Tuesday, September 24, 2013

For Banned Books Week: Essential LGBT Literature

Hooray! Banned Books Week is underway! Happening September 22 through 28, this is a nationwide celebration of everyone's freedom to read whatever books they want. This annual event also brings attention to censorship when it comes to books that are challenged or outright banned because of their content.

In Our Mothers' House, a children's book on a multiracial family headed by a lesbian couple, is routinely on banned books lists, according to the ACLU.

"Challenges are motivated by a desire to protect children from 'inappropriate' sexual content or 'offensive' language," according to the American Library Association (ALA). These challenges are typically brought forth by members of the local community who object to a school or library carrying a particular title. Many titles that have been objected have an LGBT focus. Two recent examples are children's books Tango Makes Three and In Our Mothers' House, reported the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

In honor of Banned Books Week, I'm sharing with you a list of LGBT works of nonfiction that many people consider essential and that everyone should be allowed to read. Compiled by Flavorwire, this list includes:

The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America, by Charles Kaiser
"Kaiser's historical look at how gay men informed the culture of America's urban areas - particularly New York City - spans 56 years from the periods of silent acceptance, the tumultuous pre-Stonewall years, the empowering '70s, and the AIDS crisis of the '80s" - Flavorwire

Before Night Falls/Antes que anochezca, by Reinaldo Arenas
"The internationally renowned poet shares his life story, from his adolescence spent fighting for the Castro regime to his imprisonment for his sexuality to his flight from Cuba to his deathbed in New York City" - Flavorwire (The 2000 film adaption alerted the world to the awesomeness that is Javier Bardem!)

Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, by John D'Emilio
"Bayard Rustin was responsible for teaching the principles of nonviolent protest to Martin Luther King Jr., yet his status as an openly gay man in the midst of the civil rights movement kept him from being recognized for the efforts and activism he accomplished" - Flavorwire

And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, by Randy Shilts
"Shilts' indelible and controversial reporting on the AIDS epidemic not only reveals the origins of the virus' spread but also examines the ramifications of the medical community and the government's ignorance of the crisis" - Flavorwire (This book was also adapted into a movie, in 1993.)

Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde
"This collection of speeches and essays from the influential and outspoken Audre Lorde touches on racism, sexism, and homophobia without losing a sense of hope for positive results in the face of class struggles" - Flavorwire (Also worth reading is Lorde's autobiography, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.)

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel
"Alison Bechdel's gorgeous and heartbreaking graphic memoir follows the artist as she grapples with both her own sexuality and the revelation that her cold, distant father led a secret life as a gay man" - Flavorwire (If you're a fan of graphic novels/comics, check out Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For, her long-running comic series that also comes in book form.)

Ceremonies, by Essex Hemphill
"Hemphill's collection of poetry and commentary tackles the experience of being an African American and a gay man in a society that refuses to accept both" - Flavorwire (For more on the late poet and activist, watch Tongues Untied, the 1989 semi-documentary directed by Marlon Riggs.)

Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us, by Kate Bornstein
"Legendary transgender activist and writer Kate Bornstein details her transition from a heterosexual man to a lesbian woman in this modern classic about challenging gender and cultural norms" - Flavorwire

See Flavorwire's entire list of "25 Essential Works of LGBT Non-Fiction" HERE.

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