2020 Over the Rainbow Non-Fiction Longlist

By Kelsey Socha  

The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality: From Ace to Ze. Morgan Lev Edward Holleb. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2019. This thorough A-Z glossary catalogs the ever-evolving vocabulary used to describe LGBTQ identities and experiences. Holleb has created an essential reference work that recognizes the power in having the language to describe a feeling, as well as dispelling the anxiety some feel around using the “wrong” terminology.

Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man. Thomas Page McBee. Scribner, 2018. In 2015, Thomas Page McBee began training to fight in a charity boxing match at Madison Square Garden — the first transgender man to do so. As he recounts his training and the emotions he feels as he learns to box in mostly-male spaces, he also confronts his relationship to masculinity and violence — and begins to chart a path toward a more whole vision of maleness.

American Boys. Soraya Zaman. Daylight Books, 2019. Pairing short autobiographical testimonials with revealing and beautiful portrait photo essays, Zaman presents a diverse array of trans male experiences across America.

Brown White Black. Nishta J. Mehra. Picador, 2019. Mehra is a lesbian daughter of Indian immigrants married to a white woman. The couple adopted a black son. In this candid series of essays she shares with us some of the daily struggles her family is faced with as they navigate the frontlines of cultural conflict. This powerful book serves as a call for a more compassionate understanding of identity and family.

Buying Gay: How Physique Entrepreneurs Sparked a Movement. David K. Johnson. Columbia University Press, 2019. Important study of male physique magazines, and how they facilitated not only gay male community and desire, but also created a market of things to buy and sell, and profits to be made. 

Capturing Mariposas: Reading Cultural Schema in Gay Chicano Literature. Doug P. Bush. The Ohio State University Press, 2019. Bush aims to identify commonalities of genre in the writing of gay Chicano writers.  Providing close readings of the texts of Rigoberto González, Manuel Muñoz, Alex Espinoza, as well as an examination of the market for gay chicano literature and interviews with Muñoz and Espinoza, Bush does important scholarly work while also directing more readers to his featured authors.

Claiming the B in LGBT: Illuminating the Bisexual Narrative. Edited by Kate Harrad. Thorntree Press, 2019. An engaging and clear primer on bisexuality. The book tackles persistent and pernicious myths and misconceptions and explores bisexuality’s intersections with non-monogamy, gender, race, disability, and faith (among other topics). The book includes numerous and diverse testimonials of bisexual people insterspersed throughout the book that provide real-world insights and experiences.

Cruising: An Intimate History of a Radical Pastime. Alex Espinoza. The Unnamed Press, 2019. Espinoza researches the history of anonymous public gay sex from Ancient Greece to Grindr mixing research and personal memoir in this conversational history.

Drag: The Complete Story. Simon Doonan. Laurence King Publishers, 2019. Doonan amusingly explores drag from a variety of lenses: history, philosophy, classification (glamour drag vs. art drag vs. butch drag). Doonan’s droll narration and the beautiful full color photos interspersed throughout the book provide an engaging and illuminating overview.

Dying to Be Normal: Gay Martyrs and the Transformation of American Sexual Politics. Brett Krutzsch. Oxford University Press, 2019. A look at how the deaths of gay people are portrayed in the media–be it from murder or suicide. Often portrayed as martyrs, the author analyzes their deaths from viewpoints of whiteness, Christianity, and heterosexual assimilation. The book concludes with thoughts of queering memorials with a comparison of the tragedies of the Upstairs Lounge fire in New Orleans in 1973 and the Orlando Pulse Nightclub massacre in 2016.

Gender Identity, Sexuality and Autism: Voices from Across the Spectrum. Eva A. Mendes and Meredith R. Maroney. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2019. An exploration of the experiences of people whose identity include both LGBTQ+ and Autism Spectrum Difference (ASD). The first portion of the book is interview transcripts with ASD/LGBTQ+ individuals and some interviews with family members and loved ones. The authors then analyze to discuss common themes.

Gender Queer: A Memoir. Maia Kobabe. Oni Press, 2019. Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, masterfully uses the graphic memoir format to describe what can seem indescribable. Kobabe charts eir journey from a childhood of feeling “different” to finally understanding eirself as non-binary and asexual with humor and heart, making space for the reader while also making it clear that the story is eirs and eirs alone.

Gentleman Jack: The Real Anne Lister. Anne Choma. Penguin Books, 2019. Read the words and learn about the life of a lesbian from more than a century ago. A woman who discarded the time’s gender roles and expectations and wrote more than 20 highly personal and detailed journal volumes. Some of her diary entries she wrote for all and some she wrote for herself–she wrote in “plain hand” and in “crypt hand” of her own secret code. Anne Lister has recently been recognized and brought to life on the screen of HBO’s Gentleman Jack.

Headcase: LGBTQ Writers & Artists on Mental Health and Wellness. Edited by Stephanie Schroeder and Teresa Theophano. Oxford University Press, 2019. This anthology collects personal reflections and artistic interpretations that focus on mental illness and the LGBTQ community. These stories give a look into the lives of queer individuals and some of them document the process as the authors navigate a flawed and sometimes biased health care system. This collection features many stories that display the raw emotions of the authors with stories that display the experiences of a minority community.

Her Widow. Joan Alden. Hillside Press, 2018*. Told in the form of letters from Joan Alden to her deceased wife, Catherine Hopkins, Her Widow is a raw and powerful memoir of grief. Alden catalogs the intimate details of daily life both before and after Catherine’s passing and invites the reader to share in her devastation and her hope. The memoir is illustrated with Hopkins’ black and white photographs.

Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women. E. Patrick Johnson. Duke University Press, 2019. An oral history of the experiences of African-American women in the South who express same-sex desire. Johnson uses a creative approach to oral history by creating a fictional community liaison/travel companion “Miss B” to converse with in the narrative integrating bee and honey imagery in the prose. Johnson’s study population spans age, social class, and the geography of the American South.

How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir. Saeed Jones. Simon & Schuster, 2019. Poet and journalist recounts his experience coming of age and coming out as a gay black man in the American south in the late 1990s and early 2000s through college in Kentucky and the path of his successful writing career. Jones writes with humor and emotional honesty about his complicated relationship with his mother and surviving in an America where “Being a black gay boy is a death wish.” 

In the Dream House. Carmen Maria Machado. Graywolf Press, 2019. Carmen Maria Machado writes about her own experience in an abusive relationship, and also within the broader context of lesbian and/or queer domestic abuse. All the pieces of her life, experiences, and relationships create this “dream house” that also builds a structure to surround the experience. An essential read to highlight domestic abuse within the community. 

Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall. James Polchin. Counterpoint, 2019. Polchin investigates queer true crime stories recounted in the historical press between World War I and Stonewall shedding light on the violence of homosexual criminalization that eventually ignited organization and social protest.

Introduction to Transgender Studies. Ardel Haefele-Thomas. Harrington Park Press, 2019. This textbook is one of the first of its kind to be aimed at undergraduate students. It focuses on the transgender experience on a global scale and poses questions to the reader about how they can relate to this experience. This text also includes many stories and perspectives written by members of the transgender community and has chapters focused on the history of transgender society.

Mama’s Boy: A Story from Our Americas. Dustin Lance Black. Knopf, 2019. A touching and often heartbreaking memoir from the Oscar-winning screenwriter and LGBTQ activist, this book tells Black’s mother’s story as much as his own. Subtitled “a story from our Americas” it foregrounds the cultural, religious and political divides in the country, and looks at them in reference to his own (eventually redeemed) relationship with a conservative, Mormon and anti-gay mother. 

Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age. Darrel J. McLeod. Milkweed Editions, 2019. The title of McLeod’s memoir is taken from “the Cree word used as a response to dreams shared.” Accordingly, McLeod’s own story of coming of age as a queer man is also the shared story of his family: his mother Bertha, his siblings, and the life of poverty, abuse, and racism they all experienced as First Nations people in Alberta, Canada. 

No Walls and the Recurring Dream: A Memoir. Ani DiFranco. Viking, 2019. The coming-of-age of a musician who always refused to play by the rules, creating her own record label and finding her own way to radio play and the festival circuit. While not as linear as most memoirs, the narrative finds its way from childhood into the 21st century, with a lot of stories of life on the road, triumph and failure, relationships with both genders, and her political views. 

Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity. Edited by Micah Rajunov and Scott Duane. Columbia University Press, 2019. This collection of thirty first-person narratives showcases a wide variety of experiences outside the gender binary, as well as illuminating how these experiences can be influenced by class, race, age, and ability. The result is a collection that is descriptive rather than prescriptive, and will be eye-opening to any reader who is interested in learning more about nonbinary experiences.

Not Just a Tomboy: A Trans Masculine Memoir. Caspar J. Baldwin. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2018. This memoir focuses on the authors’ experience growing up in a time when being transgender was not widely accepted in society. It takes an unflinching and personal look at the experiences that transgender people faced from the 90s until today along with showing the journey of transitioning during those times.

Precious and Adored: The Love Letters of Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Simpson Whipple, 1890-1918. Edited by Lizzie Ehrenhalt and Tilly Laskey. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2019. An edited and annotated collection of original letters charting the romantic relationship between a Minnesota widow and the sister of President Grover Cleveland. The letters chronicle their sexual attraction and partnership over the years through heartbreak and reconciliation.

Pride: The LGBTQ+ Rights Movement: A Photographic Journey. Christopher Measom. Sterling, 2019. Described as “a photograpic journey” Measom selects a wide range of photos charting queer, mostly American, history from the 1920s through the modern day. A well-curated collection of visually interesting photos, posters, and illustrations charts the joy, sadness, and anger of the past century with informative accompanying text and descriptive captions.

Pride: Fifty Years of Parades and Protest from the Photo Archives of the New York TImes. The New York Times. Abrams Image, 2019. Pride highligts fifty years of LGBTQ progress, struggle, celebration and tragedy through the photographs and images of articles from the New York Times. Starting with the Stonewall riots, the book takes readers on a journey through the first gay liberation marches, the first March on Washington, the AIDS epidemic and ACTUP, modern Pride parades, Marriage Equality and the Pulse tragedy.

The Queering of Corporate America: How Big Business Went from LGBTQ Adversary to Ally. Carlos A. Ball. Beacon Press, 2019. This book traces the evolution of corporate America from being harsh bigots to using their leverage to advocate for equality. In a chonological order, it shows how LGBTQ activists used consumer power and pressure to change the queer rights movement. Employment discrimination, pharmacutical companies during the AIDS crisis, domestic partner benefits, and marriage equality are a few of the issues covered in how LGBTQ force corporations to improve and how in some cases corporations go a step further to become advocates for the community.

Raising Rosie: Our Story of Parenting an Intersex Child. Eric and Stephani Lohman. Jessica Kinglsey Publishers, 2018. When Eric and Stephani Lohman’s daughter Rosie was born intersex, with ambiguous genitalia, they made the decision to allow for Rosie’s informed consent in terms of what cosmetic procedures she would undergo to “normalize” her genitalia. This brief book describes how they came to this decision, as well as their experience with a medical establishment that is still primed to operate on infants who display intersex characteristics. The Lohmans also briefly discuss how they have approached raising Rosie and their openness regarding her condition. 

Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story. Jacob Tobia. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019. Tobia takes the reader on a gender journey showing a hilarious embrace of the genderqueer experience. Tobia provides an example of overcoming gender-based trauma to thrive in a non-binary identity.

The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective. Joy Ladin. Brandeis University Press, 2018. Reading the Torah through the lens of transgender experience. Religious texts receive a close reading in this deeply personal search at understanding God. It shows how our own perspectives bring life to the ancient text. The book illuminates an openness and flexibility to gender roles in the Torah. 

The Stonewall Reader. Edited by Jason Baumann. Penguin Classics, 2019. In this book the New York Public Library features LGBTQ+ first-hand accounts from its archives in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Magazine and newsletter articles, diary entries, and stories of major LGBTQ+ trail blazers including Audre Lourde, Harry Hay, Reverend Troy Perry, Frank Kameny, Sylvia Rivera, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy.

The Stonewall Riots: a Documentary History. Edited by Marc Stein. New York University Press, 2019. Brings together an extensive range of primary sources documenting the Stonewall Riots. Importantly, it also includes documentation of the period leading up to the Stonewall Riots, and what came after, including the first pride parades. Contextualized in eight different chapters, provides insight into the thinking on activism and protest before, during, and after the riots.

Swelling with Pride: Queer Conception and Adoption Stories. Edited by Sara Graefe. Caitlin Press Inc., 2018. This book contains more than twenty personal accounts of how queer, transgender, and nonbinary people make families. Powerful and touching, the stories tell of in-vitro fertilization, adoption, co-parenting, and the many various ways queer families come to be. The editor provides for readers the book of stories that she and her wife wished they had on their journey to parenthood. 

This One Looks Like a Boy: My Gender Journey to Life as a Man. Lorimer Shenher. Greystone Books, 2019. Lorimer Shenher is the former head of the Missing Persons Unit of the Vancouver Police Department and well known in Canada for their involvement in a serial killer case. Readers will be pulled in by his journey in his gender identity, finishing with gender reassignment surgery in his 50s, and navigating small-town Canadian life in the meantime.

Unashamed: A Coming-Out Guide for LGBTQ Christians. Amber Cantorna. Westminster John Knox Press, 2019. A slim guidebook helping those who identify as Christian to navigate coming out, establishing boundaries, and coping with the shame narrative. Also includes information for allies, families and church leaders who want to put their teachings of love into action.

When Brooklyn Was Queer. Hugh Ryan. St. Martin’s Press, 2019. Ryan recounts Brooklyn’s queer scene from the era of Walt Whitman up to Stonewall. Ryan highlights the lives of well-known queer historical figures like Carson McCullers and Hart Crane along with less well-known figures such as male impersonator Florence Hines, and dancer Mabel Hampton, as he vividly recreates the evolution of Brooklyn’s queer communities.

*Her Widow originally published by Dog Ear Publishing, 2018. 


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