When we hear the phrase “decolonize your bookshelf,” we often think of it as an act of removal—going through your shelf and removing works that only reflect a Eurocentric, or colonizer (shot out to Shuri) perspective. But what should hold precious space on your shelf instead? Black writers? Women? Indigenous literature? Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer fanfiction. What about disabled authors? Is it good enough to just read works from folks who aren’t cisgender white men? As we continue to put in the work, it’s important to celebrate the intersection of identities as a framework to learn, heal, and understand.
In honor of Pride Month, we invite you to educate yourself with this curated list of some of our favorite brothers and sisters in the Black Queer scene. Commit to expanding your awareness of this marginalized group within a marginalized group. These works will challenge you, enrich your understanding of the Black & Queer identity, and expose you to a group of writers who definitely deserve more space on your bookshelf.
Kacen Callender – King and the Dragonflies
Kacen’s body of work examines the intersectionality of trans, queer, and blackness in stories of the search for identity and the struggle to find a sense of belonging. Their latest YA novel, King and the Dragonflies, is a coming-of-age story set in the Deep South.
James Baldwin – Giovanni’s Room
Baldwin is one of the most beloved writers of the Civil Rights era, but he was also an early proponent of gay and lesbian rights. His semi-autobiographical Giovanni’s Room reflects his own experience navigating 1950’s Parisian culture as a gay Black man, and one of the first books to discuss homosexuality and bisexuality with empathy.
Jacqueline Woodson – Red at the Bone
Red at the Bone is a poignant tale of sexuality, identity, class, and parenthood and the pressures young people face to make long-lasting decisions about their future.
Claire Kann – If It Makes You Happy
Claire Kann is a master of heartwarming stories created to tell Black and queer fat girls that they’re the perfect and beautiful just the way they are. If It Makes You Happy is about Winnie, who finds herself exploring her cultural and sexual identity when she ends up in a small town matchmaking tradition.
Samantha Irby – We Are Never Meeting in Real Life
Irby’s collection of essays, We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, is a hilarious examination of life, death, love, friendship, and adulthood through the eyes of a Black queer woman. Written in a uniquely honest way that makes it seem like you’re swapping stories with a good friend over a cocktail.