by Jillian Brenner
Much like the iconic and ageless Cher once sang, this week we’re turning back time. Specifically to the 20th century, where beneath the sweater sets, bouffants, and questionable jellied food lurked a group of people on the rise of reshaping America in a cooler, hotter direction: the queers. And though some naysayers insist America’s increasing queerness is only a recent phenomenon, lesbi-honest, the truth is that we’ve always been here. Just ask any of these brave and rebellious authors.
by Patricia Highsmith
First Published: 1952
If you’ve had the blessed fortune of seeing the 2015 film Carol, then you know the gist of this sapphic masterpiece: Therese — a young, lonely set designer stuck in a department store job — finds her life transformed when she meets the older, elegant, and soon-to-be-divorced Carol. The oppressive societal norms of the 1950s and Carol’s trash ex-husband threaten the women’s secret, passionate romance. The Price of Salt was vastly ahead of its time, both in acknowledging lesbian love and (maybe!) even allowing a happy ending.
by James Baldwin
First Published: 1956
While bi guys are appearing more in media (finally!), James Baldwin was one of the first writers to include masculine bisexuality so explicitly. Set in a community of American expats in Paris, Giovanni’s Room follows David as he begins his first real relationship with another man. In this highly controversial novel, Baldwin crafts a brilliant, unforgettable tale of passion, love, loss, and the poisonous consequences of shame.
by Christopher Isherwood
First Published: 1964
If there’s anything I’m obsessed with, it's queers finding happiness despite seemingly impossible odds. This is exactly the case for George, Isherwood’s protagonist, after the sudden death of his partner. Despite his grief and the unfortunate 1960s of it all, George is determined to build a life he can love. Funny, sometimes sad, and always moving, A Single Man continues to shock readers today with its fully developed portrayal of a gay man in midlife.
by Rita Mae Brown
First Published: 1973
Another win for explicit lesbianism! This bawdy, bestselling debut from Rita Mae Brown was one of the first coming-of-age lesbian novels to be published. Molly, a stunningly beautiful daughter from an impoverished family, has always known her tastes skew more pomegranate than, say, eggplant. Across her childhood and into young adulthood, Molly travels from Florida to New York and falls in and out of love as she pursues an education in filmmaking. Readers will root for Molly as she breaks both hearts and barriers in this ‘70s classic.
by Larry Kramer
First Published: 1978
With such an evocative title and cover, it’s no wonder Larry Kramer’s delicious debut has been in print ever since its original publication. There is no subtlety in Faggots: Kramer flaunts New York’s highly visible and chaotic gay community in the time before AIDS. This satirical portrayal of promiscuity and rampant drug use is centered around the loosely autobiographical character of Fred as he stumbles through bath houses, group sex, and Fire Island encounters in his journey to settle down with a true love.
by Andrew Holleran
First Published: 1978
Published the same year as Faggots, Andrew Holleran’s take on the New York gay scene is just as compelling. Anthony Malone, a lonely, young gay man with beauty akin to Dorian Gray, meets Sutherland, a campy, quintessential queen. As the two search for meaning, sex, and love, expect vivid imagery and a dreamlike urban setting rife with drug use, drinking, and long nights of dancing that unfold between the city and summers on Fire Island.
by Audre Lorde
First Published: 1982
We love every chance to sing the praises of Audre Lorde, and this sapphic banger of a classic is no exception. Credited with starting the genre of biomythography, Zami is a detailed portrait of Lorde’s youth in Harlem, her travels, and her eventual return to the city in adulthood. Lorde’s descriptions of challenging racism in the ‘40s and ‘50s intertwine with beautiful depictions of the women she loved along the way. Zami is an unforgettable and unique memoir you won’t be able to put down — we certainly can’t.
by Alice Walker
First Published: 1982
Set in the early twentieth century in rural Georgia, The Color Purple centers a gorgeous love story between two women during a time when both queer and Black stories were often told only in secret. In this cultural touchstone of a novel, the lives of sisters Celie and Nettie come into focus through a series of letters spanning from childhood to adulthood. In the face of horrific abuse, the resilient Celie seeks to build a life of beauty and hope — one that might include the love of another woman.
We hope you enjoy these timeless classics! In a genre known for its tragic tropes, these works stand out as tales of triumph, strength, and queer pride. Whether we’re battling antiquated laws, exclusion, or censorship, these classics remind us not only of how far we’ve come, but also how far we can go.
Enjoy 30% off the books above until Sunday, June 4th, at midnight! And remember, at ShopQueer.co, we split our profits with the author, and the rest goes to our Rainbow Book Bus campaign — all with the mission of protecting and promoting queer literature across the country. <3