Pride Month Reads
After reading Detransition, Baby and Memorial back-to-back in May, I figured I should keep reading recent LGBTQ+ books and write some reviews for Pride Month. (We should pay attention to LGBTQ+ voices all year, of course, but the timing happily worked out like this.) I read The House in the Cerulean Sea next, and then I read One Last Stop as soon as it came out June 1. This is in no way a complete list of all the great LGBTQ+ titles that have been published in last 18 months – there are many – but these are the four books about LGBTQ+ people that have recently captivated me.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
I had to read Detransition, Baby after I got a look at that plot summary. A man who used to be a trans woman accidentally gets a coworker pregnant and then wants to raise the baby with that coworker and his ex-girlfriend, a trans woman who desperately wants to be a mother? That’s definitely not a list of ingredients you see on the back of many books, and I was certainly intrigued.
Sadly, the plot turned out to be a weak point in a book that somehow manages to be very satisfying in spite of the lack of resolution. Detransition, Baby is totally worth reading anyway, because Torrey Peters is an incredibly smart writer with so many important things to say. Reading this book is like getting to hear the opinions of a very intelligent trans friend on a variety of topics. It also offers a glimpse into the vibrant and sometimes brutal world of trans women in New York City. I picked up Detransition, Baby for the intriguing plot, but I stayed for the unforgettable characters, the astute social commentary, and the opportunity to learn about a community I definitely didn’t know enough about.
Memorial by Bryan Washington
Memorial is a novel with a plot that made me go, “Wait. What?” In this book, Mike leaves the home he shares with his boyfriend, Benson, to say goodbye to his dying father in Japan just as Mike’s mother, Mitsuko, arrives from Japan for a visit. For some reason – and this is the part that puzzled me – Mitsuko stays with Benson for months until Mike returns, and she and Benson eventually form an unlikely friendship.
This book offers a searing representation of a long-term relationship on the verge of dissolution. The simultaneous longing for each other and for other things the two main characters experienced throughout the book made my heart ache. There are heavy questions here about the choices we make in life. It can be so hard to tell if we’ve made the right decisions when it comes to romantic relationships, family, where to live, everything. Bryan Washington doesn’t offer easy answers in Memorial. Instead, he offers a stunningly true-to-life portrait of unbearable uncertainty of everyday life.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
I read The House in the Cerulean Sea after an enthusiastic recommendation from a coworker, and now I’m going to enthusiastically recommend it to you. This is a delightful novel about Linus Baker, a man who escapes the drudgery of working as a case worker in the terribly bureaucratic Department in Charge of Magical Youth when he’s sent to investigate an orphanage for magical children on an island surrounded by a cerulean sea. What he finds there is a strange mix of lovable and unforgettable characters who would melt anyone’s heart.
And those character do eventually work their way into Linus Baker’s heart. The House in the Cerulean Sea is a book about finding your chosen family. It’s a book about how it’s never too late to go for what you really want. It’s a book about falling in love. It’s part Harry Potter with a 40-year-old protagonist who is un-secretly gay; part The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in a midlife-escape-from-the-ordinary kind of way; and entirely uplifting, delightful, and charmingly weird. I loved this book, and I think you will too.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
One Last Stop is another uplifting and charmingly weird book I loved. This quirky tale involves a 23-year-old New Yorker who’s struggling to find her place in a new city when she meets a beautiful and mysterious stranger named Jane on the Q train. It turns out Jane is actually from the 1970s and has become unstuck in time and stuck on the Q for the last 45 years. A hot summer romance – and this is a romance novel – unfold as August and Jane fall in love against the backdrop of a delightfully diverse New York City.
At its heart, One Last Stop is a coming-of-age story about finding your place in the world (and time). August finds the love of her life in Jane, of course, but the couple also finds a chosen family in a wonderfully inclusive cast of characters that features drag queens and a psychic, among many others. I wanted to crawl inside this book and live in the perfectly-crafted world Casey McQuiston created.