Between The Covers | Sept. 25, 2014

By Terri Schlichenmeyer, Sept. 25, 2014.

I’m terrible at math. There. I’ve said it. I’m telling you this because I can’t possibly count how many LGBT authors have written books on subjects dear to the hearts of LGBT readers in the past 25 years … not to mention how many non-LGBT authors have done the same. Yes, I passed kindergarten, but I’m not sure I could count that high.

So when my editor at Echo asked me to choose my five favorite LGBT books from the past 25 years, I knew it would be difficult. Seriously, how can I possibly pick from the thousands of thousands? I think I’ve said I’m terrible at math — but I know how to read, so here are the five books I’ve ultimately chosen.

Let’s call it The Bookworm’s Top Five LGBT Books You Shouldn’t Even Think About Missing.

5. And the Band Played On

Right from the start, I’m cheating. The book in No. 5 position came out 27 years ago, but And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts is one of the first books to put AIDS front-and-center in the minds of not only gay men, but straight readers, physicians and anyone who cared about why gay men were dying of a disease that few completely understood. I remember reading this book and thinking “AHA!”… just before I felt scared and a little hopeful. Putting faces, history and a better story on the disease meant a lot to me and, even today, I think this book is worth a read with new eyes – especially if you’re too young to have known that terrifying time first-hand.

4. So You Call Yourself a Man

Again, this is cheating, but So You Call Yourself a Man by Carl Weber has to be on this list. Problem is, I can’t tell you why. Carl Weber isn’t an LGBT author, I guess I could tell you that. If I told you why you should read this, it would totally ruin the reason for my recommendation — and maybe you’ve already figured it out. If that’s the case, drat, but go read it anyhow.

3. Heather Has Two Mommies

I remember the huge flap over Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Diana Souza. In case you’ve never had reason to have a kids book in the house, this is the story of a preschool girl who feels self-conscious because she has two mommies — something that none of her little classmates have. With the help of an understanding teacher, she and her classmates learns that families are different all over the world, and that’s OK.

For LGBT parents and their kids, this is a classic book. Newman, by the way, is the author of October Mourning, a book about Matthew Shepard. I’m calling that one Choice 3.1 for its teary beauty.

2. The Absolutist

The Absolutist by John Boyne came out several years ago, and I’ve still got it stuck in my mind. It’s a World War I tale of two friends, one of whom may be gay and the other who is probably not. Things like that weren’t discussed in 1918. It’s about war, brutality, betrayal, friendship, anger and making amends. It’s brilliant from beginning to end, more powerful than a proverbial locomotive and absolutely heartbreaking.

1. A Little Fruitcake

I struggled with this decision, mostly because it’s really hard to choose just one book by David Valdes Greenwood to call my favorite. Ultimately, I decided on A Little Fruitcake. That’s his biographical collection of essays, beginning with his pre-school request from Santa for a doll and ending years later in adulthood. Valdes Greenwood’s family is hysterical — and annoying. There are laughs here, and tears, which makes it the perfect book to take when you go home for the holidays. And if that’s not exactly to your liking, then look for another book by this author (not a bad one in the batch).

And there you have it. Here’s to 25 more years and more books than I can count (again). Happy Birthday, Echo!

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