theGrio’s Top 50 books to read this summer: ‘LGBTQ+ Pride’

Check out the top books to read this summer that spotlight queer Black communities

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To be clear, without the integral contributions of queer Black communities, any sampling of Black literature is fatally incomplete. While 2021 is an especially great year for Black queer literature, the bench is wide and deep.

Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie (Contemporary Fiction)

In Mia McKenzie’s funny, smart and touching second novel, a dedicated loner is suddenly beset by a plethora of unexpected family demands. The 38-year old proprietor of a successful travel company, Skye’s philosophy has long been that people inevitably let you down, so it’s best not to get attached. She’s relationship-free and child-free by choice and after a traumatic childhood, she has long kept her family at more than arm’s length.

That carefully curated solo world turns upside down as her brother wants to talk to her about their mother, who’s now sick. Plus, the friend that Skye donated her egg to 13 years ago has since died and that friend’s 12-year old daughter, Vicky, introduces herself to Skye as the girl who used to be “your egg.” Meanwhile, the one woman Skye is drawn to turns out to be Vicky’s aunt.

It’s all a bit too much and yet, although Skye’s first instinct is to run a mile, she decides to stay and forge a relationship with a new found family member. Page turning and razor sharp, this novel combines humor with insights about race, sexual identity, and family.

The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. (Historical fiction)

The Prophets is a spectacular work of historical fiction and one of my favorite books of the year. I can’t recommend it enough. The first thing to know is that Jones is telling two very different types of stories at once, and that he makes them work seamlessly together: an intimate, poetic, queer love story and a detailed and excruciating portrait of life on a Mississippi plantation.

Jones excels at ensemble storytelling, treating each character with compassion while also being brutally unsparing about the system they’re living under and the harmful compromises people living under this system sometimes made to survive. There are multiple threads to this story, but the most important involves Samuel and Isaiah, two enslaved boys who grow up as best friends and eventually become lovers.

Another involves an older enslaved man, Amos, who takes on the role of preacher partially as a way of attaining power for himself and protection for his wife. As dark as the setting is, there’s also a lot of beauty in this story. The book recently received the honor of Center for Fiction 2021 First Novel Prize LongList.

Sunset Springs by Kacen Callender (Romance)

This warm and emotionally satisfying Audible Original novella from National Book Award winner Kacen Callender handily disproves the old adage. Sometimes you can go home again.

When you’re a Black trans man who’s deeply ambivalent about his predominantly white small town in Upstate New York, homecomings are bound to be fraught, but they can also bring opportunity. Opportunities to bond with your amazing mom and to find surprising new love with an old classmate; to reclaim your place in the world and find a new path. Listen to an exclusive audio excerpt.

Related and recommendedLearned Reactions, American Love Story, and Harbor (Romance); The Taking of Jake Livingston (Contemporary fiction/YA); Find Me When I’m Lost (Mystery/Suspense)

Return to TheGrio Top 50 Books of Summer Main Page 

More theGrio Top 50 Book picks: Family Ties | American Art and Ideas | LGBTQ+ Pride | Black Love and Black Glamour | Spreading Our Wings | Crime and Consciousness | Historical Reckoning | Nonfiction | Thrills and Chills: Mystery/Suspense/ThrillerLove and Romance | Historical Fiction | Fiction from the Diaspora | Contemporary Fiction

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