I love Pride month, traditionally observed in June in the U.S., but I also having complicated feelings about Pride. Growing up, being queer was always coded as a shameful or embarrassing thing, and even when it wasn’t presented in an overtly negative light, it was never presented to me in a positive, joyous, or celebratory way. The first June I felt true joy, true pride, was June 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. As I celebrated in the streets with friends, I felt a happiness and pride that was too big to contain and I thought, This is it. This is what Pride should feel like.
Since then, my feelings have been complicated by a myriad of factors. We live in a capitalistic society, so brands and companies quickly figured out that they can rainbow wash themselves in June and make money…while supporting those who would limit our freedoms the rest of the year. Trans people are still being killed at an alarming rate. And no community is a monolith, so there can be so many disagreements and lots of prejudice even within LGBTQ+ communities. As Marsha P. Johnson said, “No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”
So while my feelings on Pride might be complicated, I do always want to take a moment to be mindful of how far we’ve come and celebrate when possible. With that in mind, here are some great books for all ages that feature Pride celebrations! I do wish there were more books by authors of color that depict Pride month celebrations, and so I hope that publishing will continue to uplift BIPOC authors, especially those writing about queer joy and celebration.
Young Adult Books
Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
It’s summer, and Nima has just confessed her sadly unrequited love to her crush when she goes to her town’s summer festival and discovers a drag performance. She’s entranced by the performers, and strikes up an unlikely friendship with a drag queen and a beguiling girl who performs as a drag king. But when she’s given the opportunity to dress up in drag herself, Nima has to figure out her identity and the confidence to claim who she is.
You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour
Set over the course of Pride Week in San Francisco, this book is a dual POV novel about Kate and Mark, two teens who go to the same high school but don’t truly know each other until they meet at Pride. Mark’s best friend and crush has just made it clear he doesn’t have romantic feelings for Mark, and Kate has just run away from meeting the girls who should be perfect for her. As their friendship takes hold, they discover an important aspect of Pride: community.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Trans teen Felix is attending a summer program for the arts when an anonymous bully deadnames him and posts pictures of him pre-transition. Felix concocts a plan for revenge, but this plan instead sets him off on a journey to meeting others in the LGBTQ+ community and discovering himself and what it means to have pride in who he is during a transformative summer.
When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson
Mark and Talia used to be close as cousins, until an argument between their parents drove a wedge in their family. They reunite after their grandfather’s death and discover they’re both queer, and they both desperately want to be in Toronto for Pride, so they hit the road on a journey of self discovery and reconnection.
Kings of B’more by R. Eric Thomas
Harrison and Linus are best friends, and Harrison is extra grateful that he’ll have Linus by his side as the future and big life decisions loom. But when Linus gives him the news that his family is moving out of state, Harrison is devastated — and then decides to give Linus the best going away present ever: one last day together where they go all out, Ferris Beuller style. They go on a mini road trip, outrun their parents, and they participate in their first Pride celebration, all the while trying to figure out how to say goodbye.
Be Gay, Do Comics compiled by The Nib
Featuring over 30 comics artists and creators, this compilation, including both fictional and nonfictional stories, celebrates the range of queer experiences from Stonewall to gender reveals to Pride. The comics here celebrate the diversity of experiences, the joy, the pride, the heartbreak, and the contradictions of being queer.
Wrong Number, Right Woman by Jae
Denny is quiet and shy, and not the type of person to date, let alone ask women out on dates. Eliza is outgoing and vivacious, so when she accidentally sends a text to a wrong number, to Denny’s number, asking for dating advice, Denny is stumped. Not only is Eliza straight, but she seems like the last person who’d need Denny’s help. But as their text relationship deepens and they meet in person, Denny and Eliza feel an instant connection…but can their relationship go the distance?
Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis
This book is set in Uruguay and follows five women over the course of four decades of friendship (and love). They buy a shack on the beach in the midst of the country’s dictatorship, and that place becomes their refuge over the years as their relationships shift and change but their friendships hold fast. The books ends on a triumphant, celebratory note (with a healthy dash of the bittersweet), so I’m counting it!
Are you looking for more great LGBTQ+ books to celebrate Pride month? Check out Your Curated Queer TBR for Pride & Beyond, 50+ Years of Pride: The Best Queer Books From Every Decade 1970 Onwards, and these books featuring rainbows on the cover!