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Closeted Married Men, Gay Vets, And Tap-Dancing Lesbians: 10 Juicy Winter Reading Recommendations

by Graham Gremore February 15, 2016

It’s cold outside. There’s nothing to do. So why not read a book?

Whether you’re in the mood for suspenseful literary fiction, a thoughtful memoir, a riveting biography, an enduring romance, a historical nonfiction page-turner, or a gay classic, we’ve got almost all your favorite genres covered.

Scroll down for 10 reading recommendations to help get you through these long winter months…

Clifford’s Blues by John A. Williams

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When Clifford, a self-proclaimed “gay negro” musician from New Orleans, is arrested by Hitler’s Gestapo at a concert venue in Berlin, he quickly finds himself placed in “protective custody” and transported to a concentration camp for homosexuals. Stripped of his dignity and his identity, and plunged into a nightmare of forced labor, starvation and abuse, he seeks escape in his music.

Defining Marriage: Voices from a Forty-Year Labor of Love by Matt Baume

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Queerty contributor Matt Baume traces the decades-long evolution of marriage, beginning in the 1970s and up through the historic Supreme Court ruling in June 2015, through stories of people who participated in this revolution, examining what marriage has become and showing how the act of defining marriage forever changed the lives and loves of the people who fought to define the institution.

Hide by Matthew Griffin

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Set in a declining textile town in North Carolina, this is the love story between Wendell Wilson, a taxidermist, and Frank Clifton, a veteran of World War II. They meet after the war, in a time when such love holds real danger. Yet despite all odds, they carve out a home for themselves on the outskirts of town, where they live in self-reliant domesticity for decades, until one day when their carefully crafted life together begins to unravel.

Stand by Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation by Jim Downs

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Acclaimed historian Jim Downs examines gay life in the 1970s, after the Stonewall Riots but before the AIDS crisis, by drawing on a vast trove of untapped records at LGBT community centers in Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia. Downs tells moving, revelatory stories of gay people from all walks of life who stood together to create a sense of community among people who felt alienated from mainstream American life.

Tappin’ at the Apollo: The African American Female Tap Dance Duo Salt and Pepper by Cheryl M. Willis

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Before there was Salt-N-Pepa, there was Salt and Pepper. In the 1920s and ’30s, Edwina “Salt” Evelyn and Jewel “Pepper” Welch learned to tap dance on street corners in New York and Philadelphia. By the 1940s, they were black show business headliners, playing Harlem’s Apollo Theater with the likes of Count Basie, Fats Waller and Earl “Fatha” Hines. Cheryl M. Willis’ new book chronicles the lives of two famously overlooked performers who succeeded in spite of the rampant racism, sexism and homophobia of the Big Band era.

Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers

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Iconic Southern writer Carson McCullers’ second novel tells the deeply disturbing story of Captain Penderton, a closeted gay man whose life is upset by the arrival of Major Langdon, a charming womanizer who has an affair with Penderton’s tempestuous and flirtatious wife, Leonora.

Not Straight, Not White: Black Gay Men from the March on Washington to the AIDS Crisis by Kevin J. Mumford

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Drawing on an extensive archive of newspapers, pornography and film, as well as government documents, organizational records, and personal papers, Kevin J. Mumford recounts the history of black gay men from the 1950s to the 1990s, tracing how the major movements of the times — from civil rights to black power to gay liberation to AIDS activism — helped shape the cultural stigmas that surrounded race and homosexuality.

God in Pink by Hasan Namir

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Set in war-torn Iraq in 2003, Hasan Manir’s debut novel follows Ramy, a young gay Iraqi struggling to find a balance between his sexuality, religion and culture, as he seeks guidance from Ammar, a sheikh whose tolerance is tested by his belief in the teachings of the Qur’an.

Closets, Combat, and Coming Out: Coming of Age as a Gay Man in the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Army by Rob Smith

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Queerty contributor Rob Smith shares his experiences as a young black man coming to terms with his sexuality amid the backdrop of the hyper-masculine, homophobic U.S. Army. After surviving the notoriously brutal Infantry basic training by remaining closeted to almost all of his fellow soldiers, he finds himself in dangerous territory after the U.S. declares war on Iraq and his unit is one of the first called in after the initial invasion.

Cursed Legacy: The Tragic Life of Klaus Mann by Frederic Spotts

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Gay, drug-addicted and forced to flee his homeland, this is the first English-language biography of celebrated writer Klaus Mann. He was among the write out against the Nazis, resulting in him being blacklisted and denounced as a dangerous “half-Jew,” his books burnt in public squares and his German citizenship revoked. After serving with the U.S. military in Italy, he was undone by anti-Communist fanatics in Cold War-era America and Germany, ultimately dying in France at the age of forty-two.

Related: Six Classic Works Of Gay Literature Everyone Should Read In The New Year




Graham Gremore
Graham Gremore

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