Diversity Book Club | The Hospice of St. Francis

Diversity Book Club

By Mark Jackson-Hancock, Chapter Two Bookshop Manager To celebrate LGBT+ History Month, Mark shares some of his favourite books in the genre:

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"One of the biggest areas of recent growth in LGBTQ+ writing has taken place in books for young adults, helped in part by the success of the Netflix drama Heartstopper."

Fiction

The year so far has seen a wonderful array of new books and promises to be a vintage year for LGBTQ+ writing. One of the highlights so far is the long awaited new novel by Andrew Holleran, author of one of the most significant gay novels  of the seventies Dancer from the Dance, who has produced a warm and heart-breaking novel about growing old, loneliness and the need for connection called The Kingdom of the Sand.

Keith Ridgway is an exceptional new talent, and his new novel A Shock is a must read, a clever multi-layered story following the lives of a group of loosely connected characters who exist on the fringes of London life. One of the talked about novels of the year is Detransition, Baby which tells of how three women, one of whom has just transitioned, decide to bring up a baby.  'I loved this very smart book from start to finish, with its beautifully drawn, complicated, and winning characters,' wrote Madeleine Miller in a recent review. Detransition, Baby is shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 and is our June book choice at Diversity Book Club.

Non-Fiction

Non-fiction highlights start with Everybody by Olivia Laing: told through a mixture of autobiography and history it is an examination of how our basic human rights about what happens to our physical bodies is under threat from contemporary political forces and discusses the life and work of some of the most interesting and controversial thinkers and artists of the twentieth century including Wilhelm Reich, Nina Simone, Sigmund Freud, Susan Sontag and Malcolm X. Cheer the F**k Up: How to Save your Best Friend by Jack Rooke is an account of the young comedian’s struggles with his mental health after he lost one of his close friends to suicide and is both heart-breaking and funny in equal measure. A joy to read is The Love That Dares: Letters of LGBTQ+ Letters of Love and Friendship Through History by Rachel Smith and Barbara Vesey, an anthology of letters celebrating queer love throughout the ages.

One of the biggest areas of recent growth in LGBTQ+ writing has taken place in books for young adults, helped in part by the success of the Netflix drama Heartstopper. The show is based on a series of four graphic novels by Alice Oseman which are very highly recommended. She has also written several short novels based on the same characters: Nick and CharlieThis WinterRadio SilenceLoveless; and I Was Born For ThisOne of the best loved novels discussed this year at Diversity Book Club was the YA dystopian novel They Both Die in the End by Adam Silvera, a vibrant and life-affirming love story about the importance of making every day count. Steven Salvatore’s Can’t Take That Away is also recommended, a swoony romance about affirming our self-identity and inspiring the activist hidden inside all of us.

Poetry

The pandemic has inspired some intense and affecting poetry collections. Panic Response by John McCullough contains some clever and insightful poems, often bordering on the visionary, that will stop you in your tracks as he brilliantly captures the age of anxiety we have just lived through. 

Pandemonium by Andrew Macmillan is a collection of poems for troubled times, highlighting the fragility of the mind under the experience of havoc and hurt.  Records of An Incitement to Silence by Gregory Woods contains some of the most lyrical and accomplished poems of recent years capturing gay experience, especially themes of love and loss and the plight of the individual in a turbulent world.

Diversity Book Club

Chapter Two's Diversity Book Club meets on the first Tuesday of every month at Chapter Two Community Bookshop. This month’s choice is Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters.