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Fifteen Notable GLBTQ Books of 2012
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 12/29/12
Last updated on: 12/30/12
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Jeanette Winterson discusses Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

The fifteen notable books described below are presented not as the best glbtq books written during the year, but simply as books well worth reading for their insights into the lives and history of glbtq people. They are listed alphabetically by author.

Carol Anshaw, Carry the One. In this elegantly written novel, Anshaw recounts the lives of three siblings over the course of three decades.

Alison Bechdel, Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama. In this graphic memoir, Bechdel reveals how she became an artist by focusing on her culture-vulture mother, who was a woman unhappily married to a closeted gay man and whose artistic aspirations simmered under the surface of Bechdel's childhood.

Keith Boykin, ed., For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home. This collection of prose and poetry by more than 40 authors confronts head-on issues faced by young men of color, including sexual abuse, racism, and homophobia in the African American and Latino communities.

Peter Cameron, Coral Glynn. In this period novel set in 1950, Cameron, with his customary wit and empathy, subtly unveils the deep emotions that are hidden beneath placid surfaces.

Dale Carpenter, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas. In this absorbing account of the case that resulted in the landmark Supreme Court ruling striking down sodomy laws, Carpenter not only charts the legal strategy pursued by Lambda Legal attorneys, but also places the case in historical context and reveals new and sometimes startling details of the arrest and prosecution of the unlikely heroes, John G. Lawrence and Tyron Garner.

Lisa Cohen, All We Know: Three Lives. Cohen's brilliant and deeply sympathetic "triple biography" of three almost forgotten lesbians--Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta, and Madge Garland--sheds light on the interrelated subjects of gender, sexuality, fashion, and modernism.

Dylan Edwards, Transposes. This graphic "nonfiction novel" tells the stories of six transgender men who also happen to be queer as it explores--sometimes hilariously, sometimes heartbreakingly--the question of what makes a man a man.

Patrick Gale, A Perfectly Good Man. Gale's novel focuses on a Cornish pirest who turns out to be complex and ambiguous in more surprising and interesting ways than the title might suggest.

Alan Hollinghurst, The Stranger's Child. In this sprawling multi-generational family saga, which begins in 1913 and ends almost a century later, Hollinghurst details how English society changed over the years, especially for gay men.

Lisa Jarnot, Robert Duncan, Ambassador from Venus. Jarnot's meticulously researched biography of Robert Duncan vividly illuminates the life of a brave and influential poet.

Joy Ladin, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey between Genders. In this poignant contribution to transgender autobiography, Ladin recounts her transition from male to female. In the process, she wrestles with both practical matters and deeply philosophical issues, and questions the impact of her transition on others, including her children.

Michael Lowenthal, The Paternity Test. In one of the first novels to explore the experience of gay men seeking a child through surrogacy, Lowenthal explores the relationship between a gay couple and their Brazilian surrogate, and raises questions about the nature of mature love and the desire to have children.

Sarah Schulman, The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination. Schulman's memoir of the AIDS years mourns the loss not only of friends who died, but also of the radical political perspectives that also perished. She testifies as a witness to the loss of a generation's sensibility.

Edmund White, Jack Holmes and His Friend. In this novel set in the period from the first stirrings of the gay liberation movement through the advent of AIDS, White tells the story of a complicated friendship between a gay man and a straight man played out against the background of profound cultural change.

Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?. In this deeply affecting memoir, which manages to be both painful and funny, Winterson returns to the difficult childhood she dramatized in her breakthrough 1985 novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. She paints an unforgettable portrait of her monstrous, yet altogether human, mother.

In the video below, Winterson discusses Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

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