Every week, Lethe posts a list of ten books on a theme compiled from suggestions by our readers, editors and authors. The list is neither exhaustive, didactic, or ranked, and while there are undoubtedly countless books you've missed off, perhaps you'll find a few new ones here to discover for yourself.
The holidays - if the adverts are to be believed - are all about family, but sometimes for those who fall into the queer spectrum, this might not be as easy or as comfortable as for everyone else around us. For many of us, we have built our own families around us with much-loved friend - groups that provide us support, love and validation. In his Tales of the City series, Armistead Maupin coined the term 'logical family' (as distinct from 'biological'.) Here are our picks for books that depict gay friendship in all its glory - whether it be to push away the looming family holiday which either comes with or without family, or just because you fancy reading a damn good book.
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Well... this list couldn't even begin with Maupin, could it? Maupin coined the phrase 'logical family' -- as distinct from 'biological family' -- and places it in the mouth of the den mother Anna Madrigal, referring to his diverse constellation of characters across the Tales of City series. The message that 'found family' can be more powerful than 'real family' is never clearer than in Michael Tolliver Lives, when Michael Tolliver is forced to choose between attending the deathbeds of either his mother, or Anna Madrigal.
A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham
A novel preoccupied with the complex relationship between a male-male-female trio of friends who become lovers, A Home At The End of the World delicately untangles the complications of establishing a family that loves and supports itself with its own special set of rules. The trio walk back and forth across the line between lover and friend across the spread of the story, but at its heart is the strength of the 'found family' the three create for themselves.
FROM THE LETHE VAULTS:
The Mariposa Club by Rigoberto Gonzalez
Finding your own identity amongst a band of like-minded friends is a familiar theme in Young Adult fiction, and The Mariposa Club memorably explores this area within a close group of friends who identify as LGBT. A sweet but powerful story of the bond between friends granting the strength to overcome adversity, The Mariposa Club was also on our list of 'gay YA books for someone who just came out'.
Buy The Mariposa Club here.
Love! Valour! Compassion! by Terrence McNally
Okay, so we're cheating a bit: the next two titles are actually play scripts. Later adapted into a film, Love! Valour! Compassion! tells the story of eight gay friends who spend three weekends of a summer together in a summer home. For all the tensions, rivalries and insecurities that are rife amongst the group, the play turns on the bond between them as they weather relationships, AIDs concerns, infidelities and soul-searching.
The Boys In The Band by Mart Crowley
A potentially controversial entry on the list, The Boys in the Band is more famously known as a film, though it was adapted from an off-Broadway play by playwright Crowley. Although with a modern eye the story can be seen as a time-capsule of self-loathing, there is undeniably a bond between the characters in the play. As dysfunction as a biological family perhaps, but found family nonetheless.
FROM THE LETHE VAULTS:
BearCity: The Novel by Lawrence Ferber
Based on the award-winning movie, BearCity follows the funny, romantic and often dramatic adventures of a tight-knit pack of bears, cubs and friends in New York City. Found-family friendships amongst LGBTQ people is one thing, but it can be argued that the bond is even deeper for the characters of BearCIty, who belong to an oft-ignored subculture within the LGBT world. A sweet, funny and occasionally filthy book. (Plus, look out for the follow-up film BearCity 2 and the upcoming BearCity 3.)
Halfway Home by Paul Monette
Halfway Home concerns itself with the return of the protagonist Tom, sick with AIDs, to heal the rift with his brother, but the story opens with an introduction to Tom's own tight-knit circle of friends who have replaced his absent biological family.
The Wolf at the Door by Jameson Currier
Described as "It's a Wonderful Life fused with all the ensemble wit of Tales of the City and the regional gothic texture of Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire", The Wolf at the Door is a tale of spirits, spooks, and sinners, a supernatural roller coaster set in the Big Easy that is giddy, soulful and sentimental, featuring an eclectic and tight-knit group of friends.
FROM THE LETHE VAULTS:
Safe as Houses by Alex Jeffers
Described as "a gay novel about family values'' by Edmund White, Safe as Houses is the story of Allen Pasztory and his family -- the family he was born to and the family he has stumbled into and embraced. A hearing child of deaf parents, Allen enjoyed comfort and seclusion in his early family life, an experience that he tries to re-establish in the new family he is creating.
Buy Safe As House here.
Never The Bride by Paul Magrs
A borderline entry on the list, but one we couldn't resist because we love the series so much. Never The Bride introduces the trio of Brenda (the Bride of Frankenstein), Effie (the witch next door) and Robert (the queer fella who works at the mysterious hotel) and together they investigate supernatural goings-on in Whitby. The frothy 'chintzpunk' exterior is built on a strong and endearing core friendship between the group that, whilst it only includes one explicitly LGBTQ character, is queer to the core in its banding together of the ultimate outsiders, and in later books in the series the group expands to include Robert's faintly alien boyfriend (as well as a whole bunch of other characters.)
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