The LGBTQ+ community has served as the inspiration for literature for hundreds of years. From the Greek poet Sappho and her proto-lesbian poetry, to the not-so-subtle gay themes of Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray, we have been surrounded by queer voices and stories for millennia. On World Book Day 2023, we celebrate just a handful of the best and brightest LGBTQ+ books that should be in everyone’s personal library this spring and beyond.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
The real-life story of penguins Roy and Silo from Central Park Zoo went viral in 1999 when the couple attempted to incubate a rock as if it were an egg of their own. Zookeepers, sympathetic to the penguins’ desire to become parents, gave the couple a spare egg from another nest. Roy and Silo took turns sitting on the egg until it hatched, and baby penguin Tango was born!
And Tango Makes Three tells the tale of Roy and Silo. First published in 2005, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s story of love and acceptance was one of the first LGBTQ+ books available to parents and teachers to introduce the idea of a non-traditional family structure at home or in school – a must-add to your shelf this spring.
King and King by Linda De Haan and Stern Nijland
King and King, co-written and illustrated by Linda De Haan and Stern Nijand, turns a classic fairytale love story on its head. When Prince Bertie’s mother, the Queen, decides that it is time for him to take the throne, she scours the world to find him a suitable bride. When Princess Madeleine pays a visit to the palace, the Queen believes she has found a match at last! But it is not the Princess that draws Prince Ernie’s eye; it’s her brother, Prince Lee.
Originally written in Dutch, this 2000 book quickly became a children’s classic the world over. Beautifully written and illustrated, King and King is sure to become an LGBTQ+ staple in your child’s collection.
Violent Affections by Dr Alexander Kondakov
Releasing on March 2, just in time for World Book Day, Violent Affections is a new publication revealing the techniques of power that have emboldened hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people in Russia over the last decade. Written by UCD’s Dr Alexander Kondakov, the research highlights the devastating impacts of anti-queer rhetoric in an educational but engaging and immediately relevant way.
For those looking for LGBTQ+ books to read this spring with more academic content, Violent Affections is available for free download and for purchase in various formats here.
Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
In this Stonewall Award-winning picture book, Julián dreams of becoming a mermaid upon encountering three women dressed as the aforementioned mythical sea creatures on the subway. After glimpsing their glittery tails, all Julián can think about is having one of his own.
Julián is a Mermaid is a story about a child coming to understand their gender identity through self-expression and dressing up. As Julián lives out his fantasy, he wonders what his Abuela would make of his mermaid tail.
Drawing on the imagery of the transgender children’s charity Mermaids, Jessica Love’s Julián is a Mermaid was published in 2018 by Candlewick Press.
Alien Heart by Anna Fitzpatrick
Originally released as a webcomic, creator Anna Fitzpatrick funded a collected edition (volume one) via Kickstarter.
Alien Heart is set in a future where the earth has been crushed, destroyed and dominated by mysterious creatures called ‘angels’, and humanity lives in a protected bubble. This is where we find a scruffy, queer character called Ivy. She’s a teenager who finds it difficult to fit in with everybody else due to being different (and is mistreated for being so). This all changes when she meets Rosa, who she instantly befriends, but then Rosa disappears and Ivy has to try and save her. It’s beautifully drawn with believable characters and a wonderfully rendered setting, a perfect addition to your comics collection.
Auntie Uncle: Drag Queen Hero by Ellie Royce
Next on our list of LGBTQ+ books to read this spring is this moving picture book. It is narrated by a young boy who idolises his Auntie Uncle, who goes to work as Uncle Leo, but performs as drag queen, Auntie Lotta. When the Pride parade comes to town, Lotta’s family is excited to see her perform, until a run-away dog threatens to ruin the whole day! It is up to Lotta to save the dog and the parade before it is too late.
When the Mayor wants to give Lotta an award and throw her a party for her heroic performance at the parade, she is nervous. Some of their friends only know them as “Leo”. Lotta worries that they won’t get along with her drag performer friends and struggles to decide if she should attend the party as “Leo” or “Lotta”. With help from their nephew, they put together a look that expresses the best parts of Leo and Lotta, the perfect ensemble for an Auntie Uncle.
A beautiful story of pride, family, and learning to love yourself at all ages, Auntie Uncle: Drag Queen Hero was published in 2020 by PowerHouse Books.
Queer Love: An Anthology of Irish Fiction by Paul McVeigh
With a mixture of established writers of international standing and fresh, emerging voices, Queer Love is a fabulous collection of stories from Irish LGBTQ+ authors. Featuring previously published pieces and newly commissioned work, this book aims to go some way to redress the lack of acknowledgement of the queer community in literary anthologies in Ireland.
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders
With Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, young readers can trace the history of the LGBTQ+ Pride Flag from its beginnings in 1978 with social activist Harvey Milk and designer Gilbert Baker, through to its role in the world today as a symbol of Pride and solidarity, equality and inclusion.
Written by award-winning author Rob Sanders, and illustrated by acclaimed artist Steven Salemo, Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag has been described as “an essential LGBTQ children’s book.”
Holy Queer: The Coming out of Christ by Rev. Karmen Smith
Written by LGBTQ+ Reverand Karmen Smith, Holy Queer is grounded in the Black church experience. Released during Black History Month 2023, the controversial and ground-breaking book explores the sexuality of Jesus and unearths a long-lost affirming and inclusionary space within Biblical texts.
Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman
Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper series began as a serialised web-comic in 2016, but has since evolved into a growing four-book graphic novel series and a hugely popular Netflix show. It follows Charlie, a high-strung, openly gay student at Truham Grammar School for Boys. Despite his awkward demeanour, Charlie becomes quick friends with Nick, a soft-hearted rugby player. Nick knows that Charlie was outed last year and that he’s been bullied ever since, but after they become friends, they both quickly learn that there is more to their friendship than meets the eye.
This boy-meets-boy love story is stunningly illustrated by Alice Oseman. Perfect for young adult readers, the Heartstopper series is a gorgeous collection of LGBTQ+ books to pick up this spring!
Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
First published in 1993, this groundbreaking book follows the fictional story of Jess Goldberg, a masculine girl growing up and coming out as a young butch lesbian in the pre-Stonewall era. This queer classic takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride of gender transformation and exploration and speaks to anyone who has ever experienced being different.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Yadriel is the trans lead of Aiden Thomas’s New York Times-bestselling paranormal YA debut novel, Cemetery Boys. Yadriel is struggling to prove the validity of his gender identity to his traditional Latinx family when he accidentally summons a ghost who refuses to be dismissed.
Coming from a family of brujos, Yadriel must simultaneously defend his gender and his ability to summon and help dead spirits pass to the afterlife. But when, in an attempt to investigate the murder of his cousin, Yadirel accidentally summons the bad-boy spirit of Julian, things get wild fast.
Described as “groundbreaking”, Cemetery Boys is a moving story of power, family, and being true to yourself, no matter the circumstances.
All Out: The No-Longer Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages edited by Saundra Mitchell
Have you ever wondered what LGBTQ+ folks were up to in the past? Historical fiction has always been lacking when it comes to diverse representation, but All Out: The No-Longer Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages is determined to change that.
All Out is a collection of short stories from 17 of the best LGBTQ+ young adult authors the market has to offer. Together these talented writers have reimagined the lives of queer teens throughout history, from the story of a transgender soldier in war-torn 1870s Mexico, to the tale of an asexual girl’s journey of self-discovery at a 1970s roller disco. Made up of diverse stories spanning across cultures, time periods, and identities, All Out is determined to highlight the LGBTQ+ lives that have always lived among us and tell their hitherto untold stories. The perfect book for an LGBTQ+ reader looking to get more ‘worldly’ this spring.
The Impending Blindness Of Billie Scott by Zoe Thorogood
Billie Scott’s debut gallery exhibition opens in a few months. However, she discovers that she is losing her sight, and within a fortnight, she’ll be completely blind. In a bid to save the show, she decides to find ten people to paint for her exhibition.
This book gives you a realistic look at contemporary Britain and the people being left behind at the bottom of society. Zoe Thorogood’s unique illustration style may draw you into this comic, but the quality of her writing is equal to the art.
At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill
Set in the year leading up to the Easter Rising of 1916 – the event that would eventually lead to the creation of the Irish Republic – At Swim, Two Boys is a story of love between two young boys against the backdrop of social and political upheaval.
The 2001 novel follows Jim Mack, a young and impressionable scholar, and Doyler Doyle, a revolutionary spirit and son of a military man. The two boys are family friends, but when they journey together to the Forty Foot, a popular diving spot on the outskirts of Dublin, they make a pact: Doyler will teach Jim how to swim and the next year, on Easter Sunday of 1916, they will swim together to Muglins Rock and claim the island for themselves. Along the way, the shape of their friendship and country changes more than they ever could have imagined.
One of the most significant LGBTQ+-themed Irish novels of the last 20 years, Jamie O’Neill’s At Swim, Two Boys has been praised as “a work of wild, vaulting ambition and achievement”.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Published at the start of 2021, Torrey Peter’s Detransition, Baby has seen great success since hitting the shelves. The novel follows the lives of Reese – a trans woman who, just when she thought she had everything: a loving relationship; a good job, a home; it all falls apart; and Ames – formerly Amy, Reese’s ex-girlfriend – has de-transitioned, and thinking himself infertile, starts an affair with his boss, Katrina.
Can these three come together to raise a child and form their own unconventional family? Or will their already complicated relationship become only more complicated?
Peter’s novel is a story about gender, sex, and relationships. It is a story about how messy it can be to become a parent and how equally messy it can be to become yourself. Detransition, Baby is the perfect contemporary novel to pick up for World Book Day.
Boy Wander by Jobert E Abueva
Boy Wander is the debut book from award-winning writer Jobert E Abueva. Having grown up in various Asian countries, he lived a double life in high school as both an excellent student, athlete and popular leader, and a young gay man working as a prostitute for international clients staying in Tokyo’s most prestigious hotel. This coming-of-age memoir is a poignant and revealing account of the author’s unique story.
The book is available to preorder from March 3.
Gay Bar: Why We Went Out by Jeremy Atherton Lin
In Gay Bar: Why We Went Out, Jeremy Atherton Lin provides a richly individualised history of the gay bar scenes in London, San Francisco and Los Angeles. In a time when more and more queer venues are closing their doors, the author recalls the hangouts that punctuated his life and tells the stories of his experiences there as a mixed-race gay man.
Gay Bar takes you on a tour through the seedy, tragic, and fabulous history of LGBTQ+ spaces from the 1970s through to the HIV and AIDS crisis of the ’80s and ’90s. Moving beyond the mythology of Stonewall, Atherton Lin highlights the lesser-known battles for LGBTQ+ liberation fought at gay bars the world over. Part serious critical inquiry, part love letter to LGBTQ+ haunts, Gay Bar has been described by acclaimed author Colm Toibin as “brilliantly written and incisive,” and is a worthy addition to this list of LGBTQ+ books to read this spring.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
A re-telling of the Trojan War from the perspective of Patroclus, a young prince exiled to the court of King Peleus and his soon-to-be-famous son Achilles; this book is a tour-de-force of romance, sacrifice, and a love for the ages.
Following Achilles on his journey to becoming a Greek Hero of legend, Patroclus trains alongside him as their bond grows into something beyond friendship. Despite the displeasure of Achilles’ goddess mother, Thetis, the boys travel together to Troy, knowing that the war that rages on there will test everything they have built together.
Profound, moving, and surprisingly original, Madeline Miller’s debut novel is a reclamation of LGBTQ+ love from the annals of history. A tragic love story set amidst a battle between gods and kings, men and heroes, The Song of Achilles is sure to bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your face this spring.
To round off this list, we’re including two fabulous bonus LGBTQ+ books due to release later this spring and in summer. Don’t say we never gave you anything!
Scorched Grace by Margot Douaihy
What’s cooler than a tattooed, chain-smoking punk lesbian nun? A tattooed, chain-smoking punk lesbian nun turned detective – that’s what! And you can follow her story in Scorched Grace, the new thrilling mystery novel due to release in Ireland on April 6.
The book has already been released in the US and has received rave reviews, being described as “an exploration of faith, love, and the worthy struggle to be a better human”.
A Trans Man Walks into a Gay Bar by Harry Nicholas
Another bonus addition to this list releases on May 18, and will, in fact, make an excellent summer read! A Trans Man Walks into a Gay Bar is a raw, unflinchingly honest memoir which shines a new light on the complex intersections of gender identity, sexuality, and queerness. It covers everything from dating, heartbreak, sex, gay bars, patriarchy, saunas and ultimately falling in love, and is one of the most highly anticipated queer books for 2023.
These are just some of the incredible LGBTQ+ books to add to your shelves this spring. The list is by no means exhaustive, and we can’t wait to discover more worthy additions throughout 2023!
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