10 books that center and celebrate the Black LGBTQ+ experience

From memoirs to historical fiction to hilarious essays, Black LGBTQ+ authors bring main character energy to books that resonate well beyond Pride Month. 

It’s the final weekend of Pride Month — widely recognized as Pride Weekend in many major cities. Have you curled up with book from a Black queer writer yet?

If you’re an avid reader or member of #BookTok, hopefully you are well-acquainted with a number of LGBTQ+ authors and narratives, and reading them year-round. But if you haven’t yet indulged, Pride Month is a great time to start.

As both Black Americans and books by them face increasing threats to our preservation of history and personal liberty, Black queer voices remind us that freedom, education and love are human rights; joy is a well-deserved and often hard-fought choice; and progress is inevitable.

Black liberation is community business we must all work towards together.

Black LGBTQ+ books, Pride month, Black LGBTQ+ authors, Black books, LGBTQ+, LGBTQ+ books, Black memoirs, Samantha Irby, Gina Yashere, R.K. Russell, Ty Hunter, theGrio.com
Covers: Vintage Books; Little A; Amistad

While many are familiar with much-beloved authors and thinkers like James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Bayard Rustin, and Alice Walker — and newer voices like Roxane Gay, N.K. Jemisin and Darnell Moore — there are countless writers who identify as Black and queer who equally deserve a spot on your reading list. So as we celebrate Pride, why not extend the LGBTQ+ love to your library? Let theGrio get you started with some of our favorite page-turners, below.

For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home” – Keith Boykin (Magnus Books, 2012)

Cover image: Magnus Books

Inspired by Ntozake Shange’s seminal choreopoem and the It Gets Better Project, Keith Boykin, political pundit and bestselling author of “Beyond the Down Low: Sex, Lies, and Denial in Black America,” published “For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home” in 2012. It’s a collection of 44 essays written by Black and brown gay men. From sexual awakenings to survival stories, this first-of-its-kind compilation affirms the power of living to tell the tale.

“It’s About Damn Time” – Arlan Hamilton and Rachel L. Nelson (Penguin Random House, 2022) 

Cover image: Penguin Random House

In the historically male-dominated Silicon Valley, Arlan Hamilton, venture capitalist, founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, and a Black gay woman, has proven to be a force. After experiencing homelessness while building her company from the ground up, Hamilton has since broken not only glass ceilings but barriers to entry for other entrepreneurs of color. With “It’s About Damn Time,” she presents “an empowering guide to finding your voice, working your way into any room you want to be in, and achieving your own dreams.”

“Everyman: A Novel” – M Shelly Connor (Blackstone Publishing; 2021)

Cover image: Blackstone Publishing

“Everyman,” a Nautilus Book Award Silver Winner in Fiction, is a fictional family drama that spans generations, as its heroine retraces the paths of the Great Migration to discover her own origin story. A richly evocative and timely reminder that to be Black in America has always been its own form of queerness, “Everyman” is a modern saga for the ages.

“Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements” – Charlene A. Carruthers (Beacon Press, 2018)

Cover image: Beacon Press

Chicago-based activist Charlene A. Carruthers draws upon the city’s rich history of activism, along with the liberation movements for civil rights, LGBTQ+ rights and gender equality to the Haitian revolution to offer “Unapologetic,” a “21st-century activist’s guide to upending mainstream ideas about race, class and gender.” Crafted for those “committed to building transformative power,” Carruthers presents both a comprehensive model and persuasive argument for why the Black liberation movement benefits from being “more radical, more queer, and more feminist.” 

Cack-Handed: A Memoir” – Gina Yashere (Amistad, 2021)

Cover image: Amistad

American audiences may be most familiar with Gina Yashere for her role as “Kemi” on the CBS hit series “Bob Hearts Abishola” (for which she is also a writer and co-executive producer), but the British comedian’s story began as a first-generation immigrant, raised alongside her siblings by her single Nigerian mother. In her hilarious memoir “Cack-Handed,” Yashere retraces her unlikely yet destined path to Hollywood by way of her working-class London upbringing, complicated Nigerian heritage and time spent fighting racial and gender stereotypes as the first female engineer of the U.K.’s largest elevator company.

“The Yards Between Us: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Football” – R.K. Russell (Andscape Books, 2023)

Cover image: Andscape Books

R.K. Russell made history as the first NFL player to publicly identify as bisexual; now, the athlete, writer and advocate brings his story to the fore in “The Yards Between Us: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Football.” A memoir exploring sports, race, sexuality, coming of age and the power of stepping into his truth by coming out, Russell “shows us the life-changing power of embracing who you are and fighting to make space so others can do the same.”

Black Boy Out of Time: A Memoir” – Hari Ziyad (Little A, 2021)

Cover image: Little A

The product of a Hindu Hare Kṛṣṇa mother, a Muslim father and their blended family of 19 children, journalist Hari Ziyad’s identity was already unconventional. Growing up Black and queer in Cleveland, Ohio, made it almost untenable. Described as a “vital memoir” for “the outcast, the unheard, the unborn and the dead,” “Black Boy Out of Time” is an intimate coming-of-age story that amplifies the impact of marginalism in America.

Wow, No Thank You.: Essays”Samantha Irby (Vintage, 2020)

Cover image: Vintage Books

“And Just Like That” writer and comedian Samantha Irby’s raw, raucous writing garnered a faithful audience through her autobiographical blog, “Bitches Gotta Eat,” and first bestseller, “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.” Irby’s second book of essays, “Wow, No Thank You.,” shot to No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list and earned a Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Nonfiction for her hilarious chronicle of life at 40 with a new wife, stepchildren and life in “a Blue town in the middle of a Red state where she now hosts book clubs and makes mason jar salads.” 

“Fat Off, Fat On: A Big Bitch Manifesto” – Clarkisha Kent (The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2023) 

Cover image: The Feminist Press at CUNY

Reminding us that comedy and tragedy often go hand-in-hand, cultural critic Clarkisha Kent comes of age and into herself in the candid, clever and deeply relatable memoir, “Fat Off, Fat On: A Big Bitch Manifesto.” Identifying as Black, queer, fat and disabled, Kent recounts her journey to date, navigating intergenerational trauma, romantic awakenings, fumbles and disappointments, and the damage done by the type of societally induced body dysmorphia rarely discussed by Black women — all in her irreverent and inimitable style. 

Makeover from Within: Lessons in Hardship, Acceptance, and Self-Discovery” – Ty Hunter (Chronicle Books, 2022)

Cover image: Chronicle Books

The Beyhive may know Ty Hunter as the longtime stylist of their Queen Bey, but the Texas native also styled his own life, evolving from a conflicted young Black man to a father, proud advocate and fashion industry forerunner. With a foreword from close friend Beyoncé and an epilogue from current client Billy Porter, Hunter’s first book is equal parts memoir, inspirational guide, and proof that we each have the potential to be icons of our own making.

Maiysha Kai is theGrio’s lifestyle editor, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades of experience in fashion and entertainment, great books, and the brilliance of Black culture. She is also the editor-author of Body: Words of Change series.

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