Celebrate Pride: Exploring identity through memoir and biography ***Updated for 2020***

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.

Iowa City Pride 2020 has gone virtual. To commemorate 50 years of Pride, ICPL is curating lists of LGBQTIA+ recommendations. This list is a part of that series of recommendations. To see a list of online events, visit the City of Iowa City's media release

In the dream house : a memoir

Carmen Maria Machado

eBOOK
Nonfiction, Memoir, LGBTQ+, Literary Nonfiction

The author's engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad, and a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing relationship with a charismatic but volatile woman, Machado struggles to make sense of how what happened to her shaped the person she was becoming.

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Iowa Writers Workshop graduate
- Melody

How we fight for our lives : a memoir

Saeed Jones

eBOOK
Memoir, LGBTQ+, Literary Nonfiction, Nonfiction

"Written from the crossroads of sex, race, and power in America, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir and a haunting reflection of the nation as a whole"--

Gentleman Jack

Anne Choma

eAUDIO
Nonfiction, LGBTQ+, History

In 1834, Anne Lister made history by celebrating and recording the first ever known marriage to another woman. Now the basis for the HBO series Gentleman Jack, this is her remarkable, true story. Anne Lister was extraordinary. Fearless, charismatic and determined to explore her lesbian sexuality, she forged her own path in a society that had no language to define her. She was a landowner, an industrialist and a prolific diarist, whose output has secured her legacy as one of the most fascinating figures of the 19th century. Gentleman Jack: The Real Anne Lister follows Anne from her crumbling ancestral home in Yorkshire to the glittering courts of Denmark as she resolves to put past heartbreak behind her and find herself a wife. This book introduces the real Gentleman Jack, featuring unpublished journal extracts decrypted for the first time by series creator Sally Wainwright and writer Anne Choma.

We have always been here : a queer Muslim memoir

Samra Habib

eBOOK
Nonfiction, LGBTQ+, Memoir, Religion

"A queer Muslim searches for the language to express her truest self, making peace with her sexuality, her family, and Islam. Growing up in Pakistan, Samra Habib lacks a blueprint for the life she wants. She has a mother who gave up everything to be a pious, dutiful wife and an overprotective father who seems to conspire against a life of any adventure. Plus, she has to hide the fact that she's Ahmadi to avoid persecution from religious extremists. As the threats against her family increase, they seek refuge in Canada, where new financial and cultural obstacles await them. When Samra discovers that her mother has arranged her marriage, she must again hide a part of herself--the fun-loving, feminist teenager that has begun to bloom--until she simply can't any longer. So begins a journey of self-discovery that takes her to Tokyo, where she comes to terms with her sexuality, and to a queer-friendly mosque in Toronto, where she returns to her faith in the same neighbourhood where she attended her first drag show. Along the way, she learns that the facets of her identity aren't as incompatible as she was led to believe, and that her people had always been there--the world just wasn't ready for them yet."--

Fairest : a memoir

Meredith Talusan

eBOOK
Nonfiction, LGBTQ+, Memoir

"A heartrending immigrant memoir and a uniquely intersectional coming-of-age story of a life lived in duality and the in-between, and how one navigates through race, gender, and the search for love"--

Save yourself

Cameron Esposito

eBOOK
Nonfiction, Memoir

"Cameron Esposito is on her way to becoming a household name, thanks to her unique brand of comedy that doesn't shy away from the issues women (and many men) face today. From sexism and sexuality to white male privilege and self acceptance, Cameron uses humor to break down the barriers that keep us from speaking openly about these topics. Cameron offers funny and insightful essays about everything from coming out (at a Catholic college where being gay can get you expelled) to how joining the circus can help you become a better comic (so much nudity) to accepting yourself for who you are--even if you're an awkward tween with an eyepatch (which Cameron was). Full of heart, humor, and cringe-worthy stories anyone who has gone through puberty can relate to, Cameron's debut collection is for that timid Catholic kid in all of us and the fearless stand up comic yearning to break free"--

Sontag

Benjamin Moser

eAUDIO
Nonfiction, Biographies, LGBTQ+

"Benjamin Moser's Sontag, a biography of Susan Sontag, is a portrait of the iconoclastic and prolific essayist, novelist, and critic and her role in the history of American intellectualism" --

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.

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

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.

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.

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."