Need some inspo for your summer TBR? We’ve got you covered


Over the past couple of years, LGBTQIA literature has become a lot more accessible and mainstream and as a lesbian and a book lover, I couldn’t be more obsessed.  

I’m sure you will have seen lists entitled ‘50 pieces of classic literature everyone has to read before they die’. Here is a take on that with six books that are considered classic LGBTQIA literature that everyone, LGBTQIA or not, should read at some point during their life.  

These stories are powerful explorations of LGBTQIA identity during the 19th and 20th centuries, exploring themes of bi-erasure, the breaking of gender boundaries, and difficulties faced by QTIPOC. Despite many of these novels being written during a time when being LGBTQIA was a criminal offence, they show just how resistant and unapologetic LGBTQIA people are.  

The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982) 

I’m starting this list with The Color Purple by Alice Walker, not only because it’s a masterpiece of LGBTQIA literature, but also because the adaptation of the musical is being released on 25 December. The novel, which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, is set in early 20th-century rural Georgia and follows two sisters, Celie and Nettie who were separated as children. Written as a series of letters, its powerful exploration of domestic and sexual abuse was revolutionary. But you’ll need to have a box of tissues next to you while you read. 

Orlando by Virginia Woolf (1928) 

Considered a classic amongst feminist and gender scholars, the story begins in Elizabethan England with our protagonist, Orlando. At the age of thirty, Orlando awakes in Constantinople as a woman. The novel ends back in England in 1928 with Orlando now a wife and a mother, exploring a future with suffrage for women. Virginia, who is seen as a literary LGBTQIA icon, created Orlando as a fictional embodiment of her lover Vita Sackville-West. Orlando was published almost 100 years ago yet is still praised for its blurring of gender boundaries and evaluation of sexism within society. Emma Corrin wowed audiences and critics alike with their take on the character in London’s Garrick Theatre’s production of Orlando earlier this year.  

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (1956) 

Giovanni’s Room is a stunning love story between two men in 1950s Paris. We follow David, a young American man who begins an affair with the alluring Giovanni after his girlfriend leaves for Spain. The novel is a heartbreaking exploration of the struggles of a young bisexual man and the subsequent alienation he feels from a society that doesn’t accept his identity. This examination of bisexuality was revolutionary during the time of its publication and is still a beloved LGBTQIA classic 67 years later. 

The Price Of Salt by Patricia Highsmith (1952) 

You may know Patricia Highsmith’s novel by its alternative name, Carol, which was adapted into the 2015 film starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Patricia wrote the novel after an encounter with an attractive blonde woman in a mink coat who purchased a doll from her while she was working as a seasonal salesclerk at Bloomingdales. Enchanted by this woman, she based Carol’s character on her. The story follows Therese Belivet, a young woman living in Manhattan. After meeting Carol in a way that parallels Patricia’s experience, Therese becomes enraptured by the older woman. As the pair get closer, they realise that their relationship will come at a cost.  

Confessions Of A Mask by Yukio Mishima (1949) 

In Yukio Mishima’s second novel, we are introduced to Kochan, a young boy who struggles to hide the fact that he is gay. In an attempt to prevent his attraction to some of the boys in his class, he asks out a girl named Sonoko, however, this only deepens his attraction to men. This novel is seen as a semi-autobiographical account of Yukio’s adolescence, exploring the difficulties of growing up gay in wartime Japan.  

Open Me Carefully: Emily Dickinson’s Intimate Letters To Susan Huntington Dickinson by Emily Dickinson and edited by Ellen Louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith (1998) 

For our sixth and final piece of LGBTQIA literature, we have a collection of Emily Dickinson’s letters to her neighbour, sister-in-law, and lover, Susan Huntington Dickinson. This collection contains their thirty-six-year correspondence and their passion and love for one another leaps off the page. However, following the letters’ publication, historians and scholars gave us the classic line that we all know and hate; they argued that the pair were “just friends”. Despite this, Emily and Sue’s love story has been adored across the world, and in 2019 Apple TV turned it into a gorgeous TV show starring Hailee Steinfeld and Ella Hunt.  

DIVA magazine celebrates 29 years in print in 2023. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQIA media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable. ✨

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