Our pick of books to help you celebrate Pride season (plus some edgier reads, too) | Xtra Magazine (2022)

We discovered a couple of interesting trends in queer and trans publishing as we surveyed titles coming out over the next few months in our brave effort to discover some essential new reads.

First, we’re seeing a notable number of titles in translation. Perhaps LGBTQ2S+ culture is becoming more global. Or perhaps we are hungry for stories by and about people whose experiences resemble ours in some ways, but are distinctly different in others. We want unity and escape? Our picks have lots of both.

Second, amidst all the celebration and Pride, with many writers sharing successes and offering their visions of an inclusive new world, there are lots of breathless dark thrills, both real and imagined. Perhaps these writers are helping us work through our anxieties—or perhaps they’re helping cast them away with their riveting page-turners.

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Which is also to say: there’s something for everyone (including a decidedly non-edgy new book for kids) in our roundup of the best of the season.

Take a look and see if you agree with our picks for Pride season.

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Bad Girls by Camila Sosa Villada

Probably best known in her native Argentina as an actress of stage and screen, Camila Sosa Villada’s debut novel, published in Spanish in 2019 as Las Malas, was such a breakout hit, it’s being turned into a TV series. This translation of Bad Girls (Other Press) welcomes English speakers to her highly charged world. Pulling from her experiences as a sex worker, though filtered through a fantastical fairy-tale-like aesthetic, Sosa Villada tells the story of a foundling child taken in by a group of trans sex workers, a surrogate family of outcasts in the historic city of Córdoba. Out May 10.

Just by Looking at Him by Ryan O’Connell

Our pick of books to help you celebrate Pride season (plus some edgier reads, too) | Xtra Magazine (2)

One half of one of Hollywood’s hottest creative gay duos, Ryan O’Connell is the man who writes and stars in the Netflix series Special and is one of the writers and stars of the forthcoming Queer as Folk reboot. (His partner Jonathan Parks-Ramage’s debut novel, Yes, Daddy, is being turned into an Amazon Studios series.) O’Connell’s own debut novel, Just by Looking at Him (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster), mines aspects of his own life for fictional purposes: Elliott is a successful TV writer with cerebral palsy and a doting boyfriend. Sounds autobiographical. But does this? “Behind his Instagram filter of a life, he’s grappling with an intensifying alcohol addiction … and he can’t seem to stop cheating on his boyfriend with various sex workers,” states the publisher’s promotional blurb. Definitely the makings of another hit TV show. Out June 7.

All the Things We Don’t Talk About by Amy Feltman

Our pick of books to help you celebrate Pride season (plus some edgier reads, too) | Xtra Magazine (3)

Following her 2019 debut novel, Willa & Hesper, a carefully wrought story about two young women falling in love, Amy Feltman’s All the Things We Don’t Talk About (Grand Central Publishing) is a book fans have been anxiously waiting for. And one that will likely win Feltman some new ones. This time out, it’s a queer-inflected family drama with key ingredients we can really appreciate: teenaged Morgan navigates gender identity and first love while engaging in an epistolary relationship with their mysterious mother’s ex-girlfriend, just as said mother arrives from Europe to disrupt the lives of Morgan and their father. “A celebration of and a reckoning with the power and unintentional pain of a thoroughly modern family,” declares the publisher’s promotional blurb. Out May 24.

Your Place or Mine? A 21st Century Essay on (Same) Sex by Gilles Dauvé

Our pick of books to help you celebrate Pride season (plus some edgier reads, too) | Xtra Magazine (4)

Who can resist a little Marxist French critical theory? A participant in the 1968 Paris rebellion and a writer for the radical gay magazine Fléau Social, in Your Place or Mine? (PM Press), Gilles Dauvé turns his intellect to dissecting sexual identities that have been constructed since the 19th century, from “fairies” in Victorian England to transmen in early 20th-century Manhattan and, of course, Stonewall’s revolutionaries. Emerging from all that deconstruction, Dauvé imagines a utopia where “one can be human without having to be classified by sexual practices or gender expressions,” reads the publisher’s promotional blurb. “Where one need not find shelter in definition or assimilation. A refreshing reminder that we are not all the same, nor do we need to be.” Translated from the French. Out May 8.

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Gender Euphoria, edited by Laura Kate Dale

Our pick of books to help you celebrate Pride season (plus some edgier reads, too) | Xtra Magazine (5)

Probably best known as a video-game critic, British writer Laura Kate Dale published her memoir Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman in 2019. Her follow-up, an anthology of stories by trans, non-binary, agender, gender-fluid and intersex writers, focuses on the opposite of “uncomfortable.” Dale defines Gender Euphoria (Unbound) as “a powerful feeling of happiness experienced as a result of moving away from one’s birth-assigned gender.” “An agender dominatrix being called ‘Daddy,’ an Arab trans man getting his first tattoos, a trans woman embracing her inner fighter,” are among the stories included, states the publisher’s promotional blurb. “What they have in common are their feelings of elation, pride, confidence, freedom and ecstasy.” Out April 29.

We Had to Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets

Our pick of books to help you celebrate Pride season (plus some edgier reads, too) | Xtra Magazine (6)

Buzzy global literary sensation alert. Dutch writer Hanna Bervoets’s We Had to Remove This Post (HarperCollins) puts its finger right on the pounding heart of the zeitgeist—and presses very hard. Kayleigh, a content moderator for a social media platform, spends all day watching horrors and hate. She finds a new girlfriend, but the job seems to infiltrate the relationship in unexpected ways. Bervoets’s seventh novel, this satirical thriller is her first to be translated into English. With endorsements by socially astute writers like Ling Ma and Ian McEwan, Bervoets seems on the verge of becoming a phenomenon. Out May 24.

Gender Pioneers: A Celebration of Transgender, Non-Binary and Intersex Icons by Philippa Punchard

Our pick of books to help you celebrate Pride season (plus some edgier reads, too) | Xtra Magazine (7)

Something for the coffee table, perhaps? London artist Philippa Punchard’s evocative illustrated portraits tell the stories of 50 trailblazers, ranging from activists and historical leaders to actors, artists and even pirates. Whether it’s 19th-century French writer Herculine Barbin or U.S. actress of the moment Laverne Cox, the common bond of the subjects of Gender Pioneers (Jessica Kingsley Publishers) is their fight for equality, acceptance and change for trans, non-binary and intersex people. Out Aug. 18.

The Gaudy Image by William Talsman

Our pick of books to help you celebrate Pride season (plus some edgier reads, too) | Xtra Magazine (8)

The publishing history of The Gaudy Image (Muswell Press) is almost as interesting as the pseudonymously written story itself. Originally published in Paris in 1958 to avoid U.S. and U.K. obscenity laws, the erotically charged book has been out of print for more than 30 years. It was certainly ahead of its time. The lead character Titania/Thomas Schwartz makes their promiscuous way through the back streets, bars and clubs of New Orleans’ French Quarter in search of the perfect lover. Colourful, spicy and even touching. A read for hot summer nights. Out May 6.

Pretty Baby: A Memoir by Chris Belcher

The winner of an infant beauty contest in her small town in Appalachian West Virginia, Chris Belcher, as an adult, winds up in Los Angeles, a PhD student working part-time as a lesbian dominatrix who specializes in male clients who want a woman to degrade them. Though Belcher is unashamed of her sex work (under her dominatrix name Natalie West, she edited the acclaimed anthology We Too: Essays on Sex Work and Survival), her double life proves to be very complicated. Pretty Baby (Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster) is an engrossing sometimes shocking life story. But it’s also ruminative and philosophical as it “dissects male desire—its harm, its greed and its secrets—and examines how queerness could hold the answers to subverting it,” states the publisher’s promotional blurb. Out July 12.

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Immoral, Indecent and Scurrilous by Gerald Hannon

Our pick of books to help you celebrate Pride season (plus some edgier reads, too) | Xtra Magazine (10)

We’ll reveal our conflict of interest right here: Gerald Hannon is a founder of Pink Triangle Press, which publishes Xtramagazine.com. So we’ve witnessed some of the adventures, experiences and ideas in the journalist and gay activist’s memoir Immoral, Indecent and Scurrilous (Cormorant Books) play out in real-time. Though his critics call him a sex radical—for having written sympathetically about pedophiles, for his work in sex and porn, for, along with other members of the Body Politic collective, being charged for possession and distribution of obscene material, for his contentious views of same-sex marriage—it’s a label Hannon wears proudly. “When 18-year-old Gerald Hannon left the small pulp-mill town of Marathon, Ontario, to attend the University of Toronto, he never would have predicted he’d become part of LGBTQ+ history,” states the publisher’s promotional blurb. Out July 16.

X by Davey Davis

Our pick of books to help you celebrate Pride season (plus some edgier reads, too) | Xtra Magazine (11)

Described by early reviews as “sexy and dangerous,” “vivid and witty,” “unconstrained by taboos,” “hardboiled style meets dyke drama” and “a penetrating study on the intimacy of violence and the violence of intimacy,” Davey Davis’s X (Catapult) is an especially hot ticket this season. And seemingly a dramatic departure from their “haunting, spare” 2017 debut The Earthquake Room. The protagonist, Lee, works for a big corporation and has a pretty contained life. Almost by accident, Lee ends up at a warehouse party where they “find themself in the clutches of the seductive and bloodthirsty X.” Oh, and it’s the end of the world, and the U.S. government is constricting civil rights and “exporting” undesirable residents. “Word has it that X may be among those leaving. If Lee doesn’t track her down soon, she may be gone forever,” states the publisher’s promotional blurb. Out June 28.

Kingdom of Sand by Andrew Holleran

Our pick of books to help you celebrate Pride season (plus some edgier reads, too) | Xtra Magazine (12)

Andrew Holleran doesn’t write many books—this is his first in 13 years. So when the author of one of the United Statesmost enduring tale of modern gay life releases a new title, we have to pay attention. The halcyon days of Dancer from the Dance long in the past, the nameless narrator in Kingdom of Sand (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) seeks casual pleasures while grappling with the slow demise of a friend close in age to him. “A reverie to sex but also a stunningly honest exploration of loneliness and the endless need for human connection, especially as we count down our days,” states the publisher’s promotional blurb. Out June 7.

Fire Island by Jack Parlett

Our pick of books to help you celebrate Pride season (plus some edgier reads, too) | Xtra Magazine (13)

Long before Hollywood was setting flamboyant queer rom-coms on this strip of sand off Long Island, Fire Island was a haven for a certain kind of New York City boy, as well as lots of others who didn’t fit the norm of their time. In Jack Parlett’s impeccably researched social history Fire Island: A Century in the Life of an American Paradise (HarperCollins), we learn about the queerness of the place through the artists and writers who spent time here, including Frank O’Hara, W.H. Auden, James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Carson McCullers, Tennessee Williams, Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe and Patricia Highsmith, among others. Parlett makes the case that queer spaces are always in a state of transformation. Out June 14.

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One for the kids

Our pick of books to help you celebrate Pride season (plus some edgier reads, too) | Xtra Magazine (14)

Here’s a middle-school sequel of sorts to Alex Gino’s award-winning (and widely challenged) elementary-school-focused Melissa (originally published as George). Rick (Scholastic) follows the eponymous protagonist as he explores his identity, eventually ending up at his school’s Rainbow Spectrum club. Crossover alert: Melissa, a girl who sits in front of Rick and who seems to have her life together, is a member. Rick might have to break some old friendships and make some new ones. Out June. 7.

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