Written by: Grace Armstrong
The theme for this issue of OPENWIDE is 20/20. When I think of 20/20, key words like sight and visibility come to mind. I thought this theme would be a great backdrop to have a conversation about visibility in books and what narratives often don’t get told in media. Frequently, LGBTQA+ stories and experiences get overlooked, erased, and tokenized. We see a lot of tokenization in major film franchises like Star Wars and Marvel, who include one queer character and think that it’s enough representation. It becomes even more important for people to speak up and challenge these heteronormative tendencies and celebrate content that features queer characters and celebrates them.
Below is a selection of books that features queer characters, celebrate the queer community, and shed light on the adversity and struggle many people face.
Heart stopper by Alice Oseman
In this beautifully drawn graphic novel, Oseman tells the love story of Charlie and Nick, two high school friends that could be something more. As sweet and wholesome as this book is (it will make you feel all the feels), it does tackle major issues of mental health and not having your queer identity accepted by your family. I highly recommend checking it out, especially since the third installment just came out this year!
$9.99 on Amazon
Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson
Another personal favourite of mine, this book offers something different by being told entirely through text messages (very McLuhan-esque). It is definitely more of an easy-read but features queer characters in a very normalized way. Their identities are a backdrop to the story and not the character’s only personality trait, which is something I really appreciated. The book also features a character that identifies as Demisexual, an identity that falls on the Asexual spectrum and one that is frequently overlooked and erased. So, some great visibility in this one!
$12.59 on Amazon
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Not only is this book now a hit movie with a killer soundtrack (under the name Love, Simon), it will quickly become your favourite.Plus, it makes for a great read for over the Reading Week Break. It’s another great cozy read, but tackles core issues of feeling lost and the importance of friendship and staying true to yourself.
$9.70 on Amazon
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
As much as the book community may enjoy making fun of John Green, I can’t help but love the man and everything he produces. This book will make you laugh out loud and give you the names of some great bands to check out, in addition to being a great story of two people both named Will Grayson crossing paths and each trying to find love.
$10.99 on Amazon
Boy Erased by Garraed Conley
Also made into a hit movie, this memoir is a deeply moving story of Conley’s coming-out experience and having to make a choice between staying true to himself or pleasing his family. This one is a definite tear-jerker and a true testament that life does get better but doesn’t become magically easy.
$14.99 on Amazon
Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
I was introduced to the works of Whitehead when telling a friend about this article . Having read some of his poetry, I was immediately hooked. This novel follows Jonny Appleseed, a Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, who leaves the reserve in search of a new way of life. In a very MIT-esque spin, he becomes a cybersex worker to earn a living. The rest of the novel takes off when Jonny must return to the reserve and be confronted with images and people of his past.
$9.59 on Amazon
Full-Metal Indigiqueer by Joshua Whitehead
Another Whitehead pick, this collection of poetry is definitely something that will appeal to the technological minds of MIT students. What I loved about it is the use of binary code and the juxtaposition of excerpts from classical texts. The combination of the two helped illustrate the struggle between Indigenous culture and colonization that politicizes how members of Indigenous communities view themselves today.
$18.95 on Amazon
Soft Science by Franny Choi
Another collection of poems that has technology interwoven throughout it, but this time more explicitly. Soft Science tackles issues of queer identity, race identity, and gender identity in a series of Turing-Test inspired poems. Besides these major themes, there are also discussions of what it means to be alive and human in a world populated with AI and automation (throwback to MIT 2500).
$13.51 on Amazon