The 5 Best Nonfiction Books To Read During Pride Month

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Though America still isn't the greatest place to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community, its artists have contributed to a new and welcome history of those who came — and fought for liberation — before us.

Whether you're working on being a better ally, growing into a well-rounded feminist, or are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, digging into the queer canon invariably leads to the discovery of breathtaking documentaries, beautiful films, works of fiction, and stories that creators had the rare opportunity to tell. For anyone exploring the roles of gender and sexuality in their lives, multi-media accessibility can allow these works to have profound significance and presence.

In the often-contested yet miraculous queer existence, celebrating and investigating LGBTQ+ history can add puzzle pieces within a broader narrative that may never be fully heard or transcribed. A survey of LGBTQ+ nonfiction should be a holistic venture, and as such, this list includes books ranging from graphic novels to personal, historical, and communal accounts that are perfect for celebrating the history of Pride Month.

1. The Stonewall Reader (2019)

Penguin Random House recommended "The Stonewall Reader" in its list of must-read LGBTQ+ nonfiction for good reason. The 2019 book tackles the 1969 Stonewall riots through a modern lens, and its June 28th release fell upon the historic night's 50th anniversary. 

"The Stonewall Reader" includes firsthand accounts from the night of the infamous raid and conflict between law enforcement and the LGBTQ+ community present at the Stonewall Inn. It also digs into primary news sources from before, during, and after 1969. This book both excels at storytelling and acknowledges the activists who have made all the difference in the LGBTQ+ movement from the 1960s up to today, per Penguin.

2. Gender Queer: A Memoir (2019)

"Gender Queer: A Memoir" is a graphic novel that explores the author Maia Kobabe's journey with gender throughout adolescence. The autobiographical work is funny, confusing, and relatable, as the speaker experiences the ups and downs of coming into adulthood as a member of the queer community, specifically as a person who identifies as nonbinary and asexual (per Simon and Schuster). The book won the 2020 Stonewall Book Award for nonfiction for its contributions to literature.

For the graphic novel fan, Allison Bechdel's "Fun Home: A Tragicomic" also offers a deep examination of gender roles within a tumultuous family life. The true story deals with the author's coming of age as a lesbian coinciding with the loss of her father. 

3. When Brooklyn Was Queer (2020)

New York City is an integral locus in America's queer history, and it is the star of Hugh Ryan's vast undertaking "When Brooklyn Was Queer," which documents the stories of LGBTQ+ communities in Brooklyn from the 1850s on. The book tackles a massively underwritten portion of our collective LGBTQ+ knowledge base, and The Guardian dubbed it, "A funny, tender and disturbing history of LGBTQ life" (via Macmillan Publishers).

For more on New York's unmatched legacy in America's LGBTQ+ movement, readers can also turn to "Let the Record Show: A Political History of Act Up New York, 1987-1993." This work is ACT Up and AIDS activist Sarah Schulman's 2021 rendering of the organization's oral history, and it draws from more than 20 years of material and more than 200 interviews (per Macmillan Publishers). 

4. We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation (2019)

Penguin Random House also suggested another historically grounded anthology released in honor of the Stonewall riots' 50th anniversary: "We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation," by Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown. This collection documents crucial events in the movement through photographs, shows activists' involvement, and traces evidence of the LGBTQ+ cause back to the late 1800s, per Penguin. 

The concept for "We are Everywhere" came to be through an Instagram account — @lgbt_history — and expanded into print once its message and audience outgrew the social media platform. However, the authors still post photos depicting the queer liberation movement's roots and acknowledge activists past and present by featuring their powerful quotes

5. The Queer Bible: Essays (2021)

For the visual reader who has trouble grasping complex histories and relates better to personal narrative, "The Queer Bible: Essays" may be the perfect fit for a Pride month read. Edited by GQ contributing editor Jack Guinness, the 2021 essay collection features writing from icons in the queer community including global superstar Elton John, Tan France from Netflix's "Queer Eye," and comedian Mae Martin (per Harper Collins).

The essays create a mosaic of both contemporary and historic queer experiences as writers share their personal stories alongside the community members who inspired their journey concerning gender and sexuality. The writing is also artfully illustrated to visually represent queer heroes and their contributions to culture as we know it.