Paulina & Fran

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of (male) homosexuality in the UK, and this July’s Pride march will be all the more special for it. Pride is a riot of colour, glitter and dancing – but more importantly, it is a safe and welcoming celebration of anyone who has ever felt excluded, lonely or abnormal for being who they are. We are a family and we’ve demonstrated this fact from the first Pride march in 1970 in the States, on the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, when people took to the streets to demand equality and fair treatment for the LGBT+ community.

This year is also the first anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. The USA now has a Vice President who has supported conversion therapy and in Chechnya, the Chechen state has sanctioned the kidnapping, torture and murder of gay men. Undoubtedly, this Pride month is an important one and as much as it is a party for those of us attending the parades in places where we can be open about who we are and revel in being able to do so, there are still too many of us around the world who cannot.

This year I wanted my privilege and influence to count for something. At Granta and Portobello we will be running a series celebrating LGBT+ literature and writers. We’ve asked publishers, webzines, bloggers, instagrammers, podcasters, to share their favourite LGBT+ books and writers in both the spirit of celebration and a show of support to those across the world whose love is still not seen as equal to others. In the spirit of openness, we will be taking to social media using the hashtags #LGBTlit and #booksthatmademe to share our thoughts and opinions, to celebrate and discuss critically the diversity and brilliance within our community and allowing everyone to be able to share in this.

Reading allows us to inhabit other worlds, put ourselves in others’ shoes, and experience different feelings; it humanises us. Literature has been integral to understanding LGBT+ issues, and so is the critical discussion around it: we need to examine and discuss the literature that represents us, ensuring that it remains relevant, fierce and inclusive.

We will be discussing pieces by LGBT+ authors, and literature on LGBT+ themes, such as:

In Pwaangulongii Dauod’s ‘Africa’s Future Has No Space for Stupid Black Men’, Dauod, a bisexual man in Nigeria, writes in defiance of Nigeria’s anti-gay laws centred on an evening at an underground LGBT+ nightclub. It’s a sensitive story, complemented by a voice that is haunting, angry and beautiful. It calls into question the anti-homosexual religious fervour that continues to define Nigerian society.

Paulina & Fran by Rachel B Glaser is a whirlwind of garish colours and gyrating hips in front of mirrors, the eponymous characters are unlikeable, brash and ruthless. They’re also scared and unsure of their feelings. This book relays the dichotomy of the fear homoerotic feelings can inspire and the heat and riot that can ensue. In prose that is as fast and dizzying as the actions of the characters this is fun, messy and written firmly in the feminine gaze.

Juliet Jacques in ‘(Nostalgia)’ contemplates the 1971 short film of the same name by Hollis Frampton, weaving in a narrative about how writing about her experiences as a transwoman in order to seek better representation for transpeople led to her being pigeonholed as a trans writer. She confronts the idea of past and present, of what they mean for identity and what these ‘wounds for home’ (nostalgia’s etymological meaning in Ancient Greek) actually are. Each word Jacques writes has always vibrated with feeling and strength.

Between 28 June (the anniversary of Stonewall) and 8 July (London UK’s Pride parade) we will be discussing, examining and celebrating the diversity of LGBT+ writing and writers and it’d be great to have you there with us. Follow @GrantaBooks, @PortobelloBooks and @GrantaMag for updates, and join the conversation!