The best same-sex marriage books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about same-sex marriage and why they recommend each book.

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Charity and Sylvia

By Rachel Hope Cleves,

Book cover of Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America

This book tells an incredible story—not just of a same-sex marriage in the early 19th century, which would be remarkable enough, but also of the extent to which this couple was accepted by their community and family. Cleves found a motherlode of diaries and letters that document their lives together, their ability to earn a living during an era when most women relied on male breadwinners, their mutual love of reading and writing poetry, and the ways they sought to reconcile their love with their religious faith. I can’t emphasize enough how many times I paused to marvel at what Cleves had found in her research, and the care with which she reconstructed the lives of these two women who loved one another.

Who am I?

I’d love to see more readers explore the surprising world of the early American republic beyond stories about presidents and the Founders—in part because that history can be so illuminating about our own world. Originally from California, I’m now a professor in the History Department at Virginia Commonwealth University, and the author of the prizewinning A Nation of Speechifiers: Making an American Public after the Revolution. I’m now starting work on a new project on the yellow fever epidemics that struck New York City during the 1790s, a piece of which appeared in Smithsonian Magazine in March 2021 and the Intervals podcast produced by the Organization of American Historians.


I wrote...

The Strange Genius of Mr. O: The World of the United States' First Forgotten Celebrity

By Carolyn Eastman,

Book cover of The Strange Genius of Mr. O: The World of the United States' First Forgotten Celebrity

What is my book about?

When James Ogilvie arrived in America in 1793, he was a deeply ambitious but impoverished teacher. By the time he returned to Britain in 1817, he had become a bona fide celebrity known simply as Mr. O, counting the nation’s leading politicians and intellectuals among his admirers. And then, like so many meteoric American luminaries afterward, he fell from grace.

The Strange Genius of Mr. O is at once the biography of a remarkable performer—a gaunt Scottish orator who appeared in a toga—and a story of the United States during the founding era. Ogilvie's career featured many of the hallmarks of celebrity we recognize from later eras: glamorous friends, eccentric clothing, scandalous religious views, narcissism, and even an alarming drug habit. Yet he captivated audiences with his eloquence and inaugurated a golden age of American oratory. Examining his roller-coaster career and the Americans who admired (or hated) him, this fascinating book renders a vivid portrait of the United States in the midst of invention.

Katy Has Two Grampas

By Julie Schanke Lyford, Robert A. Schanke, Mariia Luzina (illustrator)

Book cover of Katy Has Two Grampas

This is the first book to feature gay grandfathers, an overlooked and under-represented population in the literature. It is based on the author’s actual family experience, which allows the reader to experience the real emotions experienced by the characters. The author carefully takes the reader on a journey that will be relatable to anyone with an LGBTQ+ family member. This is a story that needs to be told and Schanke and Schanke do it beautifully.


Who am I?

As a gay father of two transracially adopted daughters, I am constantly searching for books that feature families like mine. It is important for children to see families that look like theirs represented in their storybooks. Unfortunately, there is a limited number of children’s books spotlighting adoption and even less featuring LGBTQ+ families. I am happy to share this list of some of my favorites that represent diverse/LGBTQ+ families.   


I wrote...

Scoochie & Skiddles: Scoochie's Adoption Story

By Tom Tracy,

Book cover of Scoochie & Skiddles: Scoochie's Adoption Story

What is my book about?

Scoochie’s Adoption Story is a Firebird Book Awards multi-category winner – 1st place in Adoption, 1st place in LGBTQ+ Families, and 2nd place in Parenting & Family

Scoochie was adopted by her two daddies through an open adoption. In Scoochie's Adoption StoryScoochie takes you on the journey of her and her daddies’ adoption experience. Narrated by the book's main character, Scoochie's Adoption Story is told in child-friendly language with adoption concepts presented in a manner that is easy for children to understand. It is a celebration of family, regardless of family composition or how a family has been created. Through text and illustration, the story represents a wide variety of families and sends a strong message of diversity and inclusion. 

Blue Heaven

By Joe Keenan,

Book cover of Blue Heaven

This is the first of a trilogy of which any book in the series is worth reading. In this farce written long before marriage equality, a gay man hatches an outlandish scheme to throw a wedding, just for the expensive gifts. What follows is a comedy that incorporates blackmail and the mafia. You read this novel for pure pleasure, enjoying the clever one-liners while the plot spirals out of control. Flamboyant, camp, and ridiculously funny.


Who am I?

I usually write queer fiction with an urban fantasy or magic realism bent, although I’ve dabbled in dystopian novels and a couple of romance novellas. I have an interest in bringing to light modern queer works that aren’t rooted in erotica or romance because I know firsthand the misconceptions that are placed on writers of gay fiction. And too often I’ve had to find tactful ways to explain what I write when people assume I’m limited by genre.


I wrote...

Winter Masquerade

By Kevin Klehr,

Book cover of Winter Masquerade

What is my book about?

Winter Masquerade is a novella where Ferris finds a safe haven, away from his abusive partner. He wakes aboard an enchanted ocean liner where the eccentric inhabitants are gearing up for a masquerade ball. He has no idea how he got here, but he desperately wants to go home to his boyfriend.

The alchemist is the only person who can help Ferris, but he’s been kidnapped. The ransom is high tea with scones and jam. Meanwhile, the passengers are gearing up for the Winter Masquerade, a ball where love and magic reign.With a murderous musician, an absent boyfriend, and a mystical party, Ferris soon learns that Wednesday is not the day to fall in love.

Marriage, a History

By Stephanie Coontz,

Book cover of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage

Today, most people marry for love, or at least hope to marry for love. However, the idea of the love match as the preferred form of marriage is a relatively recent development. In Marriage a History, Stephanie Coontz tells the story of marriage’s transformation from an economic arrangement into an emotional one and covers everything from caveman unions to the modern fight for same-sex marriage. The book is filled with colorful examples and amusing anecdotes, such as the story of one aristocratic mother’s dismay when her son actually falls in love with his intended bride (she worries this will hurt her economic bargaining power) yet ultimately, it leaves the reader contemplating the very serious question of what it means to fall in love and whether love has, or should have, anything to do with marriage.

Who am I?

As a family law professor, I spend a lot of time thinking about marriage. Although it is an extremely personal decision, the legal, social, and even political ramifications can be tremendous. Marriage is not just an individual choice. Each year, I teach my family law students that there are three parties to every marriage, the two spouses, and the state. The books on this list reveal how the state has influenced marital decision-making and also, how individual marital decisions have influenced the state. These books show that marriage can protect and benefit spouses, but that it can also harm them through the promotion and acceptance of society’s biases and prejudices. As the actress Mae West once stated, “Marriage is a great institution, but I’m not ready for an institution.” The following books highlight the wisdom of West’s words.


I wrote...

Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches

By Marcia A. Zug,

Book cover of Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches

What is my book about?

There have always been mail-order brides in America—but we haven’t always thought about them in the same ways. In Buying a Bride, Marcia A. Zug starts with the so-called “Tobacco Wives” of the Jamestown colony and moves all the way forward to today’s modern same-sex mail-order grooms to explore the advantages and disadvantages of mail-order marriage. It’s a history of deception, physical abuse, and failed unions. It’s also the story of how mail-order marriage can offer women surprising and empowering opportunities.

Intimacy

By Hanif Kureishi,

Book cover of Intimacy

Jay, a selfish, self-absorbed screenwriter, reflects on his failings as a lover, husband, and friend on the eve of leaving his wife and children. From the way Jay describes his marriage and his approach to fatherhood, it’s clear he’s more than willing to throw his comfortable life away and damage three innocent people for no other reason than he’s bored, shallow, and desperate to blame his incompetency on those closest to him. What keeps the reader engaged is how painfully funny it all is – Jay’s obliviousness provides ample opportunity for mature audiences to chuckle and shake their heads at every meanspirited quip he makes at his family’s expense. By the end of the book, readers can only feel relief that he’s done them an incredible, and long overdue, service.


Who am I?

I find “difficult” characters fascinating because their humanity isn’t easily discerned. They’re often complex and richly drawn and show us aspects of ourselves we may not want to admit to others. Examining the ugly, the hidden, can be exhilarating.


I wrote...

The Voices In Between

By Charlene Challenger,

Book cover of The Voices In Between

What is my book about?

Adoni lives in a downtown apartment with her mother, an abusive alcoholic. One evening, she finds herself drawn to the enchanting voice of a man singing in the alley beneath her bedroom window. The man brings Adoni to The Welcome, a colony of the In-Between world, where young people who have been rescued from harm are kept safe by their sworn immortal protectors, the Pipers. But when The Welcome is attacked by Changelings—led by the vicious and charismatic Sylvester—and a centuries-old grudge spills over the edge and threatens to destroy the colony and everyone who lives there, Adoni must find the strength and courage within to stop the oncoming war.

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