tobia

I first saw Jacob Tobia on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. I found them so fascinating and liberated and they advocated for trans inclusion in a way that was different from others. Namely, because they use humor. In Sissy, Tobia clearly states that the trans narrative has become too formulaic (I was assigned this gender at birth, but I always felt I was the opposite, my small town made it hard for me to be who I am, I was ultimately rejected, etc.) and argues for more voices and perspectives. In the same way that many gay men and lesbians experience love and acceptance from their parents (not solely rejection), so too do trans and queer people. Tobia gives an opening for something new in the conversation. This is not to say that Tobia's story is all sunshine; they had their fair share of bullying in childhood and they do not gloss over it. Still, as Tobia seeks to be true to self as they get older, something amazing shines through. This story is a great example of how being true to yourself makes all the difference.

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5. 'A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo' by Jill Twiss, Marlon Bundo, and EG Keller

Last Week Tonight fans may remember that John Oliver has some issues with Mike Pence, most of them having something to do with Pence's long track record in opposing LGBTQ+ rights. Pence also won't hold meetings alone with women, probably because we'll be able to tell he's one of the lizard aliens from V. In any case, John Oliver never does anything halfway. So when Second Lady Karen Pence and her daughter Charlotte Pence published a book about their pet rabbit following Mike Pence around for a day, John Oliver decided a parody was in order. Not only did he write a parody, he wrote a really good book! A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo follows Marlon, an adorable gay bunny who meets the love of his life and gets married, but not before an angry stink bug tries to stop them. Of course, love conquers all.

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6. 'Daddy, Papa, and Me' by Lesléa Newman and Carol Thompson

I was so happy to stumble upon this book when my son was a toddler. Daddy Papa, as my son called it, follows an energetic toddler through his day as his two parents play with him and take care of him. It was one of the very first board books about LGBTQ+ families, following Newman's enduring (and internationally controversial) Heather Has Two Mommies. I'm so glad Newman wasn't derailed from pursuing her passion. It would have been easy - hers was one of the top ten most challenged books in libraries in the 1990's. Thankfully, she rode out the storm and went on to create a legacy of children's literature that validates and celebrates LGBTQ+ sexualities and identities. She is a treasure.

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What are your favorite books for Pride month? Let me know in the comments!

About the author

Stephanie Bonjack is an academic librarian based in Boulder, Colorado. She teaches the relentless pursuit of information, and illuminates the path to discovery. She has presented at national and international library conferences, and is especially interested in how libraries evolve to serve the needs of 21st century patrons. When she’s not sleuthing in the stacks, she enjoys chasing her toddler across wide open spaces.

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