The best books about queer youth to make you laugh, cry, and grow

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up feeling invisible in media, and absent in history. My Iranian history was hidden from me by a culture that believed shielding young people from trauma was the right thing to do, and my queer history was hidden from me by a homophobic time. I’m passionate about the power of seeing yourself represented in storytelling and in history, and have devoted much of my life to telling queer stories, and queer historical stories. As a parent, as a queer Iranian storyteller, as a passionate believer in art as a tool for empathy, these are books I think will both entertain readers and inspire them to love their fellow humans a little more.


I wrote...

Only This Beautiful Moment

By Abdi Nazemian,

Book cover of Only This Beautiful Moment

What is my book about?

Set against the backdrop of Tehran and Los Angeles in the 1930s, 1970s, and present day, Only This Beautiful Moment is the story of three generations of men in one Iranian family in a sweeping tale of intergenerational trauma, joy, love, and loyalty. As they navigate Old Hollywood, the Iranian Revolution, and the present day, they discover the fragile bonds of family, the hidden secrets of history, and all the beautiful moments that make us who we are today.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Black Flamingo

Abdi Nazemian Why did I love this book?

My novel received a Stonewall Honor, which was one of the great thrills of my life. But the winner of the Stonewall Award that year was The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, and let me tell you, this is the book you want to lose to, the book you want to laugh to and cry to and cling to.

I’ve read it multiple times. Written in brilliant poetic verse, it’s a celebration of Blackness and queerness and all the complex emotions that make us human. I love it and cherish it, and you will too. 

By Dean Atta,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Black Flamingo 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?

'I loved every word' - Malorie Blackman

'Atta's bold verse novel calls to its readers to find their own blazing, performative inner truth' - Guardian

WINNER OF THE STONEWALL BOOK AWARD

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen - then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers - to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.

'I masquerade in makeup and feathers and I am…


Book cover of Last Night at the Telegraph Club

Abdi Nazemian Why did I love this book?

Anyone who knows my own books knows I’m obsessed with shining a light on untold stories from queer history.

Malindo Lo has written one of the great queer historical novels with Last Night at the Telegraph Club. It’s a gorgeous love story that will transport you to 1950s San Francisco, and it’s gloriously intersectional in bringing you into the Chinese American experience just as deeply as it does into the lesbian experience.

Also, I love a work of art that makes me cry, and this one requires some tissues.

By Malinda Lo,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Last Night at the Telegraph Club 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?

"That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other." And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: "Have you ever heard of such a thing?"

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can't remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall…


Book cover of Felix Ever After

Abdi Nazemian Why did I love this book?

I was lucky enough to go on a Pride book tour with Kacen Callender before Felix Ever After was published.

Kacen is one of the essential voices in literature for young people, and Felix is a shining example of why. It’s at once wildly entertaining, funny, heartfelt, enraging. It captures the complex universal emotions of coming-of-age while telling a deeply specific story of one trans teen.

I wish this book would find its way into the hands of anyone who is leaning into fear instead of curiosity and empathy. 

By Kacen Callender,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Felix Ever After as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Stonewall Honor Book * A Time Magazine Best YA Book of All Time

From Stonewall and Lambda Award–winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too…


Book cover of Darius the Great Deserves Better

Abdi Nazemian Why did I love this book?

When I was growing up, there was zero queer Iranian representation to inspire me or guide me.

I felt quite literally invisible in the world, and my own mission has been to flood the world with queer Iranian stories to fill this void. Thankfully, a number of other authors are now doing the same, including Sara Farizan, Arvin Ahmadi, and Adib Khorram.

I chose the sequel to Adib’s masterful Darius the Great Deserves Better because I love how it leans into intergenerational family dynamics, which are a particular passion of mine (and of most immigrants who must work to unite the disparate parts of our histories).

By Adib Khorram,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Darius the Great Deserves Better as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Darius Kellner is having a bit of a year. Since his trip to Iran this past spring, a lot has changed. He's getting along with his dad, and his best friend Sohrab is only a Skype call away. Between his first boyfriend, Landon, his varsity soccer practices, and his internship at his favourite tea shop, Darius is feeling pretty okay. Like he finally knows what it means to be Darius Kellner. Then, of course, everything changes. Darius's grandmothers are in town for a long visit while his dad is gone on business, and Darius isn't sure whether they even like…


Book cover of Where We Go from Here

Abdi Nazemian Why did I love this book?

My personal wish is that Americans start reading a whole lot more books from other countries, especially books that shine a light on the queer experience around the world.

Ours is a global community, and we can’t fall into the trap of thinking diversity only exists in our own country and language. Lucas Rocha’s novel tells the story of three Brazilian teens who are dealing with the impact of HIV in their own unique ways. It’s engrossing, tender, and transporting.

Anyone who loves this should also seek out the work of Vitor Martins, and should demand more books in translation so we can travel through literature.

By Lucas Rocha, Larissa Helena (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Where We Go from Here 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?

Henrique has had HIV for three years.
Ian has just tested positive.
Victor got with Henrique last night and thinks he might have it.

Ian, Victor and Henrique must navigate treatment, friendship and love, and eventually learn to trust each other.

Because with judgement and ignorance lurking round every corner, the real challenge isn't the disease - it's other people.

Brazilian author Lucas Rocha unveils the common misconceptions and prejudices that still surround HIV in the twenty-first century, showing how far we've come while shining a light on just how far we have yet to go.


You might also like...

A Cursed Son

By Day Leitao,

Book cover of A Cursed Son

Day Leitao

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Romantic & sexy dreams link a false princess to a dangerous, disgraced fae prince in this fun, steamy enemies-to-lovers romantasy. As a royal decoy, trained to replace the Krastel princess even in a political marriage, Astra’s life is not her own. With a duty like that, how can she dream about love?

And yet she knows she has a kindred soul. She can feel his presence every night, surrounding her with his warmth. But ice-cold reality crashes in when Astra’s carriage is attacked by the Crystal Court’s disgraced prince. It turns out that he is the man in her dreams.…

A Cursed Son

By Day Leitao,

What is this book about?

Romantic & sexy dreams link a false princess to a dangerous, disgraced fae prince in this fun, steamy enemies-to-lovers romantasy.

In her dreams, he envelops her in love. In real life, he imprisons her in ice.

Assassin, liar, impersonator-dreamer.

As a royal decoy, trained to replace the Krastel princess even in a political marriage, Astra's life is not her own. With a duty like that, how can she dream about love?

And yet she knows she has a kindred soul. She can feel his presence every night, holding her in his arms, surrounding her with his warmth.

But ice-cold reality…


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