Celebrate Pride: Exploring identity through memoir and biography

Biography and memoir are some of the most popular books in our nonfiction collections on the 2nd floor. When curating this list, I found it hard to keep the list short and digestible. There are so many amazing books about LGBT heroes that I can't fit them all here, and I keep adding title after title that are too important to omit.

The Iowa City Pride Fest & Parade is June 15th. This year ICPL is curating lists of LGBQTIA+ books to support Iowa City Pride. This list is a part of that series of recommendations.

Queer, there, and everywhere : 23 people who changed the world

Sarah Prager

306.76 /Prager
Biographies, LGBTQ+

World history has been made by countless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals -- and you've never heard of many of them. Queer author and activist Sarah Prager delves deep into the lives of 23 people who fought, created, and loved on their own terms. From high-profile figures like Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt to the trailblazing gender-ambiguous Queen of Sweden and a bisexual blues singer who didn't make it into your history books, these true stories uncover a rich queer heritage that encompasses every culture, in every era.

Long live the tribe of fatherless girls

T Kira Madden

BIOGRAPHY /Madden, T Kira
Memoir, LGBTQ+

The acclaimed literary essayist T Kira Madden's raw and redemptive debut is a memoir about coming of age as a queer, biracial teenager within the fierce contradictions of Boca Raton, Florida, a place where cult-like privilege, shocking social and racial disparities, rampant white-collar crime, and powerfully destructive standards of beauty hide in plain sight. As a child in Florida, T Kira Madden lived a life of extravagance--from her exclusive private school to her equestrian trophies and designer shoes, she had plenty to envy. But beneath the surface, life in "the rat's mouth" of Boca Raton was dangerous. Left to her own devices as both parents battled drug addiction, Kira navigated the perils of coming of age too quickly, and without guidance--oblivious parents and misguided babysitters at home, tormentors at school, sexual predators at the mall, and the confused, often destructive, desperately loving friendship of fatherless girls. With unflinching honesty and moving, lyrical prose, and spanning from 1960's Hawai'i to the nip and tuck rooms of 1990s Florida to the present-day struggle of a young woman in a culture of harassment, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is the story of families both lost and found, unmade and rebuilt, crooked and beautiful

No ashes in the fire : coming of age black & free in America

Darnell L. Moore

BIOGRAPHY /Moore, Darnell L.
Memoir, LGBTQ+

When Darnell L. Moore was fourteen years old, three boys from his neighborhood tried to set him on fire as he was walking home from school. Darnell was tall and awkward and constantly bullied for being gay. That afternoon, one of the boys doused him with gasoline and tried lighting a match. It was too windy, and luckily Darnell's aunt arrived in time to grab Darnell and pull him to safety. It was not the last time he would face death. What happens to the black boys who come of age in neglected, poor, heavily policed, and economically desperate cities that the War on Drugs and mass incarceration have created? How do they learn to live, love, and grow up? Darnell was raised in Camden, NJ, the son of two teenagers on welfare struggling to make ends meet. He explored his sexuality during the height of the AIDS epidemic, when being gay was a death sentence. He was beaten down and ignored by white and black America, by his school, and even his church, the supposed place of sanctuary. He made it out, but as he quickly learned, escaping Camden, escaping poverty, and coming out do not guarantee you freedom. It wasn't until Darnell was pushed into the spotlight at a Newark rally after the murder of a young queer woman that he found his voice and his calling. He became a leading organizer with Black Lives Matter, a movement that recognized him and insisted that his life mattered. In recovering the beauty, joy, and love in his own life, No Ashes in the Fire gives voice to the rich, varied experiences of all those who survive on the edges of the margins. In the process, he offers a path toward liberation.

Sissy : A Coming-of-Gender Story

Jacob Tobia

305.3 /Tobia
Memoir, LGBTQ+

From the moment a doctor in Raleigh, North Carolina, put 'male' on his birth certificate, there were expectations about who Jacob was and who Jacob should be, words like 'masculine' and 'aggressive' and 'sports.' Naturally sensitive, playful, creative, and glitter-obsessed, as a child Jacob was given the label 'sissy' which joined forces with 'gay,' 'trans,' 'nonbinary,' and 'too-queer-to-function.' In calling out the stereotypes that each of us have faced, he invites us to rethink what we know about gender, and offers a bold blueprint for a healed world-- one free from gender-based trauma and bursting with trans-inclusive feminism.

Trans figured

Brian Belovitch

306.768 /Belovitch
Memoir, LGBTQ+

In Trans Figured, Brian Belovitch shares his true story of life as a gender outlier and his dramatic journey through the jungle of gender identity. Brian has had the rare distinction of coming out three times: first as a queer teenager; then as a glamorous transgender woman named Tish, and later, Natalia Gervais; and finally as an HIV-positive gay man surviving the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. From growing up in a barely-working-class first-generation immigrant family in Fall River, Massachusetts, to spinning across the disco dance floor of Studio 54 in New York City, from falling into military lock-step as the Army wife of a domineering GI in Germany to having a brush with fame as Natalia, high-flying downtown darling of the boozy and druggy pre-Giuliani New York nightclub scene, Brian escaped many near-death experiences. Trans Figured chronicles a life lived on the edge with an unforgettable cast of characters during a dangerous and chaotic era. Rich with drama and excitement, this no-holds-barred memoir tells it all. Most importantly, Brian's candid and poignant story of recovery shines a light on the perseverance of the human spirit.

The new Negro : the life of Alain Locke

Jeffrey C. Stewart

BIOGRAPHY /Locke, Alain
Biographies, LGBTQ+

A tiny, fastidiously dressed man emerged from Black Philadelphia around the turn of the century to mentor a generation of young artists including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jacob Lawrence and call them the New Negro--the creative African Americans whose art, literature, music, and drama would inspire Black people to greatness. In The New Negro : The Life of Alain Locke, Jeffrey C. Stewart offers the definitive biography of the father of the Harlem Renaissance, based on the extant primary sources of his life and on interviews with those who knew him personally. He narrates the education of Locke, including his becoming the first African American Rhodes Scholar and earning a PhD in philosophy at Harvard University, and his long career as a professor at Howard University. Locke also received a cosmopolitan, aesthetic education through his travels in continental Europe, where he came to appreciate the beauty of art and experienced a freedom unknown to him in the United States. And yet he became most closely associated with the flowering of Black culture in Jazz Age America and his promotion of the literary and artistic work of African Americans as the quintessential creations of American modernism. In the process he looked to Africa to find the proud and beautiful roots of the race. Shifting the discussion of race from politics and economics to the arts, he helped establish the idea that Black urban communities could be crucibles of creativity. Stewart explores both Locke's professional and private life, including his relationships with his mother, his friends, and his white patrons, as well as his lifelong search for love as a gay man. Stewart's thought-provoking biography recreates the worlds of this illustrious, enigmatic man who, in promoting the cultural heritage of Black people, became--in the process--a New Negro himself.

Looking for Lorraine : the radiant and radical life of Lorraine Hansberry

Imani Perry

BIOGRAPHY /Hansberry, Lorraine
Biographies, LGBTQ+

Lorraine Hansberry, who died at thirty-four, was by all accounts a force of nature. Although best-known for her work A Raisin in the Sun, her short life was full of extraordinary experiences and achievements, and she had an unflinching commitment to social justice, which brought her under FBI surveillance when she was barely in her twenties. While her close friends and contemporaries, like James Baldwin and Nina Simone, have been rightly celebrated, her story has been diminished and relegated to one work--until now. In 2018, Hansberry will get the recognition she deserves with the PBS American Masters documentary "Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart" and Imani Perry's multi-dimensional, illuminating biography, Looking for Lorraine. After the success of A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry used her prominence in myriad ways: challenging President Kennedy and his brother to take bolder stances on Civil Rights, supporting African anti-colonial leaders, and confronting the romantic racism of the Beat poets and Village hipsters. Though she married a man, she identified as lesbian and, risking censure and the prospect of being outed, joined one of the nation's first lesbian organizations. Hansberry associated with many activists, writers, and musicians, including Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois, among others. Looking for Lorraine is a powerful insight into Hansberry's extraordinary life--a life that was tragically cut far too short.

Native country of the heart : a memoir

Cherríe Moraga

BIOGRAPHY /Moraga, Cherríe
Memoir, LGBTQ+

As a young woman, Elvira left California to work as a cigarette girl in glamorous late-1920s Tijuana, where an ambiguous relationship with a wealthy white man taught her life lessons about power, sex, and opportunity. As Moraga charts her mother's journey from impressionable young girl to battle-tested matriarch to, later on, an old woman suffering under the yoke of Alzheimer, she traces her own self-discovery of her gender-queer body and Lesbian identity, as well as her passion for activism and the history of her pueblo. As her mother's memory fails, Moraga is driven to unearth forgotten remnants of a U.S. Mexican diaspora, its indigenous origins, and an American story of cultural loss.

Naturally tan : a memoir.

Tan France

791.45028092 /France
Memoir, LGBTQ+

Before he became famous as one of the Fab Five makeover experts, Tan France was the youngest child in his family, growing up in South Yorkshire, England. As a member of one of the very few South Asian, Muslim families living in the predominantly white community, he was routinely bullied for both his culture and his skin color. Knowing he was gay from an early age, Tan harbored that secret to avoid further racial harassment and potentially cause a rift between him and his family. It was a secret he would keep from them until finally coming out at the age of 34—happily married to Rob, a Mormon cowboy from Salt Lake City. With his trademark wit, humor, and radical compassion, Tan shares his journey and the lessons he’s learned along the way about being a successful businessman, a devoted spouse, and self-acceptance. From navigating the gay community, to finding the love of his life, to creating popular ladies’ clothing lines for Kingdom & State and Rachel Parcell, Inc. to joining Antoni Porowski, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk, and Jonathan Van Ness on Queer Eye as positive, representative celebrity role models for LGBTQ people, Tan followed his own path to develop his signature style and embrace life on his own terms.

Karamo : my story of embracing purpose, healing, and hope

Karamo Brown

BIOGRAPHY /Brown, Karamo
Memoir, LGBTQ+

An insightful, candid, and inspiring memoir from Karamo Brown--Queer Eye's beloved culture expert--as he shares his story for the first time, exploring how the challenges in his own life have allowed him to forever transform the lives of those in need.

Logical family : a memoir

Armistead Maupin

BIOGRAPHY /Maupin, Armistead
Memoir, LGBTQ+

The long-awaited memoir from the beloved author of the bestselling Tales of the City series. 'Sooner or later, no matter where in the world we live, we have to venture beyond our biological family to find our logical one, the one that actually makes sense for us. We have to, if we are to live without squandering our lives.'--from Logical Family. Born in the mid-twentieth century and raised in the heart of conservative North Carolina, Armistead Maupin lost his virginity to another man 'on the very spot where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.' Realizing that the South was too small for him, this son of a traditional lawyer packed his earthly belongings into his Opel GT (including a beloved portrait of a Confederate ancestor) and took to the road in search of adventure. It was a journey that would lead him from a homoerotic navy initiation ceremony in the jungles of Vietnam to that strangest of strange lands: San Francisco in the early 1970s. Over the course of the next forty years Maupin would weave his impressions of the city into an epic urban saga: Tales of the City would provide him with a very public coming-out platform and forever transform both his politics and his heart. With humor and unflinching honesty, Maupin brings to life flesh-and-blood characters every bit as endearing and indelible as the vivid men and women who populate his novels. Logical Family offers an unforgettable portrait of the man who chronicled the liberation and evolution of America's queer community over the last four decades with honesty and compassion and inspired millions to claim their own lives.

The argonauts

Maggie Nelson

BIOGRAPHY /Nelson, Maggie
Memoir, LGBTQ+

A genre-bending memoir, a work of 'autotheory' offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language. At its center is a romance: the story of the author's relationship with the artist Harry Dodge. This story, which includes the author's account of falling in love with Dodge, who is fluidly gendered, as well as her journey to and through a pregnancy, is an intimate portrayal of the complexities and joys of (queer) family-making.

Fun home : a family tragicomic

Alison Bechdel

BIOGRAPHY Bechdel, Alison
Memoir, LGBTQ+

In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father. Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

Are you my mother? : a comic drama

Alison Bechdel

BIOGRAPHY Bechdel, Alison
Memoir, LGBTQ+

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home was a pop culture and literary phenomenon. Now, a second thrilling tale of filial sleuthery, this time about her mother: voracious reader, music lover, passionate amateur actor. Also a woman, unhappily married to a closeted gay man, whose artistic aspirations simmered under the surface of Bechdel's childhood . . . and who stopped touching or kissing her daughter good night, forever, when she was seven. Poignantly, hilariously, Bechdel embarks on a quest for answers concerning the mother-daughter gulf. It's a richly layered search that leads readers from the fascinating life and work of the iconic twentieth-century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, to one explosively illuminating Dr. Seuss illustration, to Bechdel’s own (serially monogamous) adult love life. And, finally, back to Mother—to a truce, fragile and real-time, that will move and astonish all adult children of gifted mothers.

Afterglow : a dog memoir

Eileen Myles

636.78 /Myles
Memoir, LGBTQ+, Animals

The author writes an account of their relationship with their pit bull Rosie. Starting from the emptiness following Rosie's death, the author launches a heartfelt and fabulist investigation into the true nature of the bond between pet and pet owner.

How to write an autobiographical novel : essays

Alexander Chee

814.6 /Chee
Memoir, LGBTQ+

"From the author of The Queen of the Night, an essay collection exploring how we form our identities in life, in politics, and in art"--

Why be happy when you could be normal?

Jeanette Winterson

BIOGRAPHY Winterson, Jeanette
Memoir, LGBTQ+

This memoir is a tough-minded search for belonging, for love, an identity, a home, and a mother by the author of "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit"--winner of the Whitbread First Novel award and the inspiration behind the award-winning BBC television adaptation "Oranges."

Mr. know-it-all : the tarnished wisdom of a filth elder

John Waters

791.430233 /Waters
Memoir, LGBTQ+

"The newest essay collection from the New York Times-bestselling John Waters, reflecting on how to overcome newfound responsibility and rebel in the autumn of your years"-- Provided by publisher.