Books as Palliative Care in Tragedy

As a literary scholar, I find that books help me process ideas and feel hopeful (or not). To that end, I offer five of my favorite queer novels in honor of the (mostly Latina/o) victims in Orlando.

City of Night: By John Rechy

A classic of the Chicano/a literary canon, this 1963 novel offers an early look at gay Chicanidad.

Waiting in the Wings: Portrait of A Queer Motherhood: By Cherrie Moraga

Moraga’s biggest theoretical work is This Bridge Called My Back, with Gloria Anzaldua, but I like this quiet, haunting story of how she negotiates her identity as a lesbian mother to a premature child.

Give it to Me: By Ana Castillo

This hilarious, not-easy-to-classify work, features Palma, a woman who must come to terms with her family, the ways they’ve disappointed her, and her own desires. I love it–and I’ve taught it, which might have been ill-advised (because it is so explicit!), but my students mostly loved it too.

Borderlands/La Frontera: By Gloria Anzaldua

Maybe it’s too easy to say put this among my favorites, but there’s just no better theoretical introduction to queer Chicana identity. Now in its fourth edition, this book is a classic.

A Map of Home: By Randa Jarrar

I taught this hilarious novel by Jarrar, an Arab American writer, in my multicultural literature class. The coming of age novel is set in Kuwait, Egypt, and Texas, where Nidali negotiates familial and religious expectations, her intense sexual awakening, and her perceptive intelligence and gender.

 

All of these books say something different, and while most of them are fiction, I believe that tells us a powerful kind of truth.

 

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