Giovanni's Room

By James Baldwin,

Book cover of Giovanni's Room

Book description

When David meets the sensual Giovanni in a bohemian bar, he is swept into a passionate love affair. But his girlfriend's return to Paris destroys everything. Unable to admit to the truth, David pretends the liaison never happened - while Giovanni's life descends into tragedy.

United by the theme of…

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Why read it?

9 authors picked Giovanni's Room as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This classic piece of literature, written by James Baldwin in 1964, twists the handle to the closed door of homosexuality in an attempt to bring life to the love story of two youthful men struggling with their true identity in the streets of Paris.

David and Giovanni discover each other in the dim bars of the nightlight surrounding the sector of the deprived. Baldwin’s words testify to the anguish of those denying their true selves, pushing them into lives of lies and secrecy.

In a heartfelt novel, Baldwin succeeds in showing the reader the hardships of homosexuality when the subject…

Set in Paris, with David the sexually conflicted central character who has an affair with the doomed Giovanni.

This book – written in 1956 – is an incredibly brave exploration by Baldwin into Gay/Bi sexuality – breaking new ground in LGBTQ+ representation whilst at the same time creating an atmosphere of almost stereotypically gay angst – perhaps even initiating some of the cliches around gay life that were to become mainstream – and used by heterosexual society against us.

That doesn’t stop it being a novella of great significance and febrile passion – like a passionate quickie up against the…

James Baldwin’s classic story of erotic doom and betrayal came to me far too late; it’s the sort of book you wish you’d read sooner and then plan to read again.

The novel articulates the real pain of unrequited erotic love—doomed erotic love—narrated by a person accused of not loving enough.

At the opening, we learn that Giovanni is to be executed, and the story unravels the desperate entanglement of two men in Paris in mid-century.

The love in this novel, while passionate, is never far from its opening sense of doom; love is mixed with hate and terror: “this…

The Birthright of Sons: Stories

By Jefferey Spivey,

Book cover of The Birthright of Sons: Stories

Jefferey Spivey Author Of The Birthright of Sons: Stories

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an avid reader of queer literary fiction not only because I write it but because I’m looking to see my life experience captured on the page. As a gay man, a father of two young boys, and one-half of an interracial married couple, I know the complexity of modern queer living firsthand. In recent years, I’ve been astounded by the breadth of great LGBTQ+ books that examine queerness fully and empathetically. I seek out these books, I read them feverishly, and I become a champion for the best ones. In an era of intense book banning, it’s so important to me to elevate these books and their authors.

Jefferey's book list on capturing the complexity of the queer experience

What is my book about?

The Birthright of Sons is a collection of stories centered around the experiences of marginalized people, namely Black and LGBTQ+ men. Although the stories borrow elements from various genres (horror, suspense, romance, magical realism, etc.), they are linked by an exploration of identity and the ways personhood is shaped through interactions with the people, places, and belief systems around us.

In each of these stories, the protagonists grapple with their understanding of who they are, who and how they love, and what is ultimately most important to them. In almost every case, however, the quest to know or protect oneself is challenged by an external force, resulting in violence, crisis, or confusion, among other outcomes.

The Birthright of Sons: Stories

By Jefferey Spivey,

What is this book about?

The Birthright of Sons is a collection of stories centered around the experiences of marginalized people, namely Black and LGBTQ+ men. Though the stories borrow elements from various genres (horror, suspense, romance, magical realism, etc.), they're linked by an exploration of identity and the ways personhood is shaped through interactions with the people, places, and belief systems around us.

Underpinning the project is a core belief - self-definition is fluid, but conflict arises because society often fails to keep pace with personal evolution. In each of these stories, the protagonists grapple with their understanding of who they are, who and…


“I am the man, I suffered, I was there.” These lines from Walt Whitman announce that Baldwin’s eloquently written novel is probably the first by an already famous author announcing that he was gay, or at least bisexual. The only explicit sex in the novel is heterosexual. Including only straight sex in the story of an American expatriate in Paris and the waiter Giovanni reflects what could be published by a major publisher. It echoes one of the book’s main themes: denying your true feelings is a kind of living death, destructive of others as well as of yourself.

David is an expatriate American living in Paris as he wrestles with dislocation. David attempts to free himself of the shame of being a gay man in America in the 1950s by living very far away, in a city that feels more tolerant. The novel follows David as he laments his relationships with other men, especially an Italian bartender named Giovanni that he’s partial to. The city of Paris is seen as a new start in the old world, an accepting place where he can finally be himself. It explores issues of race, sexual orientation, and social class. Baldwin always…

From Jessica's list on a little Parisian flair.

When I first picked up this book I was not expecting to be so deeply affected by it. Set in Paris in the 1950s, Giovanni’s Room follows David as he struggles with his own inner torments. He is caught between duty and desire when he meets Giovanni at a bar. With a fiancée in Spain and a father waiting back home in the States, David is forced to choose. Hella with her bold confidence and promise of normal, public life, or Giovanni and his many mysteries, passions, and suffocating love. My heart ached for David and Giovanni alike, their story…

From Syd's list on queer historical romance.

I was 20 and living in Missouri when I found this classic queer novel written in 1956. It was an early glimpse into deep longing, emotional connections, and dark inner conflicts that I had yet to fully explore as a young man. Baldwin’s insightful, moody, and lyrical novel set in Paris is at once romantic and painful tapping into sexual identity and masculinity struggles. Later, I found vintage photos of the author which revealed his fierce fashion flair (something we share!). 

If you are looking for fiction, this classic book is an incredibly well-written and compelling story about a bisexual man. Most of the book takes place in Paris, where wandering the gritty streets of the city of love the reader gets to explore the depths of the protagonist’s mind.

Actively challenging social taboos, Baldwin explores what it is like for two men to fall in love. Strong feelings of confusion within the protagonist come not just from his sexuality, but from being stuck between two cultures (American and French). Because of this the story arc itself cleverly plays with the…

Okay, this is an old book, but I have never, ever gotten over it. A classic remembered for the openly gay relationship, provocative at the time of publication, I remember this book and cycle back to it regularly for Baldwin’s masterful writing and his honest depiction of what living with the constant knowledge of mortality does to you: It makes you mean. It makes you ugly. And a book like this is a gift to take the edge of that fear away. 

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