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Preorder for Pride: 20 Must-Read Queer Books Out In June

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Laura Sackton

Senior Contributor

Laura Sackton is a queer book nerd and freelance writer, known on the internet for loving winter, despising summer, and going overboard with extravagant baking projects. In addition to her work at Book Riot, she reviews for BookPage and AudioFile, and writes a weekly newsletter, Books & Bakes, celebrating queer lit and tasty treats. You can catch her on Instagram shouting about the queer books she loves and sharing photos of the walks she takes in the hills of Western Mass (while listening to audiobooks, of course).

There are so many queer books coming out in June. These 20 are ones I’m particularly exited about, books I’ve either read and loved or books I cannot wait to get my hands on. And this isn’t even all of them! I started out with a list of 30 or so, and had to cut it back. I’m sure there are even more out there that haven’t crossed my radar yet. The point is, we are living in a Golden Age of queer lit. Sit with this glorious fact for a moment: all of these 20 books are coming out during the month of June, and all of them are queer. It’s worth a celebration.

I tried to include as many different genres as possible here. You’ll find fantasy and memoirs, essay collections and short stories, mysteries and romance, contemporary novels and historical ones, YA and adult books. I did include a few buzzy titles, but I mostly focused on books from indie presses that don’t get as much attention as the bigger-name releases.

What better way to celebrate Pride than to preorder a whole bunch of fabulous queer books? You can support queer authors and fill your June TBR with fantastic queer lit all at the same time. Let’s do this.

Week of June 1

With Teeth book cover

With Teeth by Kristen Arnett (Fiction)

Sammie is an unhappy mother living with her wife and son in Orlando. She’s a big mess, and often makes infuriating choices. If you like books that feel so real they’re sometimes hard to read, this is the novel for you. It’s a thoughtful character study and a meditation on motherhood and marriage. It’s extremely funny and uncomfortable, and so absolutely worth the ride.

Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia cover

Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia (Historical Mystery)

Looking for a new historical mystery series to sink your teeth into? Set in 1920s Harlem, this novel stars Louise, a Black woman working in a cafe by day and a speakeasy by night. When a series of Black girls turn up dead in front of the cafe, Louise knows she can’t trust the police to find the murderer, so she take matters into her own hands. A satisfying page-turner with a little sapphic love on the side.

The 2000s Made Me Gay by Grace Perry book cover

The 2000s Made Me Gay by Grace Perry (Essays)

Are you nostalgic for the pop culture of the 2000s? Or are you very much not? Either way, you’ll want to pick up this book of essays about Perry’s search for queerness in the mainstream teen media of the 2000s, from Gossip Girl to Taylor Swift. Perry blends cultural criticism with personal stories to tell a funny and relatable gay coming-of-age story.

The Ghosts We Keep by Mason Deaver (YA fiction)

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this novel since I read and loved Deaver’s debut, I Wish You All the Best. This one is about Liam, whose older brother Ethan was killed in a car crash, and the bond he forms with Ethan’s best friend. If it’s anything like Deaver’s first book, it’ll have amazing characterization and probably make me cry a lot.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo (Historical Fantasy)

This retelling of The Great Gatsby is told from the perspective of Jordan Baker, a queer Vietnamese American woman who was raised by her adoptive parents in the wealthiest circles of Louisville society. She also has a magical power that she rarely gets the chance to use. I did not know how badly I wanted a queer Gatsby retelling until I heard about this.

cover image of Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (YA Thriller)

A twisty YA thriller + dark academia vibes + Black queer characters = a book a lot of folks have been dreaming of for a long time! It’s set at an elite high school, where an anonymous texter, Aces, is exposing students’ secrets. Devon is a talented musician; Chiamaka is the head girl, unafraid to pursue her ambitions. Both of them are soon caught up in Aces’s dangerous game.

Week of June 8

Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez book cover

Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez (Fiction)

This was published last year in the UK, and is now coming out in the U.S. It’s a coming-of-age novel about Jesse McCarthy, a Black teen who moves to London in the early 2000s, fleeing his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing and broken relationship with his family. In London, he finds a dizzying mix of possibilities, both good and bad. Mendez delves into the intersections of race, glass, gender, and sexuality throughout British history. It’s a debut I can’t wait to get my hands on!

Hola Papi by John Paul Brammer

Hola Papi by John Paul Brammer (Essays)

Do you need a pick-me-up? This hilarious and heartfelt collection of essays is based on John Paul Brammer’s popular advice column, and it’s a joyful read. His tone is so friendly and down-to-earth — even when he’s writing about breakups, bullying, racism, homophobia, or toxic masculinity, he somehow maintains his sense of humor. In each essay, he recounts stories from his own life and then ties his own experience into a larger narrative about how to navigate…well, being alive in the world.

Love and Other Natural Disasters from Fake Dating Books 2021 |

Love and Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura (YA Fiction)

A sapphic fake-dating romance? Sign me up! When her crush Willow asks Nozomi to be her fake girlfriend to make her ex-girlfriend jealous, Nozomi agrees. Because she really likes Willow, and even though a fake romance isn’t what she wants, she figures she’ll just have to convince Willow that a relationship with her is better than one with her ex. But, like most plans, it doesn’t go exactly how she expects.

Transmutation by Alex Difrancesco

Transmutation by Alex Difrancesco (Short Stories)

This beautiful collection of stories features trans and queer characters across many times and places. Some of the stories have magical elements; others are straight-up realistic. They’re about family and first love, growing up, queer community, and the weird disconnect between the world as it is and the world as we experience it. DiFrancesco’s writing is gorgeous. There’s an eerie beauty in each of these stories, and the characters all feel strikingly real.

Cover of Skye Papers by Jamika Ajalon

Skye Papers by Jamika Ajalon (Fiction)

A queer, Black, punk coming-of-age novel set in 1990s London — this book sounds dizzying and wild in the best way. It’s about art, music, friendship, and the rise of policing and surveillance, especially in poor communities of color and underground art spaces.

Dear Senthuran book cover

Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi (Memoir)

I’m not even sure I should try to describe this book, because, having read Emezi’s other work, I’m certain they will once again completely smash all of my expectations and preconceived ideas about it. Written as a series of letters to friends and family, it’s a memoir about writing, nonhuman identity, and spirituality. Every time I read Emezi’s books I feel like the world open up a little more, and I can’t wait to see what doorways this one leads me through.

Cover of The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri (Fantasy)

A new epic fantasy from Tasha Suri! This novel, the first in a new trilogy, is set in a kingdom inspired by ancient Indian epics (and Indian history). The story is about a captive princess and a maid who wields forbidden magic. There’s a long journey, a lot of adventures, magic, of course, and a sapphic romance, too. It sounds like the perfect book to sink into on a long summer afternoon.

Week of June 15

The Natural Mother of the Child by Krys Malcolm Belc (Memoir)

This book rocketed to the top of my Best of 2021 list as soon as I read it. It’s one of those books that I have trouble talking about because I love it so much. In a series of interconnected essays, Belc tells a moving, multi-layered story about trans parenthood and queer partnership. It’s about queer family making, transformation, and the many truths and lives that bodies hold. He weaves photos, court and legal documents, and other ephemera into the text, creating a memoir that feels distinctly new and distinctly queer — a book that’s as much about the possibilities of storytelling as it is about the possibilities of parenthood.

And Then the Gray Heaven by RE Katz

And Then the Gray Heaven by RE Katz (Fiction)

This is a quiet and thoughtful road trip story about grief, queer love, and art. It begins just after Jules’s partner B dies in an accident. With their friend Theo, Jules sets off on a journey to scatter B’s ashes in the places that mattered to them. I’m always on the lookout for realistic contemporary fiction that centers nonbinary characters and non-mainstream queer relationships, and this one looks like an absolute gem.

The Hellion's Waltz by Olivia Waite

The Hellion’s Waltz by Oliva Waite (Romance)

If you, like me, have been eagerly awaiting the last installment in Olivia Waite’s Feminist Pursuits series, get excited, because it’s finally here — and it stars a piano teacher/composer and a silk-weaver/part-time con woman. I absolutely love Waite’s heroines, who are always funny and smart and flawed and delightful. I can’t wait to meet these two women. Plus, there’s a heist in this novel! You’re going to want to add this to your summer romance TBR for sure.

Week of June 22

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor cover

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (Short Stories)

Real Life was one of my favorite reads of 2020, so I was super exited to learn Taylor had another book coming out so soon! These linked stories are set mostly in the midwest, and feature queer characters (and others) in situations both fraught and ordinary. Taylor captures internal emotional turmoil with words like few other writers I’ve encountered. I can’t wait to see what heartbreaks, obsessions, and connections he writes about here.

Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie

Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie (Fiction)

I have to admit that I’m in the middle of reading this right now, and I’m annoyed that work and life obligations are keeping me from getting back to it! Skye is an almost-40 queer woman living in Philadelphia. Her already-chaotic life gets even messier when a 12-year-old girl shows up and announces that she’s her egg, i.e. the child of the friend Skye sold her eggs to back when she was a broke twentysomething. I’m only three chapters in, and already this feels like one of the truest depictions of modern queer life I’ve read in a while.

Antiman by Rajiv Mohabir (Memoir)

Do you love a genre-defying memoir? I do! Rajiv Mohabir blends poetry, prose, family history, and myth in this book about his life as an Indo-Guyanese queer poet, artist, and immigrant. He weaves the stories of his parents and grandparents into his own, exploring not only his life as a queer brown person in the U.S., but his place in a much bigger story about exile and displacement, home and belonging.

Cover of Star Eater by Kerstin Hall

Star Eater by Kerstin Hall

If dark, eerie fantasy and/or body horror is your jam, you’re going to want to run to this. It’s about an order of cannibalistic nuns. That’s right. Elfreda is a young member of the order who gets recruited to be a spy. The more she learns, the more horrified she becomes by what her order does. It’s a strange, unsettling book, definitely one to pick up if you’re looking for a unique fantasy.

Looking for more upcoming queer books? Danika made a list of 2021 Black LGBTQ Books, which includes several June releases not on this list. And there are two more June releases on this list of Upcoming LGBTQ+ YA Romance. I told you there were a lot! If you want to catch up on queer books from the first half of 2021, try these LGBTQ+ debuts, these 12 books featuring queer women, and this list of new and upcoming queer graphic novels and memoirs.