The best genre-bending books on queer pasts and futures

G. Samantha Rosenthal Author Of Living Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City
By G. Samantha Rosenthal

Who am I?

I am a queer transgender woman living in the Appalachian South. When I moved here in 2015 I threw myself into doing community-based LGBTQ history. I co-founded the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project, an ongoing queer public history initiative based in Roanoke, Virginia. As a historian and an avid reader, I am fascinated by how queer and trans people think about the past, how we remember and misremember things, and what role historical consciousness plays in informing the present and future. 

I wrote...

Living Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City

By G. Samantha Rosenthal,

Book cover of Living Queer History: Remembrance and Belonging in a Southern City

What is my book about?

I wanted to write a book that is not just an LGBTQ history, but explores how we think historically as queer and trans people—how history has the power to shape our sense of place and of ourselves. 

Living Queer History tells the story of an LGBTQ community in Roanoke, Virginia, a small city on the edge of Appalachia. Interweaving historical analysis, theory, and memoir, Samantha Rosenthal tells the story of their own journey—coming out and transitioning as a transgender woman—in the midst of working on a community-based history project that documented a multigenerational southern LGBTQ community. Based on over forty interviews with LGBTQ elders, Living Queer History explores how queer people today think about the past and how history lives on in the present.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity

Why did I love this book?

Queer theory can sometimes be head-scratching, but the first time I read Cruising Utopia (on a camping trip in the mountains), I found myself gazing anew at the trees above me and my lover by my side. The late great theorist pushes us to reconsider how queerness is experienced and remembered in quotidian times and spaces. From sharing a bottle of Coke with a lover to memorializing abandoned toilets in the New York City subway, Muñoz revels in the ecstatic potential of “queer utopian memory” and queer world-building. Cruising Utopia is a marriage of critical theory and thoughtful storytelling, giving readers a much-needed injection of hope in these thoroughly anti-queer times.    

By José Esteban Muñoz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cruising Utopia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A 10th anniversary edition of this field defining work-an intellectual inspiration for a generation of LGBTQ scholars
Cruising Utopia arrived in 2009 to insist that queerness must be reimagined as a futurity-bound phenomenon, an insistence on the potentiality of another world that would crack open the pragmatic present. Part manifesto, part love-letter to the past and the future, Jose Esteban Munoz argued that the here and now were not enough and issued an urgent call for the revivification of the queer political imagination.
On the anniversary of its original publication, this edition includes two essays that extend and expand the…

Book cover of My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir

Why did I love this book?

Have you ever searched for queer history only to find… yourself? This is Jenn Shapland’s story in her delightful biography-slash-memoir about the writer Carson McCullers. Shapland digs through McCullers’ letters, discovers the late writer’s therapy appointment notes, and even recounts her own experiences living in McCullers’ former home, looking for any shreds of evidence to confirm the famed writer’s queerness. In the process, Shapland discovers her own lesbianism. As a trans lesbian, I relate so vividly to Shapland’s experiences of rethinking her own identity in the process of doing queer history. I love how she interweaves her own life with McCullers’—a kind of transgenerational rejection of the closet and a celebration of queer womanhood.  

By Jenn Shapland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Autobiography of Carson McCullers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Publishing Triangle Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction, Phi Beta Kappa Christian Gauss Award, and a Lambda Literary Award

Finalist for the National Book Award

Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction

How do you tell the real story of someone misremembered—an icon and idol—alongside your own? Jenn Shapland’s celebrated debut is both question and answer: an immersive, surprising exploration of one of America’s most beloved writers, alongside a genre-defying examination of identity, queerness, memory, obsession, and love.

Shapland is a graduate student when she first uncovers letters written to Carson McCullers by a…

Book cover of Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel

Why did I love this book?

Trans sci-fi? Yes, please. This delightful collection of short stories—which I have read twice now—consistently wows with its relatable queer and trans body-suffering, body-shifting protagonists. It is not so much a book about queer futures as it is a futurist rendering of the past twenty years, including climate disaster, endless wars, gentrification, digital subcultures, and a bit of high school nostalgia. A trans gay boy enters a portal in the woods; a young menstruating person pulls a screwdriver from their vagina; job opportunities on the moon entice anti-capitalist, ennui-filled teenagers. If Muñoz imagined queerness as a utopian space-time rupture, Jarboe reminds us that our queer dystopia is inescapably here. We wrestle now in our flesh in this fucked-up world. 

By Julian K. Jarboe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2021 Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, this collection of body-horror fairy tales and mid-apocalyptic Catholic cyberpunk, memory and myth, loss and age, these are the tools of storyteller Jarboe, a talent in the field of queer fabulism. Bodily autonomy and transformation, the importance of negative emotions, unhealthy relationships, and bad situations amidst the staggering and urgent question of how build and nurture meaning, love, and safety in a larger world/society that might not be "fixable."

Book cover of Time Is the Thing a Body Moves Through

Why did I love this book?

Somewhere in their fourteen-page digression on the 18th-century non-binary American prophet Universal Publick Friend did I realize—once again—that I was nearly done with T Fleischmann’s enchanting book-length essay on transness, time, and art. I have read it three times! As a trans person, I love this book for its meditations on the transitioning body and its sexy tales of intimate encounters. It also offers a critical engagement with the artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s work, as well as a memoir of discovery that, like Fleischmann themself, bounces from New York City to rural Tennessee and back again, charting a geography of queer friendship and memory. 

By T. Fleischmann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Time Is the Thing a Body Moves Through as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How do the bodies we inhabit affect our relationship with art? How does art affect our relationship to our bodies? T Fleischmann uses Felix Gonzales-Torres's artworks-piles of candy, stacks of paper, puzzles-as a path through questions of love and loss, violence and rejuvenation, gender and sexuality. From the back porches of Buffalo, to the galleries of New York and L.A., to farmhouses of rural Tennessee, the artworks act as still points, sites for reflection situated in lived experience. Fleischmann combines serious engagement with warmth and clarity of prose, reveling in the experiences and pleasures of art and the body, identity…

Confessions of the Fox

By Jordy Rosenberg,

Book cover of Confessions of the Fox

Why did I love this book?

As a historian, I love well-researched historical fiction. Imagine my surprise when a lover handed me Confessions of the Fox. This book offers a historical reimagining of the life and times of 18th-century English thief Jack Sheppard, who, in Rosenberg’s estimation, was a transgender man. Confessions is also a commentary on queer historical practice. Periodic footnotes offer meta observations by a modern-day trans academic who has apparently “discovered” Sheppard’s lost text. This is a fun and stirring book on many levels—a revisionist work of “what if” history, a page-turning working-class queer love story, and an intervention in transgender historiography.

By Jordy Rosenberg,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Confessions of the Fox as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, 2019
Finalist for the Publishing Triangle Award, 2019

A New Yorker Book of the Year, 2018
A Huffington Post Book of the Year, 2018
A Buzzfeed Book of the Year, 2018

'Quite simply extraordinary... Imagine if Maggie Nelson, Daphne du Maurier and Daniel Defoe collaborated.' Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent

Jack Sheppard - a transgender carpenter's apprentice - has fled his master's house to become a notorious prison break artist, and Bess Khan has escaped the draining of the fenlands to become a revolutionary mastermind. Together, they find themselves at the center…

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