In A Little Life, a novel by the author Hanya Yanagihara, the tone is exaggerated, almost melodramatic. But the book brings nuance to a key realm—its portrayal of queerness—as its four protagonists each arrive at complex understandings of their sexuality.
Indeed the best works of queer literature create space for this complexity. For example, the critic Andrea Long Chu questions simplistic narratives about trans identity in Females, which itself resists genre characterization. Similarly, in “Bump,” a short story published in The Atlantic, the author Morgan Thomas’s aim was to “expand visions of queer and trans desire.” The Stonewall Reader, a collection featuring works by figures such as the writer Audre Lorde and the activist Kiyoshi Kuromiya, demonstrates this expansiveness in the variety of experiences it chronicles. The book is named for one of history’s most powerful displays of queer protest, but focuses instead on intimate self-reckoning. The pieces in it ponder visibility, self-understanding, and the development of queerness as an identity.
Tillie Walden’s sci-fi graphic novel On a Sunbeam imagines a world in which such identities are the norm. The book’s events are set on a spaceship with no human men (though there is a male cat). In Walden’s imagined world, characters fall in love and grapple with their desires without fear of prejudice.
Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas. Know other book lovers who might like this guide? Forward them this email.
When you buy a book using a link in this newsletter, we receive a commission. Thank you for supporting The Atlantic.