The best books about homophobia

3 authors have picked their favorite books about homophobia and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Recent History

Recent History

By Anthony Giardina,

Why this book?

The novel has a remarkable twist on the traditional coming of age story; it’s also a novel about a straight guy coming to terms with his own homophobia.  It’s not a novel about a gay boy, but more a novel about a sraight boy’s understanding of how deeply homophobia has infected his life. 

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The best books that explore masculinity in some way

Book cover of Barracuda

Barracuda

By Christos Tsiolkas,

Why this book?

Danny Kelly is a living, breathing gay Greek protagonist, and the choices this driven young competitive swimmer faces about loving relationshipswhile he’s in the pursuit of athletic prowessare written with a resounding ring of truth. Tsiolkas’ visceral sex scenes, underpinned by gripping descriptions of the desires behind the mechanics, speak to much more than the act itself. They go to the heart of identity in a novel with so many layers of self-definition: the migrant, the working class hero, the quintessential male, the stereotypical gay, the success story, and the abject failure. That Danny escapes his…

From the list:

The best Australian books about conquering homophobia

Book cover of The Devil's Grip: A true story of shame, sheep and shotguns

The Devil's Grip: A true story of shame, sheep and shotguns

By Neal Drinnan,

Why this book?

A page-turning journey through the motivations, passions, and secrets that led to a shocking crime; but also a long-overdue look at the elements of Brokeback Mountain that have always existed in Australia's rural heartlands. Assisted by a key survivor of the Wettenhall family drama—Bob Perry—Drinnan takes a very personalised look back at a rural dynasty’s fortunes, but also the social, legal, and cultural restrictions for same-sex-attracted men in Australia from the 1970s to the present day. Australia is a nation said to have been built on the sheep's back, yet the truth about gays in this nation's bush culture is…

From the list:

The best Australian books about conquering homophobia

Book cover of Red Herrings for Breakfast

Red Herrings for Breakfast

By Annabet Ousback,

Why this book?

This is a searing memoir about siblingsAnnabet and Anderswho grew up in an abusive household in a privileged Sydney suburb; but it is also the author’s search for the reasons behind her gay brother’s suicide. Anders Ousback became an accomplished restaurateur and potter, yet Annabet explores how despite this success, he never really outran his demons. She courageously searches for their source, using his surviving journal as clues, and what she finds throws up an incomplete and terrifying picture of a young gay Australian boy faced with the ‘rules’ of gender and sexual politics in postwar…

From the list:

The best Australian books about conquering homophobia

Book cover of Jack Charles: Born-Again Blakfella

Jack Charles: Born-Again Blakfella

By Jack Charles,

Why this book?

Homophobia appears to have been the least of Jack Charles’ worries. If it ever bothered him, he barely lets it register in this memoir of a creative life lived both on the fringes and in the spotlight. Perhaps that’s the point, that his eloquent, good-humoured approach always seemed to scotch the haters right from the get-go. In an unbendingly honest self-reflection, Charles also pulls off describing himself as a “poof”, a very Australian term of derision that has been reclaimed by many. His ‘born again’ tale similarly relates how he survived in the face of terrible prejudices endured by Aboriginal…

From the list:

The best Australian books about conquering homophobia

Book cover of The Front Runner

The Front Runner

By Patricia Nell Warren,

Why this book?

A tale of three American athletes and their coach, all gay, and told from the POV of the coach. Included because, to me, it is a piece of queer fiction history. It was published in the seventies pre the nationwide legalisation of gay sex in the United States. Gay friends have told me how important it was for them to read The Front Runner back then. It’s all about the validation that arises from seeing people like oneself in print, as aces know. There’s nothing on the page to worry aces. The only worrying thing is that sportspeople still have…

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Book cover of Fairyland

Fairyland

By Sumner Locke Elliott,

Why this book?

Elliott came out to his fans with this beautiful novel charting the life and times of Seaton Ross, a protagonist in the author’s image. Despite the terrible series of obstacles placed in Seaton’s way, from overbearing or absent family, deeply closeted and self-centred lovers to furious fag hags, he manages to escape Australia—just as Elliott didwithout developing a lasting hatred in his exile. Rendered with the author’s signature wit (he took a leaf from E. M. Forster), the homophobia of Australia’s working classes becomes a source of this novel’s pathos, so that when Seaton encounters the most shocking…

From the list:

The best Australian books about conquering homophobia

Book cover of National History and New Nationalism in the Twenty-First Century: A Global Comparison

National History and New Nationalism in the Twenty-First Century: A Global Comparison

By Niels F. May (editor), Thomas Maissen (editor),

Why this book?

We are living in a world in which right-wing populisms thrive from North America to India and from Latin America to Europe. Everywhere they promote nationalism, xenophobia, homophobia, and religious fundamentalism. This is a book that analyzes the new nationalism in different parts of the world and dissects to what extent essentialist national identities are constructed with often devastating results in terms of violent conflict in a range of societies.

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Book cover of Twinkle Twinkle

Twinkle Twinkle

By Kaori Ekuni, Emi Shimokawa (translator),

Why this book?

An immensely sweet novel with a focus on Japanese homophobia, Twinkle Twinkle follows the gay male Mutsuki and straight woman Shoko as they enter into a sham marriage. Though it shares some themes with An Excess Male, the novel isn’t speculative, instead providing insights into contemporary Japanese society and social customs — particularly the stifling sense of conformity. Yet despite cultural pressures, the fascinating three-way dynamic between Mutsuki, Shoko, and Mutsuki’s boyfriend carries the tale and will leave a lasting impression.

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The best novels exploring polyamory and non-traditional love

Book cover of Invisible Boys

Invisible Boys

By Holden Sheppard,

Why this book?

This book is gritty and raw and hard-hitting. It takes an honest (and at times, confronting) look at what it’s like to feel completely isolated because of your sexuality in rural Australia. The characters are vivid and relatable, and their plight is enthralling. The story deals with identity, belonging, toxic masculinity, and the dark side of coming to terms with who you are when the whole world seems like it’s against you. This book is not for the faint-hearted, but it’s brilliant nonetheless.

From the list:

The best books about growing up gay in Australia

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