Resources, including Discussion Questions, for Selected LGBTQ+ and General Literature

This Book Resources page features background material, including discussion questions, for selected 🌈LGBTQ+ and general works of literature, both contemporary and classic. Although this website is completely independent, these materials are for two book groups that I’m happy to be part of, one LGBTQ+ and the other general. Hope this information will be of interest for your own discussion group (tips for starting one). Each of these diverse titles inspired lively conversations. This page will expand frequently to include additional novels, non-fiction, plays, and poetry. Also, I have recommendations for LGBTQ+ Literature, LGBTQ+ Cinema, and general Film. NEW RESOURCE! Basic Tips for Finding Book & Film Resources for Discussions.

March 16, 2022 added many additional resources for Ocean Vuong, including videos.

ALL LINKS ARE TO FREELY AVAILABLE SOURCES. WHY NO “PAYWALL” LINKS?

Because this site welcomes an international readership, I do not highlight paywall (paid subscriber-only) articles, even from the exceptional New York Times and Washington Post, but you can find those links at the bottom section (“External links”) of Wikipedia entries. Note that some paywall-based sources do allow free access on a very limited basis. Of course, it’s always good to support a vigorous free press by subscribing.

“ABCD” RESOURCES (a term I may have coined?). Resources, for each title, are organized by: A – Author (biography, overview of works – often the Wikipedia entry, author video and/or audio), B – Book (for each specific title: reviews, criticism, book-specific video and/or audio), C – Context (form – such as novel, play etc., genre, history), and D – Discussion (questions to explore). Enjoy!

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“ABCD” RESOURCES: AUTHOR, BOOK, CONTEXT, DISCUSSION

* André Aciman, Call Me By Your Name (🌈LGBTQ+ Novel, 2007)

The love affair of two American men in 1950s Italy.

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* John Boyne, The Heart’s Invisible Furies (🌈LGBTQ+ Novel, 2017)

70 years of modern Irish history as lived by a gay man.

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* Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods (General Non-Fiction, 1998)

Memoir about the complicated friendship of two middle-aged men hiking the Appalachian Trail.

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* Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other (🌈LGBTQ+ and General Fiction, 2019)

Intersecting lives of a dozen diverse British women of color, of all orientations.

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* Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl (General Fiction)

Brilliantly twisty thriller about marriage, and murder.

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* E.M. Forster, Maurice (🌈LGBTQ+ Novel, 1913 but not published until 1971 because of its gay theme)

A young man challenges social, and personal, prejudice to find love. [British name Maurice is pronounced MORR iss]

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* Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing (General Fiction)

Novel about eight generations of a Black family, from slavery until today; includes a poignant LGBTQ+ male-male relationship in the early chapter “Quey.”

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* Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley (🌈LGBTQ+ Novel)

Thriller about an irresistible sociopath with many talents.

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* Alan Hollinghurst, The Sparsholt Affair (🌈LGBTQ+ Novel)

Britain’s evolving LGBTQ+ attitudes from the 1940s to today, through the story of a gay father and son.

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* bell hooks, Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism (🌈LGBTQ+ Non-Fiction)

Explores connections between race, gender, and socioeconomics; hooks was a pioneer of intersectionality. (bell hooks, born Gloria Jean Watkins, took her pen name in honor of her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks; hooks used an all-lowercase spelling to focus attention on her ideas rather than her individual self.) A key quote from hooks is: “I need feminism to give me a foundation of equality and justice to stand on.”

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* Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth (General Fiction)

Children’s fantasy adventure novel; illustrated by Jules Feiffer.

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* Christina Baker Kline, A Piece of the World (General Fiction)

Novel about the secluded, but emotionally eventful, life of the woman who inspired Andrew Wyeth’s iconic 1948 painting, “Christina’s World.”

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* Larry Kramer, provocative gay author and activist (🌈LGBTQ+)

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* Matthew Lopez, The Inheritance (🌈LGBTQ+ Play)

The experiences of contemporary NYC gay men in an epic two-part play that reimagines Howards End, exploring themes of resilience, class divisions, and the meaning of home.

MATTHEW LOPEZ

THE INHERITANCE

The Inheritance – London (2018)

The Inheritance – Broadway (2019)

Videos of two key scenes in The Inheritance, from the Broadway production, plus a commemoration for World AIDS Day 2020

  • End of Part 1 on YouTube (5 minutes – example of ‘Page to Stage’, notice how Stephen Daldry’s direction informs the text, using Leonardo’s “The Last Supper” in the staging, along with the evocative musical underscoring).
  • Henry and Eric connect (4 minutes).
  • The Walter Project – Matthew Lopez & The AIDS Memorial (15 minutes): “to commemorate World AIDS Day, we have taken Walter’s speech at the end of Act 1, divided it into 33 sections, and asked friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to record themselves delivering a short section… In this year of loss [2020], it is vitally important to continue the tradition of remembrance that began with the unveiling of the Quilt back in 1987….”

*COMPARISON* Howards End

Along with Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance, some people might also like to explore its inspiration, one of the most acclaimed, and beloved, novels in English literature, Howards End by E.M. Forster.

HOWARDS END: E.M. Forster’s 1910 Novel, James Ivory’s 1992 Film, and Hettie Macdonald’s 2017 Mini-Series – the Forster masterpiece inspired Matthew Lopez to reimagine it in contemporary terms

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* Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (🌈LGBTQ+ Autobiographical Novel)

Powerful “biomythography” (memoir) of growing up in 1950s Harlem and becoming, in her own words, a “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.”

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* Emily St. John Mandel, The Glass Hotel (General Fiction)

Experimental thriller about two siblings trapped in a pyramid scheme.

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* Paul Monette, Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story (🌈LGBTQ+ Non-Fiction)

Memoir that explores coming out in the 1960s at Yale, and beyond.

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* Cherríe Moraga, Native Country of the Heart, a Memoir (🌈LGBTQ+ Non-Fiction)

The relationship of a lesbian Latina author/activist and her mother who has Alzheimer’s.

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* Pauli Murray, Song in a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage (🌈LGBTQ+ Non-Fiction)

Autobiography of the trailblazing Black nonbinary civil rights and gender equality activist, lawyer, poet, priest.

THANK YOU! to Mary Anne, for sharing many Pauli Murray resources, added on December 19, 2021.

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* Chinelo Okparanta, Under the Udala Trees (🌈LGBTQ+ Novel)

A young lesbian comes of age in war-torn 1960s Nigeria.

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* Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time (aka Remembrance of Things Past) (🌈LGBTQ+ Novel)

Intimate epic of the narrator’s experiences, of memory and desire, in turn of the 20th century French society.

  • Proust resources (from a discussion group I organized in NYC) – background, book and film links, plus a recipe for madeleines, the tasty treats that set Proust’s intimate epic in motion (they were a hit at the NYC group!)

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* Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a Musical Thriller (🌈LGBTQ+ Play, 1979)

[Act Two – opening number, “God That’s Good!”] From Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “Full stage shot of actors Angela Lansbury (C) & Len Cariou (R) w. cast in a scene fr. the Broadway musical “Sweeney Todd.” (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1979. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/62db6950-db72-0130-0375-58d385a7bbd0

Sweeney Todd is a landmark musical play about vengeance, justice, love… and meat pies. Of composer-lyricist Sondheim’s many classic musicals, this is the only one that he originated himself (his other works include West Side Story, Gypsy, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, Assassins). This musical was adapted from Christopher Bond’s play, with a book (script) by Hugh Wheeler (who also wrote the book for A Little Night Music), and was directed by impresario Harold Prince (The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, West Side Story, Fiorello!, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Candide (1974), Pacific Overtures, Candide (1974), Evita, Phantom of the Opera, KIss of the Spider Woman).

Because there are many outstanding materials for Stephen Sondheim, and Sweeney Todd, below I’ve HIGHLIGHTED A FEW ESSENTIAL RESOURCES (background, complete album, videos, analyses), from among the two dozen curated links on this page.

Sweeney Todd’s London – Map. From Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, edited by Robert L. Mack (Oxford University Press, copyright 2007 – includes the complete original 1847 serial, The String of Pearls, that was then published in book form as a 39-chapter novel; editor Robert L. Mack provides an invaluable introduction, and explanatory notes, detailing the complex textual history of the ‘pre-Sondheim’ Sweeney Todd as “penny dreadful” serial, novels, and plays.)

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* Douglas Stuart, Shuggie Bain (🌈LGBTQ+ Novel, 2020)

A young boy grows up with an alcoholic mother in 1980s Glasgow, Scotland.

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* Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (🌈LGBTQ+ Novel, 2019)

Shifting between the Vietnam war and contemporary Hartford, Connecticut, a young gay man comes to terms with his Vietnamese mother and grandmother, and his first love. [surname pronounced like ‘Vong’]

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* Andy Weir, The Martian (General Fiction)

Realistic science fiction novel about an astronaut marooned on Mars.

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* Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855 “short” first version) (🌈LGBTQ+ Poetry)

The foundation of modern poetry, its visionary inclusiveness remains inspiring.

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* Virginia Woolf, Orlando (🌈LGBTQ+ Fantasy Novel, 1928)

Adventures of a young English nobleman who lives for centuries, and changes genders.

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Begun March 20, 2021 / Updated March 16, 2022