Happy National Coming Out Day to all of you whether you are already out, decided to come out today, or haven’t come out yet for whatever reason. Just as a reminder you are no less valid if you aren’t out and you owe no one an explanation for any of your identities.
I thought a lot about if I wanted to post today and what I planned on posting. I just didn’t feel the need to come out on the web because it wasn’t as if I was in the closet about my sexual orientation or gender identity. I also didn’t feel the need because I’m not sure if I have selected the terms to define both of those for myself just yet. I knew that I needed to say something though, if not for myself but to make others feel heard and less alone.
It was a long journey to get to the point I am now which is un-apologetically trans, non-binary, and some kind of gay. I didn’t get to this point on my own though, it was with the help of so many of my friends and I’d be lying if I said books had nothing to do with my journey. So many books this year have really helped me feel power in being myself and living authentically. I found beauty in being out at my workplace and finding a place in which I am embraced for who I am.
I thought I would share with you some of the books that made all the difference for me this past year. Many of these books were the first time I read about any character that resembled me at all and it was so nice to be able to process my identities through these books. It was nice to be able to come to terms with who I am because of reading who all these LGBTQ+ characters were, regardless of if they were the protagonist or not. These books show the importance of representation in media sources for people of all ages.
The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante
Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber’s, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as “an illegal”, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border.
But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.
The Grief Keeper is a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal.
I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.
But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.
At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
What If It‘s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.
Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.
But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?
Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.
Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.
But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?
What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?
What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?
But what if it is?
Freeing Finch by Ginny Rorby
When her father leaves and her mother passes away soon afterward, Finch can’t help feeling abandoned. Now she’s stuck living with her stepfather and his new wife. They’re mostly nice, but they don’t believe the one true thing Finch knows about herself: that she’s a girl, even though she was born in a boy’s body.
Thankfully, she has Maddy, a neighbor and animal rescuer who accepts her for who she is. Finch helps Maddy care for a menagerie of lost and lonely creatures, including a scared, stray dog who needs a family and home as much as she does. As she earns the dog’s trust, Finch realizes she must also learn to trust the people in her life–even if they are the last people she expected to love her and help her to be true to herself.
There are so many books out there and I’m so glad that more keep coming out. I’m even happier that a lot of the ones coming out more recently are for young adults and middle grade. It’s hard to list them all and I can’t wait to read them all. LGBTQ+ reads is one of those topics that even if it’s a minor character I will pick that book up and read it.