Reviews

Celebrate Your Wonderlust With These Queer Books This Summer

While travel guides and books usually take a ‘how to’ approach to help tourists navigate a trip, the books in this list are the ones that provide such organic insights into the locations that the protagonists live in/visit, that they make you feel transported in that very moment.

Are you sick of seeing travel influencers post sponsored stories from their travels while you’re stuck in the office? Or maybe, you are tired of seeing your friends catch flights when you can’t even catch an auto because the driver refuses to make his way to the narrow lane that houses your PG. After being stuck in our homes due to the lockdown, a lot of us have caught the travel bug, but reality often forces us to repress that wanderlust instead of celebrating it. Books, however, have always been one-way tickets to magical places and, sometimes, those destinations just happen to actually exist on this planet. From New York to Japan, the queer books on this list take you all around the world (and many times, give you a sneak peak into the lives of queer people of different cultures/nationalities). While travel guides and books usually take a ‘how to’ approach to help tourists navigate a trip, the books in this list are the ones that provide such organic insights into the locations that the protagonists live in/visit, that they make you feel transported in that very moment.

  1. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston: New York, New York. Need I say more? The second novel by this best selling author is everything queer and warm. If you’ve always wanted to go to the concrete jungle, then congratulations, because this book will take you all around it! From queer parties to seances, it will give you a sneak peak into parts of the Big Apple that will make the city feel like your far-away home. Add to that the fact that there is a literal queer time traveller in the book and you’ll realise that the book will also give you a chance to journey through decades! A large part of the narrative actually takes place on a subway train so the feeling of being ‘on the move’ is omnipresent in the protagonist’s life – and will be in yours too, long after you’ve read the last page.

Recommended reading spot: Read this one in a metro or while you’re on the road to relate in real-time to the subway setting!

  1. Less by Andrew Sean Greer: This book might just be my favourite Pulitzer Prize winner ever. Let me ask you a question: where would you go to avoid your ex’s wedding? Believe it or not, the protagonist, Arthur Less, chooses to go EVERYWHERE. He is a queer author who literally accepts a year’s worth of invites from literary events all around the globe in an effort to avoid having to answer the invite with either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Umm, making a spur-of-the-moment overdramatic decision to avoid an awkward situation? Relate much? As a result, we go everywhere from Japan to Mexico with Arthur as he tries to recover from heartbreak. The book, however, is much more than a sightseeing tour. At fifty, Arthur is reflective and we get to see the many facets that make our protagonist who he is – this makes the book a visceral inquiry into what it means to be human, and how and why we love. The writing is witty and heartwarming, and though the book does have critics divided over the narrative style, that is actually one of the things that I loved the most about it!

Recommended reading spot: Read this one while relaxing in your book nook with a glass of wine in your hand to feel like you’re attending one of Less’ book readings/literary terrace parties!

  1. Orlando by Virginia Woolf: Very few correspondences are as famous as the letters exchanged between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West when they were smitten with each other. It is those beautiful interactions that prompted Virginia to write ‘Orlando’ with Vita as her muse. Like most of Woolf’s work, this novel goes beyond the mundane and ordinary. The novel plays around with the concept of binary femininity and masculinity, with the protagonist’s gender ‘changing’ midway. While we witness the protagonist’s life journey (which seems to last over three hundred years), we are also journeying through London, England. From the London Bridge to the Thames, the city of London is a huge part of the narrative, with Virginia making the beautiful literary choice of including interesting descriptions of the city. However, the book is a lot more than that. Woolf’s narrative style differentiates between the author and the protagonist to the point where the interaction between their two perspectives becomes an absolutely unforgettable part of the book. Of course, the feminist nature of the book has always set it apart from most of its counterparts, but the fact that it is seamlessly progressive is what makes it the perfect read for any season. It’s also a great study into how the concept of a ‘muse’ can be celebrated in the absence of the reductionist male gaze.

Recommended reading spot: Read this one while sitting in your balcony and sipping chai in the rain to really appreciate the romance that prompted this classic.

  1. Queer Intentions by Amelia Abraham: This book essentially tackles the question of what it means to be queer at this particular time in history. Though it is a pre-pandemic exploration of what queer life is like in different parts of the world, it still feels relevant because of how wonderfully refreshing Abraham’s perspective is. From interacting with a genderless family in modern Stockholm to chilling at one of Turkey’s secret LGBTQ+ parties, we get to accompany the author as she brings her journalistic eye and personal reflections to every experience. Another bonus point is the fact that Abraham shares the conversations that she has had with queer people from different cultures on topics like capitalism and spirtitualism, which gives you more than a ‘touristy’ feel of the places that her pen takes you to. Abraham also does the impossible task of taking the spirit of community and acceptance and placing it in the palm of our hands as she takes us right into the middle of pride parades in different places. If you are one of those travellers who opts to interact with locals instead of doing the planned city tours, then this is the absolute perfect pick for you!

Recommended reading spot: Read this one while sitting in the cozy cafe of your city that serves your favourite comfort food and is beloved by locals, to compliment the organic flow of the book.

This story was about: Books + Zines Community International

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The student that always has her hand up in class, and in life. Dreams of a world where Lizzo's songs automatically shower glitter on the listener, minorities are not constantly expected to put in unequal emotional labour for everything, and kind people find each other despite all the noise.
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