Retro Gay Lit

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Retro Gay Lit

LGBTQ narratives set in the 'gay times' of yesteryear

Here is your chance to read fiction, biographies and historical selections set in gay times long gone. As you read them, rack up your nostalgia by listening to the lyrics of Fela Kuti and La Sonora Matancera or the sounds of Banjo music and Violin Blues by African American fiddlers. The combination will surely transport you to another time.

A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir / Daisy Hernández.
A memoir, written by a daughter of immigrants, that narrates the author's coming out story while growing up in the "Havana on the Hudson" neighborhoods of New Jersey.  

Daisy grows up raised in a household of strong Catholic women who left war-ridden Colombia of the 1960's and an exiled Cuban father who practiced Santería and drank too much. With a candid voice, she tells us about accepting her true Latina, feminist and bisexual identity while at the same time trying to embrace an overbearing family that clashes with her newly-discovered uniqueness.

Under the Udala Trees / Chinelo Okparanta
Winner of the 2016 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, the novel is set in the years of the Biafran War (1967-1970). Ijeoma's country is suffering the atrocities of war, famine and displacement. She is sent to live with family friends who are better off economically, but who eventually repudiate her when they find her in bed with another girl.

Even though she forces herself to marry a man and birth a child, in the end, she abandons her husband, willing to face social rejection as the price to pay for a piece of the freedom that she seeks. 

For the history buffs out there, you can also check out Chinua Achebe's last book, There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra.

The Angel of History: A Novel / Rabih Alameddine
Jacob, a Yemeni, grows up with his unmarried mother, who raises him in an Egyptian brothel. Each evening, he recites poems to the Madam, a chore that awakens his love for literature. The opportunity to join his estranged father arrives, but he is instead deliberately sent to a French boarding school run by nuns whose only objective seems to be "to civilize Arabs like him."

As an adult, Jacob settles in San Francisco during the early days of the AIDS crisis and becomes the caretaker (and pallbearer) of his lover and many of his friends.

Fragmented dialogues between Satan and Catholic saints, musings over the political hypocrisy of the War on Islam and views of gayness among Arabs characterize the poetical and intelligent writing in this book.

Honky Tonk Samurai / Joe R. Lansdale
Hap and Leonard, one of the most realist pair of crime-solvers, are at it again. Hap (a middle-age white Texan) and Leonard (a gay Republican black veteran) are a pair of best friends who work for a private investigator office run by Hap’s wife.

A foul-mouthed grandma recruits them to find her missing granddaughter and the investigation soon get entangled in a complex web of prostitution, meth, and extortion.

The action takes place In East Texas, so expect a lot of motorcycles, mosquitoes, 24-hour Walmart and wise-cracking jokes.

Fun fact: These characters have been adapted for the small screen in a Sundance TV series called Hap and Leonard.

Lies We Tell Ourselves / Robin Talley
Some readers believe that Lies We Tell Ourselves is a book that should be in every U.S. high school, since it includes the reality of segregation, racism and especially the difficulties of being gay or lesbian in 1959, a time where not many even dared to say these words aloud.

In the early days of school desegregation in Virginia, Linda, the daughter of a white integration opponent, feels attracted to Sarah, a black student who is one of the first ones to attend their newly integrated school. Linda's initial attraction leads to a succession of unexplored feelings. Here's what goes through Linda's mind when she thinks of Sarah: "When I first saw Sarah, it was easy to think of her as just another Negro. Now it’s getting harder to remember what her dark skin, chocolate eyes and full lips really mean."