The California Department of Education’s new recommended reading list, which was released last week, is causing some controversy because — gasp! — it includes a handful of books with LGBT themes. Though the list, which contains over 7,800 books, recommends only 32 that fall into the “gay-themed” category, several conservative critics are saying predictably nasty things. Never mind that this list has included books with gay and transgender characters for the past ten years. Between this news and the Supreme Court marriage equality hearings, we figured it was a good time to throw in our two cents: ten novels with LGBT themes that we think every student should read. We tried to suggest a range of books, from classics to YA, but since there are so many and we can’t list them all, add your favorites in the comments.
Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin
Baldwin’s classic was one of the first American novels to address complex issues of queer identity, in a gorgeous, tightly woven, tragic love story between two bisexual men, set in 1950s Paris. Read it for the history, read it for Baldwin’s expert ability to universalize even the most specific of urges, read it because it’s delicious reading.