Non-fiction for Pride

The most exquisitely hewn experiences in the LGBTQI+ community, expertly told by those who were there and those who, crucially, continue to be there in these increasingly fractured times.

None of the Above, by Travis Alabanza

Travis Alabanza’s debut non-fiction was much anticipated, and with good reason. By now everyone in Bristol likely has a copy, but if you don’t, you should absolutely snap it up now. Divided up into seven chapters, which respectively examine seven phrases people have said to them about their gender identity, and which have stayed with them over the years. Ranging from derisive and offensive, to celebratory and warm, Travis unpicks these phrases and in doing so, makes evident the ways in which the gender binary damages us all, as well as both the trials and very real joys of transcending gender. This is a vital, generous and eloquent read and another which will rock your world in the best way possible. 

Men At War, by Luke Turner

Mining a youth spent obsessing over military model-making and derring-do war fiction, Luke Turner takes a thoughtful and considered – maybe even gently radical –  approach to how we see masculinity in conflict. With the Second World War as a focus, Turner excavates a new narrative of that time, eschewing the jingoistic, the heteronormative, the deafeningly masculine. In doing so, he offers an alternative view of combat and those who found themselves at its sharpest edges, sensitively recasting their roles in a more emotionally adept fashion – love, objection, trauma, fear. The storytelling is beautiful, the research present but not intrusive: this book takes a familiar story of war and personalises it in new, sensitive ways.

The Breaks, by Julietta Singh

A determinedly-hopeful powerhouse of a book. Much in the vein of Maggie Nelson, James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates, Julietta Singh’s The Breaks is as much a letter to her daughter as it is a manifesto for radical pedagogy, queer family-making, and utopian thinking. This is the kind of book you read and then find yourself buying for everyone you know.

Please Miss: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Penis, by Grace Lavery

This is as totally brilliant and whack as the title. It’s difficult to say much for fear of spoling the raucous ride this will take you on, but suffice to say it is brilliant, intellectual and fun. It will make you think in ways you had not before, and laugh out loud.

Deep Sniff, by Adam Zmith

This raucous books starts out as a history of poppers, but don’t be deceived, extensive and detailed as this history is, it is also a critique of categories and taxonomies and a sort of blueprint of a queer utopia. Readers will come away, with not only a detailed understanding of how poppers developed and wafted into clubs, bars, bedrooms and corner shops, but also buoyed by the radical and hopeful vision it offers

The Transgender Issue, by Shon Faye

If you haven’t yet read this, you simply must. It had been hyped immensely before publication and in truth, the hype was still not enough. Shon Faye makes an articulate and much needed intervention into what has been billed the ‘Transgender Issue’. She provides a wide ranging analysis and account of trans lives from youth through to old age in contemporary Britain and illustrates why and how trans folks have become so unnecessarily contentious here. It’s articulate, accessible, inviting and utterly brilliant and vital.

The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson

A genre-bending, form-defying memoir, blending autobiography and rigorous theory-making on sex and gender. This is a landmark modern queer classic on gender fluidity, nontraditional family-making and the freedom to love. The kind of book you’ll press into people’s hands, speechlessly mouthing “please, please just read it.”

An Apartment On Uranus, by Paul B Preciado

A fiercely intelligent and intensely political collection of essays on everything from neo-fascism to technocapitalism, written during Preciado’s own experience of gender transition. What unites this collection is the concept of “Uranism”, a utopian vision of an identity and a space free from the state’s power to define what constitutes normality and dissidence.

In The Dream House, by Carmen Maria Machado

After devouring her short stories in previous years, we knew Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir was going to be worth waiting for. With rich and luminous prose, this stunning memoir creates a stunning picture of a soured relationship and all the attendant emotional intricacies. Inventive, refreshing and frank throughout, we were totally engrossed by one of the most affecting reads of the last few years.

Gay Bar: Why We Went Out, by Jeremy Atherton Lin

Weaving personal account with social history, this evocative and important document of the erasure of queer spaces is compelling and illuminating, flitting between the emerging and disappearing scenes of Los Angeles, San Francisco and London. A love letter, a series of rich descriptions, a map for hedonism, and an indispensable guide to an ongoing story

How To Write An Auto-Biographical Novel, by Alexander Chee

A thoroughly enjoyable and perceptive collection of semi-autobiographical essays. Chee covers the joys of drag, tongue-in-cheek novel writing tips, odd-jobs between books, activism, the AIDS crisis, sexuality, race, and what it was like to be taught by Annie Dillard.

I Remember, by Joe Brainard

A deceptively simple concept for a memoir, if that’s even the right definition: to simply write down memories as they come to mind, starting each sentence “I remember…” Funny, confessional, and genuinely original.

Modern Nature, by Derek Jarman

Part diary, part nature writing, part memoir, part witness statement to the AIDs crisis, Modern Nature is not quite like anything else you’ll ever read. Jarman’s diary entries cover his own relationship with his diagnosis, his sexuality, his film work, and his improbable, experimental garden in Dungeness.

Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel is one of the greats, no doubt about it. All her ‘graphic memoirs’ are brilliant, but Fun Home is the place to start. It’s both a coming-of-age and a coming-out story, exquisitely self-reflective and profound, but it’s also a beautifully realised family history. Bechdel’s family grew up in a funeral home, in the long shadow of Alison’s emotionally distant father: the undertaker of the funeral home and relentlessly literary local high school teacher, and, as it turns out, a much more complicated man than any of them realised. This is a profound, meditative, genre-defining graphic novel and absolutely worth your time.

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life, by Samantha Irby

Behind all the hilariously histrionic and varied description of bodily movements, awful life choices, horrendous dating encounters, pet disasters and thoroughly modern malaise, there is a beautiful and graspable love story that gently shows its face as these diamond-sharp essays progress. Heart-melting in places, but Irby herself would undoubtedly refute it.

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