The best LGBTQ+ books that are also movies (…or should be)

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was young and just figuring out the whole gay thing, I had to cross state lines to see the one gay movie and smuggle out the one library book I was too afraid to check out. In the 1970s and 80s I grew up knowing I was part of a group that was rarely talked about, aside from jokes. I've enjoyed so many stories that didn't represent me. If the struggle is real, I want to see, hear, and feel the whole messy bunch of it. I like the uncomfortable process of writing, and make promises that I later break: I can always tone this part down later…and then I never do.


I wrote...

Greetings From Jamaica, Wish You Were Queer

By Mari SanGiovanni,

Book cover of Greetings From Jamaica, Wish You Were Queer

What is my book about?

If you like a slow-burn romance, romantic comedies, coming-of-age stories, coming out stories, Italian families, lesbians, meatballs, or, if you are lucky enough to love all of the above, this book series might be what you have been waiting for. Greetings From Jamaica, Wish You Were Queer is part 1 of a 3-part series which follows Marie Santora in her never-ending quest for love, laughs, and sanity as her Italian family butts into her love life each step of the way.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Desert of the Heart

Mari SanGiovanni Why did I love this book?

I loved this book because it was the ultimate slow-burn romance coupled with an older woman coming out story, which was truly original at the time. As is almost always the case, the novel is better than the movie, but this one brilliantly made the transition to the film renamed Desert Hearts, which was helped by the amazing chemistry between the actresses and a director that did not shy away from sex scenes which were both graphic, yet beautiful. 

Set back in the 1950s, this sizzling & heartwarming matchup is the trifecta of opposites attract: class, age, and attitude towards coming out, this book was a romance with substance, sprinkled with a bit of comedy, my favorite recipe. 

By Jane Rule,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Desert of the Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set in the late 1950s, this is the story of Evelyn Hall, an English Professor, who goes to Reno to obtain a divorce and put an end to her disastrous 16-year marriage. While staying at a boarding house to establish her six-week residency requirement she meets Ann Childs, a casino worker and fifteen years her junior. Physically, they are remarkably alike and eventually have an affair and begin the struggle to figure out just how a relationship between two women can last.

Desert of the Heart examines the conflict between convention and freedom and the ways in which the characters…


Book cover of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Mari SanGiovanni Why did I love this book?

“Charming” is the word that comes to mind when describing the humor in this 1987 novel. Yet, the message about how women struggled pre-women's liberation movement, is clearly present and still resonates today.  The story is told by the weaving together of past and present when an elderly woman recalls the great love of her life, who just happens to be a woman named Ruth.  

Set in the deep south in Alabama, where gay was an unspoken word (correction: it was spoken, but it meant: happy) the love story has layers where female empowerment is contrasted between the two women and comes beautifully to life in both the novel and the film. The hometown humor commentary by newspaper reporter, Dot Weems and writer & comedian Fannie Flag was way ahead of her time with the Love Is Love theme, long before that concept swept the internet.

By Fannie Flagg,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a now-classic novel about two women: Evelyn, who’s in the sad slump of middle age, and gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode, who’s telling her life story. Her tale includes two more women—the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth—who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, offering good coffee, southern barbecue, and all kinds of love and laughter—even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present will never be quite the same again.
 
Praise for Fried Green Tomatoes at…


Book cover of The Price of Salt: Or Carol

Mari SanGiovanni Why did I love this book?

Groundbreaking at the time, simply because it featured a happy ending between two women…what a concept! Seems like this should not have been a tall order, yet, in 1952, it was a revolutionary idea that a lesbian love story would not end with tragedy which was the recipe of the day if a writer dared to write about forbidden love. 

If you are addicted to push/pull in romance stories where the stakes are high but the characters are willing to jump higher, you may fall in love with this book. 

The novel was mesmerizing and lovingly translated into film. Hollywood learned that if you want a straight audience to easily imagine how a woman who had been living a straight life previously (though not authentically) could fall for another woman, simply cast Cate Blanchett in the film and, boom, everyone gets it.

By Patricia Highsmith,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Price of Salt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WITH A NEW FOREWORD BY VAL McDERMID

Therese is just an ordinary sales assistant working in a New York department store when a beautiful, alluring woman in her thirties walks up to her counter. Standing there, Therese is wholly unprepared for the first shock of love. Therese is an awkward nineteen-year-old with a job she hates and a boyfriend she doesn't love; Carol is a sophisticated, bored suburban housewife in the throes of a divorce and a custody battle for her only daughter. As Therese becomes irresistibly drawn into Carol's world, she soon realizes how much they both stand to…


Book cover of Rubyfruit Jungle

Mari SanGiovanni Why did I love this book?

I love a first-person narrative that sucks you in, and this compelling coming-of-age story as told by Molly Bolt, is a whopper. Not since the voice of Scout narrating To Kill a Mockingbird has a voice touched generations with its telling of her own story. This was the book that made me want to be a writer. I wanted to be brave like Molly…and brave like Rita Mae.

From childhood to adolescence, and all through college, we follow our hero Molly as she comes into her own about her sexuality with uncompromising strength and flat-out hilarious storytelling. It is remarkable that Rita Mae Brown’s 1973 novel has not yet found its way to the silver screen and it is the single book that made me want to be a writer. It seems that a story with such a strong roadmap, written long before the roads were paved, deserves a film. Sign me up for any story with irreverent humor, heart, & soul which keeps you routing the hero, even a slightly flawed one.

By Rita Mae Brown,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Rubyfruit Jungle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discover the classic coming of age novel that confronts prejudice and injustice with power and humanity.

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY RITA MAE BROWN

Molly Bolt is a young lady with a big character. Beautiful, funny and bright, Molly figures out at a young age that she will have to be tough to stay true to herself in 1950s America. In her dealings with boyfriends and girlfriends, in the rocky relationship with her mother and in her determination to pursue her career, she will fight for her right to happiness. Charming, proud and inspiring, Molly is the girl who refuses to…


Book cover of The Color Purple

Mari SanGiovanni Why did I love this book?

I read this Pulitzer Prize-winning book after watching the Academy Award-winning film and imagined this would be the single exception where a book could not possibly be more impactful than the 1985 film. I could not have been more wrong. Published in 1982 by American author Alice Walker, the novel also won the National Book award for fiction, yet I still was not prepared for the greatness of what I was about to read. The Color Purple is a gut-wrenching, and unflinching portrayal of the bigotry and abuse that black women suffered, especially in the south. The story follows Celie and her sister Nettie through a series of letters that span over twenty years which reveal a fascinating history of Africa that is not commonly known to most readers. 

The letters tell the story of love, exploitation, forgiveness, and redemption, and the graphic depiction of abuse that black women commonly experienced at that time. What was not common was Walker’s explicit depiction of the love and sexual exploration between two women, unprecedented at the of its publication. The two women are brought together by Celie’s husband, who brings his mistress home to live with them. Alice Walker does not shy away from the love that grows between the women, and as difficult as it is to read about the trauma, it is a safe prediction that most readers will be in awe of this book.

By Alice Walker,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Color Purple as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Alice Walker's iconic modern classic is now a Penguin Book.

A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural Georgia. Separated as girls, sisters Celie and Nettie sustain their loyalty to and hope in each other across time, distance and silence. Through a series of letters spanning twenty years, first from Celie to God, then the sisters to each other despite the unknown, the novel draws readers into its rich and memorable portrayals of Celie, Nettie, Shug…


You might also like...

Medical Hostages

By Shawn Jennings,

Book cover of Medical Hostages

Shawn Jennings Author Of Locked In Locked Out: Surviving a Brainstem Stroke

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

The five recommended nonfiction books on my list profoundly affected my life in my time of need. I struggled when a minor accident led to a brainstem stroke and being locked in at 45. How would I find happiness now? How can I go on? These five books gave me the strength to work hard, accept what couldn’t be improved, and be grateful for each day of good health. I hope the recommended books will help you prepare for the day your life will change...and it will.

Shawn's book list on accepting and moving on from a tragedy

What is my book about?

Duke, the leader of a bike gang, is in custody for murder. He plans an escape by feigning illness and hospitalization. But an unexpected turn of events results in two gang members and Duke holding a medical floor of patients hostage. Patients will die if the police don't meet their demands within hours.
The drama follows Duke and Drs. Mindy Fletch, director of the Intensive Care Unit, and Craig Russell, a family medicine resident, in this tense hostage stand-off.

Will the bikers find freedom? Will hostages die? Can Mindy and Craig survive and prevent deaths? In times of stress, people often discover new directions and strengths.

Medical Hostages

By Shawn Jennings,

What is this book about?

Duke, the leader of a bike gang, is in custody for murder. He plans an escape by feigning illness and hospitalization. But an unexpected turn of events results in two gang members and Duke holding a medical floor of patients hostage.


Patients will die if the police don't meet their demands within hours.


The drama follows Duke and Drs. Mindy Fletch, director of the Intensive Care Unit; and Craig Russell, a family medicine resident; in this tense hostage stand-off.


Will the bikers find freedom? Will hostages die? Can Mindy and Craig survive and prevent deaths?


In times of stress, people…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in LGBTQ+ topics and characters, coming of age, and bildungsroman?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about LGBTQ+ topics and characters, coming of age, and bildungsroman.

LGBTQ+ Topics And Characters Explore 1,027 books about LGBTQ+ topics and characters
Coming Of Age Explore 1,259 books about coming of age
Bildungsroman Explore 306 books about bildungsroman