An exquisite kiss from Virginia Woolf, hot skin from Carol Ann Duffy Charlotte Mendelson picks books to inspire LGBTQ readers
Everyone needs books, particularly the newly gay. Books make us feel less alone, and there is nothing more strengthening than reflections of our own complicated selves.
Yet most of the best books that might help with coming out are simply about the private yearnings we try to hide. Bookshops rainbow-jacketed YA fiction displays will change young lives; thank God for that. But all over the world there are women and men to whom exposure would mean imprisonment, disaster. For them, and all those who arent riotously born that way, great coming out books are often those whose protagonists come out to no one at all, not even themselves, yet which have a thrilling whiff of queerness.
Simply buying our first book by an author who might be gay can feel like a tremulous act of outness. But the process can begin earlier, when a characters moment of same-sex love discreetly blows our minds. Virginia Woolfs Mrs Dalloway isnt chiefly remembered for gayness, although her memory of the most exquisite moment of her whole life 30 years before, when she is kissed on the lips by Sally Seton, once shook me as it must shake so many sensitive protogays.
Iris Murdochs fiction had the same effect. Her novels, unfortunately, lack the hot Sapphic-philosopher action that characterised her life. Nevertheless, her cheering kaleidoscope of straight and gay (male) love, her honesty about the pain of longing and her characters sexual adaptability mark all her books, but particularly my favourite, The Nice and the Good.
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