The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Struggle for Social Justice by Patricia Bell-Scott. Knopf, 2016. A chronicle of the friendship between First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Pauli Murray: granddaughter of a mixed-race slave, lawyer, civil rights activist, minister, and co-founder of the National Organization of Women. The book explores the professional and social cost of Murray’s race and gender, in the context of her correspondence with Roosevelt, mentions issues of her gender fluidity and same-sex relationships, and Roosevelt’s use of Murray’s advocacy for racial equality in her public writings.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson. HarperCollins, 2016. For August, friendship was everything. It was the 1970s in Brooklyn. She and her three best girlfriends lived confident of their talents, dreaming of the future. But their Brooklyn was a dangerous place, where dreams were fleeting, and growing up female was not easy. Woodson’s latest novel is an epic poem, honoring memories of girlhood, fragile community, and fate.
In the Dark Room by Susan Faludi. Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company, 2016. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist tries to find the truth when her father shocks her with the news of her sex-change surgery. Questions of identity, rage, and history haunt her story: Hungarian or American, Magyar or Jew, victim or victimizer, man or woman? In the end, “in the universe, there is only one true divide, one real binary: life or death.” Everything else is open to interpretation, acceptance, or denial.
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera. Riverdale Avenue Books, 2016. The coming-of-age story of a young woman learning what it is to be who she is. Lesbian, Puerto Rican, New Yorker Juliet is running to something that isn’t what she expected and running from problems that follow along with her. A great story for anyone who has ever felt that love can’t replace understanding, that understanding comes in ways you never expected, and that heroes are what you make of them.
Bettyville: A Memoir by George Hodgeman. Viking, 2015. A richly crafted memoir about a gay son and his aging octogenarian mother. As her health declines, the son returns to the small Missouri town and the house he grew up in, from New York City, to care for her. Despite the passage of time and the decline of both Betty’s and the town’s health, not much has changed in their relationship.
A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain by Christina Crosby. NYU Press, 2016. One month after her fiftieth birthday, the author becomes a quadriplegic after breaking her neck in a bicycle accident. In this memoir, she writes about her changing feelings toward her body, her relationship, and her own sense of self.
Stand By Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation by Jim Downs. Basic Books, 2016. Downs has written an essential historical text on gay life during the “forgotten” time between 1969 and the beginnings of the AIDS crisis. Using documents from large metropolitan LGBT centers, he explores communities like the Metropolitan Community Church and those formed in book stores, proving the ‘70s were more than pride marches, sex, and discos.
Ask a Queer Chick: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life For Girls Who Dig Girls by Lindsay King-Miller, Plume, 2016. A series of essays about lesbian life based on the advice column of the same name. Topics are written to address both queer and straight readers and include dating, sexual relationships, being out at work, and finding allies.
Boy, Erased: A Memoir by Garrard Conley, Riverhead, 2016. Conley, a son of a pastor, tells how his struggle with his sexuality brought him to checking into an ex-gay conversion therapy program during his late teens in 2004. He gives a stark look into how he survives the abusive program, struggles with his faith, and comes to terms with his sexuality.
The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded by Jim Ottaviani, illustrated by Leland Purvis, Abrams ComicArts, 2016. A realistic, imaginative, well-drawn graphic novel exploring the life and death of the great mathematician and pioneer of artificial intelligence and computer science, Alan Turing. His incredible feats during and after WWII were overshadowed by prosecution for being homosexual. As Ottaviani notes, “I wish I lived in a world that benefited from decades more of Alan Turing alive and well, thinking and discovering.”