After decades of being relegated to the “queer” section of the bookstore, usually on a dusty bottom shelf in a dark back corner, more and more LGBTQ writers are having their work recognized and enjoyed by mainstream audiences.
Today, these writers are seeing their words reach the tops of bestsellers lists, be optioned for TV series and movies, and celebrated with the world’s most prestigious literary prizes.
We’ve compiled a short roundup of some of our more prideful writers for pride season–some newcomers, some more established–who are making an impact in the literary world and serving as a voice for generations of queer people.
Roxane Gay is perhaps one of the hardest working writers of her generation. Her words are reshaping how people think about race, sex, gender identity, and sexuality.
In addition to being the author of several bestselling books, including 2014’s Bad Feminist and 2017’s Hunger, as well as a 2018 Guggenheim fellowship winner, Gay contributes opinion columns to the New York Times.
In 2016, she made history alongside poet Yona Harvey when they were hired as the first Black women to be lead writers at Marvel. The result was Black Panther: World of Wakanda, a spin-off of Black Panther which was hailed for its prominent portrayal of LGBTQ characters.
In a recent column on Black Lives Matter published by the New York Times, Gay, who identifies as bisexual, writes:
We all have to challenge ourselves. We have to consider ideas that previously seemed impossible. We have to take risks and make ourselves uncomfortable. We need to continue talking about all of the ways racism influences our lives.
Dennis E. Staples
Newcomer Dennis E. Staples is an Ojibwe writer from Bemidji, Minnesota, whose debut novel This Town Sleeps was published earlier this year and has been met with wide acclaim from critics and audiences alike. The book follows a gay Ojibwe man from rural Minnesota who falls in love with a former high school classmate, a deeply closeted white man.
Prior to publishing his This Town Sleeps, Staples wrote short stories and earned his MFA in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is also a member of the Red Lake Nation, a unique lineage of Ojibwe people who work to protect, preserve, and maintain its status as an independent nation that is federally recognized as an Indian tribe.
Staples is one of only a few Native American writers of his generation writing about LGBTQ issues, and it’s something he says he hopes to continue doing.
Speaking about his work last year, he said:
[This Town Sleeps] is heavily influenced by my Ojibwe background. I’m currently looking into a few options for my next project. I plan on writing more novels in the future, including a sequel to my current novel, and possibly others set on the same reservation setting.
Amrou Al-Kadhi is a non-binary UK-based Iraqi writer, performer, and filmmaker whose memoir Life as a Unicorn: A Journey from Shame to Pride and Everything in Between was published last year. Winner of Somerset Maugham Award, the book chronicles Al-Kadhi’s journey from being a god-fearing Muslim boy to a vocal, queer drag queen.
In addition to that, Al-Kadhi, who goes by the pronouns “they” and “them,” co-wrote a standout episode of Little America with Stephen Dunn for AppleTV+, as well as the quirky comedy-series called Nefertiti and for such shows as Hollyoaks and The Watch.
Speaking in 2019 about the process memoir writing, 30-year-old Al-Kadhi said:
It was obviously very nerve-wracking, but also incredibly cathartic. My life has been very difficult in many ways, and being able to put it all down on a page somehow released me from so many of the negative experiences.
The writing process was kind of an act of self-forgiveness, if not of my family as well. As a young queer person of color, I literally had no-one I could see myself in. I felt so desperately alone and scared – I really just hope that this book can provide hope for young queer people of color struggling to find themselves.
Adam Silvera is a bestselling queer young adult author. His debut novel More Happy Than Not was published in 2015 when he was just 25 years old. Since then, he’s written three more novels and launched a trilogy called The Infinity Cycle. His stories often deal with themes of coming of age, coming out, identity, and relationships, all told through his unique lens as a gay Latino millennial.
In the last couple of years, Silvera’s work has gained Hollywood notice. His fourth novel, co-authored with Love, Simon author Becky Albertalli, is currently being developed into a movie. Meanwhile, his book They Both Die at the End is being developed into an HBO series, and More Happy Than Not is being turned into a series by HBO Max.
In a January 2020 interview with Publisher’s Weekly, Silvera said:
I’ve been writing since I was 11. It almost feels like I should have more books published, but I’ve known since I was in high school that I wanted to publish a book. I had a goal to be a published author by 25 and my first book came out five days before my 25th birthday. It’s almost arrogant. I never doubted that I’d publish a book, but I own that now: it was pure early 20s ego that got me through. I think you need some ego as a writer—or at least I did. So, I always knew that I’d publish a book and what has surprised me the most has been the success I’ve found. I am so eternally grateful for that.
Michael R. Jackson
Michael R. Jackson is an American playwright, composer, and lyricist who made history this year when his musical A Strange Loop won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The play tells the story of an overweight, gay, Black artist as he tries to survive in a heteronormative white world. Jackson’s win marked the first time a musical written by a Black writer received a Pulitzer.
But the winning didn’t stop there.
A Strange Loop also won the Lambda Literary Award for Drama, two Drama Desk Awards, two Obie Awards, and two Outer Critics Circle Award Honors. Oh, and it’s original cast recording peaked at number 6 on the Billboard Cast Albums chart.
Perhaps no one was more surprised by the Pulitzer win than Jackson himself, who tweeted shortly after learning the news:
Never in my wildest dreams. NEVER. IN MY. WILDEST. DREAMS. Thank you to everyone who has supported me on my journey to such an incredible honor. I’m sure I’ll have more to say once I’ve caught my breath and looked at all these text messages and emails but for now, THANK YOU. https://t.co/P73Aonzy5t
— Michael R. Jackson (@TheLivingMJ) May 4, 2020
Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
Marieke Lucas Rijneveld is a non-binary Dutch writer whose bestselling debut novel The Discomfort of Evening, translated by Michele Hutchison, is nominated for the 2020 International Booker Prize.
Celebrated by critics, the novel is inspired partly by the death of Rijneveld’s brother, who died when Rijneveld was three, and offers a rare glimpse of rural and religious life in the Netherlands, where Marieke suffered bullying and abuse.
Speaking to the New York Times in April 2020 about their non-binary identity, 29-year-old Rijneveld said:
I asked myself if I wanted to be a boy, a girl, or something in between. I decided I wanted to be in between.