Big Gay Book Guide

Get your read on this spring

This season’s selection of LGBT books runs the gamut between memoir and guidebook with insights into unique experiences from the famous and infamous around the world. As we gear up for beach season, here’s a roundup of books to get you started.

Rub Out the Words: The Letters of William S. Burroughs edited by Bill Morgan

Considered by many to be the grandfather of the Beat Generation, Burroughs was nothing if not controversial. The famed author’s life reads like an epic – complete with murder, intrigue and obscenity. He rose to fame thanks to his novel Naked Lunch, a surreal interpretation of writing and drug addiction. This new collection of old correspondence goes behind the scenes with 300 letters that Burroughs wrote to his family and friends in the 1960s and 70s. We get to know his fears, addictions and the sometimes lofty experiments behind his works, as well as his thoughts on trips to far-reaching locales like North Africa where he explored his own homosexuality to the fullest.

My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family by Zach Wahls

He made an impact when he stood in front of the Iowa House of Representatives last January and said, “The sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on my character.” His speech became a viral sensation, having been viewed more than 18 million times. In his new book, Wahls – now 20 – introduces readers to his two mothers, what it was like growing up the son of two women and why he thinks the definition of family needs to change. His story is probably one of the most convincing arguments for why gay and lesbian families matter. The movement is lucky to have Wahls – who’s both smart and sensitive – as one of its newest role models.

Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue by Nicholas M. Teich

It’s one thing to come out as gay or lesbian – with resources to aid in the life-changing process – but for many transgender people, the experience is vastly different. Nicholas S. Teich, a social worker specializing in gender issues, explores the impact coming out as transgender can have internally and in society. The author not only delves into what it means to be transgender in today’s world, but he considers how gender identity is internalized and viewed by others in chapters that cover everything from transitioning to discrimination. He also outlines the history of the transgender individual and important differences between being gay, lesbian, a cross-dresser and genderqueer. For anyone who is questioning his or own gender identity – or knows someone who is – this is a helpful read that provides smart and sensitive guidelines to help make the process that much rewarding.

Gay Lives by Robert Aldrich

Here, famous gay men and lesbians are profiled in a textbook approach to gay history. While many of the usual players appear in the pages – like Harvey Milk, Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman – this collection also includes fascinating stories of lesser known people and cultures starting with the ancient times. Readers will find stories about what it was like being a gay man in Egypt more than four thousand years ago, as well as the lesbian experience within the Nazi death camps of Germany during World War II. There are also more than a few fabled histories of the world’s most influential artists like Michelangelo. All too often we tend to ignore gay life much before the 20th century – this book provides an interesting foundation for gay history within a much broader international context long before Stonewall could have ever been imagined.

The New 60 by Robert Levithan

Known for his columns for Out, Advocate and Oprah’s O, in his latest book, Levithan considers his life with HIV in his early sixties. Deeply personal, the book examines his day to day life as an aging gay man in New York City – and what it’s like living out a life that he expected would have ended decades earlier when he first learned that he was positive. It makes sense that the memoir is dedicated to those who did not survive the AIDS epidemic, something that prompted Levithan’s ongoing work with self-help and psychology. The book reads like a guidebook to personal enlightenment and self acceptance – and finding new ways to comes to terms with aging and maturity in a community that doesn’t always value wisdom over youth. But Levithan’s personal story showcases what it really means to be gay, happy, healthy and well-adjusted at any age.