June is “National LGBT Authors Month,” as well as “Pride” month nationwide. The Manatee County Public Library System has a wide selection of materials including biographies, poetry, short stories, and novels by and about LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) authors from James Baldwin to young adult author Bill Konigsberg. Many of these books are available in print, eBook, and eAudiobook formats.
Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room” is a classic of LGBT literature and biographies and literary criticism about Baldwin are also available.
Feminist poet Adrienne Rich has been called “one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century” and has been credited with bringing “the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse,” according to Wikipedia. The library has six of her poetry collections spanning a nearly 50-year career.
Christopher Bram’s “Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America” is an excellent history and survey of gay writers ranging from playwright Tennessee Williams to Gore Vidal and Truman Capote. A gifted writer himself, the library owns two of Bram’s novels, “Almost History: A Novel,” and “The Notorious Dr. August: His Life and Crimes.” “Almost History” dramatizes 35 years in the life of Jim Goodall, a gay career diplomat who comes out of the closet while stationed in the Philippines during the Marcos era.
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Another noteworthy writer is Augusten Burroughs, the humorous and often controversial author of such books as “Running With Scissors” (which was made into a 2006 film) and “This is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude and More: For Young and Old Alike.”
The library owns many titles in various formats in Armistead Maupin’s classic “Tales of the City” series, a comedy of manners that follows the denizens of the mythic apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane in San Francisco from the 1970s through the 1980s. Many of the characters are bisexual or gay and his books were among the first to deal with the AIDS epidemic.
The fine writer Christopher Isherwood, whose youthful days in pre-war Berlin inspired the film “Cabaret,” penned the memoir “Christopher and His Kind” (available as an eAudiobook on hoopla, a library database) in which he reminiscences about his life in gay 1930s Berlin, his attempt to save his companion, Heinz, from the Nazis, and his friendship with the poet W.H. Auden. Also available as an eAudiobook on hoopla, Isherwood’s novel, “A Single Man,” is a moving portrayal of a gay British college professor living in Los Angeles who struggles to find meaning in his life after the death of his longtime partner. The excellent 2009 film adaptation of the same name starring Colin Firth is also available.
The late author E. Lynn Harris carved out a niche as a writer of melodramatic fiction, usually centering on gay or bisexual black men. In his novel, “No One in the World” ( co-authored with RM Johnson), twin brothers — one a straight man, the other gay — find each other in adulthood and struggle to uncover many questions about themselves and one another. Harris’s fast-paced memoir, “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” relates what it was like to grow up poor in Arkansas with an abusive stepfather. He relates his struggle to understand his homosexuality and to find love as an African-American Southern man in this straightforward, deeply honest and heartbreaking memoir.
Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday. David Breakfield is a reference librarian at the Manatee County Central Library. Access the library at www.mymanatee.org/library.