"One day we won't have to 'come out of the closet.' We'll just say we are in love and that will be all that matters."
In 1971, 19 year old Zoya first discovered what love felt like. Love, in all its glory and splendour. It was with her innocent heart that she experienced the intense passion, the tender warmth and the soulful affection that the world has been eulogising since, well, as long as anyone can remember. It was at this age that she fell in love with a girl.
She remembers the relentless racing of her heart, that she feared would soon consume her bit by bit. She remembers sacrificing countless hours of sleep, yet being ecstatic all the time. She remembers being so smitten and believing that the fervour and the magic would last forever. That she had found her little haven—and it was here to stay.
Except that when she was 20, she was about to learn about the catastrophic side of love. It was on a thunderous Saturday that the police had pounded against her door and dragged her to the murky station that reeked of blood. What have I done? She had whispered over and over again, and had soon switched to shouting the words in frustration.
And soon Zoya learnt that despite what they say about the intoxicating beauty of love, it was only glamorous till it fit their standards. Lest it strayed from their ideals, love was labelled a crime.
And so Zoya found herself starved and beaten, parched for even the slightest drop of water. Not because she was a smuggler or a burglar, but only because she had indulged in a crime the most human of all: Falling madly and unrestrainedly in love.
Had this been years later, Zoya would have been encouraged to come out of the closet. After initial stages of denial and shock, she would have been accepted in her entirety, regardless of who she loved and coveted. And eventually, a little solace and support later, she would have believed that her little haven did exist, and no one could take it away from her.
This, however, didn’t happen. Zoya was put to death merely hours after they found out about her, deprived of not only food and water but even the last ounce of human dignity.
She died believing that she was a felon for embracing her true identity.
Fortunately, the times have changed significantly since then. In most parts of the world homosexuality has been legalised, if not completely embraced, and more and more people have begun to voice their coming-out struggles.
From Angelina Jolie to Miley Cyrus, several public figures pride themselves on their orientation and are using their platform to strengthen the voices of the LGBTQ Community, so that there are no more Zoyas who lose their lives over love.
The community that has grown into an all-inclusive outlet for people who want to seek comfort in their blemished identities. 50 years ago the first pride parade took place today, and since then there’s been no looking back.
As a result, every year on June 28 we douse ourselves in glitter and march on the streets with nothing but pride for how far the LGBTQ community has come. And oh, what could possibly be a better way to celebrate any occasion other than with books?
In no particular order, I have devised the list of books that you NEED to read this Pride Month!
1) The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo
“When you're given an opportunity to change your life, be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The world doesn't give things, you take things.”
Here’s the thing: I read a reasonable amount of books for a 14 year old. And plenty of them are washed away from the walls of my mind the moment I shut the book. The characters fade, and all that remains is the hazy memory of the plot.
There’s barely a handful of books that are etched in my heart forever, and its always the writing that keeps me hooked. A book can have the most dull-witted plot but if the words are perfectly woven together, nothing can stop it from being a bestseller.
And this beautifully crafted book just happens to sail through my criterion. As the heading suggests, it’s about the seven scandalous marriages of Hollywood diva Evelyn Hugo. We think we know her, until one day she just decides to open up about her seven husbands and answers the question eating up our minds since the book started: Whom did Evelyn Hugo really love?
Buckle up for this tumultuous ride as the answer is something that’ll leave you gasping in disbelief and rooting for the couple till the end of the book.
2) Red, White and Royal Blue
“Thinking about history makes me wonder how I’ll fit into it one day, I guess. And you too. I kinda wish people still wrote like that. History, huh? Bet we could make some.”
Have you ever read a book that made you cry and laugh and bawl your eyes out at the cheesy lines at the same time? Well, if not, here’s the book you’ve been waiting for.
Red, White and Royal Blue is absolutely hilarious, thrilling, and perfectly encapsulates YA romance. Here’s a little snippet of the plot: The First Son Of the United States, Alex, is lovestruck by the gorgeous Prince Henry of Wales. What follows is the dangling relations between the two countries, a tale of confronting your battles, and eventually emerging victorious despite the odds.
The plot is packed with potential and Casey-McQuiston does not disappoint with the rib-tickling journey she takes us through. It’s one of those books that you delay reading not because it’s boring, but because you wouldn’t want it to end just so soon.
3) Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
“It’s like they have this idea of me, and whenever I step outside of that, it blows their minds. There’s something so embarrassing about that in a way I can’t even describe.”
Unless you have been living under a rock, there’s no doubt you have heard of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. Told with a voice so authentic and wholesome, Becki Albertalli narrates the story of a typical high-schooler with a not-so-typical secret.
Simon hasn’t come out of the closet yet, and the only one who knows about his homosexuality is his Tumblr pen-pal, who goes by the name Blue. His little secret is at the stake of going public when an email meant for Blue falls in the wrong hands.
The characters are raw, imaginative and far from perfect—yet you’ll find yourself empathising with their wrongdoings and rooting for the happy ending we so rarely get.
Packed with the themes of high-school drama, friendship and growing comfortable in your skin, this is one book that won’t disappoint you.
And if LGBTQ books haven’t been your thing yet, this is might be the perfect book to start with!
4) Song Of Achilles
“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.”
I remember reading somewhere that the chef’s kiss was invented for the sole purpose of describing this book—and I’m not sure I disagree with that. Madeline Miller invested 10 years in writing the Song of Achilles, and as a result we were blessed with this exquisite piece of art.
If a mediocre plot could be enhanced by rich writing, you can only imagine the wonders that Miller’s top-notch writing can do to an already phenomenal plot.
The story goes that Patroclus, a young prince, was exiled to the court of King Peleus in Greek. It is here that he encountered Prince Achilles, and soon their cordial friendship blossomed into a deeper and closer bond. But then came the years that were determined to test their unusual relationship and tear our hearts apart with the suffering they brought.
If you, like me, are absolutely lost and overwhelmed by Greek mythology and the rich variety of tales it has to offer, then you need not worry!
The Song Of Achilles is a book that manages to give us an insight into every mythological figure’s twisted background, which when blended with the poetic writing by Miller, forms a stellar novel that you would be unlucky to miss.
5) Call Me By Your Name
“People who read are hiders. They hide who they are. People who hide don’t always like who they are.”
Alas, one of the most beautiful books that paved the path for LGTBQ+ literature since it was published in 2007. The raw chemistry between the young adults forms the crux of this heart-wrenching tale, which is then fleshed out by André Aciman.
In 1987 when Oliver met his parents’ summer guest Elio, he didn’t know that these 6 weeks would change his life forever. The ardent romance that blooms between Elio and Oliver might be considered juvenile by some, but the fervour and truth with which it is written makes the book a marvellous feat.
Fear, confusion, fascination, doubt—the book is loaded with the themes of despair that almost all young adults go through. Set in the sun-soaked shores of the Italian Riviera, Call Me By Your Name acts as a gentle reminder of the plight that LGBTQs went through to be where they are today, still striving for acceptance and love from the community that once completely shunned them.
So sit with a box of tissues when you sit to read this wondrous piece of literature, for there is no doubt that it will have you weeping by the time it ends.
And with that, we have come to the end of this list. I hope your TBR pile just expanded with names of books that you can’t wait to get your hands on, or at the least you found a way to curb your readers block!
Did I miss any exciting books that you’d like me to read and add to the list? Share it in the comments below, I’d be delighted to have your opinion!